Studying the writings of Zhou Daguan and his accounts of the customs of Cambodia and the Angkor temple opens up new theories about the collapse of Angkor Empire.
New Theories About The Collapse (Zhou Daguan accounts) :
Sukhothai didn’t attack Angkor, The Siamese were becoming a force to be reckon with, when Sukhothai was founded by defeating the Khmer rulers and declaring independence. The revolt against the Khmer rulers was lead by two friends: Pho Khun Bangklanghao and Pho Khun Pha Mueang. It is said about Pha Mueang in a stone steel.
The “God of Sri Mueang Sodharapura”, the king of Angkor, bestowed the titles of “Sri Indraditya” together with the “sword of victory” (Phrasaeng Chaisri) upon Pha Mueang and he additionally received the Khmer title “Kamrateng At Pha Mueang”. At the same time he was given Nang Sikhara Mahadevi, a “daughter” of the king. An “oath of loyalty” to Angkor was probably demanded as well.
It is clear from this inscription that the king of Angkor acknowledged the new power, and that Sukhothai respected the kingdom of Angkor and payed homage to the country. In the following reigns the Sukhothai empire invaded and conquered a great deal of land, all the way to the Malay Peninsula and to the west into Myanmar. However, the east of Thailand remained under Khmer control (source: Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella, ed. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press).
It is evident that the kingdom of Angkor and the new state of Sukhothai had an alliance and didn’t attack each other. The Thai of Sukhothai were able to expand by not worrying about the Khmers in the east, while the Khmer empire was already in decline (indicated by the journal of Zhou Daguan: Customs of Cambodia) and didn’t have to worry about a war with the Thai empire. There is no evidence that Sukhothai ever attacked the Khmer empire.
What makes it extra interesting, is that the ruler of the Khmer empire between 1295 – 1308, Indravarman III, could in fact be Khun Pha Mueang. Both have a sword to legitimate their kingship, both married the Khmer kings daughter, Indravarman III was the first Angkorean king to use Pali in inscriptions and was the first Theravada Buddhist king, according to Zhou Daguan the country opened up to Siamese people during his reign, the king was described white as Jade.
Ayutthaya Didn’t Attack Angkor :
If Sukhothai didn’t attack the Khmer empire, who did? It was documented in the journal of Zhou Daguan that the Khmer empire was devastated by a war. This could have been the result of the conflict with Sukhothai before Sukhothai was independent, or it could be Ayutthaya, which was on the rise as well? Well, it is unlikely since the expansion of Ayutthaya began in the middle of the 14th century, and before that they were not powerful enough to launch attacks on Angkor. But it is clearly stated that Hsien (translated as Siam) attacked and ravaged the country in the journal of Zhou Daguan.
Hsien Is Not Siam :
Michael Vickery (Historian) made some pretty good arguments that Hsien is not an ethnographic term but instead a geographical term. Also, in his journal, Zhou Daguan made the statement that the Cham and Hsien could not understand the Khmer. For the Cham this is understandable, but the Thai/Siamese were residing in what was Khmer territory. That Thais could not understand Khmer seems unlikely on all the linguistic evidence concerning Central- South- and North-Thailand. As Michael Vickery pointed out, the term Hsien could be used for the lands west of the Khmer empire. If this is true, then the people that were described as Hsien were in fact Pear people.
In fact, the same can be applied to the Syem people in the carving of Angkor, the people described as Syem, which commonly is accepted to be the Siamese. They say that Syam means brown, so the Siamese were referred to as the “brown people”.
More photos of Angkor Wat Temple here.
Our group trip photos in Instagram.