The History of Pre-Angkor

Chapter3 Chenla and Pre-Angkor Kingdom 2017-11-26

3 - 1 Origin of Chenla and Funan

Chenla was originally a subordinate state of Funan. Chenla had been a part of Funan which was in charge of the land-route transportation of the imported western commodities from the ports of the lower Burma to the Oc Eo port in the Mekong Delta. At first Funan imported goods from India and Persia and unloaded at the ports of the lower Burma, such as Thaton, Moulmein, Tavoy and Tenasserim, and transported them on land to the Mekong Delta. It was a very long journey and many people were engaged for the transportation. Funan had several deposit centers along the route. For example, Kanchanaburi, U Thong, Nakhon Sawan and Si Thep (Sri Deva) and these intermediary places had been developed as commercial cities by the Mon people from the ancient time. The Mon had controlled commercial activities of these regions since the prehistoric age.

Funan people (Indian origin) stayed these cities and gradually established leadership of the community. After long time, Funan people had become chiefs of the cities and kings of local states. The most important city was Si Thep, where the boss became a ruler of the region. They gradually increased economic, political and military power.

According to the "Sui Shu
(隋書)", Chenla was located at southwest of Linyi and originally a vassal state of Funan. Funan people controlled important market places on land trade routes and the major river traffic-routes. At the same time, they dominated vast rice paddy field area along the major rivers of northeast of Thailand and had strong economic and military power. This was the situation at the early stage of the 6th century.

Michael Vickery believes that Funan and Chenla were within one polity and could not be separated. Indeed, Funan's one section was Chenla in charge of stocking and transporting the imported western goods. However, their division of works had been fixed for a long time, so the character of two groups had changed gradually. Funan group of the headquarters was in charge of the direct international trade and Chenla group had been transporters but had dominated vast area of the northeast Thailand and upper part of the Mekong basin and became the great landlord, dominating huge number of villages and farmers.

The last king of Funan was Rudravarman, there is the following description in the Liang Shu( 梁書)".  Kaundinya Jayavarman ( 僑陳如闍邪 ) had sent missions in 511 and 514 to China. After his death in 514, Rudravaarman, a son of the concubine killed his younger brother who was the child of the lawful wife, and claimed a regality to succeed the throne. Rudravarman was a typical usurper but he had real political power.

In case of such incident, the political strife usually happened among the rulers of Funan and royal family. Chenla group might have taken advantage of political change of Funan's regime. As the land-route controller, Chenla's position in Funan group was declining since middle of the 4th century. Because Funan had developed another trade route in the Malay Peninsula. From Takua Pa to Chaiya, Funan transported western imports and shipped them from Chaiya to Oc Eo or China directly. So, the importance of land transportation had decreased eventually.
However the economic power of Chenla was increasing because Chenla became landlord in the northeast part of Thailand. They controlled Si-Thep and farm area. However, on the other hand, Funan was prosperous by international trade. The role of Ban Ban state located at the Bandon Bay area increased instead of Si Thep and Oc-Eo line. So, the sentiment of the Chenla rulers became antagonistic toward Funan rulers who had neglected the land transportation. The conflict between the two groups was apparent after Rudravarman took the throne.

Rudravarman was a Buddhist and at the same time embraced Sivaism. The rulers of Chenla were all staunch believers in Sivaism, they hate Buddhism and even disliked Vishnu. Because Buddha was considered as the incarnation of Vishnu.

Rudravarman probably died in 540. He had sent 6 times tributary missions to China, in 517519, 520, 530535 and 539. The Liang Shu (梁書)says "the envoy of Funan paid tribute of  rhinoceros, and in 539, Funan ambassador said in Funan they have Buddha's long hair twelve feet length. The emperor wanted the Buddha’s hair and sent high rank priest Sri Yun Bao (釈雲寶 ) to receive the sacred hair. "

On the other hand, the rulers of Funan, anticipating Chenla's attack, they began preparation to shift headquarters to Ban Ban (盤盤=Pan Panfrom the Mekong Delta.

Bhavavarman, after killing of Funan's royal family or expelled them, claiming to be the first Chenla king, inheriting the throne after King Rudravarman around 550 AD. Bhavavarman had clarified the point to identify himself as he belonged to the 'lunar line' of traditional Funan kingship. (Briggs, pp 40)

Why Bhavavarman pretended he was on line with the Funan royal family? He simply wanted to declare to inherit the regal Funan kingship. On the other hand, Jayavarman II declared he belonged to the 'solar line (Chenla family)'.  Anyway, both lines left no 'DNA' evidence.

Citrasena (later, king Mahendravarman), the younger brother of Bhavavarman was serving as the commander of the Chenla army.

One of his inscriptions is left at Si Thep. His connection with Si Thep seems so deep as he probably had come from there. Many historians believe they came from Wat Phu area, in Laos.

SI Thep had been the biggest city and center of the Pa Sak river basin (Pa Sak Valley), in the paddy field rice-growing area in the north central part of Thailand.

Basically, land belonged to the community. The ruler of the community was a 'leader of the villagers' and took care after problems of the village. M. Vickery suggests that is the character of the society. (M. Vickery, Toyo, pp22-23). He adds that this type of organization was suitable for the pre-historic communities revealed by archaeology in northeastern Thailand, in which possibilities for concentration of wealth and territorial expansion were limited. In fact, villages were often separated by large areas of unoccupied and unowned land in the ancient time.

It is possible that leaders of Funan and Chenla had been in the brotherhood. But, the Chenla group in the inland area was engaged with the transportation of western goods at the same time they had controlled extensive rice paddy area. That means Chenla group had sufficient capability to amass large army. After Rudramana's death, Chenla army proceeded to the south to take over the trade business of Funan, and finally kicked out Funan rulers from the Mekong delta. Chenla had killed some princes of Funan, but most of the ruling class of Funan fled to Ban Ban with their navy. As the result Funan could have dominated the estuary of Mekong and the seashore of southern Indochina. On the other hands Chenla had no navy and no seafaring capability.

Chenla should have taken over the business of profitable trade from Funan, but miserably they had failed. Chenla started sending tributary mission to China in 616, but Chenla could not use the sea route which was dominated by Funan's navy. M. Vickery made a serious misunderstanding that Funan was in decline, and no longer an attractive object for conquest (M. Vickery, Toyo, pp79).  However, Chenla had been eager to send tributary missions to China, as the records shown later. Funan had been shifting its business center to Ban Ban since a long time ago. So Chenla could not take over the trade facility of Funan. Funan interfered Chenla’s sea trade by blocking the estuary of the Mekong River.

Isanavarman sent to envoy to China together with Linyi using the sea route in October 628. At that time Chenla informed China that their state also called ' Khmer’. The origin of Chenla is not clear, so Chenla people preferred to be called 'Khmer'. 

After Chenla's leaders had left Si-Thep for the administration of the new kingdom in Cambodia, the Mon people remained at Si Thep and they continued their business as usual. As the result, the culture of the Mons revived and flourished there. The establishment of Mahayana Buddhist temples and Buddha statues are observed. There are large remains of Buddhism at Si Thep. Today, there are large stupas of Dvaravati style and ‘Dharma Chakra’. When Chenla leaders had stayed in Si Thep, they were keen Hinduists and basically rejected Buddhism.

