, 218 tweets, 18 min read Read on Twitter
1 like = 1 history fact, probably about SE Asia, possibly unpopular
the Balinese are historically one of the most violent peoples of SE Asia, and one of the few who practiced colonialism
Sumatra was a world centre of Mahayana Buddhism in 500-1000 CE, and had a major but poorly-understood impact on Tibetan religion
Suharto's military regime could not have been established in late 1960s w/o vocal and active support from pro-democracy liberal Indonesians
Javanese written literature goes back to the mid-9th c., which is as old as French literature, and much older than any other in SE Asia
In different contexts "a Malay" can refer to: a Malay speaker, a specific Malay cultural group, any island SE Asian, a Muslim, a Christian
In military terms, Indonesia severely lost its war of independence, and only prevailed through relentless and skilled diplomacy
In 802 Jayavarman II founded the great Angkorian empire of Cambodia by declaring independence from Java, his overlord
Despite being economically reliant on China and India in almost equal measure, SE Asian cultural borrowing was almost 100% skewed to India
From the 16th c., Malay kings traced their lineage all the way back to Alexander the Great, but the Qur'anic version of him, who was Muslim!
In 1871 under Burmese king Mindon, the Thervada Buddhist canon was inscribed in the world's physical book of 730 human-sized stone tablets
With some exceptions, Hinduism in SE Asia has been predominantly Shivaite, with little trace of the Vishnu/Krishna-devotionalism of India
@infiniteteeth world's *largest physical book
British governor TS Raffles' 4-year rule in 1811-14 generated more scholarship about Java than the Dutch East India Co.'s previous 192 years
The city Angkor in Cambodia was the preindustrial largest city in the world in its heyday, with low-density urban sprawl covering 1000 sq km
In earthquake-prone Java, temples were constructed using stone placed on top of brick foundations, which were much more resilient to shock
Writing seems to have come to SE Asia first from south India - the various 'local' scripts all appear to descend from Pallava script
Indigenous historical texts construe statehood in the concept of 'mandala', a political territory defined not by its borders but its centre
Despite achieving a near-monopoly on the importation of Indonesian spices to Europe, the Dutch East India Co. still went bankrupt in 1799
Sukarno's ideology was a nationalism centred on his personal leadership, allowing him tactical alliances with both fascists and communists
Keris daggers, if they are wavy, usually have an odd number of waves. Even-waved daggers are associated with black magic
Despite being a renowed Buddhist centre for centuries, so little remains of the Sriwijaya kingdom that we can't precisely locate its capital
The 16th c. is the least-documented in Java's history, fewer sources than the 500 years before or after. Guess what period I chose to study?
Indonesians sometimes compare colonisation experiences w Malaysians', claiming it would be better now had they been ruled by Britain too
Japanese occupation helped prepare Indonesian nationalists for anti-colonial resistance, both military and political, after WW2
Partly for that reason, Indonesians have been slow to hold Japan to account for its war crimes against them: forced labour and sex slavery
Mahayana Buddhism was particularly strong in Bali right up to 16th c., when a strictly clerical Shaivism became orthodoxy with royal support
Two absolutely crucial source texts for premodern Indonesian history were preserved only in Bali and unearthed only at the end of 19th c.
Most cities and towns in Indonesia have an Ahmad Yani St., commemorating the Army Chief-of-Staff assassinated in 1965
When Portuguese tried to capture spice trade by conquering Malacca in 1511, they just drove business to other ports eg Banten, Demak, Aceh
Royal women were relatively powerful in premodern SE Asia, regularly taking the throne or controlling it via sons and brothers
Many SE Asian traditional historical texts emerge out of drama traditions and vice versa - most people would have learnt history as theatre
Balinese people claim to be descended from Hindu Javanese from Majapahit - previously only royalty claimed this, but now many commoners do
Rather than a single 'Majapahit invasion' of 1343, evidence points to a long period of Hindu Javanese influence between 1000 and 1500
The extent to which Balinese have conserved this Javanese heritage led many scholars to treat Bali as a 'living museum' of ancient Java
This attitude served Dutch colonial interests by treating Hindu Balinese, not Muslim Javanese, as authentic inheritors of Javanese culture
The way Islamophobia shaped Dutch colonial scholarship on Indonesia has been recognised here and there, but not thoroughly researched afaik
A romance cycle called Panji emerged in East Java ~14th c. and spread in SE Asia - Indonesia's major original contribution to world lit.
