1819 and Before: Singapore’s Pasts
A special series of lectures commemorating Singapore’s bicentennial anniversary
About the Lecture
This seminar will examine issues in the writing about the history of Singapore before 1819. Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr John Crawfurd, the second Resident of Singapore, lead in reporting that Singapore was uninhabited before the British arrived. Generations of historians have concurred with this description of Singapore at 1819 and gone further to claim, as former Professors K G Tregonning and C M Turnbull have done, that whatever may have happened on Singapore before 1819 is irrelevant to the island’s historical development thereafter. This seminar explores the assumptions underlying this understanding of Singapore’s history and how the work at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre is challenging and revising these assumptions.
About the Speaker
Kwa Chong Guan works on the intersections of history, archaeology and security studies of Southeast Asia. As an Associate Fellow at the Archaeological Unit of the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor at the History Department of the National University of Singapore, Kwa is interested in the long cycles of Southeast Asian history. As Senior Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University, he works on a range of regional security issues with a focus on the implicit narratives underlying our framing of regional security. He started his career working on policy analysis in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then the Ministry of Defence before being assigned to reorganize the Oral History Department in the National Archives and concurrently, the old National Museum. He continues to be associated with these heritage institutions in various advisory capacities and as Chairman of the National Archives Advisory Committee.
For registration, please fill in this form and email to email@example.com by 17 July 2018.
About the Lecture
Few people associate the Halls of Guanyin (Guanyin tang) in Southeast Asia with the esoteric and syncretic Chinese religious sect known as the Way of Former Heaven (Xiantian Dao). More often than not, the Halls of Guanyin are Vegetarian Halls that were established in the late 19th to early 20th century by the sect’s respective Great Masters or resident-members. Although sectarian Masters were largely males, the upkeep of these halls were usually maintained by women. Understood as a lay Buddhist movement and localised as “Buddhism of the Former Heaven” (xiantian fojiao), Vegetarian Halls allow us to explore a unique and tangible expression of Buddhism and its entrenchment in the organic religious environments of Southeast Asia. This public seminar will explore the religious network of Chinese Vegetarian Halls in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It will focus on their lineage, the gender dimension and texts. It will seek to link this group of Vegetarian Halls and temples to the larger landscape of the early Chinese community in Southeast Asia.
About the Speaker
Dr. Show Ying Ruo is a Visiting Fellow at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Dr Show did her B.A in Chinese Literature at Fudan University, Shanghai, and her M.A in Sinology at SOAS, London. She obtained her PhD in Chinese Studies from the National University of Singapore in 2017 with a research focus on the Chinese Precious Scrolls scriptures from the premodern period. She is currently converting a chapter of her thesis into a book-length monograph which examines Chinese religious sect-affiliated Vegetarian Halls in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Her research interests are gender and religion, the Three Teachings (sanjiao; Sam Kauw; Tridharma) and Buddhism in Southeast Asia.
For registration, please fill in this form and email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20 April 2018.
About The Lecture
This lecture examines a corpus of free standing Hindu Buddhist figurative sculpture produced in Java in the 9th to 14th century period whose elaborate dress displays textiles with detailed patterns. This surviving body of sculpture, carved in stone in bas relief and cast in metal, varying in both size and condition, now stands in archaeological sites across Java, museums in Indonesia, and beyond. Situated a few degrees south of the equator, the humid climate of Java has ensured that textiles from this period have not survived in situ.
In considering supporting evidence from other regions of Asia, this lecture explores the origins of the medieval textiles depicted on these sculptures, and identifies the types of textiles being represented. It also provides some analysis of specific motifs, such as those on Saiva Buddha sculptures representing tantric iconography.
Additionally this lecture re-examines, through this corpus of sacred sculpture, the impact of the ‘Pāla Style’ from northeast India on the sculpture of Classical Java.
About The Speaker
Dr Lesley S Pullen, is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in art history at SOAS University of London. She was born in Medan, Sumatra and lived in Asia for thirty years. Dr Pullen arrived in London in 1997 and completed at SOAS a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art, a Taught Masters and in 2017 a PhD. She is currently converting her doctoral thesis “Representation of Textiles on Classical Javanese Sculpture” into a monograph. Her work includes research into the textiles and ornament of India, Central Asia and China, and how these are reflected in Southeast Asian material art. She tutors and lectures on Southeast Asia art history courses at SOAS and the V&A Museum.
For registration, please fill in this form and email to email@example.com by 29 January 2018.
About The Lecture
Calligrams, or figurative calligraphy, are texts that have been shaped into images and may represent inanimate objects or living beings. Straddling the line between text and image, and combining the power of both, calligrams have been used for devotional and talismanic purposes in various parts of the Islamic world, particularly Iran, Ottoman Turkey, and India.
In Southeast Asia, calligrams are also used as talismanic devices across various media such as manuscripts, woodwork and textiles. This lecture will focus on two types of calligrams that are found in the region. The first is in the form of a large feline, and is usually associated with the Prophet Muḥammad’s cousin and son-in-law ʿAli’, and thus is commonly referred to as ‘The Lion/Tiger of ‘Ali’’. The other is in the form of a ship, composed of the names of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, a legend related in the Qur’an. This lecture will investigate the forms and uses of these calligrams and place them within the broader context of Southeast Asia and the Islamic world.
