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8 posts categorized "Philippines"

27 November 2019

The Ring of Solomon in Southeast Asia

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Batak manuscript books from north Sumatra, written on tree-bark and then folded accordion-style, are known as pustaha. These generally contain texts on divination and spells, and were compiled by a shaman known in Batak as a datu.  Many pustaha contains magical diagrams in red and black ink, and a symbol that frequently appears in these Batak books is a design of two overlapping squares, the smaller one rotated by 45 degrees and set within the other, with eight looped corners.  The upright square is called bindu matoga, and the diagonal one bindu matogu.  In some pustaha this symbol is shown enclosing a turtle, and is itself surrounded by a snake.

Add 19381 (5)
A small diagram of two overlapping squares, bindu matoga and bindu matogu, can be seen on the open page at the right, alongside a representation of a labyrinth, in a Batak pustaha, containing a text on divination. British Library, Add. 19381

This design of two overlapping squares with eight looped corners is extremely old: the earliest example known is engraved on an amulet from Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus valley, and thus probably dates from not later than ca. 1300 BC, and slightly variant forms are found as threshold designs in India and Sri Lanka.  The symbol was the subject of a very detailed study by Carl Schuster (1975), who showed convincingly that this composition can be linked to the Indian myth of creation, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, when the snake Vasuki was used as a rope to turn the churning pole on the back of a cosmic turtle.  Consistent with this cosmic interpretation is the suggestion by the renowned scholar of Batak manuscripts, Petrus Voorhoeve, that the two bindu represented the four cardinal and four intermediate points, and were therefore a symbol of the earth. 

In mainland Southeast Asia, the design is widely found in esoteric contexts in Thai and Khmer manuscripts, particularly associated with yantras or magical symbols that were often used as tattooes or drawn on amuletic clothing.  Numerous variants of this symbol can be seen in a 19th century manuscript held in the British Library of yantras in Thai in Khom (a variant of Khmer) script, Or. 15568.

Several examples of a yantra of two overlapping squares can be seen in a 19th century manuscript in Thai in Khom script, British Library, Or. 15568, f. 6v (detail)

More unusually,the symbol is also seen depicted in a Buddhist text.  In a Thai illustrated manuscript of the Bhuridatta Jataka, one of the Birth Tales of the Buddha, an evil-minded Brahman and snake charmer captures Bhuridatta (the Buddha in one of his former existences as a serpent) using magic spells (mantra). In the picture shown below, the magic symbol (yantra) on the fan and the tattoo on his leg are both accompanied by letters in the sacred Khmer Khom script (with thanks to Jana Igunma for this explanation).

2008 July 124
A scene from the Bhuridatta Jataka, one of the Birth Tales of the Buddha, where the two overlapping squares with eight looped corners can be seen on the fan held by the evil Brahman. British Library, Or. 16710, f. 6.

The overlapping squares also appear frequently in Islamic texts from all over the Malay archipelago. The name of this amulet, and a concise explication of its power, is given in a mystical notebook from west Sumatra said to have belonged to the Padri leader Tuanku Imam Bonjol (1796-1864), now held in Leiden University Library (Cod. Or. 1751).  Shown below is a coloured diagram with the two overlapping squares, containing the word Allāh written twice, and with a pentagram in each of the five compartments, while around it is written the shahādah, the Muslim confession of faith.  Alongside reads the following caption in Malay: Inilah syarh cincin Sulaiman ‘alayhi al-salām, barangsiapa memakai dia rezekinya pun tiada berkurang, tamat, ‘This is an explanation of the ring of Solomon, peace be upon him: whoever wears it will never lack for fortune, the end’.

LUB Or.1751 (9)
‘The ring of Solomon’, from the notebook of Tuanku Imam Bonjol, west Sumatra. Leiden University Library, Cod. Or. 1751, p. 121.

The name ‘Sulaiman’ refers to the Islamic prophet Sulaymān bin Dāwūd, known from earlier Christian and Jewish tradition and sacred texts as King Solomon, son of King David.  Sulaymān is frequently mentioned in the Qur’an, with many descriptions of his esoteric knowledge granted by God: he could understand the speech of birds and animals (Q. 27:16, 19), and he was able to command legions of jinn (Q. 21:82, 34: 12).  His magic power was believed to be effected by the means of a talismanic ring engraved with ‘the most great name’ of God, which in Arabic magical texts and on amulets is represented by seven symbols, ‘the seven seals of Solomon’.  One of the symbols which makes up the ‘seven seals of Solomon’ is a five or six-pointed star.   The star alone, whether a pentagram or hexagram, is a very common amulet encountered in Islamic magic which is itself called ‘the seal of Solomon', khātam Sulaymān.  Very occasionally, the star is eight-pointed, and this may have been a crucial link with the eight-looped symbol, which has become known in Malay as ‘the ring of Solomon', cincin Sulaiman.

Seven seals of Solomon
The 'Seven Seals of Solomon', from an Arabic MS dated 1508 (after H. A. Winkler, Siegel und charaktere in der Muhammedanischen Zauberei.  Berlin und Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter, 1930, p. 115)

#860   #2172
The 'Seven Seals of Solomon' are found on two Malay seals: left, along the bottom of the seal of Sultan Abdul Kadir II of Tallo' in Sulawesi (cat. 1752 #860); right, in the top left border of the seal of Syahbandar Ismail of Pulau Penyengat, Riau, ca. 1870 (cat. 965 #2712)

Although the 'Seven Seals of Solomon' are occasionally found in Malay manuscripts and seals, as shown above, the name of Solomon or Sulaiman is much more closely linked with the 8-looped ‘ring of Solomon’ amulet. This occurs all over Southeast Asia, but it seems to have a particularly strong association with the cultural zone stretching through the islands of Maluku up to the southern Philippines.  In Maranao communities in Mindanao, this symbol is called sising Raja Solaiman, ‘King Solomon’s ring’, and is very commonly used in amulets for driving away evil spirits, for palimonan charms to make the wearer vanish from sight, and for kebel (invulnerability) charms, to protect against other amulets or other sources of danger.  It has also been noted as a marginal design in a Qur’an manuscript from Taraka, Mindanao, and inscribed on a small piece of paper containing a prayer, found inside another Qur'an manuscript from Mindanao.

