The Contributions of the Overseas Chinese to the Historical Development of the Southeast Asian Region

Hugh M. Lewis


Copyright 2001, by Hugh M. Lewis

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"…The word 'Nanyang', the 'Southern China' is used as an equivalent of the more recent coinage, 'Southeast Asia'. But there is an important difference. There is implied in the word Nanyang territories which have been reached by sea, by the South China Sea, and consequently, the areas which specially concern the Nanyang Chinese have been the key coastal strips of mainland Southeast Asia and most of the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia…Also, there will be many references to the 'Nanyang trade', which means the trade of the Chinese with the countries of the Nanyang." (Wang Gungwu; A Short History of the Nanyang Chinese: 1)


"Western scholars, instead of investigating the process of Chinese settlements in Southeast Asia in a historical perspective, have tended to study the position of the Chinese communities seen as social and political 'minorities' vis-à-vis the local majorities. Moreover, they have, consciously or unconsciously, tended to avoid the analysis of their roles in the making of Southeast Asia. This being the case, it is time that a new appraisal of the contribution of the Chinese towards the development of Southeast Asia should be made in the same way and manner that Western scholars study the impact of the West on Southeast Asia." (Claudine Salmon; 'The Contribution of the Chinese to the Development of Southeast Asia: A New Appraisal' in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.


Chinese civilization has had along historical presence and influence in the region now known as Southeast Asia via well developed trade networks which linked Southeastern China with the Nanyang. The nature of this sinitic influence has been important to the historical development of Southeast Asian civilization and gave rise to an incipient Nanyang Civilization which had its own distinct form and style which served to demarcate it in place and period in contradistinction to many other civilizations with which it came into contact. The purpose of this paper is to find the appropriate culture historical provenience and baseline for the development of this unusual civilization and to outline some of its most basic forms, in order to proffer an analysis of the conceptioning of historical civilization as being primarily a multidimensional historical process within a given inter-regional context combining in an essentially dialectical patterning a synthetic combination of exogenous acculturative and endogenous 'stylistic' 'forces' and 'factors' which must be both inter-functionally present for 'developments' to occur.

'To civilize' stems from the Latin 'civilis,' civil, and is defined 'to bring out of condition of savagery or barbarism; instruct in the ways of an advanced society or to refine or better the habits or manners of.' (Webster's Unabridged, 1983) Civilization is defined 'the type of culture developed by a particular people or in a particular epoch.' (American Heritage, 1976) and as '1. The process of civilizing or becoming civilized. 2. The condition of being civilized; social organization of a high order, marked by advances in the arts, sciences, etc. 3. The total culture of a people, nation, period, etc. …4. The countries and peoples considered to have reached a high stage of social and cultural development.' (Webster's Unabridged, 1983) These definitions carry several connotations of an historically distinctive identity, of culture contact in process, and of developmental change of a grouping of people. This refers the developmental process of historical civilization to the dialectical cultural dynamics of acculturation and stylization. It is my contention that the peoples of the Nanyang achieved a high level of cultural/historical development which may be referred to as a special instance of a distinctive civilization, and that the development of this Nanyang Civilization consisted primarily of the contrapuntal processes of acculturation and stylization.

Strictly speaking the Nanyang was never a 'civilization; in the common sense--it never had a geo-political circumscribed 'sphere of influence' or a broad territorial base about which it could center or organize or 'orient' itself. Neither was it ever purely political entity in any corporate organizational sense, though there were always political dimensions to its structural patterning. Nor was it ever really a 'sui generis' origination as many traditional civilizations are thought of, even though it had an origin and a sense of tradition which marks most civilization--its regional identity, though distinctive was defined by interrelationships of structural interdependency between other civilizations, thus always defined vis-à-vis some other, more seemingly 'independent' civilization. These factors have tended to obscure its presence and role from historical attention, being only always just noticed in passing between more important points. By its negative definition, being defined mostly from without, rather than from within, it was in both real and historical sense a 'marginal civilization' which existed and prospered upon the structural and geographical interstices of other greater and lessee civilizations. It existed in fact and fiction within the penumbra of these other civilizations--in a twilight zone of history whose space was more social than physical, more cultural than territorial. Thus its mention is conspicuously absent in many social geographies and national histories. It existed primarily above and below the level of state civilization, it was characteristically dual, being simultaneously both interregional and local in form and function. It may have been a supranational empire in a purely economic sense, but never quite one in a political or military manner. If usual continental civilizations might be referred to as 'major' civilizations, or else as regional or national civilizations, then the Nanyang would by contrast be called a minor 'interregional' or 'transnational' civilization. Nevertheless, the Nanyang had a basically distinctive original form and traditional style which warrants labeling it a civilization all of its own--and not just a hodgepodge syncretic mongrelization of borrowings from other civilizations upon the periphery of cultural reality. As such, it had a number of special characteristics which made it historically exceptional among civilizations. Its only real territorial base was the South China Sea which opened naturally upon virtually the entire earth--its only contiguous geographical boundaries were internal rather than external, being the coastlines and river shorelines of the many Southeast lands. It was thus mostly a maritime civilization, versus the more common 'continental' kind. Rather than being contained by or surrounded by the borders of other civilizations, instead its boundaries always surround and contained other civilizations. Consequently it lacked an obvious central geographical focal point or historical point of origin around and about which it could be politically unified or culturally consolidated, while its everyday existence became defined primarily in terms of its contact with other peoples of other civilizations, rather than in terms of its own structural dimensions, incorporated by other civilizations rather than incorporating them. If it were a maritime civilization, then it was also primarily a mercantile entity--it achieved its solidarity not through political hegemony over any particular geographical region, but through economic hegemony across the sea. It has long existed precariously at the sea or edge of the tapestry of history, and it is from this vantage point that we may come to better understand the process of history in the making of civilizations.




The difficulty of concisely isolating the essential most characteristic of what we mean by 'civilization' in general as some kind of monothetic definition and the dilemma of being consistently unable to clearly demarcate the precise boundaries in time and place of any particular civilization has long been the bane of historians, social philosophers and those few 'social scientists' who have taken this thorny problematical question upon themselves. This dual analytical problematic is really two sides to the same conceptual coinage of the term 'civilization'--fundamentally, irreducibly Janus faced. Furthermore, the problem is primarily an analytical dilemma of the artificial, a posteriori dichotomization of a before the fact a priori synthetic human reality. This has rendered the appearance of the historical discourse upon the topic as mostly dialectical in structure. There is in fact no such concrete 'thing' out there that is or has ever been a 'civilization' nor has there ever been possible a single monothetic abstract 'meaning' which could be definitionally affixed to the 'thing name' of 'civilization'. But the notion 'civilization' does connote something, however nondescript or inexact, that is out there, something in a very real sense that existed or exists. Actually the term denotes not a thing but a 'set of relationships between things' and not just a single kind of relationships between a single kind of thing, but a complex structure , or order, or 'multiple' patterning or form which is relatively consistent and coherent, enduring as an entity or integrity through time and across space, a multiplex set of many overlapping and interconnected relationships between many different kids of things.

Civilization like its synonymous local counterpart 'culture' is a convenient catch all, a useful simplifying device, an organizational metaphor relying upon the power of the illusory fallacy of the organic analogy in order to frame our thinking about various complex phenomena in human reality. Alfred Kroeber, long blamed for a belief in super-organicism recognized the danger of this fallacy and had this to say in relation to the analogy of civilizations and culture which exhibit growth:


"When cultural growth is spoken of, or cultural growth and atrophy, decay, disintegration and death, these are metaphorical terms used descriptively. The terms are analogical when applied to human culture, but their use of course does not imply that process of biological growth and decay are being referred to or utilized. It can be assumed today that no scholar sophisticated enough to deal sensibly with cultural phenomena is really an organicist.

Every cultural growth involves first of all the acceptance, by traditional inheritance or by diffusion from elsewhere, of a body of cultural content; second, an adequate adjustment to problems of environment as well as social structuring; and third a release of so called creative energies more or less subject to shaping by the factor of style. These three components co-occur and inter-influence one another. Ultimately, they can produce a defined and unique whole culture or civilization, which is also a nexus or system of style patterns.

In time, the creative activities become somewhat like active growing points. They then do most to shape and color the style of the culture; but they are never overriding or wholly determinative of the civilization." (Kroeber; An Anthropologist Looks at History: 85)

The structure of these multiplex interrelationships is irreducibly abstract or eidetic, an abstraction out of time, which endows it with a characteristic quality of 'timelessness' and 'universality' which is essentially structural and synchronic, or a fundamental sense of structural synchronicity. Close scrutiny of these map of patterned interrelationships between 'things' would reveal an apparent structure which is web like and multi-layered, composed of many cris-crossing threads like an interwoven fabric or seamless cloth folded upon itself. Actually the texture of this is only apparent--a kind of historical 'veil of Maya'--a map of the mind hiding the real regionality behind it. In actuality, the threads are only the tendrils of time, the interwoven warp and weft of event and happening, of historical process.


"Civilizations resemble organic classes in being natural systems. That is, they can be said to posses both a structure and a content within this structure. By contrast one can hardly speak of the events of history as possessing a structure or filling a system. True, the structure and content of civilizations do change. and such changes of cultural structure are events--institutional events they might be called; and they are due to or expressed in straight out historical events…this linkages is the reason, or one reason, why civilizations and their structured content, namely institutions and cultural patterns, enter into history. Civilizations in fact might be roughly defined as the residue of history when one abstracts the events of history.

In short, the problem of the definition and delimitation of civilizations is a generically and genuinely historical one even though the methods of conventional historiography as such hardly extend to its solution." (Alfred Kroeber; An Anthropologist Looks at History: 5)


'Interrelationships between things' connote irreducible temporal process of differentiation, or change, and assimilation, or integration, or conservation, or identity or relationship between 'things' through time. The historical tapestry is only a mapping of the unfolding, interweaving process of universal change through time, or within time --it is only a hypostatized model of the patterning of change of the past. Speaking historically of the past, this modeling or mapping is essentially diachronic and functional, or more accurately, inter-functional in a causal and conditional sense. Historical dialogue is essentially explanative and descriptive in determining the directionality and in outlining the contextuality of change or process. It is fundamentally dialectical in continually moving between eidetic explanation and concrete description of the events and the things involved by the change--setting up two conflicting parameters between causal efficiency or efficacy, or explanative parsimony and rational coherence, which may be said to be internally necessary, on the one hand, and between contextual conditionality or descriptive adequacy or relative or relational consistency, which may be said to be externally sufficient, more or less, on the other hand.

These form the extremes of the continuum of the historical dialectic, which becomes further complicated by the dichotomization of the historical present between the present as projective past, written in the idiom of the future, or 'futuristically' in a prospective or projective sense, seeing human actors and historical forces or agencies working from the past to the present, enfolding history through time as a future-ward possibility, as a transcendental destiny or immanent fate, and the present as retrojective future, written in the idiom of the past, retrospectively or regressively proceeding from the present to the past, seen as unfolding or excoriating the layers of past events in order to ascertain the 'source' or reveal the 'core' or retrace the 'roots' of traditional heritage. Whichever manner of inscribing the history of the past or of the future in the present that is chosen will determine the major historical theme and the minor counterpoint of that theme--one being spoken the other left to be inferred from what is left unsaid. We are also faced with having to learn an alternative epistemology which is essentially different from the analytical logic of things or name. We need to master an analogic or relational logic of 'interrelationships' or 'processes'.


"And so I end by repeating what I said in the introduction. The interest of the field and also its educational justification is that it provides an opportunity for learning how to learn. In particular, the field is concerned with identifying and understanding historical processes, and here, in my opinion, is its pedagogical value. The historian John Higham neatly describes the style of the historian who is interested in the study of processes when he says: 'The process oriented scholar enjoys the pursuit of truth more than the possession of it.' This type of scholar can be distinguished from his product oriented colleague, who 'cares more about the completeness or the coherence of his work than he does about its replication or extension by others. He is unappreciative of negative findings, intolerant of theoretical claims, and unwilling to risk the waste (for him) of time and effort that may be involved in methodological experimentation. He seeks to construct relatively self sufficient finished products.' (I quote from Michael Kammen; 'On Predicting the Past: Potter and Plumb' in Journal of Interdisciplinary History 7 Summer 1974: 115-116) The present state of earlier Southeast Asian historical studies is such that we are bound to belong to the company of process oriented scholars, and this means that we and our students have to keep as close as possible to the sub-regional sources, treated as cultural texts, and foreign efforts for the time being to delineate a shape to regional history." (O. W. Wolters; History, Culture and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives: 99-100)


It can be seen that the nature of historical processes is not to be reified in the sense that the structure of historical patterning tends to be. 'Civilization' is not a 'super organic thing' which transcends the local historical horizons of time and place--but as an inter-functional and inter-relational process between many particular things its connotative meaning becomes metaphorically and diachronically transcendental of the a historical horizon of region--it is preeminently a process of synergism which like the functioning of a machine that is more then the mere simple sum of its parts, becomes a 'style' that becomes inferred historically after the fact of its phenomenal occurrence, like the proverbial ghost in the dumb machine.


"…the idea of synergy may be seen as pertaining to order creating processes, processes which serve to mediate the potentials of aggressive behavior, so to affect more harmonious systems of order.

…it may be best to consider it as an aspect of communication, we mean the flow of information among organs of awareness. This idea further implies the notion of transaction, in which any particular event has mutual effect upon organs of awareness. The latter term, organ of awareness, is used so to distinguish between communicative processes and between organism and the environment…since these relations are mutual in nature, the ontogenetic nature of growth is one in which patterns of mutual adjustment develop. By the same process of growth of self consciousness is a communication between intra-psychic impulses and the culturally construed world. The self, fashioned by the symbolic representations of others, is carried in the informational content of events, persons and objects. Humans thus assume the masks, roles and meanings which society gives; yet this is done only by adjusting them to the restraints and potentials upon which human life is structured.

…information is transmitted which reacts to its outer environment and in turn helps to construct it. Thus, we can form chains of intercommunication and causation…in this we can recognize a continuum of complexes of phenomena which retain their identity, or 'persistence of pattern' and also influence the lesser and greater environments in which they are contextually situated." (Bruce Grindal; 'Synergy: A Theory and Praxis for Human Life' in Essays in Humanistic Anthropology, 1979: 27-28)


Civilization then is not so much a 'thing' living in time and place as it is a process, an historical process which is dialectical and synergistic--it is an after the fact process of a posteriori re-synthesis, or 'stylization' of the culture historical Geist.

Before delving into more detail in the dialectical character of this historical process in relation to Nanyang Civilization it is important to emphasize one final point about the structure of historical process in general--as part of a hermeneutic circle of the recognition of historicity, its first and final point of reference is and will always remain the subjective sense of self in the continually emerging present. History is no the real past in and of itself--the past constitutes only the mythological horizon of history, an ever receding horizon never to be overtaken. Historical moment is the infusion of the past with the sense of immediacy, the important nowness, which exist in the present. This inevitably preconditions the sense of understanding and historical selectivity of the event so the past. History is a hermeneutical process of rewriting the process of the past in reference to the present and the process of rewriting the process of the present in terms of the interrelationships of the past. History is a hermeneutical process of rewriting the past always distanced from itself but never distanced enough to constitute a separate, independent sense of scientific objectification. History remains outside of and beyond the purview of strict sphere of science. Hence, historical methodologies, generically hermeneutical, no matter how systematic or 'scientific like' cannot be rendered into a methodology of science without thereby transforming it into pseudo scientific ideology which has its own hermeneutic circle no longer tethered to a sense of past reality. While history ultimately derives from mythology and reduces finally into Mythos of which the hermeneutics of Chronos is its praxis, nevertheless history is 'mythology with an objective relation to the human reality of the past, substantiated via the historical record.' This is what distinguishes mythology from simple ideology. Ideology comes from mythology, but bears only a 'subjective relation to human reality'. It is the mythology of the past which becomes projected into the future, enacted, aspired to, hence confected, artificial and historically speaking, false. It constitutes the methodical deception of the sense of history confirmed in the future. It is in a sense 'history of the subjective present translated into the ideals of the future' or simply 'history in the making' divorced of the unpredictable components of human agency and the many historical accidents of unintended consequences.



