Meaning of SOUTHEAST ASIAN ARTS in English
- SOUTHEAST ASIAN ARTS
the literary, performing, and visual arts of Southeast Asia. Although the cultural development of the area was once dominated by Indian influence, a number of cohesive traits predate the Indian influence. Wet-rice (or padi) agriculture, metallurgy, navigation, ancestor cults, and worship associated with mountains were both indigenous and widespread, and certain art forms not derived from Indiafor example, batik textiles, gamelan orchestras, and the wayang puppet theatreremain popular. The term Southeast Asia refers to the huge peninsula of Indochina and the extensive archipelago of what is sometimes called the East Indies. The region can be subdivided into mainland Southeast Asia and insular Southeast Asia. The political units contained in this region are Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea (Cambodia), Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The Philippines originally was not included, because Philippine history has not followed the general historical pattern of Southeast Asia, but, because of its geographic position and the close affinities of its primitive cultures with the primitive cultures of Southeast Asia, it is now usually regarded as the eastern fringe of Southeast Asia. A common geographic and climatic pattern prevails over all of Southeast Asia and has resulted in a particular pattern of settlement and cultural development. Mountain people generally have a cultural level less developed than that of the valley dwellers. As a consequence, Southeast Asia is culturally fragmented. (For a discussion of the traditional cultures of the area, see Southeast Asian peoples.) the literary, performing, and visual arts of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Though the cultural development of Southeast Asia was dominated by Indian influence, some prehistoric cohesive traits predate Indianization. Wet-rice (or padi) agriculture, metallurgy, navigation, ancestor cults, and worship associated with mountains were indigenous and widespread; nor were batik textiles, gamelan orchestras, or wayang puppet theatrethree art forms still popular throughout the regionderived from India. The 3rd-century-BC Dong Son culture of Vietnam produced bronze artifacts of technical and decorative sophistication. The navigational skills of the Dong Son people are evinced by their representations of large boats and the wide dispersal area of their beautifully crafted drums. Southeast Asian archaeological and historical studies are still in their infancy; excavation may yet reveal similar Metal Age sites associated with bronze drums found in Malaysia and Indonesia. Dong Son motifs recur at a later date in the architectural ornamentation of Old Java and the ancient Cambodian kingdom of Champa and are echoed in the decorative arts of the present-day Dyak of Borneo. Hinduism and Buddhism were transplanted to Southeast Asia from India but were transformed in conformity with the archaic beliefs and religious practices of Southeast Asia. Indian architectural and decorative motifs were similarly reworked to suit Southeast Asian requirements, a process to which local traditions contributed. Purely derivative styles generally reflect the earliest stage of Southeast Asian contact with India; indigenous elements dominated the late phases of Hindu art in Southeast Asia. In the final phase of Hindu temple construction in East Java, for example, Indian and local mythological themes were executed in a style taken from the indigenous shadow theatre. These wayang relief panels are complemented at Candi Sukuh by a terraced layout echoing the ancient megalithic terrace-shrines of the Yang Plateau. Sinicized regions such as Vietnam are generally the product of conquest. Chinese literature (and written characters), art, and ideas were imposed on Vietnam along with Han-dynasty administration. Despite commercial and diplomatic contact, few artistic elements elsewhere in Southeast Asia are overtly Chinese, yet Chinese ideas possibly had a formative influenceassumptions underlying the emperor cult have many points of comparison with the regal symbolism that pervades the visual arts of Southeast Asia. Trade with South Asia existed long before Hinduism and Buddhism were adopted in Southeast Asia. It seems unlikely, however, that small mercantile colonies were the centres for dissemination of Indian ideas and art forms. On the contrary, Southeast Asian princes certainly took the initiative by inviting to court Brahman priests, some of whom had already brought their Sanskrit language and culture to the coastal areas of both insular and mainland Southeast Asia. Indian art forms flourished because these potentates found in the highly evolved ritual, mythology, and theology of India a means of legitimating and extending their rule. In a sense, they were importing a superior magicdisplayed