UVL MSS 13296  (50)
The 'ring of Solomon', inscribed with other symbols above a prayer, found inside a Qur'an manuscript from Mindanao. University of Virginia Library, MSS 13296

#362  #363

The 'ring of Solomon' on two seals of Sultan Mandar Syah of Ternate (r.1648-1675), that on the left inscribed Sultan Mandar Syah (cat. 1838 #362), and that on the right inscribed Sultan Mandar Syah ‘Adil (cat. 1839 #363).  Leiden University Library, K. Acad. 98 (14 & 15).

Thus the label of a powerful Islamic talisman, the 'Seven Seals of Solomon', and of the pentagram known as the ‘Seal of Solomon’, was in the Malay Muslim world applied to an design of two overlapping 8-looped squares, an amulet already deeply embedded throughout the archipelagic world of Southeast Asia, which became known as the 'Ring of Solomon'.

Further reading:

This study of the 'Ring of Solomon' was initiated as part of a research project on Mindanao manuscripts coordinated by Prof. Midori Kawashim, which resulted in the publication: A.T.Gallop, Cultural interactions in Islamic manuscript art: a scholar's library from MindanaoThe library of an Islamic scholar of Mindanao: the collection of Sheik Muhammad Said bin Imam sa Bayang at the Al-Imam As-Sadiq (A.S.) Library, Marawi City, Philippines:  an annotated catalogue with essays, edited by Oman Fathurahman, Kawashima Midori and Labi Sarip Riwarung.  Tokyo: Institute of Asian, African and Middle Eastern Studies, Sophia University; pp. 205-248.

The cat. numbers of the Malay seals reproduced above refer to: A.T. Gallop, Malay seals from the Islamic world of Southeast Asia: content, form, context, catalogue. Singapore: NUS Press in association with the British Library, 2019.

Carl Schuster, Comparative observations on some typical designs in Batak manuscripts. Catalogue of Indonesian manuscripts. Part 1. Batak manuscripts, by P.Voorhoeve; pp.52-85. Copenhagen: The Royal Library, 1975.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Head, Southeast Asia section

04 November 2019

Malay Seals from the Islamic World of Southeast Asia

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The Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia has long been connected by political, economic, and cultural networks, the lingua franca of the Malay language, and the faith of Islam.  Malay seals – defined as seals from Southeast Asia or used by Southeast Asians, with  inscriptions in Arabic script –  constitute a treasure trove of data that can throw light on myriad aspects of the history of the Malay world, ranging from the nature of kingship to the form of Islamic thought embraced. As small but highly visible and symbolic emblems of their users, Malay seals were designed to portray the image of the self that the seal holder wished to project, but they were also no less strongly shaped by the prevailing cultural, religious, and artistic norms of their time. It is these multiple layers of identity, both consciously and subconsciously revealed in seals, that are recorded, explored, and interpreted in a new catalogue of Malay seals.

Malay seals from the Islamic world of Southeast Asia  (Singapore:  NUS Press, in association with the British Library, 2019)
Malay seals from the Islamic world of Southeast Asia  (Singapore:  NUS Press, in association with the British Library, 2019)

Malay seals from the Islamic world of Southeast Asia, published in Singapore by NUS Press in association with the British Library, and in Indonesia by the Lontar Foundation, comprises a catalogue of 2,168 seals sourced from more than 70 public institutions and 60 private collections worldwide. The seals are primarily recorded from impressions stamped in lampblack, ink or wax on manuscript letters, treaties and other documents, but around 300 seal matrices made of silver, brass or stone are also documented. These Malay seals originate from the present-day territories of Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and the southern parts of Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, and date from the second half of the 16th century to the early twentieth century.

the large silver seal of Sultan Abdul Samad of Selangor
A rare surviving example of a royal Malay seal matrix: the large silver seal of Sultan Abdul Samad of Selangor (r. 1857-1898). 98 mm in diameter, this is both the largest Malay seal known, and the only Malay seal matrix with the names of the seal makers engraved on the underside: Tukang Selat dengan Tukang Ma' Asan ('Craftsman Selat with Craftsman Ma' Asan). Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz, Kelang, reproduced courtesy of HH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor. (Gallop 2019: 440, cat. 1293).

In the catalogue, elegantly designed by Paul Luna - Emeritus Professor of Typography at Reading University, and an expert in the design of ‘complex text’ – each seal is illustrated and the inscription presented in transcription, transliteration and English translation.  Also noted is biographical information on the seal holder (when available); the size, shape and medium of the seal; information on the manuscript on which the seal was found; and the locations of all other known impressions. A statistical overview hints at both the wealth of data encountered and the fragility of survival: over 10,000 impressions of Malay seals have been documented, but more than half the seals in the catalogue are only known from a single impression.

The catalogue began life two decades ago as a handlist of Malay seals in the British Library, and then evolved to include seals from other collections, mainly impressed on letters, treaties, edicts, and legal and commercial documents. In the Malay world, seals were a royal prerogative, their use restricted to the ruler and court officials, and most Malay seals known today are found on correspondence with European officials. In the British Library, the main sources of original Malay seals are letters from the collection of Thomas Stamford Raffles, and documents relating to the East India Company held in the India Office Records. The Endangered Archives Programme has also provided digital access to seal on manuscripts held in Indonesian collections.  Shown below are a few examples of manuscripts bearing Malay seals in the British Library, accompanied by the catalogue entry.

