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Arab dating near Kota India

Although the style of this account is simple and though the statements it contains, such as the description of the growth and prosperity of the negeri, belong to the conventions of Malay story telling, the circumstances which it relates are by no means at variance with the evidence provided by other sources. In particular the attack on Lobo Tua by Gergasi may represent a local version of whatever happened at Lobo Tua to suggest a termination date at that site sometime between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.

Future archaeological work may help to date this move more precisely; the Indonesian team found Sung and Yuan sherds at Lobo Tua, but almost no Ming, while McKinnon seems to take the view that the site may hold even earlier ceramics and have terminated during the twelfth century. We shall see that the presence of grave sites and ceramic finds to the east of Lobo Tua around the region now known as Barus indicate that that became the later centre of activity.

Information concerning the history of Fansur or Barus is much less evenly spread over the next four centuries. Those sources which are available appear to indicate that if the Fansur region was involved in export trade during these years it was undertaken principally with Indian or Middle Eastern merchants who have left no record of their voyages.

Chau Ju Kua mentions Pin-su in his Chu-fan-Chi which provides an account of trade in the archipelago at the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth centuries. Pin-su is not mentioned in his list of dependencies of Srivijaya, but rather in a section of the work dealing with products, where he relates that camphor comes from P'o-ni Brunei and also from Pin-su.


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He points out that, contrary to common opinion, camphor was not found at San-fo-ts'i, but like other products, it was gathered together there for sale to foreigners He goes on to describe the camphor tree and provides a detailed account of resin collection.

Chau Ju Kua shows that P'o-ni was considered to be a major source of camphor by the Chinese and his three page description of P'o-ni indicates that this country was much better known to Chinese traders than Pin-su. A work composed at the beginning of the thirteenth century appears to be the principal source for the belief that a Nestorian church once existed in Barus.

This place is also known for its camphor which is, no doubt, the reason why several commentators have chosen to assume that Abu Salih is referring to Suma-.

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The reference occurs, however, in a section of the book which is concerned with India and Abu Salih's editor has suggested that Fansur is here an error for Mansur in north west India which, according to him, was famous among the Arabs for camphor. Despite this caution by Evetts the notion of a Nestorian church in north west Sumatra has been taken up by several authors who have also set the reference in a much earlier historical context Another, better documented, reference to Fansur in the thirteenth century is to be found in the Geniza documents.

According to Goitein, Fansuri camphor was known as the best available in these records as well as in later European sources. The specific reference Goitein cites refers to the estate of a Jewish trader who died in Fansur in the thirteenth century and whose property was sequestered by the local ruler. The merchant in question had spent a long time in India and had, apparently, made the voyage to Fansur from there Goitein seems to be in no doubt that Fansur, here, refers to the north west coast of Sumatra and suggests that for Jewish traders making the voyage from Cairo to Fansur it would take at least four months Later in this century Ibn Sa'id shows that the Arabs were still aware of Fansur.

Tibbetts considers Ibn Sa'id to be a reliable source; although his geography was shaky he offers new information which Tibbetts attributes to links with the Mongol court of Hulagu and to his questioning of sailors at the port of Hormuz The Mountains of Camphor extend from this town as far as the end of the island, from west to east Fansur the sixth kingdom is a kingdom by itself, and they have a king and are idolaters and are claimed of the great Kaan.

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They are of this same island of Java of which we have told you above. The best camphor grows in this kingdom, and it is worth much more than the other is worth. For I tell you that it is sold by weight for the same amount of fine gold ". After Marco Polo there is little to report on Fansur or Barus for a considerable time. Barus appears in the Nagarakertagama, composed in , as one of the dependencies of Melayu, but that reference tells us little more than that the name Barus was in use in the fourteenth century At this point references to Fansur-Barus turn into a mere list of travellers who either mention Fansur-Barus or who fail to do so.

He mentions Lamuri where camphor and gold are traded, but then moves on to a description of Sumol- tra Semudra.

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He obviously failed to visit the west coast and describes the people of Lamri and Sumoltra as savage The fifteenth century Ming-Shih, however, does mention that some Chinese were shipwrecked in Pansur in about Whether the scarcity of references to Barus during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is evidence of a lack of activity there is hard to determine in the absence of detailed archaeological research.