in the monumental architecture and colourful ceremonial so prominent in Southeast Asian societies. Ruined temples at the Angkor Thom complex, Angkor, Cambodia. Religious art and architecture did not simply further temporal power; the two were intimately connected. The Khmer temple-cities of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom (see photograph) were centres of a royal cult. Aligned along the cardinal points and dominated by temple-mountains, they were microcosms of both the universe and the kingdom. The unearthly faces of the bodhisattva Lokesvara crowning the Bayon were equally representative of the all-seeing eye of the emperor. Regal narcissism was widespread in Southeast Asia, and many sculptures of divinities were in fact royal portrait statues giving a sophisticated and novel veneer to archaic notions of power and spiritual potency. In Java the candi combined temple and royal mausoleum. The complex symbolism of Borobudur marries Buddhist cosmology to an ancestral cult of kings. Temple reliefs illustrate excerpts from Indian texts, mostly Mahabharata and Ramayana epic episodes and Jataka tales of the Buddha's previous lives. The Mahabharata, Ramayana, Jatakas, and local legendary talesthe Pandji cycle of stories of Java and the Thai king Abhai, among many othersare also expounded in the performing arts of the region. Bharata-natya is the model for a distinct dance technique that has minimized the mudras (gestures) of Indian classicism to emphasize grace of movement over theme. Regional variations of temple and court dance vie with local developments; Bali, a living museum of popular idiosyncratic Hinduism, sports the barong and legong. Numerous theatrical forms are vehicles for social criticism; most remarkable is wayang, or shadow play, in which puppetry has been fused with dance and drama in a unique form of entertainment. Music is generally coordinated with the dramatic arts, resulting in great rhythmic but slight melodic content. The gamelan, in its various manifestations, is the basis of a percussive orchestra. Myanmar and Thailand share the common performance tradition of Southeast Asia, but their adoption of Theravada Buddhism forged strong ties with Sri Lanka, evident in their visual arts (the Thai cheddi [or chedi] and Myanmar pagoda are versions of the Sri Lankan bell stupa). Thai sculpture and architecture were often highly derivative of Indian and Khmer forms, though the walking Buddhas of Sukhothai are innovative. The temples of Pagan (Myanmar) are distinctive, and the outstanding Borobudur complex in central Java, though influenced by Indian art, provides a unique and impressive example of architectural adaptation. Islam made no impact on these kingdoms, and elsewhere it tended to contribute little more than a Muslim veneer to evolved art traditions. Similarly, the cultural influence of Europe was minimal outside the Philippines, yet nationalist agitation against colonial rule gave impetus to the development of vernacular literatures, which had been slow to develop because of the regional hegemony of Sanskrit. Chronicle, epic, and romantic compositions rarely predate the 15th century. Additional reading General works Reginald Le May, The Culture of Southeast Asia (1954), deals with the art and architecture of Southeast Asian peoples. George Coedes, Les tats hindouiss d'Indochine et d'Indonsie, new ed. (1964; Eng. trans., The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, 1968) and Les Peuples de la pninsule indochinoise (1962; Eng. trans., The Making of Southeast Asia, 1966), are standard works. Literature (Burma): Maung Htin Aung, A History of Burma (1967), contains a general survey of Burmese literature. The same author's Burmese Folk-Tales (1948), Burmese Law Tales (1962), Burmese Monk's Tales (1966); and Maung Myint Thein, Burmese Folk-Songs (1970), provide a good survey of Burmese oral literature. Dramatic literature is treated in Maung Htin Aung, Burmese Drama (1937). (Thailand): P. Schweisguth, tude sur la littrature siamoise (1951), is the standard work on Thai literature. The Journal of the Siam Society (various issues) contains studies on Thai literature. (The Philippines): Leonard Casper, The Philippine Literature: The Unexplored Potential, Asia, 9:8087 (1967); Albert Ravenholt, The Philippines: A Young Republic on the Move (1962). (Vietnam): Nguyen Ngoc Bich (ed.), The Poetry of Viet Nam, Asia, 14:6991 (1969). (Malaysia): Richard Winstedt, The Malays: A Cultural History, 6th ed. (1961); and Oliver Rice and Abdullah Majid (eds.), Modern Malay Verse, 194661 (1963), are important works to consult. (Indonesia): T.G.T. Pigeaud, Java in the 14th Century, 5 vol. (196063), is a special study of Javanese literature in the Majapahit period. See also A. Teeuw, Modern Indonesian Literature (1967). Takdir Alisjahbana, Indonesia in the Modern World (1961), contains good accounts of modern Indonesian