Historic Reunion


June 6, 2005

THIS should interest history buffs:

After 588 years, the Chinese descendants of the Sultan of Sulu will finally see their ancestral land.

An Jin Tian, An Yan Chun and Wen Hai Jun, direct descendants of Sultan Paduku Batara, who died in Dezhou in Shandong province in China in the 15th century, are scheduled to arrive in Manila tonight (June 6) on the invitation of Chinese-Filipino NGO Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines as part of the 30th anniversary commemoration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines.

To be accompanied by Kaisa officials, the three will visit Jolo on June 11 for the historic reunion with their long lost relatives. They are scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on June 9.

In 1417 Batara, with a retinue of 300, traveled to the Chinese Imperial Court in Beijing to pay tribute to the Ming emperor Yong Le. On his way back to Sulu, he fell ill and died in Shandong in eastern China. Saddened by his death, the Ming emperor ordered an imperial burial for the Sultan.

Batara’s eldest son, Dumahan, returned to Sulu to take over his father’s reign. But his second and third sons, Wenhala and Andulu, stayed behind to observe the three-year mourning, and later decided to make China their home.

An Jin Tian, 17th generation, An Yan Chun and Wen Hai Jun, both 18th generation, are the direct descendants of Wenhala and Andulu.

While Philippine officials have visited the elaborate tomb of the Sultan, none of his descendants, now farmers in Shandong who go by the Chinese surnames An and Wen, has ever been to the Philippines.

But they remember their origins. A tourism poster of the Philippines’ blue waters and white sand hangs inside the house of An Jin Tian, the oldest living descendant of the Sultan in Dezhou.

“Looking at that scene, I imagine the home where my ancestors came from,” he told Kaisa’s Teresita Ang See during her visit to Shandong last October.
He added that visiting Sulu “has always been an unfulfilled dream of our elders, generation after generation.”

Kaisa, through Joseph Chan and Lim Giok Yan of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines, made the arrangements to bring An Jin Tian, An Yan Chun and Wen Hai Jun to the Philippines. They will be accompanied by Yang Yumei, the curator of the museum of the Sultan in Shandong. A mosque stands beside the museum where the Wen and An and other Dezhou families still worship.

The sultan’s descendants are arriving tonight with 50 performers from the Beijing Cultural Troupe, which will perform on June 8 and 9 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

They will join a roundtable discussion on Muslims in Mindanao at the National Historical Institute and visit the Maharlika Village, a Muslim community in Taguig, on June 7. They are set to fly on June 10 to Zamboanga City, where they will be hosted by the Western Mindanao State University, before proceeding to Jolo the following day.

An Jin Tian, An Yan Chun and Wen Hai Jun return to China on June 12.

Batara’s imperial visit to China was extensively recorded in The Ming Dynastic Annals, proof that both the Philippines and China were advanced in civilization and culture, contrary to what Ferdinand Magellan and the Spaniards claimed when they arrived on Philippine shores a century after that event.


4 Responses to Historic reunion



June 6th, 2005 at 1:18 pm

both the Philippines and China were advanced in civilization and culture, contrary to what Ferdinand Magellan and the Spaniards claimed when they arrived on Philippine shores a century after that event.

Legazpi describes one of the “Moro” pilots captured from Butuan:

“…a most experienced man who had much knowledge, not only of matters concerning these Filipinas Islands, but those of Maluco, Borney, Malaca, Jaba, India, and China, where he had had much experience in navigation and trade.” (Blair and Robertson, Vol. II, p. 116.) “



June 6th, 2005 at 1:29 pm

the center for kapampangan studies at holy angel university in angeles city has extensive documents on the pre-hispanic civilization, particularly chinese maritime navigation maps dating back to the 14th century.

the story regarding the Chinese descendants of the Sultan of Sulu is historically valid, compared to the Macapagal clan’s claim of direct descendancy from the proto-politico Lakandula and and blood relations to the Brunei Sultanate via a still unsubstantiated March 15, 1589 Will of Pansonum of Fernando Malang Balagtas who traced his and his relatives’ lineage to “pre-Hispanic Bornean rulers” of Central Luzon.


P.N. Abinales

June 6th, 2005 at 2:46 pm

On of the ruling families of Jolo, the Tans, had Chinese grandfathers while the last of the Great Magindanao datus, Datu Piang had a Chinese father, too. The visit’s other significance is that it brings back something that many historians ar UP and the Ateneo continue to de-emphasize: that even as late as the 1800s, Jolo remained embedded in a Southeast Asian maritime trade in which China was a major center. What Manilenos now call the southern frontier was more central; and what is now the imperial capital of the nation was nothing but a backwater where traders of various sorts did R&R before negotiating prices of goods with Magindanao and Sulu sultanates….



