BECK index

Southeast Asia to 1800

by Sanderson Beck

Burma and Arakan to 1800
Siam (Thailand) to 1800
Cambodia to 1800
Laos to 1800
Vietnam to 1800
Malaya to 1800

This chapter has been published in the book INDIA & Southeast Asia to 1800.
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Prehistoric Cultures

More than 25,000 years ago Negroid Pygmies migrated into southeast Asia, followed by Australoid and Melanesian Negritos and Papuans. Before southeast Asia was influenced by the great civilizations of China and India, they developed the cultivation of rice, domesticated the ox and buffalo, used iron and other metals, and sailed by navigation. An aristocracy, owning slaves and wearing gold and silver jewelry, prospered under royal favor. Women were more important in their culture, and descent was matrilineal. Indigenous beliefs recognized the spirit in all things, worshipped the ancestors and the god of the soil, and built shrines in high places.

Burma and Arakan to 1800

Although influenced by Hindu culture, the Pyu and Mon people of Burma seemed to reject hierarchical divine kingship in favor of more freedom and equality for men and women. Under the influence of Theravada Buddhism social status was gained not by accumulating wealth but by giving it to the Buddhist community, the king giving the most from taxes. In the 8th and 9th centuries much of Burma was dominated by Nanchao, whose ruler Kolofeng (r. 748-79) built a fortress by the upper Irrawaddy River. His grandson sent Pyu musicians to the Tang court in 800, followed by an embassy from the Pyu king. According to Chinese history, in 832 the Pyu capital was plundered and 3,000 captives were sent to Yunnan (Nanchao). One of Pyu’s eighteen vassal states that had been recognized by China was destroyed by Nanchao three years later. The Burmese capital of Pagan was founded in 849. Pyu soldiers helped Nanchao capture Hanoi in 863, and campaigns opened the old road across upper Burma to India. In lower Burma the Mons developed irrigation.

         Burma was united politically by King Anawrahta (r. 1044-77), who championed Theravada and conquered the Mons, the animistic Shans, and the Mahayana Nanchao. During his reign the Burmans helped the Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka defeat the Cholas, and later they received the complete Tripitaka (Theravada Buddhist scriptures) in Pali. Meanwhile his general Kyanzitha had gone into exile and came back to crush a rebellion and become enthroned with Brahmanic ritual in 1086; then he promoted Mon culture in Burma. Kyanzitha sent two diplomatic missions to China and was succeeded by his half-Mon grandson Alaungsithu (r. 1113-65), who nonetheless allowed Mon culture to decline at Pagan while he traveled around promoting Buddhism, claiming that he was tamed and would tame the willful, comfort the timid, wake the sleeping, cool the burning, free the bound, and calm hatred. However, much of his time was spent quelling revolts in Tenasserim and northern Arakan, and according to the Sinhalese Chulavamsa he interfered with trade between Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

         After 1174 Mon influence seems to have been absorbed into the Burmese culture. In 1190 the Mon monk Chapata returned from ten years of Buddhist study in Sri Lanka, bringing back Theravada reforms that developed into a great popular movement in Indochina, in contrast to the usual imposing of Hindu or Buddhist religion on the people by the court. Pagan ruler Narapatisithu (r. 1174-1211) tolerated Sinhalese ordination and “purified the church” of its excess wealth by making more of its land taxable.

In 1215 the Thai state of Mogaung emerged in upper Burma; eight years later the powerful Shan state of Muong Nai was founded; and 1229 is the traditional date for the founding of the Thai Ahom kingdom of Assam. In 1238 two Thai chiefs defeated the Khmer commander at Sukhothai. Narapatisithu’s grandson Kyazwa (r. 1235-50) tried but failed to confiscate growing Buddhist wealth, and in 1249 he decreed strict punishments to reduce gang robberies. Kublai Khan’s conquest of Nanchao in 1253 stimulated more Thai campaigns. Thai leader Mangrai (1239-1317) conquered Mons and Khmers and built his capital at Chiang Mai, fighting off Mongols from the north. He is credited with a law code based on Buddhist principles.

         Narathihapate (r. 1256-87) disregarded religion, bragging he had an immense army and 3,000 concubines. His pagoda took six years to build, but the Burman people commented when it was finished that a great country had been ruined. Narathihapate had Kublai Khan’s embassy executed and attacked little Kaungai for submitting to China. His army was defeated by a Mongol force in a 1277 battle described by Marco Polo. A second Mongol invasion retreated from the excessive heat, stimulating the Burmans to renew their raids on the Yunnan frontier; but the Mongols came back in 1283 and defeated the Burmans at Kaungin, as Narathihapate fled. Northern Arakan proclaimed their independence, and the southern Mons rebelled. Narathihapate went north to submit to Yunnan but was murdered by his son in 1287. That year Kublai Khan’s grandson Yesu Timur invaded Burma and made Pagan a provincial capital in the Mongol empire. Its remaining prince Kyawswa was eventually murdered by Shan forces in 1299 when they burned Pagan. Ram Khamheng (r. 1279-1317) organized the Thais from Sukhothai while the Thai language was reduced to writing in 1283; an inscription claimed that he governed all with equal justice in a prosperous state.

         Shan rulers of Pinya and Sagaing fought frequently. After the Mongol rule ended, a half-Shan half-Burman dynasty was founded at Ava in 1364, but Mingyi Swasawke (r. 1368-1401) followed the pattern of Pagan and attempted to subdue the southern Mons. Mongol resistance in Yunnan finally disappeared by 1383, enabling the Chinese Ming rulers to support Ava in restraining the Maw Shans. Strife pervaded the region, though Mon king Binnya U (r. 1353-85) and his son Razadarit (r. 1385-1423) managed to save their kingdom from raids by Ava, Chiang Mai, Kampengpet, and Ayudhya by ceding territory, enabling Binnyaran I (r. 1426-46) to rule from Pegu in relative peace. Reduction of the Burman wars allowed Pegu’s King Binnyakin (r. 1450-53) and Queen Shinsawbu (1453-72) to support Buddhist construction. Her chosen successor Dammazeidi (r. 1472-92) left a monastery to marry her daughter, and he published his wise rulings in the Dammazeidi Pyatton. Mon king Dammazeidi had Buddhist connections with Sri Lanka. His son Binnyaran II (r. 1492-1526) welcomed European traders; but during the reign (1526-39) of Takayupti the Pegu kingdom was invaded by the Burman imperialists under King Tabinshweihti in 1535, capturing Pegu and reducing the Mon kingdom to vassalage.

         Burma under Minhkaung (r. 1401-22) fought with the Mons and the Arakanese. Burman chief Mohnyhinthado ruled Ava from 1427 to 1440 and was succeeded on that throne by his sons Minrekyawswa (r. 1440-43) and Narapati (r. 1443-69). During the latter’s reign the Chinese were trying to gain a trade route to the west, and in 1441 war board president Wang Zhi sent an imperial army to push the Shans out of Luchuan. Another large Chinese force invaded five years later, and Narapati submitted to Chinese overlordship, gaining some Mohnyin territory. Ava under Thihathura (r. 1469-81) was peaceful and patronized relations with the Theravada Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Conflict with Mohnyin marred the reigns of Ava kings Minhkaung (r. 1481-1502) and Shwenankyawshin (r. 1502-27). The latter was killed, and Ava had Shan chiefs until it was absorbed back into the Burman kingdom in 1555. King Mingyinyo (r. 1486-1531) founded the Taungngu dynasty of Burma and expanded his territory; but he was unable to acquire Pegu riches and left that ambition to his son Tabinshweihti.

         Tabinshweihti (r. 1531-50) took over the Irrawaddy delta in 1535, but it took the next four years before Pegu fell. In 1541 Tabinshweihti used Mon support and Portuguese mercenaries to capture the port of Martaban. He fought the Shan states and was crowned at Pegu in 1546. His Burman army besieged Ayudhya in 1548, but they had to abandon it to Siam’s army. As Tabinshweihti indulged in debauchery, the Mons led by Prince Smim Htaw revolted. While Tabinshweihti’s brother-in-law Bayinnaung was fighting a Mons rebellion, Smim Sawhtut had Tabinshweihti murdered in 1550 and was welcomed into Pegu.

         After Smim Htaw took over Pegu from Smim Sawhtut, Bayinnaung took Taungngu and was crowned king of Burma. Using an army that included Burmans, Mons, and Portuguese, Bayinnaung defeated Smim Htaw outside of Pegu and began building a magnificent palace. The aggressive Bayinnaung went to war to expand Burma’s sovereignty. The city of Ava was conquered in 1555. He subdued the Shans and made Mekuthi his vassal in Chiang Mai; but Sethathirat took the throne at Luang Prabang (Laos) and drove out Mekuthi in 1558. Bayinnaung returned with his Burman army to depose Sethathirat and break up his confederation the next year. Sethathirat made an alliance with Siam and moved his capital to Vientiane in 1563. The next year Burma’s army invaded Chiang Mai and accepted the surrender of Ayudhya, carrying off the royal family as hostages. Bayinnaung returned to find rebels had taken over Pegu, but Buddhists prevented him from burning thousands he put in bamboo cages. Next Burma invaded Luang Prabang and captured refugee Mekuthi, but Sethathirat escaped. Princess Maha Tewi was made regent at Chiang Mai with a Burman garrison until her death in 1578.

         After two of his Siamese vassals, Prince Mahin and King Chakkraphat, allied with Sethathirat in attacking Phitsanulok, Bayinnaung invaded Siam again in 1568, relieving Phitsanulok and gaining Ayudhya after a siege the next year. Large numbers were relocated to Burma. Yet famine and disease stopped Bayinnaung’s forces from taking Vientiane in 1570. Despite his causing so many human lives to be lost in imperial wars, Bayinnaung promoted Buddhism by distributing scriptures, financing pagodas, and feeding monks while prohibiting animal sacrifices and the killing of slaves. The defiant Sethathirat died in 1571. Bayinnaung held his brother Oupahat hostage and wanted to make him regent, but Laotians murdered his envoys. So Bayinnaung led the army that put Oupahat on the throne of Vientiane in 1575.

         Bayinnaung died in 1581 and was succeeded by his son Nandabayin. He was challenged by his uncle but defeated him in a personal duel on elephants in 1584. Pra Naret had built up Siamese forces and invaded Cambodia in 1583. Nandabayin invaded Siam to suppress rebellion; but while three Burmese armies were besieging Ayudhya in 1587, Cambodia’s King Satta invaded Siam. Nandabayin pursued the Cambodians to their capital at Lovek; but efforts to hang on to Siam were doomed as the Burmese men resisted military conscription by becoming monks or fleeing to Laos, Siam, and Arakan. In 1593 Nandabayin was defeated and killed on his fifth invasion of Siam, which gained its independence as did Manipur. His son Nyaungyan (r. 1597-1606) restored the Taungngu dynasty and gained control of the highlands. Pegu was besieged in 1599 and was pillaged by the armies of Taungngu and Arakan. The Mons revolted in 1605; but Bayinnaung’s grandson Anaukhpetlun (r. 1606-28) defeated Siam, Manipur, and the Mons to complete the restoration of the Burman kingdom and centralize the government.

