Langkasuka was an ancient Malay Hindu-Buddhist kingdom located in the Malay Peninsula.[1][2] The name is Sanskrit in origin; it is thought to be a combination of langkha for "resplendent land" -sukkha for "bliss". The kingdom, along with Old Kedah, is probably among the earliest kingdoms founded on the Malay Peninsula. The exact location of the kingdom is of some debate, but archaeological discoveries at Yarang near Pattani, Thailand suggest a probable location. The kingdom is believed to have been established in the 1st century, between 80 and 100 AD.[3]

1st century–15th century
A suggestion of the reach of the kingdom of Langkasuka. Most scholars consider Langkasuka to be located on the East coast of the Malay peninsula, but some argued for a kingdom that extended from the East to the West coast. Ligor refers to Nakhon Si Thammarat and Kataha is Kedah.
Common languagesOld Malay
1st century
15th century
Succeeded by
Pattani Kingdom
Today part ofMalaysia

According to the legend given in the Kedah Annals, the kingdom was founded and named by Merong Mahawangsa. Another proposal suggests that the name may have been derived from langkha and Ashoka, the legendary Mauryan Hindu warrior king who eventually became a pacifist after embracing the ideals espoused in Buddhism, and that the early Indian colonizers of the Malay Isthmus named the kingdom Langkasuka in his honour.[4] Chinese historical sources provided some information on the kingdom and recorded a king Bhagadatta who sent envoys to the Chinese court.

Historical records

The earliest and most detailed description of the kingdom comes from the Chinese Liang Dynasty (502-557) record Liangshu, which refers to the kingdom of "Lang-ya-xiu" (Chinese: 狼牙脩, Lang-gga-siu in Hokkien). The record mentions that the kingdom was founded over 400 years earlier,[5] which made its founding some time in the late 1st or early 2nd century. According to Liangshu, "Lang-ya-xiu" or Langkasuka was thirty days' journey from east to west, and twenty from north to south, 24,000 li in distance from Guangzhou. It mentions that Aloeswood (Aquilaria) and camphor were abundant in the kingdom, and its capital was described as being surrounded by walls to form a city with double gates, towers and pavilions. Both men and women in Langkasuka wore sarongs with their torsos bare and their hair loose, although the king and senior officials covered their shoulders with cloth and wore gold earrings and belts of gold cord. Women of high status wrapped themselves in cloth and wore jeweled girdles.[5] It gives further information on some of its kings and also relates a story on a succession:

Details from Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang showing an emissary from Langkasuka with description of the kingdom. Song Dynasty copy of a Liang Dynasty painting dated to 526–539.

When the king goes forth he rides upon an elephant. He is accompanied by banners, fly-whisks, flags and drums and he is shaded with a white parasol. The soldiers of his guard are well-appointed. The inhabitants of the country say that their state was founded more than four hundred years ago. Subsequently the descendants became weaker, but in the king's household there was a man of virtue to whom the populace turned. When the king heard of this he imprisoned this man, but his chains snapped unaccountably. The king took him for a supernatural being and, not daring to injure him, exiled him from the country, whereupon he fled to India. The king of India gave him his eldest daughter in marriage. Not long afterwards, when the king of Lang-ya died, the chief ministers welcomed back the exile and made him king.

Liangshu, translation by Paul Wheatley[6][7]

This king then ruled for more than 20 years. He was succeeded by his son, King Bhagadatta, who sent the first ambassadorial mission to China in 515.[8][9] Further emissaries were sent in 523, 531, and 568.[10]

The transcription of the kingdom's name in Chinese records changed over time. In the late seventh century, the Buddhist monk Yi Jing mentioned encountering three Chinese monks who lived in a place named Lang-jia-shu (郎伽戍).[8]

A Song Dynasty work Zhu fan zhi (published in 1225) gives a description of the country of Ling-ya-si-jia (凌牙斯加). It mentions that its people cut their hair and wrapped themselves in a piece of cloth, its products included elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, types of wood and camphor, and their merchants traded in wine, rice, silk and porcelain. It also says that the country paid tribute to a country named Sanfoqi, which is usually interpreted to be Srivijaya.[11][12]

Langkasuka was known as "Long-ya-xi-jiao" (龍牙犀角) in Daoyi Zhilüe from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368);[13] and "Lang-xi-jia" (狼西加) during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), as marked in the Mao Kun map of Admiral Zheng He .[14] Daoyi Zhilüe mentions that the native of Langkasuka make salt from seawater and ferment rice wine, and produced hornbill casques, lakawood, honey and gharuwood.[15] The people wore cotton from the Philippines and printed cloth from India and local sources.[16]

