More Magic On The Mekong; Another Dimension In the Origins Of Southeast Asian Cultures

by bria4123 on October 12, 2012


Cultural origins are very complex–and fascinating. The great rivers in Southeast Asia, like the Mekong, have had many meanings–probably since anient times.

They give life, and they inflict death. When they rise during the rainy season, they often provide good fun, as in the above shot from Cambodia. We’ll explore some of the deepest currents in Southeast Asian cultures in this post.

There’s something very special about the great Southeast Asian rivers, the Himalayas. Now that’s as special as you can get. Many river systems grow from them like vines. Melting snows feed them in Spring. The mighty monsoons arrive at the same time. So their waters rise very dramatically.

People who live along the banks of the Brahmaputra, Chindwin, Irrawaddy, Salween, Chao Phraya, Mekong, Red and Yangtse rivers have often experienced these sudden rises.

This has been one of the most basic patterns of life in mainland Southeast Asia. People migrated along these rivers when rice farming emerged and spread.

Nature can be as benevolent as a mother’s embrace–fish fill the waters, rice fields can be fertilized, and people can fashion deft little boats and trade with each other. But nature can also be as ruthless as a shark–droughts and floods happen too.

But dependence on this sudden rise of waters has encouraged people to believe that nature is infused with a power which is so big that it envelops everything. Other variables have also fostered this sense–a culture’s basic assumptions usually come from many currents, and this makes cultural studies very cool. The rivers’ features and the monsoons also encourage this way of thinking. All converge to foster a different way of seeing the world than the West’s orientation to a single god who presides above nature, and to the Greek love of proportion. Nature comes in dramatic gushes, and their source is within nature rather than above it.

People who live there respond by bonding closely, and having fun in this beautiful environment as much as possible–but mixed with humility and fear of nature’s powers, which can suddenly wreak havoc. Tensions between exuberance and fear has created some of the world’s most inspired art. Stick around–I’ll provide a flood of pictures.

You can see yet another dimension in Southeast Asian culture in the next post.



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