Was There Any Telling Relation between West Papua and Srivijaya Empire?

Raja ampat - vebma.com
Raja ampat - vebma.com

Not only is West Papua riveting for its natural and cultural splendor but the raven pearl sitting on the eastern side of Indonesia also offers an incredible historical value everyone needs to figure out. The human settlement in Western New Guinea was estimated to begin around 48,000 years ago. The migration of Austronesian people to the world’s second largest island marked out the civilization. The land of Cendrawasih (bird of paradise) was then invaded by the Indonesian kingdoms and Europeans from the Sultanate of Tidore to the Dutch imperialist.

Fascinatingly, this region had already been recognized by Chinese dynasty specifically since the Srivijaya Empire administered Nusantara (the Indonesian archipelago). One of the rulers of the glorious Sumatran kingdom once presented birds of paradise as a gift to the Chinese emperor.  Although there is no such clear evidence how West Papua and Srivijaya Empire is related each other, these following facts will unquestionably cross your mind.

Janggi and Pulau Ujung Samudranta, Nicknames Referring to West Papua

Sriwijaya kingdom - 4.bp.blogspot.com
Sriwijaya kingdom – 4.bp.blogspot.com

According to a historical record, the presence of West Papua had reached out to the ears of the Maritime Srivijaya Empire in the 8th century. The clue previously described in brief that the Chinese dynasties got a unique present comprising a couple of original Papuan birds from the envoy of Srivijaya kingdom is pretty obvious – there used to be a close tie between the largest Sumatran monarchy and the western piece of New Guinea. Even some believe that the region belonged to the government of Srivijaya in spite of week indication. Another hint in regard to the connection of both is the naming given to West Papua. In the past, it was called “Janggi”.

Another authentic proof in respect of the nickname is acquired from an inscription written by a Chinese wayfarer named Chau Yu Kua. He stated that there was a region situated in the Far East of South East Asia that became the part of Mollucan kingdom – this one, in point of fact, refers to West Papua. The explorer called it Tung Ki, the Chinese name of Janggi.  This interesting actuality truly is impressive and mind-blowing as well since the easternmost Indonesian province was famed enough among the old sovereignties throughout either the archipelago or East Asia.

Apart from the early naming to the Western New Guinea by the largest Sumatran ruler, one of the history researchers once disclosed that this region was even renowned by Indian seafarers in the first century. While the people made an exploration throughout the Indonesian islands, they also found that the archipelago encompassed not only two large islands, Java and Sumatra but also West Papua. It used to be named “Pulau Ujung Samudranta” which means an island at the edge of an ocean. The locals say the naming also originates from the Empire of Srivijaya.

Social, Political, Cultural, and Economy Relations in the 7th Century

West papua - ytimg.com
West papua – ytimg.com

True to its name which means prosperous and victorious, the Srivijaya is such a powerful Buddhist empire of which territory covered Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and Cambodia. Established in the 7th century, the commanding sovereignty had both cultural and trade links in Bengal, the Middle East, and not to mention West Papua. With the fleets, the trading to the western part of New Guinea Island was lucratively performed. The commodities included spices, pearls, perfumes, and many others. From here, the economy interaction between the newcomers and locals began.

Meanwhile, the cultural influence of Srivijaya kingdom in West Papua might not be that significant mainly in the eastern part of the region which is mostly mountainous and remote. The direct impact of this should have been sensed throughout the area of bird head (Kepala Burung) that refers to Raja Ampat and Manokwari as these strategic places had deep ties with the Moluccan monarchies such as Ternate and Tidore. Still, there is no apparent cultural evidence that the indigenous people adapt from Srivijaya except the culture of commerce.

As a matter of fact, the Papuan inhabitants primarily occupying the western tip of the island began identifying fresh products made of spice – this is probably the sign that the Papuans were introduced how to grow and cultivate spice. Besides tightening the economy and cultural relation, another goal why the Empire of Srivijaya made a visit to West Papua and the eastern part of Indonesia was to spread the religion of Buddha. Although the proselytism didn’t seem to work in West Papua, the religious introduction before the Christianity came had changed the locals’ perspective toward faith.

In conclusion, although there is no precise visible evidence showing the ties between West Papua and the Empire of Srivijaya, the gift including birds of paradise given to the Chinese dynasty, as well as the trading in eastern Indonesia signifies the mutual relation of both sides.