The Dong Shon civilization as such relatively recently entered the category of the main civilizations of the ancient East.
At present, this assessment of the culture of the most ancient states of the austric peoples inhabiting Southeast Asia and adjacent regions is generally recognized, but its detailed description as a civilization has not yet been proposed. This is due to its late discovery, at the beginning of the 20th century, relatively little study so far, and most importantly, the almost complete absence of written monuments and their untranslated, as well as the small number of discovered urban centers and their insufficient excavation.
Played a role and widespread until the 60s. XX century. the idea that among the rice-growing austric peoples, and above all among the main ones – the Austroasians and Austronesians, civilizations were formed taking into account the social and cultural experience of distant neighbors. The fact that these peoples had their own early class cultural center, their own civilization, whose experience was, first of all, perceived by the peripheral part of these peoples, having had a profound influence on them, became clear rather late. Meanwhile, the Dong Shon civilization took shape at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. e. in the lower reaches of the Red River, in the northeastern part of the Indochina Peninsula, among the Laquiet (ancestors of the Vietnamese), whose language belonged to the Austro-Asian family of languages.
The social and cultural structure of the early class society that emerged there possessed all the features of an ancient civilization, and the art that grew on its basis was one of the few large arts of the world that developed completely independently.
In the spiritual culture of the Dongshons, worship of the spirits of ancestors prevailed, gradually forming a special religion of a class society, which subsequently coexisted for a long time alongside world religions and Confucianism. At the same time, the cult of the gods of the forces of nature, the opposition of the earthly and heavenly gods, did not develop. It is no coincidence that in Dong Shon art we do not see images of gods and monsters, while images of people (as many researchers believe, some of them are ancestors) are huge. A number of researchers suggest the existence of a solar cult among the Dongshons. There is a lot of data on the veneration of the sky, birds, etc. We can definitely speak of the presence of a spherical, or concentric, model of the Universe in the Laquietes, in which people, animals, birds corresponded to certain “rings”; in the center of the sphere (circle) there was a “star” with the canonized number of rays. There is evidence of the existence of the cult of fertility among the Laquiet rice-growers, as well as among other agricultural peoples, the paired images of a man and a woman at the time of sexual intercourse.
The features of the spiritual life of the ancient Laquiet Dongshonians are inherent in representatives of other austric peoples. The latter, without participating in the creation of the Dongshon religion, adopted many of its elements, developed them and supplemented them. And this would be impossible without a fundamental closeness in the spiritual sphere in the past and without regular broad contacts at the moment of perception. The most important thing is the emergence in the early class societies of the Austrian peoples of the need for complex cults and complex religious art for their administration, as well as the ability of the Dong Shon civilization to satisfy this demand for centuries. But such a process of cultural exchange, which took place against the background of a rapid economic (the onset of the Iron Age) and social (the emergence of states in all large river valleys of Southeast Asia), was not sufficient. and an active comprehension of the social and cultural experience of more distant and more developed foci began: the Indo-Dravidian in the West and the Han in the North. The Dongshon civilization in the center of its distribution has gone from emergence, through prosperity to decline, which came due to some reasons still unclear to us.
The decline was associated with a change in the religious beliefs of its carriers, expressed in the disappearance of almost all leading samples from the practice of the cult, while the main objects of the cult were preserved. The beginning contacts of the Laquietes with the Han people did not lead to the spread of the elements of spiritual life inherent in the latter, but, perhaps, indirectly contributed to the increase in the role of the text in comparison with the pictorial methods of storing religious information. It is significant that the late stage was not accompanied by the spread of Chinese elements either in an artistic manner or in a set of images and plots.
The Dong Shon civilization is known for its distinctive realistic art that served cult purposes. They demanded a realistic transmission of the details of the rite, while the rite itself concerned many aspects of people’s everyday life, which was reflected in art. People were portrayed most often within the canonized compositions, and these compositions are binary on the main ritual object – a bronze hollow truncated cone, open at the bottom, and having a flat disc at the top; in later tradition it was perceived as a drum. They are also called “Dongshon drums” in modern literature.