Document recording the gift of a slave from Sultan Johar al-Alam Syah of Aceh to Captain Baumgarten, 30 Syawal 1225 (28 November 1810).  Melaka Records, British Library IOR R/9/22/45, f. 50r
Document recording the gift of a slave from Sultan Johar al-Alam Syah of Aceh to Captain Baumgarten, 30 Syawal 1225 (28 November 1810).  Melaka Records, British Library IOR R/9/22/45, f. 50r.  Like most Malay seals, the seal was stamped in lampblack, which has smudged when the paper was folded.  noc
Seal of Sultan Johar al-Alam Syah of Aceh

Letter from Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Syah of Kedah (r. 1778-1797) to Francis Light, Governor of Penang, 2 Syawal 1206 (24 May 1792).
Letter from Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Syah of Kedah (r. 1778-1797) to Francis Light, Governor of Penang, 2 Syawal 1206 (24 May 1792). British Library, Add. 45271, f. 11; this volume of letters is from the Raffles collection.  noc Due to Siamese influence, Kedah seals were generally stamped in red ink and not the lampblack favoured in most Malay states. The seal on this letter is the sultan's small private seal, rather than his official seal of state. 150 examples of this seal have been documented, mostly from Sultan Abdullah's correspondence with Light, as noted in the catalogue entry below.
Seal of Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Syah of Ke

Illuminated letter from Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, 17 Syaaban 1273 (12 April 1857).
Illuminated letter from Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, 17 Syaaban 1273 (12 April 1857). British Library, Or. 16126.  noc It is often assumed that the most important Malay letters were illuminated, but in fact only a small number of courts ever produced illuminated letters, including Aceh, Johor, Pontianak, and Palembang. This finely decorated letter from Johor is the only Malay letter known written in gold ink. The seal, stamped in black ink, is catalogued below.
Seal of Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja of Johor

Edict (surat piagam) from Pangiran Dipati Anum of Jambi, Sumatra, to Dipati Terbumi
Edict (surat piagam) from Pangiran Dipati Anum of Jambi, Sumatra, to Dipati Terbumi, dated Thursday in Jumadilakhir 10--.  This letter may date from the 17th century: although the date is incomplete as the paper is torn down the left side after the word seribu (one thousand), the next word appears to start with alif, and hence is most likely empat (four) or enam (six), and not seratus or dua ratus (one or two hundreds), giving a date in the first century of the second Hijrah millennium.  British Library, EAP117/51/1/10, Collection of Depati Atur Bumi, Hiang Tinggi, Kerinci, Jambi. The seal is catalogued below. Seal jambi

The majority of the over 2,000 seals in the new catalogue have been sourced from documents similar to those shown about.  Unlike in many other parts of the Islamic world, Malay seals are rarely encountered in manuscript books. However, perhaps two of the most unusual seals in the catalogue are those of Princess Ambung of Riau, attesting her ownership of prized items of silverware.

10-sided betel box (tepak sirih) with an inset tray lid, chased silver and partly gilded, Riau islands, 19th century.V&A IS.268&A-1950

10-sided betel box (tepak sirih) with an inset tray lid, chased silver and partly gilded, Riau islands, 19th century. Stamped on the base with the ownership seal of Tengku Ambung. V&A I.S. 268-1950.A.  One of Tengku Ambung's two seals is catalogued below:
seal of Tengku Ambung

The picture that emerges from a consideration of this wealth of data is of a Malay sealing tradition, involving the regular chancery use of locally manufactured seals with inscriptions in Arabic script, which probably evolved only in the 16th and early 17th centuries in the Muslim courts of the archipelago. Although seals had certainly been present in maritime Southeast Asia over the preceding millennium – the signet ring of the king of Srivijaya was reported in Song records of the 11th century, and Ibn Battuta noted the use of seals in Pasai during his visit in the 13th century – there does not appear to have been a consistent and coherent usage of seals in any part of the Malay world before the 17th century, except in Java. A possible impetus for the increasing use of Malay seals may have been the arrival on the scene of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) around 1600, and the emphasis the Dutch placed on the use of seals in treaties, in a way that the earlier wave of Portuguese and Spanish emissaries did not.  The well-established sealing culture in Islamic lands to the west provided the Malay world with the means of response to this sigillographic challenge, but Malay seals were nonetheless designed primarily to strike a chord within the region itself, while still clearly identifying their owners as full members of the international Islamic community.

Malay seals from the Islamic world of Southeast Asia, by Annabel Teh Gallop. 
Singapore: NUS Press in association with the British Library, 2019.
852 pp.  ISBN: 978-981-3250-86-4
Distributed in North and South America by Chicago University Press
Distributed in the UK by Bernard Quaritch Ltd

The catalogue is published in Indonesia by the Lontar Foundation, with a jacket design based on the illuminated Johor letter shown above.
 Lontar front cover

Annabel Teh Gallop, Southeast Asia section  ccownwork

01 September 2014

A new catalogue of Malay and Indonesian manuscripts in British collections

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British libraries and museums hold some of the oldest and most important manuscripts in Malay and other Indonesian languages in the world. Although small by comparison with manuscript holdings in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Netherlands, British collections are especially notable for their antiquity and, in some cases, contain unique copies of important texts.  

Sampul Final
New Edition of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain (Jakarta, 2014), the front cover design based on the wadana (illuminated frame) from the Javanese manuscript Serat Jayalengkara Wulang shown below.

Serat Jayalengkara Wulang, Javanese manuscript copied at the court of Yogyakarta in 1803. One of the many Indonesian manuscripts described in Ricklefs and Voorhoeve (1977: 61), and which has just been digitised. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff.111v-112r.  noc

The publication in 1977 of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections, by M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve (Oxford University Press), was a landmark event. Merle Ricklefs, whose main interest was in Javanese, was at the time Lecturer in the History of Southeast Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Petrus Voorhoeve (1899-1995) was formerly Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at Leiden University Library, and a great expert on the languages of Sumatra – ranging from Acehnese and the various Batak dialects in the north to Lampung and Rejang in the south – as well as on Malay and Arabic. The catalogue listed over 1,200 manuscripts in the indigenous languages of Indonesia (except Papua), Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines, including those in Cham and Malagasy, found in British public collections. Catalogue entries included names of authors, scribes, owners and collectors, dates and places of writing, watermarks and paper. The 1977 volume was soon followed by an Addenda et corrigenda, published in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1982, listing a further 92 manuscripts.

