The Chinese Massacre of 1603

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The massacre of 1603: Chinese perception of the Spaniards in the Philippines José Eugenio Borao National Taiwan University

From a historiographic point of view, the incident of 1603 acquires special significance in the long and tragic history of Chinese massacres in the Philippines. For compared to all the rest, this has been the best chronicled, not only in Spanish, but also in Chinese sources. Moreover, both coincide in the presentation of facts and are alike in the ordering of events. When these sources—especially the Chinese—begin their account of the massacre, they refer to a remote, perhaps even unrelated, incident that is, nevertheless, significant. The tension started in 1593, when 250 Chinese were forcibly recruited to row the ships which Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, then Philippine governor general, sent to conquer the Moluccas Islands. Soon after they set sail, the Chinese in the flag ship staged a mutiny, assassinated Dasmariñas, and took over the vessel. Weeks later, the son of the murdered governor, Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, then based in Cebu, sought vengeance to fall on the heads of the culprits. To do this, he asked for assistance from the Chinese authorities of Fujian, who welcomed the young Dasmariñas’ ambassadors and offered them their help as well. The second episode happened 10 years later, in the spring of 1603, when “three mandarins” arrived in Manila on a strange mission: to reconnoiter a "mountain of gold" abundant with trees that bore gold. This visit raised the suspicion of the Spaniards in the Philippines, already so accustomed to intermittent threats of conquest, particularly from the Japanese. They concluded that this was probably an advance party for a future invasion of Manila. At that time, the Chinese in this city were almost 10 times the number of Spaniards. The third event, the Sangley uprising, happened in autumn of that same year. The reasons for this uprising remain unclear. The motives range from the desire of the Chinese to dominate Manila, to their wanting to abort the Spaniards' moves that seemed to lead to their elimination. After initial uncertainty as to who would eventually win out, the rebellion was quelled by the Spaniards who, together with Filipino and Japanese troops, massacred some 20,000 Chinese. Both our sources also point to a more or less common epilogue. After the Spaniards’ first attempts at reconciliation and China’s indignant reactions, both parties reached a new compromise and the agitation easily vanished as though nothing had happened. Former trade relations were resumed, allowing the Chinese to settle again in Manila, even if both sides harbored grudges against each other for what had happened earlier. What I now propose is to try to bring together reports on the massacre, both from the known Spanish sources and from the Chinese founts. The comparison may allow us to better understand the remote and proximate causes of the tragedy of 1603.

Itinerario, vol. 23, No. 1, 1998, pp. 22-39.

1

The sources The Spanish manuscript sources which document the massacre are found in their entirety in the General Archive of the Indies and were published almost completely in the “Colin & Pastells,” that is to say, the new edition of the work of Colin, done by Pastells in 19001. Some of them were reproduced immediately afterwards and translated to English, in Blair & Robertson,2 and again soon after by Pastells in his joint work with Navas. 3 These sources may be classified into two: those released during the event—which served as “news updates”—or shortly after the incident, giving a global view of what had happened; and those that appear in the books that came out around that time, situating the incident within the general context of Philippine history, as Morga4 does in his book, or as part of the conquest of the Moluccas, as Argensola5 approached it in his. The letters and reports from the officers of the Royal Audiencia of Manila, and those of the superiors of the...
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