Culture In Southeast Asia

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Defining Southeast As

A region is an area, especially part of a country or the world, having definable characteristics but not always fixed boundaries. Scholars have debated the identity of Southeast Asia, and whether it even constitutes a coherent region.

Compared to other regions like South Asia, the Middle East, or Europe, whose diverse people share many common traditions, Southeast Asia may not necessarily be considered as a region, due to its easy divide in language, culture, belief systems and history. The encounters of Southeast asians with people living in other regions greatly influenced the states, religions, arts and economies that developed in Southeast Asia. In addition, the many different colonial masters of the different
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Of the six thousand languages spoken in the world today, an estimated thousand are found in SEA. This enormous linguistic diversity further questions the position of SEA as a region, due to its lack in commonalities between the different countries. Many of these languages spoken may have no system of writing and some have never been recorded. They may claim only a few hundred speakers, and are doomed to extinction as small, isolated communities are gradually absorbed into modern nation states, and the young turn their backs on traditional culture. The Tibeto-Burman family of languages consists of Burmese, and also includes many of the languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Thailand, Laos, Burma and Southern China. The Austronesian family of languages consists of Indonesian, Malay and Tagalog. These are spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines and many of the Pacific islands. The Tai group of languages has Thai as their most important representative, and includes Lao and Shan, a language spoken in eastern Burma. The Austro-Asiatic or Mon-Khmer family of languages consist of Vietnamese and Khmer, and many other minority languages spoken in isolated pockets across the whole of mainland SEA. One reason for this enormous linguistic diversity among SEA countries, is because the national language of a country is determined…show more content…
However, majority of the Buddhists today in the maritime nations of SEA followed Mahayana Buddhism, that spread to countries like Singapore where it is the predominant religion of most Chinese communities. In Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Indonesia, it remains a strong minority. Mahayana Buddhism began around the 2nd c. BC, evolved from other sub-traditions and in the 1st c. CE spread eastward across the central Asian trade routes to China, then spreading to Vietnam. The Chinese Immigrants of the 19th century also brought Mahayana Buddhism to Singapore and other urban areas. Compared to Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism is more mystical, where they believe strongly in “Bodhisattvas”, or Buddhas-to-be. Essentially, Buddhism thinking was targeted at individual deliverance from the sorrows of everyday life through a strictly planned existence, which involved reflection, meditation and abstinence.

Buddha had established the “Sangha”, the order of Buddhist monks. Virtually, all male Buddhists enter the “sangha” to become monks for at least a short time during their lives, and this provides merit for their parents. The “sangha” continues to help spread and protect the Buddhist faith.

At the end of the thirteenth century, Islam was established in Sumatra and it soon spread to Java and the Malay Peninsula. As a result, Buddhism declined in popularity and by the end of the fifteenth
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