When I joined the British Library in 1986, I very soon became aware of how difficult my task as Curator for Maritime Southeast Asia would have been without the helping hand of ‘Ricklefs & Voorhoeve’.  As the indispensible guide to the British Library’s own collection of nearly five hundred manuscripts in Malay, Javanese, Balinese, Batak, Bugis, Makasarese, Old Javanese, I found myself consulting the book on a daily basis in order to answer enquiries about the British Library collections, and to select and describe manuscripts for exhibition, and, more recently, for digitisation.

Front cover of Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977).

While ‘Ricklefs & Voorhoeve’ continued to be of enormous value to scholars of the languages, literatures, cultures and history of maritime Southeast Asia, it became increasingly difficult to find a copy in bookshops. And so in March 2013, Arlo Griffiths, director of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient in Jakarta, agreed to republish the catalogue in the EFEO’s valuable series Naskah dan Dokumen Nusantara (Manuscripts and documents from maritime Southeast Asia). The New Edition, which was published in Jakarta last month by EFEO in collaboration with Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, and with the support of the National Library of the Republic of Indonesia and the British Library, presents facsimiles of the original 1977 catalogue and the Addenda et corrigenda of 1982, together with a new supplement of 2014 describing 155 manuscripts not included in the previous editions.

The 155 additional manuscripts cover the following languages: Balinese (15), Batak (11), Bugis (2), Cham (1), Javanese (31), Maguindanao (1), Malay (86), Minangkabau (2), Old Javanese (5) and Tausug (1).  Nearly three-quarters of the total (114) are held in the British Library, and include both long-held but newly-documented manuscripts in Austronesian languages - such as the treaties in Tausug and Malay signed with the sultanate of Sulu in the 1760s, and vocabulary lists in various Indonesian languages collected by servants of the East India Company - and recent acquisitions, such as two Malay manuscripts of Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah transferred to the British Library from the University of Lampeter in Wales in 2003. Notable finds in other institutions include four Batak manuscripts acquired by the University of Hull from the estate of Dr Harry Parkin - author of Batak fruit of Hindu thought (1978) - and now held in the Hull History Centre; six Malay and one Balinese manuscript formerly belonging to Sir Harold Bailey and now in the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge; and a Malay manuscript of Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah in the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. Shown below are some of the newly-described manuscripts.

Or.16802, f.4r (RH)

Illustrated Balinese manuscript on palm leaf with scenes from Ādiparwa, with the (unusual) use of red pigment in addition to black ink. Acquired in Bali in late 1938 by George and Ethel Fasal and donated by their daughter Jenny Fasal in 2010. British Library, Or.16802, f.4r (detail).  noc

Or.15026, ff.188v-189r

Panji romance, Javanese manuscript with 39 coloured drawings, dated 7 May 1861. British Library, Or.15026, ff.188v-189r.  noc


Genealogical chart in the form of a tree of the rulers of Java, from Adam to Pakuwana IV (of Surakarta) and Mataram IV (Hamengkubuwana IV of Yogykarta), in a Javanese manuscript, Papakem Pawukon, said to have come from Kyai Suradimanggala, Bupati sepuh of Demak, 1814/5. Formerly from the India Office Library collection. British Library, Or.15932, f.72r.  noc

Or.14808, f.a 27

Pustaha, Batak manuscript of Simalungun provenance, written on folded treebark, containing Poda ni suman-suman ma inon, instructions on the art of controlling forces by invoking the supernatural. British Library, Or.14808, f.a 27.  noc

AIIT Malay 1 (4)

Malay manuscript of Sejarah Melayu, 'Malay Annals', with an ownership note of D.F.A. Hervey, 1 May 1876. Ancient India and Iran Trust, Malay 1.  noc


M.C.Ricklefs & P.Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

M.C.Ricklefs & P.Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: addenda et corrigenda.  Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1982, Vol.XLV, Part 2, pp.300-322.

M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve† & Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014.  (Naskah dan Dokumen Nusantara; XXXIII). ISBN France 978-2-85539-189-2.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


28 July 2014

Malay thoughts on the afterlife

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Several posts on the Asian and African Studies blog have highlighted a variety of perceptions of worlds to come, from Zoroastrian visions of heaven and hell to Thai Buddhist depictions of future lives in manuscripts of the story of the monk Phra Malai. Reminders of the next world, dunia akhirat, are also found in Malay Islamic manuscripts, but painted with words rather than pigments, for there is no established tradition of illustration in Malay manuscripts.

Two Malay manuscripts in the British Library, Add. 12390 and Or. 6899, which have just been fully digitised, contain slightly variant versions of the Syair Makrifat, ‘Poem on Gnostic Knowledge’, concerning the need to strive in this life in order to reap rewards in the next. The Syair Makrifat is widely thought to be the work of the famous 17th-century Sufi writer and theologian Abdul Rauf from Singkil in north Sumatra, who studied in Mecca for many years before returning to Aceh to serve as Syaikh al-Islam to Sultanah Tajul Alam Safiatuddin Syah, the first queen of Aceh (r.1641-1675). However, Edwin Wieringa (2009: 19) has cautioned that Abdul Rauf never mentioned this poem as his own composition in his many other works of confirmed authorship, all of which are in prose.  

