Reconsidering the Ptolemy’s Southeast Asia Map in the Archaeological and Chinese Documentary and Archaeological Contexts: A Case of Study of Funan and Oc Oe

The Ptolemy’s Southeast Asia Map, or the so-called “India beyond the Ganges,” is created with nautically geographical information dated between the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The map contains the locations of capes, river mouths, cities, and regions at that time, but they appear to be mysterious places that could not be related to the historical and archaeological contexts of Southeast Asia. Ancient Chinese documents, therefore, were introduced to solve this problem. The historical book “Sānguó zhì” (Records of the Three Kingdoms) and Kang Tai’s work “Wúshí wàiguó zhuán” (Accounts of foreign states in Wu times), which dated from the 3rd century CE, reported on the existence of “Funan” as the most powerful state of the Southern Sea barbarians. Geographical and toponymical relations between Ptolemy’s and the Chinese information were studied to reveal their cognate. The results are suggestive that (1) Ptolemy’s Great Cape and the city of Zabai correspond geographically to the Cape Cà Mau and the Óc Eo archaeological site in Southern Vietnam, respectively; and (2) Ptolemy’s “Balonga” (Metropolis) is cognate to Kang Tai’s “Funan” (Hokkien: Hûlâm). Archaeological evidence of both Chinese and Indo-Roman maritime trading network found in the region is also suggestive that protohistoric states could have existed in Southeast Asia at least since the 1st century CE as scattered trade communities around the sub-continent, which were received coordinates by Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE and were confirmed their sovereignty by the representatives of Funan in the Palace of Wu State in the 3rd century CE and afterward.

Trongjai Hutangkura

Dr. Trongjai Hutangkura is a researcher at The Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (SAC), Bangkok, Thailand. He graduated with a BA from Faculty of Archaeology at Silpakorn University (Thailand) in 1994. His MA from the Faculty of Environment and Resources at Mahidol University (Thailand) in 2000 was entitled, Pollen Analysis of Holocene Sediments from Kanchanaburi Province: Palaeo-vegetation and Palaeo-environment. The project focused on the archaeological study of shoreline evolution in the Lower Central Plain of Thailand. In 2012, Trongjai graduated from the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France) with the thesis, Pollen Analysis of the Holocene Sedimentary Sequences from the Lower Central Plain of Thailand and Its Implications for Understanding Palaeo-Environmental and Phytogeographical Changes. Although, palaeo-shoreline evolution of the Lower Central Plain in Thailand remains central to Trongjai’s research, he has a special interest in ancient documents in Indian, Greco-Roman, Chinese and Arabo-Persian, which mention Southeast Asia before 1500 CE.