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date: 22 April 2019

Ships and Shipping in Southeast Asia

Summary and Keywords

Southeast Asian polities were destined to play an active role in the world economy because of their location at the crossroads of East Asian maritime routes and their richness in commodities that were in demand in the whole of Eurasia. For a long time, historians restricted their role to examination of regional peddling trade carried out in small ships. Research on ships and trade networks in the past few decades, however, has returned considerable agency to local societies, particularly to Austronesian speakers of insular Southeast Asia, from proto-historic to early modern times. As far in the past as two thousand years ago, following locally developed shipbuilding technologies and navigational practices, they built large and sophisticated ships that plied South China Sea and Indian Ocean routes, as documented by 1st-millennium Chinese and later Portuguese sources and now confirmed by nautical archaeology. Textual sources also confirm that local shipmasters played a prominent part in locally and internationally run trade networks, which firmly places their operations into the mainstream of Asian global maritime history.

Keywords: Austronesian, ships, shipbuilding, navigation, maritime history, world history, nautical archaeology, state formation, trade networks, shipmasters

A Maritime Environment

Southeast Asia is situated at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the South China Sea. The Indochinese Peninsula, prolonged by the Thai-Malay Peninsula, consists largely of mountainous ranges bordered by low-lying, densely populated coastal plains, resulting in a long coastline where well-protected havens are easily accessible. Insular Southeast Asia, on the other hand, forms the world’s largest archipelago, in a volcanic arc ranging in the east from Taiwan and the Philippines to Eastern Indonesia and, further south and west, to the densely populated islands of Bali and Java and to the large islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The Singapore and Melaka Straits separating the Thai-Malay Peninsula from the archipelago form a narrow, obligatory passage between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. In this humid inter-tropical zone, winds are regulated by the crucial monsoon regime, favorable for navigation by sail in that it regularly alternates winds blowing from Australia (from May to September) and those coming from the continental mass of China (between October and April). Southeast Asia is furthermore rich in commodities much sought after since antiquity: the famous and irreplaceable spices of the Moluccas (clove and nutmeg), precious woods and resins obtained from its forests (sandalwood, camphor, benzoin, etc.), and metals such as gold and tin, all actively exploited, exchanged, and exported within both local and foreign mercantile networks.

Such weighty physical and climatic determinisms imposed their shape and rhythm on maritime exchange patterns within Southeast Asia. Over the past two-and-a-half millennia, the coastal societies of the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo, and of the Thai-Malay and Indochinese peninsulas, progressively formed complex polities of various sizes that played an active role in shaping South China Sea and Indian Ocean exchange and trade networks. Due to their exceptional geographical position, these coastal polities and their harbor cities became inescapable crossroads between three crucial regions: the two economically and culturally commanding continental masses of China and South Asia, and the multitude of mainland and insular Southeast Asian ecosystems harboring peoples of various origins. Most relevant late prehistoric to early historic sites brought to light by archaeologists along this string of favored coasts lie astride the enduring trans-Asian maritime route and along its extensions toward areas of production of trade commodities, many of them exclusive to these regions. Following the pioneering work by Ian Glover linking early trade between Southeast Asia and India with developments in world history, many archaeologists have pursued the study of sites of this crucial period of Southeast Asian history.1 Long-distance maritime trade is known to have been one major factor behind regional state formation processes and the growth of coastal polities until modern times.2

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Map 1. Archaeological sites with Southeast Asian lashed-lug craft.

Map by P.-Y. Manguin.

In many ways, one must therefore apprehend coastal Southeast Asia as an interface between China and India, and, further west, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and one must do so in terms of mobility, of mutual exchanges and interactions conducted over the seas. The numerous coastal polities that thrived over time in the region profited from the ups and downs in the history of their powerful neighbors, the fluctuations of their economies, and their political reverses; they were apt at capturing rich markets, eventually becoming, from early historic times, enterprising actors in the progressively globalized history of Eurasia. In such a context, local development of shipbuilding technologies, of navigational practices, and of entrepreneurship at sea could only have played essential roles in the history of the region.

The Shipbuilding Traditions of Southeast Asia

Due to their early marine adaptations, the share of Austronesian-speaking populations of Southeast Asia in the development of seagoing traditions and the creation of distinctive, regional shipbuilding technologies appears to have been overwhelming. Other populations—Melanesians in the east of the archipelago, Mons of Burma and Thailand, and pre-Han populations of Southern China—may also have contributed to the process, but their participation remains so far largely undocumented. This article will therefore mainly present data related to the better-known coastal people and polities of the western tracts of insular Southeast Asia, in what is usually called “the Malay world.”

It is indeed an established fact that speakers of Austronesian languages sailed across the seas of Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, encompassing a major portion of the world, from Easter Island to Madagascar. Such navigations have not so far been sufficiently documented by nautical archaeologists, but it has been deduced from ethnographic observations and linguistic studies that dugout canoes (with outriggers or assembled as double canoes), their hulls raised with side-planks, would have been in use during such long-distance Oceanic ventures.3 The crossing over to Madagascar via the Indian Ocean also implies sophisticated navigational skills, but no study other than those of small outrigger dugouts used for fishing in India and East Africa has ever been carried out; no scholar has yet written on more complex vessels of the type that would have survived in Madagascar and shown affinities with those of Southeast Asia.4

Once lip service was paid to the remarkable maritime adaptations and sailing talents of Southeast Asian people, the issue attracted little additional attention. Many pages were devoted to the distribution of such features as outriggers (single or double) and sail types from Southeast Asia into Oceania and, via India, to Eastern Africa and Madagascar, but cultural diffusionists were content to discuss the origins of such features without consideration for the historical context of Southeast Asia. The unsuspecting scholar was therefore largely left with the romantic but unsubstantiated idea that fearless Austronesian-speaking people had paddled halfway around the planet on flimsy boats. Given this obsessive focus on origins and diffusion, with no consideration to the full historical processes, it was difficult to figure out why and how the Austronesian speakers, who had first spread into insular Southeast Asia and the Pacific, subsequently leaped west across the Indian Ocean, reached East Africa, and peopled Madagascar.

Excellent ethnographic studies were, however, carried out over the years on the plank-built, medium-sized sailing ships of Southeast Asia still in use in the 20th century for fishing and regional trade.5 On this basis, together with a reassessment of textual evidence and, more recently, on the basis of archaeological data, it is now possible to clearly identify and describe Southeast Asian shipbuilding traditions that are specific to the region, to understand their evolution over the past two millennia, and to firmly associate them with historical contexts. The peopling of Madagascar (and the associated spread of boatbuilding technologies into the Indian Ocean) is thus turned into a byproduct of broader, Asia-wide developments.