Photo of Dharma Chakura

U Thong was the second largest intermediary point of the Funan's land route. However, the size of U Thong was smaller than that of Si Thep. Major residents of the both cities were the Mon speaking people. They were flexible about the religion, but later they worshiped mainly Buddhism.

 According to the Liang Shu, the capital of Funan was located at 500 li (about 200 km) from the river mouth, but it does not specify a city name.

The Xin Tang Shu (新唐書)noted that the Funan had transferred the capital to "the Na-fu-na ( 那弗那) from ' Te-mu-city (特牧城) ' at first as Funan was attacked by Chenla. Na-fu-na is not identified yet, but it seems to be Navanakar, Kampot provine which used to be the important port and naval base of Funan. 'Te-mu' is not identified yet, but which may be 'Takeo', including Angkor Borei and Phnom Da.

Coedes supposes that 'Te-mu city' was Vyadhapura, near Ba Phnom, but Ba Phnom had no direct access to the canal network to the Oc Eo port and the Mekong River. (M.Vickery, Toyo, p61).

Considering the plenty of historical remains, Angkor Borei (including Phnom Da) was the most suitable capital of Funan, and Takeo (including Angkor Borei) may fit for 'Te-mu city'.  Then the location of Na-fu-na' is the next problem.  Pelliot suggests it was 'Navanakar', Kampot province. Kampot area may be a probable candidate, where directly faces sea and had the port facility. There is inscription of Jayavarman I who donated there. (M. Vickery, Toyo, p41)

For short term, Funan shifted its capital to 'Na-fu-na', but Isanavrman did not allow Funan to stay in Cambodia. He finally expelled Funan until 630.

For the Funan people, ‘Navanakar’ was the easiest place to evacuate in case of danger.,

Angkor Borei and Takeo


3-2 Si Thep as the original base of Chenla, not from Wat Phu

The dominating area of Chenla was the land-route of Funan, starting from Si-Thep, the Chi River, the Mun River, Ubon Ratchathani and Champasak (Wat Phu). Chenla could not have accumulated enough military force at Wat Phu to attack Funan, because Wat Phu area is too narrow. Chenla's economic and political base had been located at different place. That was the north of the Dangrek mountains area.

Si Thep was the commercial center of the Mons from the ancient times where Indians came later, settled and established hegemony in the city. The contribution of Indian people to the resident was significant. They taught many things to the Mons and Khmer people other than religion how to cultivate paddy field, how to manufacture iron products and sold the part of their imports from the West. At the same time, Indian imported Hinduism and spread among the local people. There are many Hindu images of deities. Many Surya, Krishna, Siva and Vishnu images were discovered at Si Thep and some of them are exhibited at the Bangkok National Museum. Q. Wales says there is similar Siva image at Bhumara temple in India. Probably the original image was imported from India, but local craft men made simplified the original image and made many copies. So, Vishnu images spread to the Malay Peninsula and other vicinities.

Photos Surya and Krisna


(The inscriptions of Bhavavarman and Citrasena exist at Si Thep.)

The first king Bhavavarman had not a son of the succession, so after his death, Citrasena ( Mahendravarman, Bhavavarman's younger brother) succeeded the throne.  C. Jacques says they were the sons of Vivavarman.

C. Jacques says that the brothers came from the south of the Dangrek Range and the north of Cambodia. Perhaps he wanted to say they came from Wat Phu area. Coedès had a similar opinion. However, I suppose they came from Si Thep or the north of the Dangrek Mountains area, because Wat Phu (Champasak) is too narrow to gather a big army. At least their family might have lived at Si Thep where was the commercial center of the regin and was surrounded by vast paddy field with many farmers. The farmers ware source of large army. Champasak (Wat Phu) was the intermediary point of the land-route of Funan. The north of the Dangrek Range was from the economic point of view, very rich and prosperous at that time. There were iron, copper and salt making facilities and broad paddy field. Chenla group might have economic and military superiority from the beginning of the conflict with Funan.

Chenla was a regional manager of an intermediary point of land traffic, but also Chenla was dominating the agricultural area and could have overcome the headquarters of Funan with their strong army. The movement of Chenla's military action was recognized by Funan's rulers and many of them had fled away beforehand to Ban Ban (盤盤=Pan Pan), the Bay of Ban Don of the Thai Gulf.  For Funan rulers, Ban Ban was sufficient to conduct trade, because the most of western commodities were unloaded at Takua Pa, and directly shipped to China from Chaiya.  M.Vickery does not recognize this special advantage of Funan, and ignores its 'exiled' story and function of Ban Ban state. He believes that due to decrease of international trade, Funan group demised naturally within Cambodia. However, Funan’s trade with China had never decreased, but increased significantly including Ban Ban’s export.

After kicked out Funan rulers, Bhavavarman I set up his capital at Sambor Prei Kuk (30-40 km the north of Kompong Thom), where later became Isanapura, the capital of Isanavarman. This place keeps some distance (30km) from the Mekong River to avoid sudden attack of exiled Funan. Funan maintained a strong navy and was controlling the estuary of the Mekong River and the South China Sea.
M. Vickery says: "The inscriptions which name him (Bhavavarman I) do not permit certainly that he ever went north beyond the Dangrek mountains, and indicate that his territory was not very large, between the Tonle Sap and the Mekong. His death would have been around 600CE. (M. Vickery, Toyo. p330)

The inscriptions of Citrasena exist in northeast Thailand, the Pasak valley, Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima), Ubon Ratchathani, Phimai, Surin, Ta Praya (Sa Kaeo province) and in Cambodia at Kratie. The range of his activities has greatly extended in the northern part of the Dangrek mountains. The inscriptions of Bhavavarman exist at Si Thep, Battambang, Stung Treng (Cambodian territory) and Wat Phu (Vat Phou). These two brothers are a genealogy of the rulers of the land transportation of Funan and their stronghold was in the northeast of Thailand.

Coedès says that Wat Phu, Laos was the first Chenla stronghold, but his view is not reasonable as above mentioned.

Coedès named Srutavarman and Sresthavarman as kings of the early Wat Phu district (Coedès, 1968 English, p66).  M. Vickery points out that the two old time kings were named for the first time in the inscription of Jayavarman VII period (12th century) of (M. Vickery, Toyo, p 42).

He says that these two kings were not known their exact position of 600 years ago. This method is a typical approach of Coedès. It was probably impossible for Chenla to conquer Funan with the small army, amassed from Champasak area. Champasak and Wat Phu had not so large rice field and the population was relatively small, compared with that of Funan's dominating area. The large army of Chenla probably had been mobilized from the vast farmland of the Pasak Valley and northeast of Thailand.

On the other hand, Funan was the international trading state, and promoted the development of a rational international trade route. Finally, Takua Pa (Ko Koh Khao) and Chaiya in the Malay Peninsula were selected. From Takua Pa to Chaiya, Funan could carry their west good within a week or ten days, so the cross Peninsula on-land route was fixed as their regular course. They used the small rivers, the Klong Sok and Phum Dung River. Further from Ban Ban state Funan directly sailed to China, under the name of Fuan and sometimes under the name of ‘Ban Ban’. Funan used two trade names to China since the middle of the 5th century, including from Oc Eo port in the Mekong delta and from Chiaya to China.

