The Pre-Colonial Heritage of the South China Sea

Derek Heng, Angela Schottenhammer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The South China Sea has a long history as a conduit of trade, migration, and cultural flows across Maritime Asia. Historical documentation and archaeological finds from the late first millennium BCE onward provide important information on the activities of Asian maritime societies in this maritime zone. Beginning with Southeast Asians, followed by the Indians and Middle Easterners in the first millennium CE, and the Chinese by the early second millennium CE, the South China Sea came to be the location of shipping, commerce, and diplomacy, bringing together Asia’s civilizational and secondary societies along the eastern half of the maritime Asian Silk Road. As the various Asian states’ involvement in international trade and relations, for fiscal and political reasons, evolved, so too did the policies of these states pertaining to maritime trade and diplomacy change. These developments, in turn, had a fundamental impact on the vicissitudes of the activities that took place across the South China Sea. The nature of operations of the mercantile and merchant marine communities evolved in tandem with these changes. By the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the sixteenth century, the South China Sea was already an established maritime zone, with the West being the latest in a series of networks to begin operating in this space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSecurity Dynamics in the South China Sea
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Challenges and Opportunities
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781040022702
ISBN (Print)9781032657479
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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