Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Maritime Routes Between China and the Indian Ocean During the Second to Ninth Centuries c.e.

  • STEPHEN G. HAW (a1)


The interpretation of history is often a complex task. All too often, sources are misinterpreted because of historians’ preconceptions. This article takes issue with one such misinterpretation, the anachronistic view that the Strait of Melaka has been the principal sea route connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea throughout most of recorded history. Beginning at a period when an overland journey across the Malay Peninsula was an essential link in the routes connecting South, Southeast and East Asia, it is suggested that the first entirely maritime itinerary to be used regularly passed through the Sunda Strait. Changes in itineraries affected the fortunes of the states of Southeast Asia, particularly of Funan and Srivijaya.



Hide All

1 Vickery, Michael, “Piltdown Skull – Installment 2: Remarks offered to the Ram Khamhaeng Panel”, in The Ram Khamhaeng Controversy: Collected Papers, (ed.) Chamberlain, James R. (Bangkok, 1991), pp. 336337 .

2 To give only one example, Andaya considers that for traders wishing to go to China from the Indian Ocean, “there were two possible alternatives: the transpeninsular route . . . and the sea route which went south through the Straits of Melaka”, Andaya, Leonard Y., Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (Honolulu, 2008), p. 30 .

3 I exclude both Linyi 林邑 (Champa) and Jiaozhi 交阯, 交趾 (both roughly in what is today Vietnam) from consideration here, as the latter was under Chinese rule throughout most of the period 100 bce – 900 ce, and the former was immediately adjacent to Chinese territory. Both these places therefore figure prominently in Chinese records.

4 扶南. The attempt has sometimes been made to reconstruct this name in one or other Southeast Asian language, but such attempts are entirely speculative. Schafer, for example, refers to Funan as “Bnam”, apparently accepting the idea that the ruler of Funan had the title “king of the mountain”, but this has been questioned. See Schafer, Edward H., The Golden Peaches of Samarkand (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963), p. 159 ; Vickery, Michael, “Review: Maritime Trade and State Development in Early South East Asia, by Kenneth R. Hall”, Journal of Asian History XLVI,1 (1987), pp. 211213 , at p. 212; and Griffiths, Arlo, “The Problem of the Ancient Name Java and the Role of Satyavarman in Southeast Asian International Relations Around the Turn of the Ninth Century CE”, Archipel LXXXV (2013), pp. 4381 , at pp. 50–51.

5 For example, Mabbett refers to “Chinese authors, prone as they may be to project their own misconceptions upon the reports they indirectly receive . . .”; Mabbett, I.W., “The ‘Indianization’ of Southeast Asia: Reflections on the Historical Sources”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies VIII,2 (1977), pp. 143161 , at p. 147. Even more extraordinary is Wolters’ reference to “Chinese sources that are as capable of misleading as they are of fascinating students of the historical geography of Sumatra” ( Wolters, O.W., “Molluscs and the Historical Geography of Northeastern Sumatra in the Eighth Century A.D.”, Indonesia XXII (1976), pp. 917 , at p. 17). As will become clear later, I suspect that, if Wolters was “misled”, it may have been because he failed to understand the Chinese texts correctly.

6 國.

7 Wolters, “Molluscs”, p. 12.

8 Karlgren, Bernhard, Grammata Serica Recensa [hereafter GSR] (Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1964), p. 244 [character no. 929 o–p].

9 室韋.

10 Xu, Liu 劉昫, et al., Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1975), Vol. 16, juan 199 xia, p. 5357 .

11 Wolters, O.W., “Restudying some Chinese writings on Sriwijaya”, Indonesia XLII (1986), pp. 141 , at pp. 15–17.

12 Hall, Kenneth R., A History of Early Southeast Asia, Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100 – 1500 (Lanham, 2011), p. 44 .

13 Hall, Early Southeast Asia, p. 109; Wolters, “Restudying some Chinese writings”, pp. 2–5; Manguin, Pierre-Yves, “Palembang et Sriwijaya: anciennes hypothèses et recherches nouvelles (Palembang Ouest)”, Bulletin de l’École Française d'Extrême Orient LXXVI (1987), pp. 337402 , at p. 361; O.W. Wolters, “A Note on the Capital of Śrīvijaya during the Eleventh Century”, Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, Vol. 23, Essays Offered to G.H. Luce by His Colleagues and Friends in Honour of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. Volume 1: Papers on Asian History, Religion, Languages, Literature, Music Folklore, and Anthropology (1966), pp. 225-239.

14 Yet Hall has described Srivijaya as “Melaka Straits-centered” ( Hall, Kenneth R., “Local and International Trade and Traders in the Straits of Melaka: 600–1500”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient XLVII,2 (2004), pp. 213260 , at p. 222). I intend to show here that it was not, at least not during the first few centuries of its existence. Derek Heng, “Export Commodity and Regional Currency: The Role of Chinese Copper Coins in the Melaka Straits, Tenth to Fourteenth Centuries”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies XXXVII, 2 (2006), pp. 179–203, at p. 181, has also stretched the meaning of “Melaka Straits” to include the area between Palembang and Java! The Intan wreck, to which Heng refers here, was very much closer to the Sunda Strait than to the Strait of Melaka, as his Figure 1, p. 182, shows very clearly. It is perhaps significant that none of the wreck locations shown in this map is actually inside the Strait of Melaka. It is necessary to correct an error in Heng's paper. He refers to a work entitled Quan zhi 泉志, giving the author as “Hong Zunzhuang”. The author's name, however, was Hong Zun 洪遵. It would have been helpful if Heng had indicated which edition of this work he consulted.