"Langkasuka" was mentioned in the Malay text Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, and it was referred to as "Lengkasuka" in the Javanese poem Nagarakretagama.[1] Tamil sources name "Ilangasoka" as one of Rajendra Chola's conquests in his expedition against the Srivijaya empire. It was described as a kingdom that was "undaunted in fierce battles". Thai sources made no reference to Langkasuka, but Pattani was identified as one of the twelve Naksat cities under the influence of Nakhon Si Thammarat in Thai chronicles.[17]

Outline of Langkasuka's history

A brief outline of the history of Langkasuka can be determined from the limited historical records available. The kingdom is thought to have been founded some time early in the 2nd century AD. It then underwent a period of decline due to the expansion of Funan in the early 3rd century. In the 6th century it experienced a resurgence and began to send emissaries to China. King Bhagadatta first established relations with China in 515 AD, with further embassies sent in 523, 531 and 568.[8] By the 8th century it had probably come under the control of the rising Srivijaya empire.[18] In 1025 it was attacked by the armies of King Rajendra Chola in his campaign against Srivijaya. In the 12th century Langkasuka was a tributary to Srivijaya. The kingdom declined and how it ended is unknown. Around the 15th century the Pattani Kingdom was established nearby.


Mao Kun map from Wubei Zhi showing Langkasuka (狼西加) near the top right (Songkla further to its right, and Kelantan River and Trengganu to the left).

Chinese and Arab sources placed the ancient kingdom on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The New Book of Tang mentioned that Langkasuka bordered on Pan Pan, and a map in the Ming Dynasty military treatise Wubei Zhi locates it south of Songkla near Pattani River.[8] A 15th century Arab text similarly places the kingdom south of Songkla. The only contradictory information comes from a later Malay text Hikayat Marong Mahawangsa which placed it on the west coast as the predecessor of modern Kedah, although its sovereign had some association with Pattani.[19][20] Chinese, Arab and Indian sources all considered Kedah and Langkasuka to be separate geographical entities. The Javanese poem Nagarakretagama placed it north of Saiburi, however it appears to imply that it was originally located on the west coast but was transferred later to the east.[5]

In 1961, taking account of the various sources, the geographer and historian Paul Wheatley concluded that Langkasuka should be located near to the modern town of Pattani.[21] French archaeologist and historian Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h concurred, and proposed the former estuary of the Pattani River near Yarang as the likely location of Langkasuka. He also suggested that whole area between Pattani, Saiburi and Yala may be part of Langkasuka.[14] Modern archaeological explorations have uncovered ruins near Yarang, a village fifteen kilometers south of Pattani, which may be of the city described in Liangshu.[22] The city was located inland 10 miles from the coast and connected to the rivers leading to the sea via canals.[18] Silting of the waterways may have led to its decline.


Langkasuka among polities in ancient Malay realm.

Several archaeological expeditions were conducted in the 1960s to locate Langkasuka following the suggestion by Paul Wheatley of its likely location. In 1963, Stewart Wavell led a Cambridge expedition to locate Langkasuka and Tambralinga and the details of this expedition are described in The Naga King's Daughter.

An archaeological investigation of the Yarang area began in 1989 by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand.[22] The majority the ruins were clustered in the vicinity of a hamlet called Ban Wat, and may have formed the nucleus of the city. Others were scattered further to the North at Ban Jalæ, and a couple more at Ban Prawæ. The excavations found various Buddhist structures and objects including votice tablets and sculptures, indicating a strong Buddhist presence in the kingdom. Objects related to Hindu worship were also found.

Many Chinese and Arab coins made of bronze have been found in the region, an indication of the commercial activity of the kingdom. Two silver Sassanid coins have also been found.[23]

The kingdom has been made as either a subject or setting of several films:

  • Raja Bersiong (or The Fanged King), a 1968 Malaysian film directed by Jamil Sulong with input from Malaysia's Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
  • Queen of Pattani or Queens of Langkasuka, a 2008 Thai movie directed by Nonzee Nimibutr loosely based on a south Pattani myth.
  • The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines (also known by its local title Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa), a 2011 Malaysian film directed by Yusry Abdul Halim. The film is loosely based on the origins of Merong Mahawangsa, said to be the first King of Langkasuka.

