Lecture 1. Southeast Asia Wealth Economy and The Emergence Of The Hindu Temple City Model

This lecture introduces the general principles of the process known as Indianization, which begins more or less around 200 CE and continues for the next centuries as palace elites establish themselves across southeast Asia. The lecture points to the extraordinary commodity wealth in the tropics, that that could NOT be found in India or China but that the Indian and Chinese elites wanted, such as gems, gold, diamonds, pearls, incense, dried barks and bird’s nests. These were all luxury items. The problem was access and the geo-political control of trade. The lecture discusses the importance of the monsoon and the nature of SE Asia boats that used a swarm effect to master the risk and distance. The lecture then goes to the Hindu temple city as an example of Theocratic Urbanism. These cities were both economic and spiritual places, and it was the temple-city combination that worked so well as a wealth extraction mechanism in southeast Asia. The temple-city-palace, controlled by a small number of elites could be implemented at different scales, thus its versatility. I contrast this with Chinese cities, which basically come in one scale – enormous – which explains to some degree why an attempted Sinoization from China was ineffective. Small but powerful, we see the emergence of Indianized, palace- elites, positioning themselves near river mouths. At the end of the lecture, I discuss Keda, one of the early Hindu sites opened up by Indian trades. Keda served as a place where goods were carried over the mountains to the east shore for transport to China. The reason was that before about 600 CE, the Indian traveling ships could not yet manage the Malacca Straits.

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Lecture Notes