The binary is that there are two complex groups of scenes on the flat top disc, each of which is similar to the other, but occupies the opposite half of the “ring”. Perhaps this is how the world of the living and the world of the dead are presented. As far as can be judged, an important function of Dong Shon art with its detailed reproduction with minor modifications of the same scenes of the ritual and related actions is the fixation of the ritual. In this respect, they functionally correspond to the text describing the ritual in other religions.
On the cone, there are images of soldiers on a battleship and on foot. The weak stylization of the images on the early, actually Laquitian pieces allows us to learn a lot about the cult. With all the realism, accuracy of details, proportionality, this is only a “sign” of the ship, since birds and animals stand between the ships. The scene is not considered by the master as an image of a ship afloat. But in the ship itself, everything is realistic, except for the sometimes present stork – the sacred bird of the Dongshon people and all peoples who have adopted the Laquiet beliefs. Otherwise, it is a ship in battle, with shooting archers, warriors with spears and raised battle axes, with a signal drum, water supplies and, finally, with a commander stabbing a prisoner with a spear. Below the gaze appears a “band of warriors”, individual figures in cartouches depict foot soldiers in huge helmets with feathers, going into battle.
On all these pieces the scenes either differ slightly within the limits of what is permitted for a particular artist, or differ noticeably, but always form a group of similar subjects, akin to the most detailed compositions on the largest “drums”. Here we are talking, apparently, about the versions of the rite. So, people in boats may be unarmed, the scene of preparation for a feast may be absent, etc. The main components – a flying heron and a procession of warriors in feathered helmets – exist on the “poor”, small “drums”. By the way, they last the longest at the end of the existence of a given culture, when the rite has either already been replaced by another, or was transmitted to an increasing extent by the text. It should be emphasized that not just different real people are portrayed, but a standard set of scenes with clearly fixed semantics.
The Dong Shon art speaks of the existence of a certain magical, sacrificial (killing a prisoner), cult (the cult of a sacred bird) practice among the Laquietes, and a developed military ritual. The ideological practice of the Dongshon civilization was apparently based on rather complex magical acts, one can also speak of sympathetic magic, especially since at the next stage in the development of the Dongshon ideology, images of frogs “making rain” appear on the “drums”. According to the later practice traced by ethnographers, the ritual use of “drums” was intended to regulate people’s relations with otherworldly forces within the framework of procedures performed by people without the participation of images of the gods and without the leading role of priests. These fundamental features are inherent in the cult of ancestors in the form
The system of cult plots on sacred “drums” is the most striking characteristic of the Dong Shon civilization precisely as an early class civilization based on the cult of ancestors. First of all, the main figure is not a god or a priest, but a man. But a person is at the moment of performing a religious rite or preparations for it, and not “just a person” (which, however, is impossible as a mass phenomenon at this stage of social development). Moreover, according to the degree of complexity, according to the degree of symbolism, which has already been sufficiently standardized, the art of this civilization can be attributed to the next stage after the art of primitive society — to the first stage of the art of class societies. This point of view is supported by the realism of the images themselves and, what is much more important, the realism of the compositions that convey the relationship between people in a team:
Dongshong cultural influence
The cult nature of these images is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that the Dongshon stories are strictly canonized. It is obvious that behind them were quite definite religious texts, the set of characters of which and some relations between these persons can be restored. At the same time, the peoples who adopted the Dong Shon cults, much in them was alien not only in content (which entailed the refusal to reproduce some plots or their rapid stylization beyond recognition), but also in the manner of expression. This was manifested both in the rejection of the strict realistic graphics of Dong Shon art in favor of a more flexible (in the state of Dien, north-west of Aulak) or more decorative (in Indonesia) manner, and in the rejection of the normative composition and set of characters. when the object of the image is simply all the typical figures of people and scenes of economic, military and religious life, as in Diene. It should be said about the phenomenon of “secondary realism”, in which, along with Dongshon in style, meaning and function images in the art of the recipient peoples appear their own images, weakly or almost unstylized: in Diene and Indonesia, the sign-ornamental innovations of the Namviets who lived to the north-east of Aulaka, stand apart.
