From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia, comprising the territories of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The culture in Southeast Asia is very diverse, on mainland Southeast Asia, the culture is a real mix of Indian and Chinese, in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, the culture is a mix of Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Indian and the indigenous Malay culture. Also Brunei shows a strong influence from Arabia.
Rice paddy agriculture has existed in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, ranging across the subregion. Some dramatic examples of these rice paddies populate the Banaue Rice Terraces in the mountains of Luzon in the Philippines. Maintenance of these paddies is very labor-intensive. The rice paddies are well-suited to the monsoon climate of the region.
Stilt houses can be found all over Southeast Asia, from Thailand and Laos, to Borneo, to Luzon in the Philippines, to Papua New Guinea. The region has diverse metalworking, especially in Indonesia. This include weaponry, such as the distinctive kris, and musical instruments, such as the gamelan.
The region's chief cultural influences have been from either China or India or both, with Vietnam considered by far the most Chinese-influenced. Western cultural influence is most pronounced in the Philippines, derived particularly from the period of Spanish and American rule.
Due to long periods of Chinese influence on the Vietnamese civilization, Vietnam is considered to be a part of the East Asian Cultural Sphere. The Vietnamese practice many East Asian philosophies and religions such as Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism which all originated in China. Just like other East Asian civilizations the Vietnamese used chopsticks as their traditional eating utensils. Vietnamese cuisine was influenced a lot by Chinese and French cuisine
As a rule, the peoples who ate with their fingers were more likely influenced by the culture of India, for example, than the culture of China, where the peoples first ate with chopsticks; tea, as a beverage, can be found across the region. The fish sauces distinctive to the region tend to vary.
The arts of Southeast Asia have no affinity with the arts of other areas. Dance in much of Southeast Asia also includes movement of the hands, as well as the feet to express the emotion and meaning of dance upon the story that the ballerina going to tell the audience. Most of Southeast Asian confirmed the Dance into their court, according to Cambodian royal ballet represent them in earlier of 7th century before Khmer Empire which highly influenced by Indian Hinduism. Apsara Dance, famous for strongly hand and feet movement, is a great example of Hindism symbol dance. Puppetry and shadow plays were also a favoured form of entertainment in past centuries as the famous one known as Wayang from Indonesia. The arts and literature in some of Southeast Asia is quite influenced by Hinduism brought to them centuries ago.
The Tai, coming late into Southeast Asia, brought with them some Chinese artistic traditions, but they soon shed them in favour of the Khmer and Mon traditions, and the only indications of their earlier contact with Chinese arts were in the style of their temples, especially the tapering roof, and in their lacquerware.
In Indonesia, despite conversion to Islam opposed to certain forms of art, has retained many forms of Hindu influenced practices, cultures, arts and literatures. An example will be the *Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) and literatures like the Ramayana. This is also true for mainland Southeast Asia (excluding Vietnam). Dance movements, Hindu gods, arts were also fused into Thai, Khmer, Lao and Burmese cultures. It has been pointed out that Khmer and Indonesian classical arts were concerned with depicting the life of the gods, but to the Southeast Asian mind the life of the gods was the life of the peoples themselves—joyous, earthy, yet divine.
Traditional music in Southeast Asia is as varied as its many ethnic and cultural divisions. Main styles of traditional music can be seen: Court music, folk music, music styles of smaller ethnic groups, and music influenced by genres outside the geographic region.
Of the court and folk genres, Gong-chime ensembles and orchestras make up the majority (the exception being lowland areas of Vietnam). Gamelan orchestras from Indonesia, Piphat /Pinpeat ensembles of Thailand and Cambodia and the Kulintang ensembles of the southern Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and Timor are the three main distinct styles of musical genres that have influenced other traditional musical styles in the region. String instruments also are popular in the region.
The history of Southeast Asia has led to a wealth of different authors, from both within and without writing about the region.
Originally, Indians were the ones who taught the native inhabitants about writing. This is shown through Brahmic forms of writing present in the region such as the Balinese script shown on split palm leaf called lontar (see image to the left — magnify the image to see the writing on the flat side, and the decoration on the reverse side).
The antiquity of this form of writing extends before the invention of paper around the year 100 in China. Note each palm leaf section was only several lines, written longitudinally across the leaf, and bound by twine to the other sections. The outer portion was decorated. The alphabets of Southeast Asia tended to be abugidas, until the arrival of the Europeans, who used words that also ended in consonants, not just vowels. Other forms of official documents, which did not use paper, included Javanese copperplate scrolls. This material would have been more durable than paper in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia.
- East Asia
- Northeast Asia
- List of Southeast Asian leaders
- S.E.A. Write Award
- Southeast Asian Games
- Southeast Asia Treaty Organization
- Tiger Cub Economies