Power & Wealth

For at least 2000 years in many parts of ancestral Southeast Asia, power and wealth have been accrued by noble families, with social relations within a community ordered in hierarchical ways. Villages are divided between dominant and subservient clans and lineages, and governed accordingly. The superiority of one family over another is often dependent on genealogical and legendary descent from the founding ancestors of the village. This link to the ancestors ensures that the leading families control ritual activities and the opening of new agricultural land. The nobles who dwell in the great house claim direct descent from its original founders and to the inherited wealth and power imbued in the heirlooms of the house.

In some communities, and in certain arenas of endeavour, high status can be earned. Prowess in fields deemed economically and spiritually important can cement the fame of certain individuals, especially within the elite families. For women this is pertinent to skill in textile making, and especially a remarkable knowledge of dyeing. The feats of male warriors, headhunters, or great voyagers who return with exotic and rare objects for the family treasury, are much admired and rewarded with high status, often visually marked by distinctive accoutrements.

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