Was Bujang Valley a Kingdom?

by Marie-Andree Abt

In our museum, Bujang valley (BV) is presented as the first Malay kingdom in the Peninsula, but, as far as I know before beginning this research, we have yet to find any artefact showing it was indeed a kingdom. I wanted to be sure and began to investigate. During my research, I learned a lot about BV, not always directly related to my research but I will share it anyway.

A kingdom is a country ruled by a king or a queen, as per Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary 7th edition.
Bujang valley (Malay: Lembah Bujang) “is a sprawling historical complex and has an area of approximately 224 square kilometres (86 sq mi) situated near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the north and Muda River in the south. It is the richest archaeological area in Malaysia.” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bujang_Valley)
Srivijaya Kingdom was situated in South Sumatra, with its capital at present day Palembang. It was founded in the seventh century by Dapunta Hyang who led twenty thousand troops from Minanga Tamwan to Palambang, Jambi and Bengkulu. This event is recorded in the Kedukan Bukit inscription dated 16th June 683, setting its birth in the seventh century. Chinese sources called Srivijaya “Shi Li Fo Shi” and the Arabs “Sribuza”. Its wealth comes from trade with China, India and the Arabs. It extends to the Strait of Malacca up to Burma and part of Java, over kingdoms that had existed since the second century, if one believes Chinese sources. These kingdoms were trading local products such as benzoin, camphor, dammar, spices, aromatic woods, ivory, tin and gold with Srivijaya, who then sent all that farther. This way of ruling is often described as a mandala (explained later in this article).

In the eighth century, Srivijaya had links with the Sailendra, a Javanese dynasty (which built Borobodur). Srivijaya was a centre of Mahayana Buddhism studies and Sanskrit at least until the twelfth century. Some kings gave money not only to build a temple in South Thailand, but also to repair temples in India and Guangzhou. It had a very good administration with a datu (minister) for each kingdom.

The Indian Tamil Chola king attacked first Kedah then Srivijaya in the eleventh century. Srivijaya was clever enough to make believe that it was the other way around; Chinese envoys always thought that Chola was under Srivijaya rule! In a memorial presented to the Song emperor Huizong in 1106, the Song Shi (Song Annals) records: ‘The Chola kingdom is subject to Srivijaya. We wrote to its ruler on coarse paper’.

The capital of Srivijaya was moved from Palembang to Jambi, centre of the Melayu kingdom, which gave its name to the Malay language. It marks the beginning of the decline of Srivijaya who shared its power between Kedah, Kota Cina and Jambi, becoming Three Vijaya according to Chinese accounts. In 1292, Three Vijaya fell under the Singarasi (another kingdom of which little is known) who then quickly fell to Majapahit. Majapahit founded its wealth not only on trade but also on agriculture, being based on Java, a volcanic fertile soil area. It lasted until 1520 with the rise of Islam in Java.

Srivijaya around the 8th century. Image credit: Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Indian written sources

The first to write about BV were the Indian. As early as the second century BCE, Indian writing related trade between BV and some ports of South India that lasted until the 10th century CE. Later, the inscriptions of Tanjore speak of a king of Kedah and Srivijaya and, in 1007, the Chola seemed to have already attacked Kedah. Scholars do not know why.

However, in 1025 the Chola king Rajendra, lobbied by Indian trading guilds fed-up of paying taxes to Srivijaya each time they send a boat in these waters, attacked Srivijaya. The description of this attack informed, “the Maharaja of Kedah and Srivijaya, named Samgramavijayottungavarman, was taken prisoner during the attack of Palembang”. Hence, it seems that, at this time, there was a king of Kedah, but ruling from Srivijaya since he obviously lived in Palembang. After the sacking of Srivijaya, a new Maharaja was enthroned – Sri Deva.

This new king could not “pay” anymore for the allegiance of his vassals and hence they sought independence. Among the first to do so was Kedah, who openly revolted in 1060. Sri Devi chose to make peace with the Chola Kingdom and sought their help to bring Kedah back into the Srivijaya mandala. In 1068, Virajendra, the ruler of Chola, attacked only Kedah, looted it and returned it, graciously, to Srivijaya. This uncommon event confused the Chinese who thought that Chola was under the rule of Srivijaya.

