Britain and South-East Asia

Britain and South-East Asia

Britain and South-East Asia

Britain and South-East Asia

Excerpt

"CROSSROADS" is a word which comes readily to mind when considering south-east Asia. It is very much an in- between region, whether viewed from land or sea. It lies between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, between Asia and Australasia, between the Indian subcontinent and China. Indo- China, the name of part of the region, could be applied to the whole. The term "south-east Asia" carries a similar connotation-- of the hyphen between south and east.

During its long history the crossroads has seen a great deal of traffic. Although the discovery of Java Man--the remains of the earliest known form of human being--suggests that it was one of the birthplaces of mankind, the region has been moulded largely by external forces. For thousands of years successive waves of migrants moved down from the Asian continent towards the south, driven by the hostility of nature or their neighbours, or perhaps drawn by the warmth and luxuriance of the tropics. They made their way from the interior of the "heartland" down towards the Malay peninsula, some settling, some moving on along the island chain that constitutes Indonesia, until they reached the Philippines or even Australia. The last major influx occurred some 4,000 years ago with the arrival of the people who still constitute what may be described as the basic population of the area--the Malaysians-- but they were not very numerous. Although the mountain ranges run broadly north and south, the broken terrain and the dense malarial jungles impeded movement, and the migrations were a trickle rather than a flood. In comparison with India and China the region remained thinly populated until the fairly recent proliferation in Java.

At the beginning of the Christian era trade with India and China was well established. References are to be found in ancient Indian writings--the Ramayana and the Puranas--while the Chinese annals record the reception of embassies bearing tribute. Except in Tongking, which bordered on China, the Indian impact was much the stronger. The Indians brought with them Hinduism . . .

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