In 1961 our Association President, Norman Brown, discussed with us the problem of the content of cultural continuity in India. He pointed out that in spite of many variations in time and local differentiations in space, the highly developed civilization of India from the third millennium B.C. to the present offers to the student a picture of a continuing entity, a kind of moving picture in which the successive events of a plot seem to be informed and given a special character and vitality by some pervasive element running through the story, an element which might be sought, it was concluded, in the particular perdurable values basic to many Indian behavior patterns.
Lauriston Sharp and others,
In an earlier day, the rice farmer's export surplus could contribute directly to the support of towns and cities. This is made explicit in an account of rice technology southwards from Yunnan written (with hints of modernity) in 863 A.D. by a Chinese official from Hanoi: “The irrigated fields have one ripening [of non-glutinous rice] each year.… Cultivation is … everywhere … supervised … by Man [“Southern Barbarian”] officials sent by the Man generals of the cities and garrison-towns … drought does them no harm. When the harvest is over the Man official gives the advance of grain or rice according to the number of mouths in the cultivator's family. The rest all goes in taxes to the government.” Fan Ch'o, Man Shu, translated by G. H. Luce, edited by G. P. Oey, (Ithaca, N. Y., 1961), p. 67.
Yun-nan shêng po wu kuan,
In the pre-civilized village or tribal cultural systems of the area there was not only geographical mobility by land and sea, but also social mobility—the widespread three-class system of lords, commoners, and slaves was an open system, so that foreign ideas and behaviors could percolate up or down and around or across a cultural system without being confined to any one compartment of society except through sumptuary rules; the small, short-lived nuclear family and bilineal kin group, as opposed to the more inflexible unilineal kin group of the Tibeto-Burmans and Chinese, was presumably prevalent at this, period except in parts of Sumatra, the Lesser Sundas, Sulawesi, and Taiwan, and permitted, when community and family interests conflicted, a primary loyalty to the agents of extra-family units (a responsiblelord or Deva-Raja) such as could hardly exist in India or China, except among eunuchs; sexual egalitarianism permitted men to play many feminine roles, and women, masculine roles, this flexible arrangement incidentally doubling the labor force when need arose; cooperative service owed to a chief became the local variety of the ritually organized state corvée in which laborers might work with fellow “nationals” from a wide area, and soldiers might feel they were supporting their king and cosmos in marching with strange but fellow Viets (or Chams or Khmers) against the cursed Chinese (Viets or Chams); village or tribal rituals and beliefs were non-exclusive and tolerant of variation, but there were no structured supra-village-religious systems; cultural roles in general were improvised and non-rigid so that behavioral change war acceptable as a variation or supplement to usual behavior radier than as a substitute for it.
Continuities which actually exist should, of course, not be underemphasized. The contributions of India (including Ceylon) and China to the Southeast Asian civilizations were certainly restyled by them, and quickly, into a total configuration, a character different from that of either source. Traditional interests and values continuing from earlier periods doubtless informed this development of their own; styles by the local civilizations, so that the processes of creative transformation, like those of selection, must be studied in relation to the past. Also, within these new civilizations, there developed internal social structural discontinuities between upper classes and commoners and slaves in which the behaviors of the latter as compared with the former may be judged less discontinuous with the past. Nevertheless, while we can say that Chinese civilization was characteristically Chinese 3000 years ago, we cannot say the same of Southeast Asia, for here in the areas of civilization after the turn of our era many behavior patterns of all classes were thoroughly transformed from those obtaining previously. Discontinuities need not imply hodge-podge or badly integrated cultural systems.