It has now indeed been confirmed that polities of western Southeast Asia were instrumental in sending to sea vessels of considerable sophistication and size at least as early as the first few centuries ce. As will be seen, solid textual and archaeological data on ancient ships is available from this period on and can be associated first with the incipient trade-oriented, coastal polities of southern Sumatra and Java, then with their successors, the more complex Indianized states such as Sumatra-based Srivijaya (7th to 13th centuries) and Java-based Majapahit (12th to 14th centuries), and finally with the multiple Islamic harbor cities that blossomed during the 13th to 16th centuries such as Pasai, Melaka, and Japara. Most of these polities are known to have operated locally built trading vessels of more than respectable size (a few hundred tons is a figure often encountered in written sources) and to have been active agents of the development of Asian long-distance trade networks. It is, however, only in the past few decades that such historical developments have been linked to continuous progress in shipbuilding technologies that can be identified as specifically Southeast Asian.

The Earliest Accounts: From Ethnography to Nautical Archaeology

As soon as Europeans entered the eastern waters of Southeast Asia in the 16th century ce, they described “sewn” boats assembled in ways that were significantly different from those they had first encountered in Indian Ocean waters. One striking characteristic of the tradition observed by Portuguese and Spanish authors in Eastern Indonesia and the Philippines was the lashing with vegetal fibers of the boats’ frames to lugs carved out of the inner side of the planks, in which holes had been drilled. Since that time, a variety of travelers have reported the existence of such exotic boat structures. In the 20th century, and in some rare cases to this day, a few similar boats were still to be observed in Eastern Indonesia or in Botel Tobago (Taiwan). Most of those described had their planks, from which lugs were carved out, lashed to the frames with ropes made from the bark of the sugar palm tree (Arenga pinnata or Arenga saccharifera; rattan was rarely used for lashings). Their planks, however, were not “sewn” together, but fastened by way of wooden dowels. They, therefore, did not technically belong to the “sewn-plank” building tradition, as known in a variety of other places in the world, including the Mediterranean in antiquity and the Indian Ocean until the present day. Adrian Horridge provided a comprehensive (if debatable) analysis of the structural features of this boatbuilding tradition and coined the term “lashed-lug” to designate it.6

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 1. Evolution of fastening of the planks in the lashed-lug tradition: from stitches to dowels.

Drawings by Puslit Arkenas and P.-Y. Manguin.

The relationship between the lashed-lug vessels observed in ethnographic contexts and the only comparable boat remains from a Southeast Asian archaeological site did not escape early observers. As early as 1926, British archaeologist Ivor H.N. Evans excavated in the mangrove at Pontian, on the east coast of Malaysia, and then briefly but precisely described the six meter-long planks and some ribs of an ancient boat, associated with remarkably well-preserved remains of black ropes made from sugar palm fiber. They had been used to fasten the planks together, through holes dug into their seams, and to lash the protruding lugs to the ribs. A few dowels were also used to join the planks. One observer of Malay and Indonesian fishing and trading boats sailing in the Singapore roads in the 1950s, Carl Alexander Gibson-Hill, followed up on Evans, re-examined the Pontian boat remains, and ascertained a link between them and the “lashed-lug” boats observed by ethnographers in Eastern Indonesia. He also suggested that the pottery found above the planks shared features with ceramics from Funan (the early 1st millennium ce polity in the Mekong Delta), thus dating the Pontian boat firmly to the 1st millennium ce. This was later confirmed by radiocarbon dating of one timber from the Pontian boat to the 3rd–5th century ce.7

The First Millennium ce Textual Record

Textual sources on the Southeast Asian maritime scene are not limited to those written by Europeans. The ethnography and history of “sewn” vessels of Southeast Asia, in fact, go back a long time, and include descriptions by 1st-millennium ce Chinese authors of Southeast Asian tropical flora, and accounts by learned travellers who boarded large Southeast Asian ships (“the bo of the Kunlun people”), leaving testimonies of their amazement at the shipbuilding features they observed. The ships were indeed exotic to Chinese observers of the early 1st millennium used to iron nails and clamps in their coastal or river boats. An early 4th century ce Chinese description of the flora of the South Seas discussed the sugar palm tree, the bark of which “can be made into ropes which become pliable in water [and are used by] the foreigners … to bind timbers together into boats.” The latter botanically accurate remark no doubt points to the fiber of ijok, which does not rot in water and had been in continuous use in Southeast Asian houses and boats until recently. In an early 9th century ce comment on a Chinese Buddhist canonical text, we also learn that “With the fibrous bark of the [palm] tree, they [the Kunlun people] make cords which bind the parts of the ship together. Nails and clamps are not used …” Other mid-1st-millennium ce Chinese sources describe Southeast Asian ships that are said to have carried hundreds of passengers plus a sizeable cargo, with multiple masts and sails.8

The 1st Millennium ce Iconography

A few seals depicting sailing boats were found in early-1st-millennium ce archaeological sites of continental Southeast Asia, together with a few odd graffiti or terracotta reliefs. Most are too small, too skimpy, or too deteriorated to be of much help in precisely characterizing the vessels they represent. A variety of sailing vessels, however—eleven in all—are represented among the splendid 8th-century ce reliefs carved out from stone in the galleries of the large Buddhist monument known as Borobudur, in Central Java. They provide a unique treasure trove of information for maritime historians and archaeologists.9

Features observed in the remarkably detailed and technically accurate depictions provide abundant confirmation of the indigenous quality of the ships depicted. They compare perfectly with data gathered from both historical and ethnographic observations. The reliefs represent ships sailing at sea or lying in harbor; therefore, only those parts of the vessels that show above water are depicted: the upper part of the hull; the outriggers; the masts, sails, and rig; the structures above deck level; not to speak of the crew. They are all the more precious because they complement the data brought to light by nautical archaeologists, which can only document the lower part of excavated ancient ship hulls.

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 2. A ship under full sail, panel no. 86, Borobudur.

Photo: EFEO/P.-Y. Manguin.

In one often-reproduced relief, a gifted artist represented in brilliant, scrupulous detail a two-mast vessel in full sail, with what is usually interpreted as an outrigger. With some nineteen crew and passengers aboard, the ship on this panel is probably the largest of all the ships depicted. Together with another three panels depicting ships of this same category, of different sizes, with single or double masts, this superb vessel represents the main ship type on the Borobudur reliefs. All its technical features—the main square canted sails, the sprit sail, the tripod masts and their rig, the side rudder, the superstructure built across the hull to hold the outrigger floats or platforms, and the decorated mast tops and ornamental banners—point to a family of vessels indigenous to the Malay world (rather than to Indian ships, as still claimed by some Indian historians), as confirmed by historical and ethnographical sources. In many ways, these ships are an anticipation of the well-documented kora-kora that survived well into the 19th century in eastern Indonesia: these are large plank-built vessels used for war and trade, fit for internal seas rather than for oceanic navigation, with outrigger-like rowing platforms.

