Friday, July 22, 2011
Kingdom of Funan
Fúnán 扶南was the Chinese name of an ancient kingdom located around the Mekong Delta. This designation is found in Chinese historical texts describing the state. The ethno-linguistic nature of the people; whether they were mostly Mon-Khmer or Austronesian, is the subject of much discussion among specialists. The native name is not known. Some renderings such as Nokor Phnom are highly speculative; the word Fúnán was very often derived from the Khmer word bna or vna (modern: phno), "mountain", but nán 南can be simply mean "South" which is the case in other state names like Annam. It is believed to have been established in the 1st century C.E. in the Mekong delta, which today is Vietnamese territory, although extensive human settlement in the region may have gone back as far as the 4th century B.C.E. Though regarded by Chinese envoys as a single unified empire, Fúnán may have been a collection of city-states that sometimes warred with one another and at other times constituted a political unity.
Little is known about Fúnán, except that it was a powerful trading state, as evidenced by the discovery of Roman, Chinese, and Indian goods during archaeological excavations at the ancient port of O'Keo or O'Ceo which often erroneously written as Oc Eo in southern Vietnam.  The capital of Fúnán was perhaps initially located in the vicinity of Ba Phno near the modern Cambodian town of Banam in Prey Veng Province which may have been moved to O'Ceo at a later time. Vickery has rightly rejected the identification with a town called Vyādhapura (City of the Hunter) by Coedès, because he derived the name from Tèmù 特牧mentioned as capital in Chinese historical texts, thus identifying it with the Khmer word dalmāk, which means "trapper", not "hunter". Most of what is known about Fúnán is from records by Chinese and Cham sources dating from the 3rd to 6th centuries and from archaeological excavations. No archaeological research has been conducted on this state in Cambodia's Mekong Delta in several decades, and it is precisely this region that reputedly housed the capitals of Fúnán. Funan is held to be the first Khmer kingdom and the forerunner of the Khmer Empire.