The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber has written most cogently upon the problematics of the conceptioning of 'civilizations'--


"To summarize. To the historian, civilizations are large, somewhat vague segments of the totality of historical events which it may sometimes be convenient or useful to segregate off from the remainder of history, and which tend to evince certain dubiously definable qualities when so segregated. To the student of culture, civilizations are segregated or delimited from one another by no single criterion: partly by geography, partly by period; partly by speech, religion, government, less by technology; most of all by those activities of civilization that are especially concerned with values and the manifest qualities of style. This is an area of subject matter peripheral to the historian, but increasingly in his view. Culture is most easily conceived as a static generalization of collective behavior suppressing event in favor of non-transitory form. Yet it is increasingly evident that no civilization is ever actually static. It always flows. Like style, it is qualitative, structures form in process. The form and structured possessed by civilizations invite a comparative morphology. Yet that the forms are always in process means that they are also historic phenomena and must be viewed historically. To the point at which historical examination and morphological inquiry seem most fruitfully to intersect is in the phenomenon of culmination which civilizations share with styles." (Alfred Kroeber; An Anthropologist Looks at History: 17)

Kroeber viewed the historical development of civilizations as a form of socio-cultural process which "means the relation pattern within successive developmental stages of civilizations, these civilizations themselves being viewed each as a total unit and ultimately also in comparison with one another." (1963: 27) The most important characteristic of the endogenous process of civilizations are stylizations it achieves, its unique forms of cultural expression. Style is the most distinctive attribute of a civilization, giving it form and continuity. "A style may be provisionally defined as a system of coherent ways or patterns of doing certain things.' (1963: 66) The developmental cycle of a civilization is signified by the developmental life cycle of its styles:


"The characteristic forms of culture which are non-repetitive, plastic, and creative are its styles. Styles are characterized first by internal consistency; second by the property of growth; and third by a quality of irreversibility: they can develop but they cannot 'disdevelop' or turn back. All three of these qualities--consistency, growth and irreversibility--are characteristic also of organisms; though this similarity is only analogous, since organisms are animals or plants functioning through physiology and heredity, whereas styles are social products of the one species of organism, man.

Civilizations contain more or less repetitive elements in which the qualities of style are present only feebly or transiently; but they not only do also contain styles, but on their creative dynamic side they consist characteristically of styles; and in proportion as this as a collection or association of styles; and in proportion as this association is integrated, we can usefully regard a civilization as a sort of super style, or master style, possessing some degree of overall design and being set, faced, or sloped in a specific and more or less unique direction.

A civilization would presumably partake of the dualities of the styles of which it is composed. Besides the consistency of coherence which we have just mentioned, civilizations should then also show the property of growth; and this property they are indeed generally credited with. Finally, civilizations might share with styles the property of irreversibility and this is the problem we have set ourselves to inquire into." (Kroeber; 1963: 57)


The historical development of civilization refers then to two dialectically interrelated processes, the push of the process of socio-cultural stylizations and the pull of the forces of acculturation. The dialectic of these two processes of historical change refers us to Melville Herskovits's central theory of cultural dynamics. Cultural Dynamics premises change as the fundamental focus of the scientific validation and theoretical unification of culture theory. Change implies continuous variation of form within culture and between different cultures in time and place, which in turn presuppose a relativistic orientation based upon irreconcilable socio-historical and socio-cultural differences of traits and aspects. "Culture is both stable and ever changing. Cultural change can be studied only as a part of the problem of cultural stability; cultural stability can be understood only when change is measured against conservatism. …Perhaps the basic difficulty arises from the fact that there are no objective criteria of permanence and change…" (Herskovits; 1955: 20) The integration of culture forms the basis for our conceptual understanding of that word--allowing us to speak of the theoretical unity of 'culture' from which differing but interrelated facets, called 'cultural aspects' may be legitimately inferred and analytically studied. These aspects constitute the variable cultural forms which different cultures may take under the varying historical circumstances. Taken together, in their appropriate socio-historical contexts, these aspects form collectivities of a particular organizational structure, around which a culture becomes historically patterned--achieving an identifiable 'cultural orientation'.

The meanings of culture and civilization seem to become conflated, even synonymous, in relation to the question of 'style'. When we refer to a culture we are referring to a particular kind of civilization and when we speak of civilization we mean 'culture' in the upper case sense. To be sure, the term culture connotes the characteristic style of a particular civilization--style is the characteristic patterning of a civilization and becomes the basis of the definition for both culture and civilization, where culture connotes mite the characteristic, particularistic form or patterning a civilization takes, while civilization refers more to the process of cultural stylization with which any 'given' culture might take, thus being a more general form. It is the difference between individuality and personality, where the first might refer to the characteristic form of being different, while the second may refer more to the possibilities of becoming different.


"Patterned structure, regularized form, we recognize, can be described as can any structure, since all structure has form and every form has described limits. But we also recognize that patterned behavior and sanctioned responses, learned so well as to provoke automatic reactions to the approved cultural stimuli on the part of each member of society, are the raw stuff out of which the structured forms are made. We take both these aspects into account, then, when we think of cultural patterns as the designs taken by the elements of a culture which, as consensus of the individual behavior patterns manifest by the members of society, give to this way of life coherence, continuity, and distinctive form. (1955: 202)


"This is the kind of patterning of institutions which we find in all their many different phases…Patterning, however, is not a straight-jacket; it is not even a high wall that bars wandering in adjacent cultural fields. It is, as we have noted, a model. It constitutes a pattern in the technical sense of the term, but with its outlines and contours flexible and alterable, permitting experience to fall into meaningful forms despite the changes that continuously mark its expression." (page 207)


Because the life of every group is unified for those who live it, it is essential that we fully comprehend both the need to study how a culture is synthesized and the usefulness of breaking down this unity into its component parts. In considering any individual way of life, we must see it in compass of the integration of the whole, a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. It is such unity that the research worker, in so far as he observes life as it is lived, faces as he studies any people in the field. When we analyze human social behavior, we can isolate form from meaning, action from sanction…" (page 214)


A cultural orientation can be seen to determine the directionality of change, what Herskovits calls development--the general directions of continuous change which cultural patterns manifest. Change in culture is as elemental as the understanding of culture itself--they are almost synonymous.


"We may say then, that the process of change in culture is universal; that the significance of change must be faced in any study of the nature of culture; and moreover, that the analysis of dynamics would patently be impossible without postulating change. this, however, does not imply that cultural change can be studied as an isolated phenomenon. It is only one side of the shield; for change, by and of itself, is meaningless, until it is projected against a baseline, measured in time and intensity and in terms of its extensiveness. Above all, it must be contrasted to the phenomenon that is always opposed to it, the phenomenon of cultural stability--a phenomenon which, in its psychological aspect, is called conservatism." (page 483)


Conservatism is resistance to change and individual differences--i.e. individuality--is the basis of cultural variation which in turn is the basis of cultural dynamics. 'Yet the student of culture, sensitive to change, must grasp variations as well as patterns. For at a given moment, the variations are the expression of change in progress'. Resistance to change, or psychological conservatism is a function of primary conditioning by social sanctioning or enculturation, by which social character is determined culturally, while variation is mainly due to secondary reconditioning which occurs in adaptation and accommodation to external changes in adult life--thus reconditioning is the central hinge for cultural dynamics--the pivot point of cultural change and historical process. Conditioning, enculturation, socialization and reconditioning implies the concept of the synergistic integration of a culture, and by extension, of a civilization. It is recognized as the basis for cultural stability and the persistence of patterning we refer to as 'style'.


"A similar continuum may also be extended beyond the individual into successively larger environments. As Francis Hsu (1971) has stated, we must view the human being not so much as an individual atom, but as a personage whose conscious reality and identity are tied to both the individual's expressible consciousness and his or her intimate society and this level which is, in terms of the individual's enculturation, his or her primary social space. Here affective ties are formed and the cultural heritage inculcated (Spiro; 1971). Beyond this level, which Hsu terms the jen, his 'psychosociogram of man' includes three further levels; the operative society and culture, the wider society and culture, and the outer world. These levels are distinguished primarily by lessening degrees of affective and direct participation. In the wider society and culture human relationships are characterized by usefulness rather than by attachment of feelings. Such spaces characterize the latter stages of enculturation, and particularly the areas of growth and development in Western industrial society. The institutional settings of the school, the market economy, and often the community itself would be included. Beyond this Hsu distinguishes between those role relationships in which we enter into some personal sense of transaction such as student, employee, customer and the like, and those where our attachments are at best indirect and vicarious. This wider society and culture would include 'human beings', cultural rules, knowledge and artifacts which are present in the larger society but which may or may not have any connections with the individual…The final layer Hsu postulates consists of those 'peoples, customers, artifacts belonging to societies with which most members of any society have no contact and of which they have no ideas or only erroneous ideas (1971: 28)'. This final layer sets the furthest boundaries of human knowledge and ethnocentrism." (Bruce Grindal; 'Synergy: A Theory and Praxis for Human Life' in Essays in Humanistic Anth.; 1979: 27-28)


the notion of reconditioning relates to other processes of cultural dynamics, most important acculturation--'the study of cultural transmission in process'. The study of acculturation constitutes the dialectical antithesis, the exogenous force, to the study of cultural stylization in the historical development of civilizations.


"Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups--under this definition, acculturation is to be distinguished from culture change, of which it is but one aspect, and assimilation, which is at times a phase of acculturation. It is also to be differentiated from diffusion, which while occurring in all instances of acculturation, it is not only a phenomena which frequently takes place without the occurrence of the definition above, but also constitutes only one aspect of the process of acculturation." (Redfield, et. al.; 1936)


"…culture change that is initiated by the conjunction of two or more autonomous cultural systems. Acculturative change may be the consequence of direct cultural transmission; it may be derived from non-cultural causes, such as ecological or demographic modifications induced by an impinging culture; it may be delayed, as with internal adjustments following upon the acceptance of alien traits or patterns; or it may be a reactive adaptation of traditional modes of life. Its dynamics can be seen as the selective adaptation of value systems, the process of integration and differentiation, the generation of developmental sequences and the operation of role determinants and personality factors." (SSRC; 1954: 974)


Acculturation is a particular form of a general process of cultural historical transmission and change, representing but one of several overlapping phases of a single process "by means of which either isolated traditions or considerable blocs of custom are passed on by one human group to another; by means of which a people adapt themselves to what has been newly introduced and to the consequent reshuffling of their traditions as these were aligned before the new elements were presented". (Herskovits; 1955: 14) As such acculturation is related to two other processes--diffusion and assimilation. Diffusion, acculturation and assimilation are in that order different degrees and dimensions along a single continuum of intercultural change and transmission.


"Contact, therefore, can result in minimum borrowing, with or without external pressure, or it can range to almost complete acceptance of the way of life of another people. In any given case, the aspects of culture that are transmitted or the transfer of the sanctions of an older custom to a new cultural form are the result of particular historical circumstances which influence the psychological motivations underlying the selectivity that comes into play." (Herskovits; 1955: 539)


In general, acculturation designates a more continuous, though incomplete intermediary form of intercultural contact, in which there is some measure of inequality or unevenness of interchange, or some measure of 'historical control' by the participant groupings over the process. At the core of the notion of this cultural change continuum is the degree of intercultural contact or transcultural interchange between two human groupings, whether material or human, or 'physical or symbolic'. Without such contact, there can be no acculturation. There are many modes of contact--'trade, invasion, enslavement, educational or missionary activity or through telecommunications.' There are several variables determining the range of this continuum--nature of contact, purpose, duration, relative permanence, resistance or conflict, degree of syncretism or accommodation and adaptation, and multiple levels, whether individual or group. 'Acculturation also carries with it an important implication which is also carried by the notion of cultural stylization--that is the role of learning, socialization and 'reinterpretation and reconditioning' in the culture contact process. This added dimension results in some confusion in the application of the term acculturation between more precise definitions of 'enculturation' and 'transculturation' which from the standpoint of acculturation in general, may be seen as two complementary faces of the same dialectical coin--in the case of stylization the process of 'enculturation figures more prominently, whereas in the process of acculturation 'transculturation' is more important.

Acculturation is usually a two way or 'reciprocal' process of interchange. But as one moves along the continuum from confusion to assimilation, there is a tendency to move from basically equal or symmetrical exchange of relations to more uneven or asymmetrical relations of domination, which renders the nature of exchange more conflictual rather than cooperative--there is implied an intensification of competition. Acculturation requires the contact of at least two autonomous cultural groups…there must also be change in one or other of the two groups which results from contact…


"Although in principle, change can occur in either of the two parties…in practice one group dominates the other and contributes more to the flow of cultural elements than does the weaker of the groups. This domination has taken a place in a variety of ways…the apparent domination of one group over the other suggests that what happens between contact and change may be difficult, reactive and conflictual rather than a smooth transition…between the initial contact and the resultant change in the contact arena, relationships are likely to be those of conflict.

…The eventual form of the accommodation between the groups in contact and in conflict is not necessarily one of assimilation…A variety of relationships may develop which may best be comprehended in relation to the concept of adaptation…it may be viewed as the reduction of conflict within an interacting system." (Berry, John W.; 'Acculturation as Varieties of Adaptation' in Acculturation: Theory, Models and Some New Findings; 1980: 10-11)


Conflict generation and conflict reduction as a result of culture contact and adjustment relates back to the systems model of synergism seen as an adaptive process, in which the initial stages of acculturation might be viewed as unsynergistic as order destroying processes of miscommunication.


