In mainland Southeast Asia, courtly and urban centers flourish in prosperous regional kingdoms, such as that of Ayudhya in Thailand. Conflicting relationships between these polities often lead to changing boundaries. Development of these centers is linked in part to the growing importance of trade in the region. Theravada Buddhism flourishes in Burma and Thailand due to royal patronage and direct contact with monasteries in Sri Lanka; sculptures and paintings, often depicting the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni, are produced in some number. Christianity plays an important role in the Philippines, with Chinese craftsmen producing religious images for the European and South American markets. Islam continues to flourish in island Southeast Asia and peninsular Thailand and Malaysia.
Textiles, produced in a variety of regional centers, are traded throughout the region, and to South Asia and Europe. Ceramics, produced in Vietnam and Thailand, continue to play an important role in regional transmarine commerce. The period from 1600 to 1800 is one of increasing interaction between European traders and trade goods, and the indigenous arts and cultures of the Southeast Asian archipelagos. A central force in these interactions is the Dutch East India Company, which seizes control of the lucrative spice trade from earlier Portuguese and English traders and holds a virtual monopoly on European trade in the Indonesian archipelago throughout the 1600s and 1700s. Many Dutch trade items, such as cloth, beads, silver, and gold, are incorporated into the archipelago’s indigenous art forms. Images of Dutch ships and coats of arms also begin to appear in Indonesian woodcarving and textiles.
Trade in pepper and other goods enriches the Lampung region of southern Sumatra, resulting in a flowering of textile production and other art forms.
Dominican monks establish the College of Saint Thomas in Manila.
The Dutch East India Company is founded. During the 1600s, the Dutch establish control over much of the Indonesian archipelago from their headquarters at Batavia (Jakarta) and continue to be the primary traders in the region until the early nineteenth century. Spices and then coffee, rubber, and petroleum are among the most valued exports. Dutch trade goods and imagery become incorporated into the archipelago’s indigenous arts and cultures. Chinese and Japanese porcelains are brought to Europe and traded also in Southeast Asia.
Civil war ravages Vietnam.
Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit, creates a script known as quoc ngu in order to use the Roman alphabet in writing the Vietnamese language.
The Dutch destroy Palembang on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
A French mission brings letters from Pope Clement IX and King Louis XIV to Thailand. The Ayudhya court responds in 1684 with a request for political alliance, but the French are primarily interested in gaining converts to Christianity.
Chinese porcelain and other trade goods make their way into the interior of Borneo via trade along major rivers. In addition to the importance of porcelain as a source of wealth and prestige, Chinese imagery, particularly that of dragons, also influences Borneo’s indigenous Dayak artists.
The life of Doan Thi Diem, one of the most celebrated Vietnamese poets. Other renowned women writers include Ho Xuan Hong, who lived at the end of the century, and another artist who is known only as the “Wife of the Chief of the Thanh Quan District.”
English traders open a dock at Thanlyin in Burma.
Sri Lanka sends a mission to Thailand seeking help in revitalizing Buddhism after years of Portuguese and Dutch rule. Eighteen monks are sent to ordain clergy and establish an order of Siamese monks in Sri Lanka.
The Thai capital at Ayudhya falls to the Burmese army and the ruling family flees to Cambodia.
Thai protégée Prince Eng is placed on the Cambodian throne; he is deposed in 1782 and later anointed in Bangkok in 1790. He returns to Cambodia in 1794, builds a palace at Udon in 1796, and dies in 1797, after which the history of the region becomes unclear until 1806, when Ang Chan is crowned.
The English break the Dutch monopoly in Southeast Asia.
Rama I of Thailand (r. 1782–1809) convenes a council to formulate the definitive Pali-language edition of the Buddhist canon, or Tripitaka.
Literature flourishes in Thailand, including the appropriation of numerous Asian classics such as the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Mon (Burmese) chronicle Rachathirat, several Javanese and Indian works, and the Persian Duodecagon.
The Dutch East India Company is dissolved.
“Southeast Asia, 1600–1800 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=09®ion=sse (October 2003)