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BC 600 - AD 1900  ...In the beginning...

   The peoples who finally became the nation of Thailand where known as the 'Ai Lo' by the Chinese, and as Nanchaoans by others, first migrated out of northern India almost 4,000 years ago. They traveled up towards southern China skirting round the mountainous regions of Tibet and entering the Hunan province of China. battling the imperial Chinese army for over 50 years before the Imperial court allowed the Nanchaoans to stay if they agreed to pay tribute.

When Tibet moved against China in a serious of political wars based on the rejection of China to allow a royal member of the Chinese imperial court to become wife to one of the kings of Tibet.

   The Nanchaoans like the Tibeto- Burmans were the unfortunate buffer between both countries, but an invading Mongol army from China's eastern borders had swept into the region, the Nanchaoans moved out after 400 hundred years, not being able to compete against the invading Mongol armies and defending their backs against the Tibetans.  Throughout this period the Tai peoples had been gradually migrating southwards  down the great river valleys of mainland Southeast Asia and settling among the Khmer, Mon and Burman populations whom they encountered on the way. By the 12th century they had established several small states in Upper Burma (Shans), the Mekong valley (Laos) and the Chao Phraya valley (Thais).

Thailand before the Thais.

The area covered by the modern state of Thailand, known until 1939 as Siam, is one of considerable diversity. The term Thai or Siamese is therefore primarily not ethnic, but political, denoting a subject of the king of Thailand, secondarily linguistic, meaning a speaker of the Thai language, and thirdly cultural, signifying a product of the culture to which the various ethnic groups that have formerly lived or live today in the region have all contributed.

The term Tai is generally used to denote the various related peoples, among them the Shans, the Laos and the Siamese Thais, who, as early as the 7th century, began a gradual process of migration into mainland Southeast Asia from southwest China and of whom the Siamese Thai branch now form the majority of the population of the kingdom of Thailand.

Trading relations between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia go back far into the prehistoric period, but the earliest evidence of Indian influence penetrating into Southeast Asia in the wake of this trade dates from the Its. century AD with the formation in mainland Southeast Asia, the Malay peninsula and the western islands of the Indonesian archipelago of states in which, the kings in order to legitimise their power, had adopted either Hinduism or Buddhism, together with other Indian ideas of kingship, statecraft, law and administration, and forms of religious art and architecture derived from Indian models.

Among the earliest of these kingdoms was the state called Funan by the Chinese. According again to the Chinese sources, Funan was replaced as the leading power in the Mekong valley by one of its vassals, the Khmer state of Zhenla, which was centered round Bassac in southern Laos. When Funan was being threatened by the rising power of Zhenla, the dominant people of central Thailand seem to have been the Mons, an ancient people, related to the Khmers, who probably settled in the region at about the same time. While under the rule of Funan, the Mons adopted Indian religion, chiefly Theravada Buddhism. unlike the predominantly Hindu Khmers. There appear to have been numerous small Mon states in the region, of which the most important was Dvaravati. Little is known about Dvaravati, and even its name occurs only once, in an inscription that refers to the 'Lord of Dvaravati'. Many believe that it was a federation of Mon states rather than a single state, but the term is now applied to all Mon art and culture of this period in Thailand. The principal Mon-Dvaravati centers were U Thong, Lopburi, Khu Bua and Nakhon Pathom. In the north in the Lamphun area was the Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya, called Hariphunchai in Thai.

Haripunjaya is traditionally believed to have been founded in the late 7th century by a group of holy men at whose invitation the Buddhist ruler of Lop Buri sent his daughter Cham Tewi with a large retinue of Mons to Lamphun to be the first ruler of the new state. At about the time that Haripunjaya was founded, Dvaravati seems to have become politically, though not culturally, subject to the great maritime empire of Sri Vijaya, the capital of which is thought to have been at Palembang on the east coast of Sumatra and which at various times between the 7th and 13th century extended its rule over much of western Indonesia, the Malay peninsula and southern Thailand as far as the Kra Isthmus and other parts of the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.

In the early eleventh century the eastern part of the Mon realm fell under Khmer rule, while the western part was conquered by the Burmese King Anawrahta of Pagan (ruled 1044 -77). Haripunjaya also fell under Khmer rule in the II century and was finally conquered at the end of the 13th by King Mangrai, ruler of the northern kingdom of Lan Na. (Lanna).