"In a way of conclusion, there emerges from this discussion the sensibility of a dialectic interaction between processes which are order creating or altruistic and those which are order opposing or aggressive. The on going and creative endeavor of any culture is toward building systems of order and meaning which facilitates man's adjustment to reality and which give life a sense of moral and aesthetic value. Yet not all cultures are able to master the historical and environmental circumstances in which they find themselves nor are they necessarily able to create harmonious relations between inter-thinking human beings. The measure of aggression is thus a measure of a society's failure, an index of its stupidity. The forms of aggression include not only outright acts of violence but also any thought or behavior which threatens to disorder human relations, to alienate individuals from one another, and to imbalance the reciprocal relationship between man and nature. Aggression is a response to threat whether in the form of rational danger or neurotic anxiety, and as a response only serves to intensify the conditions which create it." (Grindal; 1979: 27)


"In the context of society, these schisms and barriers are the myriad forms of human alienation and their pathological consequences. With alienation the individual is divided from himself and other people. The sense of active participation and creative involvement with the outer world is stifled and the components of self and other are polarized. Thus in any society conditions which impose barriers between the sexes, generations, races and socio-economic classes create unsynergistic conditions for human life. For by opposing groups they not only erect barriers of mutual ignorance but also quicken the potential for antagonism and aggression. The sado-masochism of everyday life is but a microcosm of the institutions of warfare and socio-economic oppression. In both cases the mutual transactions of love and cooperation have failed; and in response, individuals create rigid boundaries between themselves and others. The institutional expression of egotism, sexism, racism and the other varied forms of ethnocentrism polarize the 'we-they' distinction and create human relations which are both fearful and angry." (Grindal; 1979: 35-36)


A three phase course of the process of acculturation has been suggested; contact, conflict and adaptation--'the first phase is necessary, the second is probable, and some form of the third is inevitable.' These constitute phenomena important at both the individual and group levels. Three types of response may be recognized in this developmental course--stressing either movement toward the stimulous, resulting in 'homogenization' or 'assimilation', movement against the stumulous or conflict and reaction, and finally movement away from the stimulous, or withdrawal. Whether or not cultural identity or integrity is voluntarily maintained or coercively resisted, and whether or not the interrelations between groups tend to be creative, constructive or mutually symbiotic, or coercive or parasitic or destructively competitive, determines in turn the differences between four varieties of acculturation--assimilation, integration, rejection or deculturation, which may be respectively subdivided into eight sub-varieties depending upon the exact nature of the contact--multiculturalism, pluralism, melting pot, pressure cooker, withdrawal, segregation, marginality, and finally ethnocide.


"With information concerning the historic setting of the contact in hand, the cultures involved in the contact understood, and the present body or traditions of the people described, the analysis of these data may then regard with profit along the lines suggested in the Outline of the Sub-committee on Acculturation of the Social Science Research Council…The nature of the contact, and the individuals concerned in it; the role these persons played, and, if possible, the reasons why they exerted their influence as they did; whether the contact was friendly or hostile, and whether or not the two groups were similar or dissimilar in numbers or in the forcefulness of their cultures; all these should be pointed toward an understanding of both field data and the relevant historical literature. Which cultural elements were accepted or rejected, should also be exhaustively analyzed. Finally, viewing the culture under investigation as a going concern, an inquiry into the provenience of the elements of this culture, and the manner in which they are integrated into the totality of the resulting culture will round out the presentation, and, in making available an additional example of that type of cultural change that is called acculturation, will permit us to further our understanding of the processed of cultural dynamics in general." (Melville Herskovits; 1938: 28)


Understanding the effects of acculturation at the individual level is important to the cultural historical understanding of the overall process. Six areas of psychological functioning--language, cognitive style, personality, identity, attitudes and acculturative stress--have been identified, all of which have a common course of development from a 'traditional precontact' situation and a more or less sudden or gradual change in psychological characteristics "until some hypothetical conflict or crises point is reached that is followed by a variety of adaptations." (Berry; 1980: 17) Adaptations range between complete rejection to intermediate synthesis to complex adoption or accommodation. The other variables represent relative shifts of psycho cultural orientation, while the factor of 'acculturative stress' registers a negative-positive relationship between an agent and the host environment, including "those behaviors and experiences which are generated during acculturation and which are mildly pathological and disruptive to the individual and his group…acculturative stress will be highest when the cultural distance is greatest and when the insistence that the journey be taken is strongest." (Berry; 1980: 20-22) Stress in this sense can be seen as sort of a negative definition to environmental pressures to change--change of internal states in order to adapt to changes in external situations and to alleviate the stress and reduce the pressure. This implies some kind of motivation, coordination and mobilization of 'resources' in order to cross some 'threshold'--whether boundary or distance, an obstacle or barrier, or a social boundary. This has a great deal to do with values when these are construed as 'reinforcement structures' which relate to identity, whether personal, group or social, and identity boundary maintaining mechanism which reinforce values, identity and distances between people.


"Acculturation defined as 'the study of culture transmission in process' (Herskovits; 1947) is a primary metaphor of culture contact and culture phenomena. Acculturation, in its many guises and forms, as the ethnohistorically defined processes of intercultural connections and structural interrelationships, destroys the myth of the static deterministic cultural boundary, or borderline, of cultural separation and isolation, and also destroys the myth that the internal functional dynamic of cultural process of change in the eternal ethnographic present is independent of an unrelated to events within the larger, supra cultural context of human civilization.

Acculturation forms the theoretical basis of ethnohistory as the comprehension of cultural/historical processes of how a cultural grouping arrives at, maintains and reinterprets their distinctive identity as a group…(Lewis; Ethno-Vietnameseness; 1986: 10-11)


The critical concept of Herskovits theory of cultural dynamics is the notion of cultural focus--"the tendency of any culture to exhibit greater complexity and elaboration and variation in the institution of some of its cultural aspects more than others, which 'remain in the background'. The greatest variation in form is to be found in the aspect of a culture that is focal to the interests of the people. This variation, by implication, suggests that the focal aspect has undergone greater changes than other elements…" (page 550) 'Cultural drift' is the 'process of cumulative variations'. It is associated with the pilling up of variations in the focal aspects of a society…


"…because there is a lively interest in the focal aspect of a culture, change is more likely to occur in the institutions lying here than in those found in other of its aspects. Granting that change is not haphazard but directional, then the increased range of variation in the focal aspect of a culture would not only continuously tend to produce a wider range of variants in line with the direction in which the institutions were moving, but would also make for more decided change than in other aspects. If, further, the focal aspect was the one which gave culture its 'flavor', then the outstanding changes that marked the development of cultures in terms of the succession of focal interests manifested by it over a long periods could be referred to the fact that drift is not a simple unilinear phenomenon. This would further reflect the fact that the broad streams which comprises any culture has varied currents, of which now some, now others will be the more rapid." (Herskovits; 1938: 584)


Finally, reinterpretation, the process of ascribing old meanings to new forms or by which new cultural values alter the significance of old forms, operates internally from generation to generation, marking all aspects of cultural change.


"…The hypothesis of cultural focus refers the dynamics of culture to the only instruments through which change in culture can be achieved--the individuals who compose a society where a way of life is undergoing change. It is people who believe in one way at one historic period and in another way at a later time. The emphasis they lay on the sanctions, the values, the goals that comprise the motivating drives to their behavior gives meaning to what they do at a given moment. We must thus turn to these changing emphasis and drives if we are to comprehend more adequately the changes in the artifacts, the institutions, the organized systems of belief that characterize a culture at a given time, and mark it off from what it was at a different time or from the other cultures that exist co-terminously with it. (Herskovits; 1938: 543)


Herskovits central concept of cultural focus can be metaphorically tied to related ideas within anthropological theory--especially to Kroeber's distinction between 'reality and value' cultures. Julian Steward's idea of the 'cultural core' and finally with Edward Sapir's distinction between 'genuine' and 'spurious' culture. For Kroeber, 'reality culture' 'faces' the existential predicament of cultural survival, defined as the 'primary' or 'basic' aspects of a culture which are involved in 'practical problems of subsistence'. This is contraposed with 'value culture' which is somehow superfluous or superficial, concerned with 'play'--'facing values in the expression of creativity and playfulness. "Every society exists in a conditioning environment and its members have basic physiological necessities to satisfy. It is only after this that free stylization of culture can begin." (Kroeber; 1975: 102) This duality of cultural orientation is related to Steward's notion of cultural core (1955: 37) as being the 'constellation of features which are most closely related to subsistence activities and economic arrangements'. Cultural core constitute those 'primary' aspects of culture which are determined by human ecological adaptation to the physical environment. Sapir's dualism consists of a single continuum defined on the basis of how well a given culture provides a suitably adaptive environment for the individual. Genuine culture begins with the concerns of individual needs while functioning as an integral and meaningful whole--"a richly varied and yet somehow unified and consistent attitude toward life in which no part of the general functioning brings with it a sense of frustration, or misdirected or unsympathetic effort." (1924: 410) Spurious culture is extraneous to the individual, cultivating an attitude subservience to arbitrary demands and fostering an attitude of non-participation and alienation. "While the genuine culture serves to nurture the creative potential of human beings, the spurious culture is inherently frustrating, fragmentary and wasting of human endeavor and sentiment." (Grindal; 1979: 13)

Seen in terms of culture historical process, the cultural ecology of the interrelationships between and individual and the society and its wider environment, there is suggestive in this definition of a kind of duality of culture or civilization a relative degree of inter-functional integrity, or 'synergism' which creates a focal core, constituting the principal region or area of cultural concerns and individual attentions. A culture or civilization which has not mastered control over its environments, which has not successfully solved the problem of fundamental existential survival, cannot direct its attention or orient itself to a concern with 'values' or with 'stylization'. The 'stylization' of a civilization will be an indicator of its synergistic success within a changing environment. Acculturation which tends toward conflict and rejection or withdrawal may be viewed as an alien encroachment which upsets the 'centeredness' or 'balance' of cultural harmony, disintegrating the interrelationships between individual, group and environment. This results in a condition of 'spuriousness' of cultural concerns, a preoccupation with 'reality' concerns which results in the neglect of 'values'. The cultural core has been functionally destabilized, resulting in a kind of discontinuity between primary and secondary 'cultures'. Values no longer are commensurate with the realities of resource availability. We see historical patterning in the apparent growth and decay cycles of cultures and civilizations, a kind of waxing and waning of styles, periods of 'high culture' followed by gulfs of 'low cultures'. Tradition collides with history, resulting in historical accidents, an accumulation of the unpredictability of human agency, or the 'culture shock' of unexpected, unanticipated consequences of human actions and events. Creative stylizations, extremely successful in one epoch, fossilize into anachronistic and archaic traditions which inhibit or mitigate creative adaptability of a culture in the next epoch. The civilization, in the process of 'decay' or 'disintegration' returns to 'basics' to a preoccupation with 'reality culture' from which new, more adaptive 'value orientations will eventually emerge' Acculturation complicates this processural model, stimulating or reorienting or redirecting the development of cultures depending upon the conditions, kind, and degree of 'culture contact'. Acculturation if destructive, will impact upon the 'core' 'genuine' culture resulting in an alienated 'spuriousness' of culture. If it is mostly constructive, it will influence mostly the 'value' culture either directly by the importation or assimilation of more adaptive value orientations or else indirectly by changing the core enabling a greater stylization of values.

One of Kroeber's attributes of the development of civilization was the relative presence or absence and epochal 'clustering' of 'geniuses' at the high water marks of the flow of historical civilization whose unusually creative fluorescence which marked the flowering of the stylization of civilization--such 'geniuses' are conspicuously missing in the periods of stagnation or 'cultural depression'--the 'troughs' between the waves of the dialectical development of civilizations. Creativity, the basis of the adaptability of cultures, is the mark of 'genius' in the characteristic stylization of civilizations.


"What all fine arts share in addition to being subject to style, or always executed in a style, is an element which for want of a better and established term may be called creativity. It might be said of style that it is the manner in which creativity expresses itself; or, turning the phrase around, that creativity necessarily presupposes and produces a style.

While creativity is on one hand aesthetic, it is at other times intellectual, in the larger sense. The world in general recognizes both aesthetic and intellectual creativity as hallmarks of 'higher culture' and as expressive of the values attained by cultures.

The fact of this doubleness of creativity raises the suspicion whether the concept of style may not be legitimately applicable to intellectual creativity. While such an idea may seem far fetched at first, it is at least supported by the fact that historical occurrences of intellectual and aesthetic creativity resemble each other in that both tend to come in more or less discontinuous pulses or spurts, and that they are marked by unusual frequency, or clustering, of individuals to whom we ascribe the quality of genius." (Kroeber; An Anthropologist Looks at History: 68-69)


Creativity might be construed as the essence of successful 'style'. It requires a suitable environment and encouraging cultural milieu in order to achieve expressive development, but it is also simultaneously fosters or 'creates' such a suitable environment or conditionality for its own being. Creativity ties the historical development of civilization securely to the reality of the willfulness of human agency. Creativity can take many forms of human expression. It is fundamentally 'syncretic' in synthesizing many diverse, 'borrowed' elements not normally or 'naturally' together.


"It is clear that no human culture can be devoted entirely to creativity. There are many needs, physiological and economic, that must first be satisfied. There are also adjustments that must be effected in the social sphere. The construction of the society which possesses a culture, as well as the environment in which it subsists, are bound to enter into the shaping of the entire culture, so that such total style as it achieves would be far from pure. In fact, the stylistic quality of any total culture might be so muddled as to be discernible with difficulty.

Every cultural growth involves first of all the acceptance, by traditional inheritance or by diffusion from elsewhere, of a body of cultural content; second, an adequate adjustment to problems of environment as well as social structuring; and third, a release of so called creative energies more or less subject to shaping by the factor of style. These three components co-occur and inter-influence one another. Ultimately they can produce a defined and unique whole culture or civilization, which is also a nexus or system of style patterns.

In time the creative activities become somewhat like active growing points. They then do most to shape and color the style of the culture; but they are never overriding or wholly determinative of the civilization.

The fact that the style of the whole culture is always secondary and partial, of course does not deprive it of significance." (Kroeber: 85-86)


Notions of genuine/spurious, or reality/value culture and cultural core or focus, brings to the fore the cultural historical problem of the fictional 'baseline' as somehow representative of 'genuine, core, focal aspects of cultures'. A baseline is fundamentally a 'sense of tradition' around which a culture is oriented or directed. The baseline is irreducibly a normative symbol system, one which expresses in the form of a simplified model a set of value judgments about 'how a culture should be'. It is therefore only an ideal, for want of a better word, a descriptive/prescriptive stereotype which serves to demarcate cultural and historically particular people. It is in our conceptioning of historical process the infinite horizon of our understanding and knowledge, the line of initial departure defining the ideal standard against which all variations and changes become compared, and it is, in the broader circle of human consciousness, also the final objective of our researches, the effort to better delineate and refine our sense of the appropriate, important baseline hypothetical model of what a culture or civilization is 'really like'. We cannot escape the inexorable hypostatization of the first and final presumption of a baseline--it is a necessary model without which we would have no rational order to our conceptuality. But we can escape the belief that the baseline is anything more than a stereotypical model delineated by our own ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. To be complete any culture historical baseline must consist of several interrelated components--a mythical sense of common origin, a common individual characteriological core which is shared to some extent by all individual personalities, a common sociological 'unit' of organization which sets the stage and provides the necessary props for the action, a shared sense, 'common sense' of a 'style of life' which gives to that way of life a distinctive sense of order, a sense of identity, a 'flavor' and a sense of 'pride' or 'honor'. Baseline distills the hypothetical 'essence' in simple minded form, which is typological in character. In as much as it is implicitly an orienting model, orienting ourselves to our objects of inquiry vis-à-vis its simplified form, it becomes also an explicit, or explanatory model in the determination of what is true from false, genuine from spurious, important from trivial, essential and viral from superficial and superfluous. With the growth of our own understanding, which clarifies our vision of our object, our simplistic models will become correspondingly more 'sophisticated' if not essentially more complex or complicated. Parsimony demands the minimal number of components and the minimal number of connections that will 'make a difference' will simultaneously accounting for the widest range of variation or deviation possible. Weak models have a limited range of application which excludes variety, diversity and alternative possibilities. Strong models are 'wise' ones, capable of a broader range, without itself becoming trivial or superficially 'over sophisticated'. There is no simple enumeration of differences or accumulation of minutia--strong models displace or replace weak ones, rendering their form and content trivial, without altering the 'essential' structure or purpose of the baseline model in the first place. Basically, a wise model 'works' or fits the widest number of alternative possibilities. Whether a baseline model is left to be only implicitly inferred or becomes operatively explicit, such models are necessary and sufficient for our cultural historical understanding--we do not work without them. Even so, it remains replete with limitations and imperfections, always paradoxically problematic in its realization.


