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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia

 

Funan (Pre-Angkor Cambodia & Vietnam)
c.AD 50 - 627

By the time the Sa Huỳnh culture of central and southern Vietnam was fading, around the beginning of the third century AD, coastal areas of South-East Asia had already emerged into the early historical record. Kingdoms such as Annam and Nam Viet had been ended by a phase of Han Chinese dominance, but the kings of a renewed Nam Viet took Vietnam out of the fading Iron Age and into the medieval period.

To the south of the Sa Huỳnh, the Óc Eo culture flourished as the archaeological expression of the kingdom of Funan. The preceding Dong Nai culture recorded the proto-Funan period in this southerly territory. Also recorded as the alternative 'Phu Nam' (sometimes shown as Fu-Nan) - the same name but viewed from an entirely Vietnamese perspective - its history is extremely patchy.

Little definitive dating is known for the kingdom's rulers, and in many cases even the names of those rulers are unknown (or are only known in their Chinese forms). The state emerged during the early days of the 'Second Chinese Domination' of Vietnam to its north, just a quarter of a century into half a millennium of Chinese control of those northern regions. Despite its obscurity it was the most important of several minor states in the region. Legitimacy was handed down through the female line.

The name used here - Funan - comes from Chinese records. This is the modern Mandarin pronunciation of two characters which were once pronounced as b'iu-nam. This work is a transcription of the old Khmer word, bnam, with that being phnom in its modern form, meaning 'mountain'. The state's rulers were known by a title which meant 'king of the mountain'. In Sanskrit this was parvatabhupala or sailaraja, while in Khmer it was kurung bnam. It was this name which the Chinese adopted into their own title for the state.

The kingdom's core was located along the lower course and delta of the Mekong, but its territory at its greatest extent must have encompassed southern Vietnam to border the Cham, the central Mekong, and a large part of the Menam valley and the Malay peninsula. Its capital for a time was Vyadhapura, 'the city of hunters', known to the Chinese as T'e-mu, possibly a transcription of a Khmer term which has the same meaning (dmak or dalmak).

The city was situated in the vicinity of the hill of Ba Phnom and the village of Banam, two places which are now located in the Cambodian province of Prei Veng and both of which perpetuate the kingdom's name. According to the History of the Liang this capital was two hundred kilometres from the sea. This is approximately the distance which separates Ba Phnom from the aforementioned archaeological type site for the Óc Eo culture where a port or perhaps a trading centre was located.

The earliest information about Funan comes from an account which was left by the mission by the Chinese envoys, K'ang T'ai and Chu Ying, who visited the kingdom country in the middle of the third century AD, during China's 'Three Kingdoms' period.

The original narrative has been lost but fragments survive in the annals and various encyclopaedia, and they show that opinions of the Funan people were rather low. These fragments, along with a Sanskrit inscription of the third century AD, constitute the basic documentation when it comes to the kingdom's first two centuries of history.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), and from External Links: Cultural elements of Cham Pa in Dai Viet capital and its vicinity, Nguyen Tien Dong (TiaSang.com), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Pre-Dong Son cultures (Vietnam National Museum of History), and Vietnam in the First State Foundation Period (Vietnam National Museum of History), and The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, George Coedès (Walter F Vella (Ed), Susan Brown Cowing (Trans), University of Hawaii Press, 1968, and available online via the Internet Archive).)

1st century AD

Neang Neak / Queen Soma / Liǔyè

Female ruler of the Mekong delta territory.

late 1st century

Kaundinya (I) / Hun-t'ien

Indian prince or trader. Married Liǔyè & founded kingdom.

late 1st century

According to the 'Three Kingdoms' envoy, K'ang T'ai (and supported by a Cham inscription), the first king of Funan is a certain Hun-t'ien, otherwise known as Kaupdinya or Kaundinya. This individual originates either in India, the Malay peninsula, or the southern islands, and is almost certainly a trader.

Queen Soma of Funan
Queen Soma and Kaundinya, her Indian husband and co-ruler are often claimed as the founders not only of Funan but of Chen-La and its successor, the Khmer empire

Apparently led by a prophesising genie, he (and undoubtedly his followers) lands in Funan's territory around the Mekong delta (now in southernmost Vietnam). The regional queen, Liu-ye, 'Willow Leaf', wants to pillage the ship and seize it, so Hun-t'ien shoots an arrow from his divine bow which pierces Liu-ye's ship.

