Southeast Asia has been at the crossroads of world trade for thousands of years. This exchange of goods also brought ideas that were absorbed by its ancient societies, The different responses to ideas religions and the technologies that came from China, India, West Asia and Europe over the centuries gave rise to the differences that we see in modern Southeast Asia today.
The earliest evidence of human habitation in Southeast Asia dates back at least 40 000 years. In the last six thousand years, agriculture became the main way of life and societies became more settled. The appearance of prestige goods such as pottery and bronze suggest that societies were becoming technologically advanced and socially complex. These early societies are now increasingly viewed by historians as agricultural and maritime innovators.
Some of the DIFFERENT KINGDOMS and RELIGIONS
Hindu Buddhist Kingdoms
Indian merchants brought Hindu-Buddhist belief systems and new ideas about kingship to the region. These beliefs presented the ruler as a god-king. Rulers were closely identified with Shiva, Vishnu and Buddha.
The 16th Century was a period of upheaval, which saw the spread of Islam from the mercantile city states of the Northern coast and the rise of the second Mataram empire. The Dutch East India Company gradually eroded the power of Mataram, and by the end of the 17th Century the Dutch had more or less complete political and economic control of the island. The Javanese royals turned their energies toward artistic and cultural achievements.
During the 11th century, Burmese links with Sri Lanka introduced Theravada Buddhism into the region. over the next for centuries, it gradually replaced Hinduism to become the main religion of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. In this school of thought, the Three Jewels (Triatna) - the Buddha, the dhamma (teachings) and the sangha (community of monks) form the core around which the people practiced their faith.
MATERIAL WORLD OF JEWELRY AND TEXTILES
In many Southeast Asia are as diverse as the many cultures, metalworking and textile weaving are viewed as acts of creation and not just merely handicraft . hence, there are many rituals and taboos abserved with such materials. For instance, metalworking is done by men and textile weaving by women.
The performing arts in Southeast Asia are as divers as the many cultures they come from. Interstingly, they appear to have some shared origins. For example, bronze instruments, which were introduced in the region at least 2500 years ago, were probably the ancestors of the gamelan and other bronze ensembles of the regions. The performing arts are usually associated with religious rituals in which performers are commonly viewed as healers and shamans communicating between this world and the other. For example, the Cambodian and Indonesian masked dance traditions are still performed for healing ceremonies.