"It is obvious that such a reconstruction can never have the same factual value as the result of direct observation. It will be of the same abstract, generalized type as all fieldwork results obtained by relying solely on the statements of informants and not checking them against data taken from actual practice. It will be lacking in the everyday detail which is an essential element to satisfactory fieldwork, and it will be subject not only to the inevitable distortion of memory, but to that of the prejudice, sometimes in favor of the old order and sometimes against it. It will not give an accurate, a complete, or a dynamic picture of native life, and in such a reconstruction was presented as the sole result of a field study, it would have little value…nevertheless it seems to me essential for this type of inquiry…" (Mair; 1934: 416-417)


'Baseline' constitutes the mythological horizon of culture history--the symbolic sense of being and becoming in time and place. As such it is the 'bottom line' of our own hermeneutic understanding--its 'structure' is the symbolic structure of our own metalogical consciousness--the way that all knowledge and understanding becomes framed by ignorance and prejudice, the way we question the known in order to reveal the unknown. The way it works, the way it is wise, is the way that all human symbols work and become wise when existentially situated or become contextualized and operationalized within an epochal horizon or framework of 'historicity'. To see it as outside of this framework is to unavoidably misconstrue its internal meaning with its external relevance, its content becoming confused with its functionality. Then it shifts from being mythological to being ideological in design and purpose--it becomes 'history with a reason'. Its raison d'être then becomes transformed from a methodology of human understanding to a 'praxis of falsification' or a 'mode of idealization'. It 'eclipses' our historical vision.


" 'Ethnoculture' is a notion of the distinctive symbolic identity shared and elaborated by a particular cultural grouping of people. Both ethnoculture and ethnohistory share a common conceptual ground in the notion of a cultural 'baseline'--a hypothetical ideal paradigm, or exemplary model, serving as a point of departure and finial reference in our conceptualization of the group identity and symbolisms of a people, and forming the mythological boundaries of our ethnological comprehension, beyond which we are not supposed to stray. It is the groundwork and floor plan, the blueprint upon which we are supposed to reconstruct the structure of a cultural grouping.

For the student of ethnohistory, the baseline is the ideal 'past' as the source, point of origin and fossilized remnant, from which the cultural grouping has subsequently drifted in the course of time. For the student of ethnoculture, this hypothetical baseline is fond within the ideal 'eternal past'--as that theoretical core of cultural continuity which has supposedly remained unchanged time immemorial, and remains unalterable within the fundamental patterning of socio-cultural patterning. The model of the baseline is presupposed and largely implicit as an ideal rational horizon upon which we project our ethnological comprehension and from which we are supposed to infer the meaning of ethnological experience.

The ideal metaphor of the baseline is the myth of the ethnologist--a metalogical myth which determined the parameters of ethnological consciousness. Ultimately it is derived from the sense of being 'traditional' or a 'traditional' sense of being. It is part of our myth of our personal consciousness, our apperceptive awareness of ourselves as of a particular cultural character, or characteristic culture.

Much lip service is paid in the literature to notions of particular 'traditional cultures' without this hypothetical baseline model ever being clearly or conclusively explained. What is supposed to be like is largely taken for granted and only tacitly presupposed to be realistic or true or to have some actual existence somewhere 'out there' in human reality…" (Hugh Lewis; unpublished manuscript; 1986: 47-48; 1988: 2)




We have arrived at a point of being prepared to assess the historical development of Nanyang civilization as the result of an historical dialectic between 'push-pull' forces of stylization and 'pull-push' forces of acculturation. In reference to Nanyang civilization, it becomes important to ascertain and select out focal aspects of their cultural orientations and to determine the directionality which its cultural development took throughout its history. In order to delineate concisely the history of Nanyang civilization, we are in need to affix a cultural historical baseline from which to determine the degree of transformation of this civilization. We are in quest of ascertaining a hypothetical historical hermeneutic 'baseline' as a point of common origin and reference and departure in this study.

One element of the peoples of the Nanyang was an apparently inherent ambiguity of being on one hand remarkably culturally conservative in their value orientations while simultaneously being on the other hand extremely adaptive to a changing, demanding environment. They looked to a 'baseline' model of their own civilization which proved creatively effective, while at the same time remaining conservatively traditional. If this theory of cultural dynamics is correct, then we are to look for focal aspects of its culture where we might find its 'core', where the greatest degree of variation is to be found, while we are to search for the greater amount of variation where we expect cultural orientation to appear focal.

Two contrapuntal process of interrelationship need to be considered in reference to the development of Nanyang civilization--on one hand the 'endogenous' forces of the creative/traditional stylization of Nanyang cultural patterning, and on the other, the 'exogenous forces' of acculturation which 'inter-influenced' these patterning. This is not a simple dialectical process as both the development stylization and acculturation are 'two way' phenomena, proceeding simultaneously upon multiple levels of understanding and action--the Nanyang peoples influenced as much as they became influenced.

First, Nanyang civilization represents a distinctive synthesis of acculturative contact and stylization between three different 'reference' civilizations--Chinese East Asian, indigenous Southeast Asian, and 'foreign' Western European cultures--the Nanyang has long been a 'culture of multiple origins'. The Nanyang peoples have long lived beneath the penumbra of three overlapping acculturative shadows--the 'Nanyang' shadow, long cast by mainland China, the 'resident alien' shadow cast by the proximity of demographically preponderant lowland indigenous peoples and their 'sui generis' traditional civilizations, and the 'colonial' shadow cast by the preeminence of European capitalists. The Nanyang people have thus long been chronically overshadowed by ominous clouds in terms of a fundamental ambivalence of identity and perennial precariousness of existential insecurity. It has been a convergent civilization made up of the confluence of several historical streams. Its contrapuntal divergence has been a minor theme of its historical development rendering it perhaps a 'low profile' civilization.

There must be considered then, on account of this convergence, three alternative sets of historical records, the Chinese, the Southeast Asian and the Western, in order to compare them and reveal any critical points of overlap, or historical conjuncture, as well as any areas of separation or historical disjuncture. Though we are working primarily from an etic framework of an outsider looking in, it is possible and interesting to rewrite such a hierarchy from an 'emic' insider looking out standpoint, in order to understand different historical hermeneutic horizons.

In order to provide a matrix for contextualizing and identifying emically the people of the Nanyang, we overlay these three etic sets of records and then seek to shed some light upon those human groupings who occupy the interstitial spaces between all three. Though the periodization and structural dimensions involved in each set of records are quite different from the others, their layering will reveal a single set of common 'baseline' characteristics which will serve to cultural historically demarcate the Nanyang peoples within a civilization framework.

We must then consider in turn these three historical records of development--the Chinese, the Southeast Asian and the Western, in that order, in order to then collapse these into a single emic 'Nanyang' framework of crucial developmental stages in order to assess the characteriological Nanyang baseline and to demonstrate its critical stages of historical transformation until the present. In general, the development of Nanyang civilization has a long history. The form of the acculturative process in which such development was involved was different in each of the successive phases. The form it took during each of these phases needs to be considered separately in interrelationships between endogenous and exogenous forces within an interregional context involving 'developing situations of complexity.

To construct an arbitrary 'baseline' model as our point of departure, which will be our final reference, it can be generally stated that from both 'exogenous' acculturative influences and 'endogenous' influence of socio-cultural stylization, Nanyang civilization became primarily colonial, mercantile and maritime in orientation. This forms our sense of a hypothetical, stereotypical 'baseline' from which patterns of variation and developmental directionality may be ascertained.

We are searching for an 'hypothetical' colonial form of acculturative/stylistic process, reflected in a characteristic style of personality and social organization, which will differentially replicate and fit all three socio-historical frameworks, the Western, Sinitic and Southeast Asian. We are also looking for acculturative and stylistic forms which may be labeled 'mercantile'--characteristic of merchant trader--'money maker' interrelationships which interlink all three records. Finally we are searching for common geo-cultural space--a meeting ground or a 'market' which were in the widest sense all of the historical trade routes and city states and 'ghettos' of the Nanyang mercantile 'network' floating upon the South China Sea. Here we find the 'cultural orientation' which provides a sense of directionality of Nanyang civilization throughout its historical development. Its history has been one of the development and elaboration of these focal areas of its cultures--not surprisingly but quite ambiguously these have also been the areas of both greatest conservatism and traditional transformation among the peoples of the Nanyang.

We are left to start out with the crude all too obvious absurdity of an origin myth of a small disparate group of enterprising 'sojourning' middlemen who slowly 'colonize the frontier' of the Nanyang, by bringing Southeastern Chinese 'civilization' in the form of small local settlements euphemistically referred to as 'Chinatown'--the archetypical Nanyang citizen is a petty entrepreneur who is a multiple member of many exclusive clubs located in and about a small Chinatown--a hotbed of secret society vices of gambling, prostitution, coolie exploitation, opium smoking, petty graft, comprador extortion, usury, embezzlement, loan sharking, and internecine strife and fratricide. Living in a Chinatown connotes its own style of living which is all at once very practical, paralegal, very conservative and very personalistic. Furthermore, these Chinatowns are always situated according to access to the wider regions of the Nanyang--wherever they grow and develop, they inhabit and depend upon an eco-niche strategically situated in relation to routes of transportation and communication vis-à-vis access to natural resource bases.




The customs barriers at Ghost Gate--

Ten men go out,

Nine men return.

--7th Century T'ang Folk Poem


'Of every ten who go abroad, three die and six stay and

one returns.'

--'an old saying of Fukkien province'


'Buy for ten, sell for seven, give back three, keep four'

--'a Chinese towkay…of Sarawak'


"…But their meekness and peacebleness were in the long run to be far more forceful than the militancy of the Europeans; for where the latter came in their tens the Chinese came in their thousands, and when the Europeans had gone, they remained." (Victor Purcell; The Chinese in Southeast Asia, 1965: 23)


The Chinese historical record in Southeast Asia may be roughly divided into four successive phases--the sinitic, the sinitistic, the contact period, and the modernization period. Though definite dates dividing these periods may be recognized, in actuality the influence characteristic of each phase overlapped in time and space with those of the succeeding periods.

The 'sinitic' period stretches back into a mythological prehistory of indeterminant duration. It is likely that early Chinese civilizations had had sporadic or limited contact with peoples in Southeast Asia from the earliest of times, if only by indirect diffusion. From this prehistoric contact there gradually emerged and took form definite trade routes which came in later centuries to serve as main avenues of exchange, communication and tribute. Perhaps typical of these early Nanyang citizens may have been 'fishermen- craftsmen-pirate-sailors' maritime counterparts of their continental 'peasants-craftsmen-bandit-soldiers' who were concurrently responsible for settling the 'southern frontier'. These were primarily young to middle aged males organized as a corporate defensive production unit who manned early seaworthy vessels which ventured along coastal reaches, sometimes going out beyond the edge of no return.

These were perhaps a curiously solidarity grouping of desperate and disparate men who were veritable 'jacks of all trades, masters of none'. Wherever or whenever they traveled or settled in tiny 'colony like' settlements, they brought with them important skills and knowledge, from implements and weapons, as well as many refined implements, which may have been the objects of barter or raiding by indigenous groupings--in exchange for highly prized tropical 'luxury' goods especially women. This form of sinitic colonization was never consistently pursued as a policy of state by the Chinese empires. They may have been more like Chinese Viking raiders or pirates who made highly profitable hit and run raids for plunder and who may have established relatively safe and strategic 'havens'. The range and extent of this type of early 'marauding/sojourning' remains largely unknown and unexplored.


"…From a certain perspective, namely from an interest in the direction of the flow of wealth, the sojourners from China were more like pirates. The host countries perceived this…an amusing anecdote, indulging no doubt in some mythologizing, reveals the intertwined destinies of pirates and sojourners in the life of a certain Mr. Ong."


"My father lived in a village by the shore of a small bay in Fukien where bandits and pirates used to hide. One time a pirate who was befriended by my father gave him a bamboo pillow. Sometime later my father discovered that the pillow contained money. He took the money to Fuchow city to buy and sell, but lost it playing mah jong and returned penniless to his village and wife. Later, when times were hard, my father consulted a temple fortuneteller and was counseled to seek his fortune in Southeast Asia. It was then he came to Luzon, bringing my mother and me." (John Omohundro; 1978: 114)


This tentative thesis of prehistoric contact rests insecurely upon several shaky grounds--the presence of Southeast Asian commodities in China and vice versa, the evidence of early Chinese artifacts in Southeast Asia and upon the belief that prehistoric humanity probably traveled around much more upon the high seas than skeptically minded scientific archaeologists seem to be willing to credit them with, and the thesis that structural relations which are prominently well established in the early or 'proto historical' periods and which still persist even until today, probably have a larger 'pasts' than our histories can envision.


"…By the middle of the second millennium BC, as legend begins to give way to history, we find that cowry shells are used as a medium of exchange by the Shang civilization; the shells came from south of the Yangtze and (along with other items) imply a trading chain, in which goods were bartered from tribe to tribe over long distances. By this period also sericulture--the production of the fabulous silk that would draw traders from around the world--was well advanced. (Tradition dates discovery of the silk production techniques back to the third millennium BC.)" (Frank & Brownstone; To the Ends of the Earth, 1984: 4)


"In the present state of knowledge it is impossible to establish with precision the dates of the earlier Chinese settlements in Chiu-chen, but Professor Janse thinks it is very likely that some pioneers ventured to immigrate thither in the third century BC., and this is the time when the Chinese began to infiltrate into northern Indochina, especially Tonking. In any case there must have been a considerable intercourse between southern China and Thanhhoa at the end of the third or at least at the beginning of the second century BC. To a certain extent this supposition can be corroborated by archaeology (e.g. from examples in the Huai Valley style).

Professor Janse makes the following interesting observations on the period:


It can be assumed that the first Chinese who ventured into the country and mingled with the natives were journeying merchants or artisans. Even today Chinese peddlers are highly regarded among the natives because of their skill in commerce and craftsmanship. As they are fairly well to do, they are much sought after by the families of the aboriginal chieftains. Thus many of these modern settlers bring with them into Tonking and Northern Annam Chinese crafts and customs. What is happening today in this respect has certainly been going on not merely for centuries but for millennia…in the wake of these tradesmen certainly came the civil and military mandarins, accompanied by the less welcome tax collector, and by political refugees." (Victor Purcell; 1965: 9-10)


"…According to the consensus of opinion, the date of the first Chinese associations with these regions goes back to the third and even forth centuries BC. Dr. Heine-Geldern in 1934 pointed out the stylistic similarities between some of the prehistoric stone sculptures of the Pasemah region in southern Sumatra and those standing at the tomb of the Chinese general Huo K'iu-ping in Shensi province in China, erected in 117 BC. This, he says, seemed to indicate more or less intimate contacts with China, to be dated probably in the second and first centuries BC. A decade later the same authority again referred to his own statement and pointed out that since then Chinese objects of the Han dynasty had actually been found in Indonesia. Moreover, a considerable number of Chinese sepulchral pottery vessels of the Han period had been excavated in Sumatra, Java, and Borneo and one of them, from Sumatra, bore an inscription dating it 45 BC. From these finds, De Flines inferred, no doubt correctly, that Chinese colonists or merchants must have lived in Indonesia as early as the Han period. Also from Sumatra comes a bowl engraved with designs of persons in Chinese dresses and of horses in Han style, and other pieces of evidence included a Chinese bronze dagger ax (ko) which was said to have come from Sumatra and another from Java.


