Midterm Essay 1 HSTAS 221 AWhile the empires of Angkor and Srivijayaboth relied on water and trade to grow and sustain their realms, theirgeographical location and respective climates set them apart, allowing one toflourish as a maritime superpower, and the other as an agricultural worldpower. Surrounded by water, Srivijaya wasconveniently located in the Indian Ocean between trading nations India andChina, which allowed it to capitalize on trading routes and emerge as a sea power.It consisted of trading port kingdoms acquiredthrough conquests, the most famous being the Straits of Malacca, which aPortuguese diplomat described as “the throat of Venice”i.
Malacca brought thekingdom immense wealth from increasing demands of goods from India and Chinaii. This established theempire’s dominance as a trading superpower, and its economy flourishediii. Indian and Arab ships would come to the ports for Chinese goods, aswell as spices and forest produce from Srivijaya islands themselves. Trade inthe region grew as traders favored the easy journey to Palembang port as itpossessed a “natural harbor”iv.
It wasalso surrounded by three river basins which allowed for easy transportation offorest goods between the islands. The calm climate of the waters was anotheradvantage, which allowed ships to reach the ports easily. However, thesituation regarding pirates in the area was monumental. The kingdom bought outthe pirates by sharing their revenues with them in return for not attacking thewaters. A sort of task force patrolled the waters and created a safeenvironment for merchants to pass through.v Forthese reasons, Srivijaya prospered during its time, becoming a “rising star insoutheast Asia”.vi The empire of Angkor took a different approachto the surrounding water. The Angkor empire’s proximity to the Mekong River andTonle Sap helped it develop irrigation techniques for its rice farms, whichallowed it to farm during multiple seasonsvii.
KingSuryavarman built the West Baray reservoir to collect water and supply regionsduring dryer months where advanced irrigation network captured runoff waterfrom lakes and rivers to reach fields, watering the soil year-round for largeharvests, showing the extensive engineering marvels of the Angkorian Empire.viii Thekingdom’s closeness to such rivers along with tropical weather meant the regionalso experienced many floods. These swampy conditions allowed the Khmer peopleto grow floating rice, which thrived on flooded lands. These practices resultedin multiple opportunities to harvest crops throughout the year, which fed morethan 1 million people.
ixApartfrom rice, other crops were also grown and traded, making agriculture theempire’s economic strength. The advantage of water was not the onlything the two empires had in common. The Srivijayan empire employed the IndianMandala model, while the Angkorian empire relied on the Devaraja model,thriving under the indianized model of politics.x SinceSrivijaya was a cluster of islands, it had multiple centers, hence making itimpossible to govern the entire region from one point.xi TheMandala model emphasizes a group of kingdoms coming together under a generalcenter through allegiance to the main power. In the case of Srivijaya, kingdomswere acquired through conquests and swore allegiance to the Maharaja of theempire, and hence was not defined by boundaries, which made this model vastlydifferent from western models of polityxii. The’openness’ of the empire allowed for such a policy to work.
In the case of theAngkorian empire, the culture followed the divine king model, or Devaraja,which established that the king was an earthly reincarnation of a god and wasgiven absolute power to care for the state and his people.xiii Theidea of god king was “derived from Manu who classified as political ideas aboutsocial organization rather than a caste system”.xiv Thismodel was beneficial to the region as it could have one central power, theking, to govern the nation. Outside their realms, the geographiclocation of both empires dictated their relationship with foreign powers.Angkor was known for its culturally closed atmosphere while Srivijaya had anopen one.xvBeing a trade-based nation, Srivijaya was constantly welcoming merchants andtraders from abroad. This introduced them to their cultures and practices aswell as bring Srivijayan culture home, as a monk stated “If a Chinese monk waswishes to travel westwards and consult the original scriptures, he should stayhere for a year or two and prepare himself for the journey to India”(2). It wasalso known for having a tributary relationship with China, where China offeredthe empire protection in return for aligning with Chinese interests in terms oftrading (L).
Chinese trade also affected Srivijayan economy, as less demandresulted in less revenue for the empire. The Angkor empire however, beingland-based resulted in a more closed off nature leading to less interactionwith foreign powers. Angkor did have a relationship with China, but it was moresymbolic. Due to its immense wealth and success, the Angkor empire’srelationship with Thailand and the Malayan peninsula was rough, with constantwars and battles, making it difficult for the empire to maintain relationshipswith foreign powers. The Srivijayan and Angkorean empiresshared fundamental aspects of their reigns, such as the role of water, tradeand Indianization, which they capitalized on differently. Srivijaya become amaritime superpower, while Angkor became an important engineering marvel.
Thetwo empire’s differences and similarities make them a classic example of thedifference between coastal based and interior based realms, and its impact oneconomy, diplomacy and culture in those regions.i Cotterell,Arthur. History of Southeast Asia.
Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2014. Accessed January29, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central, 107ii Lecture,January 8, 2018.iiiThe Editors ofEncyclopædia Britannica. “Srivijaya empire.” Encyclopædia Britannica.March 13, 2016.
Accessed January 29, 2018.https://www.britannica.com/place/Srivijaya-empire.iv Cotterell,Arthur. History of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2014. Accessed January29, 2018.
ProQuest Ebook Central, 103v Cotterell,Arthur. History of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2014. Accessed January29, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central, 107vi Cotterell,Arthur.
History of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2014. Accessed January29, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central, 103vii Lecture,January 8, 2018.viiiCotterell, Arthur. History of Southeast Asia. Singapore: MarshallCavendish, 2014.
Accessed January 29, 2018. ProQuestEbook Central, 57-58 ix Lecture,January 8, 2018.xLecture,January 8, 2018.xi Lecture,January 10, 2018.xii Lecture,January 8, 2018xiiiCotterell, Arthur. History of Southeast Asia.
Singapore: MarshallCavendish, 2014. Accessed January 29, 2018. ProQuestEbook Central, 45 xiv Cotterell,Arthur. History of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2014. Accessed January29, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central, 45 xv Lecture,January 10, 2018.