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Cambodia Tributary to China

Cambodia in early times was one of the most powerful and flourishing kingdoms of the Siam-Annamese peninsula. Chinese annals of the Han dynasty quote it, in 57 BC, as being under Chinese rule, and Buddhism and sculpture were introduced into Cambodia in the fifth century AD.

Some passages of Chinese books speak of Cambodia as one of the numerous kingdoms tributary to the Celestial Empire. They even say that, till the seventh century AD, it was dependent on the province of Founan or Tonkin, which was then Chinese. If they can be believed, the country of Cambodgia, which they called Tchinla, began to pay tribute, and to send ambassadors to the Son of Heaven, in the year AD 616, under the reign of Yong-ti, of the dynasty of Sui.

One of the kings of Cambodgia, in the year AD 625, shook off the Tonkin yoke, and even took possession of that province itself, and of the kingdom of Thsan-pan. This latter country is, perhaps, the ancient Ciampa, visited by Marco Polo, and later included in the Annamite province of Binthuan. Under the Ming, the armies of Tchinla overran all Cochin-China.

By 1016 Tchinla had become so powerful that in that year the emperor of China applied to its king for help against Tonquin, which had itself rebelled. Alliances seem then to have been common between the grand empire and this powerful kingdom. The Chinese traveller, whose narrative is translated by Abel Remusat, relates that in his time the people of Tchinla gave their country the name of Kamphoutchi, which soon became Kamphoutche, from which name the Kambodia of the early Portuguese explorers, and the modern Cambodia, are evidently derived.

The native kingdoms of Burmah and Cambodia were at the height of their power toward the end of the eleventh century; the Mongolian invasions of the thirteenth century had no lasting influence, but in the fourteenth century the whole East as far as Cambodia and Siam was tributary to China.

In the sixteenth century the Cambodians overran Siam, but in the following century, at the time when Europeans first gained a knowledge of the country, the Cambodian Empire was in full decay, the Siamese encroaching on its territory from the west and the Annamese from the east; while its outlying provinces on the upper Mekong were annexed by the invaders from the north, the ancient capital of Angkor Tam falling into their hands.

The southern provinces were captured by the Annamese, and were still in the hands of the latter, when Tuduc, the Emperor of Annam, was forced to cede three provinces of Cochin-China to the French in 1863, and the remainder by a new treaty signed at Hue in 1867. Already, in 1864, Siam had been compelled to transfer her protectorate over Cambodia to the French.

Although their territory was long ago reduced to its present narrow limits, the kings of Cambodia claim that their dynasty had occupied the throne for over 1,000 years, having, however, been since 1706 tributary to Siam, much as Annam was tributary to China. It is noteworthy in this connexion that a British factory was established off the coast of Cochin-China in 1702 on the island of Pulo Condore, and that a consul for the Far East was appointed to reside there by King William III.

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Page last modified: 28-05-2012 13:27:19 ZULU