According to many historians, Ma - I was a Country located to the north of Borneo, probably in Mindoro Area ; in some historical Chinese Imperial annals :"Chu Fan Chih and Sung Shih" we can find out informations related to the symbols adopted in that Country... .
William Henry Scott on his book : "Prehispanic Source Materials" report some interesting notes based on those accounts: on page 68 :
" There are metal images (lit. Buddhas) of unknown origin..."
"... Since the local chieftains make a habit of using white umbrellas, the merchants must present them as a gift."
This habit was also common in another place called : " Sun-Hsu " , on page 69 of the mentioned Scott's book there is another interesting note:
" ..., the real boss of the traders is sure to appear on the spot and settle matters, after which they offer him silk umbrellas, porcelain and rattan baskets as a gift. ..."
The adoption of white umbrellas or "parasols" was a clear sign of the buddhist influence:
The Parasol (Umbrella) is called "chattra" in Sanskrit ;above the mountain is the dome of the sky. This is symbolized by the umbrella, whose important function is to cast a shadow, the shadow of protection.
The parasol or umbrella is a traditional Indian symbol of both protection and royalty. The ability to protect oneself against inclement weather has always, in all cultures, been a status symbol. . In Oriental thought, the fact that it protected the bearer from the scorching heat of the sun was transferred into the religious sphere as a “protection against the heat of defilements.” Thus the coolness of its shade symbolizes protection from the heat of suffering, desire, and other spiritually harmful forces.
The dome of the umbrella is held aloft by a vertical handle (just like the mountain upholds the sky), which is identified with the ‘axis mundi,’ or the central axis upholding the world. The umbrella is carried above an important dignitary or the image of a deity, to indicate that the person or symbol below the umbrella is in fact the center of the universe, and also its spiritual support. Umbrellas seem to be especially important in processional rites, being like mobile temples.
As it is held above the head it naturally symbolizes honor and respect.
Butuan was a small country by the sea to the east of Champa (now Vietnam).
We find out some infos related to the symbols of Butuan in the Chinese Imperial Chronicles:
In 1004, according to the chinese Imperial accounts (see W. H. Scott's book :" Prehispanic sources..." ), the court handed down an edict prohibiting their export of chinese goods, gold and silver by direct market purchases, especially ceremonial flags and regimental banners to which they had taken a predilection. ("people from distant lands don't understand rules and regulations ", a minister complained).
For four consecutive years, from 1003 to 1007 , Kiling (Ch'i-ling), the Ruler of Butuan sent missions to China. In 1007, Kiling sent I-hsu-han with a formal memorial requesting equal status in court protocol with the Champa envoy. This was denied on the grounds that "Butuan was beneath Champa." This country has been a tributary state since the 4th century.
In 1011, a new Butuan ruler named Sari Bata Shaja sent Likan-hsieh to the Chinese Imperial court with tributes that included non- Butuan products like "White Dragon" camphor, cloves from Moluccas and a slave. The poor slave was freed by the Emperor who was shocked by such offering. Nevertheless, Likan-hsieh was given honors and a memorial was granted which exalted Butuan and had flags, pennons and armor "to honor a distant land." It was only in 1373 that the first tribute mission from Luzon was mentioned in the Chinese chronicles.
That's the proof that both: Chinese and Butuan made a great use of flags and regimental banners; the shapes of those flags probably followed the style of Chinese flags of that time, quite different from those known to us of the last two or three centuries ago.
THE BUTUAN IVORY SEAL
According to Hector Santos on his article of 1996 : ( "The Butuan Ivory Seal "© 1996 by Hector Santos )
" Antoon Postma reports that it was shown to him by Dr. Angel Bautista in 1990 at a conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He says that the seal was in Bautista's custody but does not know whether it belonged to the National Museum or not... ."
.."The writing on the ivory seal is stylized Kavi, . Postma states that the script is similar to that on the inscription of Puh Serang near Kediri dated 1002. He further indicates that the writing says "Butban," which presumably stands for "Butwan" or "Butuan" since b and w are frequently interchangeable."
Supposed drawing of a typical Butuanese flag ; drawing based on some historical flags of China and Champa (Vietnam) with which Butuan had great contacts and influences... .