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The China Trade - Philippines History - Porcelain Period

On 07 May 2012 He Jia, anchor for China Central Televisions (CCTV) nationally televised news broadcast, declared the Philippines a part of China. We all know that the Philippines is Chinas inherent territory and the Philippines belongs to Chinese sovereignty, this is an indisputable fact, she said in the broadcast. The presenter apparently meant to say that Huangyan Island known in the Philippines as the Scarborough Shoal, and claimed by Taiwan is part of Chinese territory.

Trade between China and the Philippines probably started centuries before the advent of the Sung Dynasty. The "A Collection of Data in Chinese Classical Books Regarding the Philippines" was published by the Institute of Southeast Asian History of Zhongsan (Sun Yat Sen) University, Guangzhou (1900). It states: During the Tang (Thang) dynasty China (in the 7th to the 9th century AD) the two peoples of China and the Philippines already had relatively close relations and material as well as cultural exchanges.

During the Sung (960-1127 AD), Arab traders brought Philippine goods to southwestern China through the port of Canton. Chinese posts were established in coastal towns of the Philippines with the import of Chinese goods. The trade culminated when Chao Ju-Kua wrote of the barter trade between the Chinese and the natives of Mayi (Mindoro). The Chinese exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the Filipinos.

The Chinese became the dominant traders in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Sung Dynaasty (960-1279 AD). The shift in the commerce between China and Southeast Asia saw Butuan send a tribute mission to the Sung emperor. The Chinese notice of Luzon appears to have instigated a new round of tributary missions in the early fifteenth century by Luzon, Pangasinan, and a polity known as Mao-li-wu [possibly Ma-i on Mindoro].

The first really reliable Chinese records of Borneo and the Philippines begins with the accession of the last Sung dynasty, in the tenth century. From the twelfth to the fifteenth century, accounts of Bruni, Sulu, Ma-i and others of the Philippine Islands become more numerous. The first notices of the Philippines are to be found in the work of Chao Ju-kua, collector of customs of Chuan-chou, a city in Fo-Kien Province, between 1210 and 1240. Chao-Yu-Kua tells of their settlements, some of a thousand families each, their houses of cane being clustered on high places. In this work he speaks of the islands of Po-ni (Borneo), Ma-i (probably Mindoro, or possibly Panay), and of the Pi-Sho-ye of Taiwan (Formosa). This latter name sounds something like " Bisaya," the native name for Visava. The book speaks also of the San-sii, or "Three Islands." Among the place-names which Chao listed was Tung-lio (probably the Chinese referred to Tondo, a district of Manila).

Before 1225 the Chinese vessels were making regular trading-trips to nearly all parts of the Philippines. Many places are mentioned in the records, but descriptions are given of only a few. Apart from Sulu which has always maintained closer relations with Borneo than with the northern Philippines the most important trade-center appears to have been Mindoro, which was mentioned as such in the tenth century.

In addition to Mindoro and Sulu, the following other Philippine islands have been pretty certainly identified as mentioned in the Chinese records: Palawan, Kalamian (now Culion), Busuanga, Penon de Coron, Lubang, Luzon (probably Manila Bay region and south coast), Masbate, Bohol (?), Leyte. Many other names which must apply to Philippine localities are used by the Chinese writers, but none of these have been identified with any degree of certainty. Some of them are spoken of as dependencies of Ma-i, and others of Sulu or Bruni. Leyte is called Si-lung, but no description of it has yet been found. This is also the case with most of the other islands except Sulu, Palawan, Luzon and the Kalamian group.

Though Luzon is mentioned early in the thirteenth century as a dependency of Ma-i, under the name Liu-sin, the first real account of the largest Philippine island appears in Chapter 323 of the Ming Annals, where it is known as Lu-sung. An embassy from this country arrived in China with tribute, in the year 1372. "The site of Luzon is stated on this occasion to be in the South Sea very close to Chang-chou in Fuhkien. The Emperor reciprocated the gifts of this embassy by dispatching an official with presents of silk gauze woven of gold and colored threads to the King of the country." In another early account it is stated that "Luzon produces gold, which is the reason of its wealth; the people are simple-minded and do not like to go to law."

These people had iron implements of warfare and various articles of other metals; but contact with the continent of Asia explains these. They were in regular intercourse with China and with Japan, Borneo, and other islands some centuries before Spanish discovery. In the little-known work of Chao-Yu-Kua, a Chinese geographer of the thirteenth century, is a chapter on the Philippine trade. From the beginning of Philippine trade with China, the trade relations between Philippine chieftains and Chinese traders were forged on the basis of good political relations. Chinese records show that regular and active trade between China and the Philippines took place only in the tenth century. Earlier trade between China and the Philippines was transacted mainly through the Champa (Vietnam) coast. But Mai-i (Mindoro) traders who previously went through Vietnam before proceeding to China decided in 972 to circumvent Vietnam and instead to trade directly with China by sailing into Canton. Economic exchanges with the southern countries were so lucrative and extensive that in 972 the first emperor of the Sung Dynasty established offices of maritime trade in Kwangchow, Hangchow, and Minchow, with separate superintendents to deal with all Arab, Achen, Java, Borneo, Ma-i (Mindoro), and Srivijaya barbarians.

The Mai-i, Butuan and Sulu missions to China were attempts by separate Philippine polities not only to bypass Champa as a trade entrepot and to establish themselves as new centers of international trade. The Mindoro traders had to secure the blessing of the Chinese emperor with a tribute mission. They presented the emperor with exotic gifts like pearls, frankincense, myrrh, and colorful animals. Thereafter Mindoro delegations were treated as state guests and enlisted as feudatory princes of the empire. They were bestowed with corresponding seals and patents of office. No doubt, the ceremonial acknowledgment of Chinese imperial suzerainty by tributary missions was good politics, it was in turn rewarded by the grant of accreditation to Mindoro traders to engage in direct commercial activities with China.

The Celestials had always been a literary people and have always taken a special interest in noting down what they could learn of foreign lands and curious customs. The poverty of their records as regards the Philippines seems to be due not so much to distance as to the relative insignificance of the local states when compared, to the richer and more powerful kingdoms of Indo-China, Sumatra and Java. This is the more evident from the fact that Formosa, lying at the very door of one of China's greatest ports, is mentioned no more frequently in the early records than are the Philippines. Another case in point is the frequent mention of Bruni and Sulu, as compared with Luzon and the other northern islands.

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Page last modified: 24-11-2014 19:00:53 ZULU