Mainland Southeast Asia

Mainland Southeast Asia (or the Indochinese Peninsula) is the continental portion of Southeast Asia. It lies east of the Indian subcontinent and south of China and is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. It includes the countries of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The term Indochina (originally Indo-China) was coined in the early nineteenth century. It emphasizes the cultural influence on the area of Indian civilization and Chinese civilization. The term was later adopted as the name of the colony of French Indochina (today's Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos).

Mainland Southeast Asia
Indochinese Peninsula
Peninsulas of Asia
Topographical map of Mainland Southeast Asia
Topographical map of Mainland Southeast Asia
CountriesMyanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam


Indochina map 1886
1886 map of Indochina, from the Scottish Geographical Magazine

The origins of the name Indo-China are usually attributed jointly to the Danish-French geographer Conrad Malte-Brun, who referred to the area as indo-chinois in 1804, and the Scottish linguist John Leyden, who used the term Indo-Chinese to describe the area's inhabitants and their languages in 1808.[1] Scholarly opinions at the time regarding China's and India's historical influence over the area were conflicting, and the term was itself controversial—Malte-Brun himself later argued against its use in a later edition of his Universal Geography, reasoning that it over-emphasized Chinese influence, and suggested Chin-India instead.[2] Nevertheless, Indo-China had already gained traction and soon supplanted alternative terms such as Further India and the Peninsula beyond the Ganges. Later, however, as the French established the colony of French Indochina, use of the term became more restricted to the French colony,[3] and today the area is usually referred to as Mainland Southeast Asia.[4]


In biogeography, the Indochinese Region is a major region in the Indomalaya ecozone, and also a phytogeographical floristic region in the Paleotropical Kingdom. It includes the native flora and fauna of all the countries above. The adjacent Malesian Region covers the Maritime Southeast Asian countries, and straddles the Indomalaya and Australasian ecozones.


The Indochinese Peninsula projects southward from the Asian continent proper. It contains several mountain ranges extending from the Tibetan Plateau in the north, interspersed with lowlands largely drained by three major river systems running in a north–south direction: the Irrawaddy (serving Myanmar), the Chao Phraya (in Thailand), and the Mekong (flowing through Northeastern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). To the south it forms the Malay Peninsula, on which are located Southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia; the latter is variably considered part of Mainland Southeast Asia or separately as part of Maritime Southeast Asia.


Mainland Southeast Asia contrasts with Maritime Southeast Asia, mainly through the division of largely land-based lifestyles in Indochina and the sea-based lifestyles of the Malay and Philippine archipelagos, as well as the dividing line between the Austroasiatic, Tai–Kadai, Sino-Tibetan languages (spoken in Mainland Southeast Asia) and Austronesian languages (spoken in Maritime Southeast Asia). The languages of the mainland form the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area: although belonging to several independent language families, they have converged over the course of history and share a number of typological similarities.

The countries of mainland Southeast Asia received cultural influence from both India and China to varying degrees.[5] Some cultures, such as those of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia are influenced mainly by India with a smaller influence from China. Others, such as Vietnam, are more heavily influenced by Chinese culture with only minor cultural influences from India, largely via the Champa civilization that Vietnam conquered during its southward expansion.

Today, most of these countries also show pronounced Western cultural influences which began during the European imperialism in Asia and colonialism in Southeast Asia.

The region except Malaysia is predominantly Buddhist.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

See also

Related regional concepts



  1. ^ Vimalin Rujivacharakul; et al., eds. (2013). Architecturalized Asia : mapping a continent through history. Hong Kong University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9789888208050.
  2. ^ Malte-Brun, Conrad (1827). Universal Geography, Or, A Description of All the Parts of the World, on a New Plan, According to the Great Natural Divisions of the Globe: Improved by the Addition of the Most Recent Information, Derived from Various Sources : Accompanied with Analytical, Synoptical, and Elementary Tables, Volume 2. A. Finley. pp. 262–3.
  3. ^ Wesseling, H. L. (2015). The European Colonial Empires: 1815–1919. Routledge. ISBN 9781317895060.
  4. ^ Keyes, Charles F. (1995). The golden peninsula : culture and adaptation in mainland Southeast Asia (Pbk. reprint ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780824816964.
  5. ^ Marion Severynse, ed. (1997). The Houghton Mifflin Dictionary Of Geography. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-86448-8.
  6. ^ "Malaysia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016-09-28.
  7. ^ "Thailand". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016-09-28.
  8. ^ "Myanmar". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016-09-28. Archived from the original on 2010-11-04.
  9. ^ "Cambodia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016-09-28.
  10. ^ "Vietnam". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016-09-28.
  11. ^ 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom (Report). U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. September 2008. Retrieved 2016-12-19.

