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Luzon Empire (呂宋國)
Capital Tondo (東都)
Government Monarchy
 - Fall of Nan Song (南宋國) 1279
 - Conquest by Spain 1571

Luzon Empire (Plantilla:Zh-tp) was an ancient empire once located around the Manila Bay region of the Philippines. The capital was Tondo (Plantilla:Zh-tp) with its territories occupying most of what is now Central Luzon, extending from the delta region that surrounds Manila Bay, all the way into the interior along head waters of the surrounding rivers in the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan.


Further information: History of the Song Dynasty

The History of the Song Dynasty (宋史) was compiled under Mongol Prime Minister Toktoghan (脫脫) in 1345 AD. In it, the Mongols recount the final and complete destruction of Nan Song (南宋國, "Southern Song Empire") (1127-1279), where in 1279 AD:

  • The Mongol Yuan Fleet finally crushed the Southern Song Navy at the Naval Battle of Yamen (崖門戰役).
  • The loyal Minister of the Left Liu Xiufu committed suicided with last Southern Song Emperor, the child Songdi Bing (宋帝昺) rather than be captured by the Mongols.
  • The Grand Admiral Zhang Shijie (張世傑) escaped with his grand armada but were eventually destroyed by a typhoon while crossing the seas.[1]

A Song Dynasty warship with trebuchet. From Wujing Zongyao, 1044.

Alternative sources refute the accounts of the destruction of Zhang Shijie's grand armada as nothing more than Mongol propaganda since there were no eyewitness accounts of its destruction nor were there traces left of its remains.[2] For most historians, the fate of Zhang Shijie and his grand armada remains a mystery.

Archivo:Song Modi.jpg

Emperor Bing, the last Song emperor.

Contemporary Chinese historians based 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.[3] Cantonese folklore expressed in its traditional opera narrates an alternative account where the loyal Minister Liu Xiufu 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 Shijie, who will eventually return to redeem the empire from the invaders.[4] The Travels of Marco Polo also recounts the escape of the last Song emperor across the ocean.[5]

Archivo:Lusong Guo.jpg

Luzon Empire

Some contemporary Philippine historians[6] agree with their Chinese counterparts, and are willing to speculate further that after the fall of Nan Song (南宋國, "Southern Song Empire"), Zhang Shijie's fleet and the last Song emperor may have escaped to pre-colonial Philippines and established the Luzon Empire or the Lesser Song Empire (呂宋國).

Despite the conjectures regarding its origins, the Ming Annals (明史) 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 diplomatic mission to the Ming Empire (大明國) (1368-1644), accompanied by the embassies of India's Chola Empire.[7] The Ming chroniclers added the character for "kingdom" or "empire" (Plantilla:Zh-tp) after Luzon (, Lǚsòng),[8] indicating that it was once an independent and sovereign kingdom. Her rulers were acknowledged as kings () and not mere chieftains.[9] The Ming Empire treated the 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.[10]

Golden Age[]

Archivo:Presentaion 1.JPG

Ming Dynasty Porcelain

Further information: History of the Ming Dynasty

The Luzon Empire flourished during the latter half of the Ming Dynasty when China closed it's doors to foreign trade. Foreigners were forbidden to send trade missions to China. Chinese merchants were likewise forbidden to trade beyond the borders of the Ming Empire. Yet clandestinely, merchants from Guangzhou and Quanzhou regularly delivered trade goods to Tondo. Luzon merchants then traded them all across Southeast Asia and were considered "Chinese" by the people they encountered.[11]

Archivo:Luzon Sukezaemon(bronze statue).jpg

Statue of Luzon Sukezaemon at Sakai Citizens' Hall.

The Portuguese who came to Asia much earlier than the Spaniards recorded their encounter with the inhabitants of the Luzon Empire and called them Luçoes.[12] The Portuguese records that the Luzon Empire played an active role in the politics and economy of 16th century Southeast Asia.[13]

The Luzon Empire's powerful presence in the trade of Chinese goods in 16th century East Asia was felt strongly by Japan, whose merchants had to resort to piracy in order to obtain much sought after Chinese products such as silk and porcelain. Famous 16th century Japanese merchants and tea connoisseurs like Shimai Soushitsu (島井宗室) and Kamiya Soutan (神屋宗湛) established their branches here. One famous Japanese merchant, Luzon Sukezaemon (呂宋助左衛門), went as far as to change his surname from Naya (納屋) to Luzon (呂宋).

It was at this time that the Luzon Empire was also referred to as Gintu ( "The Land of Gold") or Suarnabumi by its neighbors.


Archivo:Boxer codex.jpg

Luzon Nobility. From the Boxer Codex, c.1595 AD.

Tondo (Plantilla:Zh-tp, "Eastern Capital") has always been the traditional capital of the Luzon Empire. Its rulers were addressed as panginuan or Panginoon (主, "lords")[14], anak banua (天皇, "son of heaven") or lakandula (宮命, "lord of the palace").[15] During the reign of Bolkiah (1485-1521) the Kingdom of Brunei decided to break the Luzon Empire's monopoly in the China trade by attacking Tondo and establishing the city state of Maynilad (Manila) as a Burneian satellite[16]. A new dynasty under the Salalila was established in Manila to challenge the House of Lakandula in Tondo.[17] Another kingdom, named Namayan, was established as a confederation of barangays that began to peak in 1175 and extended from Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay. The royal capital of the kingdom was built in Sapa, known today as Santa Ana.

