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Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea 1300-1800

John Miksic

Publication Year: 2013

Beneath the modern skyscrapers of Singapore lie the remains of a much older trading port, prosperous and cosmopolitan and a key node in the maritime Silk Road. This book synthesizes 25 years of archaeological research to reconstruct the 14th-century port of Singapore in greater detail than is possible for any other early Southeast Asian city. The picture that emerges is of a port where people processed raw materials, used money, and had specialized occupations. Within its defensive wall, the city was well organized and prosperous, with a cosmopolitan population that included residents from China, other parts of Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Fully illustrated, with more than 300 maps and colour photos, Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea presents Singapore's history in the context of Asia's long-distance maritime trade in the years between 1300 and 1800: it amounts to a dramatic new understanding of Singapore's precolonial past.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-3


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pp. iv-vi

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p. vii-vii

This publication, Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300?1800, by Dr. John N. Miksic is the outcome of a partnership between the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) and the National University of Singapore Press (NUS Press). The NMS has been actively involved in supporting archaeo-logical excavations undertaken in Singapore in recent decades. Some artefacts excavated with support from the NMS are on permanent display in the NMS? In retrospect, the singular contribution of archaeology in the Singapore ...

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pp. viii-ix

I would like to acknowledge many people who have contributed to archaeological research in Singapore since 1984, and apologize that I cannot name all of them here. In total, about 1,000 volunteers have contributed to the accumulation of data summarized in this book. I have chosen a few specific names to represent the whole community of Singapore archaeological...


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pp. x-xii

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Introduction - The Archaeology of Singapore: Forgotten Hints

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pp. 1-24

If the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, and the Java Sea are the arteries of Asian sea trade, the Straits of Melaka is its heart. Commerce has flowed steadily through these arteries for more than 2,000 years. This introduction will show how an ancient maritime trade network evolved in Southeast Asia and gradu-ally spread westward to India and eastward to China, forming an immense network linking millions of people spread along a coastline measuring more than 10,000 Several names have been suggested for this seaborne network. In this book, ...

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Chapter 1: The Three Seas of the Southern Ocean

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pp. 25-56

Some 4,000 years ago, many Southeast Asians lived in villages connected by trading networks in which items travelled hundreds of kilometres (Higham 1989: 307). Archaeologists have found evidence that people in prehistoric Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam traded with India and China. Although no written sources describe prehistoric Southeast Asia, archaeological research shows that local sailors had developed a high degree of nautical expertise in the waters of the South China Sea and adjacent areas 2,500 years ago, enabling ...

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Chapter 2: The Rise of the Island Empires

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pp. 57-92

...2.00 Kedah Peak, seen from the south. Important archaeological sites, including Sungai Mas, the Bujang Valley, and the Merbok Estuary, lie at the mountain?s foot.No sites of port comparable in age and complexity to Oc-?o or Khao Sam Kaeo have yet been found in the Straits of Melaka. During the course of the seventh century, three major developments brought major changes to the Silk Road of the Sea: China was reunited under the Tang Dynasty, Funan faded from the scene, and a new group of maritime trading kingdoms emerged in ...

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Chapter 3: From the Fall of Srivijaya to the Rise of Singapore

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pp. 93-144

Chinese documents from the early tenth century record that Sumatra and Java were constantly at war with one another. Java then experienced a major disaster, pralaya in Javanese, between AD 919 and 929. The inscrip-tions are typically reticent about revealing the details of the event, but a Srivijayan invasion is one possibility. Although the results of the disaster included the transfer of the Javanese capital to the eastern hinterland and a halt to the building of monumental architecture that lasted for four centuries, trade continued to flow ...

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Chapter 4: Singapore's Ancient History, 1299-1604

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pp. 145-208

Genealogies were important documents in most early Southeast Asian kingdoms. Despite the lack of strong lineage organizations, Southeast Asian societies stressed the idea that rulers should be descendants of previous rulers and that kingship was marked by ?white blood?. The most impor-tant ancient Malay book?known in English as the Malay Annals, in Arabic as the Sulalatu?s Salatin, and in Malay as the Sejarah Melayu?is a collection of stories 4.00 A British map of 1709 made during a survey of water depths in the passage through the ...

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Chapter 5 - Archaeology in Singapore: History and Interpretation

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pp. 209-264

On 3 February 1822, while in transit during a diplomatic mission in Siam, John Crawfurd took a morning stroll around the perimeter of an ancient city. Starting at the mouth of the Singapore River, he walked north along a sandy beach, now the seaward side of the Padang, until he came to the Freshwater Stream (Buckley 1984: 123?4). The mouth of the creek can no longer be seen; it has been paved over. However an iron plaque commemorating a bridge which formerly spanned it is still visible on the north side of Stamford ...