Further reading

Brown prinia

The brown prinia (Prinia polychroa) is a species of bird in the Cisticolidae family.

It is found in mainland Southeast Asia and Java.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forests.

Chinese water dragon

The Chinese water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) is a species of agamid lizard native to China and mainland Southeast Asia. It is also known as the Asian water dragon, Thai water dragon, and green water dragon.

Flying barb

The flying barbs are freshwater fish in the genus Esomus, native to South and Mainland Southeast Asia. They are closely related to the genus Danio and are distinctive for their extremely long barbels.

Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

The Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (Thai: เขตรักษาพันธุ์สัตว์ป่าห้วยขาแข้ง, pronounced [kʰèːt.rák.sǎː.pʰān.sàt.pàː.hûa̯j.kʰǎː.kʰɛ̂ŋ]) is in Uthai Thani and Tak Provinces, Thailand. The park was established in 1974, and is part of the largest intact seasonal tropical forest complex in Mainland Southeast Asia. It, coupled with the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1991. Together, the two sanctuaries occupy 622,200 hectares. As of 2014 it still contained viable populations of large mammals, including gibbons, bears, elephants and Indochinese tigers, although like all other sites in mainland Southeast Asia, some species (e.g., rhinoceroses) have disappeared or have experienced severe declines.


Hypsibarbus is a genus of cyprinid fish that is found in freshwater in Mainland Southeast Asia, including the Thai-Malay Peninsula.

Indochinese green magpie

The Indochinese green magpie or yellow-breasted magpie (Cissa hypoleuca) is a passerine bird of the crow family, Corvidae. It is native to mainland southeast Asia (Indochina) and adjacent China.

Khong mon

The khong mon (Thai: ฆ้องมอญ, pronounced [kʰɔ́ːŋ mɔːn]) is a gong-circle instrument that is associated with the Mon people of mainland Southeast Asia. It produces the same range of pitches as the more common khong wong gong circle, but rather than resting on the ground, the wooden frame of the khong mon extends into the air in the shape of a horseshoe. The image of a half-man, half-bird figure carved onto the frame is traditional, and is meant to symbolize a celestial musician. The frame is also typically decorated lavishly in gold paint and glass inlay.

Khong mon are featured in a special type of Thai ensemble called pi phat, which plays pi phat mon or pi phat nang hong into the mainstream of traditional Thai music as well; pi phat mon or pi phat nang hong is usually performed by Thai musicians.

It may correspond to the Khmer instrument, kong mon.

Languages of East Asia

The languages of East Asia belong to several distinct language families, with many common features attributed to interaction. In the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area, Chinese varieties and languages of southeast Asia share many areal features, tending to be analytic languages with similar syllable and tone structure. In the 1st millennium AD, Chinese culture came to dominate East Asia. Classical Chinese was adopted by scholars in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. There was a massive influx of Chinese vocabulary into these and other neighboring languages. The Chinese script was also adapted to write Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, though in the first two the use of Chinese characters is now restricted to university learning, linguistic or historical study, artistic or decorative works and (in Korean's case) newspapers.

List of Ultras of Southeast Asia

This is a list of all the Ultra prominent peaks (with topographic prominence greater than 1,500 metres) in Mainland Southeast Asia.

Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area

The languages of Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) form a linguistic area, which stretches from Thailand to China and spans the Sino-Tibetan, Hmong–Mien (or Miao–Yao), Kra–Dai, Austronesian (represented by Chamic) and Austroasiatic families. Neighbouring languages across these families, though presumed unrelated, often have similar typological features, which are believed to have spread by diffusion. James Matisoff referred to this area as the Sinosphere, contrasted with the "Indosphere", but viewed it as a zone of mutual influence in the ancient period. "Sinosphere" is more commonly used to refer to the East Asian cultural sphere.

David Gil (2015) considers the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area to be part of the larger Mekong-Mamberamo linguistic area, which also includes languages in Indonesia west of the Mamberamo River.

Mainland Southeast Asia martial arts

The traditional martial arts of the Mainland Southeast Asia are related to one another, and as a group to Indian martial arts.

The most salient common feature is Mainland Southeast Asia kickboxing.