Candi Bukit Batu Pahat; the Merbok Archaeological Museum was built next to this candi

Chinese written sources

Chinese writings mention tributes given to China by the BV polity. In the Sui Shu (History of the Sui, completed in 636 CE), Kedah was called Chitu, Jietu, Geluo or Geluofashaluo. Two missions were sent from China in 607 and in 610. The first one left from Guangzou under the command of Chang Jun. It was bound for Chitu and Luocha. These two were the only destinations for the mission, showing the growing importance, at that time, of these transhipment centres for long distance Persian Gulf-India-China trade.

Chang Jun mentions that the capital of Chitu was named Sengzhi, perhaps located near the Muda River in what is now Kampung Sungai Mas. He describes it as a city surrounded by three concentric walls separated by one hundred paces each. “At each gate, there are painted flying spirits, fairies and Bodhisattva images… The king, we are told, is Li-Fu-Duo-Sai Qu-Tan (Riputro Gautama?). Behind his throne is  a golden crouching  bull and above it , one bejewel parasol and bejewelled fans left and right…Hundreds of Brahmans seated in rows facing each other on left and right. The practice of the residents was to respect Buddha and give special reverence to Brahmans. Indian music was played during the audience with the ruler. When the king sent a nayaka (leader or protector) as an emissary to China, with local products, he also sent a gold leaf letter”. Hence, it appears to be a Buddhist kingdom where Brahmans were key players advising the ruler and performing Indian-based ceremonies.

What is bothering me in this description is the presence of a triple enceinte. As far as I know, archaeologists never found any traces of these walls. Even, if their construction materials were used later as a source of stones or bricks for other constructions, they would have had some sort of foundations … that have not, yet, been found. So was Chitu really Kedah? In my opinion, it still needs to be proven. Other sources, including the Encyclopaedia of Malaysia: Early History, places Chitu in Kelantan. This makes more sense.

In the chronicles of the Tang dynasty (619 to 916 CE) translated by Winstedt, it seems that Kedah was called Kalah or Kora or Kala. It is said that this Kora has a king named Misi Pura Sri Pura and the customs of the people were the same as in Siam. But in the same book, Winstedt writes that Langkasuka was the former name of Kedah and that under the Liang dynasty (502 to 665 CE) people dated the birth of the country four hundred years earlier.

Seventy years after the Chitu mission, yet another name for Kedah in Chinese writing appears – Jietu, again a phonetic rendering of Kedah. In 671, the Chinese monk Yijing left Guangzhou and stopped over at Srivijaya where he studied Sanskrit. He then went to Kacha (probably Kedah) to board a boat to India. This was the first proof that Kedah may have been a major port of embarkation for the long journey to India. When he came back in 685, he noted that Kedah was now under Srivijayan rule. He explains that BV was the northern capital of Srivijaya, levying taxes on the merchandises coming from the West with Palembang, the southern capital, took care of the goods coming from the East.

There are also other sources showing that Jietu was an important port for merchants and monks on their way to India. The Xin Tang Shu notes that south of Panpan lay Geluo. Around 800, Jia Dan writes about Geluo, recording that it had 24 provinces – “It was a major trading port since the 9th century or earlier”. There is no evidence of diplomatic contact between Geluo and Tang China.

