History of Funan



In the mid-3rd century A.D. two chinese traders, Kang Tai and Zhu Ying, visited Vyadharapura (town of the hunters), the legendary capital of the Funan kingdom. Their account became part of the Chinese Empirical Records:

The Liang Shu account from Chinese Empirical Records

Ed. note.: There was no translation of the original text up to now. The chinese text was published by Wheatley, P., The Golden Khersonese, University of Malaya Press, 1966. We thank Yun from China History Forum for the execellent English translation and Wolfgang Wintermeier for the German translation.

The kingdom of Funan is south of Rinan prefecture (in northern Vietnam), in a big bay on the west of the sea. It is 7,000 li from Rinan, and over 3,000 li southwest of Linyi (Champa). The capital is 500 li from the sea. There is a big river 10 li across, which flows from the northwest and enters the sea in the east. The kingdom has a diameter of over 3,000 li, and its land is low-lying and flat. Its climate and customs are generally similar to Linyi. It produces gold, silver, bronze, tin, lakawood, ivory, jadeite, and five-coloured parrots.
(Omitted: descriptions of neigbouring kingdoms of Dunsun, Piqian and Zhubo)

The people of the Funan kingdom originally had the custom of going naked, tattooing their bodies and letting their hair hang down. Their ruler was a woman named Liuye (Willow Leaf, called Soma in a Cham version). She was young and muscular, like a man. In the south there was the kingdom of Ji, where there was a priest of spirits and gods named Huntian (Kaundinya). He dreamt that a god gave him a bow, and that he sailed to sea in a merchant ship. In the morning he got up and went to the temple, and found the bow under a sacred tree. He thus followed the dream and sailed to sea on a ship, reaching the outer areas of Funan. Liuye and her followers saw the ship approaching and wanted to capture it. Huntian then drew his bow and shot Liuye's ship, piercing its side and hitting one of the servants. Liuye was terrified and surrendered to Huntian with all her people. Huntian taught Liuye to make a hole in a piece of cloth and put her head through it, using it as clothing to cover her body. He then ruled over the kingdom and took Liuye as his wife. They had seven sons who were each made king of a region. Later, the king Hun Pankuang used cunning to cause dissension between the regions, making them suspect and obstruct each other. He then used his army to attack and conquer them all, and sent his own children and grandchildren to rule the various regions, with the title of Lesser King.
Pankuang died in his 90s, and his middle son Panpan was made king. Affairs of state were entrusted to the general Fan Man. Panpan died after 3 years as king, and the people then appointed Fan Man as king. Fan Man was a brave warrior and skilled in strategy, and used his military strength to attack neighbouring kingdoms and make them all submit. He gave himself the title of Great King of Funan. He built large ships and sent them across the sea to attack more than ten kingdoms including Qudukun, Jiuzhi, Diansun, extending his territory by 5,000 to 6,000 li. Next, he planned to attack the Jinling kingdom, but fell ill and sent his crown prince Jinsheng to lead the attack in his stead. Fan Man's nephew Zhan was a general leading 2,000 men, and usurped Fan Man's throne. He sent men to trick Jinsheng and kill him. When Fan Man died, he had an infant son named Chang living among the people. When Chang reached tha age of 20, he made friends with brave men in the kingdom and attacked and killed Zhan, but Zhan's general Fan Xun then killed Chang and made himself king.
Fan Xun governed the kingdom well and built viewing pavilions for his leisure, where from dawn to noon, he would receive three or four guests. The people gave sugarcane, tortoises and birds to each other as gifts. The law of the kingdom did not include prisons. Those who were charged with a crime first fasted for 3 days, and then an axe was heated until it was red-hot and the accused was made to carry it for seven steps. Also, golden rings and chicken eggs were thrown into boiling soup and the accused had to fish them out. If he was lying about his innocence, his hand would be scalded, and if he was telling the truth, it would not. They also kept crocodiles in the moat of the capital, and also a pen of fierce beasts outside the gate. Those accused of crimes would be fed to the beasts or crocodiles, and if they were not eaten within 3 days they were considered innocent and released. The larger crocodiles are more than 2 zhang long, and resemble the Yangzi alligator, with four legs, and snouts six to seven chi long with teeth on either side that are sharp as swords. They usually eat fish but also swallow river deer and people if they come across them. There are crocodiles south of Cangwu prefecture and in the foreign countries (to the south).
