Cambodia History

The Pre-Angkor Period

When people think about Cambodia history, their thoughts frequently turn to the Angkor empire, but even before that Cambodia had a rich and involved system of government and culture.

To be fully aware of the impact that the history of Cambodia has on the country to this day, it is important to look into the past and to look beyond the famous Angkor empire. Though the empire certainly helped shape the country and what it would become, Cambodia's roots go even deeper. Consider the Cambodia history prior to the Angkor empire and see what kind of impact it had.

Funan Dynasty

Perhaps the first incarnation of what would someday be Cambodia was the kingdom of Funan. This kingdom left very little information behind, but it is very clear that it was a powerful trading state. 

In the course of performing archaeological digs, goods from India, China and Rome were all discovered in the city. The kingdom itself was thought to have been established in the first century CE, and its foundations were located on the Mekong Delta, a place which today is controlled by Vietnam.

Funan may have been a unified country but there is also evidence that it might have been a collection of city states, which warred with each other as well as with outsiders.

Though records of this early part of Cambodian history are spotty, it seems that the kingdom of Funan covered most of Southeast Asia. It was during the third century that the kingdom of Funan would see its greatest expansion, when the fleet was expanded and the system of bureaucracy was improved, creating a feudal system that would keep growing for quite some time. The culture of the kingdom seemed to be a mix of native traditions as well as Indian traditions.

Chenla Dynasty

Folllowing the kingdom of Funan in Cambodia's history was the kingdom of Chenla, called Zhenla by the Chinese and Chan Lap by the Vietnamese. It began as vassal state to the kingdom of Funan during the sixth century and it would eventually go on to declare independence before conquering and absorbing the older country. It is thought that the concurrent collapse of the Roman Empire might have weakened the older state until such a conquest, which took place over sixty years, possible.


Isanapura was the first capital of the new empire and Chenla would go on to be divided in norther and southern states. It was the Khmer Kingdom of Bhavapura which would have the most cultural impact on this empire, which would go on to birth the great Angkor empire.

The Kingdom of Chenla would continue until the seventh century, and the troubles that arose from that date would lead to the kingdom breaking up by the start of the eight century. Rather than being one unified whole, the kingdom would then become several warring principalities. According to Chinese records, which are the most complete from that time, they became into a Chenla of the land and a Chenla of the water.


So in short...

Cambodia history is something that has many layers, all connected with the ones that came before and the ones that come after. Learn more about ancient Cambodia history and you will see what an impact it continues to have. Both the ancient kingdoms of Funan and Chenla would go on to strongly influence the great Angkor Empire, which lasted a full six hundred years.

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