"Taking all into account (Dr. Heine-Geldern writes) one may come to the conclusion that direct Chinese influence in Indonesia goes back at least to the early Han period, that is at the very latest to the first century BC. However, the ornamental designs of the Dyak tribes of Borneo and the Ngada of Flores are so clearly related to Chinese designs of the late Chou period that one can hardly avoid the inference that Chinese contacts started as early as the beginning of the third century BC., and probably earlier." (Victor Purcell; 1965: 11)


Not every authority has come to accept this thesis--in fact the prevailing consensus seems to have swung in the other direction, no doubt influenced at least a little by underlying opinions one way or the other toward the Nanyang of today. Skeptics argue against the before Christ contacts with the Nanyang and play down the importance of the early role of sinitic acculturative influence. Chinese ships were supposedly unseaworthy at least until the early T'ang era. Linguistic diffusion seems to be 'nil' as well as religious acculturation. Agricultural methods do appear to have spread. The Chinese were seen to have rather uncharacteristically suffered from a 'lack of enterprise' and 'lack of initiative' and 'lack of interest' in regard to the Nanyang.

"These early contacts were primarily for trade…they seldom were intimate enough to introduce Chinese methods." (Fay Cooper Cole; The Peoples of Malaysia, 1945: 27) "China's role in the development of the early sea borne trade of the area was relatively unimportant." (Cady:22) "Policing the pirate infested South Coast was considered as not being worth the effort."


"…Occasional private Chinese junks, no doubt, braved the dangers of the southern seas down to various points on the northern and eastern Malay coasts. Fragments of Han porcelains are widely scattered. Patani was an early port of call and the Emperor Wang Manh reportedly sent to Sumatra for rhinoceros horns. A few Chinese may have proceeded around the peninsula to the port of Takkola (Trang), but official Chinese initiative and participation in the early Southeast Asian trade were very meager." (Cady: 23)


Whatever the case may have really been, involvement with the Nanyang was probably one of gradually developing ranges in intensity, frequency, scale and extensiveness of trade. "Slowly and cautiously they have crept along its shores, probably not venturing to a country before they have become acquainted with it through others." (Groenveldt; 1887) Traditionally, China relied on overland routes, especially the 'silk road across central Asia' for east/west trade. Only later did the legendary 'Spice Route' become the main avenue upon the Nanyang, opening onto the Burma Road and the Ambassador's Road from the 'earliest of times' which was the cumulative result of gradually expanding networks of roads dating between the Chou through the Han dynasties. "This region attained its importance because its ports faced the Southern Seas over which came sailors for thousands of years…" (Frank and Brownstone: 1-2)


"In talking about the 'opening' of Southeast Asia, I do not wish to imply that the area was ever 'closed' in the sense of being absolutely cut off from the outside world. Through the last millennium BC., increasing contact took place across the region and beyond as a developing network of communication appears to have stretched from the Southeast coast of China to the Bay of Bengal, along the coast of the mainland and out into the island world of Southeast Asia…" (John Whimore; 1977: 139-140)


The contacts of Sinitic period culminated during the late Han Dynasty period of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD., coinciding with the earliest diplomatic and tributary missions with the Southeast Asian states of Funan, the period of 'first official recognition of Southeast Asian states in Chinese documents.'


"…it is recorded that in Fan Shih-man 'ordered the construction of great ships, reconnoitered thoroughly Chung-hai (Nanyan) and attacked more then ten states, including Chu-tu-kun, Chiu-chih and Tien-sun…' Neither can there be any doubt that this town was an important focus of trade: 'All the countries beyond the frontier come and go in pursuit of trade…at this mart East and West meet together so that daily there are innumerable people there…rare goods and precious merchandise--there is nothing which is not there…" (Paul Wheatley; 1964: 44-45)


"We have no evidence of who were the main carriers in the trade between China and the lands to the south at this period, but it is probable that they were south Chinese from the ports along the coasts of the provinces of Kuantung and Fukien, places such as Canton and Chuan-chou, which retained importance as ports for many centuries and in some cases still do." ( ???????? ; The Third China: 1-2)


During this time, Chinese merchants appeared to have made their way down along the Salween, Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Following the Han Dynasty, Sinitic influence in Southeast Asia suffered a major eclipse, a 'dark ages' of 'incessant warfare and invasion' for more than three centuries, or until the inauguration of the T'ang--this interim period marks the historical boundary between the phase of Sinitic influence and the 'Sinitistic' phase of acculturative influence. The dynasties of this interregnum period did maintain some contact--"in the fifth century, despite incessant feudal disturbances and civil wars, the Sung Dynasty ruling in the south of China (420-477) established relations with Java in particular." (Simoniya: 10) Curiously, it was during this low phase in the historical development of Chinese civilization that a new sort of traveler made their appearance. These were 'neither merchant nor ambassador' but Buddhist pilgrims to India. "Within Christian era we hear of quite a large movement of pilgrims to India who broke their journey in Nanyang, between the fifth and eighth centuries." These pilgrims were frequently educated monks who remained for extended periods in Nanyang ports.


"…It is also clear that the shipping in which they traveled to Sumatra (although probably not beyond this country) was Chinese.

It was thus most probable that by the 6th century AD., there was a transient Chinese community living in the principal ports of Sumatra, and possibly in Java and some of the Malayan west coast ports…" (?????????; The Third China: 3-4)


It is unlikely that these earliest sojourners became permanent residents without being mostly assimilated into their host environments. During this period though, there continued a southbound movement of Chinese people, especially along the Indochinese peninsula--"the flow of the cultured Chinese into Malay lands, and the spread of Chinese civilization in Malaysia." It is from this time that came the accounts of the Buddhist monk Fa Hsien who "found no Chinese in Java or Malaya (whichever it may have been), though his eyes filled with tears, he tells us, at the sight of a Chinese taffeta fan, he had been away from home for thirteen years." (Purcell; 1965: 13)


"Early in the fifth century the high ranking Chinese Buddhist monk Fa Hsien stopped in Ye-Po-Ti, on his return journey by sea from India after a pilgrimage. Braddell, writing about this even, believes that Ye-Po-Ti was in Borneo while other writers such as Hall maintain that Fa Hsien probably visited Sumatra or Java after calling at Ceylon. In the official Chinese chronicles P'oli was first mentioned in the Liang Dynasty (502-566), followed by Sui (589-618) and T'ang. All three dynasties left records indicating that P'oli sent tribute to China--in 517, 522, 616 and 699. Another early Chinese source gives an interesting location of P'oli that it was on an island to the southeast of Cambodia, two months journey by sea traveling southwest of Canton. The journey thither was made by way of the Malay Peninsula. As Java and Sumatra lie farther south than Borneo from Cambodia and Canton, the description seems to fit Borneo better. The same source also mentions that the people of P'oli were skilled in throwing a chiseled knife edged like a saw, and in the use of weapons similar to those of the Chinese; that they punished a murderer or thief by cutting off the offender's hands, and that part of their custom was to offer sacrifices to the spirits when there was no moon, the sacrifice being placed in bowls called kupa and tieh from a local cotton plant. All the particulars given with regard to the people of P'oni were true of one or other of the Borneon races living in or near Brunei." (John Chin; Sarawak Chinese: 1-2)


The T'ang Dynasty inaugurated a new phase--the Sinitistic period of Sinitization. "We are now definitely in the era of the tribute bearing missions which soon took on the character of trading missions…" (Purcell; 1965: 13) This inauguration coincided with the emancipation of Vietnam, the closing of the Hanoi-Haipong port, and the shift to the reliance on Canton as a primary entrepot of the Southeast Asian trade. This period was marked by much more vigorous and concerted (though not necessarily successful)efforts to establish trade relations via the Nanyang. Though marked by periodic military missions, this was not a phase of conquest as the Sinitic period was marked by the colonization of North Vietnam--it was marked rather by more extensive trade patterning and the beginnings of active mercantile colonization throughout Southeast Asia. "The beginning of the colonization of the P'eng-hu Ch'n Islands (the Pescadores) and Taiwan dates mainly from this period (seventh century). As early as the end of the T'ang period the first Chinese colonizers appeared in Indonesia in particular on the northern coast of Java." (Simoniya: 10)


"Lying across the equator at the geographic center of Southeast Asia, Borneo, the world's third largest island, has since early times enjoyed contacts with its island neighbors and with the ancient kingdoms on the Asian continent. Its contacts with China were via old established sea routes and were made possible by the navigational knowledge and ship building skills of the Chinese. The focal point of contact was the old kingdom of P'oli or P'olo, known from the T'ang Dynasty (618-907) onwards more specifically as P'oni, which is believed to be an older name for Bruni or Brunei. Fan Tsuo, writing in his book on the 'Barbarians' at the close of the T'ang Dynasty, describes P'oni as a kingdom in the South Seas. P'oni at the height of its power comprised fourteen provinces, covering the entire northern coast of Borneo and extending as far as the present Southern Philippines coast." (Chin: 1)


"The period of the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) was characterized by a considerable development of the shipbuilding and the establishment of regular trade relations between China and the countries of the Malay Peninsula, the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines. This circumstance created favorable conditions for increasing the number of emigrants from China. Having been subjected to harsh feudal landowner oppression and having been ravaged by constant wars, the Chinese peasants and artisans frequently abandoned their country and settled in the countries of the Southern Seas." (Simoniya: 10)


"Long before 1850 the Chinese had been significantly involved in the economic and social affairs of the Philippines. Direct contact between China and the Philippines existed from at least the Sung period (960-1279). By Ming terms (1368-1644) the tung-yang chen-lu, or eastern route of the Chinese junk trading system, had been established, passing South China to Sulu, Borneo and the Moluccas. Through the junk trade several points in the Philippines enjoyed regular commercial and cultural contacts with the Chinese. Passengers on the junks, whether merchants or otherwise, occasionally settled in various parts of the Philippines, at least on temporary basis. But nothing is known about how such settlers may have fitted into the economic and social life of their host societies. At Jolo, in the Archipelago of Sulu, an important trading center for the raw products of neighboring regions, there were a Chinese wharf and lodging quarter. In the Manila area, the Spanish conquerors of 1570 found a small settlement of about 150 Chinese. But no other information is available about these settlements or the existence of other Chinese colonies." (Daniel Wickberg: 3-4)


The period of Sinitization was marked by increasingly complex patterns of trade, migration and eventual colonial settlement from China to Nanyang. This period was highlighted by the voyages of the Admiral Ho--"these expeditions were not primarily military, but intended to combine the functions of the demonstration of force, a diplomatic mission and to some extent a trading venture and a voyage of exploration." This expedition resulted in the founding of Malacca as the principal port of Nanyang influence in Southeast Asia.

During this period, 'Nanyang' communities of overseas Chinese gradually came into being--"by the early 15th century they are accepted as well recognized features in the ports of Southeast Asia." To summarize this period was distinguished by several interrelated processes--the regional development of Nanyang trade patternings and communities, the development of Southeastern China as the continental/maritime frontier of Chinese civilization, the migration and trade patterns via this region into the Nanyang, and the coincidental rise of a particularly Nanyang organizational form referred to loosely as the 'Kongsi system' in both Southeastern China and in the Nanyang. "By 1500, overseas Chinese were widely established in Brunei…the Philippines, Java, Sumatra and the mainland of Viet-Nam, Cambodia and Thailand. Significantly, there are tales of local massacres, notably in Luzon in 1603 and again in 1639." The South China Sea provided an extension of the 'Southern Frontier' for the emigration of dispossessed Chinese when the land frontier became suddenly closed at the Vietnamese border during the tenth century. It is from this same century that there occurs the earliest evidence of Chinese agricultural pioneering in the eastern coastal strips of Malaysia, with the settlement of early Nanyang populations that became rapidly assimilated within a local milieu.

It is important to recognize that this extensive period covering almost one thousand years did not originate so much within Southeastern China as that both the Nanyang and Southeastern China sprung into being hand in hand. The Southeastern Chinese coastal lands can be seen to actually provide the basis of the extension of the Southeast Asian region onto the Mainland, in a sense providing the northeastern frontier of this region. This relationship has been borne out by the earliest archaeological records--similar cultural complexes were concurrent throughout this region. It is entirely plausible that the characteristic Southeastern Chinese form a social organization came into being and acquired shape under the overarching aegis of a Nanyang mercantile network, conditioned by as much as conditioning the development of the Nanyang.


"…Thus the Chinese in Southeast Asia were already there, as yet in modest numbers, before the arrival of western voyagers and colonizers…The Chinese migration, beginning with the transient merchants and the pilgrims, had been slowly building up for more than one thousand years.

If the migration is considered from the angle of the Chinese history, and in the light of historical artifacts, it is clear that the projection of this movement into the region beyond the South China Sea was only the later phase of an activity which had been in progress for many centuries, and from a far earlier period than that in which the first Chinese reached Southeast Asia…from the end of the first millennium BC., if not earlier, the Chinese had been pushing down the southeast coast of modern China, absorbing or partly expelling earlier inhabitants…

Consequently, in recent centuries, the main flow of Chinese migration, originally land borne, has become sea borne, and has been directed to the countries of Southeast Asia which were easily accessible by sea voyages." ???????; The Third China: 6-7)


Following the expedition of Eunuch Ho, there occurred another eclipse of imperial Chinese interest in the Nanyang, a period which roughly corresponded with the first contacts with the European traders and merchant missionaries in Southeast Asia. This was another intermediate period which ended with the dissolution of the Ming Dynasty and the victory of the Manchu Dynasty in the early 17th century. Had there not been a waning of Chinese 'command presence' in the Nanyang, the Nanyang might have gradually developed in to a fully Sinitized colonial empire. "The pattern already familiar from the spread of Chinese settlement in the continental area of what is now South China could have reproduced in these islands and overseas territories." An efficient Chinese Navy, such as that under the command of Admiral Ho, may have readily resisted the encroachment of the European maritime powers. As it was, Malacca fell to the Portuguese only a century after its founding by the Chinese. This marks the beginning of the 'contact period'--a period of official withdrawal and disinterest in the affairs of the Nanyang, especially with the advent of the Manchu Dynasty, while concurrently there actually occurred a more rapid stepping up of the pace of Nanyang merchant maritime activity and migration into the Nanyang from Southeastern China, despite its official prohibition under the Manchus. This was also the period of the rise of the Chinese secret societies--the Nanyang serving as an important base fort extra legal activities.


"It thus came about that by the mid 17th century, the Chinese who went to Southeast Asia came from a group and a region which not only had not backing from the home authority, but was regarded by that authority as potentially, if not actually, rebellious and criminal. The Chinese who arrived in the lands of the south knew that his home government would do nothing for him, but would harm him if it could. His resource was to band together with his fellow immigrants in a Secret Society. Such societies already existed, in south China, originating as anti-Manchu resistance movements. 'Drive out the 'Ch'ing (Manchu), restore the Ming' was and remained until modern times the objective and the slogan of the Triad and its many branch societies. The overseas Chinese was thus from the first more concerned with the politics of China than with the situation in the land to which they had come. The Secret Society, very powerful and pervasive in the home provinces, could protect his kin against official persecution, so long as they did not engage in active subversion or rebellion. Officials could be bribed to silence, they had no interest in stirring up a hornet's nest of Secret Society hostility. The immigrant enrolled in the local branch of the Society could claim its help not only in his new country but also in the homeland." (???????; The Third China: 37)


"A critical date is reached in 1644, when the Manchus overcame the Ming Dynasty in China. For forty years the Manchus were fighting Ming rebels in South China and the rebels drew excessively on the communities of Nanyang for help. The constant warfare in South China and the special political affinity of the rebels with the Nanyang Chinese reinforced both the tendency to emigrate and the narrow concentration of emigration in the South China provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien…" (page 37)


This phase was marked by increasingly direct competition between the Chinese and Europeans for markets and resources bases, but wherever the Europeans came to predominate, if not conquer, than the Chinese were either wiped out or moved on or else, more likely, were brought under dominion and realized new incentives in serving as comprador middlemen within European market context.


