•Natural crossroads and meeting point for world trade, migration, and cultural exchange.
•Most S.E Asian societies (with the exception of Vietnam and the Philippines) were influenced primarily by
India, and this is most pronounced in religious and administrative systems – process of Indianization.
•2 principal urban forms emerged in pre-colonial S.E Asia: the Sacred City and the Market City. Both
performed religious as well as economic functions. But there are many differences between them. Sacred
cities: more populous, wealth was gained from appropriating agricultural surpluses and labour from the
rural hinterland. Sprawling administrative, military, and cultural centers. They were planned and developed
to mirror symbolic links between human societies on earth and the forces of heaven. Often occupied inland
locations. By the 16th century, many of the once-prosperous inland sacred cities were in decline. One of the
earliest sacred cities was Borobudur in Java, where the world’s largest Buddhist temple is located. The best
known and most famous of all inland sacred cities is Angkor. Market Cities: supported through long
distance maritime trade. They were mostly centers of economic activities. They tended to occupy more
restricted coastal locations and thus had more limited hinterland. Ethnically diverse, populated by traders,
merchants, and other travellers from all parts of the earth. The earliest market city was Oc Eo, located in
present-day Vietnam; it was an important exchange center of cargo, ideas and innovations; and also served
as an important city for both Chinese and Indian traders as well as for other seafarers as far away as Africa,
the Middle East, etc. After the decline of Oc Eo, Srivijaya emerged as an important maritime empire.
Another example of a market city is Malacca which is located on the western side of the Malay Peninsula.
Urbanization in Colonial S.E Asia
•S.E Asia was relatively urbanized by the time of European colonization. By the 16th century, there were at
least 6 trade-dependent cities that had populations of more than 100,000.
•Urban system of S.E Asia was characterized by a pre-dominance of strategic coastal locations that served
an extensive international maritime trading system – only the Philippines lacked an urban tradition.
•Cities suffered tremendous population declines after being colonized.
•During the first 3 centuries of colonialism, European influence was most pronounced in 2 regions: Manila
under the Spanish and Jakarta under the Dutch. 1st permanent Spanish settlement – Nombre de Jesus. The
Dutch East India Company during the 17th century established a few permanent settlements, one of which is
Batavia, now Jakarta; it was modeled after the cities of Holland.
•Singapore started off as a small trading post on an island south of the Malay Peninsula – the town was
•Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) which became the capital of French Indochina was one of the world’s great rice
granaries was an important agricultural collection, processing and distribution center.1880, Notre Dame
Cathedral was constructed.
•Bangkok was never colonized by the European power yet it still reflects considerable Western influence.
Relatively new city, not founded until 1782.