15 This is not to say that the Sunda Strait was not used at all at any early period. It clearly was, as will be seen below.

16 頓逊

17 裏; a Chinese measure of distance, about 400 m or 440 yards at this period (but the li was really a measure of the time taken to cover a certain distance, and was therefore variable, according to terrain).

18 交州; that is, Jiaozhi, now in northern Vietnam, but then under Chinese rule.

19 Anxi 安息.

20 涨海.

21 This is probably palm wine, often made from sap collected from the cut stalk of the inflorescence; see Law, S.V., et al., “MiniReview: Popular fermented foods and beverages in Southeast Asia”, International Food Research Journal XVIII (2011), pp. 475484 , at pp. 476–477.

22 毘騫.

23 多羅.

24 升; at this period, a sheng was about 300 ml.

25 Silian, Yao 姚思廉, Liang shu 梁書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1973), Vol. 3, juan 54, pp. 787788 .

26 Wheatley, Paul, Golden Khersonese: Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500 (Kuala Lumpur, 1961), pp. 1416 .

27 Chen Jiarong 陈佳榮, “Zhu Ying, Kang Tai chu shi Funan he 《Wushi waiguo zhuan》 kao lüe” 朱應、康泰出使扶南和《吳時外國傳》 考略, Zhongyang minzu daxue xuebao (zhexue shehui kexue ban) 中央民族大學學报(哲學社會科學版), 1978 no. 04, pp. 253–263, at pp. 256–259.

28 Wolters, O.W., Early Indonesian Commerce: A Study of the Origins of Srivijaya (Ithaca, 1967), pp. 4446 .

29 盘盘.

30 狼牙修.

31 典逊.

32 Jiarong, Chen 陈佳榮, Fang, Xie 謝方 and Junling, Lu 陸峻嶺, Gudai Nanhai diming huishi 古代南海地名彙釋 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1986), pp. 10591060 .

33 安息.

34 波斯.

35 安國.

36 漢.

37 Zhi, Wei 魏徵, et al., Sui shu 隋書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1973, Vol. 6, juan 83, p. 1849 .

38 Defen, Linghu 令狐德棻, et al., Zhou shu 周書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1971), Vol. 3, juan 50, p. 919 .

39 Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 44.

40 It may be noted in passing that, for Pelliot, there was no question of “ocean-going junks”, which are indeed not mentioned in the original Chinese text. “Ships” (chuanbo 船舶), however, are – as I have translated. “Junks” implies that they were of Chinese design, which is not at all certain. It is likely that at least some of them were Southeast Asian. See the comment on “junks” of Manguin, Pierre-Yves, “The Southeast Asian Ship: an Historical Approach”, Journal of Southeast Asian History XI, 2 (1980), pp. 266276, at p. 266.

41 Pelliot, Paul, “Le Fou-nan”, Bulletin de l’École Française d'Extrême-Orient III (1903), pp. 248303 , at p. 263.

42 It is possible that there was some knowledge in China at an early period of a route to and from India that was entirely maritime. See Gungwu, Wang, “The Nanhai Trade: A Study of the Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea”, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society XXXI,2 (1958), pp. 1135 , at pp. 19–22; and Wheatley, Golden Khersonese, pp. 8–12. As both these authors note, however, very great uncertainty surrounds the identification of places mentioned in the Chinese accounts. See also Wade, Geoff, “Maritime Routes between Indonesia and Nusantara to the 18th century”, Archipel LXXXV (2013), pp. 84104 , at pp. 85–86.

43 Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Michel, The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk Road (100 BC – 1300 AD), translated by Hobson, V. (Leiden, 2002), pp. 3250 .

44 Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, p. 32.

45 Xiu, Ouyang 歐陽修 and Qi, Song 宋祁, Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1975), Vol. 4, juan 43 xia, pp. 11511153 ; Pelliot, Paul, “Deux Itinéraires de Chine en Inde à la fin du VIIIe siècle”, Bulletin de l’École Française d'Extrême Orient IV (1904), pp. 131413 , at pp. 132–182; Sen, Tansen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: the Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (Honolulu, 2003), p. 174 .

46 Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, p. 33.

47 Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, pp. 42-43.

48 Wang Gungwu “Nanhai Trade”, p. 53.

49 Collingham, Lizzie, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors (Oxford, 2006), pp. 4951 .

50 There was also a great demand in China for rare luxury goods, such as ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoiseshell, pearls, and so on; Wang, “Nanhai Trade”, pp. 8, 12, 13, 25, 28, et passim.

51 Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade, pp. 182–184.

52 It may be noted that the Intan wreck was carrying “a substantial cargo of scrap copper”: Heng, “Export Commodity and Regional Currency”, p. 185.