The Recent Archaeological Record

What was still needed in the late 1980s, when ancient Southeast Asian boatbuilding traditions were being revealed, was more finds in the field of nautical archaeology to document the considerable knowledge gap between the data from modern observations of the lashed-lug technique on small boats and historical Chinese texts describing extremely large ships that plied the South China Sea.

When the well-preserved remains of five larger boats were found in the ancient harbor site at Butuan (Mindanao, Philippines), they attracted considerable attention and a number of publications, and a few contradictory radiocarbon dates. New boat remains have been recently excavated in Butuan. No full archaeological report has been published so far on these excavations, but a series of new, more precise radiocarbon dates are now available, sampled from boat timbers recovered both in the 1980s and more recently. This new round of dating appears to have produced more systematic results, all supporting an 8th to 10th century date of construction.10

In the course of archaeological programs carried out in river and harbor sites in Sumatra in the 1980s and 1990s, salvage excavations of boat and ship timbers were carried out in a variety of disturbed sites dating from the 7th to the 13th centuries. All, without exception, belong to the lashed-lug family, thus confirming that this technical tradition was in general use in western Southeast Asian waters during the 1st millennium and the first half of the 2nd millennium ce.11 These archaeological finds were informative enough to complement earlier finds, allowing the proposal of a preliminary scheme for the evolution of the lashed-lug tradition. In the past decade, however, the discovery of new archaeological sites with relatively well-preserved hull structures with assembled planking and frames has finally brought about confirmation of most of the earlier hypotheses regarding very large ships being built within a unique Southeast Asian technical tradition.

The Cirebon shipwreck, discovered some fifty meters underwater off the West Java coast, was commercially excavated in 2004. It is the largest of all the well-documented lashed-lug structures brought to light so far. It carried a considerable cargo of late-10th-century Chinese ceramics and other artifacts and may have measured over thirty meters in length. Because of the commercial nature of the excavation, only partial archaeological data were recorded. Horst Liebner did however manage to collect enough data to carry out a thorough analysis of the shipwreck.12 It confirms the existence of “sewn” vessels of Southeast Asian origin of considerable tonnage during the 1st millennium ce, as suggested in Chinese textual sources. It also corroborates these sources as regards the specific stitching and lashing technique used to assemble the timbers of these ships. Two other large shipwrecks of the 10th and 13th centuries were recovered from the Java Sea (known as the Intan and Java Sea sites): they carried cargoes comparable to that of the Cirebon wreck and appear to have belonged to the same technical tradition.13 More recently, another, smaller wreck, also carrying a cargo of Chinese 13th–14th century ceramics, was excavated in Sabah, at the northern tip of Borneo (the Jade Dragon wreck) and clearly belongs to the lashed-lug tradition.14

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 3. The Punjulharjo ship during excavation, 2007.

Photo: EFEO/P.-Y. Manguin.

Another discovery was made in 2007 at Punjulharjo, on an ancient beach ridge along the northern coast of Java, between Lasem and Rembang; it was excavated by an Indonesian team of nautical archaeologists. A smaller but superbly preserved hull was uncovered that would have been about seventeen meters in overall length, with a keel plank carved out of a single timber and six strakes remaining on each side, together with stern and stem pieces, and a profusion of practically intact stitches and lashings tying frames, lugs, and planks together with sugar palm rope, a radiocarbon analysis of which yielded a 7th–8th century ce date.15

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 4. The Punjulharjo ship: a frame lashed to lugs on planks, to stringers, and to stanchions; stitches between planks.

Photo: EFEO/P.-Y. Manguin.

These new discoveries, together with data gathered from previous finds, securely confirm earlier hypotheses regarding the evolution of the specific technologies used in the Southeast Asian shipbuilding tradition to fasten planks together and planks to frames. Whereas the lashing of the frames to the planks, via lugs carved out of the same planks, remains in use with only minor variations in modern constructions, the fastening of the planks together with ropes evolved over the centuries and was abandoned towards the end of the 1st millennium, leaving only wooden dowels to perform this essential function. Such improvements may well have been introduced in larger trading vessels, such as the Cirebon ship, where more structural strength was required to carry large cargoes. Ethnographic evidence from the 16th to 20th centuries corroborates this evolution from stitches and dowels to dowels only.

Ships and Shipping in Modern Times: The Jong

The fastening techniques described in a variety of sources after the 15th century marked the final step in the evolution of the stitched-plank and lashed-lug tradition described in “The Earliest Accounts: From Ethnography to Nautical Archaeology.” After dowels replaced the stitches used to fasten planks together, the lashing of planks to frames in large vessels was also abandoned in favor of dowels. Detailed 16th-century Portuguese descriptions of large traders encountered in the Melaka Strait and the Java Sea always designated such trading vessels as juncos, a Portuguese rendering of Malay or Javanese jong, a term long-used in local epigraphy and literary texts.16 These Portuguese sources describe the assemblage of the hull elements without ever mentioning “sewing:” only wooden dowels were reported (the absence of iron nails was as surprising to the Europeans as it had been to the Chinese a millennium before). The firsthand knowledge the Portuguese gained of these vessels allowed them to produce excellent descriptions of their features, all of them typical of Southeast Asian technical traditions, as was the doweling: multiple sheathing of the hull, quarter rudders, multiple masts, and canted or lug sails, with a bowsprit and a spritsail. Their tonnage was considerable, at least by Portuguese standards of the time: the texts indicate an average burthen for these large jong of 350 to 500 tons deadweight; they would have carried hundreds of men aboard. No archaeological confirmation of this fully doweled technique is so far available, as no remains of large jong-type vessels of the 15th to 16th centuries have yet been brought to light. The accuracy of Portuguese 16th-century texts, the constant mention of these jong in contemporary Malay literature, and the fact that such a fully doweled tradition has survived in 20th century Bugis, Javanese, and Madurese traders does however attest to their existence and to the considerable role they played in Southeast Asian trade networks of early modern times.17

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 5. Late 16th-century vessels in the Java Sea: small crafts and two mid-sized traders (one Javanese, with lug sails; the other hybrid, with Chinese batten sails).

G.M.A.W. Lodewijcksz, Premier livre de l’histoire de la navigation aux Indes Orientales, par les Hollandais .(…) Amsterdam, 1598.

In the late 15th or early 16th centuries these jong carried cargoes belonging to rulers and merchants based in Melaka and in various harbor cities of the Straits area and the Java Sea. They chiefly sailed to the Moluccas, Southern China, and Coromandel. But there are clear indications in Portuguese sources of late-15th- or early-16th-century Indian Ocean trips leading them as far west as the Maldives, Calicut, Oman, Aden, and the Red Sea, and the Portuguese transcribed still-vivid memories of earlier voyages to Madagascar.