Bujang Valley pottery on display at the Merbok Archaeological Museum. Image credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Arab written sources

As early as the 8th century, Arabic navigational treaties mention Kalah. Several archaeologists have studied the writings of Arab or Persian merchants. According to as-Sin wa’l-Hind, Kalah was a kingdom located near the coast. Kalah-bar (government) was a kingdom under the control of al-Zabaj (Srivijaya). Sulayman describes Kalah as a colony of Srivijaya and an entrepôt trade centre where the traders called to obtain supplies of clean water. Abu Dalaf Misar stated that Kalah was a huge kingdom surrounded by walls, gardens, water, market and houses with a large population…”Kalah has its own social system that is really organised in terms of justice, treatment of offences and matters related to fines”… Katacha entrepôt developed rapidly since the fifth century and it is believed that the port existed since the early century CE. Kataha’s centre at that time was situated at today’s Sungai Mas. Various types of temple architecture and thousands of foreign ceramics are the best proof of it. Relative dating on inscriptions showed that Sungai Mas prospered since the fifth century. Later, the entrepôt was moved to Kampung Pengkalan Bujang.

Modern research

The discovery of glass fragments at site 18, Pengkalan Bujang, was reported by Quaritch-Wales in 1940. With the discovery of laterite stone blocks and bricks in the vicinity, Quaritch-Wales expects them to belong to a palace hall or a building structure in a palace. Ah! Finally proof of Kedah as a kingdom? … Not so sure.

Michel Jacq-Hergoualc’h explains in his Arts Asiatiques article in 1992 that Quaritch thought the main Indianisation of Kedah and South East Asia dated from 550 to 750 with a Pallava colonisation. Alastair Lamb restudied the same areas as Quaritch plus some others and concluded, “We can definitely not use periodization influenced by the too approximate and too partisan Quatrich work. For us, South Kedah is not a small kingdom created by Pallava, it is not even a Malay kingdom Indianised as Quatrich suggested.”

Overall, the study of Chinese ceramics shows that the trading activity moved to Kampung Sireh on Sungai Mudah for a few decades only. Then it moved to Melaka. Hence, from the fifth to eleventh century, BV was centred in Kampung Sungai Mas, South of Merbok River; it was mostly Buddhist if we believe the artefacts found at the candi. From the eleventh to early fourteenth century, the centre moved to Pengkalan Bujang, north of Merbok River and it became mainly Hindu. Beginning of the fourteenth century, it was moved again to Kampong Sireh, which silted at the same time Melaka became the predominant kingdom; so Kedah, as a port, started to decline.

In 2014, John Guy wrote on the formation of states in South East Asia. He does not know exactly how they functioned in term of political organization “whether they are best characterized by fiefdoms, polities, kingdoms or states is open to discussion”. O.W. Walters was the first to suggest they might work as a mandala-negara, an Indian model described in regional inscriptions as “radiating zone, strongest in its centre, weakest at the periphery with porous frontiers that intercepted adjacent tributary”. The peripheral states trade their local product with the more powerful one in the centre, who concentrate and finally send the goods further, creating a kind of loose federation based on trade.

I conclude by referring to Dr Nasha Rodziadi Khaw’s talk to the MV on 6th January 2021. He told us that Kedah trading ports existed from 6th century BC to 1371. It consisted of a confederation of trading polities for which no proof currently exists that they were kingdoms. Hence, so far, it seems we cannot conclude yet if BV was indeed a kingdom.

A sitting Buddha terracotta statue recovered at Site 21 Candi Pengkalan Bujang

References

Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, Early modern history, Archipelago press, 2001

Baker, Jim. Crossroads, Marshall Cavendish editions, 2008

Winstedt. R.O, History of Kedah

Guy John, Last kingdoms. Introducing early Southeast Asia, 2014

Wade Geoff. Beyond the Southern Borders: Southeast Asia in Chinese texts to the 9th century

Sulitiyono, Journal of marine cultures, volume 7

Ramli, Shuaimi Nik Abdul Rhaman, Zain Musa, Samsudin, Rodzi Abdul Razak. Arab-Persian merchants in the Malay peninsula based on foreign sources and archaeological data, Institute of Malay world and civilisation, Faculty of social sciences and humanities, School of history, politics and strategy, The national university of Malaysia.

Selvakumar, V. Commercial interactions between India and Southeast Asia during medieval period and future Interactions between ASEAN and India.

