Palembang, the second largest town on Sumatra after Medan, was once the celebrated seat of the rich and powerful Srivijaya kingdom, that for more than three centuries - from the 9th to the 11th century - reigned supreme over the Sumatra seas up to and including the strategic Straits of Malacca.
Srivijaya was then known as the wealthy trade hub as well as the center for Buddhist learnings. Monks from China, India and Java used to congregate here to learn and teach the lessons of Buddha. In AD 671 Chinese chronicles wrote that the famous Chinese Buddhist monk, I Ching sojourned in Palembang for six months on his way to India. I Ching wrote that there were more than 1.000 Buddhist monks in the city and advised Chinese monks to study Sanskrit in Palembang before proceeding to India.
While the Srivijaya kings lived inland on shore, his subjects lived along the wide Musi river, manning the powerful fleet and busily trading in gold, spices, silks, ivories and ceramics with foreign merchants who sailed in from China, India and Java. In 1025, however, the king of Chola in South India sent a fleet to Sumatra, destroying the kingdom, marking the end of its golden era.
Later, Chinese admiral Cheng Ho, emissary of the Chinese emperor visited Palembang in the 15th century.
Palembang is also known in history as the origin of the Malays whose kings are believed to have descended to earth at Gunung Siguntang, north of Palembang.