Call for Papers: Conference on ‘Islam in the China Seas’

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Organized by the Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

March 26-27, 2018 (Mon & Tues)
Hong Kong

A vital passage between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the South China Sea, has historically been an arena of competition, as nations and empires have vied for hegemonic control over it for centuries. Tensions in the area have steadily risen in recent years and a maritime military buildup currently demands world attention as a flashpoint of geopolitical jockeying among regional and global powers. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have all staked claims to parts of this strategic and resource-rich basin, while the United States also seeks to protect its far-reaching interests there.

Long before the current geopolitical conflicts, the South China Sea was already a center of international commerce, comparable to the Mediterranean as a conduit of wealth and a melting pot of cultures, where both goods and ideas were exchanged. Commodities and technologies from the Indian and Chinese civilizational spheres were freely transmitted, and transported as far afield as Africa and Japan. Among the cultural cargo, religious teachings were also trafficked along the ancient maritime trade routes. Arab and Iranian merchants from the Persian Gulf had long participated in Indian Ocean trade, and eventually penetrated the Malacca Straits into the South China Sea. Starting in the late 7th century, after the establishment of Islam in Arabia, Muslim seafaring traders continued this tradition.

Thus, Islam spread into the China Seas via the so-called maritime extension of the Silk Road, and from there it reached the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland, as well as the peninsulas and archipelagos of Southeast Asia, and beyond. This conference aims to explore the historical, geographic, economic, social, political, cultural and religious contexts of the introduction and development of Islam in the greater China Seas region, from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Topics of research will include: trade and religious dissemination; Muslim settlement in the China Seas region; the introduction and spread of Islam in South China; Islamisation, assimilation and indigenization; and Muslims’ role in the spread of Chinese regional influence, among others. Such research represents an important component of the international and intercultural understanding underlying the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Dates: March 26-27, 2018 (Mon and Tues)

Submission of Abstracts:

An abstract of not more than 350 words should be submitted, with a short CV, to csic@cuhk.edu.hk before Friday, 1 December 2017. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by Friday, 29 December 2017.

Language: English and Chinese

Contact information: For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Ms Asiah Yang at csic@cuhk.edu.hk.

Hosting Institution: Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

About our center: http://cuhk.edu.hk/rih/csic/

Contact Info:

For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Ms Asiah Yang at csic@cuhk.edu.hk.
Contact Email: csic@cuhk.edu.hk
URL: http://cuhk.edu.hk/rih/csic/

Bali’s first mosque

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Bali's oldest mosque in Klungkung. Source: Jakarta Post 20160630

A feature on the oldest mosque in Bali, believed to be established during the Majapahit period.

Bali's oldest mosque in Klungkung. Source: Jakarta Post 20160630

Bali’s oldest mosque in Klungkung. Source: Jakarta Post 20160630

The earliest mosque on the Island of the Gods
Jakarta Post, 30 June 2016

Rusiah and other local residents believe that their ancestors were a group of 40 courtiers sent by King
Hayam Wuruk from the Majapahit Kingdom and that they were among East Java’s first Muslim converts.

Led by the only woman in the group, Dewi Fatima, the 40 converts formed an entourage for Gelgel’s king, I Ketut Nglisir, following his visit to Majapahit.

Village head Sahidin claims he is the direct descendant of those 40 courtiers, like many others in the village.

“The Gelgel king was invited to visit Majapahit in East Java. For his return journey, Hayam Wuruk ordered 40 Muslims from East Java to escort the king […] When they arrived here, because of their good behavior toward the king and his kingdom, they were invited to stay,” said Sahidin.

King Nglisir then awarded the new Islamic community several hectares of land just 500 meters to the south of his palace in Gelgel.

Full story here.

Public Lecture: The Tombstones of Lamreh (Ancient Lamri)

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Dr. E. Edwards McKinnon at ISEAS.

The Tombstones of Lamreh (Ancient Lamri): Their relevance to the arrival of Islam according to the Sejarah Melayu
Venue: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore
Date: 4 March 2015

The Lamreh headland adjacent to the Krueng Raya bay in Aceh Besar regency, Aceh province of Indonesia, known locally as Ujong Batee Kapai or the Ship-rock headland is one of the most important early Islamic settlement sites in northern Sumatra. The headland, some 300 ha in extent and the site of an ancient harbour has recently proved to have been devastated by one, if not two, pre-modern tsunamis and is a mediaeval settlement marked by numerous Islamic grave markers. The Lamreh site may be related to the Lan-li or Lan-wu-li of mediaeval Chinese texts, and in all probability the Chola ‘Ilamuridesam’ of the 11th century Tanjore inscription.