Jacq-Hergoualc’h Michel. Art asiatiques. 1992

Oxford advanced learners’ Dictionary ,7th edition

Munoz, Paul Michel. Early kingdoms of the Indonesian archipelago and the Malay peninsula. Dr Nasha Rodziadi Khaw. MV focus: History and archaeology of ancient Kedah, a reflection of multiculturalism in the Malay Peninsula.

Exhibition: Pandemic, Epidemic and Endemic

Do catch the ‘Pandemic, Epidemic and Endemic’ exhibition currently ongoing at Muzium Negara, scheduled to run until 31 March 2021. It is located in the hall between Galleries A and B. This is a small space but the exhibition packs a lot of information.

The bulk of the exhibits focus on the current Covid 19 pandemic, with display boards and dioramas tracing its history in Malaysia and globally. However, the exhibition also showcases other pandemics and epidemics including nipah, chikungunya, H1N1, H5N1, malaria, rabies and leprosy.

Having a heart… NGO’s helping the less privileged during the Covid-19 pandemic

Interesting are the government gazettes and circulars of old in bids to contain the various outbreaks.

The exhibition also includes usage of alternative medicine such as pomegranate to cure cough, tapeworm as well as diarrhea, and hibiscus for fevers and as an antidote for poison.

Chaulmoogra (Hydrocarpus wightianus) , known locally as buah kusta as it was used to treat leprosy before dapstone was formulated.
This belt is made from the sintok (Entada spiralis) root, used as a traditional medicine by the Orang Asli used to cure (among others) backache.
Some books on the various diseases

Many more interesting nuggets can be found at the exhibition. Do head to Muzium Negara where you can also catch another exhibition titled ‘The Power of Gold’ located at Gallery 1 in the JMM building.

Bukit Kutu a.k.a Treacher’s Hill

by Eric Lim

Ulu Selangor was one of the major tin mining districts in Selangor during the Colonial era and Kuala Kubu was a key mining town in the district. After the dam in this town broke in 1883, a new township was built nearer the Selangor River. The population grew in tandem with tin production and it soon became the administrative centre for the district.

William Hood Treacher was the British Resident of Selangor from 1892 to 1896 and, in 1893, he came on an inspection tour of Ulu Selangor. When in Kuala Kubu, he spent a night at Gunong Kutu and later commented that the hill could be a possible site for a sanatorium. His comment was followed up in an article in the Straits Times Weekly Issue (1893) quoting an official report by Selangor Gazette that Gunong Kutu had several advantages as a sanatorium which include fair accessibility via the construction of a bridle road, a good spring near the park and cool temperature.

Kuala Kubu in 1906 with Bukit Kutu in the background. Photo credit: http://peskubu.org/latar-belakang-sejarah-kuala-kubu/
William Hood Treacher. Wikimedia Commons

The British also considered possible hill stations in other Federated Malay States (FMS), namely Gunong Kledang in Ipoh, Gunong Angsi near Seremban and Gunong Tahan in Pahang. However, they remained undeveloped as they were not high enough and had limited flatlands to accommodate many visitors. In the case of Gunong Tahan, the project did not even begin because part of the hill was located in Kelantan, which was not part of the FMS.

Gunong Kutu was also known as Treacher’s Hill. It was later renamed Bukit Kutu, probably because it was more appropriate than being labelled a ‘gunong / mountain’. Bukit Kutu remains the official name until today. The first bungalow was erected by the Selangor Government in 1895 and this was followed by another bungalow constructed in 1904. It was reported that in each of the bungalows, there were four bedrooms, a dressing room, bathroom and a good-sized living room with a fireplace. Each bedroom had two beds, which were supplied with blankets. The bungalows were also fixed with telephones connected to the Kuala Kubu Exchange. Activities in the daytime included going for walks, playing tennis, croquet and stump cricket. Badminton and ping-pong were added in the later years. At night, there were card games like bridge and board games such as chess. On a clear day at Bukit Kutu, the naked eye could easily locate Kuala Kubu town, Rasa, Serendah and even faraway places like Fraser’s Hill, Pangkor Island, Port Swettenham and Morib. A telescope was also made available.

