[Talk] Boxer Codex: A plan to invade Siam

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A lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 12 July.

Boxer Codex: A plan to invade Siam
A Talk by John Silva

The sumptuously illustrated 16th century Boxer Codex, with close to 100 images on rice paper featuring the people of the Pacific, Asia and Southeast Asia is the first known illustrated manuscript of the region.
The Orientalist Charles Boxer had acquired the manuscript in 1947 at an auction in England, and despite Boxer’s naming it as “Manila Manuscript” (its printing attributed to the Chinese-Filipino printer Keng Yong or Juan de Vera) his colleagues would name the codex after him.

Ever since the acquisition, no complete and modern transcription, editing and annotation of the whole manuscript was done until this new book printed by the Vibal Foundation of the Philippines in 2016 to commemorate the coming 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Spanish on Philippine shores.
Philippine historian Carlos Quirino in the 1950’s worked on the Philippine section of the Codex and for Filipinos, accompanying images of Filipino tribes, richly adorned in gold changed local perceptions of pre-Spanish past and instead, instilled pride and identification.

But it is the complete transcription, Massachusetts. He is an author and contributor to various Philippine and international translation and annotation of this publication written in the modern understandable style, covering the chosen kingdoms, groupings and tribes of Asia, plus two very important end letters attached and addressed to the then Spanish King Philip II which draws our attention and is the subject of this talk.

The finery drawn showed native wealth, the treasures that abound, the descriptions of fortifications and sailing routes, the local conflicts, all lead up to the end letters (from the Portuguese Bishop of Malacca and the Spanish Governor General of Manila) urging King Philip to invade Siam and, from there complete the conquest of neighboring kingdoms including China and Japan. In addition, Manila would become the Vice-Royalty for Spain in the east to administer the conquered areas.

Several events scuttled the conquest plans and the Boxer Codex is appreciated today as a late 16th century pristine manuscript capturing a visual and literary slice of life of the peoples of Asia.

Mr. John L. Silva is the Executive Director of the Ortigas Library in the Philippines. The private Library has extensive rare books, maps, prints, and vintage photographs of the Philippines and is open to the general public. Mr. Silva received his M.A. in Philippine-American Studies from Goddard Cambridge in publications.

Source: The Siam Society

Cockatoo in medieval text reveals extent of East-West trade in the 13th century

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Cockatoo drawings in a 13th century Vatican manuscript reveal the extent of the global trade network of the period: cockatoos are native to eastern Island Southeast Asia and Australia, and the manuscript refers to a gift of a yellow-crested cockatoo to Frederick II from the Sultan of Egypt al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil.

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s Australasian cockatoo: Symbol of detente between East and West and evidence of the Ayyubids’ global reach

Frederick II of Sicily made contact with the Kurdish al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil in 1217 – a year before al-Malik became sultan of Egypt. The two rulers communicated regularly over the following twenty years, exchanging letters, books and rare and exotic animals. The focus of this article is the Sulphur-crested or Yellow-crested Cockatoo the sultan sent Frederick. A written description and four sketches of this parrot survive in a mid thirteenth-century manuscript in the Vatican Library. This article reviews these images, revealing that Australasian cockatoos were present in the Middle East in the medieval period and exploring how and why one reached Europe in the mid thirteenth century.

Source: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s Australasian cockatoo: Symbol of detente between East and West and evidence of the Ayyubids’ global reach | Parergon

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Preserving literary heritage

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via Bangkok Post, 09 April 2018: Digitisation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project

At Wat Sung Men in Phrae province, monks and a dozen local villagers are busy scanning the temple’s old manuscripts into a computer. The same activity, in fact, is happening at several temples in the North, including Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong in Chiang Mai as well as others in Lamphun and Nan. Initiated by a German professor, the novel efforts of digitising and conserving ancient manuscripts have caught on with enthusiasm among locals.

Source: Preserving literary heritage

Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project launched by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X

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via The British Library Asian and African studies blog, 21 March 2018:

The 75 Javanese manuscripts to be digitised include 70 known or believed to have been taken by British troops following an armed assault on the Palace (Kraton) of Yogyakarta in June 1812 by forces under the command of the Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, as well as five other related manuscripts. The manuscripts primarily comprise works on Javanese history, literature and ethics, Islamic stories and compilations of wayang (shadow theatre) tales, as well as court papers, written in Javanese in both Javanese characters (hanacaraka) and in modified Arabic script (pegon), on European and locally-made Javanese paper (dluwang). Some of these manuscripts are by now well known, such as the Babad bedah ing Ngayogyakarta, Add. 12330, a personal account by Pangéran Arya Panular (ca. 1771-1826) of the British attack on the Kraton and its aftermath, published by Peter Carey (1992), and the Babad ing Sangkala, ‘Chronogram chronicle’, MSS Jav 36(B), dated 1738 and identified by Merle Ricklefs (1978) as the oldest surviving original copy of a Javanese chronicle so far known. Peter Carey (1980 & 2000) has also published the Archive of Yogyakarta, two volumes of court documents, correspondence and legal papers. However, many of the other manuscripts have never been published.

Source: Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project launched by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X

Palm leaves to tablet as Lao manuscripts go online

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via ANN, 15 Feb 2018: The Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts is online and more accessible than ever.

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) – The nation’s heritage of palm leaf manuscripts is now available for everyone to read free of charge via their computer, tablet or mobile phone, Director of the National Library of Laos (NLL), Khanthamaly Yangnouvong said recently.

Source: Palm leaves to tablet as Lao manuscripts go online

Was Cambodia home to Asia’s ancient ‘Land of Gold’?

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via Phnom Penh Post, 5 January 2018: An inscription on a Cambodian tablet names it as the Land of Gold. But, many places in Southeast Asia also claim the name of Suvarnabhumi.

The location of the fabled realm of Suvarnabhumi is shrouded in mystery. A Cambodian scholar believes an inscription on a stone tablet provides compelling evidence that it was in the Kingdom — but he is far from the first person to make the claim for their own country.

Source: Was Cambodia home to Asia’s ancient ‘Land of Gold’?

Categories: Cambodia Epigraphy

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