The Many Places of Singapura – Part 2

We saw in the first installment of The Many Places of Singapura that the ‘Lion City’ (Singha-Pura) first existed in central Vietnam from the 4th to 9th century. In this installment, we’ll talk about two other “potential” places.

We saw in the first installment of The Many Places of Singapura that the ‘Lion City’ (Singha-Pura) first existed in central Vietnam from the 4th to 9th century. In this installment, we’ll talk about two other “potential” places. We’ll call them potential for now because while they were identified in the email discussion, I haven’t been able to find any explicit evidence of Singapura/Singhapura in the literature that I have. These two places were the kingdom of Chi Tu in 7th century Malay Peninsula, and in 14th-15th century Western and Northern Java which is likely to be the kingdom of Pajajaran. So with the lack of any direct references to “Lion Cities”, let’s get two know more about these two kingdoms:

Chi Tu, 7th century

Chi Tu

Not much is known about this kingdom of Chi Tu, and even its location is subject to conjecture. Chi Tu is mentioned in the annals of the Chinese Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), and from its description the kingdom lay on the eastern side of the Thai-Malay peninsula, anywhere between Songkhla in Thailand down to Pahang in Malaysia. The general consensus is that it lay in the region of Kelantan. The name literally Chi Tu refers to ‘red earth’, presumably used to describe the kingdom’s terrain. A 5th century Sanskrit inscription found in Kedah also mentions a land called Raktamrtikka, meaning the same red earth, and are both thought to refer to the same place.

Pajajaran, 14th century

Pajajaran

Fast-forwarding 700 years, the next potential Singapura is said to be in the vicinity of Cirebon, in northern Java during the 14th century. At this time, Cirebon was represented the easternmost boundary of the kingdom of Pajajaran, which was founded in 1333. This Sundanese kingdom controlled much of what was Western and Northern Java during the 14th and 16thcenturies, and was a next-door neighbour to the Majapahit. The Pararaton (the Javanese book of kings describing the rulers of the Majapahit kingdom) mentions an episode about the King of Sunda – equated with Pajajaran – and a botched attempt of a political marriage which led to bloodshed.

Could the kingdoms of Chi Tu and Pajajaran both have cities or places named Singapura? We can’t know for sure – for now. But let me say for now that both kingdoms followed a syncretic mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. In Chi Tu, it was noted that the Buddha was worshipped, but Brahmans were held in high regard. Portuguese accounts of Pajajaran in the 16th century noted that the religion was a mix of Hindu and Buddhist. Thus, a locale named “Singha-pura” would not be out of place.

That’s enough conjecture for now, there is one more Singapura to go – and this time it’s a real place still in existence (that’s a no-brainer giveaway!) But you’ll have to wait for part 3 of The Many Places of Singapura…

Related Books:
Two main books I referred to for this post –
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
– And the chapters on “Classical cultures of Indonesia” and “Early Maritime Polities” in Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by I. Glover and P. S. Bellwood (Eds)

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

2 thoughts on “The Many Places of Singapura – Part 2”

  1. In the ancient chronicle Mahavamsa which depicts the history of the Sinhala race, there is reference to King Parakramabahu ‘s kingdom during the 14th century to have spread even as far as the Malay peninsula. The presence of Buddhism in the peninsula may confirm this position. It is even more interesting to note that the word “Sinhapura” is directly from the Sinhala language and translated it means “Lion” for “Sinha” and “City ” for “Pura”, Lion City!

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