The 700-year-old Sino-Malayali link

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | POOJA NAIR
Published Apr 19, 2016, 1:30 am IST
Updated Apr 19, 2016, 6:39 pm IST
First screening at Malabar Christian College.
Dr Joe Thomas
 Dr Joe Thomas

KOZHIKODE: A Malayali family travelled over 5,000 kilometres all the way to China 700 years ago and settled there.  The family’s  14th generation now lives  in that country  and  some of the members  still have the records of their forefathers and the connection between Kerala and China.  These facts have been brought out in a 42-minute  short film, ‘Guli’s Children,’  directed by Dr Joe Thomas, an IIT- Chennai assistant professor hailing from Kottayam.

He conducted  a  research spanning over two years and nearly 20,000 km of field work across India and China to explore the links between Kerala and China.
‘Guli’s Children’ (Guli in China is Calicut) will be  first screened  in Malabar Christian College here at 11 a.m. on April 20 and later  in KTDC Raindrops conference hall in Chennai on April 22 . “The  film is on the history of the relations between Kerala and China,  and Calicut  was an important node in the maritime links between China and India,” says Dr Joe.  

“I got to see some of the members of the family, who still have the historical records of their forefathers and the connection between Kerala and China,” he says.   “I have tried to bring out the cultural- historical ties from the time of the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties  between Kerala and China and locates physical artefacts and also traces  the  human genealogy that survive to this day,” he adds. He has  portrayed Chinese commercial and social- cultural interaction with Southern India that peaked between the 12th and 15th centuries.

A number of Malabar ambassadors  from Kozhikode went to China during the 14th and early 15th centuries.   There are historical accounts in Chinese works that refer to connections with Kerala (chiefly Calicut, Cochin and Kollam),  including works such as Yingyai Shenglan, Ming Shilu and  Xingcha Shenglan,  to name a few. 

Calicut was an important nodal point in China's maritime outreach not only to South Asia but to West Asia  and Africa as well. Not many people know that the famous Ming General, Zheng He,  had erected a monument in Calicut in 1407 (presumed to be on the occasion of the king's coronation) during one of these voyages. The film is a work of non-fiction  and is basically a visual representation of the research work. Dr Joe said that the real challenge of bringing out the film was to trace out the family who migrated to China long ago.    





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