literature against the political, cultural, social, and historical background. Music William P. Malm, Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia, ch. 2 and 5 (1967), discusses the music of the Southeast Asian region; Lawrence Picken, The Music of Far Eastern Asia and Other Countries, in The New Oxford History of Music, vol. 1, Ancient and Oriental Music, pp. 83194 (1957), discusses intercultural and musical relationships between Far Eastern and Southeast Asian countries. See also D.R. Widdess and R.F. Wolpert (eds.), Music and Tradition (1981), essays on Asian music. (Burma): U Khin Zaw, Burmese Music: A Preliminary Inquiry, Journal of the Burma Research Society, pp. 387466 (December 1940), appends several pages of music notations to a discussion of music history and the structure of Burmese scales. (Cambodia and Laos): Alain Danielou, La Musique du Cambodge et du Laos (1957), is a brochure that discusses with the help of illustrations traditional musical instruments of both countries. (Indonesia): Jaap Kunst, Music in Java, 2 vol. (1949), an important work with a comprehensive bibliography including works of many Dutch scholars, treats matters regarding history, vocal and instrumental music, structure, notation, and tonal systems of the East-Central and the West-Javanese gamelan; Mantle Hood, The Nuclear Theme As a Determinant of Patet in Javanese Music (1954), modal structure of patet is analyzed according to basic elements in themes of several gamelan pieces of music; Colin McPhee, Music in Bali (1966), gives detailed descriptions and specific musical examples of repertoire played in many gamelan ensembles; Walter Kaudern, Musical Instruments in Celebes, in Ethnological Studies in Celebes, vol. 3 (1927), a detailed study with a long list of names of musical instruments, 130 figures, and 19 maps showing the geographical distribution of musical instruments; Jaap Kunst, Music in Nias (1939), describes both vocal and instrumental music, classifies musical instruments (Hornbostel-Sachs divisions), and illustrates their distribution in 7 maps; Music in Flores (1942), lists in a table the native names of 54 instruments of the five divisions of the archipelago; Charles S. Myers, A Study of Sarawak Music, Sammelbnde der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, 15:296308 (191314), 13 gongs from different cultural groups and music of some instruments are analyzed with the help of musical examples; Henry L. Roth, The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo, 2 vol. (1896)vol. 1, ch. 9 deals with feasts, festivals and dancing, while vol. 2, ch. 26 discusses music in general; Edwin H. Gomes, Seventeen Years Among the Sea Dyaks of Borneo (1911), terms for songs and names of musical instruments that the author cites are still known in Sarawak; Ivor Evans, Among Primitive Peoples in Borneo, ch. 14 (1922), devoted exclusively to a discussion of musical instruments, music, and dancing; Jaap Kunst, Music in New Guinea (Eng. trans. 1967), comprises three works first published in 1931 and 1950 that treat of vocal and instrumental music of the Papua in the north and the central range of mountains, of songs in the north and the West, and of music in the West Central range, Southwest, North and West coasts (many musical examples and a distribution map of musical instruments). (The Philippines): Jose Maceda, The Music of the Magindanao in the Philippines, (1963, Ann Arbor University Microfilms), discusses instrumental and vocal music of the whole culture with copious musical examples and two long-playing records available at Folkways Records, New York; and Drone and Melody in Philippine Musical Instruments, paper read at an International Conference on Traditional Drama and Music of Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur, August 2731 (1969), discusses age, spread, and variety of combinations of drone and melody as a root structure. (Thailand ): David Morton, The Traditional Instrumental Music of Thailand, (1964, Ann Arbor University Microfilms), a study that covers both the historical and structural aspects of Thai music. (Vietnam): Trn Van Kh, La Musique Vietnamienne traditionnelle (1962), detailed and important information about history, musical instruments, and musical theory (references abound with criticism of some works); and Vietnam (1967), a clear and concise presentation, containing valuable new historical material. Dance and theatre James R. Brandon, Theatre in Southeast Asia (1967), a general survey of major theatre forms, incorporating firsthand observation. (Burma): Maung Htin Aung, Burmese Drama (1937), a detailed history and translations of plays, four complete and eight in excerpts; Kenneth Sein and J.A. Withey, The Great Po Sein (1965), a lively chronicle of the Burmese stage of the last century, cast in the first person narrative, by a famous contemporary actor; U Pok Ni, Konmara Pya