Manimekhala (Pali: Maņīmekhalā) is a goddess in the Hindu-Buddhist mythology. She is regarded as a guardian of the seas, namely the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea as part of the mythology of Southeast Asia. She was placed by Cātummahārājika to protect virtuous beings from shipwreck. She appears in several Buddhist stories including the Mahanipata Jataka (Mahajanaka Jataka), in which she rescues Prince Mahajanaka from a shipwreck.

Maritime Southeast Asia

Maritime Southeast Asia is the maritime region of Southeast Asia, as opposed to mainland Southeast Asia, and comprises what is now Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and East Timor. The local Malayo-Polynesian name for the region is Nusantara. Maritime Southeast Asia is sometimes also referred to as "island Southeast Asia" or "insular Southeast Asia". The 16th-century term East Indies, and the later 19th-century term Malay Archipelago refers to a largely similar area.

The expanse from the westernmost point of Aceh Sumatra to the easternmost point of Irian Jaya, Papua, is equivalent to the distance between Paris and Kabul. The area boasts some of the richest marine, flora and fauna biodiversity on Earth.

The main demographic difference that sets Maritime Southeast Asia apart from Indochina is that its population predominantly belongs to Austronesian groups: the majority Malayo-Polynesians and a minority of Micronesians.

Maritime Southeast Asia makes up the second-oldest inhabited geographic area within Austronesia after Taiwan, with the Philippine archipelago being the urheimat for Malayo-Polynesians (non-Formosan Austronesians).

The region contains some of the world's most highly urbanised areas: Greater Jakarta, Metro Manila, Surabaya Metro Area, and Singapore; and yet a majority of islands in this vast region remain uninhabited by humans.

Postage stamps and postal history of Burma

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of the Union of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Burma is the largest country by geographical area in Indochina (mainland Southeast Asia). The country is bordered by China on the north-east, Laos on the east, Thailand on the south-east, Bangladesh on the west, India on the north-west and the Bay of Bengal to the south-west with the Andaman Sea defining its southern periphery.


Puntius is a genus of small freshwater fish in the family Cyprinidae native to South Asia and Mainland Southeast Asia, as well as Taiwan.Many species formerly placed in Puntius have been moved to other genera such as Barbodes, Dawkinsia, Desmopuntius, Haludaria, Oliotius, Pethia, Puntigrus, Sahyadria and Systomus.

Sa Huỳnh culture

The Sa Huỳnh culture was a culture in modern-day central and southern Vietnam that flourished between 1000 BC and 200 AD. Archaeological sites from the culture have been discovered from the Mekong Delta to Quang Binh province in central Vietnam. The Sa Huynh people were most likely the predecessors of the Cham people, an Austronesian-speaking people and the founders of the kingdom of Champa.The site at Sa Huynh was discovered in 1909. Sa Huynh sites were rich in locally worked iron artefacts, typified by axes, swords, spearheads, knives and sickles. In contrast, bronze artifacts were dominant in the Đông Sơn culture sites found in northern Vietnam and elsewhere in mainland Southeast Asia.

The Sa Huynh culture cremated adults and buried them in jars covered with lids, a practice unique to the culture. Ritually broken offerings usually accompanied the jar burials. The culture is also typified by its unique ear ornaments featuring two-headed animals, believed by some to depict saola.. The ornaments were commonly made from jade (nephrite), but also made from glass. Bead ornaments were also commonly found in Sa Huynh burials, most commonly made from glass.

The Sa Huynh culture showed evidence of an extensive trade network. Sa Huynh beads were made from glass, carnelian, agate, olivine, zircon, gold and garnet; most of these materials were not local to the region, and were most likely imported. Han Dynasty-style bronze mirrors were also found in Sa Huynh sites. Conversely, Sa Huynh produced ear ornaments have been found in archaeological sites in Central Thailand, Taiwan (Orchid Island), and in the Philippines, in the Palawan Tabon Caves.


A sprachbund (German: [ˈʃpʁaːxbʊnt], "federation of languages") – also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have common features resulting from geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related. Where genetic affiliations are unclear, the sprachbund characteristics might give a false appearance of relatedness. Areal features are common features of a group of languages in a sprachbund.

Tani languages

Tani (alternatively Tagin, Nyishi, Adi–Galo–Mising–Miri, or Abor–Miri (Matisoff 2003)), is a branch of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken mostly in Arunachal Pradesh, India and neighboring regions.


Xylia is a genus of legume in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Mainland Southeast Asia.

Earth's primary regions

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