Life

An ancient nation in the Indochina Peninsula——Mon

  People who have studied linguistics may have been exposed to the concept of “Mon-Khmer language family”. This is the language family with the largest number of languages, the largest number of users, and the widest geographical coverage among the four language families of the Austronesian language family. It is distributed in many parts of Southeast Asia from northeastern India to Cambodia and Vietnam. Its main languages ​​are Vietnamese, Khmer, Meng Language, Wa language, Bulang language, De’ang language (formerly known as Benglong language), etc. I believe that many people are familiar with the word “Khmer” and know that it is an ancient name for Cambodia or its main ethnic group. However, what does “Mon” (“Mon” in English) refer to may be unknown to most people. don’t know.
  Focusing on the history of Southeast Asia, we can see that the “Meng” mentioned here refers to an ethnic group with a long history on the Indochina Peninsula – the Mon nationality. The academic circles believe that the Meng people are the descendants of the Pu people in the ancient Lingnan Baiyue group. This ethnic group and the Khmer ethnic group have the same root and similar language, so anthropologists often refer to the Mon ethnic group and the Khmer ethnic group as “Mon-Khmer people”.

  Historically, the Mon people mostly lived in plain areas and were engaged in rice cultivation. They were the pioneers of rice cultivation in Southeast Asia. Judging from the fact that some plant names in Burmese today come from Mon, the Mon people may be the first teachers of Burmese crop planting. In other words, during the transformation of Bamar culture from nomadic to agricultural, the Mon played the role of guides and promoters.
  As one of the ethnic groups with a long history in the Indochina Peninsula, the Mon nationality’s language is a precious cultural heritage left to future generations. At the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century, the Mon people borrowed the South Indian alphabet of the Sanskrit system to create the Mon script. This ancient text once wrote a heavy stroke in the history of Myanmar’s cultural development. The Mon language has had a profound impact on the Bamar, Thai, Karen and other ethnic groups in the surrounding areas. In view of the contribution of Mon script to Burmese script in history and the close relationship between the two, academic circles often refer to Mon script and Burmese script together as “Mon-Burmese script”.
  About 3 centuries later, the power of the Mon nationality gradually increased, and many small countries began to be established. According to historical records, the early Mon countries were mainly distributed in present-day Myanmar, Thailand and the Malay Peninsula. By the 6th century, the Funan Kingdom located in the eastern part of the Indochina Peninsula was in decline, and the Pyu people in the west were also in decline. The Mon people in the central region became stronger and stronger, and established a vast kingdom of “Darapati” in the lower reaches of the Chao Phraya River. It was very popular in Indochina Peninsula.
  The Mon believe in Buddhism and are one of the earliest ethnic groups in Myanmar to accept Buddhism. According to the Chinese history book “Funan Local Customs”: “In the southwest of Funan, there is Linyang Kingdom. Going seven thousand miles to Funan, the land worships Buddha, and there are thousands of monks. They hold precepts for six fast days, and fish and meat are not allowed to enter the country.” This is located in the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. The Linyang Kingdom in the lower reaches of the Chao Phraya River (Chao Phraya River) in Thailand is the earliest Mon country.
  From the 8th century to the 9th century, the Mon people entered a glorious period, living in the Indochina Peninsula, and played an important intermediary role in the exchanges between China, India, Funan and Malay countries. According to the records of “Southern Foreign Objects”, Linyang State has “100,000 households, rich in miscellaneous rice, sweet fruit, and stone honey”. If the calculation is based on a family of five, the total population of Linyang Country should be more than 500,000. From today’s point of view, such a population size is not large, but in the Indochina Peninsula at that time, it should be called a populous country. The transportation status of Linyang State is very important, because it is located in Funan (the territory under its jurisdiction is equivalent to today’s Cambodia, southern Laos, southern Vietnam, and southeastern Thailand) and Tianzhu (India), and has an irreplaceable bridge role.

Burmese girl dancing

  After the 10th century, the Burmese began to rise, and the Mon nationality, which was very prosperous in Southeast Asia, gradually declined, and finally became a minority in Myanmar. Today, the Mon people are mainly distributed in Mon State in southern Myanmar (the capital is the country’s third largest city “Mawlamyine”), together with hundreds of thousands of Mon people living in central and southern Thailand, the total population does not exceed 2 million ( 2018 estimate). Some Mon people living in cities are mostly assimilated by the Burmese, and their customs and habits are no different from those of the Burmese.
  As an ancient nation, the Mon’s long history and civilization have had an important impact on the surrounding ethnic groups. Mon culture, such as architecture, painting, sculpture, music and dance, is one of the two foundations of Bamar culture (the other is Pyu culture); on the other hand, Bamar absorbs Mon culture far more than Absorption of other national cultures. To a certain extent, Mon culture determines the development direction of Burmese culture and plays an important role in the development of Burmese culture. From another perspective, the reason why Burmese culture has become the mainstream of Burmese culture today is because it is good at absorbing the essence of other ethnic cultures. Regrettably, however, there are very few studies focusing on the Mon nationality, which is obviously not commensurate with its historical status.
  Looking around the world, every nation has its own unique cultural traditions. Every culture has nationality and independence. Every culture is a link in the world cultural chain. With the development of human society, various cultural systems in the world are constantly colliding, exchanging and merging. If the culture of a nation wants to have vitality, it must conform to the trend of social development and constantly absorb nutrients from the cultures of other nations to enrich and strengthen itself. History has repeatedly proved that this is an eternal law.

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