June 7th, 2005 at 8:03 pm

Blogger Bobby Reyes provides additional bibliographical information on trade and cultural relationships between the Pre-European Philippine civilization and the Chinese kingdom related to the historic return last night of An Jin Tian, An Yan Chun and Wen Hai Jun, direct descendants of Sultan of Sulu Paduku Batara.

In “The Chinese in the Philippines, 1570-1770,” historian Milagros C. Guerrero writes:

“Archeological evidence suggests that the Philippines has been maintaining commercial relations for over 700 years. (Editor’s Note: As can be read in the earlier part of this presentation, trade between China and the Philippines probably started centuries before the advent of the Sung Dynasty.)“During the rule of the Sungs (960-1127 AD), Arab traders brought Philippine goods to southwestern China through the port of Canton. Chinese colonies were simultaneously established in the coastal towns of the Philippines with the import of Chinese goods. The trade was climaxed when Chao Ju-Kua wrote of the barter trade between the Chinese and the natives of Mayi (Mindoro). The Chinese exchanged their silks, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware with the hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the early Filipinos.”

Author E. P. Patanne meanwhile says in The Philippines in the 6th to 16th Centuries that contact with China appears to have begun during the T’ang (Thang) dynasty (618-906 AD). 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 T’ang (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.”

Patanne adds, however, that perhaps the earliest date marking Chinese contact with the Philippines in 982 AD as recorded in the Sung Shih (History of the Sung) and mentioned in the Wen-hsien T’ung-K’ao compiled by Ma Tuan-lin, who lived at the end of the Sung and the beginning of the Yuan dynasty. The information noted the visits of merchants from Ma-I, who brought local products to Guangzhou.

In 1986 the National Museum followed up on a 1976 salvage archaeology in Butuan City. Jesus Peralta and Wilfredo P. Ronquillo undertook the follow-up. They reported the results of systematic diggings in several sites. They revealed recovery of Yueh and Yueh-type wares, “perhaps as early as the period of the Five Dynasties (907-960 AD)” – the oldest known tradeware in the Philippines. Until then, it was thought that the Song (spelled also as Sung) dynasty wares were the oldest. The Butuan sites also revealed the making of high-fired ceramics, metal working, gold processing and, of course, boat-building.

Patanne says,

“In brief, in the 10th-11th century the Philippines was already linked to a trading network that supplied goods to China. Such trade relations with China could go back to the earlier T’ang period (618-906AD), as confirmed by T’ang pottery finds in the islands. While (H. Otley) Beyer, Wu Ching-hong, among others, have suggested that (the) T’ang trade with the Philippines was carried by Arab and/or Persian ships, it is not entirely farfetched to suggest that Philippine vessels also mediated this trade. After all, boat-building was already an industry in Butuan where archaeological finds include tradeware ceramics of the Yueh period (907-960 AD).”

Many excavations in the Philippines yielded incontrovertible proofs of the trade between China and the (Philippine) archipelago centuries before the coming of the European explorers to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

“In and around the Santa Ana church, south of the Pasig (River) in Manila, an extensive excavation was carried out in 1966, led by Fox and Legaspi. From 71 gravesites were recovered Chinese trade potteries pointing to the site as having been a thriving settlement more than 400 years before the coming of the Spaniards. The church had actually been built over an ancient Filipino burial ground.”

Patanne reported next in his book that “the Chinese became the dominant traders in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Sung period (960-1279 AD). The shift in the commerce between China and Southeast Asia saw Butuan send a tribute mission to the Sung emperor and no doubt witnessed the emergence of Chinese traders as the dominant intermediaries in the trade between Southeast Asia and China, in particular, between the Philippines and the Chinese ports. The Sung Chinese called the Philippines Ma-i, and among the place-names which Chao listed was Tung-lio” (probably the Chinese referred to Tondo, a district of Manila).

Patanne continued: “Toward the end of the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368 AD) Ma-i/Mait is replaced on Chinese maps with Lu-sung (Editor’s Note: Obviously referring to Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines), which during the previous period the Ming Annals recorded (as having) sent tribute missions to China.”

