Yawning Bread. October 2007

Southeast Asian royal families and West Asian links

by Dreamhunter





Somehow I came across your blog again, and I saw my previous comment, titled A more complex history of 'Malay', which you have somehow reconfigured into a quite distinguished-looking guest article. That was great stuff, what you did there.

Like I mentioned previously, the Malay people could have quite possibly been a majority nation in early mainland South East Asia, but were displaced by later arrivals comprising the various tribes and kingdoms of Burma/Myanmar, Siam/Thailand, the Khmer/Cambodia, Annam/Vietnam etc. As for asking 'where did the Malay people originally come from', that would lead to similar probes as 'where did the Siamese/Thai people come from', or 'where did the Javanese people come from'.

An interesting link between the ancient kingdoms of Langkasuka/Kedah/Pattani, Burma/Myanmar, Siam/Thailand and Khmer/Cambodia is the probable transplant of West Asian genes in their early royal houses. These came in the form of either wandering Persian princes who married into the local royalty, or 'Kambujan' mercenary warriors, themselves also hailing originally from ancient Persian royalty, who similarly maritally incorporated themselves into the local nobility. The Kambujans originally came from the Kambuja region of the Trans-Indus, and they trace their ancestry to an ancient Persian warrior king, named Kambujiya, of the old Achaemenid dynasty. Kambujan mercenary warriors gradually traversed eastwards along the Himalayan foothills, on their way serving any king willing to pay them fairly, until they reached Bengal and moved onward as far as Tibet and the Upper Mekong in northern Myanmar/southern Yunnan. From there they travelled east and south until they reached all the areas inhabited by the ancient Burmans, Siamese, Malays and Khmers.

The ancient Khmers, for instance, trace their first royal house to a Kambujan Brahmin who married a local Khmer princess, hence the preferred name of their country as Kampuchea (Kemboja in Malay), while the present sultanate of Kedah, in present-day northern Malaysia, trace their lineage to a defeated Cymmerian (an Indo-European tribe in ancient Persia) king who sailed away towards Ceylon to escape possible persecution and got blown off-course by monsoon winds and eventually landed in Kedah. For the history buffs, the Cymmerian nation was eventually vanquished by the later-arriving mongoloid Scythians from Central Asia. Some people speculate that some of these Cymmerians escaped into Asia Minor to become the Phrygians (called Fraggoi by the Greeks) and onward into Europe to eventually transform into the Franks, who eventually founded the ancient Frankish empire (a combined Franco-German realm), which gave its name to modern-day France. Jewish/Christian/Muslim scholars would trace the Cymmerians (called Gimiri in ancient Persian, Qimiri in Arabic and Gemeron in old Malay) as ultimately descended from Gomer (Gumri in Persian), a son of Japeth, who in turn was a son of Noah the Patriarch.

Ancient Indian documents from the Chola Tamil kingdom called the Malay nation Malaiyur. The mostly widely accepted origin of the term Melayu, and the Melayu civilisation, is now the ancient Melayu (also called Jambi) kingdom of south-eastern Sumatra. As to how that name came into being initially is still anybody's good guess. I would now like to forward another possibly far-fetched but nevertheless quite interesting possibility.

Jewish/Christian/Muslim (again) scholars posit that all peoples of the world, or at least all peoples of European, North African, West Asian and Central Asian origin, are ultimately descended from the 3 sons of Noah, namely Shem, Ham and Japhet, since these are the only guys who survived the Great Flood. Generally, Europeans are believed to be descended mainly from Japhet, Asians (or at least West and Central Asians) from Shem, and North Africans from Ham. There are of course various adaptations/modifications to this general rule. Greek mythology (generally anti-Persian) claim Persians to be the progeny of of Perses (Feyrouz in Persian), son of demi-god Perseus with his Ethiopian wife Andromeda. While scholarly historical/anthropological studies would point to a mixed Shemitic/Hamitic/Japhetic ancestry for the Persians.

Now, Ham has 4 sons, one named Cush (Qush in Arabic). Surprise of surprises, one of Cush's nicknames is ... 'Marayu'. Now, if we take into account the general linguistic predilection among many Asian peoples (including some Indian peoples, but not the Malay people), Marayu would have ended up being pronounced 'Malayu'.

Now, some of Cush's descendants were believed to have eventually reached the Siberian steppes, and some of them are believed to have eventually contributed significant genetic content to the Arakan and other people of Burma (via Yunnan n Xinjiang, perhaps?), who by their physical features alone are quite probably quite closely related to the Siamese, Khmer and Malay peoples. Could some of the Siberian descendants of Cush (Marayu) travelled further south to Yunnan, and onward to Burma, and could in turn the descendants of their descendants sired tribes who later became the Arakans, the Burmans, the Siamese, the Khmers and the Malays? Hint: the very extensive Mekong river delta. Not an impossible scenario now then, is it? Now I rest my case.  



Foreword by Yawning Bread

Dreamhunter had earlier contributed the guest article A more complex history of 'Malay'  In this new article, he points out the possible linkages between individuals coming from West Asia and the ruling houses of prehistoric states in Southeast Asia.

One question that is naturally raised by this article is this: What is the connection between royal house lineages and the anthropological history of a people? Just because a chieftain or king married or hired someone from country X, does that mean that the people and its culture "descended" from country X?

Note: Dreamhunter himself does not make such claims, but readers should be careful about reading such claims into his writing.

Another question would be: where does one draw the line between history and scripture-based speculation? This would strike readers as a pertinent question when mention is made of Noah's descendents.

Basically, it may be wise to take care to separate the quest for anthropological history on the one side, from reliance on tales about the comings and goings of the elite, romantic though they may be, and the grand creation stories spun by various religious traditions, on the other.

It may be interesting to contrast this piece with another one by a fellow Malaysian. While the thrust of this piece appears to be aggregative, in particular, through showing linkages, notably West Asian, common to various royal houses in different Southeast Asian places, the other one takes a different tack.

Michael, who like Dreamhunter, is Malaysian, points out in Is there really a race called 'Malays'? that most peoples across Southeast Asia resist the application of the term "Malay" on them, and how the word is often used for political purposes by Malaysia.