         Burman king Thalun (r. 1629-48) moved the capital from Pegu back to Ava in 1635, the year the Dutch put up a factory at Syriam. His minister Kaingsa published the first book of laws in the Burmese language, and a revenue inquest was recorded in 1638. Male relatives of the king were required to live in the capital. Hearing of Dutch success, in 1647 the English also planted a factory at Syriam, but they could not compete with them. After English ships were cleared out of the Bengal Bay in the Anglo-Dutch war, they withdrew in 1657. King Pindale (r. 1648-61) sent aid to Ming refugee Yong-li until he was driven out of Yunnan into Burma in 1658 and defeated the Burman army. In 1661 Mon soldiers, drafted to defend Ava, revolted and fled to Siam. Pindale was deposed, and his brother Pye (r. 1661-72) had to give up Yong-li to be killed by the Manchus in 1662. The next kings of Burma were ceremonial as the ministers governed. The Dutch closed their factories in 1679, but the French opened one at Ayudhya the next year.

The English had a dockyard at Syriam, and Dupleix had one built for the French in 1729. Buddhist Maung Kala wrote the Great Royal Chronicle in 1730 and justified it with the argument that by showing the impermanence of all things, including political power, religious insight would be improved. Two ministerial factions struggled for control of Burma. While Gharib Newaz (r. 1714-54) was ruling Manipur, its horsemen raided upper Burma and defeated Burman forces. In 1740 Gwe Shans, upset by high taxes on areca palms, rebelled and joined with Mon deportees to drive the Burmans away. The Burman governor of Pegu decided to revolt and marched on Syriam, but his troops killed him. When an army came from Ava, the Mons defeated it and massacred Burmans, making Sming Htaw Buddhaketi king in Pegu. His forces occupied lower Burma and captured the capital Ava. The Prome governor took over Syriam, but his men got drunk and were driven out by the Mons, who then took over Prome. They burned all the European churches and factories; the sepoys defending the English factory were allowed to return to Madras. Bishop Gallizia and two priests tried to help merchants led by de Schonamille; but when they took weapons with them to Pegu, the Mons massacred all but four who escaped to the ships. In 1747 Buddhaketi resigned and escaped to Chiang Mai. His chief minister Binnya Dala was made king and appointed Talaban commander. In 1752 his army invaded upper Burma and deposed the last Taungngu king.

Talaban went back to Pegu but did not have enough forces to overcome the rebels. The most successful one called himself Victorious and was crowned Alaunghpaya (r. 1752-60). He organized the more numerous Burmans to defeat the Mons, surrounding Ava. Mon forces retreated south and invested Prome. Alaunghpaya with a large army took over Prome and defeated the Mons, naming a new city Rangoon, meaning “the end of strife.” However, the Mons still held Syriam with help from the French. Bruno came from Pondicherry and made a commercial treaty with the Mons. King Alaunghpaya sent a letter to England’s king in gold leaf and was so insulted that he did not get a response that he ordered the British settlement on the island of Negrais massacred. Alaunghpaya invaded Manipur and deported thousands to upper Burma. In 1760 Alaunghpaya invaded Ayudhya and died from the fever that more than half his army suffered. Before he died, he asked that the war against Ayudhya be continued and that his five sons succeed to the throne in age sequence. The oldest, Naungdawgyi, was challenged by the Myeidu prince and the general Mingaung Nawrahta, delaying his coronation a year. After the second rebellion, Naungdawgyi rebuilt the capital Sagaing.

Naungdawgyi died suddenly, and the Myeidu prince took the name Hsinhpyushin (r. 1763-76). Within five years he conquered Chiang Mai, Vientiane, and Ayudhya despite Chinese invasions. After three attempts to conquer Ava, the Chinese agreed to a treaty in 1769. The King was upset that the Chinese were allowed to depart, and so he ignored the treaty and refused to return Chinese prisoners. Hsinhpyushin then attacked and deported more Manipuris. The Mons rebelled in the south again in 1774, burning Rangoon before fleeing to Siam. Hsinhpyushin died after the Burman army was disastrously defeated in Siam. His son Singu ended the war and withdrew the forces from Siam. He sent his three surviving uncles into exile in 1778. Singu’s erratic behavior led to several intrigues. In February 1782 young Maung Maung and forty men took over the palace and declared Singu an outlaw. Singu had little support and fled to China. The Madon prince and his two brothers occupied Sagaing and attacked Maung Maung at Ava, capturing and drowning the usurper. The families of Singu and Maung Maung were also put to death. The Madon prince was enthroned as Bodawhpaya. Later in 1782 Nga Myat Pon with 200 men tried to claim the throne, but they were killed by the palace guards. Their district of Paungga was completely destroyed, and its people were enslaved. Bodawhpaya had a pagoda constructed in atonement and built a new capital at Amarapura. Mons from Bassein attacked Rangoon in 1783 but were defeated by the Burmans. Bodawhpaya ordered a survey in 1784 and again in 1803 to determine taxes; the population of Burma was two million. Burman warships attacked Arakan, and in 1785 their last king and 20,000 people were deported to Burma.

         Arakan had gained its independence during the legendary long reign (1279-1374) of Minhti, who defeated a Bengali attack. When Burma took control in 1404, Arakan’s king Narameikhla went into exile in Bengal and was given hospitality by Gaur king Ahmed Shah, whose successor Nazir Shah helped Narameikhla regain his Arakan throne in 1431. Narameikhla’s brother Min Khari (r. 1434-59) declared Arakan’s independence from Gaur. He was succeeded by his son Basawpyu, who seized Chittagong. These Arakan rulers were Buddhists but used Muslim titles to show their sovereignty. Basawpyu was assassinated in 1482, a fate met by several of Arakan’s eight kings in the next half century. Minbin became king in 1531 and built up Arakan’s defenses to withstand the invasion of Burma’s king Tabinshweihti in 1546. Minbin used Portuguese mercenaries and a navy based at Chittagong to dominate the Ganges region until he died in 1553. Minbin let Portuguese free-booters (feringhi) use the port of Dianga for trade, but piracy and slave-raiding also occurred.

         Arakan king Min Razagri (r. 1593-1612) hired the Portuguese Philip de Brito to attack Nandabayin of Pegu, who took over Syriam, defeated an Arakanese fleet sent against him, and captured the crown prince. So in 1607 Min Razagri sent a force to attack Dianga that massacred its inhabitants, including a reported 600 Portuguese. Salt trader Tibao escaped, turned to piracy, and took over Sandwip Island by killing its Afghan pirates. Tibao married the sister of a disgruntled Arakanese prince, who died suddenly and had his treasure taken by Tibao. Bengal’s Mughal governor attacked Noakhali, and Tibao offered to help Min Razagri but instead murdered Arakanese navy leaders at a conference. After Razagri died, his successor Minhkamaung (r. 1612-22) attacked Tibao at Mrohaung in 1615 and destroyed the pirates at Sandwip two years later. Philip de Brito’s control over Syriam had ended in 1613 when the Burmans captured the city. In 1623 the Dutch began buying Bengali slaves from marauding Portuguese freebooters (feringhi) in Arakan, but negotiations and trade with King Thirithudamma (r. 1622-38) did not go well. Thirithudamma’s chief queen murdered him and enthroned her lover Narapatigyi (r. 1638-45). He established a monopoly on rice, and Dutch merchant van der Mandere objected to the price. Arent Jansen van den Helm brought wine to the king, whose health broke down. After a Dutch ship was captured and the crew imprisoned, trade stopped for several years as the Dutch attacked Arakanese ships. Sandathudamma (r. 1652-84) was a popular ruler; but after he died, Arakan was unstable with eleven rulers until Sandawizaya (r. 1710-31), who raided his neighbors until he was eventually murdered. Arakan then had fourteen kings before Burma’s army invaded and ended the Arakanese monarchy in 1785.

Burma had adopted Theravada Buddhism with some influences from Hinduism; their four classes were generally based on the ancient caste system. The king was supposed to follow the eight-fold path and avoid evil decisions such as taking property by force, killing, or mutilating. The Manu-kye warns that if the king does not obey the law, then the lords and the people will not obey laws. Burma had ten traditional laws: charity, morality, liberality, justice, compassion, self-restraint, not getting angry, not oppressing, patience, and compliance. Four more specific adjuncts to these were taxing one-tenth of the land’s produce, giving grain to the troops twice a year, lending money without interest for three years to subjects, and speaking kindly to the people. The seven laws intended to increase prosperity were: consulting ministers three times a day, being united in all actions, adhering to tradition in taxes and criminal law, honoring the elderly, not oppressing the common people, propitiating the guardian spirits, and protecting the Buddhist clergy. Lay people could gain merit by fulfilling the worldly needs of monks. The Government is allowed to correct thieves and criminals, but the death penalty is not proper. Hindu literature such as the Hitopadesa, Mahabharata, Panchatantra, and the Arthashastra of Kautilya were especially influential in Burma. Thus wealth and self-protection were personal goals as well as learning and wisdom.

         Burma’s Bodawhpaya (r. 1782-1819) had 53 wives and 120 children. He claimed to be the coming Buddha, fulfilling the ideals of being a bodhisattva and a universal monarch; but he was resented for making these claims and for favoring some sects over others. He persecuted heretics and decreed capital punishment even for using alcohol or opium and for killing an ox or buffalo.

Soon after making Arakan a province of Burma in 1785, King Bodawhpaya personally led the invasion of Siam; but his incompetence caused a disaster, and he was almost captured. A separate Burman force occupied Chiengsen and Chiengrai, but attempts to take Chiang Mai failed in 1787 and 1797. By 1802 the Siamese had cleared the Burmans out of their Laos provinces. In the early 1790s Burma needed 40,000 men to fight off the Siamese invasion of Tavoy. Thousands of Arakanese worked for seven years to construct the enormous pagoda at Mingun. Many died of starvation, fled to the jungle to escape, or became brigands. A rebellion in 1794 was supported by armed bands from Chittagong. As they were suppressed, some took refuge in British territory. The next year Captain Michael Symes gained permission for a British resident in Rangoon, but the King refused to close harbors to French ships. Also in 1795 the Burman government drafted men from the entire country to expand the Meikhtila tank and canal system. The draft continued during the war with Siam from 1797 to 1804. Agriculture deteriorated, and starvation led to disease and banditry.

Burma, Malaya and the British 1800-1950

Siam (Thailand) to 1800

In Siam (Thailand) during the Mongol invasion Ramkhamhaeng, renowned for establishing the written Thai language, rose from being the chief at Sukhothai in 1283 to rule over a larger kingdom until about 1317. Ramkhamhaeng was succeeded by his son Lu Thai. He wrote a Buddhist cosmology in 1345 and was said to rule according to the ten royal precepts because he aimed to become a Buddha and save every creature. Restraining his anger, he practiced forgiveness rather than punishment. Lu Thai recognized in the south the sovereignty of Ramadhipati, who in 1350 founded the city of Ayudhya and was crowned the first king of Siam, promulgating its first laws based on the ancient Hindu Laws of Manu. A long list of socially unacceptable kinds of people were not allowed to be witnesses unless both sides agreed. Slaves were common and were severely punished for trying to escape. Bribery could be punished eight ways from dismissal to death. A person found with stolen property must produce the thief to avoid punishment for theft. Polygamy was allowed, and divorce was easy. Ramadhipati went to war against Cambodia in 1352. Lu Thai gave up his crown and entered a monastery in 1361.

         Siam captured Angkor the year Ramadhipati died in 1369, but they were driven out after six years. His son Ramesuen was unpopular for his bad record in the Cambodian war and agreed to abdicate to his uncle Boromaraja I (r. 1370-88), who invaded Sukhothai in 1371, captured Phitsanulok in 1375, and attacked Kampengpet in 1376 and 1378, finally ending the independence of the Sukhothai kingdom. About 1387 Siam intervened in a succession struggle in Chiang Mai, but pregnant Chiang Mai princess Nang Muang on an elephant helped defeat their army. Boromaraja was succeeded by his 15-year-old son, but former king Ramesuen murdered him after only seven days to resume the throne in 1388. Two years later a Chiang Mai army supported Sukhothai’s effort to gain independence from Siam, but they were defeated and fled. After Cambodia invaded Jolburi and Chantabun to capture 6,000 people in 1393, Ramesuen led Siam’s army into Cambodia and returned with 90,000 captives.

