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Ma-i or Maidh (also spelled Ma'i, Mai, Ma-yi or Mayi; Chinese: 麻逸; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: má it) was a sovereign Prehispanic Philippine state, notable for having established trade relations with the Kingdom of Brunei, and with Song and Ming Dynasty China.

For many years, scholars believed that this state was likely on the island of Mindoro. But recent scholarship casts doubt on this theory, arguing that historical descriptions better match Bay, Laguna (whose name is pronounce Ba-i), which once ruled over a vast territory on the eastern coasts of Laguna de Bay. Another suggested location is Malolos, Bulacan.

Its existence was recorded both in in the Chinese Imperial annals Zhu Fan Zhi and History of Song and in the royal records Sultanate of Brunei, which refer to it as the nation of Maidh.

These Chinese and Bruneian records, which predate most of the local written sources extant in the Philippines today, are significant as they give historians a textual record of what life in precolonial Philippines was like.

Mai according to Chinese records

In 1225, China's Zhao Rugua, a superintendent of maritime trade in Fukien province wrote the book entitled Zhu Fan Zhi (Chinese: 諸番志; literally: ""Account of the Various Barbarians"") in which he described trade with a country called Mai (pronounced "Ma-yi") which was a prehispanic Philippine state. In it he said:

Chinese porcelain-ware, Kangxi era (1662–1722), Qing Dynasty. Ancient Chinese porcelain excavated in Mindoro, Philippines; proves the existence of trade between the island and Imperial China. This consequently validates Chinese historical records of the area.
The country of Mai is to the north of Borneo. The natives live in large villages on the opposite banks of a stream and cover themselves with a cloth like a sheet or hide their bodies with a loin cloth. There are metal images (Buddhas) of unknown origin scattered about in the tangled wilds. Few pirates reach these shores. When trading ships enter the harbor, they stop in front of the official plaza, for the official plaza is that country's place for barter and trade and once the ship is registered, they mix freely. Since the local officials make a habit of using white umbrellas, the merchants must present them as gifts.
The method of transacting business is for the savage traders to come all in a crowd and immediately transfer the merchandise into baskets and go off with it. If at first they can't tell who they are, gradually they come to know those who remove the goods so in the end nothing is actually lost. The savage traders then take the goods around to the other islands for barter and generally don't start coming back until September or October to repay the ship's merchants with what they have got. Indeed, there are some who don't come back even then, so ships trading with Mai are the last to reach home. San-hsu, Pai-p'u-yen, P'u-li-lu, Li-yin-tung, Liu-hsin, Li-han and etc. are all the same sort of place as Mai.
The local products are beeswax, cotton, true pearls, tortoise shell, medicinal betel nuts and yuta cloth. The merchants use such things as porcelain, trade gold, iron pots, lead, colored glass beads and iron needles in exchange.

Territorial Extent of Mai

The local Chinese influenced kingdom or Huangdom named Mayi, once had a ruler that used 30 people as human sacrifices in his funeral. From this account, the subordinates of Mayi were recorded to be Baipuyan (Babuyan Islands), Bajinong (Busuanga), Liyin and Lihan (present day Malolos City). Malolos is a coastal town and one of the ancient settlement around Manila Bay near Tondo.

Legacy of Mai

According to scholars, Blair and Robertson, the name "Li-han" or "Li Han" was the ancient Chinese name for Malolos, whose leaders bore the title of "Gat-Salihan" or "Gatchalian" (derived from "Gat sa Li-Han"). It was in 1225 that a "Li Han in the country of Mai" was mentioned in the account of Chao Ju Kua titled Chu-Fan-Chi, as a Huang () "King" of Ma-i. The Mai is one among many Prehispanic Philippine States such as the Rajahnate of Butuan, the Kingdom of Tondo and the Sultanate of Maguindanao. In Mai, the richness of the soil and the convenience of its location made Malolos an important trading post for the native inhabitants and the traders from Cathay. Ferdinand Blumentritt, a Czech Filipinologist and José Rizal's friend, and Wang Teh-Ming, a Chinese scholar, supported this historic development of commercial activities which continued undisturbed until the advent of the Spanish era in 1572. This centuries-long trade relations must have resulted in many generations of Sino-Tagalogs, whose descendants are still omni-present in Malolos. The innumerable Malolos families who bear Chinese-sounding surnames attest to these inter-marriages.

Known rulers of Ma-i

Name Title held From Until
Gat Sa Li-han "王" Huang (King) according to Chinese records 1225? ?

See also


  1. ^ Patanne, E. P. (1996). The Philippines in the 6th to 16th Centuries. San Juan: LSA Press. ISBN 971-91666-0-6. 
  2. Scott, William Henry. (1984). "Societies in Prehispanic Philippines". Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. p. 70. ISBN 971-10-0226-4. 
  3. Go, Bon Juan (2005). "Ma’l in Chinese Records - Mindoro or Bai? An Examination of a Historical Puzzle". Philippine Studies (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University) 53 (1): 119–138. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  4. ^ Malolos Historical Digest, March 2000, Marcial C. Aniag, editor
  5. ^ Wang Zhenping (2008). "Reading Song-Ming Records on the Pre-colonial History of the Philippines". Journal of East Asian Cultural Interaction Studies 1: 249–260. ISSN 1882-7756. 
  6. Robert Nicholl, "Brunei rediscovered", Brunei Museum Journal, Volume 4 (1980)
  7. "Prehispanic Source Materials: for the study of Philippine History" (Published by New Day Publishers, Copyright 1984) Written by William Henry Scott, Page 68.
  8. Chu Fan Chih Ch. 7-8
  9. "Prehispanic Source Materials: for the study of Philippine History" (Published by New Day Publishers, Copyright 1984) Written by William Henry Scott, Page 69.
  10. Informe sobre el estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1842, Tomo 1, Madrid 1843, p. 139
  11. The Philippine Islands, 1493–1898, by Emma Helen Blair and James A. Robertson, Manila, 1903–1909

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