She is frightened into surrendering, and Hun-t'ien takes her for his wife. The tale is clearly one of the conquest of a more primitive people by technologically-advanced sailors. The kingdom is founded by this group which then intermixes with the native inhabitants, albeit probably in the form of a ruling elite.

The Cham inscription states that Liǔyè is known as Soma, the daughter of the king of the Nagas tribal grouping. Their new kingdom of Funan is represented in the archaeological record by the Óc Eo culture.

late 2nd century

Hun P'an-H'uang

Descendant of Hun-t'ien. Died in his nineties.

late 100s

The History of the Liang relates that one of Hun-t'ien's descendants is Hun-p'an-huang (the Late Han form of his name). He is recorded as being over ninety years of age when he dies.

Mekong Delta
Now due to disappear beneath the sea by about 2100, the Mekong delta played an important part in the development of early Cambodia and Vietnam

He is succeeded by 'his second son, P'an-p'an, who transmits the care of his affairs to his great general, Fan Man'. This general's full name is Fan Shih-man. When P'an-p'an dies just three years later, the kingdom's people select Fan Shih-man to succeed him.

192

Cham people revolt yet again during the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam'. This time, under Khu Liên, they remain undefeated, founding the independent kingdom of Lâm Ấp. Its southern border touches the north-eastern border of Funan.

early 3rd century

P'an-P'an

Son. Died after three years on the throne.

c.205 - 225

Fan Shih-Man

Selected successor. Former general. 'Great King'.

210s - 220s

The new king proves adept and able. With a powerful band of warriors he attacks and subjects neighbouring kingdoms, such as Ch'ii-tu-k'un, Chiu-chih, and Tien-sun, forcing acknowledgement as their overlord. He takes the title 'Great King of Funan'.

There is good reason to consider Fan Shih-Man's name as a transcription of the King Sri Mara who is mentioned in the venerable Sanskrit stele of Vo Canh which sits in the Nha Trang region of today's Vietnam, presumably a small vassal state of Funan's at the time of its construction.

Oc Eo Culture
The Iron Age Óc Eo culture of southern Vietnam and areas of Cambodia serves as the archaeological expression of the kingdom of Funan, with this item dating from near its end in the early 600s AD

Late Han texts state that the warrior king dies during the course of an expedition against the Chin-lin, or 'Frontier of Gold', which would seem to correspond either to Suvanqabhumi, the 'Land of Gold' in the Pali texts, or to Suvarnakudya, the 'Wall of Gold' in Sanskrit texts (located in lower Burma or the Malay peninsula).

c.225

Fan Chin-Sheng / Chin-cheng

Son? Murdered by Fan Chan.

c.225

The legitimate heir is Fan Chin-Sheng. He is quickly murdered by a nephew of Fan Shih-man, named Fan Chan. About fifteen or twenty years later, Fan Chan is assassinated by a son of Fan Shih-man named Ch'ang.

c.225 - 240

Fan Chan

Nephew of Fan Shih-man. Sent an envoy to Kalinga.

c.220s - 230s

Diplomatic relations are established with the Murunda dynasty of rulers in northern Kalinga. King Dhamadamadhara of Murunda receives the envoy, Su-Wu, who represents Fan Chan of Funan. He is gifted with Indo-Scythian horses before he undertakes his four-year voyage of return.

China undergoes its 'Three Kingdoms' civil war period from AD 220 onwards. The Eastern Wu soon find it impossible to use the land route which is held by Cao Wei for its commercial relations with the west. Instead it seeks out alternative sea routes which means connecting through the important trading port of Funan's kingdom. Lâm Ấp takes the opportunity to strike against Chinese interests.

Eastern Wu Emperor Sun Quan
The Eastern Wu's first king, Sun Quan, took his time in declaring his kingdom in AD 222, and took even longer to declare the kingdom to be the 'rightful' heart of the former Chinese empire in AD 229

c.225

The cycle of vengeance continues with Fan Chan being murdered by Ch'ang, another of Fan Shih-man's sons. Ch'ang is then murdered in turn by the general, Fan Hsun, who proclaims himself king.

c.240

Fan Ch'ang

Son of Fan Shih-man. Killed usurper, but then murdered.

c.240 - 287

Fan Hsun

General and usurper.

