Chenla Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Chenla)
Jump to: navigation, search
Kingdom of Chenla

Languages Old Khmer
Religion Hinduism, Buddhism
Government Absolute monarchy
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Vassal of Fúnán 550
 •  Succession to Khmer Empire 706
Today part of  Cambodia

Chenla (simplified Chinese: 真腊; traditional Chinese: 真臘; pinyin: Zhēnlà; Wade–Giles: Chēn-là; Khmer: ចេនឡា; Vietnamese: Chân Lạp) is the Chinese designation for Cambodia after the fall of Funan. That name was still used in the 13th century by the Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan, author of The Manners and Customs of Cambodia. Some modern scholars used the name exclusively for Khmer states of the period from the late 6th to the early 9th centuries. The Chenla kingdom was influenced by the cultures of the south Indian Pallava dynasty and Chalukya dynasty.[1]

The beginnings of the so-called "Dangrek Chieftains" [2] small chiefdoms north and south of the Dangrek Mountains are obscure. The first known princes are mentioned in some early inscriptions. The Sanskrit inscription of Vãl Kantél, Stung Treng province [3] names a king Vīravarman as father of a princess whose name was not mentioned, married to a Brahmin called Somaśarman and sister of a certain Bhavavarman. According to the inscription from Čăn Năk’ôn in Basăk/Laos (K. 363) [4] Vīravarman was also father of prince Citrasena who was the younger brother of Bhavavarman. Obviously both princes had the same mother, but different fathers, which was corroborated by the Si Tep inscription (in present-day Thailand)[5] giving the information that Bhavavarman was the son of a Prathivīndravarman and grandson of a Cakravartin whereas the inscription from Pak Mun in Ubon/Thailand [6] informs us that the name of the father of Vīravarman was called Sārvabhauma. All these inscriptions refer to a large territory ruled by these kings. It is recorded in the inscription from Robaṅ Romãs at Īśānapura (the archaeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk) that a certain Narasiṃhagupta, who was vassal (samāntanṛpa) of the successive kings Bhavavarman, Mahendravarman (the ruling name of Citrasena) and Īśānavarman erected on 13 April 598 during the reign of Bhavavarman a figure of Kalpavāsudeva (Vishnu).[7] This coincides with the oldest Chinese text that mentions Chenla, the Suí shū (Annals of the Suí Dynasty), compiled by Wèi Zhēng (580-643) in AD 636, which gives the information that at the beginning of the 7th century Chenla was ruled by Citrasena and Īśānavarman. The capital of the latter was Īśānapura,[8] while his predecessor Bhavavarman I still resided at Bhavapura, a place which probably is located in the vicinity of the modern town of Thala Barivat (13°33’ N, 105°57’ E).[9]


The centre of the kingdom was at Champasak Province, formerly part of Champa until the end of the fifth century, with a stele having the name of King Devanika (Fan Chen-ch'eng), meaning "celestial protection or divine inspiration". Cambodian legends state "the origin of the kings of Cambodia goes back to the union of the hermit Kambu Svyambhuva, eponymic ancestor of the Kambujas, with the celestial nymph Mera, who was given to him by Siva." The king Srutavarman was born of this couple, who was followed by his son, king Sreshthavarman. This king gave his name to Sreshthapura. At the end of the sixth century, Bhavavarman and Chitrasena (Mahendravarman) attacked Funan and "subdued it." Soon after 706, Cambodia became divided into "Land Chenla" and "Water Chenla".[10]:288[11]:65–69,85

