Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the titles Ari and Apu

Earlier I suggested that the "surnames" given as "Li" and "Pu" mentioned for envoys to China in the 10th through 12th centuries CE were actually the titles "Ari" and "Apu" respectively.

There were 11 such envoys that came from Sanfotsi (San-fo-ts'i, San-fo-qi, etc.), and 22 from Champa. There were also other envoys from other countries with the same "surnames."

As I wrote before: "In the case of Champa, "Pu" seems to be a rendering of the Cham title 'Po" meaning 'lord, master." The Cham word for 'king" is 'Po Tao."

In the Philippines, "Apo" or "Apu" are often prepositioned as titles or honorifics before personal names with the approximate meaning "lord" or "sir." In the 14th century Javanese court, "Pu" was also used in a similar manner as in "Pu Nala" or "Pu Tanding," although this may have been a borrowed practice.

In Old Javanese and Old Malay, the cognate to ari "king, monarch, royal person," from the suggested Proto-Austronesian or Ur-Austronesian proto-form *qa(n)dih or *ha(n)dih was haji or hadji.

Chau Ju-Kua (Zhao Rugua) wrote that in Sanfotsi many people had the surname "Pu." This would not make sense if we consider the theory that "Pu" is actually the Arabic kunya name "Abu" meaning "father of." Firstly, where ever one places Sanfotsi there is no evidence of extensive Islamization during this period. And of course, there is even less evidence in this direction for Champa. Even after areas in this region became Muslim, we do not find in the textual, epigraphic or tombstone evidence that "Abu," or for that matter "Ali," was commonly used.

However, the title or honorific "Apu" would have been used for every older person or any other person deemed worthy of special respect such as an official. In modern times, we would most commonly find the honorific used with case marker "ng" as in Apung Iru (Apu ng Iru) but the forms "Apu Iru" or "Apo Iro" are also correct.

The first name, which is the position of the "surname" or family name in Chinese, of "Pu" was also mentioned for two envoys from the Chola empire; one from Po-ni, which I identify as Panay; one from Toupo (Cotabato); and 13 from Ta-shi. The latter location sometimes refers to the Muslim lands of the West, while at other times it suggests a Persian or Arab colony in Southeast Asia.

In the case of Ta-shi, it would be tempting to think that the kunya "Abu" is actually meant, but it occurs so frequently that it is probable that these envoys also adopted the regional Southeast Asian title "Apu." Also, "Abu" is used only for males, while "Umm" is the kunya for females, so this would mitigate against its identification as a surname.

One reason to think that Muslim envoys took Southeast Asian titles is that of the 15 or 16 envoys from Ta-Shi between the 10th-12th centuries CE, only one does not have one of the "surnames" of "Li" or "Pu." That would not make sense given what we know of Muslim names of the time. The kunya name was sometimes used but others preferred the the laqab (descriptive) , nisba (origin), nasab (patronymic) or other names. However, such frequent usage of "Pu" (14 times) makes sense if a general title of respect is involved.

Champa rather peculiarly sent some 14 envoys with the "Li" or "Ari" title. In comparison, Sanfotsi sent five or six; two came from Butuan; and one or two from Ta-Shi. One of these envoys, Li Nou, is called a "deputy king" of Champa. If the Chams were indeed using the title "Ari," I have not yet found an explanation for this practice. Possibly this was a period of much intermarriage between the royal families of Champa and Sanfotsi, with royals from the latter kingdom keeping their titles when marrying into Cham families.

As to the suggestion that "Li" might be the Muslim surname "Ali" again we have the same chronology problems that occur with the theory on "Abu." In Arabic names, the closest thing to a surname is the nisba, which occurs at the end and not at the beginning of the name, and which is always preceded by the definite article "al-".

There have been suggestions that a few Sanfotsi kings have the form "Haji" (Ha-chi) prefixed to their names, but there does not appear to be any consistent practice of including titles in the names of Sanfotsi kings.

Chau Ju-Kua states that the title of the Sanfotsi king is
Lung-ts'ing (龙精), which I have suggested is probably derived from Ari Lusung or Aring Lusung meaning "King of Luzon."

Here again "Ari" might have been mistaken for a surname, while the kingdom name of Lusung is taken as the title. In Chinese practice, the title is placed at the end of the name as in the case of the early use of "Di (帝)," which I have suggested might also originate from *qa(n)dih. The title "Di" as in "Jun Di" the Shang ancestor from Fusang is sometimes translated "emperor" or "thearch." In latter times, it was replaced with "huangdi" 皇帝 to denote the sovereign.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Carrol, John S. "Trans-Pacific distribution of the honorific 'apu'" Philippine Studies, Manila, 23(1-2), 1975, pp. 66-75.

Geoff, Wade. An Earlier Age of Commerce in Southeast Asia 900-1300 CE, August, 2006, http://www.docstoc.com/docs/2702632/A-Introduction-to-the-Issue.

Groeneveldt, W. P. "Notes on the Malay Archipelago and Malacca," Miscellaneous Papers relating to Indo-China: Reprinted for the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. From Dalrymple's "Oriental Repertory", and the "Asiatic Researches" and "Journal" of Asiatic Society of Bengal I,1. London: Trübner, 1886, 187-192.