The wide distribution of China-related artefacts dating from c. 500 BC to 500 AD unearthed at sites in Southeast Asia has highlighted the existence of long-distance contact between China and Southeast Asia. This panel aims at understanding the networks and populations involved in this interaction.
This panel aims to generate a deeper understanding of the economic and cultural relations which linked China and Southeast Asia between the mid-1st millennium BC and mid-1st millennium AD, a period that witnessed the development of the so-called maritime Silk Route and the emergence of state societies and urbanism in Southeast Asia. Although there is evidence of contact between the two regions prior to this period, interaction had intensified by the middle of the first millennium BC, with goods, styles and ideas originating in China making their way to mainland – and, as is increasingly evident, island – Southeast Asia. Regardless of how Chinese goods reached local communities – whether through direct trade, the establishment of Chinese communities, or indirectly -, the recovery of ceramics, metal artefacts, glass, architectural objects and seals at Southeast Asian sites encourages us to consider the extent to which these goods may have played a role in local pathways of cultural development. Interestingly, although Chinese texts mention the importation of a number of exotic products from the southern seas, comparatively few goods and cultural traits of southern origin have been found in China. The archaeological study of contact between China and Southeast Asia during this period has been hampered by a dearth of relevant published data and scholarly interaction among archaeologists working in these many adjoining nations. This panel aims to bring together scholars familiar with the archaeology of relevant regions and able to contribute to the topic at hand through their identification and discussion of some of the many elements which moved along these routes and networks of interaction. The individual studies can approach the topic from a local or broader regional scale, and focus on any of a range of elements shared through contact (technology, style, function, people, or the artefacts themselves).