Attention to a sadly neglected burial ground at Lubhok was initiated by an Indonesian archaeological research team in 1996. The author was fortunate in being able to visit the headland site shortly after the Indonesian visit and discover an extensive cultural landscape which at that time was still largely intact. Two distinct types of grave marker, a small, plain proto-batu Aceh and a distinct so-called plang pleng tradition are to be found there. These grave markers and similar stones at three other contemporary coastal sites, Aru, Perlak and Samudera Pase, are seemingly of some importance in considering the legend of the arrival of Islam in the Sejarah Melayu and may help in understanding the arrival of Islam in the Aceh region.

The occurrence of the plang pleng tombstones that are found only in a very limited geographical area, may reflect the presence of a South Asian trading organization that had links to Sri Lanka, to Ayudhaya and to Quanzhou in south China in the 14th and 15th centuries. The plang pleng burial tradition seemingly disappears with the rise of the new sultanate in the late 15th or early 16th centuries.

More details and registration here.

Some of the earliest evidence for Islam in Southeast Asia

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A beach strewn with Islamic tombstones in Indonesia’s Acheh province, uncovered the devastating 2004 tsunami, shed light on the spread of Islam into the region. The tombstones date as early as the 10th century and are some of the earliest evidence for the spread of the religion into Southeast Asia.

Aceh tombstones hint Islam spread to S.E. Asia 3 centuries earlier
Kyodo News, 16 October 2009
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Public Lecture: From Indigenous to Islamic law: Jambi between the 14th and 18th Century by Dr Uli Kozok

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From the National University of Singapore Asia Research Institute:

From Indigenous to Islamic law: Jambi between the 14th and 18th Century by Dr Uli Kozok
Date: 10 Jan 2008
Time: 4 – 5.30 pm
Venue: ARI Seminar Room, 469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, National University of Singapore @ BTC
Organisers: Dr MILLER Michelle, Jointly organized with the Department of Malay Studies, NUS

Abstract
The 14th century manuscript from the village of Tanjung Tanah, Kerinci (Jambi), which is still partly written in an Sanskritised idiom, was issued by the Maharaja of Dharmasraya, the former capital of the Malayu kingdom, to provide the “chiefs of the land of Kerinci” with a code of law. This manuscript, still written in an Old Sumatran script on bark paper, was a few centuries later reissued by the Sultan of Jambi, but this time on paper and in Arabic-Malay script. The two manuscripts, both in the possession of the same family in Tanjung Tanah, does not only give us interesting insights into the changes that the Malay language underwent from the 14th to the 18th century, but also into how the arrival of Islam influenced the legal system of a Sumatran Malay polity.

About the Speaker
1989 MA, 1994 PhD Austronesian Languages and Cultures, Hamburg University. 1994-2001 Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland, 2001- Associate Professor, University of Hawaii (Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures). Main interests comprise Sumatran philology, palaeography of Island Southeast Asia, distance education.

Registration
We would gratefully request that you RSVP to Ms Alyson Rozells at 65168787 or e-mail her at ariaar@nus.edu.sg.

Selections, October 2007

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A selection of archaeology-related books, new to the catalogue of Select Books, a specialised publisher and retailer of books pertaining to Southeast Asia. For ordering info, please visit the Select Books website.

042271
Archaeology Of Asia. Stark, Miriam, T. (ed.). Gb. 2006. 364pp. pb $71.64 (This introduction to the archaeology of Asia, written for the undergraduate, focuses on case studies from the region’s last 10,000 years of history. Comprising 15 chapters written by some of the world’s foremost Asia archaeologists, this book sheds light on many of the most compelling aspects of Asian archaeology, from the earliest plant and animal domestication to the emergence of states and empires from Pakistan to North China. In particular, the contributors explore issues of cross-cultural significance, such as migration, ethnicity, urbanism, and technology, challenging readers to think beyond national and regional boundaries. In doing so, they draw on original research data and synthesize work previously unavailable to western readers. Index.)

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Coming soon to a cinema near you: Cheng Ho the movie!

