Une cité-état de la Péninsule malaise: le Langkasuka
By Jacq-Hergoualc'h Michel, Yukongdi Pakpadee, Puntukowit Pornthip, Supajanya Thiva
Published in Arts asiatiques. Tome 50, 1995. pp. 47-68
TLangkasuka has recently become an archeological reality ; its previous status was that of a simple name in some Chinese, Indian, Arabic, Javanese or Malayan texts. Thirty-three old structures have now been identified near Yarang, together with possible earth fortifications. This is exceptional, and unique in the Malay Peninsula. Numerous rivers and canals ran through the site, apparently more for daily use than protection. Notwithstanding changes in the shoreline, the city was at least 10 km from the sea ; aerial and satellite photographs seem to indicate that an estuary of the Patani river formerly reached there. One can assume that there was a entrepôt port, yet to be located. The three structures excavated to date disclosed brick temples, the most distinctive of which seems to go back to the 6th century A.D. This temple yielded a quantity of Buddhist religious material, such as votive tablets and a most unusual votive stupa. One of the other structures held a stone statue of Nandin, the possible trace of a Sivait cult in a previously Buddhist temple. The cohabitation of the two great Indian religious is not unusual, and agrees with the international nature of the site. According to sources, this city-state was born in the 2nd century A.D. and lasted until the early 16th century. The recently discovered archeological remains belong mostly to the 6th to 8-9th centuries, and show complex artistic influences. Those of South and, particularly, Nord-East India seem to predominate. It is in fact conceivable that Langkasuka was, in early times, a relay-station on the way to Dvaravati, either by sea, or through the transpeninsular roads starting in South Kedah, where Gupta and post-Gupta influences were also felt. There is clear evidence of later Pala-Sena India, together with an answering style specific to Dvaravati. Since Srivijaya art was bred from a very complex set of influences, as is the case for all the Peninsula city-statues, its artistic reach cannot be established. Like its neighboring states, Langkasuka was commercially active as a meeting-point for Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern traders. As the local rulers'power relied on prosperous rice crops, international trade, and sale of rare products from inland forests, their chief concern with each monsoon season was to keep the traders out of trouble. In consequence, the rulers were certainly very open and tolerant. New excavations soon to be undertaken should put this impression to the test.