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Early Philippines History - Porcelain Period

Philippine -Chinese relations is richly documented by archeological discoveries of the presence of porcelains dating from the start of the Sung to the Ming Dynasties (960-1644). Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by the Negritos, Indonesians and Malays. The strains from these groups eventually gave rise to common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation in the archipelago. Archaeological evidence indicates that small seafaring communities existed throughout the Philippine Archipelago for at least 2000 years, prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. The chief means of trading was barter. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or fourth millennium BC augmented these ethnic strains. Chinese economic and socio-cultural influences came by way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their way into the religious-cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.

The archaeological phases of relevance to complex society development in the Philippines, according to the schema of Laura Lee Junker, span the Philippine "Iron Age" or "Metal Age" (ca. 500 BC-AD 1000), the Early Porcelain Period (the Sung through Early Ming Dynasties, or late 10th century to late 14th century AD), and the Late Porcelain Period (Late Ming to Early Manchu Dynasties, or late 14th century to late 16th century AD). By the early sixteen century, the time of European contact, most of the major islands of the Philippines had a complex political landscape comprised of chiefdoms of varying scale and complexity in coastal river valleys, interacting through trade and conflict with each other and with smaller-scale tribal agriculturalist societies and mobile foragers in the island interiors.

Civilized Indian peoples visited the Malay Archipelago in the fourth or fifth century before Christ, and these regions were known to the Chinese as early as the third or fourth century of the present era, and probably earlier, for the Chinese had contacts with the Philippines as early as the third or fourth century before Christ. Probably before the beginning of the Christian era the Hindus had established settlements and introduced Brahmanism into Indo-China, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. About the fifth or the sixth century of the Christian era Sumatra became Buddhist, and the foundations of the first great HinduMalayan empire were laid.

This Sumatran empire, known as Sri-Vishaya, or Sri-Vijaya, seems to have been the dominating power in the East Indies from the seventh to the twelfth century, and for a time, at least, embraced practically the entire Malay Archipelago except a part of Java and the island chain eastward to New Guinea. It included or controlled the Philippines, had outposts in Formosa and Hainan, and is said to have collected tribute even from Ceylon and a part of southern India. Sumatran power was gradually undermined and finally superseded by the growing Javanese state, later widely known as the Empire of Madjapahit. This empire also dominated the entire Malay Archipelago, including the Philippines, and even extended its influence to New Guinea. Its power was broken by the rapid spread of Mohammedanism during the fifteenth century.

The last Malay invasion occurred in the historic period between 1380 and 1450, the time of the introduction of Mohammedanism. This in historic sequence immediately precedes the discovery of the Archipelago by the Spaniards in 1521; Mohammedanism at that time was widespread in the Archipelago. It is evident that there has been a successive series of invasions into the Philippines, chiefly through Malaysia, and that the Archipelago has been extensively colonized for a long time. Most of these invasions were in the prehistoric period, but early in the Christian era it is clear that civilized peoples in this part of the world were in communication with the Philippines.

The general character of Chinese influence in Malaysia was and is economic, rather than social or political. While political affairs have occupied some space in the accounts quoted above, it should not be forgotten that the main object of the Chinese was always trade, and that a thousand peaceful merchant vessels sailed into the southern seas for every one sent there on a political or warlike mission.

The Chinese obtained from the Filipinos not only such raw materials as yellow wax, cotton, pearls, tortoise-shells, betel-nuts, cocoanuts, and vegetables, but also jute fabrics (probably those woven from abaka, Manila hemp, as to-day), other woven goods of cotton, and fine mats. The Filipinos took in exchange porcelain, gold, iron, needles, vases for perfumes, lance-heads, articles of lead, silk parasols, black damask, and other silks. This was nearly three centuries before Magellan.

The basic unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores. The barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.

Pre-Spanish Filipinos learned of the manufacture and use of firearms from the Chinese. Guns of this type varied in length from six inches to fifteen feet. Iron, lead, gold and silver appear to have been derived by the natives chiefly from the Chinese, while brass, bronze, copper and tin came mainly from Indian sources. The art of mining these metals, and the implements and tools used in working them, among the Malays, appear to have had the same respective origins. Metal armor and some of the older types of weapons are probably Indian, while certain later weapons and the manufacture and use of firearms are Chinese.

In clothing and ornament, an equal diversity of origin is apparent. The characteristic sarong, turban, bronze bells, anklets and armlets and a variety of smaller ornaments appear to be Indian. The skin-tight trousers of the Sulu Moros are suggestive of Indian puttees. On the other hand, the jacket with sleeves, the loose trousers worn by Moro women, glass beads, and many types of hats, rain-coats, foot-gear, etc., are almost certainly Chinese. So also is the restriction of yellow garb to royal or aristocratic usage and the prevalence of blue among the commonalty. Silks, porcelain and glazed pottery of all sorts came from China: cotton and the ramie fiber were introduced from India, though in the more recent centuries China also acquired cotton and exported cotton cloths.

Practically all the words in Malayan languages which can be traced to a Chinese source are of a purely economic or commercial character. The earlier intercourse appears to have been carried on almost wholly from ships trading along the shores, and only in later and more cultured times did merchants actually establish themselves upon the land. There appear to have been few, if any, Chinese settlements in Malay lands before the thirteenth century, but after that date they increased rapidly. Practically all the settlers, however, married native women and brought up their children as Malays rather than as Chinese.

As a final judgment it may be said that, while Indian culture penetrated to the very heart of Malay mental and social life, the Chinese merely scratched the surface. This great difference is the more worthy of note when it is remembered that, in the neighboring countries of Indo-China, Siam and Burma, wave after wave of Chinese people and culture have swept down from the north and almost completely drowned out the older native languages and customs. In later times, however, the Celestials had been penetrating more thoroughly into the island life, and while the Indian influence had long been waning, the Chinese has been slowly but ever surely increasing its hold.

There appeared on the scene in the Portuguese court a certain cavalier, named Hernando de Maghallanes (Ferdinand Magellan), who, having failed to secure the attention of the king to his scheme for a voyage of discovery, ofl'ered his services in the Spanish capital. Here, after many tedious delays, he was permitted to approach the Spanish King, Charles I, who, in the end, gave his royal assent to the discovery of a western route to the Moluccas. A fleet was fitted out, and sailed under the command of Maghallaues. It was in this voyage that he discovered the channel now known to the world as the Straits of Magellan. The Pacific Ocean was crossed, the Ladrone Islands were visited en route, and eventually Maghallanes found his way to an island which now forms one of the Philippine Archipelago, namely, Ceb˙.

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Page last modified: 31-03-2012 18:56:54 ZULU