Temples and killing fields, mighty rivers and impenetrable forests, a past filled with glory and decline Cambodia is a land of contrasts. A millennia ago it was an empire at the height of its power, building the vast temple complexes of Angkor. Now, a thousand years later, ravaged by conflict and a genocidal civil war, Cambodia finds itself struggling with democracy, beset by corruption and on the lowest end of the global spectrum of economic.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Chenla (or Zhēnlà 真蠟) (Wade-Giles: Chēn-là) is the Chinese designation for Cambodia after the fall of Fúnán (扶南) (Khmer: ), known as Chân Lạp in Vietnamese (which is the Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation). That name was still used in the 13th century by the Chinese envoy Zhōu Dáguān (周達 觀), author of the Zhēnlà fēngtǔjì (Manners and Customs of Cambodia) (真蠟風土記). Some modern scholars used the name exclusively for Khmer states of the period from the late 6th to the early 9th centuries. The beginnings of the so-called "Dangrek Chieftains" small chiefdoms north and south of the Dangrek Mountains are obscure. The first known princes are mentioned in some early inscriptions. The Sanskrit inscription (not dated) of Vãl Kantél, province Stŭ’ Trè (K. 359) names a king Vīravarman as father of a princess whose name was not mentioned, married to a brahmin called Somaśarman and sister of a certain Bhavavarman. According to the inscription from Čăn Năk’ôn in Basăk/Laos (K. 363) Vīravarman was also father of prince Citrasena who was the younger brother of Bhavavarman. Obviously both princes had the same mother, but different fathers, which was corroborated by the Si T’ep inscription K. 978 (in present-day Thailand: 15° 27’ N, 101° 4’ E) giving the information that Bhavavarman was the son of a Prathivīndravarman and grandson of a Cakravartin whereas the inscription from Pak Mun in Ubŏn/Thailand (K. 496) informs us that the name of the father of Vīravarman was called Sārvabhauma. All these inscriptions refer to a large territory ruled by these kings. It is recorded in the inscription K. 151 from Roba Romãs at Īśānapura (the archaeological site of Sabór Prei Kŭk) that a certain Narasihagupta, who was vassal (samāntanpa) of the successive kings Bhavavarman, Mahendravarman (the ruling name of Citrasena) and Īśānavarman erected on the 13th April 598 during the reign of Bhavavarman a figure of Kalpavāsudeva (Viu). This coincides with the oldest Chinese text that mentions Zhēnlà, the Suí shū (Annals of the Suí Dynasty) (隋書), compiled by Wèi Zhēng (魏徵) (580-643) in AD 636, which gives the information that at the beginning of the 7th century Zhēnlà was ruled by Zhìduōsīnà (Citrasena) (質多斯那) and Yīshēnàxiāndài (Īśānavarman) (伊奢那先 代). The capital of the latter was Īśānapura, while his predecessor Bhavavarman I still resided at Bhavapura, a place which probably is located in the vicinity of the modern town of Thala Bŏrivăt (13°33’ N, 105°57’ E).
It was Īśānavarman who managed to absorb the ancient territories of Fúnán which led the Xīn Táng shū (New History of the Táng Dynasty) (新唐書), compiled by Ōuyáng Xiū (歐陽修) (1007–1072) and Sòng Qí (宋祁) (998-1061) in 1060 AD to attribute the effective conquest of the country to him. The earliest known date of the reign of Īśā navarman, a date that must not have been long after his accession, is that of his first embassy to China to the court of the Suí in 616-17. This king is also known from his own inscriptions, one incised at Īśānapura, dated 13 September 627 AD (K. 604), the other one at Khău Nôy (Thailand), dated 7 May 637 (K. 506). After Īśānavarman, who ceased to reign around 637, the inscriptions tell us of a king named Bhavavarman (II). The only dated inscriptions we have from him, are that of Tà Kev (K. 79), dated 5 January 644 and of Poñā Hòr south of Tà Kev (K. 21), dated Wednesday, 25 March 655. Then seemingly follows a certain king Candravarman, known from the undated inscription K. 1142 of unknown origin who hailed from the family of Īśānavarman. The son of Candravarman was the famous king Jayavarman I whose earliest inscriptions are from Tûol Kôk Prá, province Prei Vê (K. 493) and from Bàsêt, province Bằttaba (K. 447), both dated 14 June 657. Some 19 or 20 inscriptions dating from his reign have been found in an area extending from Vat Phu'u in the north to the Gulf of Siam in the south. According to the Xīn Táng shū the kingdom of Zhēnlà had conquered different principalities in Northwestern Cambodia after the end of the Chinese reign period yǒnghuī (永徽) (i. e. after the 31st January 656), which previously (in 638/39) paid tribute to China. The reign of Jayavarman I lasted about thirty years and ended perhaps after 690. It seems that after the death of Jayavarman I (his last known inscription K. 561 is dated 681/82), turmoil came upon the kingdom and at the start of the 8th century, the kingdom broke up into many principalities. The region of Angkor was ruled by his daughter, Queen Jayadevī who complained in her Western Bàrày inscription K. 904, dated Wednesday, 5 April 713, of "bad times". The Táng histories tell us that after the end of the reign period shénlóng (神龍) (i. e. after the 6th February 707) Zhēnlà came to be divided in two realms, Lùzhēnlà (陸真蠟) ("Land Zhēnlà", also called Wèndān (文單) or Pólòu (婆鏤)) and Shuīzhēnlà (水真蠟) ("Water Zhēnlà") and returned to the anarchic state that had existed before it was unified under the kings of Fúnán and the first kings of Zhēnlà. Kings like Śrutavarman and Śrehavarman or Pukarāka are only attested very much later in Angkorian inscriptions; their historicity is doubtful, All we know about Land Zhēnlà is that it sent an embassy to China in 717. Another embassy visiting China in 750 came probably from Water Zhēnlà. According to the Chinese Annals a son of the king of Wèndān had visited Chinas in 753 and joined a Chinese army during a campaign against the kingdom of Nánzhāo (南詔) in the following year. After the Wèndān embassy in the year 771 the heir apparent Pómí (婆彌) came to the imperial court and, on the 13th December 771, he received there the title Kāifǔyítóngsānsī (開府儀同三司) ("Palace Opener who enjoys the same honours as the three higher officers"). In 799 an envoy from Wèndān called Lītóují (李頭及) received a Chinese title, too. As rulers of Śambhupura are attested by the inscription K. 124, dated 803/04 a king Indraloka and three successive queens, Npatendradevī, Jayendrabhā and Jyehāryā. Two inscriptions refer to a ruler named Jayavarman: the first one, K. 103, hails from Prá Thãt Prá Srĕi south of Kompo Čà, dated 20 April 770,  the second one from Lobŏ’k Srót in the vicinity of Kračè near Śambhupura (K. 134), dated 781). Cœdès called him Jayavarman Ibis, but probably he is identical with Jayavarman II, the founding father of the Angkorian kingdom, as Vickery has pointed out: "Not only was Jayavarman II from the South; more than any other known king, he had particularly close links with Vyādhapura. This place is recorded in only one pre-Angkor inscription, K. 109/655 [exactly: 10th February 656], but in 16 Angkor-period texts, the last dated 1069 [K. 449 from Pàlhàl, dated Sunday, 3rd May 1069] … Two of them, K. 425/968 and K. 449/1069, are explicit records of Jayavarman II taking people from Vyādhapura to settle in Battambang".
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