37. All year-numbering systems in SE Asia began use long after their "year 1" & had to be calculated retrospectively, kinda like my tweets
38. The important era systems were the Shaka (from western Indian, began 78 CE) and the Hijrah (from Arabia, began 622 CE)
39. The Shaka counts lunisolar years (ie solar years like the West, but New Years Day moves back and forth to follow the moon, like Easter)
40. The Hijra era counts Islamic lunar months, uncorrelated with the sun or the seasons
41. In 1633 king of Mataram in Java switched from lunisolar to lunar without resetting to the Hijra year, creating a bizarre "compose era"
42. SE Asian interest in astronomy seems totally focussed on calculating auspicious days for big activities: building, invading, wedding
43. With such pragmatic concerns, I'm not aware of SE Asian contributions to astronomy as a science - mostly used Indian/Arabic knowledge
44. The Greek 12-sign zodiac came to SE Asia via India, which the Javanese paired with their own 12-sign system that had different animals
45. Thanks to 15th-16th c. spice trade, two minuscule islands in eastern archipelago, Ternate & Tidore, became powerful rival sultanates
46. Ternate & Tidore used their wealth to become local heavyweights, claiming territory as far as West Papua
47. Tidore's claim to West Papua was recognised by Dutch in 1660. As Tidore came into Dutch Indies, West Papua was thus claimed by Dutch
48. Another winner from eastern Indonesian commodity trade was Gowa in Sulawesi, which suddenly became a major power ~1600 with Islamisation
49. Leaders of Gowa and Talloq (its twin city) were remarkably cosmopolitan; one studied several European languages & the latest mathematics
50. Gowa's free trade policy enraged the Dutch monopolists, who eventually conquered the city in 1669 with help from its enemies in Sulawesi
51. South Sulawesi people were very interested in others' cultures - eg Makassar became a centre for Malay and Javanese literature
52. Literary links between Tamil-speaking South India & SE Asia involve certain Muslim texts being translated to & from Tamil/Malay/Javanese
53. While Tamil is important, its traces in SE Asian language and literature aren't as obvious as Sanskrit, which is seen everywhere
54. Relations with northeast India are important too - we have inscriptions of an 8th c Javanese king sponsoring a Buddhist temple in Bihar
55. A pastime of 20th c. scholars was to try to pinpoint which parts of India influenced which parts of SE Asia, but evidence is too thin
56. Sri Lanka is another vital component, bc dominance of Theravada Buddhism in mainland SE Asia from ~1400 really separated mainland/island
57. Mongols and Javanese had a major showdown in 1290s, after east Javanese king Kertanagara supposedly mutilated Kublai Khan's emissary
58. The Khan sent tends of thousands of soldiers to punish Kertanagara, but when they arrived he had already been killed by a usurper
59. The Chinese-Mongol army got manipulated by a young prince called Wijaya into overthrowing the usurper
60. Wijaya double-crossed the Chinese-Mongol army and destroyed most of it. Then he took over the kingdom from a new capital at Majapahit
61. After this period we see horse archers first appear in Javanese art - my colleague believes horse archery came via the Mongol invasion
62. Despite their political, personal and social differences, there are a few general similarities between Sukarno and Suharto's reigns
63. Both came to power by leading incredibly diverse coalitions against common enemy: colonialism in Sukarno's case, communism in Suharto's
64. Both sought to reshape their political systems based on their immediate needs; despite what they said, they weren't big-picture people
65. Both gradually alienated their former allies, replacing genuine political collaboration with personality cults and loyalist cliques
66. As a consequence, neither was able to implement a workable succession plan, and both were forced out of office
67. Most important primary sources for SE Asian history 500-1300 are inscriptions, vast majority of which are tax records, land certificates
68. Such inscriptions give us good insight into the bureaucracy, but there are also ones that give royal histories and genealogies
69. In Hindu-Islamic SE Asia historical texts tend not to consistently structured with chronological dates, making life tough for historians
70. In the Theravada Buddhist regions and those close to China, historical texts tend to use years more with more self-consistent chronology
71. (I believe that) in regions of Islamic influence, historical texts use genealogical trees to structure their texts instead of chronology
72. In Java and Bali, recorded years can be represented by a "chronogram": a symbolic code for the digits of the year
73. Chronograms use conventional cultural associations ("eye = 2", "fire = 3") to represent e.g. 1535 as 'territory-quality-wind-person'
74. In Java, chronograms can make full sentences relating to events of that year, e.g. 1400 = "world's [1] wellbeing [4] was destroyed [00]"
