Kota Gelanggi – in reply to a personal query concerning the unexpected and sudden lack of news on the newly unearthed ancient city in Johor

I don’t know about the events and the actual facts pertaining to the lost city of Kota Gelanggi and all the various things surrounding the announcements, fanfare and then the cover up etc.
It was under my radar in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

But what is a well known fact, well-documented and historically accurate is that :

Islam established itself at first slowly but then rapidly over the framework of the cultures and religions that were there before in the various parts of the South-East Asian region where it took hold.

The first records of Arab and Indian Muslim traders in Indonesia, Malaya, Cambodia, Vietnam date probably from ca. 8th/9th Century C.E. but the influence and conversions really only started in the 12th Century and most vigorously from the 14th to 16th Centuries.. (late in the history of the region).

Indonesia in the archaic period was a predominantly Hindu country (combined with the native animism and land / forest gods) for a very long time even before Buddhism; and Buddhism took hold only in various regions (analogous to what happened in Angkor and other parts of Indo-China).

The various documented facts which the email you forwarded mention are pretty much accurate and accepted worldwide (about Sri Vijaya, the Cholas, Parameswara etc) but there may be a couple that are disputed.
The Indian influence on South East Asia (and to a lesser extent China but only lesser, not small) is undeniable and so powerful.

Where the native genius of the people was strong and ready quite spontaneously, a flowering of amazing civilisations arose:
the various kingdoms and empires of Sumatra, Java, are a case in point.
And of course those in Angkor (which many now believe was seeded by the Hindu Indonesians)

No one can deny the Indian spark and source of culture (and further East and North, Chinese) but they took un undeniably Javanese, Sumatran, Angkorian, Funanese (Vietnamese), and later Burmese, Mon, Thai developments and unique expressions.
There is nothing quite like Angkor or Prambanan or Borobudur or Pagan or Prome etc.
They are not copies of Indian originals.. they have their own style, vigour and cultural characterisitics and are unique in world culture.

Unfortunately, in the Malay Peninsula this did not happen to the same extent as the rest of SE Asia.
Perhaps it was a matter of timing. I don’t know.
The legacy of stone temple building, stone palaces etc is relatively small.
And without that cultural security, pride and ballast I can imagine that there is a growing current that wants some glory and it’s probably shaping itself along its modern religious, cultural, linguistic lines.
(Every modern country requires its pride in the past but maybe will remake it in their own image.)
I will try to find out more about Kota Gelanggi when I have some time.

What is clear is that no culture is based on just ONE ancestral group, we are all to a greater or lesser degree the fruit
of an intermingling.
We as Cantonese should know that the original peoples who lived in what is now known as Guangdong province were only assimilated quite late and slowly into the “Han” Chinese world.
They went into battle semi-naked, tatttoed themselves, spoke a non-Chinese tongue, drank snakes blood quite copiously and were Great artisans already before the spread southwards.
They were already carving some amazing jades in the archaic periods and their style strongly influenced the Chinese in the North.

There is a reason why Cantonese call themselves people of the Tang, not people of the Han.
Their full assimilation and acceptance of the Chinese “Code” took full form later..during the Tang.

I am no big authority on this, just an interested artist who is always self-educating and learning.
The nature of the subject and the email you received is sensitive and inflammatory when looked at from different perspectives.

If it does make some waves, hopefully it will also facilitate discussion and allow a more balanced and rich view of what and who we are
in what is perhaps the most
beautifully mixed region in Asia.

South-East Asia.


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