In Chapter XI, page 154, of Patanne’s book, “Sulu featured prominently in the annals of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), being among the first country in the Nanhai to send a tribute mission to China in 1370, two years after the founding of the Ming dynasty; then again in 1372. Sulu continued to send tribute missions to China in 1416, 1420, 1421, 1423 1424.” (Editor’s Note: Nanhai is the Chinese term for the South China Sea.)

In Chapter X, page 141, Patanne wrote: “The period between 1370 and 1424 when (the) Ming trade with the Philippines flourished – attested to by the profusion of Ming ware in the islands – saw the Philippines sending (also) many tribute missions to China.”

In the beginning of Chapter XI, Patanne wrote: “Sulu entered Philippine history as a place-man in the Tao-I-Chih-Lioh of 1349, a compilation of countries and islands that traded with China put together by the traveler and trader, Wang Ta-yuan (Wang Dayuan) toward the end of the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368 AD). (Editor’s Note: “Dayuhan,” the Tagalog word for foreigner, could have been a corruption of Wang’s second name, Dayuan.) This was the time when the Mongols ruled China and the imperial court bowed to the Islamized (sic) khans. It was also a period when (the) Chinese-Philippine trade perked up as evidenced by a tremendous yield of Yuan trade ceramics uncovered throughout the Philippines. Focus of Chinese trading with the Philippines was with Sulu.

“It was not only trade goods from China that the junks brought in but (also) the religion of Islam, which Majul says (said) was propagated by Chinese Muslims called ‘Sina Hoy-Hoy’ (i.e., Hue-Hue, the Chinese term for Chinese Muslims) (who were) accompanied by Arab missionaries. There is a prevailing belief in Sulu that Karim-ul-Makdum, a trader and Arab missionary, came to Sulu on a Chinese vessel. Majul points also to the famous missionary Sayyid An-Nikab, commonly known as Mohadum Amin-Allah, as a Chinese Muslim who was buried in Bud Agad, Jolo, by local Muslims.”

“A Chinese boat that sunk off Marinduque yielded trade wares dated back to the 16th century.”

Some observers of Chinese-Philippine relations wonder why China was not able to conquer the (Philippine) archipelago like it did subjugate for a certain number of years Annam (Vietnam).

Historian Milagros C. Guerrero wrote: “Although the Chinese lost a large part of the Philippine trade during the middle of the 14th century, at the time when the Javanese and Madjapahit empires were most powerful, they nevertheless regained the trade during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yung Lo (1402-1424). The Ming annals mention that in the second year of his reign, the emperor sent an Admiral Cheng Ho to Luzon to establish Chinese suzerainty over the island. Cheng Ho’s fleet of 60 vessels thrice attempted to reduce Luzon and the neighboring islands to vassalage. However, this attempt at dominion was discontinued after the death of Yung Lo and his admiral.”

Interestingly enough, National Geographic’s Tracy Dahlby wrote about the same Admiral Cheng Ho. “During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) traveling there (to Nanhai) had been a capital offense. It was only when rulers ran low on incense and other luxury imports that an intrepid eunuch, Admiral Cheng Ho, set sail on a series of voyages (1405-1433) that passed through Nanhai to India and Africa. But as John Miksic, an archaeologist at the National University of Singapore pointed out, imperial China set up no official trading centers in Southeast Asia. Later, ‘they burned their boats and hemmed themselves in,’ says Miksic.”

Patanne has these comments in page 143 of his book: “It has often been asked why the Chinese did not try and colonize the Philippines, as they had tried in invading Japan or in extending their rule over Vietnam. Apparently, imperial designs as far as the barbarian islands/kingdoms were concerned, were confined to controlling the trade. Chinese territorial ambitions were probably dampened by the fact that the islands of the Philippines were a scatter (sic) of settlements with no known concentration of great wealth. Then, the Han Chinese were always preoccupied with defending themselves against possible threats of invasion from the west and from the north.”

Recommended related reads:

From “Crossroad of Asia” by Tracy Dahlby, National Geographic, December 1998 issue.

The Archaeology of the Philippines, A Study Chiefly of the Iron Age and its Relationships, 1964.

“Chao Ju-Kua’s Description of the Philippines,” E. H. Blair and J. A. Robertson (ed.) The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898.

“Chinese Relationship with the Sultanate of Sulu,” by Cesar Adib Majul, as part of The Chinese in the Philippines, 1570-1770, Vol. I, 1966.

“The Relations of the Chinese to the Philippines,” by Berthold Laufer, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collection, Vol. 50, Pt. 2, Publication No. 1734, p. 258.