Greatness transcends all things. People lucky enough to witness a heroic deed in person are generally greeted by feelings of awe and respect, and differences in language, culture, or location do not matter as greatness is recognized and revered by all. When people are amazed, they tell others about what they saw, and these stories have a way of standing the test of time as generations of people speak or write about them for many years after. Behind these acts are great people, remembered so fondly that even foreign kings were inspired to build beautiful monuments as a testament to their memory – and there is in fact one monument just like this that sheds light on the greatness of our ancestors.
Paduka Batara (aka Paduka Pahala) was an ancient king of Sulu who decided to embark on a bold tribute mission across the perilous seas to meet the Yongle Emperor Chengzu of the Chinese Ming Dynasty in the year 1417, more than a century before Spain arrived on the shores of what became known as the Philippines. With him were two other kings, 340 people in their entourage, Paduka Batara’s family, and a fortune in precious gifts including gems, pearls, tortoise shells, and a one of a kind golden relic with a dedication to the Yongle Emperor inscribed onto it. According to the Chinese records of the time, Paduka Batara was hailed as the “Eastern King” and was considered more respected than the other kings, named Maharaja Kolamating (the “Western King”) and Paduka Prabhu (the “Cave King” and brother-in-law of Paduka Batara).
Batara and his delegation arrived on the shores of China and were brought to Beijing to meet with the Yongle Emperor, who was reported to be pleased with his visitors. The delegation was received well and reciprocated by Emperor Chengzu, who returned the favor by granting lavish entertainment, silks, and private lodging for the duration of their stay. It seems Batara and Chengzu were able to establish a good relationship with each other, and by the time the delegation from Sulu left, Chengzu had given his own gifts of gold, silver, copper coins, chinaware, and more. Then, he even ordered his military to provide escort for the group on their way back home. Unfortunately, Batara would never live to see his homeland again. He died of a mysterious illness not far from Beijing (in Tehchow, Shandong Province).
Emperor Chengzu, according to records, grieved over the death of his newfound friend by sacrificing an animal and some wine in a ritual that they believed would help Paduka Batara in the afterlife. He was granted a grand funeral fit for a Chinese king and was given the honorable title of “Gong Ding”. Furthermore, his epitaph was written by noneother than the Yongle Emperor himself. Finally, Chengzu erected a great mausoleum that is now protected as a national historical site by the Shandong Provincial Government – the only monument and burial space ever built in China for a foreign king.