From Song Dynasty to Jayabaya King: The Prosperity of Kediri Kingdom Based on Chinese Inscription of Song Dynasty (960 – 1270 AD)

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From Song Dynasty to Jayabaya King: The Prosperity of Kediri Kingdom Based on Chinese Inscription of Song Dynasty (960 – 1270 AD)

As we learnt that since the first century, the triumph of Java and Srivijaya kingdoms had been a distinctive attention and fascination for Chinese dynasties. Java and Srivijaya, spanning archipelago and Malay Peninsula regions, had gained dominance in the waters around Southeast Asia and inherited the thousands of year heritage of civilization. In 132 AD, the ancient Chinese manuscript Heou Han hou (Han dynasty) mentioned Java and Sumatra islands as Ye-tiao (葉調國) or Javadvipa. Under Emperor Shun (125 – 144 AD), Java and Sumatra kingdoms entrusted an envoy to Han dynasty to establish the diplomatic affairs.1)

During 11th – 13th century, the prosperity of Java kingdom was marked by a new era and dynasty in China, Song dynasty (960 – 1270 A.D). The new era emerged when Five dynasties (907 – 960 A.D) collapsed, and Song dynasty took over the reign and succeeded in promoting peace and unity among the whole areas of China. Song Dynasty was able to create a peace relationship and state defense by establishing friendships with any other strong countries. The dynasty created the diplomatic affairs to other countries by exchanging awards, tributes and mutual concessions, instead of waging a war.2)

During 11th and 13th century, Java kingdom generated a codification of law and an epic poem and emerged highly educated and rich people. Supported by intellectual and religious spirit, Java was Hinduist kingdom. For example, when King Airlangga (1006 – 1049 AD) abdicated from his throne, he divided Kahuripan kingdoms to his sons into two kingdoms: For West region, located in Daha, and it was said as Panjalu (Kediri) kingdom (1045 – 1221 AD) under King Sri Samarawijaya, while for East region, located in Kahuripan, and it was said as Jenggala kingdom (1045 – 1136 AD) under King Mapanji Garasakan. Jenggala kingdom (1045 – 1136) and Panjalu (Kediri) kingdom (1045 – 1221 AD). The histories of Panjalu and Jenggala are then obscure until 1116 AD, when King of Panjalu kingdom began his 20-year reign. He married with a Jenggala princess, and successfully resumed his predecessor’s zenith to reunite Jenggala into a single kingdom with Panjalu or Kediri. The Panjalu or Kediri Kingdom was under his successor, king Jayabaya (1135 – 1157 AD).

Under king Jayabaya as the third king, Panjalu or Kediri kingdom enjoyed a renaissance in its power before succumbing, under its last king, Kertajaya (1200 – 1222 AD), to the ambitions of an upstart usurper.3) Jayabaya king was a well-known litterateur and oracle of nation that has been believed by Javanese people until today. He was a Hindu patron. With its vast prolific lands, everything was abundant, and his people’s welfare were assured. King Jayabaya also issued the free-tax land regulations to his people. His decree on free-tax land for his people is recorded on an old stone inscription dated 1057 Saka or 1135 AD that was found in Ngantang village, Malang region, and now is in the collection of National Museum of Indonesia. (see fig. 1: Old Stone Inscription. Circa 1135 AD). In addition, the maritime commerce of Kediri bloomed leading the royal’s earnings mounting at its peak. Succeeding his predecessors, King Jayabaya resumed the Hinduism practices and temples. There are tens of Hindu temples spreading in different sites in East Java inherited by Kediri kingdom. (see fig. 2: Kediri Temple at Gurah Sub-District, Kediri).

In the mid-12th century, the Chinese Song dynasty inscription mentioned that under Jayabaya’s reign, Kediri kingdom became the greatest maritime power, even surpassing Shailendra dynasty, King Sangrama Vijayatunggavarman of Srivijaya kingdom in South Sumatra. Kediri kingdom extended its control over many islands, including Bali, Borneo (Kalimantan) and South Celebes (North Sulawesi). Its ports attracted spice trade especially from the Moluccas. Many Gujarati merchants from India were eager to trade with the Kediri kingdom instead of Sailendras for the simple reason that the former levied less on imports and exports.4) Zhou Qufei 周去非 (1135–1189) AD, a foremost Chinese scholar and author in Southern Song dynasty visiting Java in 1178 A.D, described about Java’s prosperity on his work entitled “Lingwai dada or about the region beyond mountain’. He noted the triumph of Javanese kingdom by saying “Amid rich foreign lands having various precious and valuables, no country could exceed Abbas (Abbasid Caliph in Persia); the second is Java and the third is Srivijaya kingdom.”5)

