Selections, August 2006

While we’re on the subject of books, here are the new additions to the catalogue of Select Books, a specialised publisher and retailer of books pertaining to Southeast Asia. For ordering info, please visit the Select Books website.

039222
Journal Of Chinese Overseas, V.1(1) May 2005. Sg. 2005. 144pp. pb $34.15 (This is the inaugural issue of the Journal of Chinese Overseas, which is published by the Chinese Heritage Centre, Singapore. Among this issue’s articles is a study of Chinese writers overseas by Wang Gungwu, a discussion of Hong Kong as a centre for the preparation of opium for America and an exploration of family and gender roles in Overseas Chinese divided families pre-1949. The quality and range of the articles and book reviews indicate that this is likely to become a significant journal in the area of Sinological and regional studies.)

039223
Journal Of Chinese Overseas, V.1(2) Nov 2005. Ng Chin-Keong, Tan Chee-Beng (eds.) Sg. 2005. 162pp. pb $34.15 (The second November 2005 issue of the new journal includes six articles and eight full-length book reviews. Carl Trocki writes on opium and the Chinese in Southeast Asia 1750-1880 and Evelyn Hu-Dehart on opium used in Peru and Cuba. A fresh look is taken at the near-legendary Dalforce of 1942 Singapore, and ethnic identity in the Vietnam-China borderlands is explored in another study.)

039397
Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers From The 10th International Conference Of The European Association Of Southeast Asian Archaeologists. Bacus, Elisabeth A; Ian C. Glover et al (eds.). Sg. 2006. 423pp. pb $73.50 (The papers here are taken from the 10th International EurASEAA Conference held in the British Museum in September 2004. In the opening address, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand comments on the significance of the inscriptions from the Khmer temple Prasat Phnom Rung in northeastern Thailand, while Professor Charles Higham gives an insightful survey of the prehistoric threads linking South China and the countries of modern Southeast Asia. The 36 chapters in this collection have been selected to give an overview of recent research into prehistoric and early historic archaeology in Southeast Asia. Seven broad themes – the late Pleistocene and early Holocene communities; new perspectives on the Neolithic; Bronze and Iron Age mortuary practices; Iron Age landscapes and cultures; emerging early states and trading ports; urban landscapes; and regional and long-distance exchange relations – serve to organise subsequent chapters. The writers in this book are all engaged in archaeological and historical research in the region.)

039322
Zheng He Epic, The. Tan Ta Sen & Chia Lin Sien (eds.). Cn. 2006. 361pp. hc $189.00 (This massive volume with its hundreds of photographs, illustrations and maps makes available all that is known in China about the famed Chinese admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho, 1371-1433). He was a native of Kunming in Yunnan Province and collaborative efforts by local and national museums, universities and official bodies resulted the publication of a Chinese-language book that celebrated the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s first voyage in 1405. This book is the 2006 English translation. There is a wealth of information and many photographs of the ships in his fleets, the places recorded as being visited, and many objects, memorial stones and other artefacts associated with the Admiral. These include modern photographs of his descendants (18th generation) now in Yuxi, Thailand, Nanjing and else where (Zheng He’s descendants are from his nephew whom he adopted as a son). The voyages to Africa, Southeast Asia and beyond are seen as promoting trade and peaceful relations with the Ming Emperor. Western perceptions of the period are noted. It is impossible for us to be anything but awed by this remarkable achievement.)

038118
And The Sun Pursued The Moon: Symbolic Knowledge And Traditional Authority Among The Makassar. Gibson, Thomas. Us. 2005. 262pp. hc $104.00 (This is an anthropologist’s exploration of the relationship between symbolic knowledge and royal authority traditions in the Makassar kingdom, which was one of the significant raiding-and-trading maritime kingdoms of the Java Sea from c. 600-1600 CE. Contemporary anthropological theory is applied in the discussion of myths, sages and symbolic and ideological features, and life patterns – including long distance sailing, rice cultivation and trading in forest produce – of the often-turbulent Makassar kingdom. There is discussion of the use of royal rituals and regalia in power play; rebellions against the Dutch East India Company, and 20th-century Dutch colonial rule; the role of Islam; persisting symbolic rituals; and of the complexity of competing models in the present day and recent past. With bibliography and index.)

039423
Naga Cities Of The Mekong: A Guide To The Temples, Legends And History Of Laos. Stuart-Fox, Martin. Sg. 2006. 124pp. pb $36.75 (This is the first book that provides a popular guide to the fascinating story of Laos. Drawing on his extensive research, the acclaimed historian of Laos, Professor Emeritus Martin Stuart-Fox, has written an authoritative text that weaves together centuries of history and legend. His account tells of cities built, destroyed and ressurrected. This account focuses on the three Lao capitals situated along the mighty Mekong River – Luang Phrabang in the north, Viang Chan (Vientiane) in the centre and Champasak in the south. Stuart-Fox traces the fortunes of each capital from the legend-rich founding, their years under French colonialism, through the people’s struggle for independence, war and revolution, on to the creation of contemporary Lao state. He also includes vivid descriptions of magnificent temples and tells of the unwavering Lao belief in the ever-vigilant nagas, mythical protectors of the Lao. The text is accompanied by many large and inset colour photographs.)

039103
Historical Melaka: 600 Years Of Living History. Zari Mahmood (text). My. 2005. 64pp. pb $14.20 (The 150 colour photographs in this pictorial guide give a brilliant slant onto the historic and very diverse city of Melaka and its 600 years of history. The influences of the early Arab, Chinese, Indian, European and South American visitors can be seen through the city’s heritage buildings, religious edifices, unique cuisines and customs. Melaka is deservedly a must-see city for every tourist to Malaysia.)