As for the location of Bukit Kutu, the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser in 1923 reported that ‘distance-wise, the route from Kuala Kubu Rest House to Bukit Kutu peak where the two bungalows were located took 8 ½ miles and 8 ¾  via a well graded path up the hill’. Permission to use the bungalows had to be obtained beforehand from the District Officer of Kuala Kubu and the rent was $1.00 per day per bungalow. Government officers were given free usage of the bungalows. The journey to the peak took no longer than 3 ½ hours and about 2 ¾ hours coming down. The Straits Times reported on 15 April 1930 that Rex Duncan and J.L Ross climbed to the peak on their motorcycles and they used a Matchless 250 cc motorcycle, one of the oldest marques of British motorcycles. Three years earlier, Mackenzie also used the same make of machine to reach the top.

Matchless motorcycles. Photo source : Pinterest

The service of sedan chairs carried by coolies was also available for those who choose not to walk and the cost was $1.80 for each coolie. Separately, coolies could be engaged to carry provisions, letters, etc. and it cost $1.30 each. The train line to Kuala Kubu was established in October 1894 and this provided some convenience for visitors to Bukit Kutu. Prior arrangements could be made to send boxes of provisions, cold storage, etc. on stated days to the Kuala Kubu railway station and staff from the Rest House would collect them and deliver these up the hill.

Kuala Kubu Rest House. Photo source : NATIONAAL ARCHIEF, THE HAGUE

It was reported in 1903 that a new breed of mosquito was found by Dr Daniel at Bukit Kutu, which closely resembled the malaria carrying Anopheles of Italy. It was named Anopheles treacheri. Bukit Kutu was rich in biodiversity with various kinds of flora and fauna and this led it being established as one of the earliest wildlife reserves in our country in 1922. The first in Chior, Perak was established in 1903, right after the Wildlife Animals and Wildlife Birds Protection Bill was formulated in 1902.

The popularity of Bukit Kutu started to decline when Fraser’s Hill opened to visitors in 1922. From 1926 onward, the site started facing problems of soil movement but requests for help from the state government did not materialize. Finally, on 31 December 1932, the resort ended its operations. In 1933, one of the bungalows was bought over by Mat Ripin at a price of $28.00 but, later, he had to return the property because he was a government servant. In 1936, the bungalows were again sold, this time at a price of $100.00 to T.E. Emmett who said he wanted it for his own private use. Since then, Bukit Kutu was abandoned and the path was lost in thick vegetation. A chimney and fireplace, main entrance steps and stone walls at the other end of the ridge are the only remnants of the bungalows.

Bukit Kutu in 1921 (colorized edition of the black & white photo). Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

Today, Bukit Kutu is a popular hiking spot. The starting point is at Kampung Pertak, an Orang Asli settlement located near the Selangor Dam. The tradition of getting permission to visit Bukit Kutu since its inception is still in place until today whereby a permit is still necessary for the hike to the peak; it can be obtained from the Police Station in KKB town.

References

Jimmy Oddstuff. Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu). Academia. 2012. (PDF) Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu) | Jimmy Oddstuff

Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 13 February 1923. Pp 5.

A week end on Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 22 April 1931. Pp 1.

In praise of Treacher’s Hill. The Straits Times. 14 July 1896. Pp 3.

A Selangor sanatorium. Straits Times Weekly Issue. 14 March 1893. Pp 2

Untitled. The Straits Times. 13 July 1903. Pp 4.

The journal of wildlife and parks. 1996/97. https://www.wildlife.gov.my/images/document/penerbitan/jurnal/Jil151996_97.pdf

Siti Farrah Zaini, Zuraini Md Ali, Brit Anak Kayan. Site selection criteria for British Colonial Hill Stations in Malaya. Department of Building Surveyor, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya. November 2017. https://umexpert.um.edu.my/public_view.php?type=publication&row=Njg3NzQ%3D

Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu. Bukit Kutu – Treacher’s Hill / Pusat peranginan dan Sanatorium 1893. Tarikh Kuala Kubu 1780 – 1931. © Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu (Peskubu). 2016. Pp 37 – 40.

