South East Asians were strongly influenced by China and India, the South East Asians kept their own unique identities. Geography: Southeast Asia’s first portion is made of up many peninsulas in the middle of India and China. It is located around present day Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and a proportion of Malaysia. The second portion of Southeast Asia is made of over 20,000 islands. The islands were distributed around the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Mountains and plateaus served as obstacles that disconnect South East Asia from the rest of Asia and the four main river valleys. The four rivers were Irrawaddy, Chao Phraya, Mekong, and Red. Southeast Asia’s islands were for strategic significance, because traders would have to pass through the Malacca and Sunda straits. Whoever controlled that area also had power of the wealthy trade routes. The monsoons/seasonal winds helped construct trading patterns. Merchants docked their ships in Southeast Asian ports and they became valuable centers of trade and culture. Traders often harbored their vessels at Southeast Asian ports, which made them become centers of trade and culture. The international trade network connected India, Southeast Asia and China to East Africa and Middle East. Spices were the main products of Southeast Asia’s main product, some regions that traded made their way to markets in Europe. Diverse ethnic groups established more than one language in Southeast Asia over many years. A lot of societies were made around the nuclear family instead of the families of India and China. At this time some females could participate in trade, at the time women had greater equality and more rights in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in Asia. Matrilineal inheritance from the mother’s side, was a custom that was approved in Southeastern Asia. Some could be powerful enough to rule. Some women had the rights to chose or divorce the partner they married. Women still kept their rights after Indian and Chinese influence. Indian Culture Spreads to Southeast Asia: As Indian merchants and Hindu priests traveled to Southeast Asia, they spread their culture as well. Later on, the Buddhists monks and many scholars started to introduce Theravada beliefs. This belief started to influence writing, law, government, architecture, art, and farming. Indian traders settled in Southeast Asia ports. Trade grew when the merchants started to trade products like cotton cloth, jewels, perfume for raw materials like timber, spices, and gold. At the time, Indians gained considerable power and authority. India reached its golden age in between the 500s and 1000s. After Hindus and Buddhists established Southeast Asia, Indians brought in a third religion called Islam. Islam belief was spread through Indonesia’s islands and farther east near the Philippines. Today Indonesia’s Muslim population is the largest in the world. The Indian Ocean helped with the growth of the trade network. New Kingdom and Empires: The combining of Indian influences, local cultures, and time produced kingdoms and empires. Some of these kingdoms would compete with those of India. The Pagan kingdom emerged in the abundant rice-growing, Irrawaddy Valley which is in present day Myanmar. In 1044, King Anawrahta joined the region together. His city capital was made into a major Buddhist center, full of grand stupas or domed shrines. Pagan thrived for about 200 years subsequent Anawrahta’s death. It was conquered by Mongols in 1287. Indian influences also contributed to the creation of the Khmer empire. The empire reached its peak from 800 to 1350. Some of their greatest rulers won control of most of present day Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia. The Khmer people changed Indian academics and art to fit their needs. The rulers were pious Hindus, ordinary people prefered Buddhism. Suryavarman II constructed the great temple at Angkor Wat, it includes hundreds of carvings that tell Hindu myths and glorify the king. Srivijaya took over the Strait of Malacca. Hinduism and Buddhism reached Srivijaya and blended Indian beliefs. Islam spread to other islands and local rulers accepted the new religion, solidified commercial links with other Muslim trading centers.Vietnam Emerges: India’s impact was much stronger than China’s impact to Southeast Asia through trade, however China took over the state of Annam (modern day, northern part of Vietnam). At the center of northern Vietnam were rice paddies, fields, fertilized by the Red River Delta, near modern day Hanoi. China was in control for the following 1,000 years. At the time, the Vietnamese took in Confucian ideas about religion, philosophy, services, and government. Vietnamese nobles spoke and wrote Chinese. Vietnam followed Mahayana beliefs from China where as Theravada buddhism had the greatest impact on the rest of Southeast Asia. Although there were many Chinese influences, the Vietnamese maintained their identity. Briefly, Chinese occupiers were driven from Vietnam due to an uprising led by Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, 2 noble sisters. They wanted to restore a more basic government based on their ancient traditions. When the Tang Dynasty collapsed in China, Vietnam managed to free themselves from China. However, they remained a Chinese tributary state for years.