The Southeast Asia Kingdoms
(Pagan, Khmer, and Vietnam)

Pagan Empire

     Around the 800s a people called the Burmans established the kingdom of Pagan. This kingdom was located in the Irrawaddy River valley, which was ideal for rice farming. The first great king for the Pagan's was Anawratha. Anawrahta began conquering the surrounding areas of the Pagan Kingdom and  had controlled much of what is now Myanmar under his rule.

     Buddhism was highly respected by this group of people. They built thousands of magnificent Buddhist temples, and the Pagan Kingdom became a place off Buddhist learning. Marco Polo, who visited the Mongol court in China, even mentioned the Pagan Kingdom for it's Buddhist influences.

     By the 1200s, the Mongols during the time of Kublai Khan demanded payment from the Pagans. The king of Pagan refused to pay them and attacked the Mongols. They would crush the Pagan army in this process. The Pagan king fled to south but agreed to pay after one of his sons was killed. The Pagan Kingdom survived but lost its power.

Khmer Empire

     The Khmer Empire arose in what is now present day Cambodia. By the early 800s, the Khmer had begun to conquer the kingdoms around them to build a great empire. The Khmer reflected a strong Indian influence unlike many other groups near them. The empire rulers adopted Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and ruled as so called gods. The design of the empire’s capital city, Angkor, was made to symbolized the shape of the Hindu universe.

     The rulers of Khmer could fund grand building projects because their empire had grown from rice farming. To improve agricultural production, the Khmer developed an irrigation system that covered millions of acres. The Khmer could grow several crops of rice a year with this new system. For about 400 years, the Khmer Empire prospered thanks to this system but in time, however, all the expensive building projects and invaders led to the empire’s decline.

Trading Kingdoms

Several trading areas developed on the islands of Southeast Asia. On the island of Java, the kingdom of Sailendra flourished from about 750 to 850. The people of this kingdom relied on agriculture and trade for their daily lives. This kingdom adopted Buddhism and is known for its impressive Buddhist art and architecture.

On the island of Sumatra, the Srivijaya Empire lived from the 600s to the 1200s. At its height, the empire extended to the Malay Peninsula and Borneo. The Srivijaya Empire gained its wealth from its control of overseas traders through the Malacca and Sunda straits. The people of Srivijaya took ideas from Hinduism and Buddhism, which they blended with local ideas and beliefs. The Srivijaya capital of Palembang in Sumatra, became a center of Buddhist learning.

In the year 1025 an Indian kingdom attacked the Srivijaya Empire. Although the empire survived, it was severely weakened by the attack. This lead to other nearby kingdoms growinf in power, which would reduce Srivijaya’s control of trade.


     Like many areas around China, Vietnam would be heavily influenced by their culture. In 111 BC the Han dynasty took over the kingdom of Nam Viet. The Han dynasty ruled the area, off and on for the next 1,000 years. During this foreign rule, Vietnam absorbed many aspects of the Chinese civilization. But the Chinese rulers had forced the Vietnamese to adopt the Chinese language and Chinese clothing and hairstyles.

     Confucianism and Daoism became very influential in Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese adopted several features of Chinese government as well. This would be including a bureaucracy and a Confucian-based civil service system. Vietnam embraced Buddhism during the Han Dynasty rule. Buddhist art and architecture also had influenced Vietnamese culture.

    Even though the Vietnamese were being controlled by China, they still kept their old customs. They kept their idea of spirits and tried to keep their culture in tact. The Vietnamese took the oppurtunity to rebell from the Chinese near the end of their rule.

    One of the most famous rebellions took place in the year 39. Two sisters named Trung Trac and Trung Nhi raised an army and briefly drove the Chinese out from Vietnam. But the Chinese soon regained control of Vietnam, so the sisters decided to drown themselves so they would not be taken away by the rulers.

Declan N. (Period 7)