         Ramesuen was succeeded by his son Ram Raja (r. 1395-1409); but after trying to arrest a principal minister, he was forced to abdicate to the prince who was named Intharaja (r. 1409-24). In 1411 Siam went to war with Chiang Mai but lost a single combat when their champion’s big toe was wounded; yet while retreating they attacked Chiengrai and took captives back to Ayudhya. King Intharaja had met Emperor Yongle and maintained friendly relations with China. In 1424 his two eldest sons engaged in personal combat for the throne; but both were thrown from their elephants and died, allowing the third son to become Boromaraja II (r. 1424-48). His raids brought about the downfall of the Khmer kingdom at Angkor in 1431. When a Chiang Mai civil war broke out, Siam invaded and took prisoners; but spies managed to cause havoc in Siam’s army by cutting off the tails of their elephants, sending them on a rampage. Siam was then defeated and had to withdraw. King Boromaraja II died while returning from another war with Chiang Mai, and the 17-year-old governor of Phitsanulok assumed the title Boroma Trailokanat, known simply as Trailok (r. 1448-88).

          King Trailok organized the government of Siam into the five departments of the Interior, Local Government of Ayudhya, Finance, Agriculture, and the Royal Household that administered justice. A separate prime minister called the Kalahom oversaw military affairs. His Palace Law of 1450 named the states paying tribute to Siam and threatened the death penalty for such palace infractions as immoral relations with a lady, writing love poems, shaking the royal boat, allowing animals to stray into the palace, or whispering during a royal audience. In 1454 Trailok established a system that valued everyone in the kingdom according to how much land they held. High officials held a few thousand acres, lower officials 160 acres or more, and common people ten acres.

         In 1451 a Lao army from Chiang Mai attacked Sukhothai and failed, but later they captured and annexed Kampengpet. Siam sent an army to attack Melaka in 1455. Another Lao army from Chiang Mai invaded Siam in 1461 and captured Sukhothai but had to retreat from Phitsanulok to defend themselves against an invasion from China’s Yunnan province. Siam regained the city, but to stop these incursions Trailok moved his capital to Phitsanulok in 1463. Trailok became a Buddhist monk in 1465; but he sent a Burman monk and a Brahmin envoy to subvert the throne of Chiang Mai, and their oldest prince was executed on false charges. Chiang Mai’s king Tilok had ruled for 44 years and died one year before his rival Trailok. Before he died, Trailok made his son Jettha viceroy; but his oldest son Boromoraja III (r. 1488-91) succeeded and moved the capital back to Ayudhya.

         Jettha ruled in Phitsanulok as governor and succeeded his brother as Ramathibodi II (r. 1491-1529). He welcomed Portuguese envoys at Ayudhya in 1511 and began trading with them. Chiang Mai raided Sukhothai in 1508, 1510, and again in 1513; but King Ramathibodi led the Siamese army and defeated them in 1515. Ramathibodi reorganized the military and instituted universal male conscription. His successor Boromaraja IV (r. 1529-34) made a peace treaty with Chiang Mai. King Phrajai (r. 1534-46) replaced a child king, approved a law for trials by ordeal, repelled a Burman incursion, and invaded Laos. He was poisoned by a consort, who put her lover on the throne; but both were assassinated at a banquet. Phrajai’s younger brother was crowned as Chakkraphat in 1548, but Siam was invaded by Burma’s Tabinshweihti later the same year. Cambodia’s Candaraja had used the opportunity to raid Prachim, and Siam punished him in 1551; but five years later Cambodia defeated Siam’s forces that were led by an adopted Cambodian prince. In 1561 Phrajai’s son Sri Sin refused to become a Buddhist monk, rebelled, and died fighting; King Chakkraphat fled as his sons defeated and executed the leading rebels.

         Siam’s capital at Ayudhya was attacked by Burma’s army in 1564 and capitulated. Siam had to pay tribute, and three leaders of the war party were taken away as hostages. Rebellions caused Burma to invade again with a large army estimated by the lowest of three reports at 300,000. Chakkraphat died during the siege in 1569, and his son Mahin was captured. Maha Thammaraja ruled Siam as Burma’s client until 1584. His son Naresuan, known also as Pra Naret (Black Prince), was released in 1571 and governed Phitsanulok. In 1586 he used strategy to help Chiang Mai defeat a Burman army. The next year three Burman armies besieged Ayudhya, but starvation and disease caused them to withdraw. Naresuan then drove the Cambodians out of Prachim. In 1590 Naresuan succeeded his father and ruled as king until 1605. After Burma was defeated in 1593, he invaded Cambodia and took Lovet the next year. Thousands of prisoners were taken away to repopulate Siam’s northern provinces, and those who had been taken away by Cambodian raids returned. In 1595 Siam made Chiang Mai’s king Tharrawaddy a vassal.

         Naresuan’s son Ekathotsarot (r. 1605-10) levied Siam’s first tax in cash and opened diplomatic relations with the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the Japanese. His son Songtham (r. 1610-28) battled Japanese warriors in 1612, defeated Luang Prabam’s army, and let English merchants open a factory at Ayudhya despite Dutch objections. The Burmans took over Chiang Mai in 1615, and war with Siam went on for three years until Siam accepted Burma’s gain in a treaty. Also in 1618 Cambodia declared its independence by expelling the Siamese garrison that Naresuan had installed in their capital in 1594. The Dutch had an agreement with Songtham for purchasing deer hides, and the unsuccessful English closed down their factories at Ayudhya and Patani in 1622. Songtham was succeeded by his son Jetta. However, Songtham’s cousin Pya Sri Worawong actually took control with help from Japanese Yamada, and in 1630 Pya was crowned as Prasat Tong. Yamada challenged him but was poisoned as those Japanese in Ayudhya not massacred by 1632 fled from Siam. Prasat Tong also ordered every Portuguese arrested. The Queen of Patani considered him a “rascal, murderer and traitor,” and she refused to send the usual tribute. The Siamese tried to punish Patani but failed, blaming the Dutch for not supporting the expedition; frustrated Prasat Tong had a general beheaded. Chroniclers reported that after his daughter died, Prasat Tong had 3,000 of his political enemies put to death. Though he was considered a tyrant, Prasat Tong ruled until he died naturally in 1656.

After two kings were quickly murdered, his younger son Narai (r. 1657-88) gained the throne of Siam. An incursion from Burma in 1662 provoked Siamese raids into Pegu and their taking of Chiang Mai. The people of Chiang Mai revolted two years later and accepted a prince from Prome, remaining in the Burman empire until 1727. English factors fled from Cambodia in the 1650s and were given refuge by Narai. In 1661 the English East India Company reopened its factory in Ayudhya. The next year French missionary Bishop Lambert de la Motte arrived on his way to Annam. In 1664 Bishop Pallu and four French priests came and stayed in Ayudhya because they heard Catholics were being persecuted in Annam. Also that year the Dutch used a naval blockade to secure their monopoly on hides in a commercial treaty that specified the Dutch in Siam could be tried by their own courts. In 1676 the first medical missionary arrived, and the Catholic seminary in Ayudhya had a hundred students.

A Greek called Phaulkon worked for English merchants White and Burnaby and rose to become Siam’s Superintendent of Foreign Trade. He antagonized the East India Company by encouraging those they called “interlopers.” In 1680 the French began a factory in Ayudhya, and Siam sent an embassy to France. English factor Samuel Potts accused Phaulkon of starting a fire to destroy records of his debts, but Phaulkon countered with the same charge against Potts. Louis XIV sent an embassy to Siam, and in 1685 the French gained commercial and religious concessions. However, King Narai declined to be converted by the Christians or the Muslims. During the fighting between Muslim Golconda and Siam, Samuel White at Mergui tried to make a fortune with reprisals against Indian shipping. The English Company demanded compensation for war damages from Siam in 1686. England’s king James II sent a letter proclaiming that British subjects were not to serve on foreign ships in the East. Two English frigates blockaded the port of Mergui in July 1687 and ordered the English to leave, taking the ships pending payment of the debt. The English led by Richard Burnaby prepared to obey, but the Siamese governor blasted and sank the James. About fifty Englishmen in Mergui were killed, including Burnaby. King Narai declared war on the English Company but not the English government. In September 1687 a French embassy arrived with seven ships and 636 soldiers. Many of these died of fever, and others were resented for their attentions to the native women. The troops occupied Bangkok, and Dubruant was sent to govern Mergui with a garrison of 120 men.

When King Narai became ill in 1688, Phaulkon urged him to designate his adopted son Mom Pi as his heir; but the King appointed the general Pra Petraja regent, and Mom Pi was murdered. Phaulkon sent for French troops and was executed for treason. Pra Petraja’s son Luang Sarasak had two of the King’s brothers arrested and executed. Two days later Narai died, and Pra Petraja was proclaimed king. The French negotiated an evacuation agreement, and the soldiers departed to Pondicherry; yet despite the agreement, French missionaries and residents were killed. In November 1688 Siam made a new commercial agreement with the Dutch, confirming their monopoly on hides and adding one on tin. A rebellion attempted to replace the King in 1690; but it was put down, and many from those districts moved to Burma. The next year governors from Korat in the north and Nakhon Si Thammarat on the Malay peninsula rebelled. Houses in Korat were set on fire by flying kites with torches, and the governor fled to Nakhon Si Thammarat. The rebellion was defeated in 1692, and both governors were killed. A magician and 28 followers revolted again at Korat in 1699, but their force of 3,000 abandoned them to the royal army.

In 1703 King Pra Petraja was succeeded by his son, who for his cruelty was called Prachao Sua, which means “King Tiger.” His son Thai Sa (r. 1709-33) gave refuge to Cambodian king Prea Srey Thomea, but their efforts to restore him failed. The third and largest expedition in 1717 gained the allegiance of Keo Fa, but the Nguyen still held most of Cambodia. King Boromokot (r. 1733-58) won a struggle for the throne and took revenge on his defeated rivals before governing peacefully. An uprising by Chinese residents in 1733 was quelled, and forty were executed. During the Mon rising of 1740 the Burman governors of Martaban and Tavoy were given refuge at Ayudhya, and a few years later embassies were exchanged with Ava. When deposed Pegu king Sming Htaw Buddhaketi fled to Ayudhya in 1750, he was imprisoned and shipped to China. Boromokot promoted Buddhism, and eighteen Buddhists were sent to improve Buddhist education in Sri Lanka in 1753, founding what became their largest sect. When the King discovered that his oldest son was having affairs with two of his wives in 1756, all three of them were flogged to death.

