IBN BATTUTA ON THE MARITIME SILK ROAD BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

IBN BATTUTA ON THE MARITIME SILK ROAD BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

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Ocean-going dhow
When Ibn Battuta was in India he wanted to get out of his job there working for Muhammad Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi. He asked the sultan if he could make another hajj. But his request was denied. Knowing of Ibn Battuta's love of travel, the Sultan asked him instead to be his ambassador to Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty China. Given the opportunity to escape from Delhi and the sultan and visit new lands, he readily accepted. Ibn Battuta was given the duty of accompanying 15 Chinese messengers back to their homeland and carrying shiploads of gifts to the emperor. Now, not only was he was given an opportunity to get away from Muhammad Tughluq, but he was allowed to do so and visit new lands in grand style.

Ibn Battuta had earlier spent several years traveling around the Middle East and East Africa and making his way across Central Asia to Delhi in India. A.S. Chughtai wrote: “ For several years Ibn Battuta enjoyed the patronage of Sultan Mohammad Tughlaq, and was later sent as Sultan's envoy to China. Passing through Cental India and Malwa he took ship from Kambay for Goa, and after visiting many thriving ports along the Malabar coast he reached the Maldive Islands, from which he crossed to Ceylon. Continuing his journey, he landed on the Ma'bar (Coromandal) coast and once more returning to the Maldives he finally set sail for Bengal and visited Kamrup, Sylhet and Sonargaon (near Dhaka). Sailing along the Arakan coast he came to Sumatra and later landed at Canton via Malaya and Cambodia. In China he travelled northward to Peking through Hangchow. [Source: A.S. Chughtai, Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com *||*]

Ibn Battuta's sea voyages and references to shipping reveal that the Muslims completely dominated the maritime activity of the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Chinese waters. Also it is seen that though the Christian traders were subject to certain restrictions, most of the economic negotiations were transacted on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Good Websites and Sources on the Silk Road: Silk Road Seattle washington.edu/silkroad ; Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Silk Road Atlas depts.washington.edu ; Old World Trade Routes ciolek.com ; Travel Photos studyrussian.com ; Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project silkroadproject.org ; Silk Road Society travelthesilkroad.org ; Silk Road Travelers silk-road.com ; International Dunhuang Project idp.bl.uk ; Camel Trains in the Desert chinavista.com ; Ancient China Life Ancient China Life ; Marco Polo: Wikipedia Marco Polo Wikipedia ; Marco Polo Odyssesy nationalgeographic.com ; Open Directory Project dmoz.org ; Works by Marco Polo gutenberg.org ; Internet Movie Database imdb.com ; Marco Polo and his Travels silk-road.com ; Zheng He and Early Chinese Exploration : Wikipedia Chinese Exploration Wikipedia ; Le Monde Diplomatique mondediplo.com ; Zheng He muslimheritage.com ; Zheng He Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Gavin Menzies’s 1421 1421.tv ; Asia Recipe asiarecipe.com ; First Europeans in Asia Wikipedia ; Matteo Ricci faculty.fairfield.edu

Books on Ibn Battuta "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354", translated by H.A.R. Gibb, edited by Sir E Denison Ross and Eileen Power (Broadway Travellers Routledge & Kegan Paul Fifth Impression, 1963); : “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" translated and edited by ed. H. A. R. Gibb (London: Broadway House, 1929); “Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah” by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2001). Battuta’s journal is available in Arabic under the title “The Precious Gift of Lookers Into the Marvels of Cities and Wonders of Travel.” Books on Marco Polo and the Silk Road The Travels of Marco by Marco Polo; The Silk Road (Odyssey Guides); Marco Polo: A Photographer's Journey by Mike Yamashita (White Star, 2002); “Life along the Silk Road” by Whitfield, Susan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); “The Silk Route: Trade, Travel, War and Faith” by Susan Whitfield, with Ursula Sims-Williams, eds. (London: British Library, 2004); “The Camel and the Wheel” by Richard Bulliet (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975); “Marco Polo's Asia,” by Leonardo Olschki (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960). When China Ruled the Seas by Louise Levathes. Books on 18th and 19th Century European Explorers of Western China: The Question of Hu by Jonathan Spence and Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com; “The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East’ by Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, translated and edited by Colonel Sir Henry Yule, Volumes 1 and 2 (London: John Murray, 1903) are part of the public domain and can be read online at Project Gutenberg. Television show: Silk Road 2005, a 10-episode production by China's CCTV and Japan's NHK, with music by Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. The original series was shown in 1980s.