53 Wheatley, Golden Khersonese, pp. 16, 20, translated this: “on an ocean stepping-stone”, but, as Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 272n, explains, this depended on altering a character in the original text, from qi 崎 to ji 徛. As Wolters states, the Taiping yulan 太平御覧, quoting the version of this passage that occurs in the History of the Southern Dynasties (Nan shi 南史), glosses the original character as qu an 曲岸, “crooked cliffs”. See Fang, Li 李昉 et al., Taiping yulan [facsimile of Song edition] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1960), Vol. 4, juan 788, p. 3489 . It is also possible that qu means ‘[irregularly] curved’. I take it to mean that the cliffs curved out into the sea, hence my translation. Wheatley seems sometimes to have interpreted Chinese texts, rather than translating them accurately, as will be seen again below.

54 When Wheatley wrote the Golden Khersonese, he believed that: “In its present form the Geography was probably compiled by an otherwise unknown Byzantine author of the tenth or eleventh century, who based his work on principles laid down by Ptolemy and even incorporated some of Ptolemy's original writings” (p. 138). This view was based on the arguments of Bagrow, Leo, “The Origins of Ptolemy's Geographia, Geografiska Annaler XXVII (1945), pp. 318387 . Since then, however, views have changed. For a review of differing views of Ptolemy's Geography, and a discussion of some of the problems the extant versions of the work present, see Polaschek, Erich, “Ptolemy's Geography in a New Light”, Imago Mundi XIV (1959), pp. 1737 .

55 Johannes Engels, “Review of Klaudios Ptolemaios Handbuch der Geographie, Griechisch-Deutsch, edited by Alfred Stückelberger and Gerd Grasshof (Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2006)”, Aestimatio VIII (2011), pp. 101–109, at pp. 103–106; Alexander Jones, “Klaudios Ptolemaios: Handbuch der Geographie, Griechisch-Deutsch, (eds) Alfred Stückelberger and Gerd Grasshoff: Review”, The American Journal of Philology, CXXIX,1 (2008), pp. 128–131.

56 Riley, Mark T., “Ptolemy's Use of his Predecessors’ Data”, Transactions of the American Philological Association CXXV (1995), pp. 221250 , at p. 235.

57 Wilfred H. Schoff, “Navigation to the Far East under the Roman Empire”, Journal of the American Oriental Society XXXVII (1917), pp. 240–249, at pp. 246–247.

58 交州, that is (approximately) modern Hanoi in northern Vietnam, which was under Chinese rule throughout most of the period under consideration here. Wang Gungwu, “Nanhai Trade”, p. 29, stated that Kattigara had not “been satisfactorily identified” but was “in Indo-China”, apparently on the Gulf of Tongking, which would place it at least somewhere close to Jiaozhou.

59 On the identification of Kattigara with Oc Eo, see Coedès, George, “Some Problems in the Ancient History of the Hinduized States of South-East Asia”, Journal of Southeast Asian History V,2 (1964), pp. 114 , at p. 5.; the argument originated with Malleret, Louis, L'Archéologie du Delta du Mékong , Vol. 3, La Culture du Fu-nan (Paris, 1962), pp. 421454 .

60 van der Meulen, W. J., “Suvarṇadvîpa and the Chrysê Chersonêsos”, Indonesia XVIII (1974), pp. 140 , at p. 14.

61 Laffan, Michael, “Finding Java: Muslim nomenclature of insular Southeast Asia from Śrîvijaya to Snouck Hurgronje”, in Southeast Asia and the Middle East: Islam, Movement, and the Longue Durée, (ed.), Eric Tagliacozzo (Singapore, 2009), p. 20 .

62 Van der Meulen, “Suvarṇadvîpa and the Chrysê Chersonêsos”, p. 9.

63 Van der Meulen, “Suvarṇadvîpa and the Chrysê Chersonêsos”, pp. 10–14.

64 Heine-Geldern, Robert, “Le pays de P'i-k'ien, le Roi au Grand Cou et le Singa Mangaradja”, Bulletin de l’ École Française d'Extrême Orient XLIX (1959), pp. 361404 , at pp. 362–364.

65 Van der Meulen, “Suvarṇadvîpa and the Chrysê Chersonêsos”, p. 12.

66 Rosser, W. H. and Imray, J. F., The Seaman's Guide to the Navigation of the Indian Ocean and China Sea; including a description of the winds, storms, tides, currents, &c; sailing directions; a full account of all the islands; with notes on making passages during the different seasons: with numerous illustrations, charts, and plans (London: James Imray and Son, 1867), p. 94 .

67 Dion, Mark, “Sumatra through Portuguese Eyes: Excerpts from João de Barros' ‘Decadas da Asia’”, Indonesia IX (1970), pp. 128162 , at p. 137.

68 Dion, “Sumatra through Portuguese Eyes”, p. 140.

69 Dion, “Sumatra through Portuguese Eyes”, p. 142.

70 Harland, John, Seamanship in the Age of Sail: An Account of the Shiphandling of the Sailing Man-of-war, 1600-1860, Based on Contemporary Sources (London, 1985), pp. 6263 .

71 法顯.

72 See, for example, Hall, Early Southeast Asia, p. 62; Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, p. 51 (avowedly following Wheatley).