They are much closer to “nature” than the depictions of the Dong Shon style among these peoples, and the stylization, which is clearly still at an early stage, is different for each people. It is obvious that the people of Dongshons adopted the very principle of realistic plot composition, which soon began to be transmitted by “local means”. It is just as obvious that it could not have been perceived without the appropriate text and rite, that is, religion. In those centuries, the Dongshon people, like their closest neighbors, did not develop a purely hieratic art, generally atypical for the cult of ancestors and the philosophies that arose on its basis (hieratic art means emphasizing the greatness of God, his dominion over everything). This distinguishes the Dongshon religion from the religions of the early civilizations of the Nile and Mesopotamia of the pre-literary and early written periods.
During its heyday, in the VI-IV centuries. BC BC, and in some areas later, Dong Shon art gave rise to a number of local variants. Its rapid acceptance by other (but not all) austric peoples of the most economically developed regions of “proto-Southeast Asia” was facilitated by the two factors already mentioned: the fact that the population of the main rice-growing valleys, passing to a class society, needed a developed religious ideas of all these peoples – the cult of ancestors.
Let us recall that the cult of ancestors has largely survived to this day and determines a lot in the spiritual life of the peoples of Southeast Asia. The Laquietes were the first to create a more complex religious system on this basis; they even later practiced this cult more widely than others.
In the early stages, the Dong Shon civilization spread towards the Malacca Peninsula of Indonesia, as well as up the Red River; in the later ones – to the northeast, to the lands of the Namviets akin to the Laquiet, where their own state had already developed, the creators of which, apparently, did not practice the Dongshon cult at the time of the formation of the state. This once again confirms the fact that in the presence of kinship of varying degrees of closeness among the developed peoples of “proto-Southeast Asia”, the Dong Shon civilization was formed in a rather limited center, and spread through perception as a “demand” for the ideology of a class society and relevant art forms. The spread of the Dongshon religion was clearly not due to the resettlement of the Dongshon people in any noticeable quantities to other places,
Various cultural schools of Southeast Asia
The fact that the Dong Shon culture was not imposed, but was voluntarily perceived, is also evidenced by the fact that in our neighbors we see only a part of the Dong Shon religious and artistic samples, namely: on the one hand, the closest to a particular people (this part of the Dong Shon complex is specific to each of them), on the other – occupying a key position in the Dongshon religion (this part is the same for everyone: a flying stork, a profession of warriors, a star in the center of the “sphere of the universe”). There was one more image, which is associated with the presence of a deep initial proximity of the Austrian peoples. This is an ornament in the form of a double spiral (Latin letter S); its varieties among the austric peoples are diverse, but for many of them they were unified under the influence of the Dongshon version of the double helix.
The most interesting schools that arose under the influence of Dong Shon art are schools:
- in the Malay-Javanese world,
- in the Thai-Austro-Asian environment of the Dien state near Dali Island (in modern Yunnan),
- as well as among the Namviets (Nam Viet state – the territory of Guangxi and Guangdong)
In Dien, while keeping the Dong Shon norms for some products in a slightly modified form, “drums” prevailed, made in the local manner, using local images, with the addition of abundant ritual small plasticity on the upper plane. In Dien’s art, the style of ornament changed, the plot of a religious holiday on the upper plane of the instrument disappeared, but cult images of the tiger and snake revered here appeared, by the way, almost never seen among the Laquietes. The second most popular type of Dongshon sacred art – small bronze sculpture – achieved exceptional development in Diene, enriched with features of “secondary realism”.
The Austronesians retained, first of all, the main thing in the religious plot – the flight of the stork and the procession of warriors in helmets with feathers. At the same time, their own sacred images (figures and faces) appeared, the Laquitian was stylized and its decor flourished. In the southern school, the “weaving” of new images into the fabric of the old composition prevailed, while the composition itself, unlike Dien’s art, quickly lost its realistic features, stylized until the original version was completely lost.
