Millennial Southeast Asia was a cockpit of contending powers, with city-states, land-based and maritime empires jockeying for dominance. For Srivijaya, control of the seas was key, in particular, the Straits of Malacca and Sunda skirting its Sumatran power base, Palembang. From here, it exploited the lucrative China-India trade, feeding the spices, timber, emeralds and ivory of its hinterland into the exchange of silks, textiles, lacquerware and ceramics. On the mainland the rulers of Pagan and Khmer were emerging, building their power from the mastery of hydraulics. Complex irrigation systems enabled the rice harvests to feed large populations who supported their armies and extravagant temple construction. Burmese Mon-speaking Pegu, Arakan, Haripunjaya and Dvaravati became vassal states, further threatened by Thais displaced by the collapse of Nanzhao (937). Annam threw off the yoke of first China then Champa, whose piracy plagued Srivijaya. Invasions by Java (990) then the Chola of southern India (1025) added to Srivijaya’s woes.
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