Saturday, September 23, 2006

Perhaps the idea of a Medieval Sri Lankan-French merchant colony was not pure fiction after all

One of the repeated items in my movie Date Number One is a discussion about a Sri Lankan-French merchant colony in Medieval Japan. When I wrote the script in '04 I knew of no ancient/pre-2oth century contact between the French and the Sri Lankans. But tonight I found, in a book titled The Heritage of The Bhikkhu, originally published in 1946 in Sinhala & translated to English in 1974, by the monk Walpola Rahula, the following sentence on page 58, chapter: The Dutch Period:

"In 1672 a French fleet arrived in Ceylon. King Rajasimha II, who learned that the French were against the Dutch, permitted them to build a fortress near the harbor of Trincomalee, with the hope of getting their help to defeat the Dutch."

So, if Rahula is correct, then there was significant contact between the French & the Sri Lankans (Ceylon is a former name for Sri Lanka). This contact did not happen in Medieval Japan, but, a French FLEET & a FORTRESS in 1672 Sri Lanka, that is very significant, a part of Sri Lankan history that I did not know, have not heard about until now.

Weird how modern fiction may have unknowingly reflected an old fact.

But how true is what Rahula heard re: this French fleet. If anyone out there is an expert in French history & can point to a French record from 1672 re: a fleet arriving in Sri Lanka & building a fortress there w/ the help of the Sri Lankan king, let me know. Thanks.

- Sujewa

UPDATE: that Wikipedia link re: King Rajasimha II mentions the French, as in their interaction with Sri Lanka may have happened.

UPDATE 2: that Wikipedia link does not seem to work, just search under Rajasimha II at Wikipedia for the article I saw

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