The existence of these large oceangoing jong does not, of course, preclude that of a significant fleet of lesser coasters (under one hundred tons) made of small jong or other round bottoms and of a multitude of multi-purpose long vessels that could serve in war as well as in peace. In a period of prosperity, with no monopolies enforced, one expects to find both large traders specializing in long distances and ponderous goods, sustained by communities of wealthy merchants gathered in large harbor cities, and a multitude of smaller boats plying interstitial networks, collecting cargo for accumulation in main ports.18

When the Dutch arrived in the region at the turn of the 17th century, they also came across local merchant vessels. They, however, only described vessels of a much smaller tonnage, as did 17th-century Portuguese sources. The much-reduced image they conveyed is that which was then taken as a basis for evaluation by early historians of Southeast Asian trade networks, including those who aimed at restoring to local shippers and traders their place in the economic history of the region. The picture that emerged for 17th-century Malay and Javanese shipping is that of a sizable fleet of smallish vessels (of twenty to a maximum of two hundred tons) involved exclusively in regional networks and maintained by merchants of the pedlar category.19 The erroneous postulate of Dutch authors on the tonnage of pre-17th century ships resulted in the rejection of the possibility of earlier oceanic navigation by Southeast Asians: Meilink-Roelofsz, following van Leur, concluded that shipbuilding must have been limited to “small, fast-sailing war proas and cargo ships of small tonnage” suitable only for interior seas, which “cannot have been very suitable for navigating the Indian Ocean.”20

From long-distance Asia-wide trade carried out in vessels of considerable tonnage, now confirmed to have been the norm during the preceding ten or more centuries, to regional networks of small coasters only, the structural change in regional trade networks that occurred between the mid-16th- and the 17th century was momentous. General historians of the region, however, continued referring to peddling trade and projecting this reduced image into the region’s past.

Jong trading, at the time the Portuguese entered the scene in the early 16th century, was in fact no longer what it had been some decades earlier: local vessels were still very large, but the remotest destinations had been abandoned, leaving only Southern India and China open to their enterprise outside of Southeast Asia. A sizable share of Melaka-based merchants sailing these large locally built jong in the 1510s belonged to non-indigenous Southeast Asian communities. Prominent among them were the Tamil involved in the Moluccan spice trade, where they competed head-on with Javanese merchants and appear to have taken the lead. The Gujrati merchants and their naos had by then almost established a monopoly on Melakan trade with the western shores of the Indian Ocean, foreshadowing their role at Aceh later in the 16th century. In Javanese harbors, the Chinese had settled in numbers, and their merchant communities progressively took a large share of the South China Sea trade, prefiguring their dominant position in the 17th-century pepper trade at Banten. There are thus good reasons to believe that Southeast Asian withdrawal from high-seas shipping in the second half of the 16th century was only the epilogue to a long-term, pan-Asian process.

In marked coincidence with the vanishing of long-distance trading fleets of the archipelago was an ever-growing capacity to fight at sea. War fleets were no longer composed only of local long-boats but became increasingly composed of very large galley-type vessels in Mediterranean fashion, locally built with the help of Turkish and Portuguese renegade shipwrights.21 This served the expansionist policies of the sultans of Aceh and Banten, in search of pepper output. The capital and energy spent on building, maintaining, and renewing these huge and profusely armed war fleets cannot but have laid considerable strain on the subjects of these two fast-growing powers. Indeed, the onus of providing the paramount ruler with war vessels was traditionally borne by his clientèle of merchants and outlying dependent rulers, among which one would have earlier found those that outfitted and sailed the oceanic traders—no doubt to much greater personal benefit. This burden must have contributed to their inability to economically survive in the shipping sector. It must also have made them more vulnerable and therefore lesser rivals for rulers that grew more and more autocratic, accumulating considerable wealth but bypassing rather than penetrating the existing local economy: the growing power of the Chinese merchants at the Banten court, for instance, was largely acquired at the expense of the local nobility.

Hybrid Shipbuilding, Cosmopolitan Networks

The multinational, and therefore complex, nature of seafaring in Southeast Asian waters must be taken into consideration when describing the maritime scene of the region and its shipbuilding traditions. A category of “purely” Southeast Asian large trading vessels is a fact now attested by archaeologists and historians, but a few historical sources, the observation of modern Chinese craft from Guangdong, and the results of post-13th-century shipwreck excavations in the South China Sea disrupt this clear-cut image. They point to the parallel existence of a shipbuilding tradition that combined characteristic Southeast Asian hull designs (V-shaped hulls with true keels and stem posts, use of dowels to fasten planks, structural role of frames, double quarter rudders), together with features usually associated with Chinese shipyards (use of metal nails and clamps, batten sails, single axial rudders). Such features were combined in variable proportions and ways, depending on the actual origins of the ships, their shipwrights, and shipmasters. The resulting hybrid ships were therefore distinguishable from those associated with “pure” Chinese shipbuilding traditions observed north of Guangdong (keel-less flat-bottom; transom stem and stern; solid, watertight bulkheads), and from the characteristic large ships of Southeast Asia described above. This tradition has been termed the “South China Sea tradition.”22

The evidence gathered in recent years on these ships has shown that technical borrowings or interactions took place over time, in a multinational world prone to innovation. Various factors may have come together to give birth to such a hybrid tradition. Southeast Asian techniques developed in the 1st millennium ce for high-seas navigation were most probably adapted by the Southern Chinese when they started developing their own ocean-going navy at the beginning of the 2nd millennium. Indian Ocean ships were then present in numbers in Chinese harbors, but the only Chinese descriptions available for the 1st millennium are those of the bo of the Kunlun (i.e., the Southeast Asians), which clearly impressed Chinese observers. Local shipbuilders would have no doubt continued to use techniques that were peculiar to the Chinese world and would have proved their own worth for riverine or coastal navigation. But they would have also benefited from the high-seas experience of the Southeast Asian seafarers. Further cross-influences no doubt took place when Chinese traders started sailing to and settling in Southeast Asian harbors in the early centuries of the 2nd millennium, particularly when war fleets of the Yuan attempted to conquer Java, or when Chinese seafarers were banned from building large ships in their home country and faced restrictions on commercial activities due to renewed closed-country policies in the 15th to 17th centuries. Trading ships were then often repaired and built in Southeast Asia for Chinese merchants based in Southern China or living among the growing local communities.23

Navigation Techniques

It is difficult to reconstruct past navigation skills used by sailors of Southeast Asia, as they would have relied on mostly immaterial practices. The only premodern evidence of navigational techniques comes from the Pacific fringes of the Austronesian world. It was gathered by scholars who experimentally re-enacted, with the help of the last generation of skilled indigenous high-seas navigators, a variety of far-reaching oceanic crossings. In the process, they brought to light the sophisticated non-instrumental navigational techniques which allowed Austronesian speakers to progressively occupy the Pacific islands, to reach and keep contact with remote and often tiny islands thousands of miles apart, in a process that lasted well into the 1st millennium ce.24 One outstanding study on Bugis and Madurese navigational practices in Indonesian waters in the 1990s has, however, documented such surviving skills in Southeast Asian waters. These navigators’ use of stars and star patterns to set and maintain course and their acute awareness of sun, winds, wave shapes and patterns, currents, tides, and the behavior of birds and fish are all reminiscent of the better-documented body of indigenous knowledge among Polynesians.25

