A Summary of the major Cultural Periods in Southeast Asian History in Relation to the History of Theater

Category: Culture
Last Updated: 23 Mar 2023
Pages: 3 Views: 119

The author summarized four major cultural periods in Southeast Asian history, providing a high level overview of important historical trends and occurrences, especially trends and occurrences in relation to the history of theater. Images and captions provided a tasteful touch to the information provided. Overall, the chapter was clear and concise, although, as noted, certain claims have since been disproven, which explains discrepancy between this reading and other readings for this week.

I found this reading extremely comprehensive, even if not all claims were thoroughly substantiated with evidence. Personally, I prefer ease of reading over depth of detail, especially when we are able to corroborate Brandon's claims with those of other authors' or with in class lectures and discussions.

The prehistoric lasted from roughly B.C. 2500 to A.D. 100, during which masses of people migrated from southwest China to countries south of China. The art of theater and rudimentary dancing likely developed during community periods of leisure, such as the rice harvest festival. Animism was a popular belief, and its influences can still be seen in theater performances like the Javanese wayang kulit shadow performances, which can be traced back to magic rituals.

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During this time, communities developed common funds of oral myths and legends, which likely had a prehistoric source similar to that of Indian Sanskrit literature. Bronze working also produced kettledrums, bronze instruments, and flutes, which were likely used along with bamboo lengths as musical instruments.

The period from A.D. 100 to 1000 was marked by Indian influence in most of Southeast Asia, marked by the importation of astronomy, mathematics, more advanced religions, more developed art, and writing from India. In particular, Brahmanism, especially the cult of Shiva worship, provided a religious foundation for theatrical performances. Transmitted through writing and oral epic-reciting, Indian epic literature, most famously the Mahabhrata, Ramayana, and Buddhist Jataka (Birth stories), which were introduced along with Hinayana Buddhism, became sources of dramatic material.

Other common dramatizations included the story of Sang Thong, Rothasen (a Thai play based on a Jataka), Sin Lai (a Lao dramatization based on a Jataka), and Manora (perhaps the most popularly dramatized Jataka story). During this period, Indian-style dance also spread over almost all of Southeast Asia, developing differently in each culture yet maintaining similarities through cross-contact, including through wars between Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma.

The timeframe from 1300 to 1750 was characterized by Chinese and Islamic influence in Southeast Asia, starting with the Mongolian conquest of Hanoi (capital of Vietnam) and Pagan (capital of Burma). Classic Vietnamese opera was possibly copied from Chinese opera, while modern Vietnamese opera was based on Chinese opera models that developed later. Islamic influence brought Arabic, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian stories, which were widespread among folk and popular theater troupes. Unfortunately, Islamic restrictions also led to the suppression of Hindu dance in India and theater in Malaysia and Indonesia (except Bali).

Finally, the period from 1750 to the end of World War II was distinguished by increasing American and European political and economic control in Southeast Asia, with the exception of Thailand. The author writes that traditional Burmese court drama and performances, Vietnamese opera, Thai troupes, and Indonesian troupes died out when these countries became colonized. Other than Bali and Central Java, traditional art ceased to continuing developing, while popular theater and nationalist sentiments grew in influence. Wing and drop scenery gained popularity, although not in professional theaters, indicating the spread of Western influence. Western literature and spoken drama also assimilated into Southeast Asian culture at this time.

The Mahabhrata and Ramayana were two major narrative epics imported from Indian Hinduism. The Mahabhrata detailed the struggle between Kauravas and Pandavas over land rights. One of the main characters is Yudhisthira, a Pandava, who loses everything in a war against Duryodhana, a Kaurava. Krishna appears and delivers the renowned Bhavadgita speech, encouraging Yudhisthira's brother Arjuna to defeat the Kauravas. Yudhisthira eventually becomes king, retiring shortly afterwards and leaving the kingdom to his brother's grandson.

The Ramayana revolves around Prince Rama, who is married to the king's daughter. Prince Rama loses the throne to Bharata, the son of the king's favored wife, and the epic revolves around the Prince's struggle with Ravana, a demon-king, after Prince Rama's exile to the southern forest.

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A Summary of the major Cultural Periods in Southeast Asian History in Relation to the History of Theater. (2023, Mar 23). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-summary-of-the-major-cultural-periods-in-southeast-asian-history-in-relation-to-the-history-of-theater/

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