73 Legge's “Sketch Map of Fa-Hien's Travels” clearly shows Faxian's route passing through the Sunda Strait, and Legge translates Yepoti 耶婆提 as “Java-dvipa”; Legge, James, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, being an account by the Chinese Monk Fâ-Hien of his Travels in India and Ceylon . . . (Oxford, 1886), facing p. 1, p. 113; Giles also thought that Faxian's route passed through the Sunda Strait; Giles, Herbert A, Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms (Cambridge, 1923), map at end of book; cf. Grimes, A., “The Journey of Fa-Hsien from Ceylon to Canton”, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society XIX,1 (1941), pp. 7692 , at pp. 78, 92 [map]. More recently, Max Deeg also concluded that Faxian must have passed through the Sunda Strait, but he nevertheless refers to “the ‘normal’ route via the straits of Malacca”; Deeg, Max, “Maritime Routes in the Indian Ocean in Early Times According to Chinese Buddhist Texts”, in Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, (ed.) Kauz, Ralph (Wiesbaden, 2010), p. 157 .

74 梵, that is, Indian language; Pali, Prakrit or Sanskrit.

75 觀世音.

76 Jiu shi ri xu九十日許.

77 Hei feng 黑風. I have translated this literally.

78 Shamen 沙門, Śramaṇa.

79 Biqiu 比丘, Bhikshu.

80 Tanyue 檀越, Danapati.

81 升; about 0.6 l, or a pint and a quarter.

82 牢山; apparently an alternative writing of Lao Shan 嶗山, east of modern Qingdao 青島 in Shandong province.

83 長廣郡; at this period, the seat of the prefecture was north of the present county (xian 縣) of Laoshan.

84 These are specified in the original text, but it is not clear exactly what they were.

85 青州.

86 晉; the Eastern Jin dynasty, 317–420 ce.

87 李嶷.

88 Translated from: Faxian 法顯, Faxian zhuan jiaozhu 法顯傳校注, annotated by Zhang Xun 章巽 (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 2008), pp. 167–173.

89 See Zhang Xun's note 28 in Faxian, Faxian zhuan jiaozhu, pp. 169–170.

90 The location of Yepoti will be discussed shortly, but the most distant possibility is Java. We shall see later that the sailing time from Java to Guangzhou was much less than 50 days.

91 This largely negates the calculations of Grimes, “Journey of Fa-Hsien”, pp. 76–78, and of Wheatley, Golden Khersonese, pp. 39–41.

92 Grimes, “Journey of Fa-Hsien”, p. 77.

93 Grimes, “Journey of Fa-Hsien”, p. 85. Grimes’ charts are somewhat simplistic, however. I have also referred to Rosser and Imray, Seaman's Guide.

94 Rosser and Imray, Seaman's Guide, p. 89.

95 Grimes, “Journey of Fa-Hsien”, p. 77.

96 Chen Jiarong, et al., Gudai Nanhai diming huishi, p. 1074.

97 I am entirely in agreement with Arlo Griffiths that the name ‘Java’ should normally be assumed to mean the island of Java, unless there is good evidence to the contrary. See Griffiths, “The Problem of the Ancient Name”, pp. 44, et passim. Pelliot took Faxian's Yepoti to be a certain mention of Java: see Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 271.

98 Hall, Early Southeast Asia, p. 62; van der Meulen, “Suvarṇadvîpa and the Chrysê Chersonêsos”, p. 9.

99 Hutchison, Charles S. and Vijayan, V. R., “What are the Spratly Islands?”, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences XXXIX (2010), pp. 371385 , at p. 371.

100 Manguin, Pierre-Yves, “La traversée de la Mer de Chine méridionale, des Détroits à Canton, jusqu'au 17ème siècle (la question des Iles Paracels)”, in Actes du XXIXe Congrès International des Orientalistes, Paris, Juillet 1973, Asie du Sud-Est Continentale (Paris, 1976), Vol. 2, pp. 110115 . Manguin apparently believed that this area of shoals and reefs was largely imaginary, but it did, and does, exist.

101 Rosser, W. H., Short Notes on the Winds, Weather, and Currents, together with general Sailing Directions and remarks on making passages; to accompany charts of the China Sea, Indian Archipelago and Western Pacific, (London, James Imray and Son, n.d.), p. 39 .

102 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, pp. 265–271, discusses some possible earlier mentions of Java in Chinese texts. They depend to a considerable extent on phonetic resemblances, which are not very exact. It may be that the place referred to as Zhubo 諸薄 (Middle Chinese wo-b’âk; Karlgren, GSR, pp. 30, 204 [characters nos. 45p, 771p]; tśjwo-bâk or -p h âk; Schuessler, Axel, Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese: A Companion to Grammata Serica Recensa (Honolulu, 2009), pp. 53 , 61) or Dubo 杜薄 (Middle Chinese d'uo-b’âk; Karlgren, GSR, pp. 37, 204 [characters nos. 62g–i, 771p]; duo B- bâk or -p h âk; Schuessler, Minimal Old Chinese, pp. 53, 61) was in modern Myanmar (Burma), for the Xin Tang shu says that Piao 驃 (Pyu) was formerly called Zhubo 硃波 (Middle Chinese u-puâ; Karlgren, GSR, pp. 27, 53 [characters nos. 128a, 25l] Karlgren does not give the character zhu 硃, but I take it to be a variant of zhu 朱; tju-pwâ; Schuessler, Minimal Old Chinese, pp. 149, 217); Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi, Xin Tang shu, Vol. 20, juan 222 xia, p. 6306. It should be noted that the phonetic resemblance between Zhubo and Dubo is not very close in Middle Chinese, and it might be suspected that they were different places. This is an example of the dangers of excessive reliance on phonetic similarities. Wang Gungwu's assertion that: “There is no doubt that Chu-po [Zhubo] was Java-Sumatra” cannot be accepted; Wang Gungwu, “Nanhai Trade”, p. 39. Strangely, Wang also says that: “Chu-po cannot be so accurately identified”; Wang Gungwu, “Nanhai Trade”, p. 39n. Wolters’ discussion of Zhubo (Chu-po) is far off the mark. It clearly was not in Borneo; Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 52.