About The Speaker
Farouk Yahya (PhD, SOAS University of London, 2013) is currently Leverhulme Research Assistant in Islamic Art and Culture at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. His research interests include illustrated and illuminated manuscripts of Southeast Asia and the Islamic world, particularly those relating to magic and divination. He is the author of Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2016) and editor of The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections (Penang: Areca Books, 2017).
For registration, please fill in this form and email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 December 2017.
About The Lecture
In the first volume of his monumental work Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, Victor Lieberman compared three geographically-based regions of Mainland Southeast Asia, namely the western, the central and the eastern mainland. Lieberman saw coherence in the three regions in that they were all politically and culturally integrated as the result of a series of synchronised cycles between 1000 and 1830. The major difference between Vietnam and its two neighbouring regions, in Lieberman’s analysis, was that Vietnam’s integration was neither as complete or sustained at the same level as achieved by Burma and Siam, even as late as the 19th century Nguyen dynasty (from 1802). Instead of three sustained imperial integrations, he saw two and a fraction. Geography was an important factor. Vietnam lacked one dominant, integrating river system like the Irrawaddy (2170 km long) in Burma or Chao Phraya (372 km long) in Thailand. Yet it did have one geographical feature which might have played a compensatory role in integration, a 3260 km coast line. Moreover, early 19th century Vietnam had a long maritime tradition and a powerful navy, plus close commercial relations with southern China. Why did these potential positives fail to promote closer integration of the new state?
This seminar considers that question by focusing on one of the most important economic factors implicated in that failure, imperial rice transportation. This system formed a major cornerstone of Nguyen policy, but its practical costs and operational failures combined to ensure that Vietnam’s coastal sea lanes did not play a similar unifying role as the major river systems in Burma and Siam.
About The Speaker
Dr Tana Li is Visiting Senior Fellow at Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre and emeritus senior fellow at the College of Asia and Pacific Studies, the Australian National University. She works on maritime and environmental histories of Vietnam and southern China. Her works includes The Nguyen Cochinchina; Water Frontier: Commerce and the Chinese in the Lower Mekong Region, 1750-1880, and Gulf of Tongking Through History, among others. At the ISEAS, Li Tana is working on a manuscript of Maritime history of Vietnam. She is also leading an international collaborative project, “The Making of the Red River”, financially supported by the Chiang Chingkuo Foundation, Taiwan. This study of ecological history of the Greater Red River region is carried out by a team of historians, geologists, and GIS experts based in Austria, France, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
For registration, please fill in this form and email to email@example.com by 31 October 2017.
About the Lecture
The 2017 Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre (NSC) Archaeological Field School recently assisted APSARA Authority with rather incredible discoveries at the late 12th century Tonle Snguot hospital site located in the Angkor Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. The discoveries included a 2.0 metre guardian statue (Dvarapala) and several rare Buddha statues – one of which may be a “Healing” or “Medicine” Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru).
The Tonle Snguot site is located outside the northern gate of the famed and massive Angkor Thom urban complex. Both Angkor Thom and Tonle Snguot are associated with King Jayavarman VII (1181-1218 CE), a Mahayana Buddhist who sanctioned the construction of 102 hospitals outside the city gates, along major roads, and at different urban sites throughout the kingdom. Our research purpose aimed to understand the nature of the hospital complex. Hospitals included both practical medicine and complementary spiritual healing. Additionally, it is probably no accident that a hospital is located just outside the main gates at Angkor Thom – possibly serving as checkpoints to assure healthy and sane people entered the city.
The Field School involved one week of excavations at the site to train East Asia Summit participants in basic field methods and research design. Other aspects of the Field School included site trips throughout Cambodia and Singapore to incorporate art history, history, historical ecology and several overlapping fields in order to emphasize archaeology’s multi-disciplinary nature. The participants finished their tour de force with mini research projects presented at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
About the Speaker
Dr D. Kyle Latinis currently researches the Historical Ecology of Southeast Asia—an approach combining ethnographic, historic, environmental and archaeological data. Research also addresses internal and external socio-economic factors and resource exploitation. Kyle oversees projects and training in both Mainland and Island Southeast Asia, having over 25 years of experience. Kyle earned a PhD at the National University of Singapore (2008) and a PhD in Ecological Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (1999). Recent publications include: “Regional Research and Training Contributions from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre: Results from Research Projects and Field Schools in Cambodia” (in press); “The Kanam Rock Painting Site, Cambodia: Current Assessments” (2016); and “The Social and Ecological Trajectory of Prehistoric Cambodian Earthworks” (2014).
For registration, please fill in this form and email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 17 October 2017.
