Cambodia - History of the East

12.4. Cambodia

The oldest public education in Cambodia was Funan - an indianized state, whose history is known mainly from Chinese chronicles. Everything that is known about Funani indicates the Indian and Hindu-Buddhist political and cultural origins of this state, whereas it is difficult to say anything specific about the ethnic characteristics of the population. It is not excluded that even then Khmers were one of the main local substrata, although it is possible that their role at that time was still small. The conquest of Funani by her northern neighbor , in the past her vassal, led in the middle of the VI. to the domination of the Khmer people, whose culture and writing were formed on an Indo- Buddhist Sanskrit basis. It is believed that Indo-Iranian by origin was also the name of Cambodia, which became known as the new state. The few inscriptions in Sanskrit and the Khmer languages, as well as the materials of Chinese sources, contain a lot of information about the early periods of the history of Cambodia, which was often visited by Chinese embassies (it is worth remembering that during these centuries, China was the suzerain of Vietnam and the Chinese were often beside the Khmer state)

The information in question suggests that the structure of the early Khmer Cambodia was typical of Eastern societies. Landowners were mostly peasants living in communities. There was official land tenure. In the treasury was a stream of rent-tax. The state apparatus developed on the usual hierarchical-bureaucratic basis. The dominant religion was Buddhism, although Hinduism played a huge role (even in mythology there are traces of the claims of the ruling house of Cambodia to the relationship with the legendary Hindu Moon and Sunny dynasties). At the turn of the 7th- VIII centuries. Cambodia split into several rival states, during the internecine struggle of which from the 9th c. began to intensify Kambujadesha (Angkor Cambodia) with its deified rulers ( deva-raja , ie, the king-god), the cult of which greatly contributed to the development of magnificent palace and temple complexes .

Unrivaled top of this construction were the Angkor temples with their dominant of a series of towers in the form of a linga, a Shaivite male symbol of the power of the ruler. Accordingly, a huge role in the country was played by Hindu priests-brahmanas, who lived in this country, or who constantly arrived there.

The ruler of the country was the supreme owner of everything, including the earth, i.e. subject of power-ownership. Part of the land itself belonged to the court, a lot - to the priests and temples. The income from the rest went to the treasury. The communal peasants cultivated the land, however, in the royal and temple lands, this was usually done by incomplete khnyum. The administrative apparatus consisted of officials who received temporary office holdings for the service, which, as a rule, were also cultivating khnyum. Since the posts, especially in the higher ranks of bureaucracy, were hereditary, the official was close in status to the noble aristocrat with his hereditary, often overgrown in feudal, potential opportunities and rights.

The heyday of Angkor Cambodia came in the 11th century. Since the XIII century. it began to noticeably weaken, which in no small measure was facilitated by the penetration of Buddhism from neighboring countries in its southern, hinyanistic form. The religious struggle between Hindu Shivaites and Buddhists led to the victory of Buddhism in Cambodia, which coincided with the weakening and disintegration of Kambujadeshi. Since the XIV century. the almost theocratic power of the deified monarch is a thing of the past. Hinayana Buddhism becomes the state religion. Since the 15th century, when the Thais had looted Angkor, Kambujadesha had finally ceased to exist. However, soon Cambodia was recreated with the capital in Phnom Penh, but the greatness of the country, like its national pride, the temples of Angkor, are gone, into history.

In the XVI-XVII centuries. Siam and Daiviet (Vietnam) strongly pressed Cambodia. And although Khmer sometimes managed to stand up for himself, the power was no longer on their side. The struggle ended in the fact that in the XIX century. the rulers of Cambodia were compelled to recognize the twin suzerainty of Siam and Vietnam and seek help from their overlords on the side, from the French who did not fail to take advantage of it, which led, as it is known, to the transformation of Cambodia into a colony of France.

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