Boromokot wanted to be succeeded by his second son Utumpon; but after executing three half-brothers and ruling only ten days, he abdicated and let the older Boromoraja rule from 1758 to 1767. When Burma’s Alaungpaya invaded Siam in 1760 and besieged the capital, the priest Utumpon was recalled to take power. Alaungpaya was wounded when a cannon exploded and died during the retreat to Burma. Utumpon found his brother intriguing against him again and retired to his monastery. In 1763 Burma conquered Tavoy, and its rebel governor fled to Mergui. Siam would not surrender him, and so the Burman army occupied Mergui and Tenasserim. In 1765 Burman armies invaded Siam from three directions. Their policy was to kill or enslave all the inhabitants of any village that resisted. They besieged Ayudhya again, and no honorable surrender was granted. In 1767 Pya Taksin escaped with 500 men before Ayudhya was destroyed. King Boromoraja fled and was killed or died of hunger as so many did. A city of a million people was reduced to ruins. Utumpon and tens of thousands were taken away as slaves. Siam split into five regions with governors at Pitsanulok and Nakhon Si Thammarat, a prince in the northeast, and Buddhist monks near Uttaradit; Taksin was crowned at Thonburi in the center. Taksin’s forces defeated the Burmans and their Siamese collaborators, capturing their fleet in 1768. Taksin’s armies regained Siam but were defeated in Cambodia in 1769. However, the Siamese had control over most of Cambodia by 1773, when Burma was reacting to another Mon rebellion. Siam installed Chao Kavila to govern Chang Mai. Taksin’s personal leadership helped defeat the Burman invasion of 1775.

Taksin became reclusive and had delusions he was a Buddha; those who did not honor him as such he had flogged. Officials became corrupt and extorted money from the rich with fines. In 1778 the army turned back a Vienchang incursion and forced the king of Luang Prabang to accept Siamese sovereignty. General Chao Pya Chakri was leading Siam’s army to victories, and in 1781 his force of 20,000 was sent to invade Cambodia. Rebels at Ayudhya decided to kill the insane king and put Chakri on the throne. The minister Pya Sankaburi joined them and imprisoned Taksin. General Chakri came to the capital, eliminated the rebel leaders, executed Taksin, and was crowned Rama I (r. 1782-1809). On the east side of the river he founded the new capital of Bangkok. Siam was greatly strengthened and was able to defend itself against Burman invasions that began in 1785 with five armies and 100,000 troops. Rama imposed four months of annual labor on all citizens, but by the end of his reign this was reduced to three months. The Tavoy governor rebelled against Burma in 1791 and appealed to Siam; but their 1793 invasion failed, and Burma recaptured Tavoy. Rama crowned Ang Eng king at Bangkok in 1794 and sent him to govern Cambodia from Udong with a Siamese army, but Burma took over Chiengsen in 1802.

Siam, Cambodia, and Laos 1800-1950

Cambodia to 1800

Funan king Fan Chan sent a mission from the Malay peninsula to a court on the Ganges. His successor Fan Xun received diplomats from China, but he joined Champa in the ten-year war against Chinese imperialism that began about 270 CE. The Funan king in the mid-fourth century was described by Chinese records as a Hindu. A rock inscription in the Pallava alphabet, found on the Malay peninsula and attributed to this period, has been translated from Sanskrit as the following:

Karma accumulates through lack of knowledge.
Karma is the cause of rebirth.
Through knowledge it comes about that no karma is effected,
and through absence of karma there is no rebirth.1

In 484 Funan king Jayavarman sent the monk Nagasena to China to ask for help against the Lin-yi which was denied. By then the national religion there was Shaivite, and Buddhism was also practiced. Cock-fighting and pig-fighting were said to be the national sports, and trial was by ordeal. When Jayavarman died in 514, his son Rudravarman murdered the heir and seized the Funan throne. He raided Dongking in 543 while Vietnamese leader Li Bon was asserting independence from China; but Li Bon’s general Phaum Tu defeated the Funan raiders. Four years later the Chinese suppressed Li Bon’s Cham revolt. After Rudravarman’s death in mid-century the Funan power was somehow overthrown.

         Bhavavarman reigned in the second half of the 6th century and claimed sovereignty over both Champa and the kingdom the Chinese called Chenla. China’s Sui dynasty imposed tribute on Champa king Sambhuvarman in 595, and ten years later the Chinese invaded and plundered the Chams. After the Tang dynasty came to power in 618, relations with Champa improved. In 627 Chenla king Ishanavarman completed the conquest of Funan by annexing its territory, and he cultivated relations with Champa by marrying a Cham princess. In the middle of the 7th century Jayavarman I invaded Laos up to the Nanchao border, and the Khmers used hydraulic techniques developed in the north to improve agriculture. The Chenla empire suffered civil wars and turmoil for about a century. In 722 Upper Chenla joined an attack on the Chinese governor of Dongking, but they were defeated. Lower Chenla was attacked, and Champa was raided in 774 and 787 by Malay pirates from Java.

         Cambodia’s Angkor era began with the long reign (802-50) of Jayavarman II, who established himself as the Khmer god-king. His son Jayavarman III (r. 850-77) was known for hunting elephants. He was succeeded by his cousin Indravarman I (r. 877-89), who oversaw the construction of an artificial lake and irrigation works. His son Yashovarman I made the Siemreap River change course into a vast reservoir and had the first city of Angkor laid out. He also sponsored the building of a hundred monasteries for Shaivites, Vaishnavites, and Buddhists. Jayavarman IV (r. 928-42) usurped the throne and abandoned Angkor, but Rajendravarman II (944-68) overthrew that usurper’s son Harshavarman II and made Angkor the capital again. Cambodians invaded Champa in 945 and carried off a gold image of Bhagavati. Jayavarman V’s reign (968-1001) was considered an era of learning and of brilliant ministers, many of whom were women.

         Suryavarman I (r. 1002-50) took power “by the sword” during a civil war that lasted a decade. His son Udayadityavarman II (r. 1050-66) was occupied with putting down revolts, and his peaceful brother Harshavarman III (r. 1066-80) was overthrown by the vassal prince Jayavarman VI (r. 1080-1107), who started a new dynasty amid civil strife. His older brother Dharanindravarman I (r. 1107-13) retreated to a monastery, though an inscription called his government prudent. Suryavarman II (r. 1113-50) made Champa a vassal and annexed it when the Cham king would not support his invasion of Annam (Vietnam). He re-opened diplomatic relations with China and oversaw construction of the largest religious building in the world, occupying nearly a square mile. The king was deified as Vishnu and controlled an immense religious establishment. The year he died an expedition against Dongking failed. Although Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150-60) ruled as a Buddhist, it did not seem to matter; but his younger brother Yashovarman II, ruling for only six years, had to put down a revolt of peasants tired of being exploited for royal extravagance. He was killed by the ambitious chief Tribhuvanadityavarman. In 1167 the usurping Champa king Jaya Indravarman IV began attacking Cambodia, and ten years later the Chams sacked Angkor, killing King Tribhuvanadityavarman.

         Cambodia experienced anarchy until 1181 when Jayavarman VII was enthroned at Angkor. His Khmer army then attacked Champa and sacked their capital of Vijaya, annexing that country from 1203 to 1220. Jayavarman was a Mahayana Buddhist, but at this time Theravada Buddhism was introduced into Burma by the Mon monk Chapata, and its simple ways of austerity, solitude, and meditation soon spread into Cambodia, where people were tired of big temples. Heavy taxation to support thousands of officials and hundreds of dancers, forced labor for construction, and military service for wars had impoverished the people. Cambodia had to abandon control of Champa and gradually declined. Jayavarman VIII (r. 1243-95) re-established Brahmin dominance and allowed Buddhist images to be vandalized.

         A soldier, who had married Jayavarman VIII’s daughter, seized power in Cambodia as Indravarman III (r. 1295-1308). Theravada Buddhism was so popular that it was adopted by the Cambodian court, and Sanskrit royal inscriptions ended with the accession of Jayavarman Paramesvara in 1327. Thai forces occupied Angkor twice about 1369 and 1389, and a third attack conquered it in 1431. The intricate irrigation system could not be maintained, and the Khmer court moved the capital to Phnom Penh in 1434. The next period of Cambodian history is very obscure. Nong records indicate that in 1512 Kan murdered his brother-in-law Srei Sukonthor and seized the throne. The royal family fled, but in 1516 Candaraja (Ang Chan) returned to defeat and kill Kan. Candaraja was popular and ruled Cambodia for forty years. His raid on the province of Prachim in 1531 may have provoked the Siamese attack led by Chau Pnhea Ang, the son of the late exiled king Preah Srei. Both sides claimed victory; but apparently Chau Pnhea Ang was killed in 1535 or perhaps as late as 1556. The abandoned city of Angkor was discovered about 1550. Candaraja began a series of raids into Siamese territory in 1559; but when they reached Ayudhya in 1564, the Burmans had already occupied it.

         Candaraja was succeeded by his son Paramaraja or Barom Reachea I (r. 1566-76); he continued the war and occupied the province of Korat in 1570. His son Sattha (Paramaraja II) ruled from about 1576 to 1594; an inscription recorded that Sattha began restoring Angkor Wat in 1577. Although Siam invaded Cambodia in 1583, King Sattha made a treaty with them two years later, and they defeated an invasion from Laos led by the Burman governor of Chiang Mai. Sattha must have fallen out with Siam’s Pra Naret, because when Ayudhya was besieged by the Burmans in 1587, Sattha seized Prachim in Siam. Three Siamese armies invaded Cambodia in 1593, and Sattha fled to Srei Santhor while his brother Soryopor defended the capital. Sattha was deposed by a relative and died in 1596.

         Spaniards from Manila tried to make Cambodia dependent on them by promising to defend it against Siam. Joen Brai (Ram Mahapabitr) seized the throne but could not force the Spaniards to pay reparations for pillaging Chinese junks; Joen Brai and one of his sons were killed in the fighting. The Spaniard Gallinato refused the crown, restored some goods, and promised reparations before departing. He left Veloso and Ruiz in Vietnam to search for Sattha, who was dead; but they persuaded his second son Cau Bana Tan to be crowned as King Paramaraja III at Srei Santhor in May 1597. In an expedition from the Philippines only one ship of three made it to Phnom Penh. In chaotic Cambodia magnates and the deposed son of Joen Brai were trying to put Sattha’s exiled brother Soryopor on the throne. A violent feud over a Malay camp provoked by Laksamana of the Malays resulted in most of the Spaniards being massacred in 1599. After Laksamana had Paramaraja III assassinated, the magnates put the younger brother of Sattha and Soryopor on the throne as Paramaraja IV. He contacted Manila through a Spanish soldier but was murdered a few months later by a jealous husband. Sattha’s son Cau Bana Nom seized the throne; but Soryopor returned from exile supported by Siam’s force and replaced him in 1603, making Cambodia a vassal state of Siam.

The story of Rama and Sita was also very popular in the Cambodian version Reamker. The Cambodian royal revenue came from a ten percent tax on all rice production. The King also had monopolies on other trade that included timber, dried fish, and hides. One-third of legal fees went to the King, one-third to the judge, and one third to the winning party. In addition to the talaha chief minister, Cambodia had ministers for justice, the army, foreign trade and the navy, and the palace. The chaovay sruk was the highest of the officials (okya). A 17th century Cambodian law indicated that the Cambodian army only needed a food supply for three days because enemy populations could be robbed.

