Saturday, December 03, 2005

Glossary: Lusung

Although the kingdom of Lusung first becomes prominent in the Ming annals, it is highly likely that the Chinese knew of a related kingdom from the same area as Sanfotsi (the Zabag of the Muslims).

As discussed previously, Sanfotsi/Zabag was explicitly placed in the eastern South China Sea by both the Chinese and Muslim writers. The Chinese located it due south of Quanzhou (Tsu'an-chou) and the Muslims said that the kingdom lay in the eastern part of the Sea of Champa.

Muslim writers state that the capital of Zabag faced Champa, i.e., it was on the western side of the island, and was situated in a delta or estuary region effected by ocean tides.

In Hirth and Rockwell's translation of Chau Ju-Kua they give a contemporary Chinese account of the journey from Toupo, which was likely Toubak (old Cotabato in Mindanao), to China.

Two areas are of importance in locating Sanfotsi -- Lingyamon and Mai.

I have suggested that Lingyamon was Lingayen in northwest Luzon. It is described as the first major port one arrives at after leaving Quanzhou and is said to border Sanfotsi.

While Mai is sometimes equated with Panay in the Bisayas, it is more likely the island of Mindoro, northeast of the important isle of Palawan, where Chinese merchants sought highly-prized aphrodisiac bird's nests.

The directions from Toupo state that ships first headed northwest until reaching Mai, from Mai they continued northwest for a few days until reaching Sanfotsi.

Thus, Sanfotsi is located somewhere on the western coast of Luzon between Mindoro and Lingayen. Without a doubt, this would point to the riverine settlements around the Manila Bay.

At some point, the name Lusung is used to describe the kingdoms of this region.

The first mention of Lusung in the Ming-shi is in 1373. The country still had close relations with Quanzhou in modern Fukien province. By the middle of the 16th century, tens of thousands of Chinese merchants mostly from Fukien had come to trade or settle in Lusung.

"Lusung is situated in the southern seas not far from Chang-chou (in Fukien)...In the past, thousands of Fukienese merchants lived there for a long period without returning home, because the land was near and rich. They even had children and grandchildren."

-- Ming-shi (Dynastic annals of the Ming Dynasty)

The tradition of settling in Lusung continued even after the Spanish colonization. Traditional genealogies known as tsu-p'u tell of different families over many generations during the Ming era migrating to Lusung.

So close was the relation between Lusung and Quanzhou that, according to Tome Pires, Malay and Javanese ships were not allowed to enter Quanzhou, but the Luções could travel freely to the port city.

The Chinese in Lusung mainly lived across the Pasig River from the old fortress of Manila in an area now known as Binondo and the Parian.

The Japanese also maintained a presence in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish although apparently smaller than that of the Chinese. When the Spanish conquered Lusung, the lords of Pampanga conspired with Manila and then Tondo, with the help of local resident Japanese. One of their main efforts was to request help from the Taiko of Japan.

Later, the Japanese seem to have made Pampanga as one their main settlement areas. According to local tradition, Japanese merchants even founded the town of Mexico in Pampanga. This is logical as Mexico (Masicu) was an important port along the Abacan River for collecting deerskins and beeswax from the Sambal region-- two products highly valued by the Japanese. The local deer like the crococile of the Pampanga river system were eventually driven to extinction during Spanish times.

We find later that Japanese often served together with Kapampangans in the local armed forces and constabularies formed by the Spanish in the Philippines.

Lusung had very close relations with Brunei, and Pires describes the two as "almost one people."

Rui de Brito Patalim (1514), Alvarez (1515), Jorge de Albuquerque (1515) and da Costa (1518) all describe the inhabitants of Brunei as "Luções."

In Malacca, where a colony of Lusung traders was located at Minjam, a Lusung prince known as Regimo de Raja, was established by the Portuguese as temenggong (armed forces commander) and leader of the Malays until he died in 1513. He was the brother-in-law of pepper trader Surya Diraja. It appears that even before the Portuguese arrived, the Luções were handling all trade between Malacca and China.

Earlier it was mentioned that the Luções were viewed by the Portuguese as great "discoverers" who helped them with their explorations of Asia. The case of Black Henry who accompanied Magellan was also described.

One of the contentions of this blog is that the traditional lords of Lusung were interested very early in providing geographical information about the region to outsiders. Their purpose apparently to help stem the Muslim tide coming toward their own kingdom and swamping their old stomping grounds. By the time the Portuguese arrive on the scene, Lusung itself is already partially Islamicized. However, apparently there was much discord in the kingdom, something noted in European writings. It was this dissension that played a major role in the Spanish decision to attack Luzon.

However, we still continue to see what may be evidence of geographical assitance during this period.

Thomas Suarez in Early Mapping of Southeast Asia mentions that Thomas Cavendish obtained a Chinese-style map in the Philippines in 1588. And as late as the mid-1700s Alexander Dalrymple reported receiving a mysterious but accurate map from his servant of Luzon origin. However, the nature of the map is not known. By the late 1700s, the British had become very active in the region, even sacking Manila for a few years.

Paul Kekai Manansala


E.J. Brill. Development and Decline of Fukien Province in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990.

Ming-shi. (A translation of sections concerning Lusung can be found in: Felix, Alfonso. The Chinese in the Philippines, Manila, New York: Solidaridad Publishing House, 1966-69.

Reid, Anthony. Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese, University of Hawai`i Press, 1996.


JM said...

It is the same letter. So your don't have any further notice about «Brás Baião»? I'm asking because he wrote more three ou four letters but his name doesn't apear to be in any other documents, not even in King John III chancelaria.

Thanks anyway.