Introduction to History of Cambodia
Cambodia is a beautiful landscape country located in the mainland of Indo-China and borders Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
As it was an important trade route between India and China in the past, it possesses a rich cultural and religious heritage.
The history of Cambodia is mainly divided into prehistoric age, ancient kingdoms, mediaeval empires, modern occupations, and present history.
The Grand Angkor Wat temple, Preah Vihear temple, Roman Catholic Church of Bokor Hill, Bayon Temple, and Choeung Ek Killing Fields are some of the best historical locations in Cambodia.
The earliest existence of humans in Cambodia can be traced back to 6000-7000 BCE, which is at least 8000-10000 years ago.
Archaeological findings at the Laang Spean cave in the Battambang province of the Northwest region date back to at least 6000-7000 BCE. Many human skulls and bones were found in these excavations.
In several caves of Battambang province, pottery and human bones were found, which dated back to the Neolithic age.
The Funan Kingdom was the oldest established kingdom that dated back to at least the 4th century, and it ruled in the Southern part of Cambodia.
According to Legends, it was established by Kaundinya (Sanskrit) or Preah Thaong (Khmer).
As trade routes had been established between India and China in this region, Hinduism deeply impacted this kingdom and its rulers.
People used local languages such as Khmer along with Sanskrit. After the Funan kingdom, the Chenla kingdom established its rule in Cambodia.
Initially, it was a vassal state under the rule of Funan, but later it conquered Funan and established its kingdom under King Chitrasena Mahendravarman.
After Chenla, the Khmer Empire established its rule under Jayavarman II in Cambodia, which became the foundation of present-day Cambodia’s Buddhist culture.
The Mediaeval empires of Cambodia mainly consist of the Khmer empire and the Siamese (Thai) occupations of Cambodia.
Khmer Empire was the first kingdom responsible for introducing and spreading Theravada Buddhism actively in Cambodia.
The Khmer empire rose in power following the decline of the Chenla empire as a result of various political instabilities.
Jayavarman II founded the empire. The empire ruled from the 8th century to the 15th century. Initially, it followed Shaivism (a sect of Hinduism), but after the reign of Jayavarman VII, it became a Buddhist kingdom.
After the 15th century, the Khmer empire declined, and the Post-Angkor Period came to Cambodia.
The Post-Angkor period dates between the 15th and the 19th century. During this period many Siamese and Vietnamese invasions happened in Cambodia.
Between 1811 and 1845, Vietnamese armies started invading and capturing the territories of Cambodians under the Vietnamese ruler Ang Chan II.
To save the kingdom of Cambodia from Vietnamese invasions, the Norodom (king) of Cambodia signed an agreement with French colonisers to give protection.
This treaty between Cambodians and the French-led to the rise of French colonies in Cambodia.
As the French power increased, Cambodia fell into the hands of the French. The French rule lasted from 1845 to 1953.
In 1953, Cambodia, with the help of the Japanese army, gained independence from the French under the ruler, Norodom Sihanouk.
Sihanouk assumed an independent kingdom of Kampuchea after the Japanese occupation of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh was declared the capital of Cambodia, and the First Kingdom of Cambodia was established.
As the tensions grew between North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1969, the United States intervened and led to a destabilisation of governments which affected Cambodia as well.
After a series of various political shifts and different governments came to power finally, Present-day Cambodia was formed in 1953.