037912
Seventeenth-Century Burma And The Dutch East India Company, 1634-1680 (CD-Rom Included). Dijk, Wil O.. Sg. 2006. 348pp. pb $50.40 (17th-century Burma was rich in resources – gems, teak, cotton and slaves – and under the Toungoo Dynasty the country was experiencing a period of unaccustomed tranquility. Peace and security attracted a thriving trade with the outside world, and foreign government agents, merchants and traders flocked to the country’s shores. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had one of the most active foreign operations in Burma during this period. The Company needed a vigorous trade within Asia to finance the trade in Asian goods sent to Europe, and Burma fit into a Dutch trade network that embraced India’s Coromandel Coast, Ceylon, Java, Japan and Taiwan. In addition the company hoped to establish overland trade routes from Burma into China. The VOC’s voluminous records discuss trade, but they also contain detailed information about the people and the countryside VOC officials encountered in Burma. This book gives an account of this period and opens a window into the past of one of the most fascinating countries on earth. Includes a CD-Rom of appendices.)

038682
Ancient Luang Prabang. Heywood, Denise. Th. 2006. 213pp. pb $55.15 (Luang Prabang, a remote northern Laotian town of glittering Buddhist temples and barefoot monks, is one of the most well-preserved in Asia. This Unesco World Heritage site is home to a treasure trove of sacred art. Many serene Buddha images and Buddhist sculptures are found in 33 exquisite Buddhist temples dating from the 17th century. With the arrival of the French in the 19th century came a secular architectural tradition. In Luang Prabang, the fusion of these two disparate cultures resulted in an aesthetic of singular beauty. In this richly-illustrated book, an Asian arts specialist studies and points out the outstanding architectural style and elements of the Royal Palace and the 33 Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang. Gilded door panels, frescoes, murals, inlaid walls and ornately-decorated ceilings and roofs, all honouring Buddha, are given their due attention. Notable examples of secular architecture in the form of French colonial houses and buildings are also brought under the spotlight. Addresses are supplied. Glossary.)

038685
Crescent Moon: Islamic Art & Civilisation In Southeast Asia. Bennett, James; Othman Yatim, John Miksic et al. Au. 2006. 303pp. hc $126.00 (Published to accompany the 2005-06 major Australian exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the National Gallery of Australia, this magnificent volume contains essays by renowned specialists to provide probably unique insights into Islamic art and civilisation in Southeast Asia. Many museums and institutions have contributed to this achievement. The chapters include general overviews, and accounts of Malay Arts; the Art of Cirebon in early Javanese Islam; Islamic manuscripts; Islamic textiles; and Islamic ceramics of several traditions in Southeast Asia. 170 artefacts are presented in colour with annotations and provenance details. With bibliography, glossary, and summaries in Malay.)

036908
Pillaging Cambodia: The Illicit Traffic In Khmer Art. Lafont, Masha. Us. 2004. 197pp. pb $74.00 (The ongoing illicit trade in Khmer art objects is denuding both Cambodia’s spiritual life and the rich heritage of its famed temples. This account of what is happening highlights the scale of the thefts and the international networks, modern technologies, and sustained demand which underpin them. Remedial efforts are seen as beyond the lone efforts of the already hard-pressed Cambodian government. Measures to promote international action and local public awareness are discussed and also the potentially enhanced roles of UNESCO and other NGOs, many of which are already present in the country. Details of some of the (very few) successful actions by UNESCO to restore stolen artefacts are given. With black-and-white photographs, bibliography and index.)

038201
Vietnamese Ceramics. Tran Khanh Chuong. Vt. 2005. 99pp. pb $43.50 (There is archaeological evidence that ceramics have been made in Vietnam for ten thousand years. This monograph describes the different categories and the location of their manufacture. With examples presented in colour.)

037966
Warriors Of The Himalayas: Rediscovering The Arms And Armor Of Tibet. Larocca, Donald J. Us. 2006. 307pp. hc $141.75 (This is the first in-depth study of the virtually unknown subject of traditional armour and weapons from Tibet. It is published to complement the major 2006 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Scholarly illustrated essays are on: the Rediscovery of Tibetan Weaponry; the history of ironworking in Tibet; arms and weapons in the iconography of Tibetan deities; and on special areas in the Temple of Guardian Deities. Tibetan helmets, weapons, armour and cavalry equipment in iron, leather, gold and silver have been assembled from collections worldwide. Some 140 examples are presented with descriptive and provenance notes and colour plates and manuscripts given in Tibetan and English. With map, Tibetan-English glossary, carbon dating lists, bibliography and index.)

035537
Three Old Sudanese Poems. Noorduyn, J.; A Teeuw (ed. & trans.). Nl. 2006. 495pp. pb $91.25 (Preserved on undated palm-leaf manuscripts, Old Sundanese texts are generally in poor condition and unavailable to a wider audience. There are limited texts in any form of Sundanese, and only limited knowledge of Old Sundanese. In presenting three long Old Sundanese poems, Noorduyn and Teeuw, in a heretofore unequalled English-language study of Old Sundanese literature, bring to the light works of importance for further linguistic, literary and historical research. The three poems, The Sons of Rama and Rawana, The ascension of Sri Ajnyana and The story of Bujangga Manik; A pilgrim’s progress were undiscovered before this book. The first two were found in a nineteenth-century manuscript collection of the former Batavian Society and are now in the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta, while the third was donated to the Bodleian Library in Oxford as early as 1627, though it was not identified as an Old Sundanese poem until the 1950s. )

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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