In the sixteenth century, the Philippine Islands occupied a crossroads of culture, trade, and piracy. Many Chinese and European sources clearly show that these islands drew upon a well-established maritime network linking Japan, Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, and South China. After the Spanish occupied Manila, it added Mexico to this network. Even before the Spanish arrival, the Philippines represented one of the most important trading hubs in the greater China Seas region; in fact, in the late fourteenth century, the islands had sent tribute missions to China. However, with the sea bans in China, political instability in Japan, and the intrusion of Europeans into the region, piracy became closely tied to commerce and, as we shall see, to the development of major trade routes. The Chinese pirate, Lin Feng or Limahon, and bands of wakō raiders were particularly active in and around the Philippines in the later part of the sixteenth century. Although Japanese scholars have written much on the Philippines, little of their research focuses on the significance of the islands as an international crossroads and its links to piracy. To date, most recent studies dealing with the sixteenth century have analyzed narrow topics, such as Spanish missionary activities in the Philippines, the role of South American silver in Chinese-Philippine relations, and unilateral trade links between the Philippines and Japan.1 While they have added greatly to our knowledge of this period, each displays a fundamental inability to further advance the argument beyond simple one-sided relationships, particularly those between the Philippines and Japan. Moreover, they show a complete lack of appreciation of the Philippines as a crucial international crossroads in the sixteenth century. The complexities surrounding historical materials further hinder understanding. To create a complete picture of the Philippines, we must examine all relevant sources in Asian and European languages. Needless to say, scholars confront a difficult task in reconstructing the history of Philippine foreign relations in this period. In this chapter, I will explore three sets of key questions using a multilateral perspective. First, when and why did the Philippines become a crossroads? Second, who were the pirates and what role did they play in the development of the Philippines as a crossroads? Third, how did piracy and trade relate in this period, especially with regard to the interaction between the Philippines and Japan? In addressing these questions, I hope to explicate the status of the Philippine Islands in Asian international relations in the sixteenth century, and to show how piracy factored critically in the development of the Philippine crossroads.
|Title of host publication||Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers|
|Subtitle of host publication||Violence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas|
|Publisher||Hong Kong University Press, HKU|
|Number of pages||12|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)