Ibn Battuta’s Journey from India to China in 1341-1344

En route to the coast at the start of his journey to China, Ibn Battuta and his party were attacked by a group of bandits. Separated from his companions, he was robbed and nearly lost his life. Despite this setback, within ten days he had caught up with his group and continued on to Khambhat in the Indian state of Gujarat. From there, they sailed to Kozhikode (Calicut), where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama would land two centuries later. While Ibn Battuta visited a mosque on shore, a storm arose and one of the ships of his expedition sank. The other ship then sailed without him only to be seized by a local Sumatran king a few months later . [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org *-* ]

Afraid to return to Delhi and be seen as a failure, he stayed for a time in southern India under the protection of Jamal-ud-Din, ruler of the small but powerful Nawayath sultanate on the banks of the Sharavathi river next to the Arabian Sea. This area is today known as Hosapattana and lies in the Honavar administrative district of Uttara Kannada. Following the overthrow of the sultanate, Ibn Battuta had no choice but to leave India. Although determined to continue his journey to China, he first took a detour to visit the Maldive Islands. *-*

He spent nine months on the islands, much longer than he had intended. As a Chief Qadi, his skills were highly desirable in the formerly Buddhist nation that had recently converted to Islam. Half-kidnapped into staying, he became chief judge and married into the royal family of Omar I. He became embroiled in local politics and left when his strict judgments in the laissez-faire island kingdom began to chafe with its rulers. In the Rihla he mentions his dismay at the local women going about with no clothing above the waist, and the locals taking no notice when he complained. From the Maldives, he carried on to Sri Lanka and visited Sri Pada and Tenavaram temple. *-*

Ibn Battuta's ship almost sank on embarking from Sri Lanka, only for the vessel that came to his rescue to suffer an attack by pirates. Stranded on shore, he worked his way back to Madurai kingdom in India. Here in Madurai, he spent some time in the court of the short-lived Madurai Sultanate under Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani, from where he returned to the Maldives and boarded a Chinese junk, still intending to reach China and take up his ambassadorial post. *-*

He reached the port of Chittagong in modern-day Bangladesh intending to travel to Sylhet to meet Shah Jalal, who became so renowned that Ibn Battuta, then in Chittagong, made a one-month journey through the mountains of Kamaru near Sylhet to meet him. On his way to Sylhet, Ibn Batuta was greeted by several of Shah Jalal's disciples who had come to assist him on his journey many days before he had arrived. At the meeting in 1345 CE, Ibn Batuta noted that Shah Jalal was tall and lean, fair in complexion and lived by the mosque in a cave, where his only item of value was a goat he kept for milk, butter, and yogurt. He observed that the companions of the Shah Jalal were foreign and known for their strength and bravery. He also mentions that many people would visit the Shah to seek guidance. Ibn Battuta went further north into Assam, then turned around and continued with his original plan. *-*

In the year 1345, Ibn Battuta travelled on to Samudra Pasai Sultanate in present day Aceh, Northern Sumatra, where he notes in his travel log that the ruler of Samudra Pasai was a pious Muslim named Sultan Al-Malik Al-Zahir, who performed his religious duties in utmost zeal and often waged campaigns against animists in the region. The madh'hab he observed was Imam Al-Shafi‘i, with similar customs as he had seen in coastal India especially among the Mappila Muslim, who were also the followers of Imam Al-Shafi‘i. At that time Samudra Pasai was the end of Dar al-Islam for no territory east of this was ruled by a Muslim ruler. Here he stayed for about two weeks in the wooden walled town as a guest of the sultan, and then the sultan provided him with supplies and sent him on his way on one of Sultan's own junks to China. Ibn Battuta then sailed to Malacca on Malay Peninsula, Po Klong Garai (named "Kailukari") Vietnam, Tawalisi (Pangasinan) Philippines where he is said to have briefly met the local princess Urduja, and finally Quanzhou in Fujian province, China. *-*

Ibn Battuta's Escape from India

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praying towards Mecca on a dhow
In 1341, Ibn Battuta left Delhi at the head of a group bound for China. His huge entourage included 1,000 royal horsemen and the returning Chinese emissaries. Gifts from Muhammad Tughluq to the Mongol Emperor included 200 Hindi slaves, singers and dancers, 15 pages (boy servants), 100 thoroughbred horses, gold candlelabras, brocades, swords, globes embroidered with pearls and great amounts of cloth, dishes, and swords. The 1,000 soldiers under his command were there to protect the treasure and supplies until they could board ships to China. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991 <>; Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu ]

The This journey was full of travails, Not long after departing his entourage was ambushed by Hindu rebels. He was stripped of his clothing and sword and rescued in the wilderness by Muslim troops. In Calicut on the Malabar Coast his entourage was loaded onto three massive junks that were caught in a huge storm and broke up in shallow waters, drowning all the horses and slaves. From the shore Ibn Battuta watched the ship that carried his son and the presents he was supposed to bring to China drift out to sea and was never seen again. <>

En route to the coast at the start of his journey to China, Ibn Battuta and his party were attacked by a group of bandits. Separated from his companions, he was robbed and nearly lost his life. Despite this setback, within ten days he had caught up with his group and continued on to Khambhat in the Indian state of Gujarat. From there, they sailed to Kozhikode (Calicut), where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama would land two centuries later. While Ibn Battuta visited a mosque on shore, a storm arose and one of the ships of his expedition sank. The other ship then sailed without him only to be seized by a local Sumatran king a few months later. [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org *-* ]