The Funan's mainstream of trade, since the middle of the 5th century, gradually changed ‘from Oc Eo to Ban Ban’, to China. They moved their navy to the Bandon Bay, together with craftsmen, sculptors in advance. For instance, we can see the similar Vishnu images of Angkor Borei, at Chaiya, Surat Thani district.

The Xin (New) Tang Shu says that in Shi-li-fo-shi (室利仏逝、Srivijaya), there are too many men (males). This suggests Srivijaya maintains many navy soldiers. It is unreasonable of M. Vickery’s saying that foreign trade is facing the loss, so Funan has made ‘natural demise’.[[[

3-3 Pre-Angkor Kingdom

C. Jacques says, "King Bhavavarman I was a prince from the region of Wat Phu in southern Laos. He had not been chosen to successor to the throne of his father's small state and decided, nevertheless, to establish a kingdom of his own. After having conquered of the main part of what is now Cambodia, he had set up his capital some 30 kilometers from the town now called Kompong Thom. The precise location of his city, near or on the site of Smbor Prei Kuk, has not yet been identified.” (C. Jacques, pp56)

C. Jacques says that Bhavavarman was too ambitious to inherit his father's small kingdom and he independently expanded his territory. His intention to take over Funan's business was very clear from the beginning. Furthermore, it is not sure that he was a prince of the Wat Phu kingdom. Bhavavarman extended his kingdom for northwest town of Battambang, where he left inscription. Why Battambang? There was no gold mine, but on the nearest route to Chantaburi port, from where Chenla could have attacked Ban Ban (Chaiya) and the shortest trade route to the Malay Peninsula.

On the other hand, according to C. Jacques, his 'less ambitious' younger brother Citrasena, had inherited small kingdom of Wat Phu from his father. However, his activity as the commander of Chenla had been very striking. He left many inscriptions as above mentioned. The brothers had established their base at Wat Phu and Stung Treng, along the Mekong River, which were not their home town.

Inscription of Citrasena, Ubon Ratchatanee Museum.

Two inscriptions related Citrasena were discovered at Ubon Ratchathani (K.496-497) and another (K363) was discovered at Champasak in Laos. These are written the name of Citrasena, also named Mahendravarman, younger brother of Bhavavarman, son of Vivavarman'. In another inscription (K.508), a word, 'grandson of Svabhauma', is added (M.Vickery, pp74).


After Mahendravarman's death Isanavarman (616?-635?) succeeded him. He placed his capital at Isanapura (Siva city). Within the city wall more than 20,000 families resided.
Isanavarman established his capital 30 km north of Kompong Tom, soon after he took the throne, around 618. There are about 170 ruins of Hindu temples, government houses and a large king' palace.
Siva was enshrined in the temple. In this time Harihara appeared for the first time, combining Siva and Vishnu. But Siva faith was the most valued as the religion of Chenla Kingdom.

Isanavarman promoted administrative reform and invited many scholars and Brahman from India. Isanapura is located about 30 km from the Mekong River. That is because probably he avoided the sudden assault of former Funan. If at all Chenla integrated Funan peacefully, as M. Vickery says, Chenla could have sent tribute by the sea smoothly. However, Chenla continued sending tribute to the Tang dynasty mainly using the land route. The navy of Funan and Shi-li-fo-shi had been heavy obstacle for Chenla.

On the death of King Isanavarman I in 635, his younger son succeeded under the name of Bhavavarman II. M. Vickery says that his original name was Bhavakumara and later became king (M.Vickery, p24). But Briggs says that he was not a son of Isanavarman, and his reign was very short. (Briggs, p52-53). He was far from having the prestige of Isanavarman, and failed to maintain the unity of the Chenla kingdom. The local chiefs regained their independence. Later, Jayavarman I, grandson of Isanavarman I tried to rebuild the empire of Isanavarman I.


Some more inscriptions of Citrasena are at Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phimai, Surin, and Ta Praya. These inscriptions were in the north side (today's northeast area of Thailand) of the Dangrek mountains where were his main activity area. At that time, the northeast Thailand (Isaan) had been very prosperous with various kind of industries. So, Chenla had to confirm these area under its control.

M. Vickery says that the 'Dangrek' inscriptions should be regarded as records of exploratory probes rather than enduring conquests, with little, if any, permanent effect (in the words of Coedès about K. 213, a ‘simple cry of victory’ not implying a permanent occupation of the country) and I would not interpret Mahendravarman's inscriptions as 'delimiting' any kingdom, either his father's or his own. (M. Vickery, Toyo, p79).

Indeed,' simple cry of victory 'would not elaborate their family relation. Si Thep had been their 'home town' and not conquered area, because the local people celebrated their success.

About the reign dates of the kings of Chenla are not identified exactly. M. Vickery says that Mahendravarman's reign, no fixed date is available.



Inscription of Citrasena, Ubon Ratchatanee Museum.

Two inscriptions related Citrasena were discovered at Ubon Ratchathani (K.496-497) and another (K363) was discovered at Champasak in Laos. These are written the name of Citrasena, also named Mahendravarman, younger brother of Bhavavarman, son of Vivavarman'. In another inscription (K.508), a word, 'grandson of Svabhauma', is added (M.Vickery, pp74).


As M. Vickery says that the irrigation system had been discovered between Funan and Chenla times, but the scale of the artificial ponds was small and carried out at the level of the local communities and no remains of large hydraulic works have been discovered. (M.Vickery, Toyo, p306)

As for the expansion of rice field, they had done only a little, and neglected the large size expansion of irrigation system. Through pre-Angkor time, economic development was limited. As the result, the pre-Angkor kingdom declined gradually without the trade profit.

3-3-1 Isanavarman

The Sui Shu says that Citrasena expelled Funan rulers, but some Funan people might have remained in the south part of Cambodia (Navanakar?).  After Mahendravarman's death Isanavarman succeeded him. He placed his capital at Isanapura. Within the city wall more than 20,000 families living. In the city, there is a big hall in which king practiced usual administration. There are 30 big cities near the capital, and each city has several thousand families living and has army. The officials ' titles are same as those of Ling-yi.

Isanavarman’s reign is accepted as 616 – 635, which have been based on a Chinese record of a Cambodian mission.

Isanavarman was the most powerful king of the pre-Angkor era. He assigned many local governors (kings). However, they often claimed some degree of local autonomy. (M. Vickery, Toyo, P25)

Probably he did not aware that his policy would be the cause of disunity of Chenla in the future.

It is remarkable that the administration system of Chenla and Linyi seemed similar. Isanavarman's daughter married with a prince of Lin-yi. His daughter Sri Sarvani married to the prince of Cham, Jagaddharma. However, he lived at Bhavapura of Chenla, after involved with some trouble. They had a prince, named Prakasadharma (諸葛地 ), and he mounted the throne of Champa in 635, as Vikrantavarman (Briggs, p52). This is recorded in the inscription in My-son and in the Chinese annals. 

The Xin Tang Shu writes that Isanavarman completely expelled Funan at the early time of the ' Zhen Guan (貞観. 627-649) era and integrated Cambodia.

Judging from this description, Funan might have maintained some small territory in Cambodia until around 630. However, their main staff had migrated and settled at Chaiya.

Isanavarman was ‘protector of the Master Siva’ and succeeded his father, Mahendravarman. More than a dozen inscriptions are attributed to the reign of Isanavarman.

