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Tausug Team Visiting China to Renew Ancient Ties


AMID the “word war” between Philippines and China over the Spratly Islands, a six-man delegation from the Philippines including a Moro artist and historian are expected to arrive in China this month to revisit the centuries-old relations between China and the Sulu Sultanate in Mindanao.

The group will be in Dezhou City in Shan-Dong province in eastern China for a five-day visit starting on June 20 per invitation from the Chinese government. An objective of the visit is to setup a museum in honor of Sultan Paduka Batara of East Sulu State, who died in China during an official visit more than six centuries ago.

Sulu 1st district congressman Habib Tupay Loong, who was tasked to create the delegation, said he and his team were requested to study the historical ties between the Chinese and Sulu people.

According to him, the invitation is a “sign of recognition of the sovereign power of the Sultanate in the past and they want to preserve it.”

The government of Dezhou City asked their Philippine counterpart to bring at least a Muslim historian and an architect to design the museum that will be built in the compound of the sultan’s tomb.

Loong said the Chinese government recognized that “there is a sultanate blood among Chinese people.”
“There is one sultan who died in China, which proves that during that time China and the Sulu sultanate were already in a diplomatic relationship in terms of recognition of the sovereign authority of the Sulu Sultanate,” he said.

Based on historical text compiled by Sururul-Ain Ututalum and Abdul-Karim Hedjazi in the book entitled “The Genealogy of the Sulu Royal Families,” there were three sultans from Sulu archipelago who went to China in 1417 to pay a visit to Chinese emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty.

While about to return home, one of the sultans was afflicted with a disease and died in Dezhou City.

“The Emperor Yongle was very sad at the news. He sent his minister to Dezhou to cope with the matter and granted the distinguished overseas guests a magnificent funeral that was as formal as for a Chinese king,” part of the epitaph of the Sultan said.

At least 10 people including the sultan’s two sons were left behind in China to look after the tomb.

As years passed, intermarriage between the sultan’s sons and Chinese locals occurred. In 1731, during the time of Yongzheng of the Quing Dynasty, the descendants of Sultan Batara were naturalized as Chinese citizens under the surnames Wen and An, the book said.

In 2005, descendants of Sultan Batara went back to the Philippines through the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations, to coincide with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

Speaking about the Chinese’ visit, Sulu Sultanate Wazir or Prime Minister Datu Albi Junkarnain said An Jin Tian and his son An Yuan Chi representing the An family, and Wen Hai Jun representing the Wen branch, all from Shan-Dong province in Eastern China, finally got to visit Sulu, their ancestors’ homeland, for the first time in more than 600 years.

He said they are the 17th and 18th generation descendants of Sultan Batara.

According to Tausug visual artist Rameer A. Tawasil, who will design the museum, the tomb of Sultan Batara is one of the famous tourist attractions in China.

Tawasil said they are thinking of building a museum with a design that will emphasize Sulu’s culture.

“We are still thinking what kind of museum will it be and its size. We will also look at the area,” he said.

At present, the special royal tomb of the sultan, which has two gates, is a huge compound with a mosque and impressive stone statues of horses, lions, grooms, rams, generals, and tortoise. 

The Chinese government has proclaimed the tomb to be under the state protection in January 1988 for its valuable and symbolic recognition of friendship between the Philippines and China.

Loong said Chinese culture has been embedded in Tausug customs particularly in trade.

“As a proof to that, a long time ago Sulu has been populated by a Chinese minority, and they are the ones who introduced business into our area. We learned doing business through the Chinese. In Sulu, for example, a lot of the Chinese became rich,” he said.

He said descendants of Chinese migrants are still in Sulu citing the current governor of Sulu Abdusakur M. Tan, who has a Chinese bloodline.

“Even in barter trading, it is between Tausugs, Chinese, and Malaysians,” he said.

“There are only two types of foreigners who went to Sulu who did not wage war against the Moros – it is the Chinese and the Arabs,” Loong said, adding that “the Chinese entered Sulu through business ventures.” (Darwin Wally T. Wee/Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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