Khmer Kingdoms, succession of South East Asian monarchies based in Cambodia. Modern Cambodia is the residue of a powerful state which at its peak incorporated large areas of Laos, eastern Thailand, and southern Vietnam. Deriving from the Indian-style state of Funan and the Kingdom of Chenla, the great Khmer empire of Angkor was founded by Jayavarman II (reigned c. 802-850), who took back the remnants of Chenla from the Indonesian Kingdom of Sri Vijaya and was consecrated as a god-king. The capital of the kingdom he created was moved first to Lake Sap, then under Yasovarman I (reigned c. 889-900) to Angkor, where great stone temples to the gods of Hinduism, and reservoirs and canals for irrigation, were built. Khmer culture flourished under royal patronage. After decades of peace, King Suryavarman I (reigned c. 1004-c. 1050) pushed into Thailand and doubled the number of cities under his control. Succession feuds led to a new royal dynasty founded by Suryavarman II (reigned 1113-1150), founder of Angkor Wat, who attacked Thailand, Vietnam, and the eastern Kingdom of Champa.
The chaos that followed usurpation of the Khmer throne and invasion by Champa ended in 1171 with the liberation of Angkor by a prince later crowned as Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-c. 1219), who reconsolidated the state and subjugated Champa. He favoured Mahayana Buddhism, and built the Bayon, the great Buddhist temple at Angkor with its enormous faces. After his death, the Khmer kingdom began to shrink under pressure from the Thai Kingdom of Sukothai, but retained power and splendour throughout the 13th century. In the 14th century Theravada Buddhism became the state’s dominant creed, dislocating the social hierarchy associated with the Angkor temples.
Repeatedly attacked by the new Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Angkor was finally abandoned around 1431, after which the Khmer rulers withdrew south-eastward to Phnom Penh, reconstituting a rump state based on trade. The following confused and badly recorded period ended with a brief recovery under Chan I (reigned 1516-1566), who reoccupied and restored Angkor. However, the resurgent Ayutthaya Thais invaded once more and seized the new southern capital in 1594. Seeking a counterweight to Ayutthaya, Chetta II (reigned 1618-1625) married a Vietnamese princess and relinquished southern Vietnam, hitherto Khmer land. From then on the Khmer monarchs were clients or puppets of their powerful Thai or Vietnamese neighbours.