Afraid to return to Delhi and be seen as a failure, he stayed for a time in southern India under the protection of Jamal-ud-Din, ruler of the small but powerful Nawayath sultanate on the banks of the Sharavathi river next to the Arabian Sea. This area is today known as Hosapattana and lies in the Honavar administrative district of Uttara Kannada. Following the overthrow of the sultanate, Ibn Battuta had no choice but to leave India.Although determined to continue his journey to China, he first took a detour to visit the Maldive Islands. *-*

Ibn Battuta's Entourage Attacked by Bandits in India


Silk Road bandit attack

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “A few days outside of Delhi the group was attacked by about 4,000 Hindu rebels. Although vastly outnumbered, they defeated the rebels easily. Later, there was another attack and Ibn Battuta was separated from his companions. Suddenly a force of Hindus jumped out of the woods. Ten horsemen chased him at full gallop across the fields. He was able to outride three of them, and then hid from the rest in a deep ditch. After escaping, he was again confronted, this time by forty Hindus who robbed him of everything except his shirt, pants, and cloak. Some robbers kept their prisoner in a cave overnight and planned his death in the morning. Fortunately, Ibn Battuta who now had almost nothing more to rob, was able to convince his captors to let him go in exchange for his clothes. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“Eight days later, exhausted, barefooted and wearing nothing but his trousers, Ibn Battuta was rescued by a Muslim who carried him to a village. Two days later he rejoined the party and was ready to proceed on his original mission to China. The group continued to Daulatabad without further trouble. There they entered the city's fort which was surrounded by a wall 80 to 120 feet high on all sides and two and a half miles long. Here they were safe. [In two years this fort would be taken over by rival officers in rebellion against Sultan Muhammad Tughluq and they would start an independent Muslim kingdom.] |::|

“After a few days rest they continued to the coastal city of Cambay filled with foreign traders who lived in fine homes. Within days the group was at Gandhar where they boarded four ships. Three were large dhows to carry to the gifts, including the 100 horses and 215 slaves and pages. The fourth was a war ship which carried soldiers to defend them against attack from pirates. (About half of the soldiers were from Africa and were skilled archers and spear throwers.)” |::|

Ibn Battuta's Loses the Treasures in a Storm in Southern India

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Using the monsoon winds to propel them, the four ships headed south and arrived in the port of Calicut. There they were received with "drums, trumpets, horns, and flags... We entered the harbor amid great ovation [cheering] and pomp, the likes of which I have not seen in these parts." In the same harbor were 13 Chinese junks, much larger ships than the dhows he had sailed on in the Indian Ocean.... Ibn Battuta was impressed with the Chinese junks. They were much larger than a dhou, some with five decks and five masts or more! They had interior cabins and even private lavatories! A crew of a junk might be up to 1,000 workers! But Ibn Battuta said they weren't as safe near the shore...It would be on three of these large ships that they would continue to China. So the crew transferred the gifts including horses and slaves to the junks. Ibn Battuta spent the day in the mosque and planned to board the ship that afternoon. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

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Dhows in a port

“But before he got on his ship, a terrible event occurred. A violent storm came up. Because the harbor was not very deep, the captains of the junks ordered the ships to wait out the storm in deeper water out to sea. Ibn Battuta waited helplessly on the beach all night and the next morning watched in horror as two ships were pushed onto shore, broke apart, and sank. Some of the crew on one of the junks were saved, but no one survived from the other ship - the one that he was supposed to be on. "The slaves, pages, and horses were all drowned, and the precious wares either sank or washed up on the beach, where the [governor's soldiers] struggled to prevent the townsfolk from making off with the loot." [Dunn, pg. 225.] The other ship carried Ibn Battuta's luggage, servants, and slave-girls - one of whom was carrying his child. The captain of that ship had set sail for China without him or the goods that he was to present to the Emperor of China. |::|

“Ibn Battuta was now alone, penniless, and ashamed - a failure as the leader for the trip to China for the Sultan of Delhi - but lucky to be alive. There was still a chance that he could catch up with the other ship, so he tried to track it down. After ten days he arrived in another port and waited for the ship which never turned up. (About three months later he learned that it had reached Indonesia and was seized by an infidel king of Sumatra. The slave-woman who was carrying Ibn Battuta's child had died. His other slaves and his possessions were taken by the king of Sumatra.) |::|

“Where was he to go? He wanted to return to the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad Tughluq, but he feared that he would be executed for his failed trip. He decided it was safer to seek employment and protection from another Muslim sultan in southern India. To gain favor with this sultan Ibn Battuta actually joined in a day-long battle: "On Monday evening we reached Sandapur and entered its creek and found the inhabitants ready for the fight. They had already set up catapults. So we spent the night near the town and when the morning came drums were beaten, trumpets sounded and horns were blown, and the ships went forward. The inhabitants shot at them with the catapults, and I saw a stone hit some people standing near the sultan. The crews of the ships sprang into the water, shield and sword in hand... I myself leapt with the rest into the water... We rushed forward sword in hand. The greater part of the heathens took refuge in the castle of their ruler. We set fire to it, whereupon they came out and we took them prisoner. The sultan pardoned them and returned them to their wives and children... And he gave me a young female prison... Her husband wished to ransom her but I refused." [Dunn, p. 227] |::|