Finally after a serious of battles they succumbed to Khmer domination, but by early 13th century, they outnumber the titular overlords; it was at this point that several groups united, proclaimed their freedom and in 1238 founded the independent kingdom of Sukhothai, (Dawn of happiness) in the Pali language. Under its second ruler, King Ramkhamhaeng, Sukhothai expanded its empire pushing the Khmer as far back as Malaysia and the Philippines. The kingdom of Sukhothai is remembered for its culture rather than political power. in a brief but brilliant period,  it was the scene of a 'golden age' that saw the introduction of the Theravada Buddhism as the state religion, the creation of the Thai alphabet and the establishment of a paternal monarchy that made a vivid contrast to the aloof Khmer god-kings of Ankor. 


In the Ist century of Christian reckoning the kingdom of Funan establishes itself in the Mekong delta, which today is Vietnamese territory. The founders of this kingdom have probably been Indian immigrants. In subsequent centuries Funan develops into a seafaring merchant power without expanding into a state with a large land area. It is strategically well located to become a trading power as in those days ships traveled almost exclusively close to the coastline and the land tip of the Mekong delta was an important stop over on the sea route between China and the Malay realms on the Malay Peninsula, on Sumatra and on Java.

According to the Chinese sources, Funan was founded by a Brahmin from India called Kaundinya. The word Funan is the modern pronunciation of two Chinese characters formerly pronounced b'iu-nam, which the Chinese used to represent what they believed was the name of this kingdom, but it is thought was in fact the title of its rulers, bnatil, or 'king of the mountain', a title that was frequently used at that time by Indian rulers and later by rulers of states in Southeast Asia.

In the 6th century the kingdom of Funan dissolves. An important reason for the decline of Funan is the improved seafaring technology allowing ships to stray farther from the coasts. Funan is conquered by the kingdom of Champa, which has established itself to the North of Funan.


legend has it that during the century AD, Kaundinya, an Indian Brahman priest, following a dream came to Cambodia's Great Lake to find his fortune. He met and married a local princess, Soma, daughter of the naga king and founded the first Kingdom called thephnoni, introducing Hindu customs, legal traditions and the Sanskrit language. Modern historians refer to it as Funan, the first Khmer Kingdom, and the oldest State in the Southeast Asian The Khmers who inhabited the Tchenla Vassal State took Funan in the mid-sixth century thus enabling the rise of the Khmer Empire, which became a dominant power in the Southeast Asian region for more than 600 years.

Between the 7th and the eleventh century the Khmers created a large and powerful empire, centered from 802 in the Angkor region and eventually covering all of modern Cambodia and much of what is now Thailand and Laos. They first penetrated into northeast Thailand at the end of the 6th century. In the first years of the eleventh century, the usurper Suryavarman I, whose father was named Sujitaraja and is thought to have been king of Tambralinga (Nakhon Si Thammarat) in southwest Thailand, seized Lop Buri from its Mon ruler, thus bringing most of central Thailand within the Khmer realm. Suryavarman I was a Mahayana Buddhist, but he did not interfere either with the Hinduism of his Khmer subjects or the Theravada Buddhism of the Mons. Lop Buri became the chief center of Khmer rule in central Thailand and the valley of the Chao Praya, and the name Lop Buri is traditionally used to designate all Khmer art or art inspired by Khmer models to be found in Thailand, even if outside the Lop Buri region or belonging to the period before or after Khmer rule in Lop Buri.

It is very misleading to compare the current size of Cambodia to the influence it had on the history of Southeast Asia. Between the IIth and I3th century, the Khmer or Cambodian state included parts of Southern Vietnam, Laos, and Eastern Thailand. It is not clear where the people of Cambodia came from, how long they lived there, or what languages they spoke before the introduction of writing to the area. Nevertheless, it has been established that people inhabited the area as early as 4000 BC. Unfortunately, though, most of Cambodia's early history is still a mystery.

During the fist centuries AD, most of the written history of Cambodia is entirely in Chinese. The Chinese while trading with Cambodia and other groups would write about what they encountered in these areas. They wrote about a kingdom they called Funan which was said to have flourished during this time. It's rulers over a period of 300 years would offers gifts occasionally to Chinese Emperors. These writers also mentioned the Indians influence on the region.

There is much confusion about the political developments' in Cambodia between the wane of the Funan kingdom (about the 6th century), and the rise of a new kingdom commonly referred to as Chenla. Chinese sources imply that there were at least two kingdoms known as water Chenla and land Chenla that vied for recognition from China in this period. It appeared that water Chenla focused more on foreign relations while land Chenla was more domestically centered.

ZHENLA (Chen La)

About the year 600, the ruler of Zhenla was Chitrasena or Mahendravarman ('Protected by the Great Indra'), whose inscriptions have been found in northeast Thailand, at Buri Ram and Surin. In the 8th and 9th century Zhenla appears to have been divided between two rival dynasties, and their conflict was not resolved until 802. xwhen Jayavarman II established his capital at Hariharalaya, on the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) in the Angkor region southeast of Siem Reap, and there initiated the cult of the devaraja ('the king who is god'), associated with the worship of Shiva in the form of a Iinga enshrined in a tower-sanctuary (Prasat) at the summit of a temple mountain.' The temple-mountain, which was to become the predominant form of religious architecture throughout the Khmer world In Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, was sometimes built on the top of an actual mountain but was more usually only a representation made in stone of a mountain.