The evidence gathered after Europeans settled in Southeast Asia, starting in the early 16th century, is limited by the fact that, by then, local shipping was on the decline and long-distance oceanic sailing had largely been abandoned. Only circumstantial or fragile textual data were recorded in the first few years of Portuguese presence in the region, when the newcomers had to rely on local knowledge to sail in still-unknown waters. In such a cosmopolitan seafaring world, Southeast Asians would have shared navigation practices with their Asian counterparts, particularly with fellow Muslim navigators, as attested by the adoption of Arabic technical vocabulary into Malay.26

The precise nature and origin of the famous “Javanese map,” a copy of which was made in 1511 but subsequently lost in the wreck of Afonso de Albuquerque’s ship Flor de la Mar, remains very much an enigma. It represented, among others, “the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, the Clove Islands, the navigation of the Chinese and Gores [Ryukyu], with their sea lanes and the direct routes their ships take … It had the names in Javanese characters …”27 Other sources do allude to maps used by Malay world navigators in passing, but none have survived. Such maps, or the nautical instructions used by local navigators, were used by Portuguese pilots even before they had a chance to sail along some of the routes, and some were recorded in early-16th-century texts and charts, sure proof of their worthiness.

Southeast Asian shippers most probably crossed the Indian Ocean by running along a parallel (determined by measuring the height of a known star over the horizon), a technique well known to Pacific navigators and to other Asian navigators of the Indian Ocean.28 Insular Southeast Asian polities were also in a unique geographical position, giving them easy access to routes leading into the Indian Ocean south of the equator. Indeed, there is sufficient navigational evidence to put up a strong case for a southern route along the 6° south parallel westward from the Strait of Sunda to the Maldives, and probably further to Madagascar. Late 15th- and early-16th century Portuguese witnesses make it clear that memories of Indonesian exchange with Madagascar were then still vivid. Shippers of insular Southeast Asia would probably have been the only ones to sail along these southern routes. In such a context, the art of navigation would have been essentially an empirical one, comparable to that evolved by their Southeast Asian forbears when they sailed east and peopled the Pacific.29

Ships and Shipping in Southeast AsiaClick to view larger

Figure 6. A large Bugis trader in 1980 (traditional hull assembled with wooden dowels only; European rig).

Photo EFEO/P.-Y. Manguin.

Shipmasters in Southeast Asia: Seafarers and Entrepreneurs

The large ships and trading fleets of Southeast Asian polities do more than attest to the high-level technologies developed by local shipwrights in the past two millennia. As often reaffirmed by maritime historians, ships are exceptionally complex artifacts; such large carriers echo the sophistication of the mercantile networks along which they operated.30 There are multiple references in both Chinese and local sources to their outfitting by Southeast Asian polities, more often than not under the aegis of local rulers, in official trade and diplomacy. The major role played by Southeast Asian entrepreneurs in South China Sea trade networks is profusely illustrated by recent discoveries and archaeological studies of locally built ships carrying considerable cargoes of Chinese and other exports, partly (re)loaded in, and destined for, Southeast Asian harbor cities.

The crucial characters in such mercantile organizations were the shipmasters. The examination of this group is well advanced in Indian Ocean studies, based on abundant early historic and medieval epigraphic and literary sources.31 The role of shipmasters in Southeast Asia has only recently been emphasized.32 They appear for the first time in this context as Sanskrit (mahā)navika on an engraved seal and an ex-voto Buddhist inscription, both dating to the mid-1st millennium ce, and both found on the west coast of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. The use of Sanskrit in these inscriptions does not allow scholars to ascertain if these shipmasters were of Southeast Asian or Indian origin. As soon as Old Malay or Old Javanese became common in inscriptions, starting in the late 7th century, a vernacular term (puhawang) consistently designated local shipmasters; with the arrival of Islam, the term nakhoda (Arabic, ultimately from Persian), was also adopted into Austronesian languages to designate these same shipmasters. Their position in local coastal societies is well-documented, first in local epigraphy and then in Malay, Javanese, and Chinese textual sources. The 18th century Maritime Code of Amanna Gappa, written in Wajo (South Celebes), lists the qualities required from a nakhoda: he must possess a sturdy ship and have capital available for its upkeep; he must be an experienced mariner and possess the human qualities and the authority to command his crew and manage the sale of the ship cargo.33

As did their better-documented Indian Ocean colleagues, Southeast Asian shipmasters played a prominent part in locally and internationally run trade networks, which firmly places these characters into the mainstream of Asian global maritime history. Owners of large trading ships and investors in part of their cargoes, they were true entrepreneurs. In a region where the economy of a variety of polities was principally based on long-distance maritime trade, their role and agency was intimately associated with the state formation process. They belonged to a high-status, non-noble class; alongside the sea merchants, with whom they often found themselves associated in epigraphic and literary sources, they formed an intermediate social group that connected local political power to networks of overseas relationships and exchange, the very foundation of the merchant economy of coastal polities.

Discussion of the Literature

For a long time, historians discussing Southeast Asian seafaring economies offered only a partial representation of local actors. Biased by both colonial perceptions and an emphasis on the neighboring “great civilizations” of China and India, they could not envisage Southeast Asian societies and polities as playing an active role in world economy.34 The pioneering work of Jacob van Leur returned agency to local traders and shippers; it was, however, based on 17th-century and later sources, written at a time when large-scale, long-distance local shipping was in steep decline, and van Leur could therefore only describe a world of small-scale pedlars, similar to that still observable in the 20th century, a representation that was followed for decades by most historians.35

Starting in the 1990s—in a new context where scholars of various origins and schools had contributed to the production of an autonomous history for this region of the world— dramatic progress took place in the archaeology of proto-historic and early historic coastal sites, allowing for a renewed understanding of indigenous state formation processes in coastal Southeast Asia and of the close relationship these processes had with long-distance maritime trade.36

Meanwhile, maritime historians reconsidered in this new light Chinese textual sources of the 1st millennium ce and Portuguese accounts of the early 16th century, both describing large Southeast Asian ships plying Asian waters under the aegis of local rulers and shippers.37 Precise descriptions of their features tallied with Southeast Asian shipbuilding techniques that had survived well into the 20th century in smaller vessels, as observed in ethnographic works.38 It took the discovery in underwater and coastal sites, starting in the late 1980s, of a number of shipwrecks—some of them as large as described in written sources, and clearly Southeast Asian in build—for nautical archaeologists and maritime historians to firmly establish the existence of such vessels. As a consequence, it became possible to return a large measure of agency to those people who had built, equipped, and sailed in Asian waters such large trading ships, alongside their Arab, Persian, Indian, and, later, Chinese counterparts.39

