Soul of China

South Song and Luzon

In 1276 AD, Emperor Du Zong (度宗) of South Song (1127-1279) surrendered to the Yuan (Mongolian) army. The minister of Rites, Lu Xiu Fu (陸秀夫), refused to surrender. He left Lin An (臨安, the capital of South Song, now Hangzhou) with General Zhang Shi Jie (張世傑) and other officials, and installed the son of Du Zong, Zhao Shi (趙昰), as emperor, to continue resisting the Yuan army.

Zhao Shi died two years later. The officials, feeling hopeless, intended to pursue their own course. But Lu dissuaded them, reminding them of a dynasty’s resurgence in ancient times through a group of people. Since Du Zong still has another son, and civil and military officials are still around, with tens of thousands of soldiers, Lu asked if these were not enough to build a nation. Thus, Lu, together with other officials, installed Zhao Bing (趙昺), who was only eight years old, as emperor to continue resisting Yuan. Despite wandering in desperate plight, Lu gave lessons to the little emperor, including on the classics to guide him on how to govern a country.

In 1279, the Song army was defeated disastrously at Ya Shan (崖山). Realizing the Yuan army was irresistible and there was no way to escape, Lu rushed to the ship of Zhao Bing, drove his wife with his sword to jump into the sea, then carried Zhao Bing on his back and jumped into the sea together to commit suicide. Thus, marked by Lu Xiu Fu’s solemn and stirring jump into the sea, the over 300-year reign of the Song Dynasty came to an end.

But wait. There is an interesting version of this tragic ending of South Song and the fate of its last little emperor presented by a Pinoy, and it has something to do with Luzon.

In his 2004 article “Tagalog at Bisaya,” Yahshua A. Tabilog writes:

Contemporary Chinese historians in Guangdong are now even questioning the Mongolian accounts regarding Emperor Bing’s death. Even though Mongol sources claimed that the corpse of the last emperor has been found washed ashore along the coast of Shenzen, his actual grave is yet to be found. Cantonese folklore expressed in the traditional Cantonese opera narrates an alternative account where the loyal Minister Liu [Lu] Xiu Fu tricked the Mongols by committing suicide with his own son disguised as the young emperor. The real emperor was said to have been smuggled out of the scene of battle by Grand Admiral Zhang Shi Jie, who will eventually return to redeem the empire from the invaders. The Travel of Marco Polo also recounts the escape of the last Song emperor across the sea. Zhang Shi jie’s fleet and the last Song emperor may have escaped to pre-colonial Philippines and established the Luzon Empire or the ‘Lesser Song Empire.’

Tabilog further said: “Despite the conjectures regarding its origins, the Ming Annals are clear on the actual existence of the Luzon Empire. It records that in 1373 AD, the Luzon Empire sent its first among the many succeeding diplomat mission to the Great Ming Empire (1368-1644 AD), accompanied by the embassies of India’s Chola Empire.”

He also pointed out: “Ming Chroniclers added the character of ‘kingdom’ or ‘empire’ (pinyin: Guu <Guo> <國>) after Luzon (Lusong), indicating that it was once an independent and sovereign kingdom. Her rulers were acknowledged as king and not mere chieftains. The Ming Empire treated Luzon Empire more favorably than Japan by allowing it to trade with China once every two years, while Japan was only allowed to trade once every 11 years.”


Anyway, Tabilog only said: “The last Song emperor may have escaped to pre-colonial Philippines and established the Luzon Empire or ‘Lesser Song Empire.’” In other words, it is only a possibility. Still, let us just give Tabilog due respect for this fantastic yet wonderful account. Who knows?