248

The armies of Lâm Ấp rise to pillage the villages of the north during the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam'. Following a heavily-fought struggle on the bay to the south of Ron they also manage to capture and secure the territory of Ch'u-su.

c.270 - 284

Fan Hsiung

Grandson of Khu Liên of Lâm Ấp. King there too?

c.270

Fan Hsiung of Funan, a grandson of Khu Liên of Lâm Ấp in the female line (revealing the beginnings of Cham influence on eastern areas of Funan), renews attacks against the Chinese of the 'Second Chinese Domination of Vietnam' in conjunction with the people of Lâm Ấp itself (he may also rule there).

My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam
The kingdom of Lâm Ấp was about the first state to emerge in what is now central Vietnam, with the Nam Viet to their north and various independent Cham groups to their south, while Funan formed their most important neighbour, with relations between the two usually being friendly

284 - 336

Fan Yi / Pham Dat

Son. King of Lâm Ấp. Ruled in Funan too? Died.

284

Fan Yi sends the first official embassy to 'Three Kingdoms' China following the conclusion of its civil war. His counsellor is Wen, either Chinese or a Sinicised Viet native who has settled in Lâm Ấp to play an important role there. The unexpected death of Fan Yi allows Wen to succeed him in Lâm Ấp at least as Fan Wen.

340 - 349

Fan Wen of Lâm Ấp has already pacified the savage tribes on his northern border. He requests of the weakened Eastern Jin Emperor Sima Yan the right to set his border at Hoành Sơn Mountain (today in Vietnam) to gain the fertile lands of Rinan (formerly Jih-nan, in Vietnam).

While the emperor dithers, Fan Wen goes ahead in 347 and sets his border anyway. Two years later he dies during an exploratory mission along the new border, having completed his desired expansion of the state.

before 357 - ?

Chandan / Chu Chan-t'an

Kushan prince? Introduced new dynasty.

357

For reasons unknown Funan falls under the domination of a foreigner. In the first month of this year, according to (Former) Qin and Liang dynastic histories, 'T'ien Chu Chan-t'an, king of Funan, offers tamed elephants as tribute'.

T'ien Chu is the Chinese name for India, and the expression 'T'ien Chu Chan-t'an' means 'the Indian Chan-t'an'. Chan-t'an is a transcription of chandan, a royal title which is used by the Greater Yuezhi, or Indo-Scythians, and especially amongst the Kushans of the line of Kanishka 'the Great' of the second century AD.

Map of Sixten Kingdoms China AD 350
By the early fourth century AD China had fractured once again, with the north splintering into the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' and the Jin imperial dynasty having retreated south of the River Huai to retain their claim of imperial superiority in the form of the Eastern Jin (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Therefore Tien Chu Chan-t'an or Chu Chan-t'an is a royal personage who originates in India, with possible familial connections to the second century Kanishka of the Kushans. In fact much of South-East Asia undergoes renewed Indianisation during the second half of the fourth century AD. This is frequently ascribed to Samudragupta of the Gupta dynasty and his wide-ranging conquests.

?

This second Kaundinya is another Indianiser in Funan. When he arrives in the kingdom of Panpan he is given a divine message that he should rule Funan. The people of Funan accept him, apparently with open arms, mostly likely having become used to their Indianised way of life.

? - 434

Kaundinya (II) / Chiao Chen-ju

A Brahman from Panpan.

434 - 438

Sresthavarman / Shih-li-t'o-pa-mo

Son?

434

Shih-li-t'o-pa-mo is alternatively known as Che-li-pa-mo, Sri Indravarman, or Sreshthavarman in various records and in various countries. During the reign of Emperor Wen Ti of the Liu Song (424-453), Shih-li-t'o-pa-mo presents a petition and offers local products as gifts.

The same records note that Funan refuses to support a planned expedition by Yang Mah of Lâm Ấp to capture Tonkin which is part of 'Chinese Vietnam'.

Liu Song coin
This four Zhu coin was issued during the reign of Emperor Wu Ti, founder of the Liu Song dynasty following his murder of two of the preceding Eastern Jin emperors

al c.480 - 514

Kaundinya Jayavarman / She-yeh-pa-mo

Descendant of Kaundinya. Indian/Chinese names.

from c.480

Around 480 the Southern Qi History speaks for the first time about the Funanese king, She-yeh-pa-mo (Jayavarman), whose family name is Chiao Chen-ju, making him a descendant of Kaundinya. He sends merchants to Canton who, as they return, are shipwrecked along the coast of Lâm Ấp along with the Indian monk, Nagasena. This monk returns overland to the Funanese court.