"Ship owning merchants were not the only Chinese who came to the Philippines. Soon other Chinese--merchants and artisans--were migrating to the Archipelago, attracted by the sophisticated economy newly established at Manila and other centers of Spanish residence. The provisioning of the Spanish settlements with needed goods and services was an open field for Chinese enterprise. Not only merchants and artisans but fishermen and market gardeners settled in Manila area and supplied the needs of the Spaniards. By 1603, barely thirty two years after the founding of Manila as a Spanish settlement, the Chinese population there was estimated at 20,000--in contrast to perhaps 1,000 Spaniards. Even before the Chinese had achieved a virtual monopoly in the retail commercial and industrial life of this settlement and were moving in the same direction in the other parts of the archipelago, where Spaniards had established themselves." (Wickberg: 6)


"…The Chinese in that country, which had a backward economy, provided not only the merchants but also the craftsmen--carpenters, builders, metalworkers. The Spaniard found it impossible to develop the country or even to maintain essential services without the Chinese. Several serious crises arose on account of Spanish fears of Chinese uprisings which were provoked by the harsh treatment which they meted out to the Chinese residents. In 1603, and again in 1639 there were large scale massacres of the Chinese. On each occasion, the survivors were expelled from the country, but each time it was found that they were indispensable and they returned, in greater numbers. Even as late as 1778 the Spanish government passed an order expelling the Chinese, but had to revoke it two years later in the face of disastrous economic collapse which this policy had occasioned." (??????; The Third China: 14)


This contact period continued right up until the mid 20th century, culminating in the later period 19th C. with increased migration of Chinese coolie laborers, family members and especially Chinese women. These were agricultural pioneers and business entrepreneurs who came to dominate the entire Southeast Asian market as 'merchant middlemen' serving as intermediaries articulating the colonial 'dual economy' between local and global levels. "In the function, the Chinese acted as a link between the western economy and the native economy, taking Chinese imports to the villages in exchange for local products for the Spanish community." (Wickberg; 1965: 6)


"In the early 19th century, when the colonial powers began to extend their rule in the lands of Southeast Asia, they were not in any way concerned with the rising number of Chinese who were entering these countries. They welcomed the immigration, presently they virtually assisted it. There was in many countries a shortage of local labor, either because the population (as in Malaya) was light or because the local people were averse to working for wages, preferred village life to plantation employment, or lacked economic incentives. In the terms current in that age this situation was more succinctly expressed by most Europeans: The Chinese were industrious, the natives were lazy. The fact that the Chinese were useful, not troublesome, had no apparent interest in local political action, made them desirable colonial subjects, but did not provoke the need to understand them or to study their customs or ideas…" (??????; The Third China: 15)


"…as the 19th century progressed, the Chinese were becoming virtually the dominant group in retail trade, then the transport industry, manufacturing and processing, as in the lumber industry, and finally the skilled professions, the technicians and in banking and other commercial activities. This fact was of course perfectly well known, accepted and disregarded…The Chinese population was treated as an alien one, useful, while it remained in the country, but essentially transient, having no roots and needing no long term consideration." (page 16)


'Sojourning' describes the characteristic Nanyang style of trading and immigration. This pattern has a particularly conservative persistence which is interrelated to traditional Chinese social and commercial networks. "The sojourning pattern has a long history in China. Bachelor migrations, remittances, hometown associations in distant cities, and guilds of traveling merchants have been developing in South China for centuries…" (Omohundro; 1977: 114) Movement of labor, finance, capital and commerce was facilitated by a wide range of interlinked exchange agencies and agents at every level across the Nanyang. The relative mobility of "capital and labor increases Chinese responsiveness to market fluctuations, allowing them to bail out quickly from failure and capitalize fully on fleeting opportunities." (Omohundro; 1977: 117)


"Sojourning is defined here as a form of immigration wherein bachelors are dispatched through customary channels to distant source of employment with the understanding that they will remit large portions of their income for consumption and investment in the home community. (Kung; 1962) It is basically an export of people in and import of remittances. Sojourning involves periodic returns to the hometown and for the Chinese, establishing organizations as bases in the overseas locale for receiving, placing and dispatching migrants and their money. The sojourning pattern is found centuries back in Asia within China, between China and Southeast Asia, and within Southeast Asia…" (Omohundro; 1977: 113-114)


Hometown organizations and kin organizations provided important screens of opportunity to the immigrants who were quite vulnerable in an alien environment, tending to facilitate migration along certain lines of social organization. These patterns soon coalesced into important market networks wherever the Nanyang peoples 'settled in'. Thus cultural brokerage institutions emerged to facilitate the articulation of the Nanyang within local and regional environments.


"The old pattern of sojourning within China was converted in the last century to sojourning in the Philippines very smoothly, with steamships criss-crossing the South China Sea, making possible a new category of Chinese 'passenger' rather than only the Chinese 'sailor'. Organizations in South China and the Philippine cities made possible both a concentration of people and capital, and their mobility over long distances. Organizations such as revolving credit associations for accumulating capital were successfully exported by Southern Chinese to some areas of Southeast Asia (Wu; 1974) but not to the Philippines. There, capital was accumulated through lineage associations, trade guilds (such as variety store or lumber store associations), chambers of commerce and personalistic networks of kinsmen, affines, and hometown mates. Simply to have these connections is not the key variable, however; I have discussed elsewhere (Omohundro; 1974) the specific Chinese business practices of loans, distributorships, partnerships, inter alia which were exercised through these connections…" (Omohundro; 1977: 116)


The development of Chinese colonies from that of sojourning networks and loose associations into chartered corporate organizations was a process of gradual 'settling in ' by the Chinese according to degree of economic success achieved and tended to follow a series of stages. "The line between Chinese sojourning, that is, capitalizing on the local economy, and actually colonizing, or breaking new ground, appears thin…" (Omohundro: 115)


"…But, as their business grew, they became more and more involved in economic expansion and were unable to sever their ties and return to China. In fact, many successful immigrants stayed overseas and continued to develop their businesses and widen their economic opportunities. The result of this process was the transformation of sojourners into settlers. Once the immigrants decided to settle overseas, their attitude towards overseas communities changed, and so did their planning. Their first step was to arrange for their wives and children to come from China." (Ching-hwang: 9)


First brothers joined brothers, and then 'sisters' came--Chinese women increasingly emigrated into Southeast Asia from the late 1800's--balancing the overseas sex ratios and perhaps 'stabilizing' somewhat the social transience. Other kins people soon joined these primary groupings, family ties remaining the most durable and dependable ties. "Secondly the coming of Chinese women reversed the trend towards mixed marriages between Chinese male immigrants and Malay women. The result of this was the formation of a stable Chinese community which retained its biological and cultural identity. With the coming of wives and family formation, there also occurred the formation of a more complete Nanyang culture." (Chin-hwang)


"Chinese capital however, succeeded in retaining and even consolidating its position in the sphere of domestic trade. One of the most important (if not the most important) contributing factors was the system of farming out monopolies prevalent in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaya and certain other countries of Southeast Asia. These monopoly buyers consisted, as a rule, of rich and also some middle-class Chinese bourgeoisie. The local chiefs or colonial rulers would grant them the right to collect taxes (including capitation and various trade taxes) a monopoly on the sale of salt, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages, the maintenance of gambling houses and numerous other monopolies. These owners were very zealous in safeguarding their monopolies and frequently resorted to the upkeep of a kind of 'private police' to fight against contraband.

Actually the uncontrolled monopoly power of the buyers, frequently extending over fairly large areas, opened unlimited possibilities for the expansion of their business operations. By the time the system of monopoly buying was abolished (in the middle of the 19th century), Chinese commercial capital had already become sufficiently consolidated financially, had accumulated a great deal of experience and become well familiar with the local marketing conditions in Southeast Asia." (Simoniya; 1961: 39)


This period peaked just prior to WW11, which marked an abrupt turning point in the history of Southeast Asia. The Japanese successfully broke the colonial yoke, which aftermath of the war could only be partially and unsuccessfully re-instituted. Thereafter, the rising new nationalism among the indigenous peoples brought the exploitative interests and practices of the Nanyang into sharp relief against a background of indigenous rural poverty, pluralism and political economic peripheral underdevelopment. The new national politics of Southeast Asia were soon mobilizing their national forces against the mercantile hegemony of the Nanyang. Even until today, the Nanyang figure prominently, if quite precariously, as a merchant empire of Southeast Asia, as evinced by its capital city state of Singapore, itself the archetypical Nanyang colonial 'Chinatown' of the most progressive orientation. In general the new nationalism either regard the Nanyang as a necessary evil resident alien population to be eventually 'phased out' by structural and social discrimination policies or by coercive assimilation, or else they have been more or less forcefully evicted, or even slaughtered in order to make more room for the indigenous peoples within the economy. But this process of reversal, marked by entrenched ethnization of the Nanyang identity and 'reverse assimilation' has for the most part proven quite difficult to implement--as the Chinese remain a vital and potent economic force within the Southeast Asian economy--filling in successfully in vital economic roles that few indigenous peoples have achieved. Nanyang civilization remain strongly competitive, resistant and potent force to be dealt with in Southeast Asia.


"Their success has been attributed to many factors, not the least of which was a common ethnic stereotype of 'clannishness'--of banding together to exclude outsiders from competition, and to their remarkable facility and capacity for social strategy. The colonial setting created a marketplace for ethnic and class group contact, where different group, interacted only for transactions. Group boundaries were largely formed by, or in relation to, and were reinforced by, the colonial rulers. Ethnic group interrelationships were characterized not by competition but by political interdependency, even though the role of the Chinese may have been to a large extent exploitative, 'each recognized the other as the provider of needed goods and services'. Colonial rule 'ethnicized' economic roles (Hamilton; 1978) in order to control and exploit these roles. Post colonial ruling elites perpetuated this market structure to their own advantage--maintaining the Nanyang in a pariah social status, 'with limited political rights and privileges', while exploiting its role in the economy. Nationalism and colonial independence breed racial competition and the formation of ethnic groups from the old cognitive maps of ethnicity. Chinese and indigenous communities began to separate, intermarriage became less common.

The Nanyang of today are caught in the throes of a national identity crises, or of a double national identity. With the removal of colonial rule their social visibility became quite prominent as a pariah class. The modern era became the era for 'competitive race relations' in a new pluralistic situation of complexity. Relations between ethnic groups is characteristically marked by ambivalence and ambiguity. The Chinese are faced with a problem of a "double identity" (Strauch; 1980) in which factors preserving their characteristic ethos of Shininess came into conflict with factors related to their characteristic pragmatism in social relations and business. There were seen to come into direct competition, as an ethnic group, politically, economically and socially with the indigenous peoples. They have faced an existential choice of redefining their ethnicity either in terms of cultural assimilation with the host society or in terms of systematic exclusion from its political, economic or social life. Despite growing competition, their roles and assets as mercantile middlemen are nor easily expendable and replaceable within the new retarded economics of the independent nations. "Economic interests viewed in and ethnic framework come to be seen as structured by that ethnic framework. The shift is so subtle as to be easily overlooked, or ignored." (Strauch; 1980: 11) (Lewis; 1986)


The modernization period, commencing at about the turn of the twentieth century, marked a turn in the situation of the Nanyang Chinese--they became in a sense semi-citizens without a real homeland. From this period their ties with mainland China though never completely severed, became distant enough to not matter significantly in their existential situation. The new nationalism that grew up around them and burgeoned tended to isolate and segregate the Nanyang, from the mainland as well. Always sensitive o the dealings in China the streams of history of the two civilizations, the Nanyang and the Chinese, became for most intents and purposes separate. The Nanyang remain now cut adrift, the flotsam and jetsam of Chinese history.




We have arrived at the point of needing to reconsider the second historical record of the indigenous Southeast Asian civilization in order to discern its interconnections with the Chinese and Nanyang records of historical development. For this purpose it is convenient to divide the historical development of Southeast Asian civilization into several overlapping yet distinctive phases. These phases provide a 'stadial' model of the development favoring a 'replacement' process of one phase supplanting another. In actuality, the model was more of a processural and cumulative one, leading to an overlaying of more complex structures upon more deeply rooted and more basic forms. Inspite of foreign interruptions and interventions in this process, its overall developmental elaboration has remained surprisingly stable from a structural standpoint and in a deep sense 'conservative' in the face of many dramatic changes. "…Change in Southeast Asia has been much more complex than the simple progressions implies in the current models, that its essence is accumulation rather than replacement…" (Kennedy; 1977: 25)

There are apparent from the historical record four distinct phases of such development--the prehistoric, the 'traditional', the 'westernization' period and finally the 'nationalization' period. All of these phases appear to be acculturational in character and theme, as indeed they probably were, but the structure and character of the endogenous influences and orientations marking each of these phases in relation to external acculturative pressures must be clearly understood, in order to assess more concisely the role of the Nanyang in such development.

In the prehistoric period, as throughout its history, diversity--'economic, linguistic, social, cultural and ethnic'--has been the most important characteristic. "The mosaic of mainland Southeast Asian variability, especially ethnic and economic is characterized by complex interdependence rather than discreteness…" (Kennedy; 1977: 23) The motivation to assume risks, to deviate drastically from an established order, the willingness 'to go out on a limb' lies beneath the phenomena of social innovation. "Growth is then dependent upon the degree to which the limb becomes the route of exchange between new and experimental and the established mode; growth may involve transformation and accumulation as well as replacement." (Kennedy: 23) In prehistoric Southeast Asia, interregional articulation and variation formed an environmental/ecological mosaic framework of reciprocal interdependencies of resource exchange against which later exogenous influences must be configured. "I think it can be suggested that the stage is already set, the transformations of political and distributive modes already well under way indigenously, long before…" (Kennedy: 29) Later acculturative expansion trade patterning in Southeast Asia, which foreign traders extended and refined. There occurred internal networks of trade in which diversity of indigenous products found their way to coastal local foci. "That the existence of such loci might be a stimulus to the development of mutually beneficial exogenous trade seems obvious. It is doubtful that such a network could be brought about by external stimulation alone…" (Kennedy; 1977: 31) "These early littoral 'chiefdoms' or 'kingdoms' form a single hypothetical class of ancient exchange networks, one which involves the control of drainage basin opening to the sea by a center located at or near the mouth of that basin's major river." (Bronson; 1977: 43) The most important characteristic of these early 'chiefdoms/kingdoms' if trade centered coastal stages in general was their relative ephemeralness.