According to the inscriptions and monuments, the territory of Chenla of Bhvavarman and Mahendravarman was not so wide. From the lower valley of the Mun River, it seems to include a strip along both sides of the Mekong, and including the Tonle Sap basin, perhaps to the Great Lake. However, Chenla put under its control the norther part of the Dangrek mountains, which was accomplished Citrasena as inscriptions shawn. Chenla kiMe too. Sorry I mstyped cked out Funan from their old territory and dominated the lower part of the 'V' area between the Mekong and the Tonle Sap.

Briggs says "Funan, at the South, seems to have enjoyed a degree of autonomy and may still at the beginning of Isanavarman reign, have exercised some control over the coast of the Bay of Camranth (Panduranga) and have had the loyalty of some of its maritime colonies." (Briggs, pp47)

However, the most of Funan rulers fled away to the Bay of Bandon area (Ban Ban state), because Bhavavarman had killed some princes of Funan, and there was no safe place to stay in Cambodia after the victory of Chenla. Antagonism between Chenla and Funan was very severe, so Chenla could not have sent tributary mission to China through the sea route. For a short time, Funan group could have survived at the sea-shore area, for instance Kampot, but they were probably attacked by Chenla and could not have stayed for a long time.

Isanavarman had two sons, and their mother (Sakaramanjari) was from the Adhyapura family. The elder brother was Sivadatta and younger brother was Bhavakumara, later King Bhavavarman II. Sivadatta was ruler of several cities (pura), Bhavapura, Adhyapura and Jyestjhapura. Sivaddata also left inscription at Prachinburi, near the Gulf of Thailand. Sivadatta might have become a memberof the Adhyapura family which was the most influential. M. Vickery says that Sivadatta's mother must have been sister of Dharmadeva, ruler of Adhyapura family. (M.Vickery,Toyo, P371).


Bhavavarman II may have been recognized as king after 637 and until the mid-650 s, although only two dates 637, 639 and or 644, are associated with his reign in contemporary inscriptions. Although he was called 'Maharaja', his real territory might have been same as Bhavavarman I's and he was the king of part of the south and of the Nortwest. (M. Vickery, Toyo, p331). On the other hand, Sivadatta, as the ruler of the Adhyapura family governed the important part of South Cambodia. Actually, Sivadatta seemed to have stronger political and economic power than his younger brother, Bhavavarman II.

What means the separation of two brothers? While Isanavarman was alive, there might be little problems. Isanavarman tried to pull together local leaders under his arm to centralize political power. However, after his death, serious problems might have occurred within Cambodia.

Here, the territory of Bavavaruman II seems to be ‘Land Chenla’ and Sivadatta’s territory looks like ‘Water Chenla’ in the future.


The successor of Bhavavarman II is Jayavarman I, and his reign date is similarly controversial, and he probably reigned roughly from 655 / 657 to 680 / 81.

 Only one date is recorded for Queen Jayadevi, 713, and then there is no more date associated with the names of rulers until the first inscriptions of Jayavarman II in 770 and 781 "(M.Vickery,Toyo, p22).

 However, there must be some rulers of Water Chenla after her death. As M.Vickery says after Jayadevi, Chenla was sufficiently at peace and sufficiently unified for its rulers to extract enough wealth to invest in more and larger temples than been built in the seventh century, with the exception of the city of Isanapura, capital of Isanavarman and Bhavavarman II. (M.Vickery,“What and Where was Chenla?” 1994, p15)

M. Vickery says that a more forceful policy of centralization was instituted by Jayavarman I (657? - 681?), who may also, through his mother, had been in a line of descent from Isanavarman, and who does not appear of the Adhyapura family, although he was in a way adopted by them retrospectively, meaning that he probably married into their group". (M. Vickery, Toyo, p25)

(Aninditapura family)

This Adhyapura family had progressive idea, and influenced Jayavarman 1 and probably the Angkor Dynasty later.

Usually Jayavarman I is said to be a son of Bhavavarman II (Coedès) but there is a different opinion that Jayavarman I (655- 681?) was born as the son of Candravarman of the local lord in Kompong Thom by Soma royal family. Directly, he had nothing to do with this Adhyapura family, but his wife came from the Adhyapura family. (Briggs, p54). He had strong support from the Adhyapura family.

The capital of Jayavarman I was said to be Purandrapura, but not identified, however he did not settle in Isanapura or Bhavaputra as his capital. He mainly dominated southern part of Cambodia (later Water Chenla).

The beginning kings, Bhavavarman, Mahendravarman and Isanavarman, are known as staunch Sivaists and suppressed Buddhism. Economically they failed to promote international trade by sea, especially the tributary to China. So, they could not have increased their wealth as expected. Jayavarman I seems a little flexible about religion and economy.

At first, the center of Chenla government was located at northern part of Kompong Tom, Sombor Prei Kok area (Isanapura), but the center of economy was located in the southern area.

Briggs says as following: “To the west of the Mekong, Aninditapura—at this time, probably called Baladityapura seems to have occupied the valley of the Sung Sen, a tributary of the Tonle Sap parallel to the Mekong and the territory to the west, to the line running from the eastern end of the Great Lake, roughly corresponding to the present Kompong Thom”.

As above mentioned, Isanavarman’s wife came from Aninditapura family. Adhyapura (rich town) was located near Ba Phnom.


(Sacred Mountain and Pyramid)

Coedès says that the Mountain Lingaparvata written in the Sui Shu is the high mountain of Wat Phu. Of which peak shaped huge natural lingam. But M. Vickery considers that judging from the context of the Sui Shu this mountain should be close to the capital of Isanavarman, and it was probably ‘Phnom Suntuk’ 30 km away from the capital. The sacred mountain should be near capital. The sacred mountain was considered as the center of the universe, that is the basic idea at that time. Lingaparvata of Wat Phu is located too far away as the sacred mountain of Isanavarman. Later, in the Angkor kingdom, many kings constructed pyramid style towers and the tallest tower was considered as the sacred Mt. Meru where the king’s linga was set up.

Brahmanism took a very unusual form, apparently for the first time in Cambodia, during the reign of Isanavarman. This was the worship of Harihara- Vishnu and Siva combined in one body. (Briggs, p 51). This harihara became popular in Chenla.


3-4.  Jayavarman I and the decline of Pre-Angkor

Yi-Jing wrote in the Nan Haiat the end of the 7th century:


“After one month’s journey to the southwest, there is Funan country. In the past Funan was a naked people’s country. Nowadays many people believe in Hinduism. Once in Funan, the law of Buddha prospered and spread, but wicked kings (of Chenla) destroyed it and there are no more monks, and non-Buddhism (Hindu) prevails” 

However, in the 2nd half of the 7th century, a little different type of king appeared, whose name is Jayavarman I. Jayavarman I’s inscription which attached the title of Maharaja (k 1059) have been found. Certainly, he integrated whole Cambodia. However, Jayavarman I, despite its outward success, the unity of Cambodia was going into cracks. (Jacques. p57).

He has sent army for the first time throughout Cambodia and confirmed unity, then he sent troops to upper Laos and Yunnan Province in China.