103 In Chinese, Qiunabamo 求那跋摩.

104 闍婆; the Middle Chinese (c. 600 ce) pronunciation of these characters was dż’ a-b'uâ, according to Karlgren, GSR, pp. 27, 30 [characters nos. 45h′ and 25q]; tuo- or dźja-bwâ; Schuessler, Minimal Old Chinese, pp. 53, 217. It certainly designated Java.

105 劉宋; 420–479 ce.

106 Jiao, Hui 慧皎, Gao seng zhuan 高僧傳, annotated by Tang Yongtong 湯用彤 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1992), juan 3, pp. 105108 ; Stache-Rosen, Valentina, “Guṇavarman (367–431): A Comparative Analysis of the Biographies found in the Chinese Tripitaka”, Bulletin of Tibetology X,1 (1973), pp. 554 , at pp. 9–13. The “small country” may have been Linyi (Champa); Pelliot, “Deux itinéraires”, p. 275.

107 Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy and Trade, p. 236. Sen focuses on relations between China and India during the period 600–1400, but, as he notes, such relations began earlier. I would argue that they also involved areas other than China and India, particularly Southeast Asia, which lay on the maritime routes between the two.

108 Yue, Shen 沈約, Song shu 宋書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1974), Vol. 1, juan 5, pp. 79 , 82. The embassies were from Heluotuo 訶羅陁 or Heluodan 訶羅單 in Java. The entry in the annals for 430 does not record that it was in Java, but this is stated explicitly in the entry relating to “the country of Heluodan 呵羅單國” elsewhere in the work; Shen Yue, Song shu, Vol. 8, juan 97, p. 2381.

109 Shiming, Fang 方詩銘 and Xiaofen, Fang 方小芬 (eds), Zhonguo shi liri he Zhong Xi liri duizhaobiao 中國史厯日和中西厯日對照表 (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社, 2007), p. 347 .

110 The point here is that the Chinese records make good sense, and are therefore likely to be generally correct.

111 Shen Yue, Song shu, Vol. 8, juan 97, p. 2381–2382; Tingshou, Li 李廷壽, Nan shi 南史 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1975), Vol. 6, juan 78, p. 1957; Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 272. There may have been other embassies, as Pelliot notes.

112 Dashi guo 大食國; “the country of the Arabs”, which, by this period, was used to mean the Islamic world in general.

113 In northwest Sumatra; see Pelliot, Paul, Notes on Marco Polo, Vol. 2 (Paris, 1963), pp. 761762 .

114 Rukuo, Zhao 趙汝适, Zhu fan zhi jiaoshi 諸蕃志校釋, annotated by Yang Bowen 楊博文 (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 2000), p. 89 .

115 轉販.

116 Dashi guo 大食國.

117 Gulin guo 故臨國.

118 Qufei, Zhou 周去非, Lingwai daida jiaozhu 嶺外代答校注, annotated by Yang Wuquan 楊武泉 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1999), p. 126 .

119 Guo 國; here, this clearly refers to the chief city of Srivijaya.

120 Zhou Qufei, Lingwai dai da, p. 86.

121 Zhu Yu 朱彧, Pingzhou ketan 萍洲可談, in Zhu Yian 朱易安, et al. (eds) Quan Song biji 全宋筆记, 2.6 (Zhengzhou 鄭州: Daxiang chubanshe, 2006), juan 2, p. 151; Ibid., (ed.) Li Weiguo 李偉國 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007), p. 135.

122 Goitein, S. D. and Friedman, Mordechai A., India Traders of the Middle Ages: Documents from the Cairo Geniza (“India Book”) (Leiden, 2008), p. 6 .

123 Goitein and Friedman, India Traders, pp. 122–125.

124 Hirth, Friedrich and Rockhill, W.W., Chau Ju-kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, entitled Chu-fan-chï (St. Petersburg, Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1911), title page, p. v.

125 Zhao Rukuo, Zhu fan zhi, pp. 1–6. Zhao was an official involved in supervising the trade at Quanzhou, but he also drew on earlier Chinese writings for a significant part of his information.

126 Keys, David, Catastrophe: an Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World (New York, 1999), Part Nine: The Reasons Why, 31: The Big Bang. Keys’ evidence has been critically reviewed by MacIntyre, Ferren, “Simultaneous Settlement of Indo-Pacific Extremes?”, Rapa Nui Journal XVI,2 (2002), pp. 9799 .

