The Thalassocracy of Longyamen During the 13th-14th Centuries With Evidence From Historical Sources and Empress Place Excavation in Singapore


About the Webinar

This webinar will identify the type of civilisation present in ancient Singapore during the 13th – 14th centuries. Wang Dayuan (1311–1350 AD) was known as one of the first Chinese traders to write about Southeast Asia as well as Longyamen. Based on Wang’s descriptions, Longyamen was long associated with piracy; an association later entrenched by subsequent travellers and researchers who cite his work. However, the activities and culture in Longyamen were unfamiliar to him, resulting in historical misconceptions. Evidence has shown that Longyamen was a political entity, and had powerful navy fleets and a prosperous economy.

During the 13th century, its trade volume was equivalent to half of that from Sri Vijaya and other ports combined. Merchant ships from Quanzhou Port, then identified by Marco Polo and Ibn Batutah as the largest port in the world, off loaded one third of the cargo in Longyamen and traded with merchants from Indian Ocean. Further ceramic analysis of wine jars, the largest group of ceramic found in Singapore, suggests that there were many banquets held during that time. This, in turn, points to Longyamen’s cultural and economic vibrancy from the 12th century to the first half of the 14th century.

About the Speaker

Tai Yew Seng is a Visiting Fellow of THRC and a ceramic archaeologist who specialises in excavating and handling ceramic from kiln sites, shipwrecks, ruins, and tombs. He also has expertise in the Southeast Asian maritime trade with China. He has conducted research on Chinese navigation charts and texts and invented the magnetic declination dating method. During his stint as a Research Fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), he participated in the Aceh Geohazard Project which involved the collection and analyses of ancient ceramic sherds from over 44 villages. Dr Tai has also taught several courses on Chinese culture and material culture at the Chinese Department at the Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore. He has published a number of research papers and co-authored books on ceramic archaeology and maritime trade in English and Chinese.


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May 14 2020


10:00 am - 11:30 am