AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 148

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Session 148: Cultures and Societies of the Indochinese Peninsula and the Ancient South China Sea Trade Routes

Organizer: C. Michele Thompson, Southern Connecticut State University, USA

Chair: Truong Buu Lam, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Discussant: Wynn W. Gadkar-Wilcox, Western Connecticut State University, USA

Ancient societies centered in the geographic space that is now Vietnam and flowing over into territory now part of other states, have been active players on the international scene in the South China Sea in terms of exchanges of elements of culture since prehistoric times. C. Michele Thompson will examine trade, tribute, and exchange of aromatics, spices, and Materia Medica between the Han Chinese and the peoples they conquered in the territory stretching from the Yangtze Delta to the Red River Delta. Lam My Dung will present information from archaeological sites in central Vietnam which provides evidence of long term contact between the ancient Sa Huynh culture and the in-migrating Chams who came to control passage along the trade routes off the coast of Vietnam. Nguyen Tien Dung will discuss the Cham and their early interaction with local inhabitants through a detailed examination of an archeological site which provides clear evidence of a period of overlap between the two cultures. Le Thi Lien will examine the evidence for early penetration of Hinduism into the Mekong Delta and the role of maritime networks in the development of Hindu beliefs in the area. This discussion of ancient cultures in Vietnamese territories speaks not only to recent interest in the South China Sea but also to recent scholarship on regionalism and regional identity in colonial era and modern Vietnam and commentator Wynn Wilcox's insights into early colonial Vietnam will link these studies of ancient societies to recent scholarly controversies.

Materia Medica, Spices, and Cultural Contact between the Ancient People of the Geographic Space that is now Southern China and Northern Vietnam
C. Michele Thompson, Southern Connecticut State University, USA

The raw materials of the international trade in aromatics and spices have been an integral part of economic, medical, and cultural exchanges between the peoples of the South China Sea region since prehistoric times. This essay will present an overview of the archaeological and textual evidence for exchange of medical prescriptions and Materia Medica between the Han Chinese and the non-Han peoples living between the Yangtze and Red Rivers prior to the imposition of direct Chinese rule over the Red River delta area in 43CE. The essay will continue to examine the tributary relationship between the Chinese Empire and its non-Han subjects through a discussion of the aromatics, spices, and exotic goods, such as jewels and textiles, which constituted not only items of tribute but also items which were valued goods on the international trade routes. These trade routes brought cultural exchange as well as economic benefit and connected the peoples of what is now southern China and northern Vietnam to the wider international world of the South China Sea.

Exogenous and Indigenous Elements in the Formation of Early States in Central Vietnam
Thi My Dung Lam, Vietnam National University, Viet Nam

During recent decades there have been important achievements in archaeological studies of Central Vietnam. The achievements in excavations and research results on the transitional period from Late Prehistory to Early History, c. 500 BC to c. AD 300, on the late Sa Huynh culture and the early period of Cham culture are especially noteworthy. Based on these archaeological finds and discoveries contemporary Vietnamese archaeologists are investigating the dynamic cultural contacts of this area with the external world and the strong acculturation between exogenous and indigenous factors which led to the establishment of early states in this region. Due to qualitative and critical changes a number of local cultural features disappeared, while the forms and behavioral patterns of a new cultural structure appeared to replace the old elements. This essay will address the following subjects: the archaeological sequences in Central Vietnam during the period from 500BC to AD 300; social changes reflected in archaeological sites and artifacts especially in the archaeological materials which evidence the transitional phase from late Sa Huynh culture to early Cham culture. This presentation will also cover the so-called Sinicization and Indianization of the area and the impact of indigenous elements on the formation process of early states in Central Vietnam.

What Early Cham Architecture Indicates about the Rise to Prominence n Central Vietnam of Champa
Tien Dong Nguyen, Independent Scholar, Viet Nam

It is generally thought that early (second and third centuries) Cham architecture primarily consisted of perishable materials. This assumption has been based on the fact that almost all Cham remains, consisting primarily of religious structures built during the eighth century and later, are built of brick or stone. In 2001 at Go Cam site in Quang Nam province of central Vietnam archaeologists of the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology discovered clear evidence of a house on stilts. This is a low but large scale house with a wood grafted floor. Pottery found under the floor has been identified as early Champa type, dated to the second or third century. Carbon 14 tests on the wood floor presented the same results. Large amounts of pottery of the late Sa Huynh culture datable to the first and second centuries have been discovered in the surrounding area. This essay will present material pertinent to study of the early stages of the establishment of several states within the Champa kingdom. Further, a comparison with information from the nearby Tra Kieu site will provide useful information on the early stages of Cham culture in the ancient realm of Amaravati. From its location dominating the territory that is today central Vietnam, Champa played an important and sometimes pivotal role in the coastal commerce of the South China Sea from early in the first millennium through the time of the Mongols. This presentation will provide valuable information on the early development of the Cham states.

Hindu Belief and the Maritime Network in Southern Vietnam during the Early Common Era
Lien T. Le, Independent Scholar, Viet Nam

In recent decades a large number of artifacts related to Hindu belief have been discovered in southern Vietnam. They have been found in various types of archaeological sites and clearly played a variety of different functions in the religious beliefs and daily lives of the people who created them. These valuable archaeological sources provide interesting information on the penetration of Hinduism into the area. This essay will address the following subjects: The distribution of these artifacts and the sites where they have been found; their connection to Hindu beliefs and their illustration of styles of Hindu art; and the role of maritime networks of trade in the development of Hindu beliefs during the state formation period in Southern Vietnam.