484

Nagasena is sent to offer gifts to the Southern Qi emperor and to ask the emperor for help in conquering Lâm Ấp. This seems to make Funan's neighbour an enemy for the first time, but this antagonism stems from the presence on the throne of a usurper by the name of Tang-ken-ch'un, portrayed by Lâm Ấp as a son of a king of Funan.

Jayavarman claims him as one of his vassals named Chiu-ch'ou-lo, although it would be possible to claim a cousin, perhaps, as a vassal. Possibly Shih-li-t'o-pa-mo had been the father or grandfather of this particular king. The requested help is not forthcoming.

Southern Qi's founder, General Xiao Daocheng
Southern Qi's founder was General Xiao Daocheng, who murdered Emperor Houfei of the (Liu) Song dynasty (not necessarily without good reason) and then established his own dominance over all of southern China

503

Jayavarman's reign marks an epoch of grandeur which is reflected in the regard being shown to Funan by the Southern Liang emperor. On the occasion of an embassy of 503 an imperial order says: 'The king of Funan, Kaundinya Jayavarman, lives at the limits of the ocean. From generation to generation he [and his people] have governed the distant lands of the south'. The emperor grants the title of 'General of the Pacified South, King of Funan'.

The king's wife, Kulaprabhavati, leaves a Sanskrit inscription which dates to the second half of the fifth century. Its location is in western Funan (now part of Cambodia. She desires to retire from the world, and tells of the founding of a hermitage which consists of a dwelling and an artificial lake.

514

Gupavarman

Son. Deprived of throne and assassinated by a brother.

514 - c.550

Liu-t'opa-mo / Rudravarman

Half-brother by a concubine. Usurper. Lost the north.

517 - 539

Rudravarman - entitled sarvabhauma, meaning 'universal monarch' - sends various embassies to the Southern Liang between 517-539. He is claimed (at least by Coedès) as the last king of Funan. A Sanskrit inscription in the province of Bati links him to Buddhist monumental construction in the kingdom.

Dress costumes from Funan
Dress costumes from Funan, a kingdom in southern mainland South-East Asia which, by the early sixth century AD, seemed ripe for internal discontent and self-destruction

A Southern Liang embassy is sent to Funan between 535-545 to ask the king to collect Buddhist texts and to invite the king to send Buddhist teachers to China. A stele of the seventh century names Rudravarman as the predecessor of Bhavavarman I of Chen-La. Rudravarman's own mother may originate from this same region.

However, Rudravarman's irregular route to the throne seems to provoke unrest in the provinces of the middle Mekong. This movement is directed by the very same Bhavavarman of Chen-La and his cousin, Chitrasena (Chenla), which results in the dismemberment of Funan in the second half of the sixth century.

The New History of the Tang continues to mention embassies from Funan in the first half of the seventh century, but it also indicates that a great change has already taken place in the country: 'The king had his capital in the city T'e-mu. Suddenly his city was subjugated by Chen-La (to the north-west of Funan's core territory on the Mekong delta), and he had to migrate south to the city of Nafuna (Na-fu-na, location unknown but possibly Angkor Borei)'.

Tang dynasty goods via the Silk Road
The Tang dynasty prospered greatly from the flow of goods which came in via the burgeoning Silk Road, and some of that prosperity would have reached conquered and occupied Nam Viet, despite the unwillingness of the former kingdom's people to be dominated

c.550 - 627

?

Names unknown. Last rulers of a reduced kingdom.

627

Funan has been the dominating power in the southern region of South-East Asia for five centuries. The death of Rudravarman in 550 may have meant the restoration of the rightful line, but it may be this very restoration which causes Chen-La to now destroy what remains of the kingdom.

For a long time after its fall, Funan retains much prestige in the memories of subsequent generations. The kings of Chen-La adopt its dynastic legend and attempt to link themselves to the Indianised kings of Funan and the Javanese sovereigns of the eighth century.

North-eastern Funan territory is gradually absorbed into the growing Cham domains so that the language or dialect of Funan is lost in preference to Cham tongues. The remainder is absorbed into Chen-La and then the Khmer empire.

 
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