The Importance of Taking Children to Museums

by Melissa Pereira

I remember it well – the day I took my daughter on her first visit to a museum. It was the National Science Centre in Bukit Kiara. She was two years old, barely out of her toddler’s gait, excitedly walking up and down the aisle, absorbing, gazing all around with wonder, taking it all in. I’m not sure what it was – the colours, the buttons to press, the lit up exhibits, the big pictures on the walls – the visit seemed like fun to her from the get go. She was too young then to have me explain much, or any, of the content, so we simply roamed the museum as I let her lead. It was truly memorable.

Many more visits followed, later with her younger brother in tow. As my children grew, our museum and gallery visits grew as well – in frequency, in the time spent as well as in attention to the exhibits.

Melbourne Museum. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Something about their response to our trips propelled me to make these trips part of their growing up years. I found that museums did something to kids that books could not. While books inform and educate, museums, through large installations, interactive displays and the like, have the ability to capture the imagination and spark curiosity that written words on pages, cannot quite. The immersive learning experience museums and galleries provide are incomparable.

Numerous curators and directors of museums and galleries agree that exposure to museums among young children have tremendous benefits. “Bringing children to museums opens their eyes to different ideas and perspectives that are relevant to their lives. This kind of exposure can help develop higher critical and creative thinking skills, which are integral to future success.” —Rebecca Davidson, Manager of School and Educator Programs, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.

Maria Montessori put it beautifully when she said, “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”

Museums, with their engaging exhibits, are a great place to spark a child’s curiosity. References to different places and times, displays of varying forms and styles and the weaving of captivating storylines around them, are powerful tools to capture a child’s imagination and can lead to lifelong learning.

Parents, teachers, curators and museum guides like ourselves, all play a pivotal role in making museum visits educational and fun for kids. For some children and students that visit Muzium Negara, especially from outside the Klang Valley, we must remember that the visit is one rife with opportunity – to engage and to inspire.

Below are some tips to keep in mind when guiding children in museums:

Be clear on what the main content will be.

  • Children have short attention spans. No matter how interesting the exhibits are, resists the urge to want to show them all off. Be clear on what the main message or learning topic is that you would like to share and stick to it.
  • It might help to do a quick brief on what to expect, before beginning the tour.
Children on tour at Gallery A, Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Pick pieces or exhibits that will allow bodily engagement. This does not necessarily have to be buttons to press or levers to pull. Large installations, the shape of which children can mimic or imitate with their bodies can have a tremendous impact too.

  • At the Makara, for instance, won’t it be fun to ask children how an elephant and a fish posing together might look like? Get a group of boys to show the others how Hang Tuah and his band of brothers might have looked together. Ask children to close their eyes and imagine what living in a New Village might have felt like. What modern cartoons or super hero would they depict with a Wayang Kulit puppet?
Hang Tuah mural, Gallery B, Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira
  • This is the time to have fun yourself! Embrace the child within and let your imagination be your guide. You’ll be surprised how refreshing the experience will be.
Scitech, Perth. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Large exhibits over wordy signboards…. anytime!

  • Guide children toward larger exhibits to create a ‘wow’ moment, and one they are not likely to forget – the tin dredge and rubber tree in Gallery C, the diorama of the Melaka port in Gallery B and of the Pangkor treaty in Gallery C – these are sure to hold a child’s attention.
National Visual Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Trust the child.       

  • Remember that learning is innate in human beings, especially so in children. Trust that they are whole, able and competent – capable of absorbing and processing information and making sense of what they see. History is a wonderful subject, filled with lessons to teach everyone, the young included. Do your best to prepare, but let the pieces, the content and the child’s natural learning desire, do the rest.
Children on tour at Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

“It is very important to take children to museums and galleries. Exposing children to museums at a young age will inculcate a love for history and culture. A good museum is a great informal learning platform that can complement formal learning. For example, after learning about ancient civilizations in textbooks, it may be interesting for children to see the actual tools and ornaments used by people from those times. They might also be able to better picture scenes of daily life or important events from history by looking at relevant dioramas or exhibits; or listening to audio guides at various stops. Artefacts like actual fossils and dinosaur bones can also inspire awe and prod curiosity. This provides more learning touch points and better multi-sensory learning for children, versus just reading about something. It will fire up all their other senses, and lead to better retention and recall of important points.