Archivo:Luzon Wang.jpg

King of Luzon

When the Spaniards arrived in 1571, the unity of the Luzon Empire was already threatened by the uneasy alliance of the "Three Kings of Luzon": the Rajah Matanda of Sapa, the Lakandula of Tondo, and Rajah Suliman III, the rajah muda or "crown prince" of Maynila and laxamana or "grand admiral" of the Macabebe Armada. Powerful states like Lubao, Betis and Macabebe became bold enough to challenge the traditional leadership of Tondo and Maynila.[18] The Spaniards took advantage of the chaos, played favorites with one ruler and pitted them against the other (Divide et Impera), specially upon giving the message by Martin de Goiti to Legazpi about the kingdom of Maynlilad.

The Fall[]


Saint James the Muslim Slayer, Spain's patron saint.

Rumor has it that the Spaniards had poisoned the Rajah Matanda of Maynila so as to win the support of the Lakandula of Tondo. Disregarding the legitimacy of Rajah Suliman III as rajah muda, the Spaniards installed the child Rajah Bago[19] as the new king of Maynila.

In 1571, Rajah Suliman III, rajah muda of Maynila and laxamana of the Macabebe armada, challenged the Spaniards to a naval battle at the estuary of Bangkusay. The Spaniards were able to crush Rajah Suliman III and his Macabebe armada due to the lack of support from the other rulers of the empire. The Luzon Empire was quickly overtaken by the Spaniards. Its territories were carved out and distributed as spoils among themselves. The province of Pampanga was the first Spanish colonial province carved out of the Luzon Empire[20] and the people who spoke one language from Tondo[21] to the rest of Pampanga are now called Kapampangans.

After the collapse of the Luzon Empire, the Spaniards were finally able to create their first colony in Asia, the Philippines, named in honor of the Spanish King Philip II. The name Luzon was given to the entire northern Philippine island, in memory of the former Luzon Empire.[citation needed]


The Luzon Empire was said to have finally ended in 1571 according to Spanish records. Yet the fortified cities of Lubao and Betis continued to thrive as independent principalities of the Luzon Empire till 1572.[22]

In 1575, the Spaniards executed the child king Rajah Bago and his cousin Lumanlan.[23] The Lakandula of Tondo also died in the same year.

In 1586, the Spaniards crushed the revolt of former nobles of the Luzon Empire in the province of Pampanga. The revolt was based in Candaba under the leadership of Don Nicolas Managuete and Don Juan de Manila.[24]

In 1588, the Spaniards crushed the revolt of the nobles of the Luzon Empire in Tondo.[25] It was led by the descendants of the Lakandula and their kinsmen with the assistance of Japanese merchants. Many of them were executed or exiled and their properties confiscated.

In 1590, the King Sattha of Cambodia sent two elephants to the "King of Luzon" through his Portuguese ambassador and requested the Luzon Empire's assistance in their battle against Siam.[26] In the same year, the "lords" of the Luzon Empire were said to have been corresponding with the Taikou-sama of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, begging assistance to help liberate the Luzon Empire from the Spaniards.

The Rulers of Maynilad and other barangays surrounding the old Luzon empire became the ancestors of the Ilustrado Class. Since Spanish Rulers appointed them to rule over the natives as Cabeza de Barangay. Their descendants survived until today.

Its Recognition in Philippine History[]

The History of the Luzon Empire, specially its Chinese prescence, is seldom heard in mainstream Philippine history since it focused on Luzon's malayan and islamic past, like the "Laguna Copperplate" Inscription, the kingdom of Namayan, and the kingdom of Maynilad.


  1. 宋史
  2. Giles
  3. History of Shenzen
  4. Guangdong Tourism Council
  5. Plantilla:Gutenberg author
  6. Pangilinan, et al on the initial translations of DongXi Yanggao(東西洋考, Book 5.)
  7. 明史
  8. 東西洋考
  9. ibidem
  10. 明史
  11. Conquistas
  12. Scott
  13. ibid.
  14. Conquistas
  15. Henson
  16. Scott
  17. Henson
  18. Conquistas
  19. Santiago
  20. Henson
  21. Loarca
  22. Conquistas
  23. Santiago
  24. Licuanan & Mira
  25. Santiago
  26. Morga
  • History of Shenzen compiled by the Shenzen Local Tourism Office, 2003.
  • Giles, Herbert Allen, A Chinese Biographical Dictionary (1898). Reprinted by Cheng Wen Publishing, Taipei, 1975.
  • Henson, Mariano A. 1965. The Province of Pampanga and Its Towns: A.D. 1300-1965. 4th ed. revised. Angeles City: By the author.
  • Licuanan, Virginia Benitez & Jose Llavador Mira, The Philippines Under Spain: a compilation and translation of original documents, Book IV (1583-1590), The National Trust for Historical and Cultural Preservation of the Philippines, Quezon City, 1993.
  • Loarca, Miguel de, Relación de las Yslas Filipinas, Blair and Robertson volume 5, page 34 – 187.
  • Morga, Antonio de, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, obra publicada en Méjico el año de 1609 nuevamente sacada a luz y anotada por José Rizal y precedida de un prólogo del Prof. Fernando Blumentritt, Impresión al offset de la Edición Anotada por Rizal, Paris 1890. Manila: Historico Nacional, 1991
  • Pires, Tomé, A suma oriental de Tomé Pires e o livro de Francisco Rodriguez:Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesão [1512 - 1515], translated and edited by Armando Cortesao, Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1944.
  • Santiago, Luciano P.R., The Houses of Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman [1571-1898]:Genealogy and Group Identity, Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 18 [1990]
  • San Agustin, Gaspar de, Conquistas de las Islas Philipinas 1565-1615, Translated by Luis Antonio Mañeru, 1st bilingual ed [Spanish and English], published by Pedro Galende, OSA: Intramuros, Manila, 1998
  • Scott, William Henry, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994
  • Scott, William Henry, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984
  • Yule, Henry (Ed.), The Travels of Marco Polo, Dover Publications, New York, 1983

External links[]

tl:Malaking Kaharian ng Luzon