THE VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF KHMER ART
EVERYDAY LIFE IN FUNAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is not so much we know about everday life in Funan. Chinese accounts describe the people as “dark and ugly, with curly hairs, no clothes and footwear but tatooed”. Others wrote: “They have uncouth characters and are no thieves. They are generous.” Or: “The people are greedy, without rules and civility.” The accounts say that the Chinese learned them to wear sarongs because they did not know clothes. All the statues that were found show the Gods with these sarongs. There were longer and shorter ones. The women did not cover their breasts. The men shaved their moustaches, beards and hair every morning. The cloths were made of cotton and we know that there were Thai tailors who were the only ones who knew the art of sewing.

The delta surface is an extensive low relief plain of the Mekong River, less than 10 m above sea level and in monsoon time it was often flowed. So the people built the houses over the ground and made them accessible by ladders. You find this type of houses until today everywhere all over Southeast Asia. The simple constructions had one room mainly used for sleeping and cooking. A roofed front terrace was the place to stay in daytime. They went fishing and it seems that they raised pigs and water buffaloes at a very early time. The "History of Southern Qi" accounts that the inhabitants liked to amuse themselves by cock and pig fighting. The soil is very fertile in the lower Mekong region and they practised farming. They also hunted, using spears and bows and arrows. They grew varieties of rice and root crops and of course they used earthware vessels for keeping and cooking.

Excavations show fortified villages in Funan we know from Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Kang Tai reports that they practised slavery. The Chinese accounts speak of walled towns, dwelling houses and palaces. Brick construction was well known. Until now the capital Vyadharapura (town of the hunters) was not found. It is more or less an ideological discussion in the literature to situate it to Angkor Borei (what means Funan had Khmer origin) or to place it to the Vietnamese lower Mekong region (what means Funan was of Vietnamese origin). Of course the Funanese knew money for trading. Only a few coins were found up to now.

Even the sophisticated Chinese were astonished about the Funanese cultural level. They had book collections and archives. An Indian Brahmin named Preah Thaong brought the Indian law and the Sanskrit language to the country. To the surprise of the Chinese visitors they performed music in highly developed way. In 263 A.D. a group of musicians visited the Chinese Emperor who was so impressed that an institute for Funanese music was established in Nanking.

Brick Angkor Borei
from: Art and Archeology of Fu Nan, ed. by J. Khoo, Bangkok 2004
Earthware Funan
from: Art and Archeology of Fu Nan, ed. by J. Khoo, Bangkok 2004
Traditional house construction
 

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