Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Middle Ages

5th - 15th century


The upheaval that accompanied the migration of European peoples of late antiquity shattered the power of the Roman Empire and consequently the entire political order of Europe. Although Germanic kingdoms replaced Rome, the culture of late antiquity, especially Christianity, continued to have an effect and defined the early Middle Ages. Concurrent to the developments in the Christian West, in Arabia the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century founded Islam, a new religion with immense political and military effectiveness. Within a very short time, great Islamic empires developed from the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb to India and Central Asia, with centers such as Cordoba, Cairo, Baghdad, and Samarkand.

The Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims, built in the 1 3th14th century in the Gothic style; the cathedral served for many centuries as the location for the ceremonial coronation of the French king.

The Cathedral of Reims, by Domenico Quaglio



Southeast Asia



Once the Burmese Pagan Kingdom and the Khmer Empire of Angkor had divided  Indochina between them, the Thais replaced the Khmer in their position of power and became the main rivals of the Burmese. A number of different kingdoms, both Hindu and Buddhist, followed one another in Indonesia until the Europeans built up their colonial rule in Southeast Asia.


Empires of the Southeast Asian Mainland

While the Khmer were greatly influenced by Indian culture, the proximity to China was evident in Vietnam. New conflicts were ignited by the advance of the Burmese and lastly by that of the Thais.


The area settled by the 1 Khmer stretched from southern Thailand and southern Laos to the Mekong Delta.

1 The coasts of Southeast Asia, Portugesian naval map,
16th century

They were the trading power Chinese sources referred to as "Funan," which flourished from the first or second century a.d. to the sixth or seventh century. In the seventh and eighth century, small Khmer kingdoms emerged that were strongly influenced by Indian culture. Indravarman I was the first to establish a large kingdom; his son, Yashovarman I, founded Angkor ("the city") around 900.

The kingdom of Angkor expanded its power in the tenth century. Its rulers were followers of Shivaism and built monumental temples.

The famous temple of 5 Angkor Wat was built under Suryavarman II.

5 The Hindu temple complex Angkor Wat or Vishnuloka ("the world of Vishnu"), Cambodia, built in the twelfth century

Following an 6 invasion by the Cham, 3 Jayavarman VII expanded the Khmer kingdom over large parts of Asia.

He was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism and built up the walled capital of Angkor with 7 numerous Buddhist temples.

War of the Khmer against the Cham,
sandstone relief, ca.1200

Jayavarman VII,
12th13th century

7 Partial view of the Buddhist temple
Angkor Thorn, built ca.1200

Raids by the Thai led to the loss of Angkor in 1369 and in 1389. The capital was move south in the 15th century to Longvek,  Udong, and Phnom Penh, also for reasons of trade.

The state of Nam Viet (today's North Vietnam) was conquered in III B.C. by the Chinese Han dynasty. China's powerless-ness following the Tang dynasty in 931 made possible the founding of a kingdom called Dai Viet in Tonkin, with its center in the Red River Delta. It was ruled by the Ly dynasty from 1009 to 1225. Chinese influence, as well as the great significance of Confucianism, remained evident. The Ly were followed by the Tran, who ruled from 1225 to 1400 and in 1287 repulsed a Mongol invasion.

The Cham had settled in the southern regions in central and southern Vietnam. There they founded the kingdom of Champa by the fourth or fifth century. In 1177, the Cham conquered Angkor, but in 1181 were beaten back, and from 1192 to 1220 fell under the rule of the Khmer. Champa came under pressure from the Vietnamese and the kingdom was annexed ca. 1471.

The Burmese migrated in the ninth century down into present-day Burma and founded the 2, 8 Pagan Kingdom around 849.

Until its destruction by the Mongols in 1287, the kingdom shared domination over southern Asia with the Khmer. Two separate state systems emerged after the fall of Pagan, and they were not reunited until the 18th century.

Tribes speaking the Thai language moved into Yunnan in the southwest of China from about the second century B.C. The kingdom of Nan Zhao developed there in the seventh century: the Mongols destroyed it in 1253.

The 4 kingdom of Sukhothai formed in the middle of present-day Thailand in 1238 is considered to be the political and cultural origin of Thailand.

The kingdom experienced its high point in the second half of the 13th century under King Ramkhamhaeng, who expanded his dominion to the Gulf of Thailand at the expense of the Khmer and Burmese. Around 1283, he devised the traditional Thai script that is still in use today. His successors dedicated themselves only to religion and science, so that in 1350 the local Thai prince of Ayutthaya  was able to take over the kingdom without a struggle.

2 Pagoda in Pagan, eleventh century

8 Temple of Pagan in Burma,
present-day Myanmar

4 Buddhist monk praying in front of
the hand of a 48-foot Buddha
statue in Sukhothai


The Island Kingdoms of Southeast Asia

Indonesia had always been influenced by Indian culture and religions. Various Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms existed there until Islam began its advance in the 14th century, after being introduced onto the island by Arabian merchants.


Until the 1300s, both Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms existed in the Indonesian archipelago. The most notable Buddhist realm was the maritime kingdom of Srivijaya, which emerged in the seventh century on the southeast coast of Sumatra. From its capital Palembang, Srivijaya spread its area of dominance throughout the South China Sea and adjoining regions. Local rulers began making themselves independent again in the eleventh century.

The Shailendra dynasty, which was also Buddhist, left the temple complex of 9 Borobudur on Java.

9 Temple of Borobudur on Java, Indonesia, built in the eighth century

The Hindu Majapahit empire, which replaced Srivijaya as the dominant power, was established in 1293 in eastern Java by King Vijaya. It existed until about 1520, experiencing its golden age in the 14th century when King Gajah Mada controlled Indonesia.

Around 1300, Arabian merchants introduced Islam into Indonesia, and it was rapidly accepted almost everywhere.

Only the island kingdom of 12 Bali remained 11 Hindu.

In the mid-15th century, the prince of Paramesvara on Sumatra founded the Malacca sultanate, with Palembang as its capital.

12 Pavilon and lotus pond in a palace on Bali,
built in the 17th century

11 Water temple on Bali

It was the leading trading hub of the region until it was conquered by the 10 Portuguese in 1511.

In the 17th century, Java was controlled for the most part by the 13 kingdom of Mataram.

The Dutch, who had replaced the Portuguese as the most important European trading power, established the trading base of 14 Batavia on Java in 1619 and from there brought Indonesia under their control.

In 1755, they brought about the division of the once-mighty Mataram into the two principalities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta, thus effectively curtailing its power.

10 Portuguese shipwreck,
Indian miniature, 16th century

13 Nandi bull in a Hindu temple of the
kings of Mataram, built in the tenth

14 Map of Batavia, present-day Jakarta,
copper engraving, 17th century



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