75. Chronograms clearly come from India, since the conventions are based on Indian cultural images, and specifically from Sanskrit texts
76. Chronograms also exist in the West; they're based on Roman numerals. A brilliant example is SICVLICIDIVM = 1764 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siculicid…
77. Indian/Indonesian chronograms use a word-symbol code, while the others I know of (Western, Hebrew) use a letter-symbol code
78. Rise of nationalist leaders in early 20th c. Dutch Indies was largely a result of middle-rank aristocrats being allowed higher education
79. In the late 19th c., the state-run economic exploitation of Indies workforce became unpopular in the Netherlands, on humanitarian groups
80. In response, the 'Ethical Policy' was instituted, which involved allowing select Indies natives (the upper class) to go to university
81. Nationalist leaders like Sukarno were drawn from a particular class: professional (doctors, engineers), born 1900-10, petty aristocracy
82. Their experience of democratic politics in the Netherlands, contrasted with the strictures of Indies, pushed them to organise in 1920s
83. Various youth political orgs made the Youth Pledge on 28 Oct 1928, acknowledging a single language, nation and territory: Indonesia
84. The Dutch cracked down on nationalism throughout the 1930s, imprisoning the leaders in far-flung places like Flores and Papua
85. The Dutch resisted nationalism by incorporating anti-nationalist natives opportunities in their bureaucracy and army
86. The Japanese invasion changed the game - Dutch were interred while people like Sukarno were released & sponsored to promote nationalism
*interned, obviously, lol
87. As the war turned against the Japanese, they set up mechanisms to prepare for an 'independent' Indonesia that would oppose the Allies
88. By this stage the Sukarno generation was in their late 30s/early 40s; a new generation emerged called the '45ers, born around 1920-25
89. The 45er nationalists were mobilised for the anti-colonial struggle through Japanese-created paramilitary and civilian institutions
90. 45ers were different to the Sumpah Pemuda generation: more used to violent struggle, lower income, little higher education in Dutch
91. 45ers experienced huge social mobility through their role in Indonesia's independence bc they largely displaced the colonial bureaucracy
92. 45ers were very ideologically diverse, but the impact of their shared experience, in my view, justifies a 'generational' analysis
93. Despite their prestige, the 45ers were blocked from national leadership by the Sumpah Pemuda generation throughout the 50s
94. Finding the parliamentary route to power rather slow, the 45ers came to dominate two other orgs: the Army and the Communist Party
95. By early 1960s, Sukarno had increased his executive power at expense of the support of his own generation, so he tried to coopt 45ers
96. He was ultimately unsuccessful, bc in 1965 the Army destroyed its rival 45ers in Communist Party by mass killing, imprisonment and rape
97. The Army was led in these actions by Suharto, a farmers* son whose social standing had skyrocketed since 1940s, thanks to being a 45er
98. The asterisk is bc persistent rumours that Suharto was in fact the illegitimate son of a well-off businessman whose identity is unknown
99. Traditional texts of island SE Asia have long been written on dried palm leaves, either inscribed with a knife or marked with pen
100. Paper came into use rather later, around the 17th c., and was especially useful for writing in Arabic script, as Malays did
101. Some areas, like Bali, continued to predominantly use palm leaf for traditional texts even after paper became common for other uses
102. The hot humid climate and presence of insects mean that SE Asian manuscripts have been especially vulnerable to decay
103. Unlike in Europe, the physical copies of SE Asian texts rarely survive more than a century, so they have to be constantly recopied
104. This introduces a great deal of precarity into the textual record; many texts have disappeared just bc they were recopied in time
105. Norms of copying did not always prioritise verbatim accuracy; the copyists often had freedom to modify the wording of the original
106. This makes things tricky with historical texts because later versions often don't cite their earlier sources, but just say "it is said"
107. The generalisations of the past 5 tweets mostly apply to island SE Asia; from what I know, the mainland had stricter copying standards
108. The obscurity of textual traditions is a major reason why our knowledge of SE Asian history is much thinner than that of China, Europe
109. Another major reason is the tendency for state capitals to move during times of war, leading to huge losses of royal archives
110. This is because royal capitals were based on the residence of a particular dynasty, so it moved when a new dynasty took power
111. It has recently been argued that there was no notion of 'statehood' in SE Asia independent of 'royalty' and 'kinship'