As the second wealthiest foreign land, Zhou Qufei listed that pepper was listed as one of the delicacies of Java. Further, Zhao Rugua (1170–1228 AD) in his ‘Description of Foreign Lands’, describes in details the sites of production and the type of quality of Javanese pepper. The historical records also reveal that the transition from a native gold and silver coinage to Chinese cash in Java was one of a number of possible responses to the growing need for a convenient exchange medium acceptable at several levels of economic exchange and business. Silver and gold coinage, designed for high value, ritualized transactions, and rice, which served for small-scale exchange, were simply inadequate to the needs of Java’s expanding commercial interests. Thus, Chinese cash undoubtedly played a role in the Javanese economy from at least the end of the Song period. Zhao Rugua noted that in order to generate more profits from the pepper trade with Shepo (Java), Chinese merchants, “………were in habit of smuggling (out of China) copper cash for bartering purposes.”6)

Art and culture were also closely allied to the promotion of Java kingdom to Chinese song dynasty. Literature works and the emergence of commercial ports in Java contributed to an increase in Java’s commercial and maritime interest from China and other countries. Zhou Qufei and Zhao Rukuo, the Chinese historian and politician during Song dynasty, described that “The country of Java is alternatively called Pujialong.” W.P. Groeneveldt translated Pujialong as Pekalongan region (in modern Indonesia) that was located in central Java. This was presumably the primary center of Chinese and foreign trade in the Song period. Contemporary with the Song dynasty in China, Kediri kingdom ruled Java (1042 – 1222 AD). Jan Wisseman reported that over twenty sites in Rembang district have produced Song dynasty ceramics, and ceramic of the same period have been located at over a hundred in eastern Java (directly southeast Tuban port). Tuban port was a central trade not only with the ‘Great East’, but was also the resort of merchants from the west.7)

On May 1999, the author recovered and researched Chinese ceramics of Song dynasty found at over 12 sites in the residency of Tuban, Rembang, Pati, Jepara, Demak, and Blora in East and Central Java. They had been likely transported from Java’s coast to many locations in the hinterland via an integrated marketing system in the 11th century. In Sumatra (Srivijaya) sites, in 1998 and 2000, the author also recovered Chinese ceramics of several varieties from Song dynasty: Yaozhou, Celadon, Qingbai, Jian, and Yue wares. The sites in Palembang, and Muara Jambi, near the gateway to several temples, the Song ceramics were also found. Some of them are inscribed with Chinese mark suggesting that they were for the royal palace and elite’s consumptions. These Song ceramics excavated from shipwrecks and land sites in Java have a major clue for two mutually-related China and Indonesia countries established in the past millennia ago. (see fig. 3: Song ceramics from archaeological sites).

Ancient Chinese ceramic of Song dynasty is one of the enduring legacies of China and Java empire in the 11th to 13th centuries. It is one of the eras of a majestic ancient civilization that has left a lasting impression upon the world of today. It does not only become an important commodity in maritime trade in Java, but also to revisit our understanding of China and Java maritime history during the brilliant civilization in Java and China. The trade commodity of Chinese ceramics during Song dynasty formed a major stimulus for better relationship between Chinese dynasty and Java kingdoms.


  1. Cf. N. Sastri, South Indian Influence in the far East, Bombay, 1949, p. 101.

  2. Ann Paludan, Chronicle of The Chinese Emperors, The reign-by-reign Record of The Rulers of Imperial China, Thames & Hudson, London, 2001, p. 119.

  3. Iem Brown, The Territories of Indonesia, Routledge, London, First Edition, 2009, p. 68.

  4. History of Asia: From Early Times to The Present AD, B.V. Rao, New Dawn Press Inc, UK – USA – India, 2005, p. 213

  5. Prijohutomo, Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia, Kebudayaan Hindu di Indonesia, Jakarta: J.B. Wolters, 1953, p. 53.

  6. Robert S. Wicks, Money, Markets, and Trade in Early Southeast Asia: The Development of Indigenous Monetary System to 1400, Studies on Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, New York, 1992, p. 291.

  7. Song Blue and White Porcelain on the Silk Road, Adam T. Kessler, Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2012, pp. 450 – 451.


From Song Dynasty to Jayabaya King: The Prosperity of Kediri Kingdom Based on Chinese Inscription of Song Dynasty (960 – 1270 AD)