127 Thus, Keys cites the Nan shi as recording “a vast explosion in February 535”, but in fact all it says, according to Keys himself, is that “there twice was the sound of thunder”. See Li Tingshou, Nan shi, Vol. 1, juan 7, p. 211. Had Keys checked the Liang shu as well as the Nan shi, he might have found a record that, in 505, “in the southwest there was a flash of lightning, and three sounds like the noise of thunder”; Yao Silian, Liang shu, Vol. 1, juan 2, p. 42. So it would seem that two sounds of thunder was not such an outstanding event.

128 Southon, John, Mohtadi, Mahyar and de Pol-Holz, Ricardo, “Planktonic Foram Dates from the Indonesian Arc: Marine 14C Reservoir Ages and a Mythical AD 535 Eruption of Krakatau”, Radiocarbon LV,2–3 (2013), pp. 11641172 , at p. 1171.

129 賈耽.

130 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 349.

131 屯門.

132 環王.

133 陵山.

134 門毒。

135 古笪.

136 奔陀浪.

137 軍突弄.

138 質.

139 羅越.

140 This phrase, si wu ri 四五日, exactly parallels Faxian's “nine or ten days”, jiu shi ri 九十日; see above.

141 Heling 訶陵 is Java; see Louis-Charles Damais, “Études sino-indonésiennes: III. La transcription chinoise Ho-ling comme désignation de Java ”, Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient LII (1964), pp. 93–141; and van der Meulen, W. J., “In Search of ‘Ho-ling’”, Indonesia XXIII (1977), pp. 87112 , at p. 95.

142 葛葛僧祗.

143 箇羅.

144 哥谷羅.

145 勝鄧.

146 伽藍.

147 婆.

148 Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi, Xin Tang shu, Vol. 4, juan 43 xia, p. 1153. I have tried to avoid too much repetition in my translation, by using different words to translate zhi 至 “come to, reach, arrive”. I have usually translated the often-repeated you 又 by “again”, but sometimes have used “then”, or other expressions. “Mount” translates shan 山, but it should be noted that the Chinese often used this word to refer to islands, especially those that rose abruptly above the water to some height.

149 See, for example, Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, pp. 348–349; Wheatley, Golden Khersonese, pp. 56–57; Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, pp. 187–189.

150 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, pp. 215–265.

151 Yijing 義淨, Da Tang Xi Yu qiu fa gao seng zhuan jiaozhu 大唐西域求法高僧傳校注, annotated by Wang Bangwei 王邦維 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1988), juan 2, p. 152; Takakusu, J., A Record of the Buddhist Religion as practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago (671–695), by I-tsing (Oxford, 1896), p. xxx .

152 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, pp. 217–218.

153 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 217.

154 Wheatley, Golden Khersonese, p. 56, actually inserted the words “in width” here, but there is nothing in the Chinese text to justify this. Again, Wheatley interpreted the source, and did not translate it accurately. Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 187, simply repeated Wheatley's translation, without comment on this.

155 Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 188.

156 Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi, Xin Tang shu, Vol. 20, juan 222 xia, p. 6306; Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 232; for more about Luoyue, see Pelliot, Notes, Vol. 2, p. 766.

157 Marsden, William, The History of Sumatra, containing an account of the Government, Laws, Customs, and Manners of the Native Inhabitants, with a Description of the Natural Productions, and a Relation of the Ancient Political State of that Island, 3rd edition (London, the Author, 1811), pp. 464467 .

158 Middle Chinese kâ-lâ; Karlgren, GSR, pp. 22, 34 [characters nos. 49f', 6a]; C-; Schuessler, Minimal Old Chinese, pp. 46, 215. It is interesting to note that Wolters identified Geluo with the place referred to in Arabic texts as Kalah; Wolters, O.W., “Tāmbraliṅga”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies XXI,1/3 (1958), pp. 587607 , at p. 591. However, Kalah has been variously identified, and has usually been placed on the Malay Peninsula; see, for example, Miksic, John N., Historical Dictionary of Ancient Southeast Asia (Lanham, 2007), p. 181 .

159 Middle Chinese ś ǝng-d’ǝng; Karlgren, GSR, pp. 235, 238 [characters nos. 893p, 883l]; śjəŋ-dəŋ; Schuessler, Minimal Old Chinese, pp. 115, 116.

160 Marsden, History of Sumatra, p. 468. One of these islands is tiny, the other much larger, although still small. At least some modern maps place the name “Sanding” on the larger one. Wolters’ attempt to explain this name, by inventing a toponym on the east coast of Sumatra, is pure fantasy; Wolters, “Molluscs”, pp. 9–17.

161 Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, pp. 190–193.

162 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 342. Here, Pelliot actually states that an itinerary including Barus would imply passage through the Sunda Strait, yet he still failed to understand that this was, in fact, Jia Dan's route.

163 Andaya, Leaves of the Same Tree, p. 16.

164 Wolters, “Restudying some Chinese writings”, p. 15.

165 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 341; Pelliot, Notes, Vol. 2, p. 662.

