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Funan (Southeast Asia)

Funan was the name given by Chinese cartographers, geographers and writers to an ancient Indianised state—or, rather a loose network of states ( Mandala)—located in mainland Southeast Asia centered on the Mekong Delta that existed from the first to sixth century CE. The name is found in Chinese historical texts describing the kingdom, and the most extensive descriptions are largely based on the report of two Chinese diplomats, Kang Tai and Zhu Ying, representing the Wu Kingdom of Nanking who sojourned in Funan in the mid-3rd century AD.

Funan is known in the modern languages of the region as Vnom ( Khmer) or Nokor Phnom ( Khmer), ( Thai), and ( Vietnamese), however, the name Funan is not found in any texts of local origin from the period, and it is not known what name the people of Funan gave to their polity. Some scholars argued that ancient Chinese scholars transcribed the word Funan from a word related to the Khmer word bnaṃ or vnaṃ (modern: phnoṃ, meaning "mountain"), others however thought that Funan may not be a transcription at all, rather it meant what it says in Chinese, meaning something like "Pacified South".

Like the very name of the kingdom, the ethno-linguistic nature of the people is the subject of much discussion among specialists. The leading hypotheses are that the Funanese were mostly Mon–Khmer, or that they were mostly Austronesian, or that they constituted a multi-ethnic society. The available evidence is inconclusive on this issue. Michael Vickery has said that, even though identification of the language of Funan is not possible, the evidence strongly suggests that the population was Khmer. The results of archaeology at Oc Eo have demonstrated "no true discontinuity between Oc Eo and pre-Angkorian levels", indicating Khmer linguistic dominance in the area under Funan control.

Based on the testimony of the Chinese historians, the polity Funan is believed to have been established in the 1st century CE in the Mekong Delta, but archaeological research has shown that extensive human settlement in the region may have gone back as far as the 4th century BCE. Though regarded by Chinese authors as a single unified polity, some modern scholars suspect that Funan may have been a collection of city-states that sometimes at war with one another and at other times constituted a political unity. From archaeological evidence, which includes Roman, Chinese, and Indian goods excavated at the ancient mercantile centre of Óc Eo (from the Khmer Ou Kaeo, meaning "glass canal") in southern Vietnam, we know that Funan must have been a powerful trading state. Excavations at Angkor Borei in southern Cambodia have likewise delivered evidence of an important settlement. Since Óc Eo was linked to a port on the coast and to Angkor Borei by a system of canals, it is possible that all of these locations together constituted the heartland of Funan.


Funan may refer to:

  • Funan (Southeast Asia), ancient pre-Angkor Indianized state, or network of states, located around the Mekong Delta
  • Funan County, county in Anhui, China
  • Funan DigitaLife Mall, shopping centre located near the Civic District in Singapore