In the Nam Viet school, their images of people were no longer created, new elements were ornamental signs, which indirectly reflected the spread of Han culture here. And here the images of a flying stork and a procession of warriors were preserved for the longest time, and in relation to the first there was a gradual replacement by the image of another bird, and in relation to the second – rapid stylization and transformation into an ornamental motive. It is important that the results of stylization in the northeast of the Dong Shon area and in its south were completely different. The basis was the same – the cult and art of the Dongshon civilization of the era of its heyday, while the paths of further development were original among other peoples.
Destruction of Dong Shon culture
In the Late Dongshon period (II-I centuries BC), traces of the studied art disappeared, and from the beginning of our era in the valley of the Red River and in the valleys immediately to the south of it, the production of corresponding cult objects. But the cult of ancestors itself is still preserved here. Thus, we are talking about some change in cult practice or the disappearance of some kind of ancestor cult. It is hardly a coincidence that the beginning of the reduction in the production of “drums” coincided with the spread of Buddhism from India and with the beginning of attempts at cultural assimilation of the Laquiet by the Han. In the I-II centuries. n. e. the cult associated with “drums” was persecuted by the Han administration, they were confiscated and melted down. But all this was after the gradual disappearance of complex compositions from them and the appearance of cast images of frogs “causing rain”. The cult of these latter was most likely inherent in the Namviets, since on their territory there are only late artifacts with frogs, and among the Laquietes they appear approximately at the time when the Laquiet state of Aulak was at the end of the 3rd century. BC e. captured by namviet.
Perhaps the main role in the gradual disappearance of the Dong Shon cult practice was played by the spread from the 1st century. n. e. among the Laquietes of Buddhism, which gradually became their main religion, and not the political control of the Han people. It is noteworthy that this practice persisted for the longest time in the mountainous regions adjacent to the center and main peripheral foci of the Dongshon civilization (mountains of the northeast of the Indochina Peninsula and the Sijiang River basin) and on parts of the islands of Indonesia. At the same time, the cult of the ancient bronze drum as a symbol of supernatural forces protecting the Vietnamese state, as guardian spirits along with the ancestors of the Vietnamese emperors, remained for a long time in the culture of the Vieta; these two cults were linked in the minds of the medieval Vieta.
Somewhat earlier, apparently by the 8th century, the traditions of Dong Shon art were supplanted. This once again suggests that the decline of Dong Shon art is not the decline of the ideological system that gave birth to it. At first, the world of images on a cult object disappeared, much later – the object itself, and the cult of ancestors, served by other objects and other images, still exists.
The broad perception of the social and cultural experience of the ancient Indians and partly of the ancient Chinese, which began mainly at the turn of our era, was not the first for the Austrian peoples to perceive the norms of a class society, went much faster than usually in such situations.
Civilization 1st millennium BC
With the development of independent centers of class society on the former periphery of the Dongshon civilization and on its “distant approaches”, the unity of the Austrian cultural complex began to disintegrate. These processes marked the transition from the early period of the ancient history of Southeast Asia (I millennium BC) to late antiquity (I / II-IV / VII centuries AD). Among the ancestors of the Mon-Khmers and Austronesians in Central and Southeastern Indochina, in the north of the Malacca Peninsula and on the islands of Western Nusantara, among the Proto-Burmese groups and monks of Western Indochina, as well as among some Thai-Austro-Asian groups of modern Yunnan, the formation of the culture and ideology of the early class states with increased contacts with ancient Eastern civilizations.
The inclusion of brahminical cults in the ideological system and the spread of Buddhism from India and Sri Lanka in the first half of the 1st millennium AD. e. naturally led to the imposition of certain general canonical principles of cult architecture and iconography. And at first, acquaintance with them took place, apparently, through the local South Indian and Sri Lankan samples of buildings (chaityas, shikharas, stupas) and cult plastics, primarily of the southern schools (Amaravati, early Pallavas), as well as Gupta.
However, excavations have shown that in the most developed centers of the south of the Indochina Peninsula, such as the cities of Bapnoma, by the time of the appearance of the monuments of the Indo-centric circle, an autochthonous tradition of building with the use of bricks and stones already existed, and corresponding temples were erected serving the early Khmer animistic cults.
