MANILA, Philippines - The Chinese and we have long been in contact. An Arab ship is recorded as arriving in Guangzhou in 982 AD with goods from here and indeed, I recently caught the tail end of a TV documentary that retraced the route taken by a pre-Hispanic Chinese trading ship. It stopped in Palawan for birds' nests, in Sulu for pearls and in Northern Mindanao or Mindoro (I missed that part) for gold.
The Ming Annals refer to Luzon ("Liu-sung") and report visiting Filipino delegations in 1372 and 1408. Ming Dynasty Emperors dispatched a "treasure fleet" headed by Admiral Zheng He on seven expeditions from 1405 to 1433, each lasting one to three years. The fleet went as far as India, the Persian Gulf and East Africa and possibly passed Lingayen Gulf, Manila Bay, Mindoro and Sulu along the way.
Historian Carlos Quirino, in Philippine Cartography, cites Chu-fan-chih (1270s) by Chau Ju-Kua, sea trade superintendent of Fukien, as referring to: (a) Ma-yi, a generic word meaning archipelago but which is also thought to be Mindoro; and (b) Lin-hsin which could be Luzon.
The earliest Chinese maps were drawn during the Yuan Dynasty (1277-1367), e.g., "Complete terrestrial map," "Map depicting the spread of civilization" and "Map of the entire empire and frontier countries" that may have included the Philippines. The originals of these maps have apparently been lost but the contents were incorporated in later maps, e.g., "Map of barbarian countries in the southeast sea" of the 1550s. However, like early European maps, these tended to show islands and continents misplaced, misshapen or missing.
Go Bon Juan and Joaquin Sy, in The Philippines in Ancient Chinese Maps (Kaisa sa Kaunlaran) report among others, a Korean "Map of the entire empire and frontier [countries] ..." (1402, but based on even older Chinese maps) as including Ma-I or Ma-yi and San-shü, groups of islands in Luzon and the Visayas.
Japanese scholar Wada Sei concluded that these are Hermana Mayor off Zambales (Yin-li), Mindoro (Ma-I), the Visayas (San-hsü), and small islands near Palawan (Ts'i-feng and Sheng-shan). Other citations were Hai-chan-sü apparently meaning "Island of Aetas" and Ma-li-lu, believed to be Manila. San-hsü is literally "three islands" specified in other maps as Calamian, Busuanga and Paladin (Palawan?); and Camaya, Balayan and Bayalangit (in Luzon?).
During the Spanish Regime, China shipped massive quantities of silk, porcelain, etc. for the Galleon Trade (1565-1815). Logically, then, their maps would have included data from published European maps. "Map of Past and Present Topography" (1555) does not clearly show the Philippines. However, more and more places began appearing in Chinese maps of the 1600s, e.g., "Complete map of all nations" (1602) and "World observing map" (1603) that names Luzon, Felipina, Panama (Panay?), Mindanao, and Manihuanga.
Neither Quirino or Go and Sy mentioned any map so detailed as to include and call as Chinese "islands" the barely visible rocks at Scarborough Shoal. Now that one seems to have been found, let us hope that it does not also show Boracay as part of the Empire.
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