It was conceived not only as the center of the capital and the realm of the ruler who built it, but also as a symbolic representation of the sacred mountain Mount Meru. The king was not a god-king, but the representative on earth of the devaraja whose cult he adopted, generally but not invariably Shiva, and thereby a universal monarch or through the devaraja cult has long since disappeared, the idea of the king as a divinely sanctioned cakravartin has not, and, many Hindu-Khmer monarchical concepts have been preserved to this day in the rituals of the Thai monarchy.

Pre Lan Xang

2,000 - 500 A.D. :  Early pottery and bronze culture, middle Mekong Valley.

First century B.C.:  Early Mandela fifth century formed in middle Mekong Valley.

Mid -6th century: Zhenla established, centered on Champasak

Early 8th century: Zhenla divided into "Water Zhenla" and "Land Zhenla."

717: First tributary mission from Land Zhenla to Tang China.

8th-12th centuries: Mon mandala of central Mekong region fall under Khmer domination-Theravada Buddhism spread by Mon

10th -12th centuries:  Muang Sua (Louangphrabang), renamed Xieng Dong Xieng Thong ; Mandala infiltrated by Lao descending Nam Ou.

12th century: Candapuri mandala in Vientiane region absorbed within Khmer Empire.

1271 - 72: Panya Lang rules Xieng Dong Xieng Thong.

l279: Tai mandala of Sukhothai founded by King Ramkhimhaeng; Xieng Dong Xieng Thong and Muang Vieng Chan 'Vieng Kham (Vientiane) briefly, incorporated into Sukhothai mandala.


1353 - 73:  Reign of Fa Nagum king of Lan Xang; beginning of recorded Laotian history.

1373 - 1547:  Successors of Fa Nagum continue to organize Lan Xang; Phetsarath (r-1520-47) involves Lan Xang in battles against Burma and Siam lasting two centuries

174 - 78:  Lan Xang reduced by Burma to vassal state.

l603:  Lan Xang renounces tributary ties to Burma.

1621 - 1713: Succession struggles for throne of Lan Xang results in accession of King Souligna Vongsa   (r. 1633 -90); his death engenders succession struggle among his nephews, culminating in division of Lan Xang into kingdoms of Louangphrabang and Vientiane, south further divides into Kingdom of Champasak in 1713.

18th century:    Lao states of Louangphrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak try to maintain independence from Burma and Siam but eventually come under Siamese control.

1772:   Suryavong seizes throne of Louangphrabang

1778:  Beginning of Siamese domination of Champasak, Vientiane, and Louangphrabang

1867 - 87:  Mekong expedition of Doudart de Lagree and francis Garnier arrives in Louangphrabang, 1867; Siam contends with France, which established protectorate over Vietnam, to extend influence in Indochina; France eventually installs Auguste Pavie in Louangphrabang as first vice consul, February 1887.

Vietnamese Dynasties


In 1010 the first Vietnamese Ly Dynasty emperor who is independent from China establishes himself in Thang Long (present-day Hanoi). Before that, for more than 1,000 years, the Vietnamese core land (the delta of the Red River, flowing into the Tonkin Bay of the South China Sea) was either just a Chinese province or ruled by Vietnamese dynasties more or less accepting Chinese over lordship.

During these more than 1,000 years, when China more or less directly ruled over the Vietnamese, but also after Vietnamese dynasties had gained independence, China influenced Vietnamese culture and government structures enormously.

The basic foundations of the Vietnamese culture and its government structures are the teachings of Confucius (551-479 B.C.).
Vietnamese dynasties and the Vietnamese emperors' courts, in architectural as well as political matters, Vietnamese publications used Chinese script. In 1471 after the Vietnamese empire had slowly expanded to the South in previous decades, an army of the Vietnamese Le Dynasty conquers the kingdom of Champa with its center in the present-day Danang area. The kingdom of Champa is reduced to a small state around Nha Trang.

King Duy Vietnam.

Guards Vietnam.

In the 18th century the Vietnamese expand farther to the South into the Mekong delta, an area that until then had been settled by Khmers (Cambodians). The Khmers are pushed to the West into an area roughly covering presented Cambodia.