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Chapter 6: Products of Ancient Singapore

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pp. 265-288

...6.00 Modern potter at Galogandang village, West Sumatra, using tatap (a paddle) and pelandas (an anvil), which are identical to implements used in fourteenth-century Singapore.It is difficult to put ancient Singapore in its proper context because we have no comparable data from other sites in Southeast Asia. Was Singapore larger or smaller than other Asian cities of its time? Wealthier or poorer? Busier or quieter? Until more sites of this period are located and subjected to similarly inten-sive and systematic research, we cannot answer these questions. A quarter-century ...

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Chapter 7: Singaporean Imports of the Fourteenth-Sixteenth Centuries

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pp. 289-324

...7.00 Early Ming Dynasty blue and white dish with an image of a scholar, EMPThe fourteenth-century artifacts found in Singapore are almost evenly divided between locally made items and imports. Singapore imported raw materials which were converted into finished products, some of which (such as the bronze and copper fishhooks) were probably reexported to nearby areas. Singapore also probably acted as a transfer port for cargoes from India and China which were reexported to nearby areas in the Malay Peninsula and ...

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Chapter 8 - Beyond Ceramics: Metal, Coins, and Glassware

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pp. 325-352

Both Singapore societies of the fourteenth century?the unsavoury pirates of the Dragons? Tooth Strait and the honest merchants of Pancur?coveted many imported products in addition to Chinese ceramics. Due to differen-tial preservation, most archaeological data comes from ceramics. The few written records indicate that commerce along the Silk Road of the Sea included a broad range of items, few of which survive in archaeological deposits. Chinese products which Wang Dayuan said were saleable in Longya men included red gold, blue ...

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Chapter 9: Temasik's Partners in Java, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and India

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pp. 353-366

Among Temasik?s external connections, those with China are the best-docu-mented, both in writing and in terms of artifacts. The huge quantity of imports from China among the archaeological discoveries in Singapore suggests that the China trade played a prominent role in the life of this fourteenth-century port-city. One must however exercise a degree of caution in interpreting the archaeological data; the picture is distorted to an unknown degree by the fact that Chinese exports consisted of durable items such as pottery, metal, and glass, ...

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Chapter 10: Singapore and Riau

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pp. 367-388

According to Tom? Pires, southeast Sumatra was termed Tanah Melayu, ?Malay Land?, in the early sixteenth century. However, instead of looking to Sumatra when the Portuguese attacked, the Melakans sent their only call for help to Riau, fief of the laksamana and the source of the Sultan?s seafaring manpower. Some people from Palembang also joined an unsuccessful counter-attack against the Portugese, but came as part of a Muslim force of Javanese mustered by Demak rather than as an independent fighting force. This dramatic episode under?...

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Chapter 11 - Temasik's Neighbours: Southeast Asian Settlements

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pp. 389-404

Singapore was not the most important Southeast Asian city of the fourteenth century and did not play a prominent role in Wang Dayuan?s account. From an archaeological point of view, however, Singapore is the best-known city of this region and period. This chapter will provide an overview of what is known of the other cities and regions that Temasik had contacts with.Several important studies of fourteenth-century settlements have been carried out in the Philippines. Chinese accounts refer to both the northern and southern ...

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Chapter 12: Singapore, Johor, Riau

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pp. 405-432

As noted in the beginning of this book, Singapore?s location is not uniquely strategic. Numerous sites at the south end of the Straits of Melaka have equal or better claims to the position of natural overlord of navigation between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Singapore has no hinter-land or natural resources. Rather than being fixed at one dominant point during the last 2,000 years the principal focus of shipping and trade in the region has fluctuated back and forth between Melaka, Johor, Bintan, Jambi, Palembang, and ...

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Conclusion: Ancient Singapore, Urbanism, and Commerce

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pp. 433-444

For many, the words ?Ancient Singapore? still have a paradoxical ring. Archae-ological research has shown that Singapore was a thriving city by 1350. The site seems to have sprung from an untouched wilderness, and within 50 years of its founding boasted a sophisticated and complex society. Singapore had defences against invasion, money was a fixture of everyday life, craftspeople specialized in various occupations, the government and people whom a foreign observer characterized as ?honest?, and a multiethnic and multinational popula-...

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. 445-454


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pp. 455-481

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Image Credits

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pp. 482-483

Every reasonable effort has been made to trace ownership of copyright materials. 0.01 Painting of the Indiana. Collection of national Museum of Singapore, national 0.02 Raffles MS 18. Collection of National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage 0.04 The temple of Singasari, E. Java. By Dr Thomas Horsfield. M. Archer and J. Bastin, The Raffles Drawings in the India Office Library London. London: Her Majesty?s ...


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pp. 484-491

E-ISBN-13: 9789971697006
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695743

Page Count: 480
Illustrations: 300 images
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: New