The socio-religious phenomenon we now call “Tantrism” dominated the religious and ritual life in much of South and Southeast Asia from around 500 CE to 1500 CE and beyond. Yet, the impact of Śaiva and Buddhist Tantric traditions on the societies and cultures of Southeast Asia remains insufficiently studied and appreciated. The talk will explore the indissoluble link between the State and Tantric ideologies/ritual systems in Southeast Asia. It will first deal with state formation, evaluating the theories of “man of prowess” and “Śaiva bhakti” elaborated by historian Oliver Wolters, then turn to the role of Tantric magic and ritual in the medieval maṇḍala polities of Sumatra, Java, and Cambodia. Finally, it will offer some concluding reflections on the link between politics, power, and the “supernatural” in modern Southeast Asia.
Andrea Acri was trained at Leiden University (PhD 2011, MA 2006) and at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ (Laurea degree, 2005). He is Maître de conférences in Tantric Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, France. Prior to joining EPHE in late 2016 he has held research and teaching positions at Nalanda University (India), the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, the Asia Research Institute (NUS), and other institutions in the Netherlands, Australia, and the UK. His main research and teaching interests are Śaiva and Buddhist Tantric traditions, Hinduism and Indian Philosophy, Yoga traditions, Sanskrit and Old Javanese philology, and the comparative religious and intellectual history of South and Southeast Asia from the premodern to the contemporary period. His publications include the monograph Dharma Pātañjala: A Śaiva Scripture from Ancient Java Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts (Egbert Forsten/Brill 2011; 2nd edition Aditya Prakashan 2017), the edited volumes Spirits and Ships: Cultural Transfers in Early Monsoon Asia (ISEAS Publishing 2017, with A. Landmann and R. Blench), Esoteric Buddhism in Mediaeval Maritime Asia (ISEAS Publishing 2016), From Laṅkā Eastwards: The Rāmāyaṇa in the Literature and Visual Arts of Indonesia (2011, KITLV Press, with H. Creese and A. Griffiths).
Lecture: Seeing Through the Forest: Lost Cities, Remote Sensing and LiDAR Applications in Archaeology
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is one of the newest remote sensing technologies to be used for archaeology and related sciences. Results are revolutionizing the field, especially among researchers studying ancient urban landscapes in Southeast Asia (The Guardian, 11 June 2016).
LiDAR applications digitally peel away forest canopies and vegetative cover resulting in sophisticated surface images and detailed topographic maps of natural and cultural landscapes. LiDAR data has been integral for recent research and training initiatives at the Nalanda–Sriwijaya Centre (NSC).
LiDAR abilities cannot be underestimated. However, there are limitations. Ground-truthing through archaeological surveys and excavations continue to play necessary and central roles.
The following discussion will introduce LiDAR technology, capabilities, and limits followed by examples of LiDAR application for two recent NSC projects: Mahendraparvata – the 9th century Angkorian capital city of Jayavarman II, legendary founder of the Angkorian empire; and Koh Ker [Chok Gargyar] – the mysterious 10th century Angkorian capital city of Jayavarman IV, often depicted as a rogue usurper king. Future NSC research possibilities using LiDAR applications for other Southeast Asia sites will also be introduced.
Workshop: Circulating the Bay of Bengal, Miraculously: Translating Wonder and Travel in Southeast Asia
TRANSLATING WONDER AND TRAVEL IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
How do we write a history of travel and wonder? Can we enchant the history of Southeast Asia? Are there histories of wonder, saints, gods and spirits in societies of Southeast Asia that we can trace or write? How have Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and ‘Chinese religion’ interweaved across the Bay of Bengal? These are just some questions that this workshop aims to explore systematically.
This workshop aims to collect histories of travel, enchantment and wonder in Southeast Asia across the longue durée. It will bring together scholars whose work spans the geographic and temporal scope of societies, from the medieval era to the modern period, with a focus on ‘magical’ connections. The geographic and temporal scales of this conference are deliberately broad, largely because these are concepts and phenomena that traverse the length and breadth of religious history and experience. This workshop also aims to collect materials essential for writing a connected history of the Bay and Bengal, and for investigating the interweaving histories of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and ‘Chinese religion’.
Attendance to the Workshop is free of charge but registration is required. As seats are limited, please register early. Admission to the Workshop can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS.
To register, please complete this form and return it by fax to 6775-6264 or email at email@example.com by Monday, 6 February 2017.
This talk explores Malay manuscripts pertaining to Muslim miracle-workers, or ‘magicians’ who were key intermediaries of ore and guns in the interior of modern Malaya. These manuscripts are analysed to recount a history of worlds and environments wherein socioeconomic activities were associated with Islamic esoteric science. I introduce here, professional miracle-workers who were venerated as heirs of prophets and saints from earlier Islamic periods. Having inherited ‘noses’ for prospecting ore, and as direct ‘technological’ heirs of the Prophet’s guns, these miracle-workers were esteemed for their rituals and miracles in contemporary forests, mines, ‘workshops’ and stockades. This talk analyses elaborate Islamic genealogies and popular historical traditions, and investigates how ‘magical’ manuscripts are prime sources of socioeconomic histories and are informative about religio-economic sensibilities. This talk further presents my explorations into the cosmopolitanism of the Malay frontier.