Funan is actually a Chinese name for City of Mountain and is referred to in Old Khmer as Bnam or Phnom in Modern Khmer. It was a strong maritime, agricultural and trading nation and at peak was centered around the Mekong delta and covered modern day Cambodia, South Vietnam and parts of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and the northern Malaysian Peninsula. Although it is referred to as a kingdom, it was more likely a loose political conglomeration of neighboring nations in which Funan was the center of power.
Midway Between India and China
These excavations unearthed Roman, Persian, Chinese and Indian goods. As Funanese records have not survived, much is also relied upon archeological digs which have also found a large canal system that fanned out from Angkor Borei, the pre-Angkor capital during the Chenla period, to smaller satellite settlements and which could possibly have linked Angkor Borei to Oc Eo, a distance of 90 kms.
Wealth from trading was poured into its complex system of irrigation and water storage, leading to successful rice cultivation and paving the way for the rise of the Angkor empire.
Water was so integral to the Funan kingdom that one of its myths of creation had it that it started from the marriage of an Indian prince to a native naga (serpent deity) princess called Soma. Her father, the Naga King, blessed the marriage by drinking up the sea around the island and created the land which was named Kambuja.
The Funanese Empire reached its peak under the rule of Fan Shih-man in the early third century A.D. King Fan Shih-man strengthened and expanded its naval fleet, boosted the Funanese bureaucracy, established a form of feudal rule which left local cultures and customs relatively unchanged, and set a pattern of rule for neighboring Southeast Asian nations. He and his successors sent ambassadors to China and India, and the latter's influence was so interwoven into Funanese life that the Indian legal code was adopted and an alphabet based on Indian writing systems was introduced.
In the 6th century, Funan, weakened by civil war and succession struggles, was taken over by rebel state Chenla.. Chenla was itself a loose grouping of smaller kingdoms and at one stage was divided into Water Chenla, with its capital in Angkor Borei, and Land Chenla centered around Sambor Prei Kuk. Around the 8th century, continued incursions by a newly risen maritime nation, Java, drove the Khmer people away from the coast to go upriver to Tonle Sap, paving the way for what would become the Angkorian civilization.