In the 2nd century the kingdom of Champa establishes itself in the area modem-day Danang. It is founded by the people of the Chams, who are ethnically not related to the Vietnamese but probably have immigrated from an area today belonging to Indonesia, While the kingdom of Funan to the South of Champa was hardly influenced by China, the kingdom of Champa, during the 1,600 years of its history, repeatedly suffers Chinese over lordship.


Champa has to balance between two immediate neighbors stronger in numbers of population and in military terms: Vietnam to the North and the realm of the Khmer (Cambodians) to the South. Like Funan, the kingdom of Champa principally is a seafaring merchant power ruling over only a small land area.

In 1471 the armies of the Vietnamese Le Dynasty conquer the kingdom of Champa. About 60',OOO Champa soldiers are slain, another 60,000 are abducted into Vietnamese slavery. The kingdom of Champa is reduced to a small area around the present-day Vietnamese city of Nha Tranc, When in 1720 a new attack by Vietnamese armies threatens the kingdom of Champa, the entire nation of the Cham emigrates to the Southwest, into an area north of lake Tonle Sap in present-day Cambodia.

Overview of History of Kingdom of Champa
The history of the kingdom of Champa was marked with constant engagement in war and hostility with its neighbors, especially those from the North. Champa was first noted in Chinese historical writings in 192 AD. At the time, the Chams were concentrated in the area of the present Binh Thuan province. During the 3rd century, they expanded northward, seizing territory from the Han dynasty who ruled Viet Nam. They rapidly pushed northward and for a brief time occupied the Red River Delta and several provinces in southern China.

During the 4th and 5th centuries, the Chinese recaptured southern China and Viet Nam and expelled the Chams. The kingdom of Champa slowly contracted until by the 8th century, it corresponded approximately to the present Central and South Viet Nam. In the 10th century, only fifty years after gaining independence from China, Viet Nam invaded Champa. The Cham successfully repelled the Vietnamese and concentrated their effort in controlling their southern territory and the adjacent high land. During the 12th century, the Khmers to the west invaded the southern portion of Champa and occupied the Mekong delta. But in 1217, the Khmers and Chams allied against and defeated the Vietnamese, and the Khmers withdrew from the Mekong delta. Late in the 13th century, the Mongol army of Kublai Khan occupied Champa for five years, until it was defeated by the Vietnamese in 1287. From then on and little by little, the Vietnamese became master of all the land north of Hai Van pass by 1306.

From 1313 on, the Vietnamese only allowed their puppets on the Cham throne. Che Bong Nga (1360-1390) alone resisted for a time and he even succeeded raiding the Red River delta and pillaged the Vietnamese capital of Thang Long (Ha Noi) in 1372. But his successors could not protect their own territory. In 1471, the Vietnamese invaded Champa, captured its capital of Vijaya and massacred thousands of its people. This event signified the cease of existence of Champa as a kingdom. In the mid-17th century, the Vietnamese again marched southward and captured the remaining Cham land in the present provinces of Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa. In 1832, the absorption of Champa land was completed and Viet Nam extended its total control over the Mekong delta all the way to Ca Mau, the southern most tip of the land.

Champa and the Southward Expansion of Viet Nam:

2-3 century AD: Kingdom of Lin-Yi (Lam Ap) was recorded in Chinese annals. Lin-Yi raided Viet Nam and Southern China in 248.

543: Champa attacked Viet Nam but was defeated by Pham Tu, a general of king Ly Bon.

982: Viet Nam force led by Ly Thuong Kiet attacked and pushed Champa's border to south of Hoanh Son (Thanh Hoa)

1069: King Ly Thanh Tong led Viet Nam to invade Champa, sacked Vijaya and took king Rudravarman III (Che Cu) prisoner in exchange for 3 provinces Dia Ly, Ma Linh and Bo Chanh (present Quang Binh and Quang Tri).

1307: Vietnamese princess Huyen Tran married king Jaya Sinhavarman III (Che Man). in exchange for two provinces O and Ly.  King Che Bong Nga raided and pilfered Thang Long (Ha Noi). Che Bong Nga was killed in battle in 1382.

1402: Viet Nam invaded Champa. Ho Quy Ly forced king Campadhiraya to concede Indrapura (Quang Nam) and the territory of Amaravati (North Champa) to Viet Nam.

1471: Vietnamese army led by King Le Thanh Tong captured and destroyed Vijaya. Viet Nam annexed the new land as provinces of Thang Hoa, Tu Nghia and Hoai Nhon.

1578: Lord Nguyen Hoang annexed the Cham region of Phu Yen.

1653: Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan captured Cham's region of Kauthara and pushed Viet Nam's southern border to Cam Ranh.

1692: Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu annexed the remaining Champa territory as the new prefecture of Tran Thuan Thanh.

Copyright 1998 USMTA Inc All rights reserved. Revised: October 16, 2004.