Civilizations of Southeast Asia

The Pagan Kingdom was a kingdom ruled by a single king who conquered lands for trading rights and safe passage on trading routes, and it was located in the fertile Irrawaddy River valley. Their first king was named Anawrahta, and both him and his successors built many great Buddhist temples and structures. The Pagan kingdom was influenced mostly by the Indian culture. They supported a branch of Buddhism known as Theravada Buddhism. Most people considered the reign of the Pagan Kingdom the "golden age" of that region because afterwards they were absorbed into the Mongolian culture during Kublai Khan's conquests. Click below for more information on the Pagan Kingdom.

The Khmer Empire conquered many southeast Asian kingdoms and was influenced mainly by the Indians. They ruled as gods, and believed in both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. The Khmer empire was very prosperous in the rice farming industry, and commissioned great architectural feats and developed irrigation technology that could span thousands of acres.The empire’s capital city was Angkor, which was central to most of it's land. The empire appreciated architecture, but alas, the appreciation was ironically its own doing: expensive building projects and invaders contributed to the empire’s decline. Click the button below for an interactive way to learn more about the Khmer empire.

The Trading Kingdoms were ruled by powerful leaders who increased trade and growth in agriculture. They worked to ensure that trade would continue to pass through their kingdoms by controlling sea and land routes, and they were largely influenced by India. Some of these kingdoms included Sailendra and the Srivijaya empire. The Sailendra adopted Mahayana Buddhism and is known for its impressive Buddhist art and architecture. The empire of Srivijaya adopted Hinduism and Buddhism, which they blended with local beliefs, and the capital, located at Palembang on Sumatra was a Buddhist learning center. Eventually, Islam came to be a dominant religion in Srivijaya as well, due to the contact they had with them trading.  Both of these kingdoms relied on trade and farming for their main source of income and resource. Click below for a history of the Srivijaya empire.

Rise and Fall of the Srivijaya Empire

Vietnam, unlike the other southeastern Asia kingdoms, was influenced by China, rather than that of India. This is because the Chinese actually occupied Vietnam for some time. During that time, the Vietnamese were forced to adopt Chinese language and Chinese clothing and hairstyles. There were often rebellions when the Chinese empires grew weak or unstable, and two sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are some of the most famous, after they created an army that drove out the Chinese—if only for a brief period of time. The sisters drowned themselves when they lost the battle, and are regarded as heroes even today. Confucianism and Daoism influenced Vietnamese society, however they continued to worship nature spirits alongside other belief systems. Their government consisted of a bureaucracy and a Confucian-based civil service system. Click below for some information about Trung Trac and Trung Nhi.