Luzon of China

Between 1405 and 1422 Emperor Yung Lo sent seven huge naval expeditions under one of his admirals, Zheng He, as a show of Chinese might throughout Southeast Asia and to establish trade in the area. When the Chinese sailed to the largest landmass in the Philippines they eventually established claim and called this island "Lu-sung" after the Song dynasty of China. Today it is known as Luzon.

Admiral Zheng He, who was muslim and known as the Grand Eunuch, led China’s great sea exploration. For centuries The trade routes by sea from China to the African coast were frequently used by the Chinese, Arabs, Asian Indians and South East Asian traders. Spices were in big demand and most came to trade for spices.

In 1405 the Yongle Emperor of China appointed a governor over the island of Luzon and the island became a commonwealth territory of China. This gave China control of trade with the island. Soon Chinese were migrating and settling in Luzon. Hokkien was spoken by ethnic Chinese throughout the Philippines.


Filipinos of Chinese descent are called Intsik born and raised in the Philippines. Chinese Filipinos are one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. There are approximately 1.5 million Filipinos with pure Chinese ancestry in the Philippines.


Filipinos with at least some Chinese ancestry are known as Sangleys. Spanish used the term Mestizo de Sangleys to refer to people of mixed Chinese and indigenous Filipino ancestry. The national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal, is a descendant of the Chinese Sangleys. He spoke 22 different languages.

Chinese Naval Expeditions

According to early Chinese records, Zheng He commanded seven expeditions from 1405 to 1433. Zheng He's fleet sailed throughout Southeast Asian for trade and as far as East Africa. The first expedition in 1405 consisted of 27,800 men and a fleet of 62 treasure ships supported by approximately 190 smaller ships. The other 6 expeditions had fleets of compariable size.

Table of Contents

Ship Size Comparisons

The ships in the fleet included:
Today there are 1.3 million Chinese in the Philippines. Some have been there for generations before the Spanish came. Many Ilokanos like myself have traces of Chinese ancestry. In my last visit to Tacloban city on Leyte, my mom's home island, many of the merchants were of Chinese descent and spoke Hokkien like many Chinese who settled in South East Asia.