Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 30: Cultural Geography of Southeast Asia

Chapter Overviews

Many cultural influences have shaped Southeast Asia over thousands of years. Each of these cultures—Chinese, Indian, Islamic, European, and American—has made its own unique contributions to the politics, economics, and religions of the region.

Mainland Southeast Asia Most of today’s Southeast Asians are descendents of early migrants from western China and eastern Tibet. Population density varies widely, and an increasing amount of people throughout the subregion are moving to cities.

Early Southeast Asia was home to maritime empires, thanks to the major waterways and ports, and land-based empire gaining wealth from fertile land. The Funan, Khmer, and Vietnamese people are the most important empires of the subregion. Europeans arrived in the 1500s and established spheres of influence. After World War II the subregion began to fight for independence. The U.S. intervened in the subregion to stop Communist North Vietnam from invading South Vietnam. After the war, Vietnam was unified under a communist government. Indian and Chinese cultures influence the regions arts, religion, and to some extent, the languages.

Island Southeast Asia Most of the people of this subregion are descended from early people from the mainland. Chinese, Arabs, and Europeans are also represented. The coastal plains of the islands are the most densely populated areas of the subregion. Indonesia is engaging in relocation programs to ease overcrowding.

The Srivijaya Empire controlled Southeast Asia’s searoutes from A.D. 600-1300. After 1400, Arab traders spread Islam throughout the region. In the 1900s the Europeans and Japanese started dominating the region. After World War II, most of the region gained independence. Indian, Chinese, Arab and European cultures influence the religion, sports, arts and languages of this subregion.

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