Sojourning Communities, Ports-of-Trade, and Agrarian-Based Societies in Southeast Asia’s Eastern Regions, 1000-1300
By Kenneth R. Hall, Professor of History, Ball State University
This paper addresses the developing international trade routes in the Philippines, Borneo, and the eastern Indonesian archipelago during the era of the Song and Yuan dynasties, c. 1000-1300. Most of the previous work on this topic has focused on the documentation supplied in the limited Song- and Yuan-era texts, which consist of the records of the Song merchant shipping offices (shih possu) at Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Quanzhou, and Mingzhou that record the assorted commodities imported and exported through the principle south China ports-of-trade; the Song and Yuan court records of tributary missions to and from Southeast Asia's courts (e.g., Sung hui-yao chi-kuo; Sung shih); and other texts by Chinese authors who provide their collected overviews and commentaries on the trade routes, the most notably of which is the perspective of the Song-era port superintendent Zhao Rugua (1225; Zhufan zhi) and the Yuan era accounts of Chen Dazhen (1304; Dade Nanhai zhi) and Wang Dayuan (1349; Daoyi zhilue). This paper's major contribution is its additional consideration of the archeological evidence derivative of Southeast Asian excavations over the past fifty years, the importance of the distribution and concentration of Chinese ceramics and epigraphic references as these provide local evidence that confirms or modifies the Chinese overviews and court records. The local evidence especially counters the Chinese affirmation of continuity among the regional polities that submitted to China's tributary system; the reality was instead periodic transition among several port-polity centers and early Chinese references to place must be considered regional or coastline inclusive rather than specific to a single and continuous port. This paper's concluding focus is on local networking and societal development that was reactive to new trading opportunities during an age that was foundational to the Ming era late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century "age of commerce" that preceeded significant European entry into the Indian Ocean commercial realm (A. Reid, 1988, 1991) .
An initial overview of the trade routes between China and eastern Southeast Asia provides a corrective view of a region that has been collectively categorized as continually peripheral to the main Indian Ocean maritime route that connected China to India (Laghod, 1989 and other "World Systems" theorists). Instead, study of China's import of the products from this "periphery" demonstrates how this previous marginal region became a major factor in the Song-Yuan era's trade, especially as the "Eastern Ocean" region responded to increasing Chinese and Western demand for Borneo and "spice island" ecological products. Archeological remains demonstrate local response, with the development of new coastal communities and upstream-downstream networking. The paper concludes with brief consideration of the maritime communities active during the Song and Yuan eras who became Southeast Asia residents, notably maritime diaspora that included "Arabs" and increasing numbers of Chinese sojourners in the
eastern archipelago region.