“But when the next battle seemed to be an inevitable defeat, Ibn Battuta somehow managed to escape through the battle lines and headed down the coast reaching Calicut for the fifth time. Here he decided to continue on to China on his own. He knew that he could find hospitality in the Muslim communities along the way. And so he planned to continue on to China on his own. But again, he decided to take the long way - this time to make a brief tour of the Maldive Islands, then continue to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) to make a pilgrimage to the sacred Adam's Peak. And then he would go on to China.” |::|


Ibn Battuta's route in Asia


Ibn Battuta in the Maldives

Ibn Battuta visited the Maldives for nine months in 1343 and 1344. He stayed much long than he originally planned. After he arrived in Male, the islands’ largest town, he was given gifts of gold and slave girls and named a judge. He taught Islamic law and was ill for week, perhaps from malaria. He only left after falling out of favor with the local vizier. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

As a Chief Qadi, his skills were highly desirable in the formerly Buddhist nation that had recently converted to Islam. Half-kidnapped into staying, he became chief judge and married into the royal family of Omar I. He became embroiled in local politics and left when his strict judgments in the laissez-faire island kingdom began to chafe with its rulers. [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: The rulers in Male “happened to be looking for a chief judge, someone who knew Arabic and the laws of the Koran. The rulers were delighted to find a visitor that fit their requirements. They sent Ibn Battuta slave girls, pearls, and gold jewelry to convince him to stay. They even made it impossible for him to arrange to leave by ship - so like it or not, he stayed. He agreed to remain there with some conditions, however: he would not go about Male on foot, but be carried in a litter or ride on horseback, just like the king or queen! He even took another wife after staying there less than two months, a noblewoman related to the queen. It seems as though Ibn Battuta was playing politics. He was now part of the royal family and the most important judge. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“He set about his duties as a judge with enthusiasm and tried with all his might to establish the rule of strict Muslim law and change local customs. He ordered that any man who failed to attend Friday prayer was to be whipped and publicly disgraced. Thieves had their right hands cut off, and he ordered women who went "topless" to cover up. He took three more wives who also had powerful social connections, and seems to brag: "After I had become connected by marriage ... the [governor] and the people feared me, for they felt themselves to be weak." |::|

“And so he began to make enemies, especially the governor. After nasty arguments and political plots, Ibn Battuta decided to leave...He quit his job as qadi, but he really would have been fired. He took three of his wives with him, but he divorced them all after a short time. One of them was pregnant. He stayed on another island, and there he married two more women, and divorced them, too.” Later, he even thought about going back to the Maldive Islands and taking over under the support of an army commander in southern India. But that was not to be.” |::|


Maldives


Ibn Battuta on the Maldives

Ibn Battuta called the Maldives "one of the wonders of the world." Reflecting on the island, he wrote: "Most women wear only a loincloth. In this fashion they stroll in the markets...As a judge in the islands...I tried to order...the women to dress, but without success." He attributed the islanders "extraordinary vigor in lovemaking" to a diet of coconuts and fish. "As for me, It had four wives, not counting the concubines. Each day I made a general tour...and I passed the night with each in their turn." During his brief visit he married and divorced six times. On the voyage out he wrote: We “came to a tiny island in which there was but one house...And I swear that I envied that man, and wished that the island had been mine, that I might have made my retreat until inevitable hour should befall me.” [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The Maldive Islands were important in medieval times for their exports: coconut fiber used to make ropes and cowrie shells which were used as currency (money) in Malaysia and in parts of Africa. About the middle of the twelfth century the people of Maldives converted from Buddhism to Islam when a pious Muslim from north Africa rid the land of a terrible demon. (The demon had demanded a young virgin each month - and the Muslim hero offered to take the place of the girl. Before the sacrifice, he recited the Koran throughout the night, and the demon could do nothing out of fear of the Sacred Word.) [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

On marriage and divorce in the Maldives, Iban Battuta wrote: "It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer... When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage. The women of these islands never leave their country." He told of eating many products of the coconut (coconut milk, juice, "meat", and sweet honey from the sap of the tree), and rice, fish, salted meat, fowl, quail, and some fruits.” |::|

Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka

After the Maldives Ibn Battuta traveled to Sri Lanka. "Since reaching this island, I have had but one desire, to visit the blessed foot of Adam." To reach the top of Adam's peak, a local Hindu provided Ibn Battuta with "a palanquin which carried by slaves, and sent with me four Yigis, three Brahmans...and fifteen men to carry provisions."[Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Ibn Battuta visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on his way to China so that he could go on a pilgrimage to a holy site there: Adam's Peak. The mountain was sacred to Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists alike, for near the summit was a depression in a rock that looked like a huge footprint. For Buddhists it was the footprint of the Buddha, for Hindus, the print of Shiva. For Muslims it was the footprint of Adam, the first man and first prophet who had been thrown there by God from the seventh heaven. There he stayed for a thousand years before meeting Eve, the first woman. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“When Ibn Battuta arrived on Ceylon, he met with the king. The king was interested in his travel stories, and he entertained Ibn Battuta's party for three days. The king gave them permission to climb Adam's Peak - and he gave Ibn Battuta a small purse with pearls and rubies, two slave girls, and supplies as a parting gift. The small party of pilgrims climbed to the summit up the nearly vertical cliffs by means of little handholds held in the stone by iron pegs. Making it to the top, they camped there for three days which they spent in prayer and admiration of the spectacular view.

