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Chi Tu

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Chi Tu
2nd century BC–7th century
Location of Chi Tu as indicated in the map of Transpeninsula route-ways.
Location of Chi Tu as indicated in the map of Transpeninsula route-ways.
CapitalSing-ha/ Singgora/ Songkhla
Common languagesOld Malay, Kelantan Malay
• Coronation of the first king
2nd century BC
• Conquered by Srivijaya
7th century
Succeeded by
Pan Pan (kingdom)
Today part ofMalaysia

Chi Tu (also spelled Chihtu, Chitu or Ch-ih-t'u; Sanskrit: Raktamaritika or Raktamrittika; Chinese: 赤土國; pinyin: Chì-tǔ-guó; lit. 'Red Earth Country'; Malay language: Tanah Merah) was an ancient kingdom mentioned in the history of China. The Sui dynasty annals describe an advanced kingdom called Chi Tu in 607, when Chang Chun was sent as an ambassador there. The location of Chi Tu is disputed; proposals for its location include areas in the states of Kelantan or Pahang in Malaysia, or in Songkhla and Pattani Province of southern Thailand. The best evidence to support the Kelantan theory is that, when the envoys left Chi Tu, they took 10 days to sail to Champa, this indicates the kingdom was located somewhere 'red earth' around the main river of Kelantan. The inscribed Buddhagupta Stone found in Kedah mentioned a Raktamrttika, meaning "red earth land".


Replica of Buddhagupta stone on display at the National History Museum, Kuala Lumpur.

The Chi Tu kingdom is believed to have existed from as early as 100 BC to the 6th century AD.[1] The royal family's name was Chu-dan (which means Gautama Buddha) and the king was Li-fo-duo-se.[2] According to Chinese records, Chi Tu was built by kit mow (Mon-Khmer) peoples who sailed from the coast of Funan (southern Indochina) that eventually intermarried with the local population. "... Chi Tu is a derivation nation of Funan, located in within the southern sea, sailing hundred days to reach, the majority terrain was red, thus named Red Earth Kingdom (Chi means red, Tu means earth). East bordering Po-Lo-La, West bordering Po-Lo-So, South bordering Ho Lo Tan, thousands of square miles in land area.[3] The king has three wives and the kingdom embraced Buddhism ...".

Chi Tu along with Langkasuka, Kedah and others were early important trade centers (approximately 100 BC to 700 AD).[4] During this period, ships coming from China, Funan and the Indian Ocean would stop at the coast of Malay Peninsula. They would get local porters to transport their goods, using rafts, elephants and manpower along the early transpeninsular routeway and part of the ancient spice route. By the 800 AD, the Chi Tu kingdom went into decline.[5]



Scholars do not agree on the location of Chi Tu. While some consider it to have been in the area of Phatthalung / Songkhla area, or Kelantan.[6]: 51, 54, 79  The ruins around the Songkhla lake such as Bang Kaeo in Phatthalung or Sathing Phra in Songkhla might be one of the cities of Chi Tu.

Sources from Indian scholars


J.L. Meons (1937) believed that early Srivijaya was located in Kelantan[7] and K.A. Nilakanta Sastri (1949) supported the idea.[8] The Kelantan theory may not be far-fetched, since the Chinese Sui dynasty annals of the 7th century describe an advanced kingdom called Chi Tu or Raktamrittika (as in Kelantanese history) as being in Kelantan, which the name was later changed to "Sri Wijaya Mala". The founding of Sri Wijaya Mala was 667 BC with its capital called "Valai", and it was situated along the upper Kelantan river of Pergau, known for its rich gold mines. It was in 570 BC that the kingdom changed its name to Sri Wijaya.[9]

Songkhla vicinity theory


The inscription of the Buddhagupta Stone found in Kedah mentioned a Raktamaritika, the meaning is red earth land, to be the home town of a seafarer named Buddhagupta.

The old name of Songkhla is Singgora (City of Lions), which coincides with the Chinese chronicles that state the capital of Chi Tu was Sing-Ha (means lion) and also the nearby Singhanakhon district.

This name may also be related to Tambralinga because there is "Tam" (means red) in this name as same as Raktamaritika and Tampapanni. And this state has appeared in 642, the same area of the central Malay peninsula after Chi Tu has already faded away from the history. The best evidence supporting this theory is the mention that when the envoys left Chi Tu, they took 10 days to sail to Champa, which indicates the kingdom was located at the 'red earth' areas such as Rattaphum because Rattaphum means red earth as well.

See also



  1. ^ Abu Talib Ahmad (2014). Museums, History and Culture in Malaysia. NUS Press. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-99-716-9819-5.
  2. ^ Dougald J. W. O'Reilly (2007). Early Civilizations of Southeast Asia. Rowman Altamira. ISBN 978-0-7591-0279-8.
  3. ^ Geoff Wade (2007). Southeast Asia-China interactions: reprint of articles from the Journal of the Malaysian Branch, Royal Asiatic Society. Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. ISBN 978-967-9948-38-7.
  4. ^ Abu Talib Ahmad (2014). Museums, History and Culture in Malaysia. NUS Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-99-716-9819-5.
  5. ^ Abu Talib Ahmad (2014). Museums, History and Culture in Malaysia. NUS Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-99-716-9819-5.
  6. ^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  7. ^ J.L. Moens (1937). Srivijaya Java en Kataha. TBG.
  8. ^ Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri (1949). History of Sri Vijaya. University of Madras.
  9. ^ Abdullah b. Mohamed (1981). Keturunan raja-raja Kelantan dan peristiwa-peristiwa bersejarah. Perbadanan Muzium Negeri Kelantan. OCLC 19245376.

Further reading

  • Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman (1998), The ENCYCLOPEDIA of Malaysia: early history, Volume 4, Archipelago Press, ISBN 981-3018-42-9
  • Stuart Munro-Hay (1998), Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The Archaeology, History and Legends of a Southern Thai Town, White Lotus, pp. 19–22, ISBN 974-7534-73-8