Vyadhapura (Prei Veng) is Kompong Cham, in the South. Some say here was the old capital city of Funan, but M. Vickery denies it. However, this area used to be the center of commercial activities and flourished. Jayavarman I seemed to love this region. The old capital city to the north of Kompong Thom (Isanapura) was in the defensive position and unsuitable place for economic activity. Jayavarman I tried to unite Cambodia, but his intention was unsuccessful by the division of the country. Jayavarman II later selected this area as a starting point to control the whole Cambodia.

Jayavarman I left many inscriptions during the reign. Among them he has been hailed as warriors. He had stretched the forces to Siem Reap, Wat Phu, Battambang, Chantaburi (Thailand), Prey Veng, Takeo (Phnom Bayang), Thailand border Preah Vihear and Kompong Thom's Han Cheikara. Expedition to the northern central Laos is also recorded (Briggs, p54). Chantaburi is the nearest port to the Malay Peninsula, and here as the most important port to access the Bay of Ban Don (Chaiya). Around 745, Water Chenla sent navy from the Chantaburi port and occupied Chaiya area.

Anyway, he managed to maintain unity by military force, but he gained only nominal and superficial unity. Jayavarman 1 directly controlled territory of the Kompong Thom and Kompong Cham in the center of Cambodia. His capital was supposed located at Purandarapura where is unidentified yet. Briggs supposes his city ‘Banteay Prei Nokor’, 1.2 km southeast from Kompong Cham. (Briggs, pp54-57).

However, M. Vickery says: " Jayavarman I, is shown making real efforts to exert central control. Not only is he more frequently named in inscriptions, and over a slightly wider area than his predecessors, but he issued direct royal orders concerning foundations, occasionally ordering or forbidding their unification, and indicating who should have local control over them". (M.Vickery,Toyo, p367)

In the time of Jayavarman I, inscriptions related Buddhism began to appear. He himself is regarded even as a Buddhist.

M.Vickery says,” It is an edict by Jayavarman I confirming possesion of a large Buddhist establishment (personnel, animals, rice fields, plantations) in the third generation of the family which had founded it.” (M.Vickery,Toyo, p352).

M. Vickery says that the dates and locations of pre-Angkor and early Angkor inscriptions indicate a gradual shift northward of the political and economic center of the Cambodian polity during the 7th-8th- century, from the Takeo-Kampot-Prey Veng-Kompong Cham-Kompong Tom region, to just north of the Tonle Sap where Angkor was established. (M.Vickery,Toyo, p315). During the Funan times, Takeo and Kampot were important economic bases, but in the Angkor time economic center moved to Kompong Cham and the north of Tonle Sap (Siem Reap) area. This means the economy of Pre-Angkor (Chenla) began to emphasize the importance of agriculture, because the weight of the international trade decreased drastically in Chenla times.

More than 150 years later, since the reign of Jayavarman II, the Angkor kingdom, the central administration was restored. It was beginning of the Angkor Dynasty. Even though Jyavarman II pretended as Sivaist, the Mahayanist Buddhism became rapidly popular which had been the most worshiped religion of Srivijaya.

After the death of Jayavarman I in 681, until the declaration of independence Jayavarman II in 802, more than 120 years, the central administration of Cambodia had not officially existed. 

On the other hand, local governments (chiefdom) had developed steadfast, getting stable tax-income of rice farming and became comparatively rich and strong. Stable income of local government was obstacles to establish the powerful central government.

Jayavarman 1’s successor (son-in-law) was weak. His daughter, Jayadevi’s husband Nripaditya succeeded to the throne but he had done nothing for the unity. Local chiefs had stronger power already. Finally, Jayadevi took over the throne as the Queen. However, the territories were divided. Her power was limited in the South (old Water Chela), and lost the ‘central control’. Jayadevi also lamented the division of political power. Coedès says that Jayavarman 1 had no male successor, and Queen Jayadevi could not maintain the unity of Chenla. But M. Vickery says that Cambodia was not patrilineal heritage society.  However, after the death of Queen Jayadevi Water Chenla did some important action against Srivijaya, during 745760Water Chenla attacked Srivijaya and occupied Chaiya and Nakhon Si Thammrat area. But they were probably crushed by the Sailendra navy at the first half of 760s. These incidents were not recorded in any document, but certainly happened. The Ligor in scription dated 775, recorded about these incidents. And the invasion of Srivijaya to the Mekong River area happened. This invasion was the beginning of the Angkor Dynasty.  

3-4-1 Division of Chenla

 The Jiu Tang Shu ( 旧唐書 ) says ‘Shen Long ( 神龍) 2nd year’ 706 , Chenla was separated by two states, the northern part with many mountains and deep grass, called ‘Land Chenla’ and the southern part, near sea and plenty of water, called ‘Water Chela’. Water Chela has width of 800 li, the King's palace is located at Baladityapura婆羅提拔城.  The same story is written in the Xin Tang Shu, which added that Land Chenla was called ' Wen-dan (文単). However, Wen-dan was probably a subordinate state of Land Chenla, which often sent tributary missions by land-route. With one or two exceptions, the Land Chenla had sent mission to Tang via on-land route.

Water Chela governed commercial area of Central part of Cambodia, around Kompong Cham area where was predominant in economy. This area included Aninditapura region, and Jayavarman 1 put the capital there. C. Jacques does not fix the location of Anindithapura, but the name appears in the inscription of the Angkor period.  C. Jacques says the location was Purandarapura. However, Purandarapura itself is not identified. That is approximately the same as Anindithapura, where would be slightly South of Kompong Cham. The area near the Tonle Sap Lake, located in the basin of the Mekong River, is famous for its commercial activities, regional economic development was observed or the most prosperous region. Jayavarman I seemed to have placed his capital in this area.

 On the other hand, Land Chenla was located northern part of Cambodia and the northeast of Thailand. Kratié of the Mekong River was the center of Land Chenla. Geographically Land Chenla was inland and basically agricultural area. In the Pre- Angkor Cambodia, new economic development could not be expected so much. M. Vickery says that economic activities recorded in the 7th-century inscriptions are agriculture, wet rice, fruit-growing, animal husbandry and crafts such as weaving and leaf-sewing, probably for thatch, and metal works to produce the articles of jewelry sometimes recorded. (M. Vickery, Toyo. Pp27)

M. Vickery is suspicious about the description (division of Chenla) of the Xin (Jiu) Tang Shu. However, high-ranking Chinese official unlikely to tell an easy lie about such an important matter. The Xin Tang Shu was compiled under the supervision of Ou Yang Xiu (欧陽修). The written records on the Chinese annals are mostly based on the information of the envoys of ‘Land Chenla’, which had often sent small tributary missions to Tang. Chenla could not enjoy the trade advantage of Funan after the victory over Funan. So, the economic power of Chenla kings did not seem to expand remarkably. The economic activity of Land Chenla had been dull, so it became conservative. The separation of Land Chenla from Water Chela might be the biggest factor for the declining of the Chenla kingdom.

 Land Chenla had continued sending mission to Tang, 10 times during the 8th century. However, the mission of Wen-dan after 753 was by the instruction of Land Chenla or by Wen-dan’s initiative was quite dubious.

 Srivijaya group regained control over the South India Sea. Probably the army of Srivijaya (Sailendra) landed 'Water Chela's territory' south of Cambodia before 770. In 768, new 'Kha-ling (Sailendra)' started sending envoy to Tang, that meant Srivijaya had recovered hegemony in the South China Sea before that. The commander of the Srivijaya army was Jayavarman II who left inscription dated 770 at Kompong Cham district.

