srivijaa - Matt Arpin Srivijaya: The Decline of the Venice...

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Matt Arpin Srivijaya: The Decline of the Venice of Asia The maritime power known as Srivijaya was one of the most powerful gateways from Western Asia to the great Chinese empire . It dominated trade in that area with a policy of high tariffs and a powerful navy that enforced the tariffs . From the 8 th century to the 12 th century, they were undisputed masters of the Southeast Asian sub-continent, and a major player in the East in terms of commerce . They were a tributary state of China, with a good relationship with India and they were the center of Mahayana Buddhism, with over 1000 monks said to be studying there (Andaya 19) . In its prime, it was a cultural, religious, and commercial power center, wielding absolute control over around 14 vassal states . However, in the late 13 th century, their strong arm tactics, and widespread revolutions amongst their vassal states lead to the downfall of a once powerful empire . The downfall was so complete, that the name Srivijaya disappeared from the minds of mankind until 1918, when a French Historian named George Coedes pieced together fragmented mentions of them from manuscripts and tablets from the past(Coedes 31) . It was then that this mighty kingdoms legacy was again revealed, and the reasons and method of their downfall was brought to light . Although they were undeniably powerful and efficient, their aggressive tactics and subtle manipulations ultimately lead to their destruction .
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Srivijaya was a massive empire at its apex, but its beginnings were fairly modest . On the island of Sumatra, along the Musi River, the city of Palembang had long been a powerful and influential trading spot for Chinese and Indian merchants (Chatterji 47) . However, Srivijaya started on the path to maritime dominance due to a series of lucky circumstances . The first of these circumstances was the collapse of Funan, and its subsequent amalgamation by the kingdom of Chenla destroyed a major maritime power in Southeast Asia (SarDesai 45) . Furthermore, Chenla’s inability to influence trade in the area and make significant diplomatic connections with China and India left a major power vacuum that the leaders of Palembang was quick to take advantage of . These leaders were brilliant and graced with talented and skilled military personnel, and diplomats who managed to manipulate many local countries into their good graces . Through a series of military conquests, marriage alliances, and tributary offerings, the Empire of Srivijaya was formed . They moved out into the nearby islands, the Malaysian mainland, and even managed to take the major port city of Malayu, which became their northern capital (Chatterji 47) . Another lucky circumstance was the state of international trade during that time period . With the near simultaneous collapse of the Han and Roman empires in the 5 th century, world trade had taken a major blow, and been nearly nonexistent for several centuries (Gullick 59) . However, with end of the civil
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This note was uploaded on 04/30/2008 for the course HI 2210 taught by Professor Xiaoxiangli during the Spring '08 term at Plymouth.

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srivijaa - Matt Arpin Srivijaya: The Decline of the Venice...

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