Syair Makrifat, a narrative poem on Islamic doctrine and the transience of worldly goods. The colophon shown above gives the date of copying as 24 Zulhijah, without specifying the year, and the name of the scribe and owner as Da’ut (wa-katibuhu Da'ut yang empunnya syair ini), with instructions to borrowers to take good care of the manuscript and to return it promptly. A scribbled note on f.1r has the date 1222 (AD 1807/8). British Library, Add. 12390, ff.22v-23r.  noc

The version of Syair Makrifat in Or. 6899 ends on f.24r, exhorting borrowers to take care of the book:
‘Mister Umar is the owner of this book / anyone may borrow it
please treat it gently / and don’t let the pages come loose from the stitching’
Encik Umar yang empunya / sekalian orang boleh meminjamnya /
baik-baik sedikit menaruhnya / jangan diberi bercerai akan jaitannya
This manuscript also contains a second poem, Syair Dagang, ‘Ballad of the Wanderer’, which uses the itinerant trader of this life as a metaphor for preparations for the next life.  As Wieringa points out, the two poems are good stablemates as both concern the need to eschew wordly goods and instead look towards the afterlife.  The copy of Syair Dagang in Or.6899, said to have been composed by a man of Melaka, is incomplete, ending abruptly on f.28r on a salutory note:
‘Gold is a formidable material / very dangerous to hoard
if we just relax our guard for just a minute / it can inflict pain worse than a poisonous snake’
Emas itu sangat berbangsa / menaruh dia sangatlah bisa
jikalau lengah kita semena / sakitnya terlebih ular yang bisa

Malay manuscript containing two poems, Syair Makrifat on ff.1v-24r, and Syair Dagang on ff.24r-28r. British Library, Or. 6899, ff.1v-2r.  noc

Although Malay manuscripts are not generally illustrated, manuscripts on Islamic mysticism and prayerbooks from Southeast Asia do sometimes have charts or drawings of the attributes of the next world.  A manuscript from Ambon in the Moluccas shown below, recently digitised through the Endangered Archives Programme, is in the form of a long scroll with detailed depictions of the stages of heaven, and similar Islamic manuscripts have been found in the southern Philippines. One manuscript from Mindanao annoted in Maranao portrays on one page the palatial mansion in heaven awaiting the woman patient enough to accept her husband’s taking another wife, while the facing page depicts the hovel in hell awaiting the woman who could not accept her husband’s second marriage  (Kawashima 2012: Fig.30).

Detail from a pictorial scroll depicting the heavens, from the collection of Said Manilet, Ambon.  Captions written vertically in the left margin give the name of each of seven gates (pintu), while a caption in the lower right margin describes these as the gates of heaven (ini pintu syurga). British Library, EAP276/9/17.

Further reading

Edwin Wieringa, ‘Syair berupa rintihan seorang penyalin tentang nasib malangnya: beberapa catatan mengenai BL Or. 6899 (Syair Makrifat dan Syair Dagang)’.  Kearifan lokal yang terkandung dalam manuskrip lama, penyunting Ding Choo Ming, Henri Chambert-Loir, Titik Pudjiastuti.  Bangi: Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu (ATMA), 2009; pp.15-30.

Kawashima Midori (ed.), The Qur'an and Islamic manuscripts of Mindanao.  Contributors Tirmizy E. Abdullah ... [et al].  Tokyo: Institute of Asian Cultures, Sophia University, 2012. (Monograph series; 10).

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


26 June 2014

Two letters in Maguindanao

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My last few posts, on documents from the Muslim sultanates of the southern Philippines, have highlighted the diverse linguistic landscape. The treaties signed by Alexander Dalrymple with the sultanate of Sulu in the early 1760s were written in English and Malay or Tausug. In Mindanao, during the visit by the British sea captain Thomas Forrest in 1775, the Raja Muda of the sultanate of Maguindanao and his father Fakih Maulana wrote to King George III and the East India Company in Malay, the letters being penned by Fakih Maulana himself. In fact, as noted by Forrest during his eight-month stay in Maguindanao, the main medium for both oral and written communication was the Maguindanao language, and Fakih Maulana consulted royal genealogies written in Maguindanao.  Presented below are two letters in Maguindanao, one of which is from Fakih Maulana, written three decades before Forrest's visit.

Map of the Philippines, from Carta Hydrographica, y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas, Manila, 1734. British Library, Maps.K.Top.CXVI.37.  noc

On the basis of inscriptions in the top-left corners of the first pages, both letters are addressed to Don Pedro Zacarias Villareal, an admiral and later sergeant major, and from 1755, Governor of Zamboanga (information from R. Orlina). He  was dispatched to Zamboanga in 1731, where Maulana Jafar Sadik, sultan of Tamontaka, requested Spanish assistance in quelling a rebellion by his nephew Malinog. After Jafar Sadik was killed in an attack by Malinog's forces in 1733, Zacarias came to the aid of his son Muhammad Amiruddin Hamza (Fakih Maulana). Following Malinog’s death in 1748, Fakih Maulana emerged as paramount chief of Maguindanao, as he himself  recounted to Forrest.

The letter from Fakih Maulana, Or.15510 A, consists of four densely-written pages, and concludes with a statement of the date, 20 Rabiulawal 1159, equivalent to 12 April 1746. Although the writer is not identified in the letter itself, in the bottom left corner of the last page is impressed an eight-petalled round lampblack seal, inscribed in Arabic, al-mutawakkil `alâ Allâh huwa al-Sultan Muhammad Syah Amiruddin fî balad `âlam Mindanâwî, ‘He who entrusts himself to God, he is the Sultan Muhammad Syah Amiruddin, of the state in the land of Mindanao’, and the signature in Latin characters, Jamdsa, represents 'Hamza' in Spanish orthography. In the letter Fakih Maulana refers disparagingly to Malinog, and recounts a complex operation to recover booty that had been seized.

