Emperor Yong Le’s epitaph for the King of Sulu

Some time ago, the Eastern King of Sulu Paduka Batara from the South Sea personally led his relatives and subordinates to come to China. They braved the wind and waves in the seas and arrived at the capital, bearing a friendly official letter and many precious gifts.
His straightforward manner of speaking conveyed genuine friendship and sincerity. We can say that this king possessed extraordinary intelligence, way ahead of his contemporaries. I highly respected this king, and so I received him very well and gifted him with a substantial amount of precious stones. I also gave him a seal that symbolized authority, and bestowed upon him the position of King that represented power.
When he bade goodbye, I assigned some envoys to send him off. Unfortunately, on his way home he succumbed to illness while in Dezhou and died on the 13th day in the 9th month in the 15th year of the Reign of Yong Le.
Truly saddened when I heard the news, I immediately sent some officials to make arrangements for the Eastern King’s burial, and bestowed upon him the title “Gong Ding Wang (恭定王).” He was buried north of the center of the city of Dezhou on the third day of the 10th month of the same year. I also told his eldest son Tumahan to go back to Sulu with his subordinates to take over the kingship, to manage the kingdom well and appease his father’s soul who is in heaven.
The officials from the north reported to me the progress in the construction of the Eastern King’s tomb. They also sought my approval for the inscription on the tomb that will record the king’s achievements.
I thought of “The endless sky will not cover only one person; the vast land will not nurture only one person; the sun and moon will not give light only to one person. They do not have even a bit of bias.” All the kings and emperors had used these three standards of selflessness in representing heaven to govern the land. Only by adhering to these standards can a ruler set up the ideal process from top to bottom and govern in accordance with rules and laws and moral standards to build a state where people live in peace and harmony, which when achieved, is the ruler’s supreme happiness.
“Under heaven there is no piece of land that doesn’t belong to the ruler, and all over the land, not a single person is not the ruler’s subject.” The King of Sulu admired China, which was why he came to visit. His sincerity must be inscribed in gold and stone for people to emulate. It is a pity that he died so soon, like a meteor falling from the sky. I feel that his loyalty cannot be erased, and so I decided to build a tombstone for him, to record his achievements for posterity.
All people die. But people like the Eastern King who seek glory for their country, who provide happiness to their people and descendants, their names will be forever enshrined and glorified in history books. They will not be forgotten even if they die, and their death will be as heavy as Mount Tai.
If the king had continued living in a small island state and died there, nobody would have heard about him, then his death would have been truly regrettable! Although the Eastern King had left mankind, his nobility and greatness of spirit will be forever etched in our hearts.
To express my admiration for the king, I have written the epitaph below:

The vast land under the blue sky and white clouds,
This is where all creatures live and multiply;
A Sacred God formed in nature,
Governs all humankind,
Permeates the spirituality of all ethics,
Nurtures people in all corners.
It is as virtuous and magnanimous as the dew,
That gives life to all lakes and seas, lands and continents.

Among the nobility who came to us bearing precious gifts,
Friends who came to meet us in our halls,
Included great Khans from the west,
And heads of state from faraway lands.
They were not hindered by mountains and seas,
Unafraid of all sorts of dangers and difficulties,
They all came to visit our great Middle Kingdom.
It was like that in the past!
Still like that at present.

The king from the Kingdom of Sulu,
Dreamt of visiting the Middle Kingdom.
He personally led his family and officials,
Including respectable men with white hair,
Innocent children and romantic young people,
They braved the wind and the waves,
Traveled a great distance to visit our capital.
During the meetings they were so respectful,
So sincere in our conversations.
The king was moderate
Wise and rational in his ways,
Such a king with extraordinary talent and knowledge.
To show my respect for his loyalty and goodness,
It was just right that I repaid him with valuable gifts;
A gold seal with red ribbon,
The title Eastern King of Sulu,
And wished him the best in building his state and clan.

The autumn wind of the ninth month,
Accompanied the Eastern King in his long journey home.
Unfortunately he fell ill in Dezhou,
Left mankind so abruptly.
Oh my good friend!
May the clouds give you a ride to heaven.

There is a mound in the Lubei Plains,
Where green pines grow,
There lies the tomb of the Eastern King.
He sleeps and rests in eternal peace.
The glorious name of Paduka Batara,
Shall live on for generations to generations.
Every time people see this old tomb,
It will be like meeting the Great Spirit.

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