It was Īśānavarman who managed to absorb the ancient territories of Fúnán which led the Xīn Táng shū (New History of the Táng Dynasty) (新唐書), compiled by Ōuyáng Xiū (歐陽修) (1007–1072) and Sòng Qí (宋祁) (998-1061) in 1060 AD to attribute the effective conquest of the country to him. The earliest known date of the reign of Īśānavarman, a date that must not have been long after his accession, is that of his first embassy to China to the court of the Suí in 616-17. This king is also known from his own inscriptions, one incised at Īśānapura, dated 13 September 627 AD (K. 604),[12] the other one at Khău Nôy (Thailand), dated 7 May 637 (K. 506).[13] After Īśānavarman, who ceased to reign around 637, the inscriptions tell us of a king named Bhavavarman (II). The only dated inscriptions we have from him, are that of Tà Kev (K. 79), dated 5 January 644 [14] and of Poñā Hòr south of Tà Kev (K. 21),[15] dated Wednesday, 25 March 655. Then seemingly follows a certain king Candravarman, known from the undated inscription K. 1142 [16] of unknown origin who hailed from the family of Īśānavarman. The son of Candravarman was the famous king Jayavarman I whose earliest inscriptions are from Tûol Kôk Práḥ, province Prei Vêṅ (K. 493) [17] and from Bàsêt, province Bằttaṃbaṅ (K. 447),[18] both dated 14 June 657. Some 19 or 20 inscriptions dating from his reign have been found in an area extending from Vat Phu'u in the north to the Gulf of Siam in the south. According to the Xīn Táng shū the kingdom of Zhēnlà had conquered different principalities in Northwestern Cambodia after the end of the Chinese reign period yǒnghuī (永徽) (i. e. after 31 January 656), which previously (in 638/39) paid tribute to China.[19] The reign of Jayavarman I lasted about thirty years and ended perhaps after 690. It seems that after the death of Jayavarman I (his last known inscription K. 561 [20] is dated 681/82), turmoil came upon the kingdom and at the start of the 8th century, the kingdom broke up into many principalities. The region of Angkor was ruled by his daughter, Queen Jayadevī who complained in her Western Bàrày inscription K. 904,[21] dated Wednesday, 5 April 713, of "bad times". The Táng histories tell us that after the end of the reign period shénlóng (神龍) (i. e. after 6 February 707) Zhēnlà came to be divided in two realms, Lùzhēnlà (陸真臘) ("Land Zhēnlà", also called Wèndān (文單) or Pólòu (婆鏤)) and Shuīzhēnlà (水真臘) ("Water Zhēnlà") [22] and returned to the anarchic state that had existed before it was unified under the kings of Fúnán and the first kings of Zhēnlà.

Kings like Śrutavarman and Śreṣṭhavarman or Puṣkarākṣa are only attested very much later in Angkorian inscriptions; their historicity is doubtful, All we know about Land Zhēnlà is that it sent an embassy to China in 717. Another embassy visiting China in 750 came probably from Water Zhēnlà. According to the Chinese Annals a son of the king of Wèndān had visited Chinas in 753 and joined a Chinese army during a campaign against the kingdom of Nánzhāo (南詔) in the following year.[23] After the Wèndān embassy in the year 771 the heir apparent Pómí (婆彌) came to the imperial court and, on 13 December 771, he received there the title Kāifǔyítóngsānsī (開府儀同三司) ("Palace Opener who enjoys the same honours as the three higher officers"). In 799 an envoy from Wèndān called Lītóují (李頭及) received a Chinese title, too. As rulers of Śambhupura are attested by the inscription K. 124, dated 803/04 [24] a king Indraloka and three successive queens, Nṛpatendradevī, Jayendrabhā and Jyeṣṭhāryā. Two inscriptions refer to a ruler named Jayavarman: the first one, K. 103, hails from Práḥ Thãt Práḥ Srĕi south of Kompoṅ Čàṃ, dated 20 April 770,[25] the second one from Lobŏ’k Srót in the vicinity of Kračèḥ near Śambhupura (K. 134), dated 781.[26] Cœdès called him Jayavarman Ibis, but probably he is identical with Jayavarman II, the founding father of the Angkorian kingdom, as Vickery has pointed out: "Not only was Jayavarman II from the South; more than any other known king, he had particularly close links with Vyādhapura. This place is recorded in only one pre-Angkor inscription, K. 109/655 [exactly: 10th February 656], but in 16 Angkor-period texts, the last dated 1069 [K. 449 from Pàlhàl, dated Sunday, 3rd May 1069] … Two of them, K. 425/968 and K. 449/1069, are explicit records of Jayavarman II taking people from Vyādhapura to settle in Battambang".[27]

List of rulers[edit]

Order King Reign
1 Bhavavarman I 550–600
2 Mohendravarman 600–616
3 Isanavarman I 616–635
4 Bhavavarman II 639–657
5 Jayavarman I 657–690
6 Queen Jayavedi 690–713
7 Sambhuvarman 713–716
8 Pushkaraksha 716–730
9 Sambhuvarman 730–760
10 Rajendravarman I 760–780
11 Mahipativarman 780–788