         In 1618 the Khmers forced Soryopor to abdicate to his son, who was crowned Chey Chettha II. He restored Khmer customs and founded a new capital at Udong. When two armies from Siam invaded in 1623, the King led the defense of Tonle Sap Lake, and his brother Outey defeated them in Banteay Meas. A Siamese naval attack also failed the next year. Chey Chettha formed an alliance with Hué and married a beautiful Vietnamese princess. The Vietnamese moved into the Prey Kor province and founded Saigon. When Chey Chettha died in 1628, his oldest son Ponhea To was too inexperienced to rule; so Prince Outey governed as regent. Ponhea To tried and failed to regain Korat from Siam. After he fell in love and began living with one of his uncle’s wives, Outey instigated people to kill the lovers and their Chinese guards. To’s younger brother Nou became king in 1630, but Outey continued to govern. When Nou died in 1640, Outey made his own son Ang Non king; but Soryopor’s third son Chan seized the palace with mercenaries in 1642, killing Outey, the King, and the ministers. Chan was married to a Malay woman and converted to Islam to secure his Malayan alliance. Because the Muslims competed with the Dutch, in 1643 Chan destroyed the Dutch ships that had been operating at Phnom Penh for twenty years. Batavia sent five Dutch ships to blockade Phnom Penh; but the Khmers resisted, and peace was made in 1652. Two sons of Outey appealed to Chey Chettha’s Nguyen widow at Hué, and Vietnamese forces helped them capture Chan in 1658.

When Batom Reachea became king in 1660, the Chams and Malayans lost their privileges and revolted. This failed, and they fled to Siam. In 1672 Batom Reachea was assassinated by a nephew, who married the queen, but she had him killed. Batom Reachea’s son Ang Chei became king in 1673 but died fighting his brother Ang Tan, who was backed by the Vietnamese. He soon died of disease, and Prince Ang Non was driven out by another brother, Ang Sor, who defeated the Vietnamese and was crowned Chey Chettha IV in 1674. Ang Non got help from discontented Chinese refugees in 1682, causing the Khmer army to flee. Siamese forces intervened on one side and then another to keep the civil war in Cambodia going. With help from the Chinese and Vietnamese, Ang Non was able to seize Phnom Penh in 1688. Chey Chettha made peace with Hué and let Ang Non live at Srei Santor. When Ang Non died in 1691, his son Ang Em had to accept a Vietnamese governor. The Vietnamese began colonizing lower Cambodia in 1698. Chey Chettha discovered old legal writings and had the laws revised, abolishing the death penalty and making punishments less severe. Chey Chettha IV abdicated the throne four times in these unstable times as factions were supported by Siam or Vietnam. Ang Em became king for the second time in 1710 but fled to Hué when the Siamese invaded in 1714. Siam accepted tribute in 1722 from Ang Em, who abdicated for his son to become Satha II. Khmers massacred some Vietnamese in the Banam region in 1731.

Chey Chettha’s son Thommo Reachea became king for the third time in 1738, when the Siamese army expelled the Vietnamese. He died in 1747, and his oldest son was murdered by a younger brother. The ministers chose another brother, Ang Tong; but he fled to Siam as Satha returned with Vietnamese forces. Cambodians rose up and drove out the Vietnamese, making another prince Chey Chettha V. He died after ruling six years, and Ang Tong was reinstated. While the Vietnamese took over more Cambodian provinces, Prah Outey murdered his way to the throne in 1758 and ceded two more provinces to Hué. In 1767 Outey II refused to help Siam’s Taksin and called him half Chinese, provoking the insulted Taksin to invade Cambodia. Siamese troops burned down Phnom Penh. They supported Ang Non II, who became king when Outey abdicated in 1775. While he was in Siam, the minister Mu organized an army that defeated and executed the returning Ang Non. Mu then was made regent for Ang Non’s seven-year-old son Ang Eng in 1779. The Siamese army invaded, and the people of Cambodia threw out the regent and turned to the mandarin Ben. Ang Eng fled to Siam with his family in 1790. He was crowned king at Bangkok in 1794 by Rama I and then returned to Cambodia. Rama also rewarded Ben by putting him over Battambang and Mahanokor. Ang Eng had a palace built at Udong but died while visiting Bangkok in 1797. His young son Ang Chan II was not old enough to be crowned king until 1806.

Cambodia 1800-1904
Cambodia 1904-50

Laos to 1800

According to tradition 24 kings ruled Laos before Fa Ngum (r. 1353-71); but he is considered the founder of Laos for uniting the kingdom at Lan Xang and in 1356 expanding it to include Vientiane, Viengkam, and Roi-Et by using an army of 48,000 men and 500 elephants. His Cambodian queen Kamyard in 1357 persuaded him to send to Angkor for Theravada Buddhist priests, scriptures, and a statue of Buddha called the Prabang. After his queen died, Fa Ngum neglected his government and allowed Kwan Meesa to alienate people with his tax collection and favoritism. Eventually nobles forced Fa Ngum into exile in 1371. King Ku Na (r. 1355-85) in Chiang Mai was well educated and promoted a Buddhist sect that raised the literary and cultural level of the region. Fa Ngum’s son Phya Ounmuong was born in 1356 and ruled from 1373 to 1416, taking the name Sam Sene Thai for the 300,000 Thai males counted in the census of 1376. He reorganized the military but encouraged Buddhism and avoided war, sending only two expeditions to subdue Chiengsen. After the rule of Lan Kamdaeng (r. 1416-28), Sam Sene Thai’s daughter Pimpa (or Keokumari) loved a commoner she made prime minister while seven kings died, mostly by assassinations. Finally the nobles had the 95-year-old queen and her husband put to death in 1438.

         Two of the monks from Cambodia governed Lan Xang until they selected Sam Sene Thai’s son by an Ayudhyan princess to become King Paya Sai Tiakapat (r. 1441-78). In 1478 a white elephant was captured. A Vietnamese delegation requested some hairs; but Prince Chienglaw hated them and sent excrement instead, provoking a massive invasion by the Vietnamese army that drove the Laos king to abdicate and flee the capital. The army of Laos resisted with heavy losses on both sides; the Vietnamese withdrew, and fleeing Prince Chienglaw drowned. Kings Suvarna Banlang (r. 1478-85) and Lahsaentai Puvanart (r. 1485-95) had the capital rebuilt. After a short reign by a child, Visunarat (r. 1500-20) promoted literature and Buddhism, using military force to put the rebellious Governor Korkam of Kaborng into a monastery.

         King Photisarath (r. 1520-47) was devoted to Buddhism but failed to eradicate animism and witchcraft. To improve trade with Siam and Annam he moved his capital to Vientiane. After Chiang Mai’s line of kings was ended by assassination in 1543, Photisarath accepted the crown for his young son Sethathirat and sent a regent. Siam’s King Phrajai led an army but was persuaded by Princess Maha Tewi to return home. After Photisarath died in 1547, Sethathirat had to go back to Lan Xang to prevent his brothers from partitioning the kingdom, and Phrajai invaded again. Princess Maha Tewi fought back, and the Siamese army retreated and was routed by the Laos army. Sethathirat managed to withstand Burman invasions, first by fleeing to Ayudhya and then by moving his capital to Vientiane in 1563. After he died in 1570, Burma’s king Bayinnaung had Sethathirat’s brother Oupahat put on the throne in 1575, replacing Sethathirat’s father-in-law Saensurin.

         A rebellion led by a man claiming to be Sethathirat was suppressed by the Burmans, and Bayinnaung put the elderly Saensurin back on the throne in 1580; but he died two years later. Saensurin’s son was resented as a bad commoner and was arrested and banished to Pegu. No one ruled in Vientiane until Saensurin’s grandson, Prince Nohmuong, became twenty years old and was crowned king in 1591. He declared Laos independent of Burma in 1593, but he died five years later without an heir. After a regency under his father Vorapita and a civil war, Sethathirat’s nephew Vorawongsa was old enough to rule Laos for himself in 1603. His son Oupagnouvarat gradually gained authority, and in 1622 he rebelled against his jealous father and had him killed; but this prince also died the same year at the age of 25. In the next fifteen years five kings tried to rule Laos in the struggle for power.

In 1637 Souligna-Vongsa defeated four rivals and united Laos. He ruled for 57 years and developed good relationships with neighboring states, defining the frontiers. He welcomed a Dutch merchant from Batavia in 1641, and a Jesuit arrived the next year and stayed in Vientiane for five years. Souligna-Vongsa was upset that the king of Tran Ninh refused to let him marry his daughter in 1651. Souligna-Vongsa sent troops that were repulsed, but the next year a larger force captured the capital at Chieng Khouang, forcing its king to comply. Souligna-Vongsa’s only son was executed for adultery with the wife of a high official. When the King died in 1694, his two grandsons were too young to govern. The chief minister Tian-Tala claimed the throne, but he was murdered in 1700 by Nakhone governor Nan-Tarat, who became king. This stimulated Souligna-Vongsa’s nephew Sai-Ong-Hué, who had been in Hué all his life after his father’s failed rebellion of 1637. Bringing Vietnamese troops, he joined his partisans gathered at Tran Ninh. They seized Vientiane and put to death Nan-Tarat. Souligna-Vongsa’s grandsons King-Kitsarat and Inta-Som had fled to Luang Prabang in the north. They gathered an army of 6,000, and in 1707 were able to defeat the forces that Sai-Ong-Hué sent with his half brother Nong. King-Kitsarat was proclaimed king of an independent Luang Prabang. Ayudhya king Petraja sent a daughter to marry Sai-Ong-Hué, and the Ayudhya army got both sides to cease hostilities. In 1713 Chao-Soi-Sisamout established a third independent kingdom in the south at Champassak, which he ruled until 1747.

Sai-Ong-Hué was succeeded in Vientiane by his son Ong-Long (r. 1735-60). When Tran Ninh refused to pay tribute, Vientiane’s army invaded. Annam intervened and ordered a truce. When Tran-Ninh’s king Chom-Pou went to negotiate three years later, Ong Long kept him prisoner until Annam demanded his release in 1760. Chom-Pou then paid the tribute regularly the rest of his reign. Ong-Long’s policy of supporting Burma was continued by his son Ong-Boun. Burma’s king Hsinhpyushin crushed a rebellion by Luang Prabang and destroyed Ayudhya in 1767; but when the Chinese invaded Burma, it lost control over Siam, Chiang Mai, and Luang Prabang, which attacked Vientiane in 1771. After making peace with China, Burma sent a force that defeated Luang Prabang. In 1774 Luang Prabang’s Inta-Som (r. 1727-76) made an alliance with Siam’s Taksin. Ong-Boun tried to defy Siam, which invaded Vientiane in 1778. General Chulalok captured the city as Ong-Boun fled into exile; the Siamese took back to their capital the famous Emerald Buddha. Siam also demanded that Luang Prabang become their vassal state. When General Chakri became Rama I in 1782, Ong-Boun did homage to Siam and was allowed to return to Vientiane; his oldest son Chao-Nan headed the government as a vassal of Siam. However, when Chao-Nan seized part of Luang Prabang, killing and deporting many, Rama objected and replaced him with his younger brother Chao-In (r. 1792-1805).

Laos 1800-1940
Laos 1940-50

Vietnam to 1800

Chinese immigrants and the spread of Hindu culture in the region merged with native practices in Indochina. In 112 BC under Han emperor Wu Di the Chinese conquered Nam Viet and made it the province of Qiao-ji. Many Chinese scholars fled to this province during the revolutionary era of Wang Mang (9-23 CE). After her husband was executed by the Chinese in 39 CE, the noble lady Trung Trac led a rebellion of tribal chiefs, declaring herself and her sister queens; but three years later the local aristocracy was crushed, and a centralized Chinese administration was imposed. As the Han dynasty declined, the Chinese governor of Qiao-ji, Zhe Sie (r. 187-226), became independent.

