An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Funan 扶南

Sep 6, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Funan 扶南 was a state in Southeast Asia that covered the south of modern Vietnam and parts of Cambodia. It flourished from the 1st to the 7th century CE. It is first mentioned in Kang Tai's 康泰 book Funan zhuan 扶南傳, the Funan yiwu zhi 扶南異物志, Wan Zhen's 萬震 Nanzhou yiwu zhi 南州異物志 and the official dynastic history Sanguozhi 三國志, probably also in Yang Fu's 楊孚 Yiwuzhi 異物志, where it is also written 夫南 or called Banan 跋南. It is quite probable that the term Funan (Middle Chinese pronunciation /bĭu nɒm/) is a transliteration of the Khmer word pnom ភ្នំ (compare the capital of Cambodia, Pnom Penh), which means "(sacred) hill" (or Mt. Meru of Hindu cosmology).

The rulers of Funan regularly sent tributes to the Chinese court between 223 and 588, thus nominally accepting the suzerainty of the empire of Wu 吳 (222-280) and the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420~589). It is known that the kings of Funan had contacts with the rulers of the Kushana (Chinese name Guishuang 貴霜) in modern Afghanistan. Around 250 Emperor Sun Quan 孫權 (r. 222-252) sent out Kang Tai and Zhu Ying 朱應 as envoys to the king of Funan. After their return they wrote reports of Funan of which only parts have survived. In 504 Emperor Wu 梁武帝 (r. 502-549) of the Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557) bestowed to the king of Funan, Kauṇḍinya Jayavarman, the official titles of General of Annam 安南將軍 and King of Funan. Chinese sources speak of the "large ships" of Funan and their famous music that was played at the courts of the Sui 隋 (581-618) and Tang 唐 (618-907) dynasties. Buddhist monks travelled to China and translated sūtras of the Hinayāna canon or crafted Buddha statues in the monastery of Fanyu 番禺 (modern Guangzhou 廣州, Guangdong).

When the kingdom of Zhenla 真臘 expanded, the capital of Funan was relocated to the south, but Funan was swallowed by Zhenla around 650.

Chen Jiarong 陳佳榮 (1992). "Funan 扶南", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 233.
Li Zhiran 李植枏, ed. (1991). Waiguo lishi cidian 外國歷史辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 270.
Xu Zhaolin 許肇琳 (1990). "Funan 扶南", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Waiguo lishi 外國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 332.
Zhongguo baike da cidian bianweihui 《中國百科大辭典》編委會, ed. (1990). Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 819.