After Sri Lanka Ibn Battuta Returns to India and the Maldives

Ibn Battuta's ship almost sank on embarking from Sri Lanka. He wrote: The "the wind became violent and the water rose so high that it was about to enter the ship... We then got near a rock, where the ship was on the point of being wrecked; afterwards we came into shallow water wherein the ship began to sink. Death stared us in the face and the passengers jettisoned [tossed overboard] all that they possessed and [said their farewells] to one another."

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The crew managed to cut down the mast and make a crude raft which they lowered into the sea. Ibn Battuta's two companions and his slave girls got down onto it, but there was no room left for him. And besides, he was not a strong swimmer. He had to stay with the ship and hope for the best. Darkness fell and Ibn Battuta huddled in the front of the sinking ship throughout the night. In the morning a rescue party suddenly appeared and the remaining passengers were all taken to shore. There he joined his companions. He had been able to save some of his belongings from the ship, including some pearls and rubies given to him. But Ibn Battuta's luck continued to be bad. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“Once more on a small ship, twelve pirate ships attacked. They quickly overpowered the crew and stripped the passengers of everything they owned. "They seized the jewels and rubies which the king of Ceylon had given me and robbed me of my clothes and provisions with which pious [holy] men and saints had favored me. They left nothing on my body except my trousers." Then the pirates dropped them all off on the nearby shore unharmed.” |::|

Stranded on shore, he worked his way back to Madurai kingdom in India. Here in Madurai, he spent some time in the court of the short-lived Madurai Sultanate under Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani, from where he returned to the Maldives,” where he stayed for five days and saw his son for the first time, and agreed to leave him with his mother in the islands.” he then boarded a Chinese junk, still intending to reach China and take up his ambassadorial post.” [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]

Ibn Battuta in Bangladesh and Northeast India

After leaving the Maldives for the second time, Ibn Battuta traveled to modern-day Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia before reaching China. He reached the port of Chittagong in modern-day Bangladesh intending to travel to Sylhet to meet Shah Jalal, who became so renowned that Ibn Battuta, then in Chittagong, made a one-month journey through the mountains of Kamaru near Sylhet to meet him. [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]

Ibn Battuta wrote: that Chittagong was a city filled with food, but smelled bad - "a hell crammed with good things." Everything there was cheap, including slaves. He bought "an extremely beautiful" slave girl and a friend bought a young boy slave for a couple of gold dinar. He went up the Meghna River to Sylhet in order to find a famous holy man who could perform miracles and foretell the future. (He even lived to the age of 150!) One day the old holy man told his surprised disciples that a traveler from North Africa was about to arrive and to go out to meet him. The disciples went out and discovered Ibn Battuta was on his way - two days away! Ibn Battuta stayed there for three days and shared the stories of his travels with the holy man. Then he continued on. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“At the meeting in 1345 CE, Ibn Batuta noted that Shah Jalal was tall and lean, fair in complexion and lived by the mosque in a cave, where his only item of value was a goat he kept for milk, butter, and yogurt. He observed that the companions of the Shah Jalal were foreign and known for their strength and bravery. He also mentions that many people would visit the Shah to seek guidance. Ibn Battuta went further north into Assam, then turned around and continued with his original plan.” *-*

Muazzam Hussain Khan wrote in Banglapedia: ““Ibn Battuta in his report places geographical account of some important places and rivers. The places are Sudkawan, Kamaru, Habank and Sunurkawan, and the rivers are Ganga, Jun and An-Nahr ul-Azraq. Sudkawan is described as a vast city of Bangala situated on the shore of the vast ocean in the vicinity of which the river Ganga and the river Jun have united before falling into the sea. Kamaru, the incomplete version of Kamrupa, is described as a mountaineous region of vast expanse ranging from China to Tibet. The site visited by Ibn Battuta was probably Sylhet in Assam.”[Source: Muazzam Hussain Khan, Banglapedia banglapedia.org <+>]

“Ibn Battuta gives description of the climate and natural view of the country in his itinerary. He was enamoured of the picturesque landscape, the wealth of green in every possible shade, and burst out saying, “we sailed down the river for fifteen days passing through villages and orchards as though we were going through a mart. On its banks there are water-wheels, gardens and villages to right and left like those of the Nile in Egypt. Thus while the abundance of the necessaries of life and its soothing scenery made it a very attractive country to live in, the foggy atmosphere (cloudy and gloomy weather) aided by vapour bath particularly the steaming inhaulation from the creeks and inlets during the summer were so oppressive that the traveller justifies the attitude of the Khorasanis (foreigners) calling it dozakh-i-pur az n'imat, that is 'inferno full of gifts.” <+>