166 Yijing lived from 635 to 713.

167 Wolters, “Restudying some Chinese writings”, p. 15.

168 Pelliot, “Deux Itinéraires”, p. 342.

169 末羅瑜國; Yijing, Qiu fa gao seng zhuan, juan 2, p. 152.

170 See Wolters’ discussion of the question; Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, pp. 207–210.

171 Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 208. The journeys of Wuxing 無行 are related by Yijing, Qiu fa gao seng zhuan, juan 2, p. 182.

172 Andaya, Leaves of the Same Tree, p. 49.

173 Andaya, Leonard Y., “The Search for the ‘Origins’ of Melayu”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies XXXII,3 (2001), pp. 315330 , at p. 324; Jules Sion, “Sur l'ethnographie de l‘Indochine et de l'Insulinde”, Annales de Géographie XXXIII no.184 (1924), pp. 390–392, at p. 391. M. Sion seems to have shared my opinion, that “la route alors la plus fréquentée entre la Chine et l'Inde” was that “qui empruntait les détroits de Bangka et de la Sondeˮ; p. 391.

174 Andaya, Leaves of the Same Tree, p. 93; Barber, A. J., Crow, M.J. and Milsom, J. S. (eds), Sumatra: Geology, Resources and Tectonic Evolution (London, 2005), fig. 12.1, p. 148; Marsden, History of Sumatra, p. 165. Marsden states that the Dutch probably established their head factory at Padang because of its vicinity to Minangkabau and its gold.

175 Zhou 洲.

176 Yijing, Nanhai jigui neifa zhuan 南海寄歸内法傳校注, annotated by Wang Bangwei 王邦維 (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1995), juan 1, p. 13; Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, pp. 161–170, 199.

177 婆鲁師洲.

178 末羅遊洲.

179 莫訶信洲.

180 訶陵洲.

181 Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 220.

182 Chen Jiarong, et al., Gudai Nanhai diming huishi, p. 854. There seems to be some doubt, however, whether this name does in fact appear in any inscription; see Louis-Charles Damais, “Prof. Dr Poerbatjaraka: Riwnjal Indonesia, djilid 1 (Histoire de l'Indonésie, Vol. 1)”, Bulletin de l’École Française d'Extrême Orient XLVIII, 2 (1957), pp. 607–649, at pp. 618–619n.

183 See Andaya, Leaves of the Same Tree, pp. 55, 150.

184 It has been suggested, based on archaeological evidence, that there was “a major turning point in the middle of the fourteenth century” in northern Sumatra and parts of the Malay Peninsula; see Perret, Daniel and Surachman, Heddy, “South Asia and the Tapanuli Area (North-West Sumatra): Ninth–Fourteenth Centuries CE”, in Early Interactions between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections on Cross-cultural Exchange, (eds) Manguin, Pierre-Yves, Mani, A. and Wade, Geoff (Singapore, 2011), pp. 170172 . This, I suggest, would accord well with a change in the preferred maritime trade route. Against this, there is the evidence of Marco Polo, relating to the early 1290s. Although his account of his voyage from China via Southeast Asia to the Ilkhanate is not always very detailed, it seems likely, in view of his prominent mention of the island of Bintan and the shallow waters in its vicinity, that he sailed through the Strait of Melaka; Moule, A.C. and Pelliot, Paul, Marco Polo: The Description of the World (London, 1938), Vol. 1, p. 370 ; de Géographie, Société, Recueil de Voyages et de Mémoires, Vol. 1, Voyages de Marco Polo (Paris, 1824), p. 191 ; Pelliot, Notes, Vol. 2, pp. 771–773, 802–803.

185 There may well have been other routes across the Malay Peninsula, probably varying in relative importance over time. See Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, pp. 44–49.

186 Stark, Miriam T., “From Funan to Angkor: Collapse and Regeneration in Ancient Cambodia”, in After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies, (eds) Schwartz, Glenn M. and Nichols, John J. (Tucson, 2006), p. 152 .

187 Liu, Xinru, The Silk Road in World History (Oxford, 2010), p.87 ; however, it must be noted that Liu (p. 80) also says that: “at the time of the Northern Dynasties [fifth to sixth centuries], many imported goods flowed into northern China”. At the same period, of course, southern China obtained imported goods by sea.

188 Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Malay Peninsula, pp. 43–44.

189 On the Chola attacks on Srivijaya in the eleventh century, see Sen, Tansen, “The Military Campaigns of Rajendra Chola and the Chola-Srivijaya-China Triangle”, in Nagapattinam to Suvarnadvipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia, (eds) Kulke, Hermann, Kesavapany, K. and Sakhuja, Vijay (Singapore, 2009), pp. 6175 .

190 Goitein and Friedman, India Traders, pp. 3, 6.

191 Wink, André, Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World, Vol. 1, Early Medieval India and the Expansion of Islam 7th–11th centuries (Leiden, 1996), pp. 5558 .

192 Sauvaget, J., Ahbār aṣ-Ṣīn wa-l-Hind = Relation de la Chine et de l'Inde:rédigée en 851 (Paris, 1948); Ferrand, Gabriel, Voyage du Marchand Arabe Sulaymân en Inde et en Chine rédigé en 851 suivi de remarques par Abû Zayd Ḥasan (vers 916) (Paris, 1922); Zayd al-Sīrāfī, Abū, Accounts of China and India, edited and translated by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, in Two Arabic Travel Books, (eds.) Kennedy, Philip F. and Toorawa, Shawkat M. (New York, 2014).