3-4-2. Tributary mission of Chenla

M. Vickery says the international trade of Funan had declined and had lost the significance, however Chenla sent missions many times as following.

In 616 (Chenla to Sui), In 623, (Chenla toTang), 625, 628 (Chenla with Linyi), 635, 651, 682 ,697, 707,710,717(Wen-dan=Land Chenla), 750 (Water Chela?), 753 (Wen-dan), 755 (Wen-dan), (Wen-dan) 767, 771 (Wen-dan,), 780 (Chenla), 798 (Wen-dan), 813 (Water Chenla), 814 (Water Chenla).

Chenla sent the tribute for the first time to Sui in 616. The first mission to Tang was in 623, and after that continued sending mission. In 628. Chenla sent an envoy together with Linyi by sea. In 628, Isanavarman asked Linyi to send mission to Tang by Linyi's ship. The both states visited Tang at the same time, the October 628. At the time Tang's Emperor Tai-zong (太宗 ) was very delighted and said that Chenla's effort was highly appreciated, coming ‘on-land and by sea ' and gave large award to Chenla. Especially neighboring states ' friendly relation was most favorable for the Tang Dynasty. Chenla apparently had sent mission before through on-land route, using the upper Mekong River and entered Yunan, then to the capital of Tang.

However, Chenla could not use the sea-route anymore, because the activity of Funan's navy became stronger after Funan was exiled from the Mekon Delta aroun 530. And in 643, Linyi appealed to Tai-zong to stop Funan's harassment at sea.

In 750, Chenla sent mission with its tribute ‘alive Rhino’ which is difficult to transport on-land. This mission might have visited by ship, if so, this ‘Chenla’ was ‘Water Chela’ which occupied Chaiya area and temporary gained freedom of sea-faring from Srivijaya. This is historical guess, but Water Chela might have attacked Chaiya around 745, and got maritime freedom. Who was the king of Water Chela at that time? After Jayadevi, kings name of Water Chenla is unknown. But around 765, the king of Water Chela was beheaded by Srivijaya.

In 813 and 814, Tang recorded that ‘Water Chela’ missions came, but they were probably ‘Angkor mission’. However, Jayavarman II might have been prohibited by Srivijaya to send anymore envoy to Tang. Angkor resumed to send mission after more than 300 years interval in 1116 (Angkor, under Suryavarman II), 1120 (Angkor), 1155 (Angkor and Lopburi), 1200 (under Jayavarman VII, Angkor). Suryavarman had no relation with Srivijaya, so he sent mission freely to Song.


The Jiu Tang Shu (旧唐書)writes about Water Chela;

"Water Chela occupied the flourishing area of south.;
The border, east-west-south-north 800 li (320 km), east faces Panduranga (Phan Rang), west faces Dvaravati, south faces sea and north faces Land Chenla. The capital is called Baladityapura(婆羅提跋)”.

The location of ‘Baladityapura’ is not identified yet. C. Jacques says it was Purandarapura and M. Vickery says it was City of Indrapura. Then where was Indrapura? Judging from inscription (k.105 and k.325), it is said that ‘Banteay Prei Nokor’ south of Kompong Cham, might be the most suitable place.

3-5 The End of Pre-Angkor (Chenla)

After the death of Jayavarman I in 680-681, the throne was succeeded by his son-in-law Nripaditya. But he could not govern the kingdom, so Jayavarman's daughter Jayadevi became the queen of the kingdom. Her inscription dated 713 was left in the Angkor area, and her title was ' vrah kamuratan an' which meant the Khmer royal title and her inscription exists at ‘Ak Yom’, western end of West Baray.

Queen Jayadevi governed Water Chela area, and she seems so far respected by local chiefs. But she could not maintain national unity, and her dominion was said to be limited around Aninditapura (exact location unspecified), and stayed in the area. In the 8th century no central government existed. But Water Chela maintained strong power in the southern half of the Cambodia. Water Chela, as above mentioned, probably had some navy to attack Srivijaya around 745 and temporarily occupied Chaiya for nearly 20 years.

If Water Chela had sent the mission to Tang in 750. Water Chela should have attacked Chaiya area in the 740s, and they had succeeded to occupy Chaiya, the capital of Srivijaya. In 750, ‘Chenla’ presented ‘alive rehinoceros’ which could be transported by sea. Only Water Chela could do such invasion, which had enough strong navy force to attack the headquarters of Srivijaya. Within 20 years, the Srivijaya group, main force was Sailendra navy of Jawa, counter attacked the Water Chela army at Chaiya, and destroyed the army of Chenla completely. Furthermore, the main force of Srivijaya's navy advanced to the Mekong River area and occupied the main ports of Water Chela and probably the capital of Land Chenla, Kratie was also occupied in the early 760s. At that time pre-Angkor Chenla was destroyed basically. The inland of Cambodia was still not attacked, so at the end of 760s, Srivijaya deployed troops led by the commander Jayavarman II, whose troops conquered the remaining area.

The last big battle between Chenla and Funan was fought at the Bay of Bandon area. The Chenla's strongest army had been collapsed there. The remaining forces of Chenla were divided locally and which had been defeated one by one by Jayavaramn II. About this war, no record was left, but the Ligor inscription dated in 775, suggests the fatal victory of Srivijaya over Chenla, at the same time why Srivijaya stopped sending tributary mission after 742 could be explained.

According to Briggs, when Chenla attacked Baladityapura area in the middle of the 6th century, then Aninditapura rulers first surrendered to him. The rulers of this region, came from the blood line of Kaundinya-Soma (柳葉), in other words they are blood group of traditional Funan line. Of course, it is dubious, but they wanted to say they were different from Chenla group. However, they are probably not included in the main family of Funan and in the neutral position.

The "Xin Tang Shu says the capital of Water Chela was Baladeva (婆羅提抜), so it might be Baladityapura.Originally, there was King Baladitya in the past. But the location of Baladityapura is not identified. C. Jacques says it may be Purandarapura where is also, unclear. M. Vickery suggests it might be Indrapura. (M.Vickery,Toyo, p355).  But Indrapura's location is also unidentified exactly. Inscription K.105 and K.325 tell us it is in the South of Kompong Cham, Nokor (Banteay Prei Nokor). In the 7 – 10th centuries, Indrapura might have been from Kompong Cham to Kompong Thom area, (M. Vickery,Toyo, p356).
However, after long term, Indrapura might be narrowed, and Kompong Cham was the major city in the South. Perhaps King Jayavarman I had put his capital there.

Water Chela's territory was the lower basin of the Mekong River, which leads to the Tonle Sap Lake area. It was in the heart of the economy of Angkor.

‘Land Chenla’ had the two big cities along the Mekong River, Sambor (Sambhupura) and Kratié, however economic activity was dull.