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15 August 2007 (Antara, Bernama) – An epic TV series based on the life of the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He), starring no less than two former Indonesian ministers! Yes, that’s the gist of the two headlines about the Cheng Ho seried currently being filmed in Bangkok. The series is a joint production between six ASEAN nations and the two ministers involved play the lead of Cheng Ho as well as an unnamed Majapahit king. Cheng Ho is somewhat of an ancient celebrity in Southeast Asia, a Muslim eunuch who commanded “treasure fleets” and travelled as far as East Africa in search of new territories and tributes. One report says that the drama is intended to reveal how Cheng Ho helped to bring Islam to Indonesia – I’m not sure how big a role Cheng Ho actually played as I am given to believe that the spread of Islam in the region was more of a result of the influence of Arab traders and sufis operating in the region.

Ex-minister plays Admiral Cheng Ho in ASEAN film

Prof. Yusril Ihza Mahendra, former minister/state secretary, is currently in Bangkok for shooting a drama colossal film on Admiral Cheng Ho.

Yusril played the role as Admiral Cheng Ho in the film jointly produced by six member countries of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).

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The ancient script of Southeast Asia – Part 2

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In this second part of the Ancient Script of Southeast Asia (click here for part 1), we’ll explore two more exhibits from the Aksara: The Passage of Malay Scripts exhibition at the National Library of Singapore. These two pieces are from Terengganu in Malaysia, and Java in Indonesia.

The first exhibit, the Terengganu Scripted Stone, stands at the mouth entrance between the Sacred Writings gallery and the Islamic gallery. Anyone who’s visited the Terengannu State Museum (where the original sits) or the National History Museum in Kuala Lumpur would instantly recognise this Terengganu Stone. I hear it also features in the Malaysian history textbooks as well.

Discovered in the late 19th century, the Terengganu Inscribed Stone, or Batu Bersurat, dates to the 14th century and is the oldest evidence for Islam in Malaysia. The script used is Jawi while the language is Malay, and the inscription describes a set of Islamic laws, as well as proclaiming Islam as the state religion. As to which state this may be remains unclear – the region of Terengganu was known to be under the influence of Srivijaya as late as the 13th century, while the Terengganu Sultanate only dates as far back as the 18th century. The stone is inscribed on four sides, although it probably would have been larger – as you can guess, the top portion of the stone has been broken off and is probably lost for all time…

I was surprised that these “venetian blinds” were not mentioned in the exhibition guidebook. While they may look like a set of ancient venetian blinds, they are actually a collected set of palm leaves on which a Balinese script is written. This is the Pararaton, or the Javanese Book of Kings, which is on loan from the National Library of Indonesia. Given that the Pararaton was written in palm leaves, I was surprised to see a copy in such good condition.

Here’s a closer look at the Pararaton and the Balinese script. As one can guess from the name, the Javanese Book of Kings describes the events during the rule of the kings of the Singosari kngdom and Majapahit Empire which was centred in Java. Although the date of this particular copy is unknown, the Pararaton was first written at the end of the 15th century. Like its Malay counterpart the Sejarah Melayu (the Malay Annals), the Pararaton is a mix of myth, legend and historical events, which make some of its contents suspect when using it as a source for historical events. Unlike the Malay Annals, the Pararaton is made more difficult to read accurately because the record of kings and nobility mentioned in it are referred to by title rather than name!

Singapore Stone - from National Archives of Singapore Strangely enough, the Aksara exhibition did not feature the only ancient inscription from Singapore: the Singapore Stone. The Singapore Stone is a sad page from the local book of archaeology: this inscribed boulder once stood at the mouth of the Singapore River and may have potentially been the very same stone mentioned in the Malay Annals, but early in Singapore’s modern history, the British decided to blow up the stone in order to widen the mouth of the Singapore river. Only fragments of the stone remain, one of which is exhibited in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Singapre and to this date remains undeciphered.

Well, these are only some of the highlights from the Aksara: The Passage of Malay Scripts exhibition going on at the Singapore National Library. I’ve only chosen to focus on some of the ancient inscriptions, and there are many more ancient examples of writing, as well as galleries featuring other Malay writings in more modern times. The exhibition finishes its run at the end of this month, so if you’re in Singapore, don’t miss this opportunity to catch it! Go now before it’s too late! (And don’t forget to catch the Saturday guided tours at noon and 1 pm!)

SEAArch would like to thank the National Library Board, Singapore for the permission to take photographs in this exhibition.
Books featuring ancient Southeast Asian scripts and inscriptions:
Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists by E. A. Bacus, I. Glover and V. C. Pigott (Eds)
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
The Pararaton by I Gusti Putu Phalgunadi