III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > C. South and Southeast Asia, 500–1500 > 4. Southeast Asia, c. 900–1557 > b. Mainland Southeast Asia
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See By the 6th Century)
b. Mainland Southeast Asia
This period witnessed the strengthening of administrative centralization, the augmentation of the political and coercive authority of the state, and the dissemination of a normative value system (from Theravada Buddhism) that began to supplant local custom.  1
Similarly, the movement of Tai peoples, a gradual infiltration along the rivers and streams, culminated by the 11th century in the introduction of an alternative social structure (neither Indic nor Sinitic but similar to that of the Mongols), based on territorial units. Interaction with other polities led to political dominance by the Tais, especially from the 13th century onward.  2
1. Angkor
Based on limited information, the economy of Angkor (present-day Cambodia) seems to have been focused on wet-rice agriculture rather than on coastal trade. The king's authority appears to have been expressed through a well-developed hierarchy that included priests and religious sanctions. In addition, temples played a prominent role as custodians over land and peasants.  3
Rule of Yasovarman I, first king to reside at the actual site of Angkor. He built numerous monasteries that variously worshipped the three chief deities of Angkor: Siva, Vishnu, and Buddha. These cults all favored royal power and all received patronage from Angkorian kings.  4
Rajendravarman is remembered for his conquests and his architectural achievements.  5
Suryavarman I (d. 1050) extended his authority to the north and west. Udayadityavarman II is credited with the construction of the Baphuon, one of the great Saivite temples at Angkor, and also the Western Baray, the large artificial lake of a Vaisnavite temple.  6
Suryavarman II (d. 1150) was famous for his military conquests. During his reign, the most famous of all Angkorian edifices, the Angkor Wat, was built for him as his personal funerary temple. (Angkor Wat represents the splendor of Khmer architecture and reflected the status of the god-kings of Angkor, as succeeding rulers added to its vastness.) Angkor Wat was devoted to Vishnu; this may reveal an awareness of and sensitivity to the larger Sanskritic world, since this sect was prominent at the time in India and Java. Suryavarman II also conducted diplomatic relations with China.  7
Cham raid resulted in the sacking of Angkor. (The series of Cham raids probably reflected Angkor's weakness due to internal problems over succession.)  8
Jayavarman VII (reign ended c. 1220), successfully expelled the Cham and established his authority. He favored Mahayana Buddhism and built many impressive buildings, including the Bayon, a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the center of the Angkor Thom wall enclosure.  9
Jayavarman VII sent expeditions into Champa, which came under Angkorian rule for almost 20 years.  10
Khmer lost their dominance over the Cham.  11
By the late 14th century, Tai military pressures made defense of Angkor difficult. In addition to this pressure, the Khmer kings were led to abandon Angkor for sites in the vicinity of modern Phnom Penh by a shift in their state's focus from wet-rice agriculture to revitalized maritime trade which, at this time, benefited from China's commercial initiatives.  12
By the 1430s, Angkor was finally abandoned. Rather than a dramatic collapse, it was more like a Khmer reorientation. It represented not only an economic shift but also a shift in religious culture, from priestly to monastic. In addition, the cult of personality of the Angkorian rulers had not led Khmers to invest in any particular cultural or political heritage. (See Cambodia)  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.