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Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia Part I

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Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia
Part I: An Area View
1450 - 1680
A Special Time
• 1450-1680 was a period of an explosive increase in trade
which brought great wealth. Some call the period “Early
Modern.”
• Trade included all parts of Asia plus Europe.
• Frequently a monarch was a country’s principal trader who
exercised a monopoly over certain items. Ex: gems, teak.
• Great wealth led to better weaponry which led to greater
consolidation of political power. (Consider the relationship
to modern terrorism.)
• Dispel the idea of Europe “discovering” Asia.
An Overview
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Life Style
Health
Appearance
Housing
Government
Warfare
Weapons
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Legal Practices
Marriage
Festivals
Sports
Literacy
Life Style
• Numbers
– 33 million estimated in 16th Century.
– 593 million report in 2004 (114 million in Java)
• Health – Amazingly disease free. Suicide –
practice of Amok
• Tattooing - Talismanic
• Hair Styles – Long vs. Short. Brush Cut
• Finger Nails – Sign of wealth & position
Life Style (Cont’d)
• Ear Lobes – Distended
• Clothing – Topless Sarong
• Housing
– Residential – Bamboo on stilts
– Religious – Stone
• Patronage – A system of obligations
• Slavery – POWs, debtors and corves labor
Housing
• Common Housing
• Native Chief’s House
Governmental Model
• Mandala model of semi-feudal power
centers of variable size.
• King ruled by right of birth and religious
merit.
• Members connected by common ancestry,
loyalty, patronage and religious beliefs.
• Members obligated at times of planting,
harvest, festive occasions and war.
Mandalas
Cosmic Harmony
• Government is responsible to maintain
harmony between heaven and earth.
Otherwise terrible calamities would befall
the kingdom. To do so, governments sought
to imitate heaven to the extent possible.
– Architectural layout of capital city.
– Organization of government
– The functions of king and court
Hindu/Buddhist Cosmos
• This is a Mahayana Buddhist conception of the
universe.
– Mount Meru is at the center of the universe.
– It is surrounded by seven mountain ranges separated
from each other by seven annular seas.
– Beyond the seas lie four continents, one at each
cardinal direction.
– The continent south of Mount Meru is Jambudvipa.
– On the slopes of Mount Meru are the four great
kings/guardians of the world in the lowest paradise. On
the summit in the second paradise are the 33 gods in the
city of Sudarsana with Indra reigning as king.
Where Is Mount Meru
• Some say Mount Meru is the North Pole. Others
believe it is located in the Himalayas, Mt Kailash.
Creating the Cosmic Setting
• The earthly capital of an
empire was believed to be
its magic center.
• The capital took the form
of a large square, facing in
the cardinal directions. It
represented Jambudvipa.
• At the center, a hill and/or
temple represented Mount
Meru. In the temple was
placed the lingam of Siva.
It represent the Deva Raja.
Shiva
Imitating The Cosmic
• To imitate the city of Sudarsana, 32 main gates
were built with a palace making 33. The 32 also
corresponded to the number of provincial chiefs
with the king being number 33.
• The king was supposed to have four principal
wives and four secondary wives, representing the
four cardinal points and four intermediary
directions. They symbolized the four guardian
kings of Mount Meru.
Imitating The Cosmic
• The cosmological principle led to four
undersecretaries of state, eight assistant
undersecretaries, four heralds, four royal
messengers, etc.
• In a variation on this theme, the king himself
could represent the cosmos. His body was Mount
Meru; his eyes, the sun and the moon; his arms
and legs, the cardinal points; the point on his
crown, the spire of Indra’s crown.
Warfare
• Armies composed of peasant farmers.
– Recurring village vs. village conflict.
– People a form of wealth.
– Absence from fields could cause crop failures.
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Warfare consisted of amassing & posturing.
Use of elephants – equivalent to tanks.
Use of champions common.
Victors sought to capture rather than kill.
Dislocation a primary source of depopulation.
Kris
• A short, curved
knife/sword.
Frequently elaborately
decorated.
• Carried by almost all
men.
• Considered to possess
magical powers – a
soul.
Judicial Practices
• Custom more important than legal codes.
• Oaths and trial by ordeal.
– Immersion in water.
– Immersion of hand/foot in molten tin or lead.
• Punishments: Fines, flogging, loss of limbs,
strangling, trampling by elephants, krissing to
death, beheading & slavery in lieu of fines.
• Capital punishment required consent of sovereign.
Marriage
• Status of women higher than in Europe.
– Bride price.
– Couple became part of woman’s family.
– Women retain name.
• Age of women when married:
– Islamic – 12 to 14.
– Average – 18.
• Faithfulness in marriage expected; divorce
possible.
• Acceptance of any attention/favors considered a
slight to husband’s honor.
Marriage (Cont’d)
• Short term marriages.
– Foreign traders.
– Role in negotiation and business.
• Vietnamese exception.
– Patriarchal.
– Confucian role of eldest male.
Festivals & Amusements
• Greater opportunity for leisure.
– Mild climate and availability of food. (Sago-Palm)
– Social obligation.
• Underlying objective to enhance prestige of
monarch.
– Rituals: role of Brahman priests.
– Processions: Parades and flotillas of huge numbers of
persons and animals.
– Contests: combat between humans and animals.
– Drama and Music:dance, puppetry & shadow theater.
Entertainment
• Singing and dancing were
principal forms of
entertainment. Dancing evolved
from temple art.
• Music was influenced by India
with gongs and cymbals used.
• Drama was frequently
intertwined with dance.
• Puppetry and shadow theater
remain serious art forms.
Themes are often derived from
Hindu epics.
Sports & Amusements
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Cross between soccer and “haki-sak.”
Jousting with lances on horseback.
Kick boxing.
Cock fighting.
Boat Racing.
Flying Kites.
Playing cards and dice.
Literacy
• Paucity of written records.
– Climate
– Use of palm leaves and bamboo.
– Stone and Copper.
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Local syllabary modeled on Indian letters.
Written language taught in monasteries.
Tradition of romantic courting poetry.
Vietnamese exception: Chinese ideograms.
Questions
• Was the health of most S.E.Asians better or worse
than Europeans? Why?
• What was principal measurement of wealth?
• What model did government normally follow?
• What was the tactical objective of most battles?
• What is a kris?
• Give two examples of trial by ordeal?
• What was the effect of the bride price on the status
of women?
More Questions
• S.E.Asian music and drama were heavily
influenced by what country?
• The syllabaries used to write most languages drew
heavily on the practices of what country?
• What was the significance of long fingernails?
• What color teeth were fashionable?
• In what attire did most S.E.Asians cloth
themselves?
• How were most homes built?
The End
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