Open main menu

Rajahnate of Butuan

The Rajahnate of Butuan (also called as Kingdom of Butuan; Butuanon: Gingharian hong Butuan, Cebuano: Gingharian sa Butuan, Filipino: Kaharian ng Butuan/Karahanan ng Butuan, Chinese: 蒲端國, Púduānguó in Chinese records), was an Indic polity centered on present Mindanao island in the modern city of Butuan in what is now the southern Philippines. 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.[3][4]

Rajahnate of Butuan

before 1001–1756
CapitalCentered in modern Butuan City
Common languagesButuanon,[1] Old Malay, other Visayan languages
Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism
• Established
before 1001
• First historical reference by Song dynasty records
• Subjugated into the Spanish Empire after the last known leader, Rajah Colambu, made a blood compact with Ferdinand Magellan
• Area conquered by Spain
CurrencyPiloncitos,[2] Barter rings
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Prehistory of the Philippines
Barangay state
New Spain
Spanish East Indies
Today part of Philippines

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.[5]



Chinese recordsEdit

The world in 1200 AD: The Butuan Rajahnate and its neighbors.

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] This display of irreverence sparked interests from China over the small Rajahnate and the diplomatic relations between the two polities reached its peak during the Yuan dynasty. Chinese records about the Rajahnate stopped after the reign of Rajah Colambu, 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.

Philippine recordsEdit

The discovery of the Butuan Ivory Seal proved the theory that pre-colonial Filipinos, or at least in coastal areas, used seals on paper. Before the discovery of the seal, it was only thought that ancient Filipinos used bamboo, metal, bark, and leaves for writing. The presence of paper documents in the classical era of the Philippines is also backed by a research of Otley Beyer stating that Spanish friars 'boasted' about burning ancient Philippine documents with suyat inscriptions, one of the reasons why ancient documents from the Philippines are almost non-existent in present time.[9][10]

Excavated artifactsEdit

The Butuan Ivory Seal, displayed at the National Museum of the Philippines. The Kawi script lettering says "But-wan" and the smaller lettering (similar to Baybayin) says "Bu-wa" (diacritics for the "Wan/Ban" in Kawi and "Bu/Ba" in the smaller letters have worn off).
A silver strip excavated from the 1970s in Butuan inside of a wooden coffin. The characters display a Hindu-Buddhist influence, probably a form of early writing in the Philippines (c. 14th–15th century).

Numerous jars have been found in the Butuan area that indicate the wealth of the kingdom and the existence of foreign traditions.[11] Some of these jars have been dated as follows:

Artifacts have been recovered from within the vicinities of Ambangan Archeological Site in Libertad that attest to the historical accounts that Butuan traded with India,[13] Japan, Han Chinese, and Southeast Asian countries during these periods.[14]

Origins of the nameEdit

An illustration of the Garcinia morella, locally called batuan, one of which might Butuan's name came from.

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 CE) 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 datu of the region.[15]

Recorded monarchsEdit

The Royal Title of the Reigning Rajah Events From Until
Datu Bantuan - 989
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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fred S. Cabuang (September 6, 2007). "Saving Butuanon language". Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  2. ^
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lealiz, Sia (February 4, 2009). "Discovering the Ancient Kingdom of Butuan". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  6. ^ "Timeline of history". Archived from the original on 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  7. ^ Scott, William Prehispanic Source Materials: For the Study of Philippine History, p. 66
  8. ^ Song Shih Chapter 7 to 8
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Luna, Lillian (2004). MAPEH for Secondary Students. Art Books and History Books. St Bernadette Publications Inc. ISBN 971-621-327-1.
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ "Historic Butuan". Retrieved 2009-10-09.

External linksEdit