         In 248 CE the coastal community to the south called Lin-yi (Champa) pillaged the north and battled the Chinese along the Song Giang. Fan Xiung became king of Lin-yi in 270 and joined Funan’s Fan Xun in a ten-year war against Qiao-ji (Dongking), whose governor asked the new Qin dynasty for military aid in 280. Lin-yi king Fan Yi opened diplomatic relations with China four years later. Fan Yi reigned for more than half a century and was succeeded by his Chinese prime minister Wen in 336, who used force to extend their disputed northern border until his death in 349, though his son Fan Fo restored that conquered territory to the Chinese. The Chinese attacked Champa in 431 but were driven away. The new governor of Dongking, Tan Ho-chu, in 446 attacked the Champa capital near Hué and was said to have taken 100,000 pounds of gold. Champa supplemented rice agriculture with trade and piracy.

         In 541 Li Bon rebelled against the Chinese governor and declared himself king of Nam Viet three years later; but three years after that, he was defeated. Another rebellion led by the Li family was crushed in 602. Twenty years later the Tang dynasty established a protectorate over the “pacified south” they called Annam. Qiao-ji with its capital at Dongking became one of four prefectures. For a century the Chinese ruled in relative peace that allowed prosperity, as Chan Buddhism emphasizing meditation spread. In 722 Mai Thuc Loan captured the capital with the help of Chams and Khmers, proclaiming himself emperor, but his rule did not last.

         In 767 Javanese invaders were driven away from Annam by the Chinese imperial commissioner Zhang Boyi, but seven years later they destroyed the Champa sanctuary at Nha-trang. In 791 Phung Hung gained control of Annam’s capital, and his son Phung An ruled for a few years until he surrendered to the Chinese Protector; this enabled Champa led by Harivarman I to reclaim two provinces until protector Zhang Zhou drove them out in 808. In the mid-9th century Nanchao began raiding Annam and captured the capital in 863; the next year the Chinese general Gao Pien led a large force that defeated Nanchao seven times and cleared them out of Annam. Gao Pien was appointed imperial commissioner and built the citadel of Dai-la-thanh near modern Hanoi. Champa’s Indravarman II (r. 854-93) restored good relations with China and built the new capital Indrapura, while his successor Jaya Sinhavarman I developed friendly relations with Java.

         With China in turmoil after the fall of the Tang dynasty, Vietnam became independent in 939, as the rebellion’s commander Ngo Quyen became king over three provinces north of the Champa kingdom. In 979 Champa king Paramesvaravarman helped Le Hoan seize the Vietnamese throne; but after he put the Vietnamese envoy in prison, this Champa king was killed during a Vietnamese invasion that destroyed Indrapura. Amid the disorder Luu Ky-Tong deposed Le Hoan and seized the Champa throne also. One year after the death of Luu Ky-Tong in 989 the Cham resistance movement put Harivarman II on the throne.

         With the help of the Buddhist monk Van Hanh in 1009 Ly Cong Uan was proclaimed king of Dai Viet, and the next year they established the capital at Thang-long (Hanoi). Considered devout and a friend of the common people, Ly Cong Uan canceled tax debts while collecting tax on the royal estates, allowing agriculture to flourish. His son Ly Phat Ma (r. 1028-54) was well educated to succeed him. After putting down uprisings led by his three brothers and crushing a rebellion stimulated by his promoting a concubine to royal status, Ly Phat Ma strengthened royal control and promulgated the Minh-dao (clear way) law code in 1042. The campaign he led against Champa two years later destroyed their capital at Vijaya and killed their king Jayasinhavarman II, gaining so much plunder that taxes were reduced, as the capital returned to Dongking. His son Ly Nhat Ton (r. 1054-72) consolidated the royal control but irritated the imperial Chinese court with claims of his own empire. Fear of devious Song policies on the border caused him to fight the Chinese from 1057 to 1061. After being attacked by Champa in 1068, he re-enacted his father’s expedition the next year. Instead of beheading the Champa king, he had Rudravarman III taken captive to Dongking and freed him when he formally surrendered Champa’s three northern provinces. Champa’s Harivarman IV cultivated better relations with Dai Viet by sending them tribute until the end of the century.

         Ly Can Duc was only six when he became king in 1072, and he ruled until 1127. In 1075 Dai Viet commander Ly Thuong Kiet made a surprise attack on Song borders and left placards appealing to reformer Wang Anshi’s adversaries among Song officials. After years of negotiation Song and Dai Viet officials agreed on a border that became so sacred it still exists. Ly Can Duc died childless, and future Ly kings were dominated by their mothers’ clansmen. Champa’s relations with Dai Viet remained good until the mid-13th century except for a brief attempt by Champa’s king Jaya Indravarman II to regain the three lost provinces in 1103 and an encroachment by Jaya Indravarman III with Angkor ruler Suryavarman II in 1132, though his refusal to help the Khmers against Dai Viet in 1145 led to a devastating Khmer invasion of Champa. Jaya Harivarman I reunited a torn-apart Champa four years later. In 1177 Champa sent a naval force up the Mekong River and pillaged Angkor, causing resentment among the Khmers that brought another Cambodian invasion that divided Champa in 1190. A Cham was made ruler of Panduranga as a vassal of Cambodia and was named Suryavarman; but after crushing rebels he captured Vijaya and declared independence. Khmer forces finally drove him out in 1203, and for the next seventeen years Champa was part of Cambodia.

         By the end of the 12th century Dai Viet was suffering chronic civil war. The Tran clan inaugurated a new dynasty in 1225 and soon began using the Chinese examination system to recruit educated officials. Mid-century border wars between Champa and Vietnam were halted suddenly in 1257 when the Mongols pillaged Hanoi, though the Vietnamese soon forced them to withdraw. In 1285 Kublai Khan’s son Togan was defeated by Vietnam, while his ally Sogatu was beaten and driven into Champa, where he was killed. Champa’s Indravarman V ended the war by sending tribute to Kublai Khan.

         Vietnam turned back a third Mongol invasion in 1287. Vietnam’s Tran Anh-ton (r. 1308-20) invaded Champa in 1312, captured Jaya Sinhavarman IV, and made it a vassal state. Anh-ton was praised in the Vietnam annals for his justice. During the reign (1320-57) of Vietnamese king Minh-ton, the appointed viceroy Che Anan rebelled against Vietnam in 1323 and reigned in Champa until his death in 1342. Minh-ton invaded the Black River region in 1329. Disturbances broke out in Vietnam in 1343 when starving people, including monks, took up arms, and the unrest continued for the rest of Minh-ton’s reign. Under his successor Du-ton (r. 1358-69) the Tran dynasty declined, and he died without an heir; but Minh-ton’s son Nghe-ton regained the throne from a usurper in 1370 and ruled ineffectively until 1394. He wrote poetry and tried to follow his father’s laws. Champa king Che Bong Nga attacked Vietnam several times and sacked Hanoi in 1371; but this Cham dynasty ended with his death in 1390.

         By 1398 Vietnam had recovered enough lost territory to move their capital south to Thanh-hoa. Two years later the general Le Qui Li deposed the Tran king and took the throne. The Tran dynasty appealed to Ming Emperor Yongle, who in 1407 sent a force that occupied Thang-long and captured the usurper, ending Vietnam’s independence. Chinese culture dominated with civil service exams based on the Chinese classics, and Vietnamese was not allowed to be spoken in schools. About 10,000 skilled Vietnamese were sent to Beijing to serve the empire. Guerrilla attacks led by landowner Le Loi began in 1418; within ten years he was recognized as King Le Thai To. Thang-long capitulated, and China agreed to recognize a second Le dynasty under Chinese overlordship.

         Meanwhile Champa had recovered their lost territory. Five years after a civil war broke out in Champa, Vietnam took Vijaya in 1446, though Champa soon recovered the city. Finally in 1471 Annam (Vietnam) annexed most of Champa as 60,000 people were killed, and 30,000 captives were made slaves. King Le Thanh Tong (r. 1460-98) also drove the Lao king out of Lan Xang in 1478 and made it do homage to Vietnam, which as Annam was still paying tribute to China. Le Thanh Tong used the Chinese examination system and its bureaucratic structure of six ministries, and Mahayana Buddhism was adopted; but in 1483 he promulgated his own law code based on Vietnamese precedents. In the thirty years after Le Thanh Tong, ten kings ruled Vietnam, including four usurpers. Finally in 1527 kingmaker Mac Dang Dung took the throne, and two years later he abdicated to his son Mac Dang Doanh but retained control until he died in 1541. In 1533 the Le dynasty was restored in two provinces under Nguyen Kim, who was assassinated in 1545. The Mac dynasty ruled in Tongking until 1592 and was recognized by China. Nguyen Kim’s son-in-law Trinh Kiem struggled against Nguyen’s sons; but when he died in 1570, Annam was divided between the Trinh and the Nguyen families. In 1592 Trinh Tong captured Hanoi and took over most of Tongking. The Mac managed to survive on the Chinese frontier at Cao-bang until they were driven into China in 1677. While quelling a revolt in Ninh Binh, Nguyen Hoang (r. 1600-13) broke relations with the Trinh at Hanoi in 1600.

         In 1619 Trinh Tung (r. 1570-1623) killed King Le-Kinh-Tong and put on the Le throne Le-Than-Tong. After this, the Le kings were allowed to be figureheads so as not to disturb relations with China, but Trinh ruled the north and Nguyen the south. After Nguyen Phuc-Nguyen (r. 1613-35), known as Sai Vuong, withheld taxes from Hanoi, war between the Trinh and the Nguyen broke out in 1620 and lasted more than half a century. In 1630 Sai Vuong occupied southern Bochinh. During the reign of Nguyen-Phuc-Lan (r. 1635-48), known as Cong Thuong Vuong, Tongking regained Bochinh until they were defeated at the wall of Truong-duc defending Hué in 1648. Nguyen-Phuc-Tan (r. 1648-87), known as Hien Vuong, went on the offensive in 1655, but Trinh Tac (r. 1657-82) defeated the Nguyen twice in 1659. However, the Trinh were badly beaten at the Dong-hri wall two years later. Trinh Can led the assault in 1672 but could not conquer Nguyen resistance and gave up. They agreed to make the Linh River the border between their territories. For the next century this boundary was respected as the Trinh governed northern Vietnam and the Nguyen ruled the south, where they founded Saigon in 1674.

         In the 16th century a few Dominicans tried to spread their faith in Cambodia and Vietnam without much success. In 1613 an English agent and his interpreter landed in Annam but were murdered. Portuguese Jean de la Croix helped the Nguyen establish an arsenal at Hué in 1614. Jesuits arrived that year and were tolerated by Sai Vuong, staying until 1639. The Portuguese named the Nguyen territories Cochinchina. Alexander of Rhodes went to Tongking in 1627 but was expelled by Trinh Trang (r. 1623-57) three years later. Alexander went to the south in 1640; but after he made many converts in five years, the Nguyen also expelled him. He compiled a Latin-Vietnamese-Portuguese dictionary with the Roman alphabet. In 1636 the Dutch established a factory in the south at Qui-nam; but after crews of two wrecked ships were badly treated in 1641, reprisals occurred. In 1651 a treaty enabled the Dutch to open a new factory at Faifo, but because of conflicts it was closed permanently in 1654. Hien Vuong was disappointed that he was not helped by the Europeans in his military campaigns in the late 1650s, and he stopped missionary work and persecuted native Christians. Alexander of Rhodes ran up against Portuguese opposition and turned to France to sponsor missionary work. Their Société des Missions Etrangeres began operating from Ayudhya in 1662 and sent missionaries to Cambodia, Annam, and Tongking. In 1663 the Trinh banned Catholicism in the north and began burning their books and killing Catholics.

