Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lung-t'sing 龙精

In the Hirth and Rockhill translation of the Chu-fan-chi (Zhufanzhi) of Chau Ju-Kua, the title of the king of Sanfotsi (Sanfoqi) is given:

They style their king Lung-ts'ing (龙精). He may not eat grain, but is fed on sha-hu; should he do otherwise, the year would a dry one and grain dear. He also bathes in rose-water; should he use ordinary water, there would be a great flood.

Various explanations have been offered to explain the title Lung-ts'ing (long jing) including translations of local Sanfotsi words. Suggested meanings include "Dragon Sperm" and "Perfected Dragon."

More likely the term is an attempt to transliterate a native word. Hirth and Rockhill suggest the first part "lung" might be related to Malay arung "kings."

If we take the southern pronunciations, merchants from Quanzhou may have used something closer to "Lungzing," while "Lungzeng" would be a possible Canton version. The character ts'ing or jing 精 in the South would be pronounced zing, zeng, zin, etc. Lungzeng or Lungzing could have been an early corrupt rendering of "Lusung" or "Lusong." Otherwise the latter name appears correctly starting in the Ming Dynasty.

Thus, Lung-ts'ing may come from a title like "King of Luzon (Lusung)."

The name Lusung, as we have discussed previously in this blog, would refer to the sacred mountain of the Sanfotsi kingdom. There exists today other mountains, hills and geologic formations in the region with names that are cognate to lusung "mortar" including Mt. Lusong in Benguet, northern Luzon; Mt. Lesong in Bali and Batu Lesong in Malaysia. These names probably derive from the mortar-like shape of the landmarks.

The lusung or mortar-shaped sacred volcano in this case would be Mt. Pinatubo (and Mt. Arayat) located in the region and kingdom known as Sambali, the latter word giving rise to the Chinese name Sanfotsi (saam-bat-zi) in our estimation. The location was described as rich in alluvial gold. During the mid-10th century, Akbar al-Sin states that

"near Zabaj is a mountain called the Mountain of Fire, which it is not possible to approach. Smoke escapes from it by day and a flame by night, and from its foot comes forth a spring of cold fresh water and a spring of hot water."

The palace of the king of Zabag, again the Arab name for Sanfotsi, was described in Muslim texts as located at the water's edge of an estuary close enough to the "bay of Zabag" that saltwater flowed during high tide and freshwater during ebb. Such an estuary, it's been suggested earlier, was known in the local language as sapa, sabang or sapang from which the Arab place-name "Zabag" would be derived. Abu Zayd said that the kingdom of Zabag faced China, probably referring to the southern port of Canton, which would have been directly across the Nanhai (South Sea) to the northwest. This geographical description is confirmed by Mas'udi who states that the kings of the Khmer kingdom (Cambodia) face toward the kingdom of Zabag during their morning prayers i.e., toward the East, the sunrise.

As an aside, on Chau Ju-Kua's statement above that the king must eat sha-hu (sago) and bathe in rose-water to avoid famine and flood respectively, this is an example of the sacred king seen as an embodiment of nature and the kingdom. We find this concept widely spread in the galactic polities of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Hirth, F. and W. W. Rockhill. Chau Ju-kua. His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the 12th and 13th Centuries, entitled Chu-fan-chi, St. Petersburg, 1911.


"the Dude" said...

sapa, sabang, zabag

reminds me of Sabah and Mt. Kinabalu, though I'm not claiming any connection.