 Briggs says: "At first, Sambhupura may have included the Khmer settlements beyond the mouth of the Se Mun (Mun River), including what later became Upper (Land) Chenla in what is believed to have been the vassal state of Bhavapura. The first ruler of Sambhupura mentioned in the inscriptions is a female -presumed a daughter of the supposititious Sambhuvarman. This daughter married Pushakaraksha, son of Nripatindravarman of Aninditapura, and he thus became king of Sambhupura."(Briggs, p 58)
However, M. Vickery completely denies this story. He says that stories related Pushakaraksha is all Coedès fiction. (M. Vickery, Coedès ' Histories of Cambodia, p18, 2-7 reference). His point is important when we study the history of the Chenla Dynasty.

Why Chenla became weak within 200 years?  The first reason is that Chenla had failed to develop its economy. Chenla could not increase the agricultural production so much, especially rice. The second reason is Chenla failed to take over the international trade benefit from Funan. The third reason was that Chenla was divided politically by local chiefs, who had no idea of integrity of Chenla.

3-6 M. Theoretical problems of M.Vickery

1 Michael Vickery critisizes Coedès  

Here I must check the theory of Dr. Michael Vickery. He acquired Ph.D. at Yale University in the United States. He, since around 1960 had lived mainly in Cambodia, and passed away 29 June 2017 at Battambang, West of Cambodia. He has published many excellent papers and books on Khmer and Champa. Many of M. Vickery's works are on his blog, but unfortunately in his main work "Society, Economics and Politics in Pre-Angkor Cambodia: The 7th-8th Centuries. "Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies for UNESCO, The Toyo Bunko, Tokyo 1998". (Toyo Bunko published) is excluded.

M. Vickery points out many of misunderstanding and exaggeration of Coedès in Southeast Asian history. M. Vickery clarified many important points, but most historians seem to ignore him unfortunately.

In the following, M. Vickery tries to clarify the misunderstanding and inadequate methodology of Coedès. One of the papers are housed in a collection of his blog, which is "Coedès ' Histories of Cambodia" in Silpakorn University International Journal (Bangkok) Volume1, January-June 2000, p.61-108.

"The Indianized States of Southeast Asia" 1968 Edition (The original France language) should be called as the ‘masterpiece of Coedès’.

Coedès has many followers, and one of them is American scholar O. W. Wolters. He says that ' no course on earlier Southeast Asia history should be taught anywhere for foreseeable time without frequent reference to Coedès's book '.
In addition, renowned as an authority on the history of the Thailand, David K. Wyatt even says the similar tone. He says that Coedès is ‘standard textbook’ required reading for the student to learn the history of Southeast Asia.

In fact,
Coedès books had been treated as both scholars say the 'world standard'. But I read them often and know they contain many terrible mistakes as M. Vickery says. Especially the theory of Srivijaya, Coedès wrote a lot of mistakes and lies from the beginning.

Wyatt was a Cornell University professor of Thai history, and Wolters was a specialist of history of Indonesia (early Indonesian commerce) and Srivijaya history etc. In Wolters’ books on the phenomena of ancient Indonesia seemed to be without firm evidence.

M. Vickery is fine to suggest you should read the Coedès carefully and not swallow the ridiculous things. I also think the books of Coedès should be careful because there are several ‘land mines’ which are hidden in various places, full of danger. Where hidden lies and mistakes, the amateur cannot find out easily. M. Vickery says that Coedès, in his books, did not write as a scientist. These books are not high-standard scholarship. They are intellectual entertainment for well-read ‘dilettante’. They are monuments to uncritical synthesization, some of which belongs in historical romance, not in history ".

M. Vickery adds "Coedès a great synthesizer-indeed that may have been his greatest talent when functioning as writer of historic accounts; and he had to find, or imagine a connection every detail and some other detail in another time or place " and Coedès is like the history narrative authors rolling up stories, to the trivial fact of it here and there without thinking of time.

Certainly, on Palembang, in the Kedukan Bukit Inscription, Coedès found the word Srivijaya. But Coedès decided Palembang was Srivijaya itself and Srivijaya is Shi-li-fo shi. However, Palembang is Palembang, one of subordinate states of Srivijaya.

Coedes achieved a great discovery with the point (Coedes is not the first person to have find the word, Srivijaya and Shi-li-fo-shi) to have tied to "Shi-li-fo-shi = Srivijaya". Shi-li-fo-shi (Srivijaya) in the Chinese text was difficult how to read, but it is certainly Srivijaya.

After finding the word ‘Srivijaya’, he derailed from the real history of Srivijaya. He misunderstood ' Palembang was the capital of Srivijaya and the newly assigned king Jayanasa was the Maharaja of Srivijaya.' In fact, Palembang was newly occupied by Srivijaya and became one of the subordinate states of Srivijaya since 683. The Kedukan Bukit Inscription is a ‘vitory momument’ in nature, and not the monument of the founding ‘Srivijaya country’. Srivijaya had sent the first mission to Tang, between 670-673 already.

In the classical Chinese book, Shi-li-fo-shi (室利佛逝) had not been identified properly, so Coedès ' reading is highly appreciated by scholars. 'Srivijaya' from the inside of the Kedukan Bukit inscription at Palembang should have been considered more carefully by scholars. This inscription is basically the ‘victory monument of the Srivijayan army’ against the local kingdom. However, Coedès jumped to the conclusion that in 683, the ‘Srivijaya kingdom was established at Palembang’. The army of Srivijaya invaded Palembang from the Malay Peninsula with big navy force, and they were like modern 'marine' and the crew fought on land. Their number was recorded as 1.312 persons.

Coedès had made grave mistake from the very beginning and the Srivijaya history had been distorted to the terrible direction.

The Xin Tang Shu (new history of Tang,) says that Srivijaya had 14 subordinate states and the west of Shi-li-fo-shi is Lang-po-lo-si (郎婆露斯) , the Nicobar Islands. So, the location of Srivijaya is on the Malay Peninsula, not Sumatra. This is the firm fact.

Coedès decided the king of Palembang, Jayanasa as the Maharaja of Srivijaya group. But Jayanasa was Dapunta Hyang, and the commander of Srivijaya troops which attacked the Southeast Sumatra Island,

The first tributary of Srivijaya to China was recorded as ‘between 670-673’, however when Yi-Jing left Kanton in 671, he already knew ‘Shi-li-fo-shi’. So, the ambassador of Shu-li-fo-shi came to Chaina in 670. But Coedès says the first tribute of Srivijaya was in 695. This year is the Tang court decided to provide food for the returning tributary missions. In fact, Shi-li-fo-shi had not visited China in 695. This is only a simple fiction of Coedès. Coedès thought Shi-li-fo-shi had been established in 683 (the Kedukan Bukit Inscription) so, Shi-li-fo-shi should have sent an envoy later than that. So Coedès decided, the first Shi-li-fo-shi mission was in 695. There is no evidence at all to support the fabrication of Coedès, but it is simple contradiction with the Xin Tang Shu.

No historian in the world has pointed out this kind of apparent misunderstanding (or lie) of Coedès. At least Japanese historians can read Chinese text directly, so they should have noticed the distortion of Coedès.

M. Vickery appreciated the capability of Coedès as reader of the ancient inscriptions. However, M. Vickery criticizes Coedès ' method to make his historical framework and unscientific understanding of the history. Coedès often did not respect the historical facts and neglected historical scientific analysis. M. Vickery says that his book should be called ‘novel’.

After reading the analysis of M. Vickery, many complicated facts are well clarified.

