The Spice Islands and China

In November 1511, three ships under the command of António de Abreu with Francisco Serrão as his deputy headed off via Java, the Sunda Islands and Ambon Island to Banda. They arrived there early the following year and spent a month, buying nutmeg and cloves. Abreu then moved on to Amboina while Serrão headed for the Moluccas, When the latter was shipwrecked near Seram, the Sultan of Ternate took the opportunity to enlist a powerful foreign ally against his regional rival in neighbouring Tidore, and the Portuguese were established in the Spice Islands. 

During his wanderings, Serrao became the first European known to have reached the Philippines, and while he died trying to return to Malacca after a second shipwreck, his letters to his close friend Ferdinand Magellan prompted the first circumnavigation of the globe.

In 1512 Albuquerque sent Ruy Nunez d’Arcuna from Malacca to report on trading conditions in lower Burma. Also in 1512, Duarte Fernandez was sent to Ayuthia to announce the capture of Malacca. The Portuguese were allowed to trade at Ayuthia, Mergui, Tenasserim, Patani and Nakhom Si Thammarat. The first Portuguese trading station in Burma opened in Martaban in 1519.

The final pieces of the eastern jigsaw started to fall into place early in 1513, when Jorge Álvares, dropped anchor near an island in southern China's Pearl River Delta with a shipload of Sumatran pepper. He was the first Portuguese to set foot in China, and the first European known to have reached China by sea. The following year, Rafael Perestrello reached Canton (Guangzhou), seeking to develop trade links. Perestrello was back there again in 1515 and 1516, but formal trade relations were not established in Albuquerque's lifetime.

While those missions were underway, Albuquerque's attention turned towards the west. 

To the West

© Ian Hughes 2017