There was religious and secular pictorial art, ornamental and decorative art with a system of deeply distinctive images and motives. In the II-V centuries. n. e. Bapnom and the outposts of sea communications in the South Seas on its imperial territories (especially the peninsular, Monso-Austronesian) were zones of wide contact of local culture with Hinduism and Buddhism and the earliest forms of adaptation of the latter to the traditions of the cult of ancestors and deities-spirits of nature, to a rich arsenal of religious -mythological images of austric peoples. In architecture, this found expression primarily in the construction of sanctuaries associated with the Hinduized cult of the King of the Mountain in the guise of the highest hypostases of Shiva.
The continuity of the royal power was sanctified by the monarchical cult of the Linga as a phallic symbol of the sacred power of the monarch. Late Bapnomian kurungs (kings) of the Lunar Dynasty of the 5th – early 6th centuries. built in the area of Angkor-Borey temples of Shiva in the image of Girishi and Maheshvara, who was considered the divine analogue of the King who lived on the sacred Mountain. This tradition was inherited in Chenle (the predecessor of Cambujadesh) with its main sanctuary, the Lingi Wat Phu temple.
Another significant center of temple construction associated with this circle of ideological ideas was ancient Champa (from the middle of Central to the northern part of South Vietnam), where since the 4th century. n. e. there was a dynastic cult of Shiva – Bhadreshvara, known among the Khmers under the name of Eisor as the King of the Hill, and Shivaling temples were built in the temple city of Mison. Although the archaeological material for this early period is rather poor, there is every reason to believe that the factors noted served as an important basis for the addition even before the 6th century. n. e. early forms of that regional type of monumental temple building, which gave rise to the classical architecture of the Middle Ages, namely the type of “temple-mountain”.
The tower-like or pyramidal-terraced (with a tower-top) structure of the “temple-mountain” has become a stable model of temporary and local (Austro-Asian and Austronesian) directions of architecture due to the contamination of the general canonical Hindu and Buddhist image of the cosmic mountain Meru with local Uranian ideas and an original megalithic construction tradition. The latter is apparently connected with the ancient monks and ancestors of the Malay peoples. In the Bapnom era, important constructive and artistic and technical techniques were formed, which were subsequently developed by Khmer architects – the use of brick and laterite, a false vault, stucco decoration, etc.
On a regional scale, early class art was shaped by both Shaivism and Vishnuism, with which a significant part of sculpture is associated, and Buddhism. The second most important architectural image belongs to the spread of Buddhism, which, along with the image of the “temple-mountain”, formed the structural basis of the cult architecture of the ancient and early medieval states of Southeast Asia. This is a bell-shaped or helmet-shaped stupa. The early forms of this Buddhist memorial and cult structure developed under the influence of the examples of Amaravati and Sri Lanka. The stupa was most widespread at first among the monks of Lower Burma and Thailand and in the early Burmese kingdoms I drink in the Middle Ayeyarwaddy. In these areas of Central and Western Indochina, the development of monumental art was closely associated with Hinayana Buddhism.
The oldest works of “Indianized” iconography known in Indochina and on the Nusantara islands are images of Buddha in the style of the Amaravati school and its Sri Lankan versions of the 2nd-3rd centuries. n. e. In the iconography of the Buddha, based on Indian samples of the Gupta era (4th-5th centuries AD), some local features of the transfer of decor and composition are noticeable. These are statues from Dong Zwong (Vietnam), Pong Tuk (Thailand), Sungei Bujang (Malacca Peninsula). Although the iconography of Hinayana Buddhism was generally more conservative and uniform in comparison with Hindu and later Vajrayana Buddhism, the late Bapnomian Buddhist iconography of the 5th-6th centuries, among which the massive wooden sculpture stands out, can be attributed to the first upsurge of monumental ancient Khmer plastics, preceding the emergence of the early Classical style.