112. This argument emerges from close reading of traditional historical texts, in which govt officials are personal servants of the ruler
113. Govt consistent of royal families with their retinue, dominating other aristocratic families with their own retinues
114. This is often called 'feudalism', but a big difference with the European kind is that power was based on control over people not land
115. This argument, popular from the 1970s onwards, has been critiqued putting too much weight on textual over material evidence
116. The materialist argument goes that to support the expenditure of royalty (huge temples etc.) you need a 'state' economic infrastructure
117. In criticising textualists' 'family-state' or 'theatre-state' models, some materialists say they're not models of reality, but ideology
118. I don't know enough about archaeology to adjudicate, but I suspect much of the disagreement is about semantics
119. Historians tend to associate statehood with written records - great example of this is Georges Coedès' book 'Indianized States of SEA'
120. In this way of thinking, what were petty chiefs (proto-states) turned into kings when Indian writing and ideology arrived ~5th c.
121. Scholarly orthodoxy in first half of 20th c. was 'Indianisation' - a one-way process of cultural influence that transformed SE Asia
122. That SEA was influenced by India (especially Sanskritic high culture) is undeniable, in literature, language, art, architecture
123. The term 'Greater India' came into vogue, denoting a vast area including much of SE Asia under India's cultural sway
124. Among SE Asia specialists (as opposed to Indologists) there was always discomfort with how this idea made SE Asians seems so passive
125. Wolters in 1970s challenged 'Indianisation' by his term 'localisation' - how pre-existing SE Asian tendencies reshaped Indian concepts
126. The idea of a pre-Indian SE Asian civilisation was given a boost by linguistic studies into the Austronesian language family
127. Study of common features of languages of island SEA suggested there had been ancient commonalities of culture too
128. Wolters' picture of SE Asians selectively appropriating Indian ideas, according to pre-existing beliefs & needs, gave them more agency
129. This was a political project, to show SE Asia was equal to the great civilisations of India and China, and not a mere backwater
130. But the project can only go far if it looks only at the SE Asia. What about SE Asian cultural exports? They're not so obvious
131. Now 50 years after Wolters' ideas became big, I think this is the next big question: how did SE Asian culture affect world culture?
132. There are a couple of promising leads: Buddhist scholarly links between Sumatra-India-Tibet during the Sriwijaya period 600 - 1300 CE
133. Muslim literary/religious links from 1400 - 1700 CE between Ottoman Turkey, Iran, Mughal India, Aceh and the Malay world
134. Commodity and knowledge relations between early modern Europe during the spice trade period 1500 - 1700 CE
135. Regarding Europe-SE Asia relationship, it's important to remember that it was not so unequal in this early period as it became later
136. Tony Reid gives a small but illustrative fact: in the 17th c., SE Asians on the whole were just as tall as Europeans
137. Reid mentions also that around 1500, the Portuguese reported that Chinese-Javanese ships were incredibly numerous and massive
138. Despite this early European colonists were able to effectively defend their fortified bases in Malacca (Portuguese) and Batavia (Dutch)
139. Shadow puppetry traditions in much of SE Asia used the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata as their core narrative content
140. These narratives were known in Java at least in the 9th c. - the oldest SE Asian literature is a Javanese adaption of Ramayana ~850
141. The Javanese Ramayana is not an adaptation of the canonical Sanskrit version by Valmiki, but a later South Indian version by Bhatta
142. Bhatta's version is actually a guide to Sanskrit language and poetics, so Javanese Ramayana may have been an elaborate poetic exercise
142a. Sorry, it's spelt Bhatti
143. Around a hundred years later, a very long prose translation of the Adiparwa (first book of the Mahabharata) into Javanese was written
144. Its great length allowed Dutch/Indonesian scholar Zoetmulder to write his work of Old Javanese grammar: "the language of the Adiparwa"
145. The Ramayana story also appears on the main temple of the Prambaban complex, which is also dated ~850
146. Art history scholars believe that's it's a slightly different version to the Bhatti one that's preserved in manuscripts
147. It's not hard to imagine a variety of Ramayana stories circulating in early Java as poems, sculpted reliefs and performance
148. A distinctive feature of SE Asian renditions of these Indian epics is the presence of buffoon characters, called punakawan in Javanese
149. These are comic, low-status characters who accompany the heroes. They add humour and intimacy to otherwise serious literature
150. A function of the buffoons in modern performance is to translate the archaic language of the heroes' into something intelligible
