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The Funan Empire

Sometimes people get lost; sometimes even a city in a jungle or a desert gets lost. In Southeast Asia empires sometimes get lost. Funan is one of those lost empires; empires that rose to prominence, declined and then was forgotten over the centuries.

Funan existed along the southern edge of Southeast Asia in what is now Cambodia and southern Vietnam and extending an uncertain amount to the west into what is now Thailand even perhaps into what is Myanmar (Burma).

We know of Funan from references to it in the records of the Chinese Empire. It was a tributary state to China from about 300 AD to 600 AD. Funan is the Chinese pronunciation of the ancient Khmer word pnom, meaning mountain. The exact nature of the ethnology of Funan is uncertain but it was probably an Indianized state of Khmer people that preceded the similar state at Angkor Wat.

Funan arose about 100 AD and was taken over by Chenla, its former vassal state, about 600 AD. Chenla subsequently divided into a kingdom oriented to the land and centered in northern Cambodia and Laos and a kingdom oriented to the sea in the Mekong Delta region in what is now southern Vietnam.

(To be continued.)

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