The last page of a four-page letter in Maguindanao in Arabic script, from Sultan Muhammad Syah Amiruddin of Maguindanao (Fakih Maulana), 1746. British Library, Or. 15510 A, f.2v.  noc

The second letter, Or. 15510 B, is just one page long, with a final line, written in Malay, giving the year as 1159 (1746/7 AD). The octagonal seal on this letter is inscribed, al-mu'ayyad billâh Sultan Muhyiuddin ibn al-Sultan Diauddin, ‘He who is supported by God, Sultan Muhyiuddin, son of the Sultan Diauddin’. It is often difficult to link up formal regnal names given on Islamic seals from the Philippines with royal titles referred to in other historical sources, and this sultan has not yet been positively identified, as the name of the sender is not given in the text of the letter itself.  The letter does however refer to the ruler of Buayan, a realm inland from Maguindanao which was the stronghold of Malinog. 

Letter in Maguindanao and Malay from Sultan Muhyiuddin, 1159 (1746/7).  British Library, Or. 15510 B.  noc

The two letters in Maguindanao reproduced here have just been fully digitised. In written form, Malay, Tausug and Maguindanao all use the modified form of the Arabic script called Jawi, with five additional letters representing sounds not found in Arabic.  The main difference is that while vowels are rarely indicated in Malay with diacritical marks, Tausug and Maguindanao are always fully vocalised.

One distinctive aspect of the diplomatics of both letters deserves mention. Throughout the Islamic world, in letters and documents written in Arabic script, irrespective of language, the lines of writing are generally arrayed against the left-hand edge of the paper, leaving a margin along the right-hand side – as indeed was the case in the Tausug and Malay documents discussed above. In these two letters, however, the text block is sited on the right-hand side of the paper, leaving a wide margin on the left; an exceptionally unusual arrangement for documents in Arabic script, and it is possible that Spanish influence may have led to this particular format.

For information on the contents of the two letters I would like to acknowledge the invaluable help of Roderick Orlina, Darwin Absari and Nasrudin Datucali.

Further reading:
Thomas Forrest, A voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas 1774-1776.  2nd ed., with plates.  London, 1780.
Cesar Adib Majul, Muslims in the Philippines.  Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


19 June 2014

Royal Malay letters from Mindanao

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In my last post I wrote about the East India Company sea captain Thomas Forrest’s eight-month stay in the sultanate of Maguindanao, on the west coast of the island of Mindanao, from 5 May 1775 to 8 January 1776. During this visit, Forrest forged close relations with the Raja Muda (Viceroy) and his father Fakymolano (Fakih Maulana), the former sultan of Maguindanao. On arrival in Maguindanao, Forrest had to tread delicately due to the evident rift between the reigning Sultan Fakharuddin (r. 1755-c.1780), who was the younger brother of Fakih Maulana, and the Raja Muda. Acting on the sage advice of his Bugis guide Tuan Haji, while ensuring that he paid respects to the Sultan, Forrest allied himself with the court of the Raja Muda, and lodged in his fort.  

On his departure in January 1776, Forrest carried with him two letters: 'I then took respectful leave of Raja Moodo.  He delivered to me the two letters already mentioned; one to his Majesty, the other to the Company, with the presents.  Nobody knew what they were, but himself and his father Fakymolano, who wrote the letters' (Forrest 1780: 290).  The two letters, written in Malay, are now held in the India Office Records in the British Library. Although unpublished, their presence was not unknown: the letter to King George was exhibited (probably in the form of a colour slide) in a talk on ‘The archives of the Honourable East India Company’ by William Foster at the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1923, described as ‘a letter in Malay, from the Sultan of Mindanao (the most southerly of the Philippine Islands), to George III, offering an alliance, offensive and defensive, and promising facilities for British trade in his country’.

IOR-H-128, pp.496-497
Letter in Malay from the Raja Muda of Maguindanao and his father Fakih Maulana to King George III of Great Britain, 5 Rabiulakhir 1189 (5 June 1775). British Library, IOR: H/128, pp.496-497.  noc

William Foster’s summary accurates reflects the content of both letters, which are indeed essentially the same. However, Fakih Maulana’s statesmanship is evident in the difference of nuance between the two letters. That to the king is more conventional in tone and pays compliments to the renown of the British name, pre-empting Napoleon’s famous characterisation of the English as ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ by stating, ‘the Spanish are constantly interfering in our [religion] – the Dutch are all for taking over our government – but the English just want to trade.’  The epistle to the Company, on the other hand, is rather more brisk and business-like. While the letter to the king states ‘I agree to help the Company against its enemies and in return I ask the Company to assist me in Maguindanao’, that to the Company states ‘I agree to help the Company against its enemies in the land of Maguindanao, but I do not agree to help beyond Maguindanao’. 

Turning from the content to the form, the letter is not a typical royal Malay letter, not least in that it was written by Fakih Maulana himself rather than by a professional palace scribe. His erudition is alluded to in the title by which he was commonly known, the Arabic Faqīh Mawlāna, ‘Our Lord the Legal Expert’, but his handwriting is workaday rather than stylish. The opening words are fully in accordance with standard Malay protocol: Surat ini dengan tanda puti hati datang dari  …, ‘This letter comes in all sincerity from …’. Thereafter, however, the language used is colloquial rather than courtly, evoking the vocabulary of commerce and daily communication throughout the archipelago rather than of its courts, for example in the emphatic use of the possessive punya in the Raja Muda’s claim to be effective sovereign of the state: Saudarah kita Fakharuddin sultan sekarang tuah suda lapas perinta di semuanya dia punya pesisir dalam tangan Raja Muda punya tangan, ‘Our brother Fakhruddin, the sultan, is old and has relinquished his rule over all his coastal possessions into the hands of the Raja Muda’. In layout the letter is also untraditional: there is no religious letter heading or kepala surat as is commonly found at the top of most formal Malay letters. Many of the lines are presented in new paragraphs, and dashes are employed at the end of sentences, although traditional Malay in Jawi script did not employ punctuation or paragraphing. Occasionally words in Maguindanao, the local language of the state, are interspersed in the Malay text, such as labi, meaning 'especially' or 'in particular', which appears to be used here as a cognate for the Malay word lagi, 'moreover', to introduce a new clause in the letter.  At the end, both letters are dated 5 Rabiulakhir 1189, equivalent to 5 June 1775, indicating that the letters were written not long after Forrest's arrival in Maguindanano, but were only delivered to him on his departure.