“The narratives of Ibn Battuta throw light on some social aspects of Bangala. He has mentioned the influence of the sufi saints on both the Hindus and Muslims. He has told that the people of the country, Muslims and non-Muslims, used to come and visit Shaykh Jalaluddin, and bring for him gifts and presents. It was on them that the fakirs and travellers lived. Under royal orders, the fakirs were exempted of the freight charges on the river and were entitled to provisions free of costs. It was customary that a fakir arriving in a town was to be given a half dinar... Ibn Battuta's report bears clear testimony to the existence of slavery system in the country. From his evidence it is obvious that the slave boys and girls used to be sold and purchased in the open market. While furnishing the list of prices of commodities the traveller related that a pretty young girl fit to serve as concubine was sold in his presence for one gold dinar. He himself purchased at nearly the same price a young slave woman named Ashura who was endowed with exquisite beauty. One of his companions bought a pretty slave boy of tender age named Lulu (pearl) for two gold dinars.” <+>

Ibn Battuta in Sumatra

Near Sumatra, Ibn Battuta's ship was plundered by pirates. Earlier another ship was shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean. He arrived in Sumatra in present-day Aceh. By some estimates Islam had only arrived about a a half century earlier in Sumatra. The ruler there, Malik al-Zahir, Ibn Battuta wrote was a "humble-hearted man who walks on foot to the Friday prayer. His subjects...take a pleasure in warring for the Faith...They have the upper hand over all the infidels in their vicinity." Ibn Battuta wrote that he visited "Muljawa" and the port of "Tawalisi," neither of whom have been found. In Tawalisi he wrote he met an Amazon princess who lead an army of slave girl warriors "who fight like men." She gave him lemons, rice, peppers, and two buffalos. Ibn-Battuta visited the Islamic town of Perlak in Sumatra in 1345-46 and wrote that its monarch was a Sunni rather than a Shia Muslim. Marco Polo visited the same town in 1292. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

“In the year 1345, Ibn Battuta travelled on to Samudra Pasai Sultanate in present day Aceh, Northern Sumatra.” The leader of the madh'hab [school of Islamic law] “he observed was Imam Al-Shafi‘i, with similar customs as he had seen in coastal India especially among the Mappila Muslim, who were also the followers of Imam Al-Shafi‘i. At that time Samudra Pasai was the end of Dar al-Islam [Islamic world] for no territory east of this was ruled by a Muslim ruler. Here he stayed for about two weeks in the wooden walled town as a guest of the sultan, and then the sultan provided him with supplies and sent him on his way on one of Sultan's own junks to China. [Sources: “The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs, March 1970: 30-37; World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]


Po Klong Garal, a Champa site in Vietnam, perhaps visited by Ibn Battuta


Ibn Battuta in Southeast Asia

After Sumatra, Ibn Battuta sailed to Malacca on Malay Peninsula, Po Klong Garai (named "Kailukari") Vietnam, Tawalisi (Pangasinan) Philippines where he is said to have briefly met the local princess Urduja, and finally Quanzhou in Fujian province, China.

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Muslim travelers, such as Ibn Battuta, knew that they could find Muslim hospitality in the major sea ports. The Prophet Muhammad had even encouraged travel and learning in China in a saying: "Seek knowledge, even as far as China." So traveling to China, like elsewhere Ibn Battuta had traveled, would not be difficult. He could depend on the charity of fellow-Muslims in Malaysian ports on his way to China, as he had in every other part of the world he traveled.[Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“Malay rulers encouraged Muslim traders to settle in their ports and bring the advantages of a strong trading economy. Once established, the Muslim neighborhoods needed judges, scribes (people who could write), teachers, religious leaders, and businessmen. And so, the trading neighborhoods became larger and more influential. The Malay rulers recognized the advantages of becoming Muslims, and many of them converted. As Muslim rulers, they could enter into the larger networks of trade and participate in the Dar al-Islam. Outside the coastal trading centers, Islam would later develop, too. This process was just beginning as Ibn Battuta came through. A Malay prince, ruler of Samudra on the coast of Sumatra, had converted to Islam in the late 13th century. Some of his non-Muslim subjects may well have been pirates that plagued the merchant ships in the Strait of Malacca.” |::|

Ibn Battuta Makes it China

Ibn Battuta made it as far east as China. In 1344, Ibn Battuta arrived at last at the busy sea port of Ch'uan-zhou (Quanzhou) on the coast of Fukien (Fujian) Province, just across a strait from Taiwan. The port here he wrote was "one of the largest. I saw in it about a hundred large junks." It took him 40 days to reach China. He is vague about stopping in two places. Later he traveled to Guangzhou (Canton), Beijing and Hangzhou. Ibn Battuta arrived in China after visiting India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, modern-day Bangladesh, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He returned home to Morocco via Indonesia, India, the Persian Gulf, Arabia, Egypt and the Mediterranean. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Ibn Battuta was amazed by China. He wrote: "China is the safest and best regulated of countries for a traveler. A man may go by himself on a nine-month journey, carrying with him large sums of money, without any fear...Silk is used for clothing even by poor monks and beggars." Porcelain is "the finest of all makes of pottery...The hens in China are...bigger than the geese in our country."

