Laguna Copperplate Inscription
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.
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.
- 1 Discovery and provenance
- 2 Description
- 3 Text
- 4 Geographical place-names identified in the text
- 5 Significance
- 6 Cultural references
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Discovery and provenance
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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).
Caturthi Kriṣnapaksa Somawāra sana tatkala Dayang Angkatan lawan dengan nya sānak barngaran si Bukah anak da dang Hwan Namwaran di bari waradāna wi shuddhapattra ulih sang pamegat senāpati di Tundun barja(di) dang Hwan Nāyaka tuhan Pailah Jayadewa.
The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her relative whose name is Bukah, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander-in-Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa.
Di krama dang Hwan Namwaran dengan dang kayastha shuddha nu di parlappas hutang da walenda Kati 1 Suwarna 8 di hadapan dang Huwan Nayaka tuhan Puliran Kasumuran dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Pailah barjadi ganashakti.
This means that, through the Honourable Scribe, the Honourable Namwaran is totally cleared of his salary-related debts of 1 Katî and 8 Suwarna, before the Honorable Lord Minister of Puliran Kasumuran; by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah, represented by Ganashakti.
the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwagan, represented by Bisruta. And, with his whole family, upon ordered of the Lord Minister of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang, because of his loyalty as a subject of the Commander-in-Chief.
Ya makanya sadanya anak cucu dang Hwan Namwaran shuddha ya kapawaris dihutang da dang Hwan Namwaran di sang pamegat Dewata.
Therefore, the living descendants of the Honorable Namwaran are cleared of all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Lord Minister of Dewata.
Ini gerang syat syapanta ha pashkat ding ari kamudyan ada gerang urang barujara welung lappas hutang da dang Hwa
This, in any case, whosoever, sometime in the future, who shall state that the debt is not yet cleared of the Honourable...
Modern Tagalog translation
Sa 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
Postma, who first translated the LCI, notes that place names and personal names in the LCI need to be carefully studied by scholars because “they furnish vital clues regarding the political & topographic background” of the world around the time of the LCI.
Going into the specifics of the text, he notes that:
“the toponyms or placenames are: Pailah (lines 4 and 6); Tundun (line 3); Puliran (line 6) and Binwangan (line 7). Dewata (line 8) and Mdang (line 8) could be either personal names or toponyms.”
Postma identified three of these toponyms, Binwangan, Pailah and Puliran, as Malayo-Polynesian (most likely Filipino) in origin, and three other toponyms, Tundun, Dewata and Mdang, as Sanskrit in origin.
After carefully considering possible interpretations of the text, including the possibility that Pailah and Puliran were located in the Laguna Lake region, Postma concluded that he was confident that Binwangan, Pailah, and Puliran:
“find their equivalents within the limited area of what is now known as Bulacan Province in the Philippines, [and that] the text of this same LCI can be considered to refer indeed to these places, already existing already under identical names in the tenth century.”
LCI place-names as settlements Bulacan
Postma emphasized that his interpretation of the LCI placenames being in Bulacan puts these named settlements on key locations on Central Luzon’s river systems, which he referred to as “waterhighways” which allowed “an effective (and often only) means of transportation and communication between the different settlements” as well as “offering the seafaring traders of China and Southeast Asia of early times an easy access to interior trading centers via these riverine communication-lines.” He also noted that Central Luzon’s rivers were “much deeper and certainly were more navigable than they are today.”
Postma’s assertions have been challenged a number of times, notably by the Pila Historical Society Foundation and lcoal historian Jaime F. Tiongson. But these challenges have not been fully resolved by Philippine historiographers’ process of peer review.
LCI words affirmed as place-names
Postma asserted that he was fairly certain that four words in the LCI were place names, or toponyms: "Pailah (lines 4 and 6); Tundun (line 3); Puliran (line 6) and Binwangan (line 7)."
Tundun, whose name Postma believed to be "Sanskrit in origin", was referenced in line 3 of the LCI. It is the most easily recognizable of the toponyms identified by Postma in the LCI, and scholarly consensus(p"134")(p"38") generally agrees with Postma’s original identification of the LCI’s Tundun as Tondo, the polity located on the northern seaside of the Pasig River delta, where the Pasig River empties into Laguna de Bay.
Postma left an avenue for an alternative interpretation open however, saying that Mdang and Tondo: “because of their lingual consonants (n and d) that are of Sanskrit origin might originally be toponyms existing on the Island of Java.”
Postma identified Pailah, whose name he believed to be Malayo-Polynesian (and probably Filipino) in origin, as a “locality with its own leader.” It was referenced twice, in lines 4 and 6 of the LCI. Locating its possible location in Bulacan, Postma proposed its site to be “the village of Paila, in Barangay of San Lorenzo at the eastern part of the municipality of Norzagaray, with coordinates 14-54.5 & 121-06.9.”
