The History Of Trade In Sri Lanka
The Sinhalese were largely an agricultural people and did not pay much attention to trade. Nevertheless there was a certain amount of foreign trade specially in spices and precious stones. Before the second century A.D articles from Sri Lanka such as spices and precious stones were taken to South India for trade. Traders from the West and East came to South India and South India was an important center of trade. After the Second century A.D some of these traders came directly to Sri Lanka.
Arab traders came to South India even before the Christian era but there is no evidence that they came to Ceylon during this period.
One hears of Persian merchants in Sri Lanka in early times. In fact a Persian cross has been found on a slab at Anuradhapura. This seems to lend some support to the view that there was a colony of Persian Christians in Anuradhapura where a whole section of the city had been set apart for foreign traders. The Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century put an end to the Persian trade with Sri Lanka.
The first Arab traders appear to have settled in Sri Lanka after this. There is evidence of such settlements in the seventh century. The Arabs too were chiefly concerned with the trade in spices and precious stones.
Sri Lanka had maintained fairly close relations with China. The common factor was Buddhism. Sri Lanka was regarded as the headquarters of Buddhist learning and Chinese monks and scholars came to the island. In the tenth century Chinese merchants came to Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka became a center of the exchange trade between Chinese merchants and those from the West.