Primary Sources

The world of sea and sailing is one of orality, and rarely appears in textual sources of pre-modern Southeast Asia.40 Inscriptions, which appear in the region around the 4th to 5th century ce, are mainly concerned with land and personnel endowed to the service of temples, and to royal panegyrics.41 Only a few mentions of taxes levied on boats provide a glimpse of harbor life. The Old Javanese literary and religious texts, which appear in the 10th century, are also particularly skimpy with regard to maritime activities. Only after the 15th century, when literary and historical texts appear in greater numbers in the harbor states that flourished all over Southeast Asia, particularly in the Malay world of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, do ships and shippers figure prominently. Texts such as the Sejarah Melayu or the Hikayat Hang Tuah, both emerging from the Melaka scene, provide historians, if not with strict chronological or technical details, at least with indigenous narratives and rich representations of life in harbor cities and at sea.

Foreign sources—mainly written by travelers and geographers—offer an indispensable textual corpus to help scholars reconstruct the maritime history of the region. Chinese sources, spanning the past two millennia, are the richest, providing both technical details and precise chronologies to complement local sources. Arab and Persian texts, starting at the turn of the 2nd millennium, also provide much welcome context for the maritime historian.42 Portuguese sources of the 16th century, many of them emanating from experienced sailors familiar with Asian seas, are invaluable for their accounts of medieval maritime practices at the dawn of European expansion, before the decline of Southeast Asian shipping. Dutch, British, and, later, French archival material for the following centuries can only document indigenous surviving practices in a maritime world progressively dominated by Chinese, Indian, and Western seafaring enterprises.

The stunning progress made in the archaeology of both harbor sites and shipwrecks in Southeast Asian seas has delivered in the past three decades a considerable amount of tangible records. It has allowed historians to write about aspects of maritime life disregarded by textual sources, and to complement these sources by providing technically trustworthy data on ships and quantifiable records of ship cargoes and commodities in entrepôts.43

Further Reading

Andaya, Barbara Watson, and Leonard Andaya. A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1400–1830. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Beaujard, Philippe. Les Mondes de l’océan Indien. 2 vols. Paris: Armand Colin, 2012.Find this resource:

Bellwood, Peter, and Ian C. Glover, eds. Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History. London: Routledge Curzon, 2004.Find this resource:

Charney, Michael. Southeast Asian Warfare, 1300–1900. In Handbook of Oriental Studies. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.Find this resource:

Christie, Jan Wisseman. “Asian Sea Trade Between the Tenth and Thirteenth Centuries and its Impact on the States of Java and Bali.” In Archaeology of Seafaring: The Indian Ocean in the Ancient Period. Edited by Himanshu Prabha Ray, 221–270. Delhi: Pragati, 1999.Find this resource:

Ferrand, Gabriel. “Le K’ouen-louen et les anciennes navigations interocéaniques dans les mers du sud.” Journal Asiatique 13.2–3, 14.1–2 (1919): 5–68, 201–241, 239–333, 431–492.Find this resource:

Fuller, Dorian Q., Nicole Boivin, Tom Hoogervorst, and Robin Allaby. “Across the Indian Ocean: The Prehistoric Movement of Plants and Animals.” Antiquity, 85.328 (2011): 544–558.Find this resource:

Hoogervorst, Tom G. Southeast Asia in the Ancient Indian Ocean World. BAR International Series 2580. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013.Find this resource:

Jacq-Hergoualc’h, Michel. The Malay Peninsula: Crossroads of the Maritime Silk Road (100 BC1300 AD). Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 3 Southeast Asia, 13. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.Find this resource:

Krahl, Regina, John Guy, J. Keith Wilson, and Julian Raby, eds. Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2010.Find this resource:

Manguin, Pierre-Yves. “Asian Ship-Building Traditions in the Indian Ocean at the Dawn of European Expansion.” In The Trading World of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800. Edited by Om Prakash, 597–629. Project on History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 2012.Find this resource:

McGrail, Seán. “South-East Asia.” In Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times, Chap. 8. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Miksic, John N. Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300–1800. Singapore: NUS Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Ptak, Roderich. China’s Seaborne Trade with South and Southeast Asia (1200–1750). Variorum Collected Studies Series 638. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1999.Find this resource:

Reade, Julian, ed. The Indian Ocean in Antiquity. London: Kegan Paul International in association with the British Museum, 1996.Find this resource:

Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680. 2 vols. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988–1993.Find this resource:

Reid, Anthony, ed. Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era: Trade, Power, and Belief. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Revire, Nicolas, and Stephen A. Murphy, eds. Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology. Bangkok: River Books and the Siam Society, 2014.Find this resource:

Wang Gungwu. “The Nanhai Trade: A Study of the Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea.” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 31.2 (1958): 1–135.Find this resource:

Wheatley, Paul. “Geographical Notes on Some Commodities Involved in Sung Maritime Trade.” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 32.2 (1959): 1–140.Find this resource:


(1.) Ian C. Glover, Early Trade between India and Southeast Asia: A Link in the Development of a World Trading System (Hull, U.K.: University of Hull, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies), 1990.

(2.) Jan Wisseman Christie, “State Formation in Early Maritime Southeast Asia: A Consideration of the Theories and the Data,” Bijdragen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 151.2 (1995): 235–288.

(3.) See the recent work by Dilys A. Johns, Geoffrey J. Irwin, and Yun K. Sung, “An Early Sophisticated East Polynesian Voyaging Canoe Discovered on New Zealand’s Coast,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.41 (2014): 14728–1473, and the literature cited therein.

(4.) On various approaches to the study of the Austronesian component of Malagasy culture and on trade contacts between Southeast Asia and Madagascar, see, among others: Pierre Vérin and Henri T. Wright, “Madagascar and Indonesia: New Evidence from Archaeology and Linguistics,” Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 18 (1999): 35–42; P.-Y. Manguin, “Les techniques de construction navale aux Maldives originaires d’Asie du Sud-Est,” Techniques and Culture 35–36 (2000): 21–47; and “The Maldives Connection: Pre-Modern Malay World Shipping across the Indian Ocean,” in Civilisations des mondes insulaires: Mélanges en l’honneur du Professeur Claude Allibert, eds. Chantal Radimilahy and Narivelo Rajaonarimanana (Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2011), 261–284.

