China raising money for Sulu sultan’s shrine

By | July 26, 2011

Posted on July 12, 2011 05:46:14 PM–China-raising-money-for-Sulu-sultan%E2%80%99s-shrine&id=34597

China raising money for Sulu sultan’s shrine

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Chinese government is ready to provide up to one billion yuan, or about P6.6 billion, for the development and rehabilitation of Sulu’s Sultan Paduka Batara’s Historical Shrine in Dezhou City, Shan-Dong province.

Tausug visual artist Rameer A. Tawasil, who was part of a six-man delegation from Mindanao that visited eastern China last month, said the project aims at honoring and raising awareness about the history and roots of Sultan Batara who died there during an official visit in the early 15th century.

Mr. Tawasil, who was asked by Chinese officials to help design a museum that would be built within the compound of the sultan’s tomb, told BusinessWorld the shrine, which houses a mosque, is the most visited landmark in Shan-Dong province.

Mr. Tawasil said his museum design will showcase Tausug and Moro architectural forms such as the ukkil, the Tausug style of wood carving.

“This symbolic move of the Chinese government really sends a strong message that they value their centuries-old relationship with the people of Sulu,” the Moro artist said.

He said some new buildings inside the compound will be given to Muslim descendants of Sultan Batara. The project, he said, is expected to be finished within three years.

He said that six years from now, the people of Shan-Dong province will celebrate the 600th year since Sultan Batara’s visit and that local officials are planning to make commemorative stamps to highlight the celebration.

Part of the proposal discussed during the meeting with Chinese officials last month, Mr. Tawasil said, was to build a replica of Sultan Batara’s shrine in Sulu province. He added that a marker to highlight the friendship of Sulu and China was also discussed.

Mr. Tawasil also said that he had proposed that he do a mural that will depict the sultan’s life, emphasizing that murals are visual and are easily understood both by foreign visitors and the locals. The compound, he said, has an approximate area of seven hectares and was put under “state protection” in 1988 by the Chinese national government.

Based on historical texts compiled by Sururul-Ain Ututalum and Abdul-Karim Hedjazi in the book The Geneology of the Sulu Royal Families, three sultans from Sulu archipelago went to China in 1417 to pay a visit to Chinese emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty. One of the sultans fell ill and died in Dezhou City.

“The Emperor Yongle was very sad at the news. He sent his minister to Dezhou to cope with the matter and granted the distinguished overseas guest a magnificent funeral that was as formal as for a Chinese king,” part of the epitaph of the sultan said.

At least 10 people, including the sultan’s two sons, were left behind in China to look after the tomb. As years passed, the sultan’s sons and Chinese locals married. In 1731, during the time of Yongzheng of the Quing Dynasty, the descendants of Sultan Batara were naturalized as Chinese citizens under the surnames Wen and An, the book said.

In 2005, the descendants of Sultan Batara visited the Philippines through the auspices of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations, a visit that coincided with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

An Jin Tian and his son An Yuan Chi representing the An family, and Wen Hai Jun representing the Wen branch, all from Shan-Dong province in eastern China, finally visited Sulu, their ancestors’ homeland, for the first time in more than 600 years. — Amilbahar S. Mawallil

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