Kingdoms located on the east coast of Sumatra experienced change in this period as a result of fluctuations in the Chinese trade Another explanation might be that these are simply the wrong travellers, the wrong set of informants, and that Arab and Indian sailors were still visiting the area on an occasional basis It is particularly unfortunate, for Barus history, that Indian trading expeditions have not left written accounts of the type available in Arab and Chinese sources. That Indian Ocean shipping did, however, continue to visit Fansur-Barus, at least in the fifteenth century, is suggested by the relatively rich sources available from the begining of the sixteenth.

Arabs and Portugese informants from this period provide a far more detailed picture of Fansur-Barus than anything available from previous centuries. What is more they plunge this region into the limelight, to some extent, presenting it as a more significant centre than it had earlier appeared to be. These are first hand accounts of sailors both of whom also used earlier sources The fall of Malacca to the Portuguese in and the rise of Aceh as a strong centre, favourably inclined towards west Asian merchants, meant that shipping which had once used the Straits of Malacca now sailed down the west coast of Sumatra to the Sunda Straits When the land comes near, enter the harbour Then set out to sea and set course for Ceylon and the Maldives This account tells us, for the first time, something about the intriguing double nomenclature of Fansur-Barus.

All these are rich and the Gujeratees come here every year with one ship, or two or three, with merchandise It is all one kingdom not two. It is bounded by Tico on one side and on the other by the land of the kingdom of Singkel; in the interior it has its dealings with the Menangkabaus, and in front of it, in the sea, it has the island of Nias Minhac Barras , about which we will speak.

This kingdom [Fansur] is at the head of the trade in these things in all the island of Sumatra, because this is the port of call through which the gold goes, and the silk, benzoin, camphor in quantities, apothecary's ligna- loes, was, honey, and other things in which this kingdom is more plentiful than any of the others described up to now. Benzoin from Baros, Tico and Priaman is plenteous in the island of Sumatra and every white.

It is difficult to interpret Pires' comment concerning the names Barus and Fansur. If the local historical tradition of Barus is accurate we may suppose that Tarusan Malays had arrived there by the early sixteenth century and given their new settlement the name of Barus.

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On the other hand we have seen that one of the only Indonesian sources which mentions this area prior to the sixteenth century, the fourteenth century Nagarakerta- gama, uses the name Barus, a fact which seems to lend support to the contention of Pires that Barus was the local name for the port, although the Nagarakertagama offers no indication of where Barus may have been located. Moreover since the northern part of Sumatra was known as Barus and Balus to Chinese and Arab travellers in earlier centuries it would seem strange that Minangkabau Malays from the south west coast should be the ones to introduce the name at Fansur.

It is just as likely that the Hilir account of a name change when the Tarusan Malays arrived in Barus was a later explanation of the region's dual nomenclature which spread back to Tarusan and was incorporated in west Sumatra's literary heritage because of its effectiveness as a story or for other rhetorical reasons Whatever the answer is to this problem of names, both Fansur and Barus would appear to have been in use during the sixteenth century; Hamzah Fansuri, for instance, used both names and referred to the camphor of Barus in his verse.

The descriptions of Pires and Sulaiman indicate that Barus,. Other sources complement this impression.

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Pires also links this trade with Fansur-Barus's relationship with the inland Kingdom of Minang- kabau and with other Minangkabau ports such as Pariaman and Tiku further down the west coast. Whatever form relations between Barus and Minangkabau took in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the expansion of Aceh' s royal authority along the east and west coasts of Sumatra during the sixteenth probably interrupted them.

During Sultan 'Alau'd-Din Ri'ayat Shah's campaign against the east Sumatran Bataks in , one of the Acehnese generals was said to have been governor of the kingdom of Barus and brother-in- law to the Sultan of Aceh. Despite the increase in available source material for Barus history in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, there is still little information available concerning the local population in these years. We have seen that Fansur and other parts of north Sumatra had long been in contact with the wider Muslim world.


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Without precise information on the subject it does not seem profitable to pursue the questions of how and when Islam became an important religion in Fansur-Barus What has drawn attention though is the connection between Fansur-Barus and the mystic poet, Hamzah Fansuri. Whether Hamzah called himself Fansuri because he was born in Barus or because he worked and achieved mystical enlightenment there has been the subject of debate There seems to be no doubt, however, that Hamzah knew Barus well and spent a part of his life there, Barus and the camphor resin for which it was famous figure in his imagery.