151. They serve as intermediaries between the narrative and audience, and often make topical references to the performance context
152. These buffoons appear not only in shadow puppetry, but also on stone reliefs and in poems, showing how interlinked these media are
153. Buffoons became so important in Javanese culture that in certain context they became mystical figures, especially their leader Semar
154. The 15th-16th c. saw a growth in Shaiva mystical literature, based in remote mountain in communities of East Java
155. In this context, Semar became identified with Batara Guru, ie Shiva in his manifestation as teacher
156. This identification had the dramatic effect of revealing a powerful wisdom behind the appearance of buffoonery
157. Semar was particularly important in the 20th c as a role model for President Suharto, who was very into Javanese mysticism
158. From early adulthood he had various spiritual mentors and was believed to meditate in caves during his presidency
159. In March 1966 after several months of bloodshed, Suharto was given Sukarno's authority to restore order by any means possible
160. This authorisation was given the abbreviation Supersemar, a clear allusion to the wayang figure Suharto identified with
161. On the basis of Supersemar, Suharto banned the communist party and laid the foundations for his gradual replacement of Sukarno
162. Opponents of Suharto sometimes depict his rise to power as a "coup", but it was remarkably slow and calculated
163. This matches Bob Elson's characterisation of him as extremely risk-averse and methodical in his tactics
164. His rise required two distinct actions - the destruction of the communists and the removal of Sukarno's support
165. The second was important within the armed forces (esp. Air Force), who could have militarily resisted army rule
166. Though much of the mass killings were over by March, communist guerillas continues resistance until up to 1968 in East Java
167. It took until mid 1967 before Sukarno was forced to resign as President, but Suharto was only acting President until 1968
168. Shift of gears. Buddhist came to Tibet relatively late in 7th c. CE, being long established in India, China and parts of Central Asia
169. Tibetan tradition holds that it arrived earlier in the 5th, by means of miraculous Buddhist items falling from the sky
170. But the first translation of Buddhist texts into Tibetan occurred in the the reign of Songtsen Gampo (first half 7th c)
171. This coincided with the expansion of Songtsen's power from its seat in Lhasa in the Yarlung valley, creating the first "Tibetan empire"
172. Songtsen was reputed to have 6 wives, of whom 2 were non-Tibetan: Wenceng (a Tang Chinese princess) and Bhrikuti (a Nepalese princess)
173. Later Tibetan historiography depicted them as embodiments of Tara, Goddess of Compassion: Wenceng the White Tara and Bhrikuti the Green
174. The marriages showed Songtsen's international statue, as well as his acceptance of both Chinese & Indian strands of Buddhism
175. One way of understanding early Buddhism in Tibet, which appears in local texts, is as a tension between Indian and Chinese traditions
176. In the the reign of Songtsen's successor, a debate was held between Indian and Chinese teacher to determine who would get royal support
177. In later texts this was framed as a conflict between 'gradualist' and 'immediate' paths to Enlightenment respectively
178. Very roughly, the gradualist path emphasised gaining knowledge for liberation, while the immediate favoured release from misconceptions
179. There were also differences of opinion between the streams about the nature of emptiness - I'm vastly underqualified to discuss them
180. The point is Indian adepts were favoured by Trisong Detsen (the king in question) because gradualism seemed compatible with his goals
181. His priorities were enforcing central royal power over the nobility and countryside; Indian Buddhism seemed to be a useful ally
182. Tibetan historiography remembers his opponents as 'demons'- local political interests who supported local Bön religion against Buddhism
183. There is a story of Trisong Detsen summoning a scholar from the Indian university Nalanda to 'tame the demons' in his realm
184. This scholar, Shankaraksita, was unsuccessful because despite his learning, he didn't have the magical abilities to defeat demons
185. So the King got another Indian, Padmasambhava, who was a tantric adept, to do the job, which he did
186. The demons, which were associated with local powers, were not destroyed so much as 'tamed' into service of Buddhism
187. So on one hand the King favoured scholarly styles of Buddhism, to maintain authority he also relied on mystical streams of the religion
(the above 'facts' about the streams of Buddhism are based on my limited reading of much later Tibetan historians, like 16th c Taranatha)
188. Songtsen and Trisong were two of three 'dharma Kings', ie kings who advanced Buddhism in this 'early transmission' period 7th - 9th c.
