Aramco World is one of the best magazines for a student of history and I've referred to one article about the story of pepper in my earlier post on the study of Islam in Kerala. (I'll post the second part of the series hopefully by this week, God willing)
This particular article about a journey through the Far East by John Lawton is a beautiful comprehensive read about Islam in South East Asia before the European colonial invasions. He travels across China, the islands of Sumatra, Java, Ceylon, Maldives, Malaysia searching for the stories of arrival of Islam in each of those Islands and their tales of survival and growth. A good starter for anyone interested in medieval history of the Far East.
For a deeper read into the story of Islam in China,this this would be a good read . TW Arnold in his masterpiece "Preaching of Islam" has some good description of the arrival of Islam in China and its growth in those regions.
The trade routes to these places were through the ancient ports of Kodungalloor and Quilon in Kerala. Studies about the arrival of Islam in these areas can be helpful in understanding the early interactions of the Arabs in Kerala.