Published: July 9, 2010
Centuries before the Christian era, India was a land of flourishing cities and powerful kingdoms. One of these kingdoms–that of the Pallavas–became the dominant power in Southern India and the island of Ceylon (now Sri-Lanka). At the height of the Pallava power, it expanded overseas and established colonies in Indio-China, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Malaya, and other areas in Southeast Asia.
Then in the eighth century A.D., the kingdom of the Pallavas declined and finally crumbled. Out of the Pallava colonies in Malaysia emerged various Indianized states, notably the empire of Sri-Vijaya and then the Madjapahit Empire. By the fifth and sixth centuries, there were Indianized states in East Borneo, West Java, the east coast of Sumatra, central and southern Burma, and the valley of the Menam River in Thailand. The Muslim Malays who came to the Philippines were Indianized in culture, some of them being Indian converts. However, the Indian culture that they brought with them was very much overlaid by Islam.
Philippine relations with China started in the ninth century A.D. when Arab traders carried Philippine goods to the Chinese mainland through the port of Canton, in Southern China. During the 167-year rule of the Sung Dynasty in China (A.D. 960-1127), Chinese goods entered the Philippine archipelago in a continuous stream. As a result, Chinese influences entered the Philippine coastal areas and spread into the interior. During the reign of the great Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), Chinese influence farther spread into the inner regions of the country.
China gained control of the Philippine trade when the Ming emperor Yung Lo (A.D. 1402-1424), sent a fleet of over sixty vessels to the Philippine archipelago under the command of Admiral Cheng Ho. The fleet visited Lingayen, Manila Bay, Mindoro, and Sulu. For a short period, Yung Lo even tried to rule over Luzon and sent Ko Cha-lao to the island as governor. With the death of Yung Lo in A.D. 1424, however, his attempt to rule Luzon came to an end. By then important Chinese influences were gained a permanent foothold in the Philippines. Many words referring to Chinese cooking and trade are found in the Phlippine languages. Philippine folks believe that crocodiles and large snakes are beneficial dragons of Chinese origin.
In the fifteenth century when Islam reached the souther Philippines through some fierce Arabs, the Chinese traders suffered a setback and sought new trading posts to those parts of the country where Islam had not yet gained foothold. Later, however, the Chinese were allowed to trade with the areas under the influence of the Arab traders.