Monday, December 15, 2014

[Friday Seminar Recap] On Cross-Cultural Diffusion: The Chinese Elements Adopted by Khmer Architectural Craftsmen in Angkor, Cambodia

On Cross-Cultural Diffusion: The Chinese Elements Adopted by Khmer Architectural Craftsmen in Angkor, Cambodia

Speaker: Sharon WONG  
(Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Time: 12:30 p.m., Friday, 7 November, 2014  
Venue: Room 12 Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK 

The seminar
Professor Wong’s seminar focused on the technological choices of the Khmer architectural ceramics in Angkor, Cambodia. Professor Wong suggested the ceramics is a useful tool to analyze the intersection of official exchange between Khmer and Chinese polities during 9th to 14th centuries. By studying the Chinese elements adopted by Khmer architectural craftsmen in Angkor, the cross-cultural exchange in the past could be found.
The document “The customs of Cambodia” (真臘風土記) written by the Chinese diplomat Chou Ta-kuan (周達觀) during his stay at Angkor between 1296-1297 is the first written historical documents of the daily life in the Khmer Empire. Zhenla (真臘) was composed of ethnic Khmers on the lower Mekong River and was also the Chinese designation for Cambodia after the fall of Funan (扶南).

Professor Sharon Wong
The Chinese influence is usually portrayed as a straightforward case of one-way cultural diffusion. In this hypothesis, China was considered as the origin of Khmer ceramics, and Khmer ceramics and kiln technology could not have reversely influenced China. The Khmer craftsmen received their knowledge through Chinese potters and imported Chinese trade ceramics.
Another hypothesis suggests the Khmers’ ceramics invention is parallel to Chinese ceramics industries. In this hypothesis, Khmer ceramics was indigenous, unique, continual inventiveness, and dis-similar to other Southeast Asian ceramics in the region. The hypothesis is heavily relied on archaeological evidences from controlled excavations, which obtain new information on minimizing all Chinese elements in Khmer ceramics.

The attendants
Professor Wong argued that, according to several shortcomings associated with the methodologies and sources adopted by the various scholars, these hypotheses ignored the complexity of cultural contacts between different ceramics industries. Both Khmer and Chinese ceramics industries played active roles. They absorbed and selected the foreign elements that suit their own needs.
As the excavation, fieldwork and research of this project is still ongoing, Professor Wong suggested more archaeological findings are needed before making any conclusion. She also encouraged us to think about the social and ideological context of the diffusion, for example, whether the Khmer Empire should be considered as the great dominated empire from 9th to 14th centuries or the periphery region of China.

No comments:

Post a Comment