In the time of the Wu state (Three Kingdoms period), Guard Commander Kang Tai and Xuanhua Operations Officer Zhu Ying were sent as envoys to Fan Xun's kingdom. The people there were still naked, except for women who wore a cloth with a hole for their head. Kang Tai and Zhu Ying said, "This is a fine kingdom, but it is not desirable for the people to be exposed like that." So for the first time, men in the kingdom were commanded to wear hengfu. The hengfu is what is now called the ganman (i.e. sarong). The rich made their hengfu out of cotton, but the poor used only simple (hemp) cloth.
In the Taikang reign of Jin Wudi (280-289 AD), Funan sent its first tribute mission. In the first year of Shengping of Jin Mudi (357), the king Zhuzhantan sent a tamed elephant as tribute. The emperor Mudi issued an edict saying, "This animal is troublesome to transport, you need not send any more." Later, there was king Qiaochenru who was originally a Brahmin from India. A god told him "you will be king of Funan", and he was pleased in his heart and travelled to the kingdom of Panpan. The people of Funan heard about it and all welcomed him happily and made him king. He changed the institutions of the country to follow the Indian laws.
After Qiaochenru's death, there was king Chilituobamo. In the reign of Song Wudi (420-422), he sent his local produce as tribute. In the Yongming reign of Southern Qi (483-493), king Sheyebamo (Jayavarman?) sent an envoy with tribute.
In the second year of the Tianjian reign (of Liang Wudi, 503), Sheyebamo again sent tribute in the form of a Buddha statue made of coral, as well as local produce. The emperor issued an edict saying, "The king of Funan Qiaochenru Sheyebamo lives on the edge of the sea and his kingdom has been our vassal in the south for generations. His sincerity is known far abroad, and he places much value on translating the sutras and offering tributes of treasures. It is good to accept and reward him, and confer titles of prestige on him. He may be honoured as General Pacifying the South and King of Funan."
The people of this kingdom are all ugly and dark, with curly hair. They do not dig wells where they live, and several tens of households share one pool to fetch water from. They worship the god of heaven, as an icon of bronze with two faces and four arms, or four faces and eight arms. Each hand is holding something - a child, or a bird or beast, or a sun or moon. The king goes in and out of his palace riding an elephant, and so do the concubines. The king sits with one (right) knee upright and the left knee hanging to the ground, and a white dish is placed before him on which is set a golden basin with an incense burner. The custom of the kingdom is that in mourning one shaves his moustache, beard and hair. The dead are buried in four ways: by water, thrown into rivers; by fire, burned into ashes; by earth, buried in the ground; and by birds, left out in the wild (for birds to eat). The people are greedy and stingy, without propriety, and the men and women form relationships without restrictions.

In the 10th and 13th year (of Tianjian, 511 and 514), Sheyebamo sent tribute. That year (514) he died, and his son by a concubine, Liutuobamo (Rudravarman?) killed his younger brother, the son of the queen, and made himself king. In the 16th year (517) he sent the envoy Zhudangbaolao with tribute. In the 18th year (519) he again sent an envoy with an Indian sacred statue made of sandalwood, leaves of the Poluo tree, and various types of incense including Huoqizhu, Yujin, and Suhe. In the first year of Putong (520), the second year of Zhongdatong (528), and the first year of Datong (535), envoys were sent bearing tribute. In the 5th year (of Datong, 539), an envoy was sent with a live rhinoceros. It was also said that the kingdom had a hair of the Buddha, 1 zhang and 2 chi long, and the emperor (Liang Wudi) sent the monk Shi Yunbao to return with the envoy to bring it (to China).


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