Ibn Battuta was also shocked by what he saw in China. "The Chinese themselves are infidels, who worship idols and burn their dead like the Hindus.” They “eat the flesh of swine and dogs, and sell it in their markets." "China was beautiful, but it did not please me. On the contrary, I was greatly troubled thinking about the way paganism dominated this country. Whenever I went out of my lodging, I saw many blameworthy things. That disturbed me so much that I stayed indoors most of the time and only went out when necessary. During my stay in China, whenever I saw any Muslims I always felt as though I were meeting my own family and close kinsmen." [Dunn, p. 258]

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The rulers of all China were the powerful descendants of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Dynasty (Yuan Dynasty 1260 - 1368). Muslims had been welcomed into China at that time and foreigners were recruited by the emperor. Muslims, and even a few Europeans like Marco Polo, had held jobs in China such as tax-collectors, architects, and finance officers. The Mongol Dynasty had "an open door" policy which encouraged trade. So Muslim merchants were welcomed into southern Chinese cities, especially Ch'uan-zhou (Quanzhou) and Canton (Guangzhou) on the southern coast. They generally lived in their own neighborhoods where they built mosques, hospitals, bazaars, and conducted trade by ship that reached all the way back to the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean ports. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]


Ibn Battuta described the Great Wall of China but Marco Polo didn't


Ibn Battuta’s Travels in China

One of the first things Ibn Battuta “noted were the local artists and their mastery in making portraits of newly arrived foreigners. Ibn Battuta praised the craftsmen and their silk and porcelain; fruits such as plums and watermelons and the advantages of paper money. He described the manufacturing process of large ships in the city of Guangzhou, he also mentions Chinese cuisine and its usage of animals such as frogs. In Guangzhou Ibn Battuta noted, that the Muslim populace lived within a separate portion in the city, there he met Persians one Burhan al-Din of Isfahan and another Sharif al-Din from Tabriz[49] (both were influential figures noted in the Yuan History as "Sai-fu-ding" and "A-mi-li-ding"). [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org *-* ]

While in Quanzhou he ascended the "Mount of the Hermit" and briefly visited a well-known Taoist monk. From there he went north to Hangzhou, which he described as one of the largest cities he had ever seen, and he noted its charm, describing that the city sat on a beautiful lake and was surrounded by gentle green hills. During his stay at Hangzhou he was particularly impressed by the large number of well-crafted and well-painted Chinese wooden ships, with coloured sails and silk awnings, assembling in the canals. Later he attended a banquet of the Yuan Mongol administrator of the city named Qurtai, who according to Ibn Battuta, was very fond of the skills of local Chinese conjurers. *-*

He also described travelling further north, through the Grand Canal to Beijing, and along with his fellow countryman Al-Bushri, Ibn Battuta was invited to the Yuan imperial court of Togon-temür, he noted that the palace was made of wood and that the ruler's head wife held processions in her honor[54].[55] Ibn Battuta also reported "the rampart of Yajuj and Majuj" was "sixty days' travel" from the city of Zeitun (Quanzhou); Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb notes that Ibn Battuta believed that the Great Wall of China was built by Dhul-Qarnayn to contain Gog and Magog as mentioned in the Quran. *-*

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Ibn Battuta describes a trip on the Grand Canal to Beijing, capital of Mongol China. But his description is so vague that most historians believe that he didn't really make the trip. (His book about his travels was more of a "travelogue" of the Islamic World, so perhaps he or the person who wrote down his stories may have exaggerated by filling in with hearsay and stories reported by other people.) Ibn Battuta reported meeting a rich Muslim trader who lived in Hang-zhou which may have been the largest city in the world during the 14th century. He tells of staying with the Egyptian Muslim for a few weeks as he enjoyed banquets, canal rides, and magic shows. In Fuzhou he met someone whom he met when he passed through India. Now he was rich. He "owned about fifty white slaves and as many slave-girls, and presented me with two of each, along with many other gifts." [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

Upon his return to Quanzhou, he soon boarded a Chinese junk owned by the Sultan of Samudra heading for Southeast Asia, whereupon Ibn Battuta was unfairly charged a hefty sum by the crew and lost much of what he had collected during his stay in China. *-*

Ibn Battuta Heads Home

Ibn Battuta returned home via Indonesia, India, the Persian Gulf, Arabia, Egypt and the Mediterranean. According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The winter monsoons carried Ibn Battuta's sailing junk south from China. He returned to Samudra, on the island of Sumatra, where he stayed again with the sultan, this time for a few weeks. He continued on to Quilon, India and then up to Calicut. There he thought about returning to Muhammad Tughluq, his former employer in Delhi, and throwing himself on his mercy. But fear kept him on his trip. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“Instead, Ibn Battuta decided to go on another hajj to Mecca, and so he caught the monsoon winds going westward back across the Indian Ocean. He sailed for 28 days and arrived at Zafar on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula. With changes in the wind of the early summer monsoons, he sailed north through the Persian Gulf. He arrived at Hormuz City and found that the elderly Arab ruler was at war with two of his nephews for control of that territory. These ports were important for trade and the war had caused much destruction and famine. |::|