"…It is clear on the dace of it that we are dealing with a social and economic system quite different from those we consider normal in the heartlands of other civilizations…

…The determining conditions of the Southeast Asian coastal systems include not only a river interrupted coastline but a relatively unusual, almost neo-colonial, pattern of export trade. It is not clear to me that such conditions were closely duplicated elsewhere in the world." (Bronson; 1977: 51-52)


Jean Kennedy recognizes a three phase pattern in the development of these early 'river basin' states, which corresponds to three broad ecological zones, the upland, the piedmont and the coastal lowland, each phase being characterized by a general shift in ecological zone adaptation with a corresponding trend of a major innovation in the mode of production. The establishment of new subsistence patterns did not lead automatically to the cessation of preexisting adaptive patterns. "Rather the patterns come into coexistence, thus, the overall pattern is of increasing diversity over the whole area…"


"I suggest that at the pioneer stage of each phase, there is no reason to assume the cessation of communication between the innovating group and groups representative of the previous phase, for two reasons. First, a minor point, such innovations may lead to a lessening of competition for the same resources. Second, there is good reason to suppose that it is precisely in the pioneer phase that exchange across phase boundaries is established by the extension of preexisting networks of reciprocity. However the reciprocal relationship is now asymmetric in the following sense: while the exchange system pertaining to the established mode of production of the parent group would be able to absorb new products, it would not be dependent on them. On the other hand, the pioneer group, whether occupying a marginal zone or specializing within the zone of the parent group, might well be dependent on a continued supply of some products not available in the marginal zone, or lost by the concentration of efforts on a segment only of the resources of the parent group. In other words, the pioneer group offers supplements in exchange for necessary complements. By virtue of this exchange, the overall spectrum is broadened. This extension can be stated in terms either of the ecological marginality of the pioneer group, or of pioneer niche specialization within the original zone; the result is much the same.

As the pioneer becomes established, the asymmetric dependence of the new on the old will tend to shift, but there is no priori reason to suppose that exchanges will cease; indeed, the dependent relation might shift to the other mode. Innovations, especially technological ones, will come to be reflected in the old pattern. Hence, overall, the spectrum is not only broadened and diversified; it also has a long term tendency to shift. A series of such steps carried with it the articulation of different modes of production by a proliferating network of exchanges. Early wet rice agriculture and modified broad spectrum hunting and gathering thus need not be seen as contrastive isolates, but rather as the accumulated result of an addictive pattern.

Systems of exchange, in maintaining links between old and new forms, not only foster innovation by decreasing the risks of specialization or nonconformity; they also, by their real extension and persistence, are the bridge that leads to growth rather than to simple substitution of the new for the old. The increase in diversity and differentiation of productive modes is conducive not only to further economic specialization but also to the development of intra-and inter-group controls and to the rise of central place exchange. In such developments, perhaps, lies the origin of the ethnic mosaic of modern Southeast Asia.

I suggest that it was the outcome of such a course of development, extending to coastal and riverine indigenous traders, that stimulated the florescence of Indian trade at the beginning of the Christian era. The transformations wrought in the structure of relationships between domestic production and distribution and the changes in the division of labor brought about by increasing specialization are internally generated." (Jean Kennedy; Economic Exchange and Social Interaction in Southeast Asia edited by Karl Hutterer; 1977:35-36)


The characteristic pattern of indigenous Southeast Asian civilization was one of comparative separation of isolated groups with strong attachments to local settings. The pace and tempo of communication and change was probably gradual. "Cognatic kinship, an indifference towards lineage descent, and a preoccupation with the present that came from the need to identify in one's own generation those with abnormal spiritual qualities are, in my opinion, three widely represented cultural features in many parts of early Southeast Asia…" (Wolters; 1982: 4-9) These characteristics combined to promote a 'big man' orientation of a focus upon 'men of prowess' which 'brings with it the possibility of mobilizing extended kinship ties within and outside a settlement or a network of settlements'. This orientation promoted characteristic regional attitudes towards common expectations for achievement in public life, a means of gaining prestige. "…public life would also be the stage for open competition for preeminence. Leaders and followers alike needed to validate their status by continuous achievement, and achievement often involved adventures into neighboring settlement areas…"


"…As signs of a leader's favor, achievement and meritorious deeds were rewarded with titles and other gifts. The leader established hierarchy in the public life of his day, and one consequence was that many of the Southeast Asian languages developed special forms of speech for addressing superiors. Finally, and very important in the extension of communications between networks of settlements, leaders in neighboring areas would recognize the higher spiritual status of a man of outstanding prowess and seek to regularize their relations with him by means of alliances that acknowledged the inequality of the parties. In this way more distant areas would be brought into closer relationship with one another." (Wolters; 1982: 4-9)


This overarching theme of early Southeast Asian proto-history resulted in a hodgepodge map of overlapping 'mandalas' or 'circles of kings' in which power, spiritually sanctioned, radiated out in concentric rings in lessening degrees of influence and prestige. The prehistoric map of Southeast Asia evolved from a complicated network of many small settlements into such a patchwork of overlapping 'spheres of power'. Boundaries existed only in the name of the ruler and the minds of his subjects, as "each ruler was acclaimed in his own country as one who had unique claim to 'universal' sovereignty…In each of these mandalas, one king identified with divine and 'universal' authority, claimed personal hegemony over the other rulers in his mandala who in theory were his obedient allies and vassals…" (Wolters: 16-17)

Mandalas were often unstable, expanding and contracting in 'concertina like' fashion. Warfare or acculturation failed to define a stable structural center, while only one overlord cold claim ultimate authority, many competed for the privileged title. "The mandala perimeters continued to replicate court situations at the center. Centers of spiritual authority and political power shifted endlessly…" (Wolters: 17)

Thus it can be seen that several factors predominate in considering the regional framework of Southeast Asian historical development. Cultural diversity and regional variation led to a consistent patterning of 'localization' or stylization of exogenous acculturative forms in endogenous meanings--the adaptation of foreign symbols to local contexts and needs. "…Materials tended to be fractured and restated and therefore drained of their original significance by a process which I shall refer to as 'localization'. The materials…had to be localized in different ways before they could fit into various local complexes of religious, social and political systems and belong to new cultural 'wholes'. Only when this had happened would the fragments make sense in their new ambiances, the same ambiances which allowed the rulers and their subjects to believe that their centers were unique…" (Wolters; 1982: 52)

Southeast Asia, furthermore, had long been a strategic cultural 'crossroads' which was linked by a common sea which both hindered and facilitated communication and transportation. A shared common ocean provided a sense of a 'single ocean' orientation which was conducive to a feeling of outwardness and overarching unity inspite of local diversity. "The trading connections that linked the opposite ends of maritime Asia resemble links in a chain which would join together again even if one link were temporarily broken…" (Wolters: 19) The single ocean was 'a vast zone of neutral water' which all stated sought to mutually protect in order to maintain the freedom of the seas. There was a corresponding tradition of openness and hospitality to foreign trade and alien cultures and peoples. One of the most important functions of early Southeast Asian states was the local control of piracy--which flourished only upon the peripheries and interstices of Southeast Asian civilizations. "The single ocean is a significant fact of Southeast Asian historical geography and continuous and lively commercial exchanges can be expected to have encouraged cultural communications that left a mark on Southeast Asian history…" (Wolters: 40)

This combination of diversity and unity and a weak sense of 'consociation' was a function of the fact that Southeast Asia served as a regional crossroads in civilizational interchanges between East and West. Trade and foreign interchange was the raison d'être for Southeast Asian civilization…


"To examine the role of economic exchange in this region, we must be aware of the ways in which international commerce has penetrated Southeast Asia, and come in contact with local societies and economies. My contention is that the process by which this occurred generally intensified through the centuries, that as time went by more and more parts of the region made contact with foreign trade. While there certainly were fluctuations in this development, we must consider that those societies which at one time had taken part in this trade remained aware of and interested in it. From this point we may begin to ask about the impact of this commercial involvement on the internal situation…" (Whitmore; 1977: 139)


"Trade was a perennial influence in the historical development of Southeast Asia. In association with agricultural and human resources, commercial currents influenced the rise and fall of political units, institutional changes, and the appropriation of alien religious and art forms. Sea-borne commerce traditionally followed the rhythm fixed by arrival and ending of the semi-annual monsoon seasons on both sides of the peninsula the principal commodities included perfumed woods and resins, gold and precious stones, and spices and other condiments from Southeast Asia itself; silken yarns and fabrics, tea and porcelains from China,; high quality cotton textiles from India; glass items, rugs and tapestries from the Near East; and objects of arts from all areas. The volume of the trade varied with market demands, the perils of piracy and shipwreck, the availability of convenient entreport centers and the degrees of political stability prevailing throughout the trading arc extending from India to China. It can nevertheless be assumed that the character of the trade itself, intended as it was for princely and patrician consumption, changed but little from century to century. The transient peddlers, the temporary beach and market bazaars, the more permanent shops and warehouses, the eternal haggling of merchants with each other and with peasant producers, plus the activities of wandering adventurers were the universal and timeless characteristics of port centers. The commercial impact of neither India nor China became historically significant until the second century AD. (Cady; The Development of Southeast Asian Civilization: 21)


A fairly consistent and persistent patterning of development of Southeast Asian civilization emerges which conforms closely to a set of interrelated models, which had their beginnings in pre-historical and 'proto-historical' periods. The subsequent periods of Indianization, Islamization and Sinization represented but the extension of this basic patterning to inter-link global regions and interregional interests into a more complicated pattern of interdependency and involvement. The coming of the Indian civilization provided potent symbolic forms which mandated and sanctioned the augmentation of state power. Islam penetrated the hinterlands to provide greater stability of the basic resource bases. Chinese influence provided vital economic linkages for the development of this overall process. In general, we have a model of a kind of emerging state organization whose boundaries were primarily the radius of its commercial influence. These states were numerous and quite ephemeral, leaving little documentary evidence of their pasts. They developed to meet needs of control of conflict--protection of commercial and cultural interests, the need for more efficient resource utilization and acquisition, the need to manage increasing commerce, domestic and foreign, the need for 'an organized approach' to international relations.


"…Foreign policy was the 'sole prerogative of the kind' and its two most general objectives were the aggrandizement of the king and court to reinforce the king's claim to dynastic legitimacy and greater wealth for the kingdom so that the preeminent position of the king in his realm could be bolstered further. Thus interstate politics in traditional Southeast Asia were carried out to enhance the state's domestic political philosophy and the division of the state into village and court components, with broadly different purposes and constituencies, had an important impact in foreign policy." (McCloud; Systems and Process in Southeast Asia: The Evolution of a Region, 1986: 93)


The prototypical Southeast Asian state was therefore a 'regal ritual' state which could develop along several alternative directions.


"The basic type of Southeast Asian state might be labeled the 'subsistence, river delta kingdom'. In the rough, densely vegetated terrain of much of Southeast Asia, the river systems offered the best and frequently the only method of reaching inland areas. Each river valley also offered a somewhat protected enclosure in which to organize the state--the mountains watershed roughly forming the boundaries. Chieftains, having established control over the mouths and main trunks of these river systems by fore, sustained themselves and their positions by exacting tolls for goods and persons traveling the waterways. Such subsistence kingdoms were largely self sufficient in food production and were active in international trade and exchange only to the extent of filling for the population needs that could not be met internally. Referring to the natural drainage basin of intermountain water systems as self contained geographic units, Bronson hypothesized that control of a river artery or of one or more major tributaries provided opportunities to develop the 'lord subordinate' relationships needed to expand kinship ties into political units by providing revenues from controlled commercial and other river traffic. These revenues were the critical economic surplus needed for expansion." (McCloud; 1986: 67-68)


These states formed a loose network of commercial tributary patterns which has been described as a regional interstate system traditional to Southeast Asian. This system was loose, unorganized, without internal recognition as a system as such, and economically dependent upon the existence of foreign trade and foreign agents for this trade. These systems were nonetheless externally recognizable as 'standing on their own'.

This traditional phases was essentially unaltered throughout the different subphases--the principal influence from abroad during this phase was actually religious--as foreign traders brought with them religious ideas and symbolisms which enriched and elaborated the inherent syncretism of the traditional interstate system. The role of religion in facilitating state organization and trade contacts over long distances, in providing a rational and motivational system for entrepreneurships and economic advancement has not been sufficiently emphasized. Different religions, at different epochs, gave conservative, stable 'form' sanctioning the 'traditionalizing' process of the development of indigenous Southeast Asian civilization.

Religion provides a cultural framework for the 'symbolic articulation' of diverse groupings of people, providing a necessary basis for 'ritual communality, crosscutting ethnic, linguistic and ecological boundaries'. It provides a common 'ritual language' which facilitates the growth and diversification of "that very large part of culture which is concerned with practical economic action." (Leach; 1954: 279) The people may speak different languages, wear different kinds of clothes, live in different kinds of houses, but they understand one another's ritual. "Ritual acts are ways of saying things about social status, and the 'language' in which these things are said is common…" (Leach; 1954: 279) The introduction of a religion in an area is a way of consolidating the region in order to facilitate exchange across different boundaries. Religious world view 'orients' people to a common direction and commits them to a single common course of action.

This traditional interstate system was interrupted and eventually destroyed by the increasing encroachment of western merchants who came to colonize and eventually dominate Southeast Asia.




The westernization and nationalization periods may be summarized briefly with a description of the rudiments of the western historical record, which may be divided into four distinct phases of pre-colonial, colonial, imperialistic and post-colonial. As it is apparent, the main theme of this acculturative history was one of active colonization of the Southeast Asian region. The political economic structure of this militant colonialization process was one of fostering coercive and asymmetrical social relations which were predominantly extractive and exploitative in design and function, bringing the peoples and regions of Southeast Asian progressively into a sphere of global market relationships of asymmetrical dependency. European contributions were confined to the development of extractive production techniques--the necessary infrastructure and facilities for the resources extraction process, including human resources and the coincidental introduction of industrially produced commodities which generated a vicious cycle of third world poverty and inequality. This kind of influence had several regional consequences. It led to a nationalization of indigenous peoples, providing a common enemy against which political consolidation could take place. It lead to radical pluralism in these societies by the arbitrary implementation of colonial boundaries and bureaucratic structures and markets which ignored or exploited regional variations of minority populations and by the introduction and promotion of the immigration of significant resident alien minority populations, who were interposed as the intermediate functionaries of the colonial process at the local labor and as an easily controllable, virtually inexhaustible source of cheap, easily mobilizable manual labor. It eventuated in an imbalanced 'dual economy' of primary resource extraction and processing, in which there was an over development in the primary agricultural sectors and tertiary consumer sectors but under development of the secondary industrial sector. It stimulated domestic and regional political economic reorganization and lead to a 'peripheralization' of the entire region within a capitalistic world economic market system. It lead to rural urban influx of impoverished peasants fleeing the starvation and hopelessness of the countryside and the over development of parasitical 'primate cities' and 'colonial city states' whose only relation to the countryside was 'non-reciprocal' extraction. Finally, it resulted in the breakdown and deterioration of indigenous traditional social systems of authority, a deterioration of the traditional sanctions of such authority and of traditional value orientations, replacing these with only a colonial malaise of a cultural inferiority complex, 'the myth of the lazy native', 'the white man's burden', which is so characteristic of colonially subjugated castes.

The position of the Nanyang vis-à-vis this colonial situation was largely to serve, as already noted, as intermediaries in the extraction process.


