A Royal homecoming
By Chandani Kirinde – Sunday Times June 16 2002
taken them 600 years to return to the country of their forefathers but for
the Chinese descendants of a Sri Lankan king on a brief visit here, it
feels like they've come back to their motherland. Their visit here is the
result of a concerted effort both by Chinese historians and archaeologists
as well as their Sri Lankan counterparts to trace the family after the
accidental find of several gravestones in the Fujian province of China.
This find was what first brought to light the existence of a family in
China with connections to Sri Lankan kings.
visiting Sri Lanka was Prince Shih Lai Fa and his sister, Princess Xu Yine
who is said to be a 19th generation descendant of Parakramabahu VI who
ruled from Kotte during the early part of the 15th century. Mr. Fa was
accompanied by his wife and three children.
difficult for me to even speak without getting emotional. I am so happy to
be here," said Ms. Yine. The others too expressed similar sentiments.
"It's like I am back in my motherland after many years. We are very
sad to leave," said Mr. Fa.
historian Professor M. Rohanadeera the gravestones in China first
discovered in 1996, referred to the person, buried there as the
"deceased father from Ceylon...." After the discovery, Sri
Lankan archaeologists and historians were informed of this find and
attempts were made to corroborate the evidence linking the find to the
royal family of that era.
descendants was not an easy task. The Museum of Overseas Communication
History in China which undertook the study of the gravestones placed an
advertisement in a newspaper in the Fujian area asking people with the
"shi" family name to contact them.
the first to contact the museum but was hesitant to come out in public.
But she and her brother were persuaded by the officials to help them in
their investigations and by tracing old records and documents, a link was
established between them and the Sri Lankan prince who settled there
nearly 600 years ago.
Professor Rohanadeera, Ceylon's history books have recorded that envoys
were sent by King Parakramabahu to China. In this instance, the King is
said to have sent his son Ba Lai Na as an envoy to China in 1459. During
the son's absence, the throne was usurped by the grandson and this
resulted in the Prince staying on in the Fujian province. He had decided
to marry a local girl and was given the family name of Shi by the King
Tian Shan of the Ming Dynasty who ruled over China during that period.
However, there is some dispute among historians as to whether it was
Parakramabahu VI of Kotte or Dedigama Parakramabahu who sent his son as an
envoy to China in 1459.
historians including Dr. S. Paranavithana have written that it was
Parakramabahu VI of Jayawardhanapura who sent envoys to China starting
from around 1416 although Professor Rohanadeera is of the opinion it was
another Parakramabahu who ruled consequently from Dedigama during the same
period who sent his son to China in 1459.
Rohanadeera said it is known history that the Ming Dynasty in China was
seriously involved in Sri Lankan politics during the early part of the
15th century. A Chinese general, Cheng Ho, who first visited Ceylon in
1405 had been insulted by the Sinhalese King, Veera Alakeswara who ruled
during the time and had returned to his country vowing to avenge the
insult. He had returned in 1408 and taken the King, Queen and many others
as prisoners to China. The Chinese Emperor had pardoned them but said the
crown must be taken away from the captured king and chose one "Yehi-panai-na"
to govern Sri Lanka.
Rohanadeera argues that there were two contemporary King Parakramabahus
ruling the country during the first half of the 15th century and with the
new Chinese evidence available, it is more likely that it was Dedigama
Parakramabahu who sent his son as an envoy to China in 1459.
Chinese descendants of the Royal family, being accepted in a country which
they are visiting for the first time is a gift in itself. " Can I
take some sand from the beach here when I go," Ms.Yine asks her