See also


  1. Guy, John (2014). Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia. Yale University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0300204377.
  2. Proceedings of The 6th MAC 2016. MAC Prague consulting. 2016-02-16. p. 211. ISBN 978-80-88085-05-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  3. Grabowsky, Volker (1995). Regions and National Integration in Thailand, 1892-1992. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-03608-5.
  4. W. Linehan (April 1948). "Langkasuka The Island of Asoka". Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 21 (1 (144)): 119–123. JSTOR 41560480.
  5. Keat Gin Ooi, ed. (2004). Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 764–765. ISBN 978-1576077702.
  6. Paul Wheatley (1961). The Golden Khersonese: Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. pp. 253–254. OCLC 504030596.
  7. 梁書/卷54 Liangshu, Chapter 54. Original text of the entry on Langkasuka in Liangshu: 狼牙脩國,在南海中。其界東西三十日行,南北二十日行,去廣州二萬四千里。土氣物產與扶南略同,偏多𥴈沉婆律香等。其俗男女皆袒而被髮,以吉貝爲干縵。其王及貴臣乃加雲霞布覆胛,以金繩爲絡帶,金鐶貫耳。女子則被布,以瓔珞繞身。其國累磚爲城,重門樓閣。王出乘象,有幡毦旗鼓,罩白蓋,兵衛甚設。國人說,立國以來四百餘年,後嗣衰弱,王族有賢者,國人歸之。王聞知,乃加囚執,其鏁無故自斷,王以爲神,因不敢害,乃斥逐出境,遂奔天竺,天竺妻以長女。俄而狼牙王死,大臣迎還爲王。二十餘年死,子婆伽達多立。天監十四年,遣使阿撤多奉表曰:「大吉天子足下:離淫怒癡,哀愍衆生,慈心無量。端嚴相好,身光明朗,如水中月,普照十方。眉間白毫,其白如雪,其色照曜,亦如月光。諸天善神之所供養,以垂正法寶,梵行衆增,莊嚴都邑。城閣高峻,如乾陁山。樓觀羅列,道途平正。人民熾盛,快樂安穩。著種種衣,猶如天服。於一切國,爲極尊勝。天王愍念羣生,民人安樂,慈心深廣,律儀清淨,正法化治,供養三寶,名稱宣揚,佈滿世界,百姓樂見,如月初生。譬如梵王,世界之主,人天一切,莫不歸依。敬禮大吉天子足下,猶如現前,忝承先業,慶嘉無量。今遣使問訊大意。欲自往,復畏大海風波不達。今奉薄獻,願大家曲垂領納。」
  8. Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h (2002). The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk-Road (100 BC-1300 AD). Victoria Hobson (translator). Brill. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9789004119734.
  9. Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 51, 77–78. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  10. Miksic, John Norman; Geok Yian, Goh (14 October 2016). Ancient Southeast Asia. Routledge. p. 184. ISBN 9781317279044.
  11. Geoff Wade (30 April 2013). Patrick Jory (ed.). Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Histiography of Patani. NUS Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-9971696351.
  12. "《諸蕃志卷上》". Original text: 凌牙斯國,自單馬令風帆六晝夜可到,亦有陸程。地主纏縵跣足;國人剪發,亦纏縵。地產象牙、犀角、速暫番、生香、腦子。番商興販,用酒、米、荷池、纈絹、甆器等為貨;各先以此等物准金銀,然後打博。如酒一墱,准銀一兩、准金二錢;米二墱准銀一兩,十墱准金一兩之類。歲貢三佛齊國。
  13. "島夷誌略". Original text: 峯頂內平而外聳,民環居之,如蟻附坡。厥田下等。氣候半熱。俗厚。男女椎髻,齒白,繫麻逸布。俗以結親為重。親戚之長者一日不見面,必携酒持物以問勞之。為長夜之飮,不見其醉。民煮海為鹽,釀秫為酒。有酋長。地產沈香,冠於諸番。次鶴頂、降眞、蜜糖、黃熟香頭。貿易之貸,用土印布、八都刺布、靑白花碗之屬。
  14. Geoff Wade (30 April 2013). Patrick Jory (ed.). Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Histiography of Patani. NUS Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-9971696351.
  15. Paul Wheatley (1961). The Golden Khersonese: Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. p. 80. OCLC 504030596.
  16. John Miksic (15 November 2013). Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300–1800. NUS Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-9971695743.
  17. M.C. Chand Chirayu Rajani. "Background To The Sri Vijaya Story-Part I" (PDF).
  18. Dougald J. W. O'Reilly (2006). Early Civilizations of Southeast Asia. Altamira Press. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-0759102798.
  19. Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h (2002). The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk-Road (100 BC-1300 AD). Victoria Hobson (translator). Brill. pp. 164–166. ISBN 9789004119734.
  20. "Langkasuka". Sejarah Melayu.
  21. Paul Wheatley (1961). The Golden Khersonese. Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula before AD 1500. University of Malaya Press.
  22. Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h (2002). The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk-Road (100 BC-1300 AD). Victoria Hobson (translator). Brill. pp. 166–175. ISBN 9789004119734.
  23. Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h (2002). The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk-Road (100 BC-1300 AD). Victoria Hobson (translator). Brill. p. 191. ISBN 9789004119734.
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