2004-03-05 17:54:26 UTC
localité Krâmuon Sâ (Cire blanche) établi par M. Biv Chhay
Lieng. Krâmuon Sâ, un port fluvial et sub-maritime, pouvait bien avoir
été aussi un centre de fabrication de cire de l'empire.
Les bougies de cire dégagent en brûlant une odeur paradisiaque, donc
très recherchées comme objets de culte et d'usage par
les rois et les nobles. Dans le premier royaume de Sihanouk Varman,
lors d'une cérémonie annuelle (Chaul Chhnam ou Taing
Tok ?), les mandarins en grande tenue devaient aller à la cour (Qoal
Luong) et offraient au roi des bougies de cire sur des
plateaux (Cheung Pean) argentés ou dorés (selon leurs grades), le
nombre de bougies et de plateaux (disposés en étages)
dépendait aussi de leurs rangs.
À la maison du Cambodgien moyen, on semblait priser chez l'abeille
moins son miel que son essaim (cire). Nos desserts
superbes (Bay Damneub Thouren, Ako Khtis, Samkhya, Noum Kroch, etc.)
se contentaient du sucre de palme et de la crème
de coco. Le miel est pris nature, vendu dans des récipients, souvent
pour accompagner un médicament traditionnel très amer.
Par contre, on aimait bien parfumer avec la fumée d'une bougie de cire
éteinte des récipients qui allaient contenir de l'eau
fraîche ou des compotes de fruits (Damnapp).
Merci à M. Kee et au Buddhi Khmer Center pour l'histoire du Chen-la,
encore mal connu et tout juste révélé.
Buddhi Khmer Center wrote:
FYI-Please feel free to input.
Short History of Cambodia - Nokor Chenla
March 3, 2004
You had passed through Nokor Funan from the previous post, and now
you are entering Nokor Chenla. This third segment
takes you back to the period of 613 AD when Chenla emerged as a
powerful empire by absorbing Funan. Then it leaves you
at the period of 790 AD when Chenla was attacked by Java. This is
still in the pre-Angkor era. As with Funan, the history of
Chenla is largely based on Chinese Imperial records, which may not
be the most accurate source.
The history continues.
Chenla, like Funan, is another Chinese term. How this name came to
be called is quite interesting. Ever since the ancient time,
Chinese came to do trades with Cambodia. They brought silk and
metals to exchange for Cambodian products such as gold,
scented wood, and spices. On their sailing trips through the Mekong
River, Chinese merchants also bought large quantity of
honey and pure beeswax to make candles. Cambodia possessed dense
forests and bee hives were plentiful. The term “chen”
means pure and “la” means wax. Therefore, the term
Chenla simply means pure wax. The Chinese called Cambodia the land
of pure beeswax. That is how the name “Chenla” came to
be known to this day.
Western scholars only mention the name “Chenla” without
describing the meaning of it. But one Cambodian minister of
culture Ly Thiem Teng in 1962 traveled to China with a group of
delegates to conduct research. He met a 69-year-old man
by the name Tea Sieu Meng who showed him many books dated from the
14th through the 16th centuries about the Chinese
relations with the ancient Khmers. In 1973, Ly Thiem Teng wrote a
book based on the accounts of Chou Ta-kuan who
visited Cambodia in 1296. He wanted to prove why the Chinese called
Cambodia “Chenla.” Ly Thiem Teng, who was
Chinese-Cambodian born, translated the old accounts of Chou Ta-kuan
into Khmer language.
There was a kingdom on the Mekong River in the Sambor region within
the Funan control that the Chinese came to call
Chenla in their annals. We do not know the exact date when Chenla
came to existence, but it had been a vassal state of
Funan for a long time. However, in 550 AD, its king Bhavavaraman I
and his brother Citrasena revolted against Funan and
got full independence. Chenla was no longer a subjugated state since
then. Bhavavaraman I built his capital city known as
Bhavapura about 30 kilometers from Sambor Prey Kuk region in Kompong
Thom province. He expanded the kingdom
upon conquests and left an inscription as far as Battambang
province. In 568, the king sent an embassy to China to offer
King Bhavavaraman I was believed to rule until his death in 590 AD,
after which his brother Citrasena succeeded the throne
with the title Mahendravaraman. Like his brother, Mahendravaraman
was generous and powerful. This new king conquered
many lands that extended beyond Khon Kaen in Thailand today. He
carved inscriptions on stones there to mark the victory.
His capital was at Bhavapura that was established by his brother.
Within 60 years after the independence in 550 AD, Chenla
increasingly became powerful and gradually conquered and absorbed
Funan as Funan was weakening. The last two kings
helped complete the integration of the Funan state into the Chenla
Empire. It was believed that the Chenla royal families were
inter-married with those of the former Funan and still maintained
the same way of life, including political system and religious
beliefs of the Funanese. Perhaps there were still members of the
Funan royal family who did not escape to Java.