"The export of capital is a phenomenon characteristic of the imperialist epoch. It is due to the emergence of monopolies in the economically advanced countries, the unprecedented concentration and centralization of capital, and the formation of a relative 'surplus' of such capital. The colonies and underdeveloped countries have become an important sphere of investments. The purposes pursued by the export of capital are both economic--the acquisition of super profits, cheap raw materials, markets, etc. and political--an increased dependence of the colonial and underdeveloped countries on the monopolies. The export capital from the economically advanced countries is usually carried out with diplomatic and military support on the part of the governments of these countries." (Simoniya; 1961: 38)


"In addition to everything else, the comprador system made it possible for the foreign monopolies 'to extract large profits with a minimum of concern over petty and messy detail.' There were very many such 'details'. The major duties of the comprador included, in particular, "transactions on behalf of the 'firm', control over financial transactions, inquiries about the local market, gathering commercial and economic information, recommendations and reactions of the Chinese immigrants entering into credit relations with the foreign 'firm' and control over the Chinese staff of the foreign firms." For these 'services' the comprador would receive a small monthly salary and a large 'commission' on each business transaction. He thus accumulated a large capital of his own which he frequently invested in his own business or industrial enterprises, thereby becoming a competitor of the foreign companies. Such results were not exactly envisioned by the imperialist monopolies…" (Simoniya: 41)


"The penetration of private foreign trade into the countries of Southeast Asia led to an abnormal and unusually large expansion of intermediary trade. The result of the rapid expansion of the foreign market and then of the domestic market, was greater emphasis on the commercial nature of production in the countries of that region. At the same time, this changing nature of production was not accompanied by any significant concentration: it remained small scale and scattered. Under these conditions, the urgent necessity for large scale sales was responsible for the emergence of a huge army of business intermediaries, buyers. The latter performed such economic operations as buying up the raw materials and local output from the population, transporting them to the cities and seaports, reselling them to the big export-import companies and finally, buying up the imported commodities to be sold to the countries population. Between the original producers and the big companies the commodities had to go through a ramified network of petty, middle-class and big business intermediaries, each of them trying to get his 'share' of the profits in these business speculations…" (Simoniya: 42)




We are left to briefly reconsider the role of these three synoptic historical outlines in reference to the development of Nanyang civilization. If we are to construct an outline of this development then we must begin with reconsidering the relationship of the coastal spaces of Southeastern China as comprising the northeastern most border of the Southeast Asian region, the 'heartland' of the Nanyang. The role played by the people from this particular region has been critical to the development of Nanyang civilization. These people comprised sojourner/settler populations who articulated with and integrated into localized indigenous Southeast Asian settings, while remaining essentially cosmopolitan and 'global' in outlook and cultural orientation. They formed a grouping of 'mestizoized' peranakan 'babas' who though partially integrated through 'amalgamation' never quite completely assimilated into the Southeast Asian heterodoxies. These in-between peoples created a distinctive cultural style which was emic, endogenous measure of their successful adaptation in an essentially alien environment. This culture served as an important overseas platform for the development of Nanyang civilization. The Southeast China coastline served as the home-base of this civilization, its primary reference point for traditional orientation, in a conservative yet adaptively creative manner. Peranakan communities served as permanent, stable 'foreign' pioneer settlements, principally 'colonial' in form and function, for the Nanyang peoples.


"But the purely local assimilation of the Chinese Peranakan was an 'assimilation trap'. They moved half-way to integration in Indonesian society and there they stuck. For the Indonesian wives came into Chinese homes, in a Chinese quarter of the town, into the Chinese family system--it was they who were assimilated to a community which remained in all essentials except language, Chinese. As to language, Willmont shows that in Semarang the vast majority of families where neither parent was China born used Indonesian as the language of family conversation, with the remainder using Javanese, Dutch and Chinese in roughly equal proportions. Language might well have been assumed to be a vital factor; it is generally felt to be of the very essence of a culture. It certainly greatly reduced the importance of dialect group associations…nevertheless, the Peranakans, and of course, the Totoks, remain a Chinese society, their associations for sport or culture are Chinese, they are 100 percent identifiable as non-Indonesian, although they may have lost much of Chinese culture and any close continuing connection at least with a local region of China. It is in this sense that they are poised between two worlds. Peranakans suffered equally with the Totoks in the various Indonesian anti-Chinese campaigns of 1956, 1960 and 1963.

Thus intermarriage and even adoption of a local language have not led to complete assimilation in Java, and the same is true of the rest of Southeast Asia, outside of Thailand; for example, the Chinese in Burma and in the Philippines and in Cambodia have all intermarried very considerably and can speak the local ligua franca; but they remain an easily identifiable separate group, always in danger of attracting nationalist persecution." (Benda; 1967: 48-49)


All subsequent 'sinkeh' immigrants were assimilated into the local 'baba' communities when these communities were largely isolated and self contained, within an alien host society. Connections with a larger Nanyang world reinforced this identity and perpetuated its solidarity, while smaller 'satellite' rural communities in the hinterlands were probably rapidly absorbed into the local milieu. The endogenous social and economic structure of many of these communities persist largely intact until now, if somehow modified or worn down by circumstantial exigencies and the erosion of history.


"We have established that not all the 12 million Southeast Asian Chinese are Chinese by culture. Not al of them are 'racially' Chinese in the sense of being descended exclusively from Chinese forebearers. Not all the people descended exclusively or partly from Chinese immigrants in Southeast Asia are accounted for in the 12 million Chinese. The Chinese cultural heritage has been whittled away. The Chinese biological heritage has been dispersed." (Freedman; 1969: 434)


"…But the longer view of the Nanyang for which I have tried to plead in this lecture, should suggest that 'Chinese' does not automatically mean alien, that the presence of Chinese in Southeast Asia does not entail the subversion of national integrity, and that…the economic benefits, in capital formation and entrepreneurial skill, which the Chinese have brought to Southeast Asia would, in a just world, earn them more gratitude than jealousy." (Freedman; 1969: 449)


We have the makings of general baseline for the development of Nanyang civilization. We must situate the individual Chinese sojourner/settler in some kind of social group organization which was localized within a context of a 'Chinatown' aggregated around a central marketplace. The social forms of the kongsi, the lineage descent organization and the secret society were borrowed from Southeastern Chinese culture, where they were unusually markedly developed, as compared to the rest of China. But though borrowed, they adapted, 'localized' in Southeast Asian function--


"Although I will not elaborate their origins here, it is important to understand the history of these associations. They are based on models of South Chinese organizations, but they are the creation of immigrants and are response to the political and economic environment of the host country. The pattern of immigration and the needs of immigrants have both shaped the associations. Some associations names, goals and principles of operation are quite like their Ch'ing Dynasty or Republican Chinese counterparts. But the cutoff from China, and the constant changes in the Philippine environment and in the Chinese who compose the community work to complete a process of 'speciation' of these organizations from their predecessors distant in time and space." (Omohundro; 1981: 89)


The function of these organizations remain largely cultural in a genuine sense of survival of cultural identity, and primarily political economic when contextualized within the overarching colonial frameworks. They are adaptive institutions, facilitating the successful adaptation of the Nanyang people, both as individuals and as group members.


"Chinese organizations are most impressive not for their cleverness at managing daily business but for their plasticity in reaction to stress. The many latent and formal organizations of Iloilo are the manifestations of an adaptive ability not unlike the ability to form a callous on a foot in a boot. In reaction to new pressures from without, the community spawns a new protective agency, reactivates an ex-middleman, or regroups a dispersed team of 'workhorses.'

This plasticity, along with the camouflage, like puffery and the fragility, constitutes a much more realistic portrait of Chinese voluntary associations than do the legends of Mafia like inscrutability. In what follows, the real power of Chinese organizations--the operation of their personalistic leadership--is analyzed.

The general picture of Iliolo's community is one of great profusion and diversity of formal organizations. Yet, for the most part, the active leadership is the same in each main organization. The leaders constitute a system of interlocking directorates…Between the leaders and the rank and file there are no qualitative breaks in socio-economic terms. But there is an important distinction in terms of activity: the leaders do all the work, the followers do nothing. Perhaps thirty household heads can be considered to be doing all the leadership in the community." (Omohundro; 1981: 110)


We are led to reconsider the role of human agency in the making of human history, recalling Kroeber's remarks about the 'clustering' creative 'geniuses' at high water marks of the stylized developments of civilizations. Socialization of personality has plays a decisive if limiting role in cultural dynamics. One of the characteristic historical aspects of the emergence of Nanyang civilization has been the long march and periodic fluorescence of a long line of 'leaders' who 'made it', who exhibited especially superlative qualities of creativity within the areas of maritime commerce, social organizations and 'entrepreneurial pioneering'. These talents of Chinese towkays, kapitans were exhibited in unusual entrepreneurial and organizations skills, as well as in money handling.


"Thus we find the pre-war Chinese leadership structure composed of an elite group of urban merchants and industrialists, supported by a broader base of middle ranking leaders of rural bazaar shopkeepers, prominent planters and land owners and recognized leaders of religious, civic, and social organizations. The path to leadership lay chiefly in social influence obtained through the acquisition of economic power. In other words, wealth and social power went hand in hand (as they still do). A person, financially sound or socially influential, soon gained recognition of government and reaped political privileges which in their turn brought increased wealth and prestige. The circle was complete." (John Chin; 1981: 79)


The Chinatowns in which such leadership became activated ranged in scale from small rural hamlets of a few families with shops to cosmopolitan Chinese cities. The primary basis of these communities was organization for mutual assistance, for defense and for purposes of economic survival and cultural adaptation. The lower scale towns were more varied in form and function--organized around specialized primary economic activities, whether plantation small holding, mining operations. The larger the community, the more diverse its range of functions and the more integrated its network patterns. At the top of the apex was the Chinese city like Singapore with its major financial and commercial institutions. The local orientation of these community settlements was always situational and always 'externalized'--looking out upon a larger Nanyang world.


"The economic stratification of Sarawak's Chinese society--or alternatively the interrelationship between rural and urban economy--is arranged like a pyramid, with a broad base of laborers and agriculturists in rural areas, a class of rural bazaar shopkeepers in the middle, and at the apex a small number of big businessmen and industrialists who actually control the economy whether in Kuching or Sibu, and who usually become the recognized leaders of the community. Whether in the pre-war or post wart period the economic strata in the Chinese community have stayed substantially unaltered. It is through this economic stratification that social power is channeled and leadership structure traditionally developed." (John Chin: 76)


Thus can be seen in the overseas translation and epitomization of traditional Chinese values of sobriety, hard work, business, sociality, which are educationally reinforced, the making of leadership processes which underlie the internal structure of Nanyang civilization. Between Heaven and Earth is a whole bureaucratic hierarchy of gatekeepers who may hinder or facilitate one's climb up the ladder of success. Nanyang civilization is a ladder of achievement, minutely graded, motivated by a kind of oriental Horatio Alger mythology of 'making it' if not individually then on the shoulder's of one's brothers and ancestors.


"The process which stimulated pre-war Chinese social and economic growth in Sarawak were many and varied and they were all influenced by a Eurocentric colonialization set in a multi-ethnic social background. It is impossible to do full justice in a single chapter to such a vast and complex subject as social and economic organization. Fortunately, it is only necessary to observe those processes through issues fundamentally important in Chinese eyes in order to obtain a good perspective of how pre-war Chinese society functioned in Sarawak and to understand why its social and economic structure has remained substantially the same until today." (Chin; 1981: 71)


The typical 'China-man' in the typical 'Chinatown' represents, if one gets to know him/her well enough., a curious combination of old and new--modern items and values are juxtapositioned without seeming order alongside vestigial anachronisms of an ancient bygone era. They cling to conservative tradition, seeming to resist 'assimilation' while simultaneously greedily taking for themselves the 'best' the new world has to offer. They readily consume the contents without gratification and leave the wrapper without remorse or hesitation. They have their own wrappers.

There is a stadial model suggested in the development of Nanyang civilization, which may be divided into four distinct phases which most closely approximate the phases of development of indigenous Southeast Asian civilization--the pre-historic, the 'junk trade' period, the 'Eurocentric' phase and the 'modernization era', phases which may be subdivided on the basis of periodic Nanyang waves which swept through Southeast Asia, bringing on their crests many important Nanyang leaders. Contact of the pre-historic period was most likely in the form of diffusion and piracy. This gave way to the junk trade era in which trade and tribute emphasized the Nanyang role of maritime tribute. The 'Eurocentric era' made the 'sojourner/settler' into a merchant middleman and coolie laborer or comprador. This gave way in the twentieth century to a modern phase which is a high lighted by inter-ethnic relations.


"To conclude, it is provocative to speculate that the history of Chinese commerce in the Philippines from pre-Hispanic times until now has been a progression through all of Foster's levels of commercial transactions. First, ritualized trade relations (tribute) and outright piracy predominated in the early days of commerce between Chinese junks and local coastal polities. Then under the Spanish feudal hegemony, the Chinese were legislated into ghettos (pariahs) and certain economic functions (Philippines-China trade, craftsmen, and so forth). Finally, ethnic categorization is now giving way to ad hoc categorization as a trading class. Further, commercial tensions in the modern polyethnic trading system of the contemporary Philippines are being partially displaced to the government level. (Omohundro; 1977: 133-134)


Contributions of the Nanyang peoples to the development of Southeast Asian civilization included improved agricultural and mining techniques and pioneering, sophisticated commercial and money handling institutions, handicrafts including pottery, carpentry and metal working, important forms of social and political organization, drama, literature, management and administrative skills and talent, distinctive cuisines, Chinese medicines, religious values and libraries, and later on many important professional specialities. One set of highlights marking the development of Nanyang civilization has been the long march of leaders of enterprising talents--Kapitans China and Towkays who have managed to translate Nanyang enterprising activities into outstanding success. The presence of Nanyang civilization, distinctive, separate, yet interdependent has served as an important role of trade functions and pioneers of many successful enterprises in stimulating the political economic development of Southeast Asia. As an alien resident group their Nanyang differences may have been important to the overall exchange process promoting development, in serving to keep contact more purely goal oriented, impersonal and economically achievement motivated, in maintaining reciprocal expectations of 'negative reciprocity' which may otherwise break down exchange networks, conveying a commercial stereotype or 'personae' which conditions expectations and terms of the exchange, resulting in complementary, mutually beneficial trade relations rather than purely competitive, destructive conflicts of interests. "Discussion of trade networks in Southeast Asia cannot proceed very far without introducing the Chinese, who directly, as traders or indirectly through their products, have participated in exchange in the 'South Seas' for two thousand years." (Yu; 1967: 172ff)


"Among the Chinese, an entrepreneur is, within the mythological realm of beliefs, associated with the following; an early struggle on modest capital to establish the enterprise; intense dedication, sacrifice and industry to secure the enterprise; personal and family denial of the wants and pleasures; simple mindedness to work; thrift, persistence and patience; readiness to work long hours to secure profit and income; and the activity of business as the best guarantee of achieving wealth and prestige. The history of successful Malaysian entrepreneurs of Chinese ethnic origins is filled with stories of people with modest beginnings achieving status and prestige through entrepreneurship, there are of course the negative beliefs associated with entrepreneurs, but there are universal features of belief traditionally linked to businessmen in all societies. An activity that has been actively pursued through generations normally acquires its own momentum in shaping the dispositions of its members and has an enduring influence on the motivation and value orientation. In promoting success in entrepreneurship the use of liberal means or the appeal made to authoritarian methods may or may not bring about the desired results. Frequently, the framework of ideas sustained in myth or in fact is crucial and its impact on entrepreneurial development would depend on the spirit underlying the framework of ideas. The key concern among the Malays is to promote entrepreneurial development, more accurately, the development of an achievement ethos based on entrepreneurial success." (Tham Seong Chee; 1977)