IOR-H-134, p.77-seal

Lampblack seal impression of the Raja Muda of Maguindanao, inscribed in Arabic: wa-tawakkal `alâ Allâh huwa âmîr al-umarâ` Muhammad Azimuddin, ‘And trusting to God, he is the prince of princes, Muhammad Azimuddin’. British Library, IOR: H/134, p.77.  noc

IOR-H-134, p.77-det sig

The full names of Fakih Maulana Muhammad Amiruddin and the Raja Muda Amir al-Umara Muhammad Azimuddin Kibad Shahrial, inscribed in Arabic and Latin script at the end of their letter to the Directors of the East India Company.  British Library, IOR: H/134, p.77.  noc

In the event, despite the warm relationship that had developed between Forrest and the Raja Muda and Fakih Maulana, the East India Company made no further overtures to Maguindanao. The Raja Muda eventually acceeded fully to the throne of Maguindanao in around 1780, and ruled until 1805 (Majul 1999: 28).

Further reading:
Thomas Forrest, A voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas 1774-1776.  2nd ed. London, 1780.
William Foster,  The archives of the Honourable East India Company.  Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, January 1924, 4: 106-113.
Majul, Cesar Adib, Muslims in the Philippines.  2nd ed. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


12 June 2014

A rare map from Mindanao

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Thomas Forrest (1729-1802) was a British sea captain who spent half a century plying the waters of the Malay archipelago, mostly in the service of the East India Company.  In 1775 Forrest undertook a voyage from his base at Bengkulu in west Sumatra to survey the north coast of New Guinea, sailing via the East India Company settlement on the island of Balambangan off the north coast of Borneo, which had been granted by the Sultan of Sulu following negotations with Alexander Dalrymple in the early 1760s.  

On the return journey Forrest spent eight months, from 5 May 1775 to 8 January 1776, in the sultanate of Maguindanao on the west coast of the island of Mindanao in the present-day southern Philippines, where he was courteously hosted by the Rajah Moodo (Raja Muda or Viceroy) and his father Fakymolano (Fakih Maulana).  By his own account Forrest spent nearly every evening with the Raja Muda and Fakih Maulana, discoursing in Malay on a wide range of subjects, and his resulting book, A voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas 1774-1776 (first published in London in 1779), includes a valuable description of the social, cultural, political and economic life of Maguindanao in the late 18th century.

Thomas Forrest, fronstispiece in Voyage from Calcutta to the Mergui archipelago (London, 1792).  noc

While in Maguindanao, Forrest received news that the Company base at Balambangan had been sacked by the Sulus, and he therefore made good use of his time in Maguindanao to survey the coast and the land, looking out for another suitable site for a trading post.  The second, improved, edition of his book, issued in London in 1780, includes numerous maps and charts of Mindanao and other places surveyed on his voyage.

Plate 18 in Forrest’s book is a map entitled ‘Part of Magindano, from Tetyan Harbour to the Island Serangani', which includes not only coastal features surveyed by Forrest himself, but also a detailed trajectory of the great Pulangi river up to its source, with a note of settlements along its banks, extending far beyond the limit of Forrest’s own explorations.  Forrest's source of information is elucidated in the opening of Chaper II of Book II of his work, ‘Geographical Sketch of Places on the Banks of the Rivers Pelangy and Tamontakka, by Tuan Fakymolano’, in which Forrest notes that  ‘the chart of these countries and rivers, drawn by Fakymolano, is deposited in the British Museum’ (Forrest 1780: 186).  This map of the main rivers and riverine settlements of Maguindanao is now held in the British Library as Add. 4924, and is an exceptionally rare example of a map produced within the Malay world. The rivers, with tributaries and channels, were drawn in black ink and captioned in Arabic script with the names of settlements by Fakih Maulana himself, with transliterations and some comments in English in a lighter brown ink by Forrest.  The map, which must have been produced in 1775, has just been fully digitised and can be studied in high resolution here.  

Map of Maguindanao, drawn by Fakih Maulana for Thomas Forrest, 1775. British Library, Add. 4924.  noc


Detail from Thomas Forrest's map of 'Part of Magindano' ( Forrest 1780: Plate 18), showing the river Pulangi, based on Fakih Maulana's map.  noc


Fakih Maulana's account of riverine settlements in Maguindanao (Forrest 1780: 185, detail).  noc

When Forrest left Maguindanao in January 1776 to sail on to Sulu and Balambangan, he carried with him two royal letters in Malay from the Raja Muda and Fakih Maulana, to the king (then George III) and the East India Company.  These letters will be discussed in my next post.

Further reading:

Thomas Forrest, A voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas 1774-1776. Dublin, 1779.

Thomas Forrest, A voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas 1774-1776. 2nd ed. with plates. London, 1780.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


05 June 2014

Alexander Dalrymple’s Treaties with Sulu in Malay and Tausug

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When the East India Company began to look for a base in the Philippine islands in order to gain access to the China trade, attention focussed on the Sulu archipelago, lying east of the northern tip of Borneo. In January 1761, the Scottish hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808) arrived on the island of Jolo, the seat of the Sultan of Sulu, charged with the task of negotiating for a trading post for the Company. The then ruler of Sulu was Sultan Muhammad Muizzuddin, also known as Bantilan. He was the younger brother of Sultan Azimuddin I, who at the time of Dalrymple’s visit had been in exile in Manila since 1748 because of local opposition towards his policy of friendship towards Spanish Jesuit missionaries. Following the death of Muizzuddin in 1763 and the brief accession of his son, Sultan Muhammad Azimuddin II, Dalrymple was instrumental in helping Sultan Azimuddin I (usually referred to in European-language sources as ‘Alimuddin’) to return from Manila to Sulu and re-accede to the throne in 1764, where he ruled until his death in 1778.  

