Singapore has in its deep roots of history a cosmopolitan hub, as a tiny but connected island linking the east and the west.

I think this account has been slowly making its way into the new textbooks.

The world’s biggest physical coin, of considerable age too, has been found in Singapore. Apparently the size was a sign of wealth.

I guess this era was just before the Zheng He trip

emphasis added in bold


TO THOSE who know Singapore as a thriving modern city, relentlessly striving towards the futuristic, it is something of a shock to learn that “Singapore’s golden age came to an abrupt end just before 1400.”

Singapore and the The Silk Road of the Sea”, however, a splendid new book by John Miksic, an archaeologist at the National University of Singapore, reveals the glaring omission in this account. Singapore was also a thriving, populous city in the 14th century.

…found a stash of coins. It was Chinese, from the reign of an emperor of the Sung dynasty, who died in 1125.

Raffles would not have been taken aback. A big reason he chose Singapore as a base rather than other islands in the vicinity was that he was a scholar of the region’s history, and had read of Singapore in a book called the “Malay Annals”. His intention, writes Mr Miksic was “to revive an ancient seaport that already had a glorious history”.

That Singapore had an earlier incarnation as an important port and entrepot is one of three surprises that Mr Miksic has for a reader unaware of its history.

The third surprise is in the title of the book. Singapore was a link in a chain of seaports linking China to the East with India and beyond to the West—a trade that goes back 2,000 years. Though the caravanserais of the Silk Road have received more attention, Mr Miksic argues the southern, maritime route was much more important from both cultural and commercial points of view.

He writes that he hopes his book will show Singaporeans that “the rise of their small island nation is not a recent historical accident; it has a long tradition that deserves to be more widely appreciated.”