Chapter 7

Palembang Sumatra (San Fotsi)

Activity Method
Trade Silver bullion

Sumatra 三佛齊 is between Cambodia and Java. Its territory is over 15 chou provinces.

It is far south of Fujian, China and is reached in the winter by going with the monsoon for over a month, then come to Linga island (Lingyamon) where 1/3 of the passing merchants go before entering Palembang, Sumatra.

Many of the people here surnamed Pu. The capital’s walls are built of bricks and measures several li around.

When the king goes out, he sits in a boat. His body has a manpu wrapped around it.

He is sheltered by a silk umbrella and is guarded by by men with golden lances.

The people either live scattered about outside the city, or on the water of boards covered over with reeds. These are exempt from taxation.

They are skilled at fighting on land or water.

When they are about to make war on another state, they assemble and send forth such a force as the occasion demands. They (then) appoint chiefs and leaders, and all provide their own military equipment and the necessary provisions.

In facing the enemy and braving death, they do not have any equals in other nations.

They use chopped-of lumps of silver in their business transactions instead of stringed copper cash.

During most of the year the climate is hot. There is but little cold weather.

Their domestic animals are very much like those of China.

They have wine of coconuts, and wine of areca nuts and honey, all fermented and intoxicating, though without yeast.

In writing official documents, they use foreign characters, and the king’s signet is used as a seal.

  • They also know Chinese characters which they use in sending memorials to (our) court.

The laws of Sumatra are very severe. Adultery exposes man and woman to death.

When the king dies, the common people mourn by shaving their heads. His personal followers choose voluntary death by leaping into the blazing pyre. This is called diving and dying together.

They have a kind of image called Hill of Gold and Silver, cast in gold.

Each succeeding king before ascending the throne has cast a golden image to represent his person. They are most particular to make offerings of golden vessels to these images.

  • The golden images and golden vessels all bear inscriptions to caution future generations not to melt them down.

When anyone is dangerously ill, the king distributes his weight in silver among the poor. This is thought to delay death.

They call their king Lungtsing.

  • He cannot eat grain, but is fed on shahu.
  • Should he do otherwise, the year would be a dry one and grain dear.

He also bathes in rose-water.

  • If he uses ordinary water, there would be a great flood.

The king has a high hat of gold, set with hundreds of jewels and very heavy.

At great court ceremonies, only the king is able to wear it.

When the throne becomes vacant, the king’s sons are assembled.

  • The cap is handed them
  • he who can bear its weight succeeds to the throne.

This country has an old tradition that the ground in once suddenly gaped open and out of the cavern came many myriads of cattle, which rushed off in herds into the mountains, though the people tried to catch them for food.

Afterwards, the crevice got stopped up with bamboo and trees and disappeared.

Their native products are:

  • tortoise-shell
  • camphor
  • the chon, su, and chan (varieties of gharu-wood)
  • a coarse
  • laka-wood
  • cloves
  • sandal-wood
  • cardamoms

They sell Arab products:

  • pearls
  • frankincense
  • rose-water
  • gardenia flowers
  • wu-na-tsi
  • myrrh
  • aloes
  • asofoetida
  • putchuk
  • elephants’ tusks
  • coral-trees
  • cat’s-eyes
  • liquid amber
  • foreign cotton stuffs
  • sword blades
  • liquid storax

For these, the foreign traders exchange:

  • gold
  • silver
  • porcelain-ware
  • silk brocades
  • skeins of silk
  • silk gauzes
  • sugar
  • iron
  • samshu
  • rice
  • dried galangal
  • rhubarb
  • camphor

Sumatra is in the ocean controlling the straits through which the foreigners’ sea and land traffic in either direction must pass.

  • Anciently, they used an iron chain as a barrier to keep the pirates of other countries in check.

It could be raised or lowered by a cunning device.

If a merchant ship arrived, it was lowered. After many years of peace, there was no use for it so it was removed and now lies coiled up on the shore.

The natives revere it like a god. Vessels coming there sacrifice to it. When rubbed with oil, it shines like new.

If a merchant ship passes by without entering, their boats go forth to make a combined suicidal attack. This is why it is a great shipping centre

Its dependencies are:

  • Thailand:

    • Tanmaling
    • Jiloting
    • Tsienmai
    • Pata
    • Kialohi
    • Palinfong
  • Malaysia:

    • Kedah (Lingyassikia)
    • Patalung (Foloan)
    • Pahang (Pongfong)
    • Trengganu (Tongyanong)
    • Kelantan
  • Sunda

  • Kienpi

  • Lanwuli

  • Sri lanka

Sumatra had relations with China since the Tang empire from 904-907. It sent tribute 3 times from 960-963.

It was invaded by Java in 992 and asked for an Imperial manifesto authorizing it to render obedience.

In 1003, a Buddhist temple was built in Malaysia to pray for the Emperor’s life. They asked for a name and a bell be given to it. The Chinese emperor approved and ordered that Chong-fien-wan-shou should be the name of the temple, and also gave it a bell.

From 1004-1022 and 1078-1094, it sent tribute missions.

To its east is the Jung-ya-lu (Chung-kia-lu).


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