  1. ^ Some Aspects of Asian History and Culture by Upendra Thakur p.2
  2. ^ Vickery, Society, Economics, and Politics in pre-Angkor Cambodia, pp. 71 ff.
  3. ^ ISCC, No. IV, pp. 28 ff.
  4. ^ Barth, "Inscription sanskrite du Phou Lokhon (Laos)", pp. 37-40
  5. ^ IC, VII, pp. 156-157
  6. ^ Seidenfaden, «Complément à l’inventaire descriptif des Monuments du Cambodge pour les quatre provinces du Siam Oriental», p. 57
  7. ^ Cœdès, «Études Cambodgiennes XXXVI: Quelques précisions sur la fin de Fou-nan», pp. 5-8
  8. ^ Pelliot, "Le Fou-nan.", p. 272
  9. ^ Lévy,«Thala Bŏrivăt ou Stu’ṅ Trèṅ: sites de la capitale du souverain khmer Bhavavarman Ier», pp. 113-129
  10. ^ Higham, C., 2014, Early Mainland Southeast Asia, Bangkok: River Books Co., Ltd., ISBN 9786167339443
  11. ^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella, ed. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1. 
  12. ^ Finot, «Nouvelles inscriptions du Cambodge», pp. 44 ff.
  13. ^ IC, Vol. V, p. 23
  14. ^ IC II, pp. 69 ff.
  15. ^ The Sanskrit text and a French translation was published in ISCC, pp. 21-26, the Khmer text and a French translation in IC V, pp. 5-6
  16. ^ MÉC I, 47-53
  17. ^ IC II, pp. 149-152
  18. ^ IC II, pp. 193-195
  19. ^ Wolters, "North-western Cambodia in the seventh century", p. 356 and pp. 374-375
  20. ^ IC I, pp. 39-44
  21. ^ IC IV, 54-63
  22. ^ Pelliot, «Deux itinéraires de Chine en Inde à la fin du VIIIe siècle», p. 211
  23. ^ Pelliot, «Deux itinéraires de Chine en Inde à la fin du VIIIe siècle», p. 212
  24. ^ IC III, pp. 170-174
  25. ^ IC V, p. 33
  26. ^ IC II, pp. 92 ff.
  27. ^ Vickery, Society, Economics, and Politics in pre-Angkor Cambodia, p. 396


  • A[uguste] Barth, «Inscription sanskrite du Phou Lokhon (Laos)», Album Kern; opstellen geschreven ter eere van H[endrik] Kern, Leiden: E.J. Brill 1903, pp. 37–40.
  • George Cœdès,«Études Cambodgiennes XXXVI: Quelques précisions sur la fin de Fou-nan», Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême Orient XLIII (1943), pp. 1–8.
  • Louis Finot, «Nouvelles inscriptions du Cambodge», Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême Orient XXVIII (1928), pp. 43–80.
  • IC = Inscriptions du Cambodge. Éditées et traduites par G[eorge] Cœdès. Vol. I-VIII. Hanoi, Paris: Impr. Extrême-Orient; de Boccard [etc.] 1937-1966 (Collection de Textes et Documents sur l’Indochine: III).
  • ISCC = Inscriptions sanscrites de Campā et du Cambodge. [Éd. et trad.] par Abel Bergaigne et A[uguste] Barth. Paris: Klincksieck 1885-93.
  • Paul Lévy,«Thala Bŏrivăt ou Stu’ṅ Trèṅ: sites de la capitale du souverain khmer Bhavavarman Ier», Journal Asiatique 258 (1970), pp. 113–129.
  • MÉC = Manuel d’épigraphie du Cambodge. Yoshiaki Ishizawa, Claude Jacques, Khin Sok. Avec la collaboration de: Uraisi Varasarin, Michael Vickery, Tatsuro Yamamoto. Vol. I, Paris: École Français d’Extrême-Orient 2007.
  • Paul Pelliot, «Le Fou-nan.» Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême Orient III (1903), pp. 248–303.
  • Paul Pelliot, «Deux itinéraires de Chine en Inde à la fin du VIIIe siècle», Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême Orient IV (1904), pp. 131–413.
  • Erik Seidenfaden, «Complément à l’inventaire descriptif des Monuments du Cambodge pour les quatre provinces du Siam Oriental», Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême Orient XXII (1922), pp. 55–99.
  • Michael Vickery, Society, Economics, and Politics in pre-Angkor Cambodia: The 7th-8th centuries. Tokyo: The Center for East Asian Cultural Studies for Unesco, The Toyo Bunko, 1998.
  • O[liver] W[illiam] Wolters, "North-western Cambodia in the seventh century", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 37 (1974), pp. 355–384.

Coordinates: 11°33′N 104°55′E / 11.550°N 104.917°E / 11.550; 104.917