Zat (1952), a complete English translation of a 19th-century play with interpretive notes. (Cambodia): Jacques Brunet, Nang Sbek, Danced Shadow Theatre of Cambodia, World of Music, 11:1837 (1969), a brief and excellent description and history of Cambodian shadow theatre; Samdach Chaufea Thiounn, Danses cambodgiennes, 2nd ed. (1956), the most complete history and analysis of plays, music, and dance of female and male dance-drama. (Indonesia): Benedict R.O'G. Anderson, Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanese (1965), major wajang characters are described and their significance as behavioral models is treated; James R. Brandon (ed.), On Thrones of Gold: Three Javanese Shadow Plays (1970), translations, with description of action, music indication, and photographs, of three wajang kulit plays; Claire Holt, Art in Indonesia (1967), excellent chapters on wajang kulit, dance, and dance-drama in all parts of Indonesia; James L. Peacock, Rites of Modernization (1968), the plays, structure and content, of ludruk in Java as seen through the eyes of a modern anthropologist; W.H. Rassers, Paji, the Culture Hero (1959), a disputed but brilliant theoretical discussion of the origin and meaning of Indonesian theatre; H. Ulbricht, Wayang Purwa: Shadows of the Past (1970), useful for its extended translations of synopses of Pandawa plays found in J. Kats's famous Dutch work Het Javaansche tooneel, vol. 1, Wajang Poerwa (1923); Beryl De Zoete and Walter Spies, Dance and Drama in Bali (1938), an authoritative and encyclopaedic pre-World War II description of Bali's performing arts. See also I Mad Bandem and Frederik E. Deboer, Kaja and Kelod: Balinese Dance in Transition (1982); and Ana Daniel, Bali: Behind the Mask (1981). (Malaysia): Jeanne Cuisinier, Le Thtre d'Ombres Kelantan, 2nd ed. (1957), Malaysian shadow theatre described and illustrated, with a partial play translation; Richard Winstedt, The Malays: A Cultural History, 6th ed. (1961), contains background information on Malaysian drama, including translations of pre-performance invocations. (The Philippines): Jean Edades (ed.), Short Plays of the Philippines (1950), a collection of recent one-act plays in English; Alberto S. Florentino, Outstanding Filipino Short Plays (1961), short plays with two appendixes on traditional and modern drama in the Philippines; Francisca Tolentino, Philippine National Dances (1946), descriptions and brief histories of many folk dances. (Thailand): Ubol Bhukkanasut (trans.), Manohra, in Traditional Asian Plays, ed. by James R. Brandon (1972), a translation with stage directions of the lakon jatri play Manohra; H.H. Bridhyakorn, The Nang, 3rd ed. (1956), a short booklet on nang yai shadow play; and with Dhanit Yupho, The Khon, 3rd ed, (1956), a short booklet on khon masked pantomime; Dhanit Yupho, Classical Siamese Theatre (1952), 52 folk and classical dance sequences described and illustrated; and The Khon and Lakon (1963), synopses, commentary, and illustrations for 32 classic dance plays as performed by the Bangkok Department of Fine Arts between 1947 and 1960. (Vietnam): Song-Ban, The Vietnamese Theatre (1960), brief descriptions of theatre in Vietnam. Visual arts Philip S. Rawson, The Art of Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Java, Bali (1967), a comprehensive survey with many illustrations and plans; Benjamin Rowland, The Art and Architecture of India, 3rd ed. rev. (1967), sets the art of the region in relation to South Asian, or Indian art; Wim Swaan, Lost Cities of Asia (1966), a pictorial study of Ceylon, Pagan, and Angkor; detailed articles in the Encyclopedia of World Art (196067): George Coeds, Burmese Art, Khmer Art, and Cham Art; A.B. Griswold, Siamese Art; Madeleine Hallade and Robert Heine-Geldern, Indonesian Art; Louis Bezacier, Vietnamese Art; and J.M.R. Riviere, Philippine Artall these articles have extensive bibliographies. (Burma): A.B. Griswold, Chewon Kim, and P.H. Pott, Burma, Korea, Tibet (U.S. title, The Art of Burma, Korea, Tibet; 1964), the only survey of Burmese art; Burma Research Society, Fiftieth Anniversary Publications, vol. 2 (1960), source material including important articles in English by G.H. Luce and W.B. Sinclair. (Champa): The basic studies are Philippe Stern, L'Art du Champa (ancien Annam) et son volution (1942); and Louis Bezacier, Relev des monuments anciens du Nord Vit-nam (1959). (Siam and Laos): Three basic sources include Silpa Bhirasri, Thai-Mon Bronzes (1957), and The Origin and Evolution of Thai Murals (1959); and L. Boribal Buribhand and A.B. Griswold, Sculpture of Peninsular Siam in the Ayuthya Period, Journal of the Siam Society, 38:160 (1951). Pierre Dupont, L'Archologie mne de Dvaravati (1959), is the most authoritative study of this topic so far. The chief illustrated source for dating Buddhist art is A.B. Griswold, Dated Buddha Images of Northern Siam (1957). See also Carol