Funan was the first Hinduized kingdom in ancient Cambodia to cover the vast territory of present-day Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Table of contents
The word ‘Funan’
The word ‘funan’ is often written or pronounced as ‘faanaan’. Chinese cartographers, geographers and writers use the word ‘funan’ to refer to a place in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. The Chinese or Mandarin pronunciation of ‘funan’ is like ‘phnom’. If the word funan is really a Chinese phnom, it means ‘mountain’.
‘Funan’ is written in different languages—
|Bangla||ফুনান বা ফানান|
|Khmer||ហុ ន ន, Hvunân [fuːnɑːn]|
Funan, the name of an ancient state or empire?
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia with a history of at least 5,000 years. Modern Cambodia can be identified as a region called Funan in the periodic history of China. The Funan region is considered the southernmost part of the Indochina Peninsula from the first to the sixth centuries.
Funan was the first Hinduized kingdom in ancient Cambodia to cover the vast territory of present-day Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Funan had trade relations with India and China. but once there had been bad relations between China and Funan. But in 245 AD, receiving a special gift from the king of Funan, the Chinese ruler started a good relationship with Funan. Archaeological evidence suggests that Funan was primarily influenced by Indian culture.
Kaundinya I, an Indian Brahmin merchant from Kalinga, founded the state of Funan. The capital of Funan was in Vyadhapura. Kaundinya I was the founder of Funan but he was not the first monarch of the kingdom.
The Chinese considered Funan to be an empire, its rulers were called kings. And obviously, the form of government is the monarchy. But according to historians— although Funan is located across a vast area, it was just a state, not an empire. Most historians are reluctant to accept Funan as an empire.
The relatively developed Funanas lived along the coast and in the lower Mekong River valley and Mekong Delta region where they farmed rice and fish and raised livestock. The Funan civilization was heavily influenced by Indian civilization and culture.
The Iron Age of Southeast Asia began around 500 BC and lasted until the end of the Funan era and it provides strong evidence of sustainable maritime trade and socio-political interaction with India and South Asia.
The Funan Empire, formed in the first century, created a kind of complex and well-organized bond among the peoples that contributed to the development of a particular religious thought. Many researchers believe that the way the people of Funan spoke or communicated is closely related to the languages of the present day.
Funan was founded in about 6 AD in the first century and fell in 550 AD in the sixth century. After the fall of the Funan kingdom or empire, this vast region came to be known as Chenla or Jhenla.
The historical era of Funan is identified as Classical Antiquity.
Religions in Funan
Although Funan was a Hinduized or Indianized state, there existed some other religions too. Besides Hinduism, Funan’s people believed in Buddhism and Khmer Animism.
List of Funan rulers
The following are some of the notable rulers of the Funan Kingdom or the Funan Empire:
- Ning Neak or Queen Soma (Neang Neak) – ruled in the 1st or 2nd century
- Preah Thong – ruled in the 1st or 2nd century
- Hun Pan-huang – ruled in the 2nd century
- Pan-Pan – ruled until the end of the 2nd century
- Srei Meara or Fan Shīmàn – ruled in the early 3rd century
- Fàn Jīnshēng – The time of the reign is unknown
- Fàn Zhān (范 旃) – reigned from 230 AD to probably 243 AD
- Fàn Cháng – reigned after 243 AD
- Fan Xún – reigned from 245 or 250 AD to 26 AD
- Chandana or Zhantan (Candana / Zhāntán) – ascended the throne in 356 AD
- Kaundinya (Kaundinya / Qiáochénrú— ascended the throne in 420 AD)
- The first Sri Indravarman I – ruled from 430 to 440 AD
- Jayavarman Kaundinya (Jayavarman Kaundinya or Qiáochénrú Shéyébámó) – ruled from 484 AD to 514 AD
- Gunavarman (Guṇavarman) – came to power in 514 AD
- Rudravarman (Liudtuóbámó) – ruled from 514 AD to 545 AD
The first monarch of Funan was Soma, it is widely regarded. But it could not be ascertained whether the last king of Funan was Rudravarman or someone else.
Funan was a Hindu culture
As true as the name of a country, state, empire, or region is, it is true that Funan was the name of an ancient regional Hindu culture that was developed in Southeast Asia. It is said that this culture of Funan developed through the Indian subcontinent’s trade relations with the Sino-Cambodian region. The Funan culture played a role in prolonged socio-economic interactions with the maritime business partners of the West in the West.
The last word
Funan is an ancient civilization or state in Cambodia that can be identified as a Hinduized empire or state. Funan is the first Hinduized state in Buddhist-majority Cambodia. The close trade relations with India can be attributed to the spread of Hinduism and Hindu culture in the region. Funan is also the name of culture. But I have no personal opinion as to whether this Funan should be considered an empire because I have very little knowledge about it.
- Center for Khmer Studies
- History of Cambodia by Justin Cornfield (Book)