Postma identified Puliran, whose name he believed to be Malayo-Polynesian (and probably Filipino) in origin, as a “locality with its own leader” referenced in line 6 of the LCI. Postma asserted that Puliran was probably located in modern-day Bulacan, on the current site of “Pulilan, along the Angat (pronounced: Anggat) River…north of Manila, (coordinates: 14-54.2 & 120-50.8)”
Postma believed that the place-name of Binwangan, referenced in line 7 of the LCI as a locality with its own leader, was Malayo-Polynesian (and probably Filipino) in origin. Locating its possible location in Bulacan, Postma proposed its site to be “the village of Binwangan, belonging to the municipality of Obando, situated at the mouth of the Bulacan River, with coordinates 14-43.2 & 120-543.”
LCI words believed to be possible place-names
Based on linguistic analysis, Postma concluded that the words Dewata and Mdang “could be either personal names or toponyms.” He noted that their names seemed to be Sanskrit in origin, but did not go into a deep discussion of where they might have been located, other than to say Mdang was already known as a place name in Indonesia.
Abinales and Amoroso (2005) note that the leaders of Dewata and Mdang (if these words are indeed to be accepted as toponyms) were not present for the transaction but were rather invoked as authorities in certifying the cancellation of the debt in question:
“Jayadewa invokes the authority of the chief of Dewata, who in turn represents the chief of Medang.”
Postma’s paper proposing his translation and interpretation of the LCI mentions that his search of the Indonesian toponym listings developed by Damais and Darmosoetopo, as well as his consultation with the 14th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (IPPA) in August 1990, determined that Mdang was the only (possible) toponym in the LCI which matched with known Indonesian place-names.
Abinales and Amoroso (2005), citing Patanñe (1996) note that this seems to refer to "a temple complex in Java, where the kingdom of Mataram was a rival to Srivijaya."
While it is clear in the text of the LCI that Jayadewa of Tondo is invoking the authority of the Chief of Dewata, the precise relationship between Dewata and Mdang is less clear. E.P. Patanñe notes:
"This relationship is unclear but a possible explanation is that the chief of Dewata wanted it to be known that he had a royal connection in Java.”
Other proposed interpretations of place-names
Postma’s assertions regarding the exact locations of Pailah and Puliran and Binwangan have been challenged by the Pila Historical Society Foundation and local historian Jaime F. Tiongson, who assert that the place names Pailah and Puliran are more likely to refer to places close to where the plate was found - in Lumban, Laguna - given that archeological findings in nearby Pila show the presence of an extensive settlement during precolonial times.
According to Tiongson's interpretation: Pailah refers to Pila; Puliran refers to Puliran, the old name of the territory that occupied the southeastern part of Laguna de Bay at the time; and Binwangan refers to modern day Barangay, Binawangan in Capalonga, Camarines Norte.(p"125")
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.
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.
The transliteration of the inscription shows heavy Sanskrit, Old Javanese and Malay linguistic influences. 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Morrow, Paul (July 14, 2006). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription" Archived February 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. Sarisari etc.
- "Expert on past dies; 82". Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 21, 2008. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
- "The Laguna Copperplate Inscription Archived November 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed September 4, 2008.
- William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, pg.65. ISBN 971-10-0226-4.
- "Transliteration of the LCI".
- Ocampo, Ambeth (2012). Looking Back 6: Prehistoric Philippines. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc. pp. 51–56. ISBN 978-971-27-2767-2.
- Kimuell-Gabriel, Nancy A. (2013-03-03). "Ang Tundo sa Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna (900 MK.-1588)" (PDF). www.bagongkasaysayan.org. Bahay Saliksikan ng Kasaysayan -- Bagong Kasaysayan (BAKAS), Inc. Retrieved 2017-07-07. Gray literature partly based on Kimuell-Gabriel, Nancy A. (2001). TIMAWA: Kahulugan, Kasaysayan at Kabuluhan sa Lipunang Pilipino. Tesis Masteral (PhD Thesis). Departamento ng Kasaysayan, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, Diliman.
- Tiongson, Jaime F. (November 11, 2006). "Puliran on Laguna Copperplate Inscription: Laguna de Bay or Pulilan, Bulacan?". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
- Tiongson, Jaime F. (November 29, 2006). "Pailah is Pila, Laguna". Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
- Patanñe,E.P. Philippines in the Sixth to Sixteenth Centuries. 1996.
- Abinales, Patricio N. and Donna J. Amoroso, State and Society in the Philippines. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
- William Henry Scott. Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History. ISBN 971-10-0226-4.