Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula (Anglais) Broché – 1 octobre 2006
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On the contrary, the monograph by Paul Michel Munoz appears to be very problematic for any reader. First, it's a compilation with many mistakes and faults. For example, Munoz asserts that the inscription of Kalasan is written in Sanskrit and Old Malay (p. 132)! This record is truly written in Sanskrit but there are no parts in Old Malay (see Sarkar, Corpus of the Inscriptions of Java, vol. 1, 1971, p. 35-36). Munoz writes about Brahmans in the inscriptions of the king Mulavarman from East Borneo (p. 95) whereas these records refer only to viprah `priests'. Munoz believes that Srivijaya and Tarumanagara (on West Java) left "many/numerous" inscriptions (pp. 117, 104) whereas it's a well-known fact that the corpus of these records is very limited. Munoz asserts that "no officers or Brahmans were mentioned in Purnavarman's inscriptions" (p. 206) but only two pages above he cited the Tugu inscription of the king where you can read brahmanair "by the Brahmans". That the area of Bukit Seguntang near modern Palembang formed the `city thriving between economic activity between the 7th and 13th centuries" (p. 117), is not completely wrong but we knows nothing about its functioning in the second half of the 8th - first half of the 9th centuries as Prof. Manguin has shown in his papers concerning the archaeology of Sumatra. Munoz translates the Kedukan Bukit inscription of Srivijaya as "On April 682 AD, a king left the city with vessels..." ( p. 124). But in the original there is another calendar based on the Saka era (78 AD as the initial year) and the Old Malay text tells us only "our divine Lord embarked to carry out a successful expedition" (dapunta hiyang nayik di samvau manalap siddhayatra) [See Coedes, 1964, p. 25]. Munoz explains the Old Malay word kadatuan as a compound of two substantives kada and tuhan "the place of the tuhan - lord" (p. 125, n. 23) but in fact it is formed by prefix ka- and suffix -an with the root datu `chief'. I can enlarge the list of Munoz's faults but I think that's enough.
Second, Munoz even fabricates the facts. The most obvious example of such undertaking is his references to Fa Hsien. Munoz says that this Chinese pilgrim mentions three rulers of East Borneo including Mulavarman - a king who left us 7 inscriptions on the sacrificial posts (p. 95). He also refers to the Records of Fa Hsien discussing Java in the times of Purnavarman (p. 206). But in reality, Fa-Hsien mentions the land of "Java" interpretation of which is the point at issue among the scholars. It can mean Java itself, Western Borneo or Sumatra. The most important fact is that the pilgrim never mentions the rulers of Southeast Asia by their names.
Third, Munoz often repeats one and the same text with minor distinctions: The text about Kutei on pp. 95 and 303-304 as well as the text about Tarumanagara on pp. 104-105 and 204-206 is almost identical. I wonder why the author gives his reader so repetitious book.
Fourth, Munoz omits very important papers from his bibliography. One cannot find the valuable monograph by Roy Jordaan on the historiography of Sailendra dynasty, the state-of-the-art review of early statehood by Jan Wisseman Christie, even the Corpus of the Inscriptions of Java by H.B. Sarkar. One can only wonder why.
To my mind, the monograph of Munoz may be used only by specialists as an incomplete compilation of modern historiography.
For all the intertwining history and the paucity of information in regards to certain matters the entire work hangs together rather well and the author is to be congratulated for being able to weave the chronological ordering of things sufficiently well to make the whole thing comprehensible. This is aided by a number of maps of the areas being discusses as well as some line drawings of artefacts and temple designs etc. A handy glossary and appendices also help the reader get to grips with the subject.
Not being a scholar of the area I can't attest to the utter accuracy of every word herein but I can say that it certainly gave me a vastly greater understanding of the history of the area and a thirst for more knowledge about it in the future. The author strikes me as the sort of historian who isn't afraid to say something - rather than pound the reader with a myriad of possibilities in an effort to cover all bases. However he is also happy to point out areas of contention and cites differing points of view on occasion.
All up I would say however that this is not a basic primer aimed at the tourist (even if I scored my copy at Denpasar airport!) as it is too meaty, too detailed for such casual consumption. This is more the book for a history buff who has cut their teeth on more `mainstream' history first and so perhaps has some affinity for this almost text-book style work. But a very good book if this is the sort of thing you are after.
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