Laguna Copperplate Inscription

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The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (key) is inscribed with small writing hammered into its surface. It shows heavy Indian cultural influence (by way of Srivijaya) present in the Philippines prior to European colonization in the 16th century.

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (Filipino: Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna, Malay: Prasasti keping tembaga Laguna) is a legal document inscribed on a copper plate in 900 AD in Laguna in the Philippines. Written in a variety of the Old Malay language using the Old Kawi script, it is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines.

The plate was found in 1989 by a laborer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Wawa barangay, Lumban municipality, Laguna province. The inscription was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó'o script expert Antoon Postma in 1992.[1][2][3]

The discovery of the plate is cited as evidence of cultural links between the Classical Kingdom of Tondo and the various contemporary Asian civilizations, most notably the Javanese Medang Kingdom, the Srivijaya Empire, and the Middle kingdoms of India.

Discovery and provenance[edit]

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found in 1989 near the mouth of the Lumbang River near Laguna de Bay, by a man who was dredging sand to turn into concrete. Suspecting that the artifact might have some value, the man sold it to an antique dealer who, having found no buyers, eventually sold it to the National Museum of the Philippines, where it was assigned to Alfredo E. Evangelista, head of its anthropology department.[4][5]

A year later, Antoon Postma noted that the inscription was similar to the ancient Indonesian script of Kawi. Postma translated the script and found the document dated itself to the Saka year 822, an old Hindu calendar date which corresponds to 900 AD.[6] This meant that the document pre-dated the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and is from about the same time as the mention of the Philippines in the official Chinese Song dynasty History of Song for the year 972.[7]


The actual Image of the LCI found in Lumbang river.

The inscription is on a thin copper plate measuring less than 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 inches) in size with words directly embossed onto the plate. It differs in manufacture from Javanese scrolls of the period, which had the words inscribed onto a heated, softened scroll of metal.[4]

Inscribed on it is year 822 of the Saka Era, the month of Waisaka, and the fourth day of the waning moon, which corresponds to Monday, April 21, 900 AD in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.[6] The text is Old Malay with numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin may be Old Javanese. Some contend it is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese.[1] The document states that it releases its bearers, the children of Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams; 27.8 troy ounces).[4][6]


Modern Tagalog translation
Mabuhay! Taong Siyaka 822, buwan ng Waisaka, ayon sa aghamtala. Ang ikaapat na araw ng pagliit ng buwan, Lunes. Sa pagkakataong ito, si Dayang Angkatan sampu ng kaniyang kapatid na nagngangalang Buka (bulaklak), na mga anak ng Kagalang-galang na si Namwaran, ay ginawaran ng isang kasulatan ng lubos na kapatawaran mula sa Punong Pangkalahatan sa Tundun (Tondo ngayon) sa pagkatawan ng Punong Kagawad ng Pailah na si Jayadewa.atas na ito, sa pamamagitan ng Tagasulat, ang Kagalang-galang na si Namwaran ay pinatawad na sa lahat at inalpasan sa kaniyang utang at kaniyang mga nahuling kabayaran na 1 kati at 8 suwarna sa harapan ng Kagalang-galang na Punong Kagawad ng Puliran na si Kasumuran, (sa kapangyarihan ng Kagalang-galang na Punong Kagawad ng Pailah).(At) Dahil sa matapat na paglilingkod ni Namwaran bilang isang sakop ng Puno, kinilala ng Kagalang-galang at batikang Punong Kagawad ng Binwangan ang lahat ng nangabubuhay pang kamag-anak ni Namwaran na inangkin ng Puno ng Dewata, na kinatawan ng Puno ng Medang. Samakatuwid, ang mga nangabubuhay na inapo ng Kagalang-galang na si Namwaran ay pinatawad na sa anuman at lahat ng pagkakautang nito (ng Kagalang-galang na si Namwaran) sa Puno ng Dewata,Ito, kung sakali, ay magpapahayag kaninuman na mula ngayon kung may taong magsasabing hindi pa alpas sa utang ang Kagalang-galang...

Geographical place-names identified in the text[edit]

Postma has concluded that the document also mentions the places of Tondo (Tundun); Paila (Pailah), now an enclave of Barangay San Lorenzo, Norzagaray; Binuangan (Binwangan), now part of Obando; and Pulilan (Puliran); and Mdaŋ (the Javanese Kingdom of Medang), in present-day Indonesia.[6] The exact locations of Pailah and Puliran are debatable as these could refer to the present-day town of Pila and the southeastern part of Laguna de Bay (a large freshwater lake southeast of Metro Manila) that was previously known as Puliran—both close to where the plate was found.[10][11]


The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, among other recent finds such as the Golden Tara of Butuan and 14th century pottery and gold jewellery in Cebu, is highly important in revising the ancient Philippine history, which was until then considered by some Western historians to be culturally isolated from the rest of Asia, as no evident pre-Hispanic written records were found at the time. Philippine historian William Henry Scott debunked these theories in 1968 with his Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History which was subsequently published in 1984.[12]

The inscription is a document demonstrative of pre-Hispanic literacy and culture, and is considered to be a national treasure. It is currently deposited at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila.

Cultural references[edit]

The transliteration of the inscription shows heavy Sanskrit, Old Javanese and Malay linguistic influences.[4] Among the observations made by Antonio Pigafetta in the 16th century Boxer Codex was that Old Malay had currency amongst classical period Filipinos as a lingua franca.

The use of Hindu references in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription could also suggest that the author or authors of the inscription were adherents of Hinduism.[4] The Golden Tara statue, an ancient artefact discovered in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, dates from the same period and strongly suggests the presence of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs prior to the introduction (and subsequent subscription) to Roman Catholicism and Islam amongst Filipinos.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Postma, Antoon (April–June 1992). "The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription: Text and Commentary". Philippine Studies. Ateneo de Manila University. 40 (2): 182–203. JSTOR 42633308. 
  2. ^ (2010-05-07). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription". All Philippines. Retrieved on November 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (August 8, 2010). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription: A New Interpretation Using Early Tagalog Dictionaries". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18. Archived September 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b c d e Morrow, Paul (July 14, 2006). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription" Archived February 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. Sarisari etc.
  5. ^ "Expert on past dies; 82". Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 21, 2008. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c d "The Laguna Copperplate Inscription Archived November 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed September 4, 2008.
  7. ^ William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, pg.65. ISBN 971-10-0226-4.
  8. ^ "Transliteration of the LCI". 
  9. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth (2012). Looking Back 6: Prehistoric Philippines. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc. pp. 51–56. ISBN 978-971-27-2767-2. 
  10. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (November 11, 2006). "Puliran on Laguna Copperplate Inscription: Laguna de Bay or Pulilan, Bulacan?". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
  11. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (November 29, 2006). "Pailah is Pila, Laguna". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
  12. ^ William Henry Scott. Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History. ISBN 971-10-0226-4. 

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