The Empire Looks South
Chinese Perceptions of Cambodia before and during the Kingdom of Angkor
- PUBLISHED: October 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia, History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 432 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 19 b&w illus., 2 maps
- ISBN: 9786162151965
- Publisher: Silkworm Books
The most famous firsthand account of the Kingdom of Angkor was left by the imperial Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan. But Zhou's was not the only portrait of Angkor and the kingdoms that came before it. The Empire Looks South draws on other sources to provide new and engrossing perspectives on early Cambodia up to and including the time of Angkor. These sources include accounts in official Chinese histories, descriptions by Buddhist monks, reflections of Daoists searching for immortality, and reports by Chinese merchants seeking perfumes and other exotic goods.
The first kingdom of Cambodia, Funan, was centered on the lower Mekong. After its mysterious demise in the seventh century, Funan was succeeded by Zhenla, the Chinese name for Cambodia until the time of Zhou Daguan. Peter Harris provides details of the kingdom of Funan. He then describes the royal government and customs of Zhenla, while taking account of Cambodia's likely fragmentation at the time into several polities. The book concludes with accounts of Angkor in its final centuries, including an updated translation of Zhou Daguan's Record.
Authors & Contributors
Peter Harris is senior fellow at the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he was founding director of Asian studies. Previously he was a representative of the Ford Foundation in China and an international consultant on civil society. He has published widely on Chinese politics, culture, and history. His latest book is a new translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War.
Drawing on an impressive array of sources across eleven centuries, Peter Harris's compelling new book sheds rare light on Chinese perceptions of, and interactions with, early Southeast Asia. From elephant diplomacy to Buddhist historiography, it offers an alternative lens on Funan, Zhenla, and Angkor. Essential and revelatory reading.- Penny Edwards, University of California, Berkeley
The best understanding of an extraordinary story.- Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore
This absorbing, clear-eyed book will be indispensable to scholars of Cambodian history and readers interested in Chinese relations with the region long before it was 'discovered' by the West.- David Chandler, professor emeritus, Monash University