By the time of the European Renaissance, the islands of Java and Sumatra had already enjoyed a thousand-year heritage of civilization spanning two major empires.
During the 7th to 14th centuries, the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya flourished on Sumatra. Chinese traveller I Ching visited its capital, Palembang, around 670. At its peak, the Srivijaya Empire reached as far as West Java and the Malay Peninsula. Also by the 14th century, the Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit had risen in eastern Java. Gajah Mada, the empire's chief minister from 1331 to 1364, succeeded in gaining allegiance from most of what is now modern Indonesia and much of the Malay archipelago as well. Legacies from Gajah Mada's time include a codification of law and an epic poem. Reasons for the fall of these empires remain obscure.
Islam arrived in Indonesia sometime during the 12th century and, through assimilation, supplanted Hinduism by the end of the 16th century in Java and Sumatra. Ba...