The local art of stone and woodworking and bronze casting had deep roots, and the production of anthropomorphic stone and metal Buddhist sculpture took root quickly. In the Bapnom civilization, it was undoubtedly also inspired not only by the mutual enrichment of intraregional traditions, but also by acquaintance with the great pictorial tradition of antiquity. All this manifested itself in the features of the early classical pre-Angkor style of Phnom Da (first half of the 6th century), in which images of Buddha and especially Vishnu and other Hindu gods already harmoniously combine elements of the influence of several Indian schools with the signs of conditional anatomical modeling of the body and ethnic appearance adopted by the Khmers.
At the turn of antiquity and the Middle Ages, it is important to note certain political and ideological factors that largely determined the nature of the classical art of the peoples of the historical region of South-East Asia. This is the presence of large state associations –
- Chenli (Cambuji),
- Mon Dvaravati in the Tyao Phraya basin,
- the early Burmese kingdom of Tarekkitara (Srikshetra) in the Ayeyarwaddy valley,
- Dali (Nanzhao) in modern Southwest China,
- Austronesian states of Champa,
- Srivijai (centered on Sumatra),
- Matarama on Java
And also the further development of the official cult of the monarch-god in the shell of Hinduism and Buddhism, various traditional forms of ancestor cult; the spread of wide-path Buddhism (Mahayana) and especially the mystical ideology of Vajrayana Buddhism. In connection with these factors, there are the most important achievements of artistic culture, which formed the direct basis of early medieval classical norms.
- The architectural image of the “temple-mountain” gave rise to intraregional models: Khmer prasat, Cham sea otter, Javanese Chandi, Malay biaro. All these are tower-like, and then (mainly among the Khmers) terraced-tower sanctuaries, that is, tower temples erected at the top of a stepped pyramid – “mountains”. Each of the most significant local directions of architecture by the VIII century. n. e. brought into the regional tradition its aesthetic originality: Javanese – through the classically clear, “order” tectonics and harmony of constructive and decorative principles, Khmer – through plastic wealth, solemn elegance of architectural forms and the development of spatial and ensemble principles, Cham – through strict monumental expressiveness and ornamental load of detached brick temples.
- The leading directions of sculpture are associated primarily with the aforementioned architecture, that is, with temple complexes of a Hindu nature, mainly with the Shaivite design of the idea of the sacred power of the monarch and his posthumous cult. These are outstanding examples of the plastically accurate and ethnically recognizable, but at the same time generalized idealized human type in the statues of the Khmer Hinduized gods from Sambor Prei Kuk and Prasat Andet, especially the popular image of Harihara (Shiva-Vishnu). This is a sensual expression and decorative element in Mison’s early-Yama sculpture and an abstract spiritual focus of the appearance of Indo-Javanese cult characters from the Chandi Dieng group. All these are monuments of the 7th-8th centuries.
- The development of their own norms of monumental art at the turn of antiquity and the Middle Ages is also observed within the framework of Buddhist canons. In the architecture of the states of Central and Western Indochina, among the predecessors of the Tai and Burmese – the Mon, this took place mainly in the direction of the development of the stupa-dagoba complex and the interior sanctuary under the stupa-shaped top, as well as the traditional use of such building structures and techniques as a pointed arch and a vaulted vestibule, brick masonry and pieces. The influence of the Mon style of Dvaravati was an important factor in iconography. Distribution in the VII century. n. e. the Vajrayana with the sophisticated fantasy of its mythology, the ideal of the savior-bodhisattva and the complex cosmology served to enrich the classical architecture and plastics in Pre-Angkor Cambodia, in the Javanese and Malay states.
- In the Vietnamese cultural area during the period of “northern dependence” (1st century BC – 9th century AD), the expansion of the institutions of the Chinese civilization came across the vitality of the traditions of the early class society of the carriers of the Dong Shon civilization – the Laquietes, especially their folk culture and traditions ancestor cult. The perception and adaptation of Dhyana Buddhism was accompanied, as far as can be judged from the scant evidence of that time, by the appearance of some significant monuments of architecture, plastics and ornamental art, marked by distinctive features (cult Buddhist and civil structures in Dayla and Lüilau, models of stupas from Tienzu, various burial items) …
The artistic heritage of the antiquity societies of Southeast Asia has played a significant role in passing the baton of cultural values that have formed an integral part of the traditional culture of the modern largest ethnic groups in the region.