Stratton and Miriam M. Scott, The Art of Sukhothai: Thailand's Golden Age (1981), covering the period between the mid-1200s and the mid-1600s. (Indochina): Jean Boisselier, La Statuaire khmre et son volution, 2 vol. (1955), an exhaustive study of the development of Khmer sculpture; George Coeds, Le Culte de la Royaut divinise . . . , Srie Orientale, conference vol. 5 (1952), a basic iconographic study; Pierre Dupont, La Statuaire prangkorienne (1955), the authoritative book on pre-Angkor sculpture; Louis Frederic, Sud-Est Asiatique: ses temples, ses sculptures (1964; Eng. trans., The Temples and Sculptures of Southeast Asia (U.S. title, The Art of Southeast Asia: Temples and Sculpture; 1965), a well-documented pictorial survey; Bernard P. Groslier, Indochine: carrefour des arts (1961; Eng. trans., Indochina: Art in the Melting Pot of Races, 1962), the most comprehensive survey in English; and with Jacques Arthaud, Angkor, hommes et pierres (1956; Eng. trans., Angkor: Art and Civilization, rev. ed., 1966), a thoroughly documented pictorial survey. (Indonesia): F.A. Wagner, Indonesia: The Art of an Island Group (1959), a comprehensive survey of Indonesian art in English; A.J. Bernet Kempers, Ancient Indonesian Art (1959), a comprehensive illustrated book. Major works on Borobudur include T. Van Erp, Beschrijving van Barabudur, vol. 2, Bouwkundige beschrijving (1931); N.J. Krom, Barabudur: Archaeological Description, 2 vol. (1927); and Paul Mus, Barabudur, esquisse d'une histoire du bouddhisme fonde sur la critique archologique des textes (1935), which covers the subject of the role of Indian philosophy and theology as a background to Borobudur. Music General characteristics Society and music Rural and urban music A general musical division exists between the urban and rural areas of Southeast Asia. Urban centres comprise the islands of Java and Bali and places in Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, and Burma, where big ensembles of gong families play for court and state ceremonies. Rural areas include other islands and remote places, where smaller ensembles and solo instruments play a simpler music for village feasts, curing ceremonies, and daily activities. In cities and towns influenced by Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, shadow and masked plays and dances utilizing music play important communal roles, while in less urbanized areas, in lieu of musical plays, chants and songs in spirit worship and rituals are sung in exclusive surroundingsa ritual procession on the headwaters of Borneo, a drinking ceremony in the jungles of Palawan, a feast in the uplands of Luzon. In both regions the physical setting is usually the open airin temple yards and courtyards, under the shade of big trees, in house and public yards, fields and clearings. Many musical instruments are made of natural products of a tropical environment, and their sounds are products of this milieu. The music of buzzers, zithers, and harps is thus akin to sounds heard in the tropical vegetation of Southeast Asia. In Bali, for example, special ways of chanting and sounds of the jew's harp (also jaw's harp) ensemble (genggong) imitate the croaking of frogs and noise of animals. Relation to social institutions Music in Southeast Asia is frequently related to ceremonies connected with religion, the state, community festivals, and family affairs. In Java, important Islamic feasts, such as the birthday of Muhammad or the fast of Ramadan, as well as animistic ceremonies marking the harvest and cycles of human life, are celebrated with shadow plays (wayang ). In Bali, the gamelan gong orchestra opens ceremonies and provides most of the music for temple feasts. The gamelan selunding, an ensemble with iron-keyed metallophones (like xylophones but with metal keys), plays ritual music, and the gamelan angklung, so called because it formerly included tube rattles, or angklung, is used to accompany long processions to symbolic baths near the river. In Malaya the court orchestra, or nobat, was held almost as sacred as the powers of the sultan himself. Among the Land Dayak and Iban in Borneo, ceremonial chants are sung in feasts related to rice planting, harvesting, and honouring the omen bird kenyalang and other spirits. The performing arts In variety of dance and theatrical forms and in the number of performing groups, no area in the world except India and Pakistan compares to Southeast Asia. Some form of the performing arts is a normal part of life throughout the several nations. Sophisticated performing groups cluster in and around the present and former court citiesJogjakarta and Surakarta in Java, Ubud and Gianjar in Bali, Bangkok in Thailand, Mandalay in Burma, Siem Reap near Angkor and Phnom Penh in Kampuchea (Cambodia), Hue in Vietnamwhere drama, puppetry, dance, and music have been cultivated for ten centuries or more. Hundreds of commercial theatrical