Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific
Edited by Matthew Tonts and M. A.B. Siddique
Chapter 9: Agriculture, Development and Southeast Asian Megacities
Brian J. Shaw EARLY CITIES AND LATE URBANISATION The history of urban forms within Southeast Asia can be traced back over a period of some 2000 years. Scholars have recognised the existence of two distinctive forms of indigenous settlement; namely the sacred city, generally located inland and designed according to cosmological principles; and the coastal or riparian trading city ideally placed to take advantage of the regional archipelago. While both forms prospered concurrently, the political fortunes of individual cities waxed and waned, and over time early inland centres such as Vyadhapura, capital of the Kingdom of Funan from the first century CE, gave way to Angkor, centre of the Khmer empire, which in turn was surpassed by Sukhothai, and then Ayutthaya in present-day Thailand. Of the maritime empires, Srivijaya flourished between the fourth and thirteenth centuries, with a ‘golden age’ between the seventh and eleventh centuries. Centred on present-day Palembang, it controlled trade in ports throughout the region, including Aceh, Makassar and Patani. Its successors included Kediri and Majapahit in Java, and later Malacca (McGee 1967; Osborne 2000; Reed 2000). The inland centres have been characterised as hydraulic civilisations, situated in the great river valleys of mainland Southeast Asia, and also on Java, based upon wet rice (sawah) surpluses and bountiful fish harvests, overseen by all-powerful rulers, or god-kings (deva raja) (Wittfogel 1957). The most extensive and celebrated of these was the Khmer empire that flourished between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. Based on Angkor, but extending south to embrace...
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