Saturday Magazine
Sri Lankan royal family — the missing links in China?

 

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Meeting the Ven. Ramabukwelle Sri Vipassi Nayake Thera of Malwatte are the members of the Chines family believed to be descendants of King Parakramabahu VI. The family included Prince Shi Lai Fa, son Shih Chia Hsu daughter Shih Chih Chua and prince Shih Asian Kusn. - (Pic. Cyril Wimelasurendre, Kandy Staff Corr.)

My article titled ‘Sri Lankan Royal family - missing links in China’, which is reproduced today, appeared on The Island’s Saturday Magazine on August 7, 1999, now nearly three years later wide media coverage has been given to the arrival of several members of this royal family from China accompanied by Chinese academics. This indeed is a unique event!

What has not been been highlighted or conveniently ignored by the media is the fact that these 18th and 19th generations of the "Shie’ (Shhy) family are Taiwanese. The fact they left China five generations ago is also significant. Subsequent to my article, a travel writer N. Vitachi for the Far Eastern Economic Review had interviewed this family in Taiwan. Excerpts of that interview was also published in ‘The Island’.

Apart from this historical evidence, can modern science provide conclusive evidence to prove their claim? Perhaps typing could put the missing ‘links’ together. A Sri Lankan prince, a Chinese admiral and a tri-lingual inscription.

This was also published in The Island’s Saturday Magazine. Unfortunately it evoked some queer interpretation by

Mr. Naganathan, to peddle the ‘homeland’ theory. What is interesting is that the ‘Time’ magazine devoted a whole issue to the main character in my article - the Chinese admiral ‘Ching Ho’. (The spelling may be different) what is more interesting is that a recent theory has been advanced to prove that this Chinese navigators had ‘discovered’ America 74 years earlier than the generally accepted year of discovery.

In fact, the later discovery had been facilitated by detailed navigational charts done by the ‘inconspicuous’ Chinese admiral, (again an article on this theory was published in ‘The Island’s foreign news page).
-N. Perera

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by Norbert Perera
Exciting and intriguing new evidence from academic and other sources is surfacing to indicate that the 19th and 20th generations of a Sri Lankan royal family are in fact in existence thousand of miles away from their country of origin. In fact I have been informed that an official/ academic team had visited China around 1985/6 to conduct research into this theory. The location is Ghyuan Jou (Quang Zhou) where the Chinese government had erected two stone inscriptions to mark the site the ‘Shhy’ (Shi) "Sinhala" royal family had, chosen to live and raise the next generations. However, I am not aware of the contents of the report of the team.

According to my sources from a far eastern country the Sri Lankan Dynsty has been identified as Parakramabahu Vl, the year of arrival in China as 1459 and the location in Chyuan Jou (Quan Zhou) in China. If the date of arrival is correct-it either corresponds to the tail end of the Ming emperor Chu chi-yu (1428-57) identified as the brother of Ying-tsung (the temple name of this emperor is given as Ching-ti) or the ascendancy of the emperor Chu Chien-Shen (temple name Hsien-tsung). It is an established historical fact that Sri Lanka has had very close relations with China from as early as the Anuradhapura period. Recent archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Anuradhapura proves this beyond reasonable doubt.

However, China enters the Sri Lankan political arena toward the latter part of the Polonnaruwa period and extends right throughout the Kotte period. The period between 1401 A D and 1460 probably marks the high water mark of Chinese hegemony in Sri Lankan politics and commerce. Recent archeological discoveries in Chyuan Jou are interesting. Among these are elephant and lingam sculptures in stone. The Ming Dynasty which covers the period from 1368-1644 A.D. marks the high water mark of Chinese domination in international trade and commerce as well as politics. They dominated sea routes extending to the Indian Ocean and land routes to central Asia. It is an established fact that some Sri Lankan rulers paid tributes to the Mind rulers. This was also a diplomatic ploy to keep would be invaders at bay.

Professor Mendis Rohanadheera the eminent historian who has done extensive research on Sri Lanka - China relations during the Ming Dynasty and the local parallel Parakramabahu Dynasties establishes the fact that the Sri Lankana Dynasty accepted Ming authority and sent and received emissaries on several occasions from 1401 onwards writing to the ‘The Island’ on 7th September 1997 under the caption ‘Ceylon Prince of Ming Dynasty’ the learned Professor points out that the Chinese admiral Cheng Ho paid several visits to Sri Lanka during this period and captured Vira Alakeshwara and his, royal family during his third expedition and produced them before the Chinese royal court which appointed the emperor’s nominee to the throne of Sri Lanka. He argues that there were in fact two Parakramabahus during this period. Parakaramabahu VI who ruled the low country areas and Dedigama Parakramabahu who ruled the upcountry and four Korales. He asserts that Dedigama Parakramabahu sent his son to China as an envoy to the Chinese Court. Meanwhile, he died in 1460 and his grandson took the reigns in 1461. This left the legitimate successor to Dedigama parakramabahu stranded in China. Summing up his theory he says "The legitimate heir to the throne was stranded in Quang Zhou (Ghyuan Jou) in China and founded the ‘Shi’ (Shhy) Dynasty which continued in the latter parts of the Mind Dynasty according to archaeological discoveries from China".

The second school thought asserts that it was the progeny of Parakramabahu VI. This also seems to be the view of Chinese sources. Prof. Hao Wei Min of the Kelaniya with whom I had a preliminary discussion and who has researched on Sri Lanka - China relations seems to hold this view.

Apart from these two scholars there has been some research carried out by Chinese academics. Also there have been several newspaper articles in Chinese Language newspapers and periodicals. Unfortunately, because of the language barrier the vital information has not percolated down to local scholars. There is also evidence coming from inscriptions on tombstones, family heirlooms, houses dating back to the Ming period, and private temples built by the descendants of this Dynasty. I am told that even the original abode of the Shhy Dynasty still exists.

Since most of the material evidence is outside Sri Lanak and in the Chinese language it would be a formidable: academic exercise to sift the evidence. However, it would be worth the trouble

There is some evidence of the existence of the 19th and 20th generations of the ‘Shhy’ Dynasty which if credible could lead to the ‘missing links’ of a Sinhala royal family outside Sri Lanka claiming continuous existence. Does the family name ‘Shhy’ denote "Sinhala"? This family trace their origin to the Sri Lankan royal family Ba Lai Na. The first task would be to correctly identify it. The five tombstones discovered in Chyuan Jou give the surname "Shhy’.

The present two generations also carry the same surname plus the addition of Ba Lai na. Are they descendants of the family of Vira Alakeshwara, Parakramabahu VI or Dedigama Parakramabahu? The tombstones inscriptions discovered recently refer to a Sri Lankan prince with the names beginning with ‘ru ren’. Some words are missing. None of the 16 Odd Ming emperors of the Ming dynasty beginning with Chu Yuan chang (1328-98) down to Chu Yu-chien (1611-44) have names with the word occurring anywhere in their names? The word seems to be very elusive in Chinese. Does the family name Shhy (Shi) occurring in the recently discovered tombstones have link to the present 19th and 20th generations? If in the affirmative then the name ‘Ba Lai Na’ would be the Chinese version of the Sri Lankan prince who settled down in China on his own accord or was forced to. Over to the academics.


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