(5.) On Southeast Asian surviving craft, one should first refer to François Edmond Pâris’s pioneering 19th-century work, Essai sur la construction navale des peuples extra-européens, 2 vols. (Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1841). On 20th-century survivals, see, among others: Christiaan Nooteboom, De boomstamkano in Indonesie (Leiden, The Netherlands: Rijksuniversiteit, proefschrift, 1932); George E.P. Collins, Makassar Sailing (London: Jonathan Cape, 1937); Carl Alexander Gibson-Hill, “The Indonesian Trading Boats Reaching Singapore,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 23.1 (1950): 108–138; G. Adrian Horridge, The Konjo Boatbuilders and the Bugis Prahus of South Sulawesi, Maritime Monographs and Reports 40 (London: National Maritime Museum, 1979); and the particularly well-informed works by Nick Burningham: “Reconstruction of a Nineteenth Century Makassan ‘Perahu,’” Beagle: Records of the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 4.1 (1987): 103–128; and “The Structure of Javanese Perahus,” Beagle: Records of the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 6.1 (1989): 195–219.

(6.) G. Adrian Horridge, The Design of Planked Boats of the Moluccas, Maritime Monographs and Reports 38 (London: National Maritime Museum, 1978); and The Lashed-Lug Boat of the Eastern Archipelagoes, the Alcina MS and the Lomblen Whaling Boats, Maritime Monographs and Reports 54 (London: National Maritime Museum, 1982).

(7.) Ivor H.N. Evans, “Notes on the Remains of an Old Boat from Pontian, Pahang,” Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums 12.4 (1927): 93–96; Carl A. Gibson-Hill, “Further Notes on the Old Boat Found at Pontian, in Southern Pahang,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 25.1 (1952): 110–133; and B. Booth, “A Handlist of Maritime Radiocarbon Dates,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 13.3 (1984): 189–204. For more details, see P.-Y. Manguin, “Southeast Asian Shipping in the Indian Ocean during the 1st Millennium AD,” in Tradition and Archaeology: Early Maritime Contacts in the Indian Ocean, eds. Himanshu Prabha Ray and Jean-François Salles (Lyon and New Delhi: Manohar, Maison de l’Orient méditerranéen, 1996) 181–198.

(8.) Li Hui-Lin, Nan-fang ts’ao-mu chuang: A Fourth Century Flora of Southeast Asia (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1979), 90–91; and P.-Y. Manguin, “The Southeast Asian Ship: An Historical Approach,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 11.2 (1980): 266–276.

(9.) Th. van Erp, “Voorstellingen van de vaartuigen op de reliefs van den Boroboedoer,” Nederlandsch Indie Oud en Nieuw 8.8 (1923): 227–255; and G. J. van der Heide, “De samenstelling van Hindoe-vaartuigen, uitgewerkt naar Beeldwerkken van den Boroboedoer,” Nederlandsch Indie Oud en Nieuw 13 (1928): 343–357.

(10.) Jesus T. Peralta, “Ancient Mariners of the Philippines,” Archaeology 35.5 (1987): 41–48; Paul Clark, Jeremy Green, Ray Santiago, and Tom Vosmer, “The Butuan Two Boat Known as Balangay in the National Museum, Manila, Philippines,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 22.2 (1993): 143–159; for a clear but succinct presentation of the structures of recent finds, see Ligaya S.P. Lacsina “The Butuan Boats of the Philippines: Southeast Asian Edge-Joined and Lashed-Lug Watercraft,” Bulletin of the Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology 39 (2015): 126–132.

(11.) A fuller discussion on all known “sewn” boats of Southeast Asia will be found in P.-Y. Manguin, “‘Sewn’ Boats of Southeast Asia: The ‘Stitched Plank and Lashed-Lug’ Tradition” (paper presented at the workshop “Fibre and Wood: Sewn Boat Construction Techniques through Time,” Muscat, Oman, 2015).

(12.) Horst H. Liebner, “The Siren of Cirebon: A Tenth-Century Trading Vessel Lost in the Java Sea” (PhD diss., University of Leeds, 2014).

(13.) Because the timbers of the two wrecks from the Java Sea were not well preserved, their belonging to the lashed-lug tradition rests on circumstantial but convincing evidence. See Michael Flecker and W.M. Mathers, eds., Archaeological Report: Archaeological Recovery of the Java Sea Wreck (Annapolis, MD: Pacific Sea Resources, 1997); and Michael Flecker, The Archaeological Excavation of the 10th Century Intan Shipwreck, Java Sea, Indonesia, British Archaeological Reports International Series 1047 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2002).

(14.) M. Flecker, “The Jade Dragon Wreck: Sabah, East Malaysia,” Mariner’s Mirror 98.1 (2012): 9–29.

(15.) Priyatno Hadi S., “Teknologi pembuatan perahu kuno Punjulharjo (The building technology of the ancient ship at Punjulharjo),” Jurnal Penelitian Arkeolog 6 (2010): 57–70; and Novida Abbas, “Perahu kuna Punjulharjo: sebuah hasil penelitian (The ancient ship at Punjulharjo: a research report),” Jurnal Penelitian Arkeologi 6 (2010): 42–56.

(16.) This practically excludes the alleged Chinese origin for the Malay word and for its post-14th-century offspring in European languages such as junk, junco, jonque.

(17.) Most of what is written here on the 16th-century jong is summarized from articles by P.-Y. Manguin in which references to primary sources and to further literature are given in detail: “The Southeast Asian Ship,” and “The Vanishing Jong: Insular Southeast Asian Fleets in War and Trade (15th–17th Centuries),” in Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era: Trade, Power, and Belief, ed. Anthony Reid (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 197–213. On pre-Portuguese Melaka trade and shipping, see also Luís Filipe F.R. Thomaz, “Malaka et ses communautés marchandes au tournant du 16e siècle,” in Marchands et hommes d’affaires asiatiques dans l’Océan Indien et la Mer de Chine, 13e20e siècles, eds. Denys Lombard and Jean Aubin (Paris: Editions de l’EHESS, 1988), 31–48; and “The Economic Policy of the Sultanate of Malacca (XVth–XVIth Centuries),” Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 7 (1990): 1–12.

(18.) On the relationship between tonnages and the structure of trade, it is enlightening to refer to what Fernand Braudel has to say on the matter in his major work on the Mediterranean: La Meditérranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, vol. 1 (Paris: A. Colin, 1966), 271 sq. On the place of small, long craft in Malay World fleets, see P.-Y. Manguin, “From Lancaran to Ghurab and Ghali: Mediterranean Impact on War Vessels in Early Modern Southeast Asia,” in Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast Asian Past, eds. Geoff Wade and Li Tana (Singapore: Nalanda Sriwijaya Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012), 146–182.

(19.) Jacob C. van Leur, Indonesian Trade and Society: Essays in Asian Social and Economic History (The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1955) for the English translation of his 1934 dissertation, 98, 128, 195–196, 212–214, 349–350.

(20.) M.A.P. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1962), 39, 65, 103–105, 114, 154, 286.