It goes without saying that Cambodia's ancient history researchers have to make more research on many aspects. Many of them also depend upon the hypotheses of Coedès. History of Cambodia should be paid more attention to the relation with Srivijaya, especially about the Angkor Dynasty.

We also need go beyond M. Vickery's view about the history of Khmer. But M. Vickery's book features, lots of new things revealed from the inscriptions.

The aspect of the inner economy of Chenla regime is not so clear. About land ownership of paddy field, farmers seem they had only cultivation rights. The land ownership belonged to temples and local chiefs. There are many inscriptions concerning about donations of land.

No money as a medium of daily exchange, was used. As the exchange-tools, silver bullion and clothing and rice were frequently used. Basically, barter trade was practiced for daily life. Without international trade, money system was not necessary.

Inadequate formation of centralized government did not have a common currency, and the underdeveloped commodity economy need not currency. However, under Funan regime, some portion of coins prevailed, because Funan traded internationally they needed money. The coins became the measure of value, and in the medium of trade. It is not, however, a barter economy in the domestic rural areas, people did not use these coins.

M.Vickery's achievement in the decipherment of the ancient Khmer inscription, and correcting predecessors such as Coedès' mistranslation or misunderstanding must be highly evaluated first. But he also has some serious misconceptions. The main points are described below.

3-6-2 M. Vickery's misunderstanding

M. Vickery also made misunderstanding that Chenla had not stretched forces in the territory of Funan and merged Funan. The reason is Funan had lost economic power due to the decline of foreign trade, and Funan surrendered to the Chenla naturally and was absorbed peacefully and was not annexed by the armed forces of Chenla.

This is a serious his misunderstanding. If so, Chenla had not tried desperately to send the tributary mission to China after integration of Funan. Moreover, Chenla developed the land routes to send mission because Funan intercepted by naval force the sea route of Chenla.

M.Vickery ignores the importance of Funan's foreign trade. However, from the beginning of domination, Chenla's tributary trade-oriented policy is clear. But for Chenla it was unexpected that Funan fled with navy and increased the navy force in the Gulf of Thailand and the South Sea. Therefore, unavoidably Chenla had to develop the land route from the upper Mekong River to Yunnan province. Tribute by land was responsible for the small state ‘Wen-dan (文単)’, which is supposed Vientien, Laos.
Also, Chenla tried to use the trade ship of Linyi to multiply the tribute by the sea. In 628, Chenla (king Isanavarman) sent mission to the Tang Court with Linyi as above mentioned.
However such a method had not lasted long after the death of Isanavarman, and there happened the political confusion in the Linyi side.

M. Vickery understands Cham is ‘Java’. Certainly, the Cham tribe is a family of Austronesian languages and Cham tribe is skilled in sailing.

The problem here is in 802, Jayavarman II had declared independence from the ‘Java’, according to the SKT inscription.  Coedès believed Funan fled away to the Jawa Island and here M. Vickery believes this 'Java' is Champa. Unfortunately, Coedès and M. Vickery are both wrong. There is no inscription in Champa that Jayavarman II amassed huge troops to invade Chenla.

King Jayavarman II was probably born in the royal family of the Srivijaya in Chaiya area where he grew up. Jayavarman II's background of parents and ancestors are not known, but M. Vickery says Jayendra-dhipativarman is his relative on his mother side, but the name of Jayavarman II's parent is unknown.

Angkor had not sent the tribute mission to China from 814 until 1116 for 300 years. It is mystery why Angkor had not sent tribute to China for long time. M. Vickery should have noticed this fact.

M. Vickery had no notion of Srivijaya, especially the relation with Funan and Srivijaya. So, his understanding of Sailendra is too simple that Sailendra was a native kingdom of the Jawa Island. So, he did not understand the development of Srivijaya at all and the meaning of the Ligor inscription. He looked like a follower of Coedès in many respects.


3-7 Summary of the Chenla

After the death of Jayavarman I in 681, Chenla significantly lost its political power. The unity of Chenla had collapsed in the early 8th century. According to the Chinese chronicles, Chenla was divided between Water Chenla(south) and Land Chenla (north). From the economic point of view Water Chela was more active and prosperous than Land Chenla.
Chenla kingdom had centralized system in the early stage, they improved the economic situation a little, but could not enjoy the profit of the international trade. On the other hand, the local chiefs enjoyed autonomy and increased wealth and power, as the result the central government could not control them. The central government had lost the authority to control local chiefs.
The politics of the central authority of Sivaism could not control and influence people's mind.
Siva faith is ultimately King’s religion and did not get the support of farmers who had experienced Mahayana Buddhism in the Funan regime.
Rulers of Funan went into exile to Ban Ban state and unified central Malay Peninsula. Finally, before in 670 they established Shi-li-fo-shi (Srivijaya), which had the strong economic power to monopolize the tributary mission of the Malay Peninsula to the Tang dynasty.
In 680s, they put ‘Melayu’ in front of Singapore, Jambi, Palembang under control, and finally in 686, Srivijaya conquered Kha-ling (
訶陵、Sanjaya) in the central Jawa. As the result Srivijaya completely controlled the sea-lane of the Malacca Straits. So, Chenla was blocked from the trade with west countries.

Probably Water Chenla invaded Chaiya district around 745, but Srivijaya group (mainly by Sailendra navy) counter attacked around 760. The war between Funan and Chenla was moved to the sea and Sailendra navy (Srivijaya army) overwhelmed Chenla finally at the Bay of Bandon and further Chenla lost the river side ports of the Mekong River. As the result, Water Chenla was occupied by Srivijaya and Jayavarman II, the commander of Srivijaya landed at Kompong Cham area before 770. He overwhelmed Chenla finally and intergrated Chenla before 802.

Linyi (Champa) was probably attacked by the Sailendra navy, but escaped the occupation. However, Linyi had stopped sending the tribute mission after 750. Perhaps, Sailendra had destroyed the shipping facilities of Linyi around 760. The collapse Water Chenla and Linyi occurred almost at the same time.

Jayavarman II was dispatched from Srivijaya as the commander, and almost 30 years later he pretended to achieve the full independence from ‘Jawa’ and wiped out the old Chenla power from Cambodia. However, the relation between Srivijaya and Angkor had not changed for 300 years.

Chenla had been confined simple reproduction of rice in the economy and could not find the source of wealth in the international trade. Chenla rulers prohibited Mahayana Buddhism to the common people, while Sivaism was enforced.
  The religious restriction by Chenla rulers accelerated the spiritual division between rulers and farmers.


Table 1,  Chenla dynasty Kings


King names 



Bhavavarman I

550-600 ?

Son of Virvavarman



600-611 ?

  Bhavavarman's younger brother, Mahendravarman, His father is Virvavarman



611 ? -635?

 Isanavarman had been strategic ruler who integrated Khmer kingdom and wiped out Funan completely from Cambodia.



Bhavavarman II

635 ? -655 / 7

Isanavarman's youngest son.


Jayavarman I

655/7-681 ?

 Spread the Chenla territory widest.


Queen Jayadevi


Jayavarman I's daughter. Mourn the disunity of Chenla. Her successors are unknown.




 The following is not a King of united Chenla, (Wikipedia








 Killed by Sailendra?


Rajendravarman I


 Was the ruler of the coastal regions? (Briggs p105)




Son of Rajendravarman and father of Indradevi, mother of Yasovarman?