and dance groups perform in such newer centres as Rangoon, Saigon, and Jakarta and in scores of provincial cities and towns. Wandering troupes of actors, puppeteers, singers, and dancers travel from village to village in areas adjacent to these population centres. There are few communities in which some form of folk dance is not performed by local people. In the West, music, dance, and drama are usually separate arts, whereas in all areas of Southeast Asia, drama, dance, mime, music, song, and narrative are integrated into composite forms, often with masks or in the form of puppetry. The spectator's senses, emotions, and intellect are bombarded simultaneously with colour, movement, and sound. The result is a richness and a vividness in the theatre that is absent in most Western drama, so much of which rests on a literary basis. More than 100 distinct forms or genres of performing arts can be distinguished in Southeast Asia. These can be grouped, according to which of the various stage arts is emphasized, into (1) masked dance and masked dance-mime, (2) unmasked dance and dance-drama, (3) drama with music and dance, (4) opera, (5) shadow-puppet plays, and (6) doll- or stick-puppet plays. Diverse traditions in the performing arts Four relatively distinct traditions exist in the performing arts: folk, court, popular, and Western. Visual arts General considerations Religiousaesthetic traditions The visual arts in Southeast Asia have followed two major traditions. Indigenous magical and animist tradition The first is a complex inheritance of magical and animist art shared by the different tribal peoples of the mainland, where it evolved from Paleolithic origins, and of the islands. Such art gave the peoples who made it a sense of their identity in relation to the forces of their natural environment, to the structure of their society, and to time. It consists of types of potent emblem, mask, and ancestral figures broadly similar to those that hunters and early farmers the world over have used in connection with seasonal ceremonies, life and death rituals, and ecstatic shamanism (belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to the shamans, or priests). The spiritual powers that the arts name and invoke are local and vary from group to group of the population. The rich formal artistic languages have been subject to successive episodes of influence from inland Asia, but each of the tribal groupings has developed its own artistic language on the basis of a common fund of Southeast Asian thought forms. Visual arts Cambodia and Vietnam Paleolithic tools similar to types found in India have been found in Cambodia (Kampuchea) and Vietnam; and it is possible to trace the movement of population or culture groups, some of whom probably migrated onward by sea from Southeast Asia into the islands. The important group of speakers of MonKhmer languages may conceivably have been the people who produced the megalithic monuments in Cambodia and Laos, which include colossal stone burial urns, dolmens, and menhirs, perhaps associated with the many circular earth platforms as yet unexcavated (see above General development of Southeast Asian art). Probably contemporaneous, at least in part, with the Neolithic MonKhmer culture is the culture known by the name of its richest, most northerly site, Dong Son, on the coast of the Gulf of Tonkin in northern Vietnam. It seems probable that the chief influences on this culture came from southern China. Many sites, ranging in date from about the 4th to the 1st century Bc, stretch southward from the coast of Vietnam, as far as northern New Guinea. The islands of Indonesia and parts of Malaya may have been the principal location of the Dong Son culture. The most impressive bronze objects produced by this culture are large drums, which seem sometimes to have been buried with the dead. Splendid examples have been found in Java and Bali (see below Indonesia). These and many other bronze objects, such as superb funeral urns with relief ornament based on squared hooks, lamp holders, dagger hilts in the form of human figures, and other weapons, are of extremely high quality. Their ornament was produced by the Chinese casting technique of incising the patterns into the negative mold that was to receive the molten bronze; much of it suggests a parallel version of contemporary Chinese ornament of the Ch'in period (221206 BC). From the figures and objects represented in this bronze work, it seems that the Dong Son culture had much in common with that of some of the peoples of the Melanesian islands today. The culture knew large seagoing canoes, houses similar in structure to those still common among peoples of Melanesia, and ceremonies that the Melanesians might recognize. It is probable that one group of their descendants, which retained its identity, is known to the history of this region as the Cham (see below Vietnam