193 On these “Persian” (Bosi 波斯) ships, see Laufer, Berthold, Sino-Iranica: Chinese Contributions to the History of Civilization in Ancient Iran (Chicago, 1919), pp. 469470 ; Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, p. 145; Pelliot, Paul, Notes on Marco Polo, Vol. 1 (Paris, 1959), pp. 8788 ; Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade, pp. 214, 316n.

194 See Stephen G. Haw, “The Chinese term Bosi 波斯” (in preparation).

195 Bosi guo 波斯國. Zhou Qufei, Lingwai daida, juan 3, p. 114. The country is said to be “on the southwest sea” and to have no walled towns, etc. The people are described as “very black”. Even Hirth and Rockhill did not believe that this was Persia, but suggested that it might be in Sumatra; Hirth and Rockhil, Zhau Ju-kua, p. 152.

196 Yuan Zhao 圓照, Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄, Taishō Tripitaka 大正新脩大藏經, Vol. 55, no. 2157, juan 14, p. 0876a–b; Gabriel Ferrand, Relations de Voyages et Textes Géographiiques Arabes, Persans et Turks relatifs à l'Extrême Orient du VIIIe au XVIIIe siècles, 2 vols. (Paris, 1913), Vol. 2, p. 637. I am not convinced that the translation quoted by Ferrand is correct. It seems to me that it was the leaders of the merchants who are said to have been very attentive to Vajrabodhi (it may been assumed that zhu 主 here is probably plural, as there were 35 ships). The point remains valid, however.

197 On this incident, see Sen, Tansen, “Buddhism and the Maritime Crossings”, in Wong, Dorothy C. and Heldt, Gustav (eds), China and Beyond in the Mediaeval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-Regional Connections (Amherst and Delhi, 2014), p. 42 .

198 Yijing, Qiu fa gao seng zhuan, juan 2, p. 152.

199 The Geniza letters, for example, make it clear that the ship-owner, the captain, and the merchants travelling in a ship were often all different people. Sometimes, merchandise was dispatched in a ship in which its owner did not travel; Goitein and Friedman, India Traders, pp. 153–156.

200 Flecker, Michael, “A ninth-century AD Arab or Indian Shipwreck in Indonesia: First Evidence for Direct Trade with China”, World Archaeology XXXII,3 (2001), pp. 335354 , at pp. 336 Fig. 1, 351.

201 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, p. 353.

202 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, pp. 336–337.

203 Michael Flecker, “A 9th-century Arab or Indian shipwreck in Indonesian Waters: Addendum”, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology XXXVII,2 (2008), pp. 384–386, at p. 386.

204 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, p. 347; Flecker, “Addendum”, p. 385.

205 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, pp. 345–346.

206 Manguin, Pierre-Yves, “Trading Ships of the South China Sea: Shipbuilding Techniques and their Role in the History of the Development of Asian Trade Networks”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient XXXVI,3 (1993), pp. 253280 , at p. 260.

207 Bellina, Bérénice and Glover, Ian, “The Archaeology of Early Contact with India and the Mediterranean World, from the Fourth Century BC to the Fourth Century AD”, in Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History, (eds) Glover, I.C. and Bellwood, P. (London, 2004), p. 74 .

208 For an account of the very diverse types of craft built in Vietnam in recent times, by a variety of construction methods, see Advanced Research Projects Agency, R & D Field Unit (South Vietnam), Junk Blue Book: A Handbook of Junks of South Vietnam (n.p., 1962).

209 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, p. 345; Flecker devotes a single short paragraph to the discussion of Southeast Asian techniques of shipbuilding.

210 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, pp. 347–348; Flecker, “Addendum”, pp. 384–386.

211 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, p. 347; Flecker, “Addendum”, p. 385.

212 Hou, Ding, et al., Flora Malesiana, ser. 1, Vol. 12 (2) (Leiden, 1996), pp. 438439 ; Flora of China Editorial Committee, Flora of China, Vol. 10 (St. Louis and Beijing, 2010), p. 24; Ridley, Henry N., The Flora of the Malay Peninsula, Vol. 1, Polypetalae (London, 1922), p. 639640 .

213 Flecker, “Addendum”, p. 385.

214 Wiedenhoeft, Alex C., “The Limits of Scientific Wood Identification”, Professional Appraisers’ Information Exchange IV, 2 (2006), p. 16 .

215 Flecker, “Addendum”, p. 385.

216 The exception is Juniperus, but this genus occurs in China, and the timber could well have come from there. Juniperus chinensis Linnaeus is a large tree which occurs in many parts of China, including Guangdong, Guangxi and Taiwan; Flora of China Editorial Committee (ed.), Flora of China, Vol. 4, p. 74.

217 Flecker, Michael, “A Ninth-century Arab Shipwreck in Indonesia: the First Archaeological Evidence of Direct Trade with China”, in Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds, (eds) Krahl, Regina, et al. (Washington, D.C. and Singapore, 2010), pp. 117118 .

218 Flecker, “Arab or Indian Shipwreck”, p. 339.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed