Monday, June 18, 2007

On the Kingdom of Malacca: Part I

We learned quite a great deal about Malacca in secondary school. We were taught, for examples, that Malacca was a great seaport during the 15th century which has attracted a lot of people to do business there, that the founder of this kingdom is an Indonesian prince called Parameswara, that Tun Perak is a wise prime minister, and so on. However, the standard history textbook pays extremely little attention on the connection between Malacca and China, despite the fact that Malacca is intricately related to Ming China.

In 1403, Zhu Di (朱棣) became the third emperor of Ming Dynasty. One of the important decisions he made almost immediately after he ascended to the throne was to order a series of marine expeditions to the Indian Ocean. This famous series of expedition is, as you might already know, led by a muslim eunuch named Zheng He (郑和).

In October 1403, Zhu Di sent friendship emissaries to a lot of foreign countries. A eunuch named Yin Qing (尹庆) was sent to Malacca (满剌加), bringing with him silk embroided with golden threads as gift. This is clearly recorded in Chapter 325 of the History of Ming (明史:卷三百二十五):

永乐元年十月遣中官尹庆使其地,赐以织金文绮、销金帐幔诸物。其地无王,亦不称国,服属暹罗,岁输金四十两为赋。庆至,宣示威德及招徠之意。其酋拜里迷苏剌大喜,遣使随庆入朝贡方物,三年九月至京师。帝嘉之,封为满剌加国王,赐诰印、彩币、袭衣、黄盖,复命庆往。
During that time, Parameswara did not formally proclaim himself as king as Malacca was still a protectorate of Siam. Each year, he need to pay tribute (1.5 kg of gold) to Siam. With the arrival of Yin Qing, Parameswara quickly saw this as an opportunity to initiate good relationship with Ming China. And Parameswara's envoys were carried by Yin Qing's fleets and they reached Nanjing in 1405. With the royal seals, colorful coins, royal garments, and yellow umbrellas confered to Parameswara, he was formally elevated to the King of Malacca in 1405 by Zhu Di.

Between 1409-1411, Zheng He embarked on his third expedition to the Indian Ocean. This time, the important guests he fetched to Nanjing were Parameswara, his wives, and his ministers, totaling to about 540 peoples. When they reached the ourskirt of Nanjing, Parameswara was welcomed by the eunuch Hai Shou (海寿), a Rites Ministry officer named Huang Shang (黄裳), and others.

五年九月遣使入贡。明年,郑和使其国,旋入贡。九年,其王率妻子陪臣五百四十余人来朝。抵近郊,命中官海寿、礼部郎中黄裳等宴劳,有司供张会同馆。
Later in August 14, 1411, Parameswara met Zhu Di in the capital city, where he received many precious gifts from the Ming Emperor.

入朝奉天殿,帝亲宴之,妃以下宴他所。光禄日致牲牢上尊,赐王金绣龙衣二袭、麒麟衣一袭,金银器、帷幔衾衤周悉具,妃以下皆有赐。将归,赐王玉带、仪仗、鞍马,赐妃冠服。濒行,赐宴奉天门,再赐玉带、仪仗、鞍马、黄金百、白金五百、. . .
In October 5, 1414, Zhu Di met Megat Iskandar Shah, the son of Parameswara, in Beijing, where he was informed of the death of Parameswara. And Megat was made the new king of Malacca.

十二年,王子母干撒于的儿沙来朝,告其父讣。即命袭封,赐金币。
It is highly probable that old Parameswara was ill after his trip from China and passed away sometime between 1413 and 1414. (the sea journey was at least 10 days between Nanjing and Malacca: 满剌加,在占城南。顺风八日至龙牙门,又西行二日即至。)

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