(21.) P.-Y. Manguin, “The Vanishing Jong;” for a comparable evolution in riverine war boats of Myanmar, see Michael W. Charney, “Shallow-Draft Boats, Guns and the Aye-re-wa-ti: Continuity and Change in river Warfare in Pre-Colonial Myanmar,” Oriens Extremus 40.1 (1997): 16–63.

(22.) Features of the South China Sea tradition are discussed in more detail in two essays, where descriptions of relevant shipwrecks and full references to earlier research will be found: Michael Flecker, “The South-China-Sea Tradition: The Hybrid Hulls of Southeast Asia,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36.1 (2007): 75–90; and P.-Y. Manguin, “New Ships for New Networks: Trends in Shipbuilding in the South China Sea in the 15th and 16th centuries,” in Southeast Asia in the Fifteenth Century: The China Factor, eds. Geoff Wade and Sun Laichen (Singapore: NUS Press, 2010), 333–358.

(23.) Geoff Wade, “An Early Age of Commerce in Southeast Asia, 900–1300 ce,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 40.2 (2009): 221–265; Anthony Reid, “The Unthreatening Alternative: Chinese Shipping in Southeast Asia, 1567–1842,” Review of Indonesian and Malay Affairs 27.1–2 (1993): 13–32; and Eric Tagliacozzo, “Navigating Communities: Race, Place, and Travel in the History of Maritime Southeast Asia,” Asian Ethnicity 10.2 (2009): 97–120.

(24.) See, among many others, Thomas Gladwin, East is a Big Bird: Navigation and Logic on Puluwat Atoll (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); and David Lewis, We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1975).

(25.) Gene Ammarell, Bugis Navigation, Yale Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph 48 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999).

(26.) P.-Y. Manguin, “Note sur l’origine nautique du mot ‘jam,’” Archipel 18 (1979): 95–103.

(27.) Gabriel Ferrand, “A propos d’une carte javanaise du XVe siècle,” Journal Asiatique (1918): 158–170; Joseph E. Schwartzberg, “Southeast Asian Geographical Maps,” in The History of Cartography, Volume Two, Book Two: Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies, eds. J. B. Harley, David Woodward, Joseph E. Schwartzberg et al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 828–838; and J. H. F. Sollewijn Gelpke, “Affonso de Albuquerque’s Pre-Portuguese ‘Javanese’ Map, Partially Reconstructed from Francisco Rodrigues’ Book,” Bijdragen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 151.1 (1995): 76–99.

(28.) Luís de Albuquerque and João Lopes Tavares, Algumas observações sobre o planisferio ‘Cantino’ (1502) (Coimbra: Agrupamento de Estudos de Cartografia Antiga, 1967) (separata 21); and P.-Y. Manguin, “Note sur l’origine nautique.”

(29.) P.-Y. Manguin, “The Maldives Connection.”

(30.) Cf. the famous remark by maritime historian Frederic C. Lane: “The ships themselves pictured the trade,” Venetian Ships and Shipbuilders of the Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1934), 2.

(31.) On Indian Ocean shipmasters, see S. D. Goitein and M. A. Friedman, India Traders of the Middle Ages: Documents from the Cairo Geniza “India Book” (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008); and Ranabir Chakravarti, “Nakhudas and Nauvittakas: Shipowning Merchants in the West Coast of India (ca. AD 1000–1500),” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 43.1 (2000): 34–64.

(32.) P.-Y. Manguin, “The Shipmasters of Insular Southeast Asia: Seafarers and Entrepreneurs” (paper presented at the conference of the American Asian Studies Association, Seattle, Washington, 2016).

(33.) Ph.O.L. Tobing, Hukum pelajaran dan perdagangan Amanna Gappa (The sailing and trading laws of Amanna Gappa) (Makassar, Indonesia: Jajasan Kebudajaan Sulawesi Selatan dan Tenggara, 1961), 51.

(34.) George Cœdès’s reference work of 1964 provides the ultimate Orientalist view of a Southeast Asian history under Indian ascendency. The last French edition is Les Etats hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonésie (Paris: de Boccard, 1964), translated in English as The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, ed. Walter F. Wella, trans. Susan Brown Cowing (Kuala Lumpur and Honolulu: University of Malaya Press and University of Hawaii Press, 1968).

(35.) Jacob C. van Leur, Indonesian Trade and Society. M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz’s work was instrumental in perpetuating such views. See Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1962).

(36.) The pioneering work is that of Ian C. Glover, Early Trade between India and Southeast Asia: A Link in the Development of a World Trading System (Hull, U.K.: University of Hull, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, 1990). On the relationship between maritime trade and state formation, see, among others, Jan Wisseman Christie, “State Formation in Early Maritime Southeast Asia.”

(37.) Pierre-Yves Manguin, “The Southeast Asian Ship,” and “Trading Ships of the South China Sea: Shipbuilding Techniques and Their Role in the History of the Development of Asian Trade networks,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 36 (1993): 253–280.

(38.) Clifford W. Hawkins, Praus of Indonesia (London: Nautical Books, 1982); and G. Adrian Horridge, The Prahu: Traditional Sailing Boat of Indonesia (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1985).

(39.) Pierre-Yves Manguin, “The Shipmasters of Insular Southeast Asia.”

(40.) There are no recent general works on Southeast Asian historiography, and therefore none that take into special consideration the maritime aspects of the region’s history. One will nevertheless still profit from the various essays by reputed scholars in such standard works as Soedjatmoko, ed., An Introduction to Indonesian Historiography (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1965); Charles D. Cowan and Oliver W. Wolters, eds., Southeast Asian History and Historiography (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976); and Anthony Reid and David Marr, eds., Perceptions of the Past in Southeast Asia (Singapore: ASAA Southeast Asia Publications Series, 1979). A few essays such as those by Donald K. Emmerson—“The Case for a Maritime Perspective on Southeast Asia,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 11.1 (1980): 139–145)—and Craig A. Lockard—“Integrating Southeast Asia into the Framework of World History: The Period before 1500,” The History Teacher 29.1 (1995): 7–35—provide early insights on new maritime perspectives for Southeast Asian history.

(41.) A brief but recent summary on inscriptional material is can be found in Arlo Griffiths, “Early Indic Inscriptions of Southeast Asia,” in Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, ed. John Guy (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2014), 53–57, 276.

(42.) Gerald R. Tibbetts, A Study of the Arabic Texts Containing Material on South-East Asia, Oriental Translation Fund 44 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill and the Royal Asiatic Society, 1979).

(43.) See, among many others, the various essays in Bérénice Bellina, Elizabeth Bacus, Thomas Oliver Pryce et al., eds., 50 Years of Archaeology in Southeast Asia: Essays in Honour of Ian Glover (Bangkok: River Books, 2010). See also an earlier assessment in P.-Y. Manguin, “The Archaeology of the Early Maritime Polities of Southeast Asia,” in Southeast Asia: from Prehistory to History, eds. Peter Bellwood and Ian C. Glover (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), 282–313.