The details of this philosophical debate have been studied elsewhere. What is of relevance here is the fact that al-Raniri's denunciation appears to have taken the form of a virtual witchhunt against those followers of Hamzah and Shamsu'1-Din who remained in Aceh It is therefore particularly intriguing that among a large number of old, muslim, gravestones in Barus there is at least one which bears an inscription which suggests that the occupant of the grave was a student and follower of Shamsu'1-Din The inscriptions on several other stones, moreover, suggest that they commemorate the death of Shaikhs and holy men.

One hypothesis under consideration by experts at the Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional in Jakarta is that Shamsu'l-Din's disciples may have been either exiled or have fled to Barus under al-Raniri's persecution There are at least six sites in Barus which contain old, decorated, gravestones. A study of these was made in by a Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional team which found fourteenth to sixteenth century ceramics in association with some of them. This large assemblage of graves will bear much future study.

The decorations on some are unfinished and others are covered with motifs which may derive from Batak decorative art. Only one inscribed tombstone at Barus has been identified with a date so far.

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This stone is located in a site known as Makam Tuanku Batu Badan. The stone in question stands next to another which locals believe marks the grave of Tuanku Batu Badan, or Sultan Ibrahim, the first Malay ruler of Barus who came to Barus from Tarusan and who was decapitated in the course of a war with Aceh. The stone next to that of Tuanku Batu Badan bears an inscription which indicates that it marks the grave of a woman called Masurah who died in A. Despite the local belief that this is.

Unfortunately nothing is known of the agency responsible for erecting these numerous gravestones, although the presence of Batak motifs and the unfinished state of the decoration on some would seem to suggest that they were decorated and inscribed, if not actually carved out, locally. The nineteenth century chronicles of Barus, which have already been referred to above, both describe the defiant stance which Sultan Ibrahim took against the Sultan of Aceh and the war in which he lost his life.

Sultan Ibrahim is, perhaps, the preeminent Barus hero in local texts and the story of this ruler's conflict with Aceh seems to reflect the complicated and tense relationship between Aceh and Fansur-Barus which is suggested by other sixteenth and seventeenth century sources. When the Dutch East India Company VOC signed a contract with the rulers of Barus and established a trading post there in , Company servants reported a division between pro-and anti-Aceh parties within the kingdom over whether or not to join with the Company and abandon their Acehnese connection.

An important difficulty was that the family of the Acehnese Panglima, charged with monitoring trade at Barus, had intermarried with the local nobility and a key provision of the contract was the expulsion of all Acehnese from Barus. In a further indication of the extent of Acehnese involvement in the kingdom one VOC servant, writing shortly after the arrival of the VOC, attributed the existence of two royal families in Barus to the interference of the ruler of Aceh who, he said, had created the Raja di Hulu position to counteract the influence of the Tarusan Malays.

Although it is perfectly possible that the ruler of Aceh may, at some stage, have recognised and supported the, Batak, Hulu family of Barus, this is unlikely to have been the sole impetus for a history of dual kingship which lasted, sporadically, in Barus throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

For a better undestanding of indigenous kingship in Barus, and of the religious, commercial and cultural life of the kingdom it is important to know much more about the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Not only is this a period for which external sources are more detailed and informative than hitherto, it is also a time when local inscriptional and archaeological evidence appears to be particularly rich. The north west Sumatran locality of Fansur-Barus appears to have enjoyed a long and close, though possibly intermittent, relationship with the wider Muslim world.

It is possible that the messages passing to and fro among uses of the Indian Ocean reached particularly receptive ears in Barus during the sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries and that this period marked a particularly intense passage in what was a close and long standing relationship. Tectona Boschbouwkundig Tijdschrifi. Kern, Verspreide Geschrifien, vol. VI , p. See also P. Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce, Ithaca, , p. See, for instance, N. Krom, Hindu-Javaansche Geschiedenis, 's-Gravenhage, , p,, p. For Wolters' discussion of this question see, O.

Wolters, op. The name appears to derive from a small settlement near modern Bams known as Pan- sur; it probably comes from pancur, to flow, the Malay word for a spring.

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See van Vuuren, op. See, for instance, Brakel ibid. As a trade product camphor was in demand by Chinese, Middle Estera and Indian merchants from early times, it was popular as a perfume and regarded as a wonder drug, able to cure all manner of ailments. The most thourough modern study on this subject has been undertaken by Wolters in Early Indonesian Commerce, in chapters 7 and 8 particularly.