William Gyfford went from Bantam in 1672 and opened a factory in Tongking, but he had trouble collecting debts from the mandarins there, in Ke-cho, and in Hué, where in 1697 the factory was closed. In 1682 the Dutch forced their European competitors out of Bantam, discouraging the French. Even the Dutch abandoned their factory in 1700. In 1738 Pope Clement XII sent a commission to investigate, and three years later he assigned the Jesuits to Tongking and northern Annam, leaving the French the territory from Hué south. French attempts to open trade or send missionaries by Dupleix from Pondicherry were rebuffed by Vo Vuong (r. 1738-65).

The Chinese domination of Vietnam left a strong Confucian influence. In 1663 the Le court published “The Forty-Seven Rules for Teaching and Changing,” and it was reissued again in 1760. The rules were to be taught by the officials to the uneducated men and women. Parents were to educate their children on proper ethics every day. Filial piety was a strong Confucian virtue, and younger brothers were expected to respect older brothers just as wives were to obey husbands, children their parents, and the officials their emperor. Both the Trinh and Nguyen lords employed bureaucratic government with six government ministries over the following: appointing officials; collecting taxes and managing finances; administering schools, examinations, foreign relations, and other rituals; supervising the military; administering justice; and constructing palaces, walls, roads, and dikes. The Vietnamese allowed more rights to women than the Chinese. Daughters had the equal right to inherit property, and the wife’s estate was not necessarily incorporated into that of her husband. The philosopher and historian Le Quy Don (1726-84) taught that Vietnam should have an independent Confucianism, and he criticized Chinese imperialism.

         Trinh Cuong (r. 1709-29) ordered a land survey to renew tax registers, and he limited the power of the mandarins by ending their feudal jurisdiction over villages. He also reformed the courts and removed mutilation from the penal code. Private rice lands were not taxed until 1719. A tax on every male citizen was used to pay for roads, dams, bridges, and communal facilities. Trinh Giang (r. 1729-40) abolished this poll tax, but it was reinstituted by his successor. Trinh Giang needed money to quell riots and so began selling offices. Taxes were put on transportation, salt, and the exploitation of natural resources in mining. Trinh Giang tried to end feudalism by abolishing government grants based on land ownership, by paying salaries for services, and by not permitting officers to own land within their jurisdictions. The central government took over the minting of money, and tin was added because of lack of copper. He banned the importation of classical textbooks from China in order to develop the native economy. He also taxed Chinese settlers at a higher rate. An indigent scholar could be hired to take an examination, and diplomas could be purchased. Trinh Giang’s policies provoked revolts by the royal Le family, mandarin aristocrats, and scholars.

         In the south the Nguyen began using examinations in 1632 for recruiting officials, and in 1675 current issues were included. Hien Vuong (r. 1648-87) promoted the cultivation of virgin soil and divided the population into eight categories for taxation; two categories had to serve in the military. The Vietnamese began collecting tribute from Cambodia in 1673, and their influence there continued to grow. The Chams were absorbed by the Nguyen in the 17th century. In 1692 Ba Tranh claimed to be the Cham king and rebelled, but he was defeated and executed along with his ministers. Minh Vuong (r. 1691-1725) made Chinese refugee Mac Cuu governor of the new territory of Ha-tien, and Vietnamese invasions took over the provinces Dinh-tuong and Long-ho from Cambodia. When Cambodians tried and failed to take Ha-tien back from Mac Cuu’s son Mac Thien Tu in 1739, the Vietnamese used this opportunity to take more territory from Cambodia. In 1744 the Nguyen organized twelve provinces, each with a governor, treasurer, and judge. One of these provinces was under a Cham prince, but the Vietnamese still treated the Chams harshly. When Vo Vuong (r. 1738-65) died, his son was only twelve years old; so minister Truong-Phuc-Loan declared himself regent. Mac Thien Tu challenged the Siamese in 1769, but Ha-tien was devastated by Taksin’s army. Then the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and defeated the Siamese, but their puppet Ang Tong was replaced by Ang Non in 1773.

         In 1773 three Nguyen Van brothers in Tay-son, who were not in the royal family, preached economic equality and the redistribution of moveable property such as money and food from resisting mandarins to the peasants. They burned government tax registers and seized the city of Quinhon, defeating the government forces. During this rebellion the Trinh invaded, claiming to defend the Nguyen, and seized Hué in 1775. The brother Van-Nhac, after another victory over the Nguyen army, attacked Hué. Early in 1776 his brother Van-Lu captured Saigon but was then forced out by Mac Thien Tu, who the next year fled Ha-tien to the Siamese court of Taksin. Also in 1777 the Tay-son rebels recaptured Saigon and killed three Nguyen royals. Only fifteen-year-old Nguyen Anh escaped with the aid of the priest Pigneau de Behaine. Tay-son brothers dominated the south except around Hué, and Van-Nhac was proclaimed emperor.

After the Tay-son army left the Saigon area, Nguyen Anh returned to the mainland. Do Thanh-Nhon raised an army for his Nguyen cause and destroyed the rebel fleet, taking control of the Gia-dinh province. He also helped Champassak (Bassac) governor Mu to overthrow Ang Non and become regent in Phnom Penh in 1779. The next year Nguyen Anh proclaimed himself king of Annam. However, he seems to have become jealous of Do Thanh-Nhon’s successes and had him murdered in 1781. His supporters rebelled, and the Tay-son brothers were able to regain Saigon. Nguyen Anh found refuge on the island of Phu-quoc while his supporters continued guerrilla warfare. In 1782 his brother Nguyen Man drove the Tay-sons out of Saigon, and Nguyen Anh returned. However, early the next year the Nguyen army was defeated, and Prince Man was killed. Nguyen Anh was pursued from island to island. He asked Pigneau for help and gave him his four-year-old son Canh as a pledge. Nguyen Anh got 20,000 troops and 300 warships from Siam; but they were defeated by Van-Hué’s Tay-son forces. Pigneau with Canh sailed to Pondicherry and France while Nguyen Anh went to  Siam.

After Trinh-Sam (r. 1767-82) died, his oldest son grabbed power as Doan-Nam-Vuong; but the killing and plundering by his army was regarded as an arrogant plague. In 1786 the army of Van-Hué led by General Huu-Chinh defeated them and held the territory from Hué to the Gianh River. They continued north and took the Trinh capital at Hanoi as Trinh-Khai (r. 1783-86) committed suicide. Van-Hué ruled Tongking and northern Annam, Van-Nhac the center around Hué, and Van-Lu Cochinchina in the south. The Tay-son forces left the north under the Le king Le-Chieu-Thong, but he was challenged by Trinh-Bong (An-Do Vuong). He was the last Trinh ruler and was defeated by Huu-Chinh’s Tay-son army. The Tay-sons quarreled among themselves, and Van-Hué sent Vo-Van-Nham to defeat Huu-Chinh and then appointed Prince Le-Duy-Can to govern. The Chinese sent 200,000 imperial forces and proclaimed Le-Chieu-Thong king. The people believed that the Le king had betrayed them by turning to the Chinese, and Van-Hué proclaimed himself Emperor Quang-Trang in late 1787. The Tay-son forces defeated the Le king’s troops and the Chinese forces. Quang-Trang bought off the Chinese emperor by sending him gold and gems while he defeated the Le revolts. He drafted into his army one-third of all men between the ages of 18 and 55 for military training and founded schools on all levels.

At Versailles a treaty between Nguyen Anh and France was negotiated by Pigneau de Behaine with foreign minister De Montmorin, who promised ships, men, and arms in exchange for territory and trading privileges. However, Pondicherry governor De Conway delayed and prevented fulfillment of the promises, and Bishop Pigneau was told to return to France. Pigneau on his own raised four ships of supplies and volunteers that included a hundred French officers. Nguyen Anh regained Saigon in September 1788 with Siamese troops. Pigneau arrived the next year, and the French helped the Nguyen pacify Cochinchina. Jean Marie Dayot commanded their navy and destroyed the Tay-son fleet at Quinhon in 1792. That year Van-Hué (Quang-Trang) died, and Nguyen Anh invaded the north. In 1799 Pigneau died on the campaign, probably of dysentery, as Prince Canh commanded the taking of the Quinhon fortress. The Tay-son fought back and regained the city but were defeated again in June 1801.

Vietnam and the French 1800-1950

Malaya to 1800

Organized states sprang up during the weakened Han empire by the end of the second century CE in the northern Malay peninsula. In the 15th century Melaka (Malacca) grew from a fishing village to become the greatest emporium in southeast Asia. In 1401 the Malay peninsula including Tumasik (old Singapore) had been compelled to recognize the sovereignty of Siam. The refugee Paramesvara from the civil war in Java, who had married a Majapahit princess, murdered his host in Tumasik but was driven out by the Siamese overlords. Paramesvara went to Melaka and paid tribute to Siam. The large Chinese fleets led by the Muslim Zhenghe (Cheng Ho) stimulated trading in the region. Paramesvara sent envoys to the Ming court as early as 1405. The Melaka that Zhenghe visited again in 1409 was no longer dependent on Siam as Paramesvara and his family had been to see Ming emperor Yongle. Melaka got rice from Pedir and Pasai on nearby Sumatra. In 1414 Paramesvara converted to Islam, and Melaka became a growing port for Muslim merchants. Another visit by Paramesvara to China in 1419 confirmed this alliance of protection against Siam. When Paramesvara died, he was succeeded by his son Sri Maharaja (r. 1424-44), who soon went to China with tribute.

         When Sri Maharaja died, there was a struggle for power between his brother-in-law Tun Ali, leader of the Tamil Muslims, and the old Bendahara (prime minister and chief judge) Seri Amar Diraya, who refused to accept Sri Maharaja’s son Raja Kasim because his mother was a commoner. The infant and his uncle, whom the Bendahara put on the throne, were murdered by Tun Ali; the old Bendahara died, and his son took poison, allowing Tun Ali to become bendahara and crown Raja Kasim as Muzaffar Shah (r. 1445-59), who was recognized as sultan by the Chinese. Siam invaded by land in 1445; but Tun Perak led the defense against this attack and a naval one in 1456.

         Muzaffar Shah was succeeded by his son Mansur Shah (r. 1459-77), and during the next forty years the powerful Tun Perak extended Melaka’s territory by force of arms with help from Muslim trading of spices, gold, tin, silk, damask, and exotic birds. Most of Melaka’s industries were for warfare—building small but fast ships and forging arms; but they also did woodwork and dried fish. Its commercial ships were built in Pegu and Java. A Muslim sultan was installed at Malaya’s main granary at Kedah in 1474. Melaka became a center for the spread of Islamic culture that was well received when tolerantly spread by the mystical Sufis. Prosperity also increased under Ala’uddin Riayat Shah (r. 1477-88) and young Mahmud (r. 1488-1511), who were both also related to Tun Perak. After his death in 1498, his elderly brother became bendahara but died two years later. In 1500 Tun Mutahir, the son of Tun Ali and Tun Perak’s sister, was made bendahara and governed until he was killed in 1510 trying to seize the throne. The maritime laws of Melaka were promulgated by Mahmud sometime before 1510. Sea-captains wanted a code and were declared like kings on their ships; but the laws were not written down until after Mahmud was no longer powerful. Adultery on a ship was a capital offense.

         Melaka was conquered by the Portuguese Albuquerque in 1511, and he sent ambassadors to Siam and Burma. The Portuguese tried to monopolize the spice trade in order to keep the European price high so that they could pay for their military and colonial expenses. Mahmud escaped in 1511 and from the island of Bintang in the Straits of Singapore used his fleet to disrupt trade to Melaka. An attack on Melaka by Java’s Pangeran Sabrang Lor failed in 1512. The Portuguese established factories for cloves in Ternate and Tidore of the Maluku islands in 1513. Acheh on the northern tip of Sumatra soon developed into a major Muslim port under Sultan Ali Mughayat Syah (r. 1515-30). By 1519 Acheh had taken over the pepper ports of Pasai and Pedir. Between 1515 and 1524 Mahmud besieged Melaka five times. In 1524 the second Portuguese viceroy, da Gama (son of the navigator), decreed the death penalty and loss of property for owners refusing to get a pass from the Portuguese at Melaka. In 1526 the Portuguese successfully attacked Bintang. One Spanish ship made it to Tidore and sided with them against the Portuguese; but in the treaty of 1529 Spain agreed to confine itself to islands 17 degrees east of the Moluccas (Maluku). Mahmud’s son continued to harass the Portuguese, and Muslims made Brunei in northern Borneo an Islamic center.

         The Portuguese at Melaka had been charging a tariff of only six percent on trade; but after 1544 the governors charged port duties and forced merchants to sell them commodities at discount prices. When Acheh took over Johor’s vassal Aru in 1539, Johor defeated Acheh in a naval battle. Acheh attacked Melaka in 1537, 1539, and 1547. In 1558 a Turkish armada of 300 warships with 15,000 Turkish troops and artillery besieged Melaka for a month. Acheh got revenge on Johor by sacking it in 1565.

         Portuguese trade at Melaka prospered despite more attacks by Acheh in 1568, 1570, and 1573, plus one from Javanese Japara the next year. In 1582 the Portuguese helped defend Johor and defeated Acheh. Ungrateful Johor besieged Melaka in 1587; but the Malays lost 2,000 ships while the Portuguese had only eighty men dead. So that year Acheh made a treaty with the Portuguese. Sultan al-Mukammil (r. 1589-1604) deposed the previous Acheh sultan, and according to John Davis, he had thousands of nobles killed to make new lords and laws. Acheh sultan Iskandar Muda (r. 1607-36) gave the Dutch and English monopoly arrangements that harmed local traders, and he banned Gujarati pepper buyers. The Acheh kingdom was militarized and sacked Johor in 1613 and 1615. The Johor sultan joined Iskander in an attack on Melaka in 1616, but it failed. Iskander extended his control from Sumatra to the mainland states of Pahang in 1618, Kedah in 1619, and Perak in 1620. A reported 22,000 captives were taken to be made slaves in Acheh, but only about 1500 survived. Sikander’s attempt to take Portuguese Melaka in 1626 failed. The deportations caused resentment, and in 1629 Melaka, Johor, and Patani combined forces to defeat the Achinese navy near Melaka.

         Ayudhya extended its control down the Malay peninsula and occasionally collected tribute in the form of small trees made of gold and silver. A Patani princess married a Pahang ruler, and Patani’s Queen Raja Ungu (r. 1623-35) irritated Ayudhya by marrying her daughter Raja Kuning to a brother of the Johor ruler. Patani defied Ayudhya’s usurping king Prasat Thong by attacking Ligor and Phattalung, and in 1634 Prasat sent 30,000 troops aided by Kedah. Johor and Pahang helped Patani with 5,000 men and fifty ships that repelled the invasion. After Raja Ungu died, the Kedah ruler mediated a peace treaty between Patani and Ayudhya. The arrogance of the Johor prince, who was married to Raja Kuning, provoked the nobles in the Patani court to massacre many Johor people, including the prince’s mother in 1645. Ayudhya’s Narai (r. 1657-88) was powerful enough to collect tribute from the northern Malay kingdoms.

         In 1637 Johor’s Sultan Abdul Jalil made a treaty with the Dutch and contributed forty ships to support their siege of Melaka in 1640. When Johor attacked Pahang in 1638, Ahmad of Acheh ended his treaty with the Dutch and refused to participate in the attack on Portuguese Melaka. The Dutch did get permission from Acheh in 1639 to purchase tin from Perak, which objected to this monopoly. In 1641 the Dutch conquered and destroyed Melaka as a commercial port and built up its fortifications to transform it into a military bastion to protect Dutch trade in the region. They mediated a peace treaty between Johor and Acheh. Then Johor pushed Acheh out of Pahang and gained the commerce that Melaka had lost.

The Menangkabau of Rembau fought against Melaka’s new occupation by the Dutch; but after Dutch soldiers burned Melekek and Naning, they made peace. The Catholic church in Melaka was rebuilt as a Dutch Reformed Church, and in 1645 the Portuguese were not allowed to practice their religion openly with stiff penalties for infractions. The Dutch made treaties to purchase tin from Perak and Kedah. In 1647 the Dutch warned Indian ships not to use Malay ports, and this enabled them to make a treaty with Perak, open their factory, and divert 770,000 tons of tin to Melaka; but in 1651 the Malays massacred those in the factory and continued to sell their tin to Acheh and other merchants. In 1656 the Dutch imposed a blockade for three years, and the Achinese had to buy their cloth from Melaka. When Balthasar Bort became governor of Melaka in 1666, he would not allow Catholic priests to perform any religious ritual or collect alms. Threats of invasion by Ayudhya’s Narai in the 1670s persuaded Perak to allow a Dutch post on Pangkor Island, but they had to abandon it in 1690.

In 1662 the Dutch gained a monopoly on the trade with the lucrative port of Indragiri, but Johor took it away from them in 1669. A proposed marriage between a Johor prince and a Jambi princess was thwarted when the Johor laksamana (naval commander) arranged for his own daughter to marry the prince. This provoked a war, and in 1670 Jambi enslaved 917 people as they attacked Indragiri and Tungkal. The next year the Johor navy with help from Indragiri troops defeated the Jambi fleet. In 1673 a Jambi expedition destroyed the Johor capital at Batu Sawar; the Dutch remained neutral. While Sultan Abdul Jalil (r. 1623-77) took refuge in Pahang, Johor’s Laksamana with help from the Orang Laut in Riau won an acclaimed victory over Jambi in 1679 and forced them to pay reparations. Ibrahim Syah had become king of Johor in 1677, and the following year resistance by Minangkabau immigrants led by Raja Ibrahim’s call for a Muslim holy war ended when he was murdered. After their war ended in 1681, Johor and Jambi combined to attack Jambi’s enemy, Palembang; the Laksamana took half the spoils. When Ibrahim Syah died in 1685, the Laksamana became regent for his ten-year-old son Sultan Mahmud; but the Bendahara, Tun Habib Abdul Majid, led a revolt, and the Laksamana fled to Trengganu. In 1688 Riau fortifications were demolished, and the people were deported from the island to the Johor River settlement. Sultan Mahmud began ruling in 1695. The aged Bendahara died two years later, and his son, Tun Abdul Jalil, could not control the ignorant and cruel Sultan Mahmud. When the Sultan ordered the wife of a noble to be killed for tasting fruit in the palace, officials had him assassinated in 1699.

The regicide of Sultan Mahmud ended the royal line in Johor because he had no children. The Bendahar became Sultan Tun Abdul Jalil Syah, but questions about his legitimacy hurt Johor’s commerce. In 1702 Bugis began settling in Johor. Ayudhya’s army advanced southward and attacked Johor’s Terengganu in 1710 but then withdrew because of Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia. The Sultan’s brother was raja muda, and he used Bugis warriors to quell a rebellion in Batu Bahara. He also ratified a treaty with the Dutch in 1713. Johor’s capital was moved to the island of Riau. During a Kedah succession dispute in 1715, the ruler’s younger brother promised the Selangor Bugis tin for their help, and Johor lost control over their territory. Temenggong Tun Abdul Jamal led the naval campaign against the Bugis in Linggi. The Johor-Bugis war lasted until August 1717, when Johor abandoned Selangor and the expensive campaign.

In 1717 Raja Kecil in Siak claimed to be the posthumous son of Sultan Mahmud, and the next year he attacked the Johor fleet with Minangkabau warriors; but Raja Kecil lost support by killing some of the Minangkabau’s Orang Laut leaders, and he also had Sultan Tun Abdul Jalil assassinated. In 1721 the Bugis installed the Sultan’s son, 20-year-old Sulaiman, but because of his father’s guilt he still had little influence in Johor. Kedha was devastated as the Bugis won a war against Raja Kecil between 1724 and 1726. The Bugis prince Daeng Marewa held the power in Johor, and he was succeeded by his brother, Daeng Cellak (1728-45). After a long mental illness, Raja Kecil died in 1746 and was succeeded by Raja Muhammad, who got help from Daeng Kemboja in defeating a challenge by his half-brother Raja Alam. Also in 1746 Perak gave the Dutch a monopoly on their tin that lasted nearly half a century. In 1754 the Bugis community left Riau desolate and moved to Linggi. The Bugis attacked Melaka in 1756, and the next year the Dutch with Terengganu help retaliated against Linggi. In 1758 the Bugis leaders of Linggi, Kelang, and Rembau agreed to a treaty confirming the Dutch tin monopoly. Two years after Raja Muhammad massacred the Dutch post on Pulau Gontong in 1759, the Dutch replaced him with his brother Alam. Sultan Mansur (r. 1741-93) ruled Terengganu, and he in alliance with Siak attacked divided Kelantan in 1764.

The Bugis led by Daeng Kemboja returned to Riau in 1760 and fought off an attack by Raja Ismail of Siak in 1767. The Bugis damaged but could not capture Kedah in 1771 because it was briefly allied with the British. Muhammad Jiwa ruled Kedah until he died in 1779, and his son, Sultan Abdullah (r. 1779-1802), joined with Sultan Mahmud of Terengganu to drive the Bugis out of Malaya. After Daeng Kemboja died in 1777, his nephew Raja Haji took power from Kemboja’s son at Riau. He sided with the Dutch but felt betrayed when they did not share the confiscated opium cargo from a British ship in 1782. Two years later Raji Haji led an attack on Melaka, but a Dutch squadron led by van Braam arrived, defeating and killing Raji Haji. The Dutch captured Riau and expelled the Bugis forever; Sultan Mahmud made a treaty giving the Dutch Company control over all trade. Selangor’s Sultan Ibrahim (r. 1782-1826) fled to Pahang; but he came back with forces strong enough to make the Dutch agree to a treaty in 1786. Sultan Mahmud recruited Ilanum forces from Sulu and defeated the Dutch garrison at Riau in 1787; but the Sulu took their booty and left. Sultan Mahmud took refuge on Lingga, as the Dutch recaptured Riau.

In the second half of the 18th century, the British gradually gained most of the commerce in the Malayan region because their Company controlled the trade in cloth and opium from India and improved their ships and navigation; also, unlike the Dutch Company, they were allowed to sell armaments. Siam’s Rama I (r. 1782-1809) began demanding obeisance from the Malayan rulers of Kedah, Patani, Kelantan, and Terengganu, and this provoked rebellions by Patani in 1789, 1791, and 1808. In the 1790s Sulu pirates engaged in slave raiding. Threatened Sultan Abdullah of Kedah ceded the island of Penang to Francis Light of the English East India Company in 1786 for a pension of 6,000 Spanish dollars per year. In 1795 the British took over Melaka from the Dutch, who let them have it according to William V’s Kew Letters because they opposed France, which had invaded the Netherlands. Needing food-producing land, in 1800 Penang’s Lt. Governor George Leith gained more Kedah territory and renamed it Province Wellesley.

Burma, Malaya and the British 1800-1950

Pacific Islands to 1800


1. Hall, D. G. E., A History of South-East Asia, p. 37.

Copyright © 2004-2007 by Sanderson Beck

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