189. The 3rd dharma King was Ralpacan, under whom the empire reached its greatest territorial extent and more Buddhist patronage occurred
190. At Ralpacan's death he was replaced by his brother Langdharma, who in later sources is depicted as a persecutor of Buddhism
191. Due to Langdharma's religious policy and the collapse of the empire at his death, Buddhism is said to have lost ground until 11th c.
192. The accuracy of this 'discontinuity' hypothesis isn't fully established - there's evidence of continuous intensive translation of texts
193. Although this 'imperial' period has pretty good contemporary sources, we rely for interpretation on later partisan Buddhist views
194. This Tibetan 'empire' coincided with Sriwijaya in Sumatra, another Buddhist centre, connected through Indian universities like Nalanda
195. In early 11th c., a Bengali prodigy called Atisha studied in Sriwijaya, and had a huge impact on Tibetan Buddhism
196. After protests against Jakarta's Christian governor, some believe Islamic identity politics now dominates. If true, it'd be first time
197. In colonial period, explicitly Islamic mobilisation was almost always anti-colonial & usually anti-aristocratic. So Dutch repressed it
198. Many major resistance figures, eg Diponegoro, Cut Nyak Dien, Imam Bonjol, fought the Dutch on Islamic grounds, though not exclusively
199. However, most of those nationalists who led the Republic in the struggle 1945-49 were not close to Islamic movements
200. Kartosuwiryo, a west Javanese revolutionary leader, broke from the Republic in 1949 and established an Islamic State of Indonesia
201. Kartosuwiryo opposed the republic because Pancasila, its basic principles, didn't foreground Muslim faith or styles of statecraft
202. Though confined to the west Javanese countryside, Kartosuwiryo gained the support of Acehnese in 1953, and other Sumatrans in 1958
203. Some like the Acehnese were ousting Jakarta for explicitly Muslim governance while others were more motivated by politics than religion
204. In response to this, martial law was declared and the army spent 1957-62 in a military campaign against Kartosuwiryo and his allies
205. With the death of Kartosuwiryo, and under president's Sukarno and Suharto, Indonesian nationalism was not predominantly Islamic
206. Sukarno, trying to balance political forces in early 1960s, bundled nationalism, religion and communism into his personal NASAKOM brand
207. Suharto coopted Muslim organisations' resentment of communists to conduct his massacres in the mid 1960s that brought the army to power
208. But once the army was in full control in early 1980s, Suharto violently persecuted Muslims who questioned his policies
209. And when the generals had become a bit alienated from Suharto in the 1990s, he once again tried to curry favour with Muslim politicians
210. Generally, in the authoritarian period (1959-1998) Islamic politics was manipulated by two leaders whose power base was elsewhere
211. Resistance by orgs who drew political power from Muslim identity never went away, but was kept in check by authoritarian nationalism
212. This thread is back! The third-oldest (I think) copy of the Qur'an in SE Asia is from Bali - it belongs to a man in the Kampung Jawa settlement of Singaraja in north Bali, and was inscribed on Thursday 23 October 1635
213. West Bali has a rich Islamic history. One example is the village of Loloan, which according to local tradition was founded in the mid 17th c. by a group of itinerant Muslims from Sulawesi, who acted as mediators of seaborne trade for the Hindu aristocracy
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