Alexander Dalrymple, in a painting of c.1765 attributed to John Thomas Seton (c.1735-1806). Copyright National Museums of Scotland.

Sulu mosque
A mosque in Sulu, from Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, 1844.  British Library, 10001.d vol.5, opp. p. 354.  noc

Between 1761 and 1764 Dalrymple negotiated and signed four major treaties with successive sultans of Sulu, leading to the establishment of an East India Company trading post on the island of Balambangan in 1773. Most of the original bilingual treaty papers have survived in the India Office Records in the British Library: the first treaty of 1761 was in Malay and English; the second treaty of 1763 was also originally in Malay and English, but only the Spanish translation of the Malay has survived; and the third and fourth treaties of 1764 were in Tausug (the main language of Sulu) and English.

IOR-H-629, pp.456-457
First Sulu Treaty of 28 January 1761, signed between Sultan Muhammad Muizzuddin of Sulu and Alexander Dalrymple for the East India Company. British Library, IOR: H/629, pp.456-457.  noc

The English texts of the Treaties are well known, but the Malay and Tausug texts, written in Arabic script, have never been studied, and a close examination inevitably reveals a number of differences with the English text. A typical example is the English text of the first Treaty of 1761, which in clause 1 states that the British shall be granted ‘perpetual’ possession of the ground for their settlement, a word which is absent in the Malay version. But perhaps the most poignant aspect of this Treaty is the addendum found on the reverse of the Malay page: a strong rejection of the sale of opium, and a tight control on arms.  This clause – which is unnumbered and does not appear in any published English version of the treaty – appears to have been included at the request of the Sulus, judging from the detailed exposition in four lines of Malay, ‘The aforementioned trade goods prohibited by His Highness Sultan Muhammad Muizzuddin are opium, while no kinds of arms, big or small, may be sold to to anyone, even to the children and grandchildren of His Highness the Sultan, without the express permission of His Highness the Sultan; only His Highness the Sultan may buy these goods,’ compared with the laconic one-line English translation ‘Opium is contraband & arms & ammunition to any but the Sultan’.  Yet Dalrymple himself apparently strongly supported this prohibition; the culprit responsible for later developing the Sulu trade in opium and arms was the unscrupulous John Herbert, chief of the East India Company post at Balambangan, who was also responsible for a massive fraud against the Company itself which led to the financial collapse of the Balambangan settlement.

IOR-H-629, pp.455
Addendum to the first Sulu Treaty of 28 January 1761, banning the sale of opium and restricting the sale of arms, in Malay with brief English translation: Maka adapun dagangan yang dilarangkan Paduka Seri Sultan Muhammad Muizzuddin yang telah tersebut itu iaitu apiun, dan demikian lagi segala alat senjata besar kecil tiada boleh dijual kepada orang lain, jikalau pada pihak anak cucu Paduka Seri Sultan sekalipun jika bukan izin daripada Paduka Seri Sultan, hanya Paduka Seri Sultan yang membeli jua adanya. Opium is contraband & arms & ammunition to any but the Sultan.  British Library, IOR: H/629, p.455.  noc

The first Treaty is also notable for high standard of the formal Malay language used, and its proficient calligraphy. An unusual aspect of the diplomatics of the treaties is that when the various royal Sulu seals were stamped across two pages, the two sheets of paper were first folded along an inner vertical margin, with the seal applied across the folds, resulting in an impression of two halves when the paper was flattened out.  The East India Company seals on the same documents, however, are simply stamped on the flattened sheet of paper. This peculiar method of sealing is not found in any other Muslim kingdom in Southeast Asia. Interestingly, the only other Islamic seal impression known displaying the same characteristic of having been stamped across the folds of a document, yielding a two-part impression, is the iconic seal impression of the Mughal emperor Babur, found on what is possibly the oldest surviving original Mughal document, a land grant dated 1527.

IOR-H-629, pp.460-461
A second copy of the Malay text of the first Sulu Treaty of 28 January 1761, ratified in September 1761by 24 nobles of Sulu listed on the right-hand page. British Library, IOR: H/629, pp.460-461.   noc

IOR-H-629, pp.459-det

Further ratification of the first Sulu Treaty of January 1761, signed in Manila on 20 November 1761 by Sultan Muhammad Azimuddin I. This document was probably obtained by Dalrymple, who appears to have been in Manila from 9 November-1 December 1761 (pers.comm., Andrew Cook).  British Library, IOR: H/629, p.459.  noc

IOR-H-629, pp.488-489
Dalrymple’s third Sulu Treaty, in Tausug and English, signed between Sultan Muhammad Azimuddin I of Sulu and Alexander Dalrymple for the English East India Company, Jolo, Sulu, 2 July 1764.  British Library, IOR: H/629, p.488-489.  noc

IOR-H-629, pp.498-499
Dalrymple’s fourth Sulu Treaty, in Tausug and English, signed between Sultan Muhammad Azimuddin I of Sulu and Alexander Dalrymple for the English East India Company, Jolo, Sulu, 28 September 1764. British Library, IOR: H/629, p.pp. 495–502.  noc

Further reading:
Allen, J. de V., Stockwell, A. J., and Wright, L. R., A collection of treaties and other documents affecting the states of Malaysia 1761-1963.  London: Oceana, 1980. 2 v. [The Sulu treaties are published in v.2, pp.371-388.]
Cook, Andrew S., Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808), hydrographer to the East India Company and the Admiralty, as publisher : a catalogue of books and charts.  Ph.D. thesis, University of St Andrews, 1993.
Costa, H. de la, ‘Muhammad Alimuddin I, Sultan of Sulu, 1735-1773’, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1965, 38 (1):43-76.
Majul,Cesar Adib, Muslims in the Philippines.  Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Warren, James Francis, The Sulu Zone 1768-1898.  Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1981.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia