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Rajahnate of Butuan

Kingdom of Butuan
Before March 17, 1001–1521

Capital Butuan
Languages Butuanon[1]
Religion Hinduism, Buddhism and animism
Government Rajahnate
 -  Established Before March 17, 1001
 -  Annexation into the Spanish Empire 1521
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The Kingdom of Butuan (Cebuano: Gingharian sa Butuan; Tagalog: Kaharian ng Butuan; 蒲端國 in Chinese records) was an ancient Indianized kingdom in pre-colonial southern Philippines centered on the present Mindanao island city of Butuan. It was known for its mining of gold, its gold products and its extensive trade network across the Nusantara area. The kingdom had trading relationships with the ancient civilizations of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Persia, Cambodia and areas now comprised in Thailand.[2][3]

The balangay (large outrigger boats) that have been found along the east and west banks of the Libertad river (old Agusan River) have revealed much about Butuan's history. As a result Butuan is considered to have been a major trading port in the Caraga region during the pre-colonial era.[4]


  • Chinese records 1
  • Excavated artifacts 2
  • Origins of the name 3
  • Recorded monarchs 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Chinese records

A golden vestment worn by the Hindu Brahmin Caste, found in Butuan Archeological Digs.
A Golden statuette of the Hindu-Buddhist goddess "Kinari" found in a Butuan Archeological Dig.
A Transliteration of a Prehispanic Philippine document, the Butuan Silver-strip.

Evidence indicates that Butuan was in contact with the Song dynasty of China by at least 1001 AD. The Chinese annal Song Shih recorded the first appearance of a Butuan tributary mission (Li Yui-han 李竾罕 and Jiaminan) at the Chinese Imperial Court on March 17, 1001 AD and it described Butuan (P'u-tuan) as a small Hindu country with a Buddhist Monarchy in the sea that had a regular connection with the Champa kingdom and intermittent contact with China under the Rajah named Kiling.[5] The rajah sent an envoy under I-hsu-han, with a formal memorial requesting equal status in court protocol with the Champa envoy. The request was denied later by the Imperial court, mainly because of favoritism over Champa.[6]

A new ruler with the Indianized name Sri Bata Shaja later succeeded in attaining diplomatic equality with Champa by sending the flamboyant ambassador Likanhsieh. Likanhsieh shocked the Emperor Zhenzong by presenting a memorial engraved on a gold tablet, some white dragon (Bailong 白龍) camphor, Moluccan cloves, and a South Sea slave at the eve of an important ceremonial state sacrifice.[7] This display of irreverence sparked interests from China over the small Rajahnate and the diplomatic relations between the two states reached its peak during the Yuan Dynasty. Chinese records about the Rajahnate stopped after the reign of Rajah Siagu the last independent Rajah of Butuan. He was formally subjugated into the Spanish empire after he made a blood compact with Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

Excavated artifacts

Numerous jars have been found in the Butuan area that indicate the wealth of the kingdom and the existence of foreign traditions.[8] Some of these jars have been dated as follows:

  • Sathing Phra (900–1100 AD)
  • Haripunjaya (800–900 AD),
  • Japanese (12th to 16th centuries AD),[9]
  • Chinese (10th to 15th centuries AD),
  • Khmer (9th to 10th centuries AD),
  • Thai (14th to 15th centuries AD)
  • Champa (11th to 13th centuries AD)
  • Persian (9th to 10th centuries AD)

Artifacts have been recovered from within the vicinities of Ambangan Archeological Site in Libertad that attest to the historical accounts that Butuan traded with the India,[10] Japan, Han Chinese, and Southeast Asian countries during these periods.[11]

Origins of the name

The name Butuan is believed to have existed long before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the Philippine archipelago. One possible indication of this is a rhinoceros ivory seal with design carved in ancient Javanese or early kawi script (used around the 10th century AD ) which, according to a Dutch scholar, was deciphered as But-wan. Another account suggests the name derives from the word batuan, a mangosteen-related fruit common in Mindanao. Another alternative is that the name derives from Datu Bantuan, possibly a former chieftain of the region.[12]

Recorded monarchs

The Royal Title of the Reigning Rajah Events From Until
Rajah Kiling The Embassy of I-shu-han (李竾罕) 989 1009
Sri Bata Shaja Mission by Likanhsieh (李于燮) 1011 ?
Rajah Siagu Annexation by Ferdinand Magellan ? 1521

See also


  1. ^ Fred S. Cabuang (September 6, 2007). "Saving Butuanon language". Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lealiz, Sia (February 4, 2009). "Discovering the Ancient Kingdom of Butuan". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  5. ^ "Timeline of history". Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  6. ^ Scott, William Prehispanic Source Materials: For the Study of Philippine History, p. 66
  7. ^ Song Shih Chapter 7 to 8
  8. ^ Luna, Lillian (2004). MAPEH for Secondary Students. Art Books and History Books. St Bernadette Publications Inc.  
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ "Historic Butuan". Retrieved 2009-10-09. 

External links

  • Butuan silver strips
  • [5]
  • Butuan ivory seals
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