“Ibn Battuta continued quickly through Persia. He was surprised that the once mighty Ilkhan Empire was falling apart. He had traveled with the powerful Sultan Abu Sa'id (the Il-khan) only eleven years before. But the sultan had died, poisoned by one his own wives! And then Mongol and Turkish generals challenged each other for control. The result was a patchwork of small military states at war with each other. |::|

“Ibn Battuta returned to Baghdad and from there crossed over the Syrian Desert on the camel route. At last he arrived in Damascus in the winter of 1348. There he heard from caravan traders that his father had died fifteen years before. He also learned that the son he had never met had died at the age of ten. He next went to Aleppo for a few months as a tourist. Here he saw the citadel, an outstanding example of Arab military architecture. It stands atop a hill for defense and has massive stone walls. Aleppo was the northern capital of Syria.” |::|

Ibn Battuta Experiences the Great Plague in Syria

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “As he rode through Syria, a terrible disease was descending upon the world that he knew. This was the Black Death (or Bubonic Plague). He first tried to out-run it, but each city he reached was in the middle of a terrible outbreak. In Damascus the death toll was 2,000 people a day! The business of the city had come to a halt. The people begged God for the plague to stop. "The people fasted for three successive days... [Then all the people] assembled in the Great mosque until it was filled to overflowing... and spent the night there in prayers... Then, after performing the dawn prayer..., they all went out [barefoot] together... carrying Korans in their hands. The entire population of the city joined... The Jews went out with their book of the law and the Christians with the Gospel... [all] of them in tears . . . imploring the favor of God through His Books and His Prophets." [Gibb, p. 143-144] [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

“The Black Plague had started about 1331 as Ibn Battuta was sailing westward from China. It began in the grasslands of Central Asia and was spread across to the Black Sea. The plague is found in rodents like ground squirrels and rats, but it is spread to humans through the bite of a flea living on infected rodents. The fleas had found their way into the wagon trains and storerooms of caravanserai. It spread rapidly as people tried to escape along the trade routes of the steppe. The same Mongol order that encouraged travelers like Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo, also quickened the progress of the plague across Eurasia between China and the Atlantic Coast. |::|

“Italian ships carried infected rats and fleas in their cargo to Constantinople, Venice, and Genoa. The plague reached Sicily and Egypt in 1347. One Egyptian historian tells of a ship: out of a total of 332 on board, only 45 arrived at the port of Cairo alive. All of those who had survived died soon after in the port. From the sea ports, caravans transmitted the disease throughout Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Estimates of the death tolls vary between 1/2 to 1/3 of the populations. At the other end of Eurasia in China the outbreaks of the plague caused massive death rates and economic chaos, and contributed to the collapse of the Mongol (Yuan) Dynasty. [Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East, p. 69] |::|

“"The Plague is carried to humans by fleas living off of infected rodents. In Ibn Battuta's time, no one had the slightest idea as to the cause of the disease. "Muslims were recommended to live in fresh air, sprinkle one's house with rose water and vinegar, sit as motionless as possible, and eat plenty of pickled onions and fresh fruit. Those who fell victim... were advised to have their blood drawn, apply egg yolk to the [skin], wear magical amulets, or have their sick bed strewn with fresh flowers. Above all, God's creatures were urged to spend their nights in the mosque and beg for divine mercy." [Dunn, p. 273] |::|

“Civilization both in the East and the West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out... Civilization decreased with the decrease of mankind. Cities and building were laid waste, roads and way signs were obliterated, settlements and mansions became empty, dynasties and tribes grew weak. The entire inhabited world changed. [Ibn Khaldun, Persian historian] |::|


Tangiers


Ibn Battuta Makes It Home to Morocco

After reaching Mecca he decided to return to Morocco, nearly a quarter of a century after leaving home. On the way he made one last detour to Sardinia. After crossing the Hoggar Mountains of southern Algeria Ibn Battuta had only one more obstacle before reaching his homeland: Umm Junayba Pass, near Fez. "I have in my life seen bad roads and quantities of snow...in Afghanistan, and the land of the Turks, but never have I seen anything worse than the road to Umm Junayaba."

In 1349, Ibn Battuta returned to Tangier by way of Fez, only to discover that his mother had died a few months before. Back in Morocco he concluded his home land was "the best of countries, for its fruits are plentiful, and running water and nourishing food are never exhausted."

Ibn Battuta dictated Travels in Asia and Africa after his journey was completed over a two year period with the help of the Andulusian poet Ibn Ibn Battuta. He spent his last years quietly working as judge somewhere near Fez. He died in 1369 at the age of 64. The whereabouts of his grave is unknown." [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, dhows: Marion Kaplan

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated November 2016

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