kingdom of Champa). Although many peoples isolated in the densely forested uplands also retained a tribal identity, by far the most important art was produced in the two Indianizing empires: Khmer, in Cambodia, with its linear predecessors the kingdoms of Funan and of Chenla (names they were given by Chinese historians), and the Cham, in Vietnam. Cambodian kingdoms of Funan and Chenla: 1st to 9th century Funan, which was in existence by the 1st century AD, was the earliest of the kingdoms that arose along the lower reaches of the Mekong River in response to Indian ideas. Its influence probably extended over long stretches of the coast of the Gulf of Siam, even as far as southern Burma, and corresponded with the range of the Mon peoples. Lying on the natural focus of land and sea routes linking eastern India and southern China to the islands of the South Seas, its geographical situation was ideal for a kingdom whose wealth was based on trade. At Funan sites even Roman, Ptolemaic Egyptian, and Sassanian Persian objects have been found, giving an idea of the extent of its trading interests. The founder was probably a Brahmin trader from western India; for a local legend describes how the first king, a Brahmin, married the daughter of a local serpent deity, so establishing the ruling family. Serpents (nagas) in Indian mythology are the spiritual patrons of water; and the basis this kingdom laid for later kingdoms in the same area was an elaborate system of waterworks, canals, and irrigation channels controlling and distributing the waters of the Mekong River. Contemporary Chinese accounts refer to cities with splendid wooden buildings, carved, painted, and gilded. But nothing remains, save a few foundation piles. Probably during the 6th century AD the kingdom called Chenla was established in the upper-middle reaches of the Mekong River, in what is now Laos. The kings who ruled in Chenla were descended from the kings of Funan and took over much of the Funan domain. It seems that disastrous floods had finally ruined Funan, which had previously suffered from Indonesian aggression, and that the shift of power to Chenla represented a recognition of temporarily insuperable geographical difficulties. Culturally, Funan and Chenla are continuous. Their artists produced some of the world's greatest stone sculptures, most of which are large, freestanding icons, carved in sandstone. Intended to be installed in brick-built shrines, none of which survive, they usually represent the two major deities of Hinduism, Siva and Vishnu. Sometimes both deities are combined into a single figure called Harihara; the right half of the body is characterized as Siva, the left as Vishnu. A few examples of other figures are known, including some magnificent images of goddesses. The style of these sculptures is marked by an extremely smooth, continuously undulating surface, given strength by a system of clear, broad frontal planes and side recessions related to the foursquare block. Such images were meant to demonstrate the power and charm of a heavenly prototype to whom an earthly king appealed for his authority. The earliest images belong to the 6th century, and the series continues into the 9th. In later Khmer times each king and sometimes each member of a royal house had statues of himself or herself in the guise of a patron deity set up in the family temple precinct. That the same custom prevailed in 6th-century India, particularly in the southeast, suggests that some of the early Funan and Chenla sculptures may have served the same function. A number of figures are Indian in stylesome more markedly than others, which is probably more than a matter of date; for it is quite likely that Indian craftsmen occasionally travelled into this region to work. The style of the greatest of these early sculptures, however, is not Indian at all. Similarly non-Indian are the magnificent sandstone lintels made for the doorways of the vanished brick shrines. Although distantly related to Indian prototypes of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, they appear as full-fledged Indochinese inventions and may well have been developed in combination with a native conception of the lintel as a special attribute of the spirit shrine (see above Thailand and Laos). They are carved in relief with designs based on a pair of monsters, one at each end, which are linked by an ornate arched or lobed beam. The beam is adorned with figures inside foliate plaques, a long sequence of elaborately carved swags of jewels hanging beneath them. Among the FunanChenla sculptures are a few Buddhist icons executed in sandstone, markedly less sensuous than the Hindu figures and close to the styles of Dvaravati (see above Thailand and Laos), though a number of small Buddhist bronzes representing bodhisattvas approach the delicacy of the Hindu work.
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