After the death of Mahendravaraman in 610 AD, his son Isanavaraman I
became king. This new ruler was considered a man
of great wisdom. He was powerful, a great worrier, but yet a
peaceful king. Around 613 AD, Isanavaraman I established his
new capital named Isanapura in the northeast region at Sambor Prey
Kuk in Kompong Thom province. This was the first
capital of Chenla established after the full integration of Funan by
the previous two kings, Bhavavaraman I and
Mahendravaraman. At this capital, Isanavaraman I built his state
temple devoted to the God Shiva. It was built mostly out of
bricks and the outside walls of the towers contain bas-reliefs that
depict “flaying palace.” The city was populated by about
2000 families. Since then, Chenla was on a continuous conquest for
power. Isanavaraman I ruled almost the entire Cambodia
today and expanded the kingdom further north of Battambang, to the
sea, and into the region of Chantaburi in Thailand.
Chenla was geographically a large empire. It occupied the northeast
regions of Cambodia (from Kompong Thom region),
southern Champassak of modern Laos, and many provinces in Thailand
including Boriram, Surin, Sisaket, Obun, Nokor
Rajasima, Trat, Krong Srey Tep, and Chantaburi. These are the high
plateau at the Moon River in Thailand today. And
because the areas are at high altitude, the people who live there
are known as Upper Khmer, or Khmer Leu, while the
Funanese who lived in the plains were known as the Lower Khmer, or
Khmer Krom. These Thai provinces belonged to the
Khmers. Today, there are about 10 million people who live in these
provinces and still consider themselves Khmer. They still
speak Khmer with accent.
From an account of George Coedès, a French scholar, there are
interesting texts describing the rituals surrounding the king.
The texts read: "Those who appear in front of the king touch three
times the ground of their face, to the bottom of the steps of
the throne. If the king calls them and orders to them to assemble
the degrees, then they kneel by holding their hands crossed
on their shoulders they then will sit down in circle around the
king, to deliberate on the businesses on the kingdom. When the
meeting is finished, they kneel again, prostrate and withdraw."
There are also texts describing the every day manner of inhabitants.
Here the texts read: "They look at the right hand like pure
and the left hand like impure. They make ablutions each morning,
clean the teeth with small pieces of wood and do not fail to
read or recite their prayers. They renew their ablutions before
taking their meals, make play their toothpicks drink some at
once after and still recite prayers...” From these, we can
tell that the Khmer people were spiritual and took good care of their
bodies. Modern Khmers still conduct such manners today. They wash
their bodies before dinner every evening.
Then there are texts describing the funeral ritual. The texts read:
“The children of late spend seven days without eating, shave
the head as a sign of mourning and push great cries... The body is
burned on one to rough-hew formed of all aromatic wood
species; ashes are collected in a ballot box of gold or money which
one throws in deep water. The poor make use of a terra
cotta ballot box, painted various colors. It is also which is
satisfied to deposit the body in the medium of the mountains, by
leaving with the wild beasts the care to devour it."
Some of these details are still practiced today. For example, we see
that children, especially the oldest in the family, have
their heads shaved. The oldest son, ream chbong in Khmer, leaves the
household life and becomes a monk for seven days to
pay respect to the deceased parent. The body is burnt; the ashes are
then collected in an urn. But instead of throwing it into
deep water, the urn is kept at a Buddhist temple or a mausoleum for
annual ceremony. This cultural practice has been carried
to this day after more than 1300 years.
During that time, Sanskrit language was still used. Khmers also had
their own language and alphabets but borrowed many
words from Sanskrit. Researchers discovered texts with the date of
612 when the Khmer language appeared in the
inscriptions. Hinduism and Buddhism were the two main religions but
Hindu was always the state religion. There seemed to
have no conflict between the two. Inhabitants made statues of Hindu
gods and Buddha and placed them in front of their
houses. People practiced the two religions side by side without any
King Isanavaraman I ruled until 635 AD. He was considered a great
king, and even long after his death, he was still
remembered. An inscription at Bayon temple that was built over 500
years later referred to his name. His younger son
succeeded the throne and took the title Bhavavaraman II. This new
king was no way near his father. He could neither
maintain the unity of the empire nor could he prevent other cities
from obtaining independence. Bhavavaraman II ruled the
kingdom until 656 AD, and in 657, his son became king with the title
Jayavaraman I built his capital known as Purandarapura. The exact
location of this capital was not known, but researchers
speculated that it was located south of Phnom Dangrek, not far from
Angkor. At that time, this region was formed the
kingdom of Aninditapura. Jayavaraman I was known as a war-like king
who always was on the rise to expand the Chenla
kingdom. As a matter of fact, he had to rebuild his father’s
empire. There are many inscriptions found mentioning his name.
An inscription at Kompong Rusei describes him as, “Conqueror
of the circle of his enemies.”
In 664, an inscription at Vat Prei Vier I reads, "Victorious is the
King Sri Jayavarman…to whom the fickle goddess of
fortune, Lakshmi, is firmly attached…skillful in the task of
protecting the world, he is proclaimed by sages to be the
thousand-eyed god (Indra) in person." Then in 667, another
inscription at Kdei Ang Chumnik II describes Jayavarman I as
"the glorious lion of kings, the victorious Jayavarman." In the same
year, the king appointed Simhadatta as the court
physician. This doctor used to be the governor of the king’s
old city Adhayapura, about 11 kilometers of Ba Phnom.
There is no known fact telling us that Jayavaraman I built any
temple. But during his period, a good number of sanctuaries
were constructed. The king consecrated two sanctuaries in 657 when
he became king, one in Battambang and the other in
Prey Veng. There is a great distance apart between the two
sanctuaries. There is a temple named Prasat Ak Yum during this
pre-Angkor period. However, scholars were frustrated because there
was no fact telling who the builder was.
After 667, there were no more inscriptions mentioning Jayavaraman I
and the king was assumed to have died before 700
AD. After his death, it was believed that his son-in-law Nripaditya
immediately succeeded because he had no male heir to
the throne. But this new king only reigned for a short period of
time. His wife, Jayadevi, who was the daughter of
Jayavaraman I, became queen. Evidence indicates that she was present
in the region in 713. Jayadevi was the only known
queen of Khmers during the pre-Angkor period. However, her
appearance at the throne did not appear to satisfy her
subjects. She did not seem to use her authority outside the borders
of her kingdom, which was Aninditapura. Isanavaraman I
and Jayavaraman I were the two great kings who dominated the Chenla
Empire during the pre-Angkor era.
Internal disputes led to the splitting of Chenla into two smaller
states in 706 AD. In the north, one state was known as the
Land Chenla, and in the south, the other state was known as the
Water Chenla. The Land Chenla was so-called because it
lied in the plain areas north of Tonle Sap. Its capital was at
Champassak of southern Laos today. The people there were
more agriculture-oriented and still collected and sold pure beeswax
to Chinese merchants. According to the Chinese records,
the Land Chenla restored and maintained a very good relationship
with China. In 717, a Chenla king sent its first embassy to
the Chinese Imperial Court, offering tribute to the emperor.
In 753, the Crown Prince of the Land Chenla visited the Imperial
Court, along with a company of 26 relatives. The prince
was well received by the Chinese emperor and he was honored with the
title "Protector Firm and Persevering." And in 771,
the king of the Land Chenla sent his governor with his wife to the
Chinese court to offer 11 trained elephants to the emperor
as a tribute. As can be seen from these Chinese accounts, the Land
Chenla maintained a good relationship with China.
The Water Chenla, on the other hand, was so named because it
captured the areas to the coastal waters, including South
Vietnam today. It centered its state along the Mekong Delta, which
was the region of former Funan. The people were
involved more with trades than agriculture. They also collected
abundance supplies of pure beeswax which made the Water
Chenla known as Srok Kramounsar, or the country of white pure
beeswax. They too sold pure wax to Chinese merchants.
The Water Chenla was split up further into five smaller states
around 715 AD, which resulted in the weakness of the empire.
It was subjected to attacks by Java pirates from the sea and coastal
area. In 767, Java started attacking the Chenla kingdom.
Then in 774, they attacked both Champa and Chenla. The attacks on
Champa were “ferocious.” During the late 8th century
in 790 AD, the last king of Water Chenla, whose name was not known,
offended the Java monarch by telling his prime
minister that he wished to see the head of the Java king on a plate.
This account was told by one Arab traveler to the region
The King: "I have one desire I would like to satisfy."
The Prime Minister: "What is this desire, O King?"
The King: "I want to see before me on a plate the head of the king
The words spread to the Javanese Sailendra Dynasty, whose kings were
descendents of the former Funan. The Java king
then led his powerful ships along the Mekong River to capture the
young and rash Khmer king. Java had the most powerful
naval force in the region during that time.
The Java king then said, before killing the Khmer king, "You have
manifested the desire to see before you my head on a
plate. If you had also wished to seize my country or only ravage
part of it, I would have done the same thing to Khmer. As
you have expressed only the first of these desires, I am going to
apply to you the treatment you wished to apply to me, and I
will then return to my country without taking anything belonging to
the Khmers . . . My victory will serve as a lesson to your
The Java king then cut off the head of the Khmer king and said to
his prime minister, "Look now for someone who will make
a good king after this fool, and put him in the place of the
latter." The king of Java led his troops back home.
After Java attacked and killed the last king of Water Chenla in 790
AD, the prime minister picked prince Jayavaraman II to
be the next king. The prince was believed to have been held captive
by Java and was groomed in the Javanese court. At any
rate, upon his return, the prince was chosen. The pick of
Jayavaraman II proved to be an excellent choice. The attack on
Chenla ironically gave rise to an even more powerful Khmer Empire
that is mentioned in the next segment.
The final Angkor era is coming up next.