Museums also provide opportunities for children to learn how to observe things carefully, digest information, and assess what they still need to find out and to ask relevant questions.

Guides play a role to enhance and optimize the experience by doing a little groundwork beforehand to help to set the scene for the visit. Without context to link what they see to what they know and what is important to them, children will just get bored very quickly looking at a bunch of “rusty and musty old things”! Activity sheets for kids also help.

Spend a few minutes thinking about how to relate the exhibits and artifacts to things children are learning about in school, what they are interested in. Encourage them to express their opinions. Ask them to compare and contrast what they see to things they use or do now. For parents, I think children will really value this kind of time spent with family. Just as we are curious about what our children think about things, they are also curious about our opinions and us. Creating a positive experience at the museum will also lead them to associate learning with happy experiences as a family. I think these visits to museums and galleries create a shared experience and memory as well as opportunities for family members to have real and meaningful conversations.”

Li Hsian, Co-Facilitator of Art Discovery Tours and Coordinator of Children’s Programmes, ILHAM Gallery

References

Website – https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2014/importance-taking-children-museums

Website – https://www.montessorieducation.com/montessori-quotes

Federated Malay States Railway

by Eric Lim

The introduction of railways in our country occurred in the second half of the 19th century and the British played an important role in its development. However, a Malay Ruler beat the British to the construction of the country’s first railway.

He was Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar of Johor who laid the foundation for the construction of the Johore Wooden Railway (JWR) line connecting Johor Bahru and Gunong Pulai where he had envisioned constructing a sanatorium and a hill resort in 1869. James Meldrum was given the task to build the line. In 1875, upon the completion of the first phase, he invited Sir Andrew Clake and his wife to ride on the steam locomotive, which was purchased from India and was subsequently named Lady Clarke. A few months later, the incoming Governor, Sir William Jervois was invited for a ride. An article in the Straits Observer (Singapore) dated 21 September 1875 reported the abandonment of the JWR line. The JWR was a short-lived railway line purposely built for the Maharaja and his guests.

Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar / Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

In 1880, Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar ordered the construction of another railway, connecting Muar town and the coastal settlement of Parit Jawa, to eventually link with Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru. It became known as the Muar State Railway (MSR).Both JWR and MSR were funded from the state’s coffers. The early construction was done by Malay and Javanese workers and the line began operation on 11 March 1890. MSR was very profitable due to the high traffic of passengers and goods travelling between the terminals. Children attending English school in Muar travelled free. The opening of Jalan Abdul Rahman in 1918, greatly affected the traffic of MSR and eventually the line was closed in 1929. Below, news reports of construction workers who uncovered railway sleepers believed to be part of MSR.

The development of the railway system by the British tied up closely with their involvement in the politics of our country. The first phase started after the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 that saw the start of the Residential System.In 1880, Hugh Low, who was the British Resident of Perak, sought the approval and fund for the first British-built commercial railway line linking Taiping to Port Weld. Construction began in 1882 with help from the Pioneer Corporations of the British Army stationed in Ceylon. The line was completed in 1884 and opened for traffic on 1 June 1885. The locomotive was named Lady Weld, which later became FMSR 1 and ended its service in 1916.

In Selangor, Frank Swettenham who was then the British Resident recommended the construction of the 19-mile line between Kuala Lumpur and Bukit Kuda. It was opened to traffic on 10 September 1886 and it became the second line built by the British. It was extended from Bukit Kuda to Klang, a distance of 2 ½ miles on 17 April 1890. Lady Clarke from the JWR was used on the construction of the Selangor state railway. It was renamed as FMSR 2 and it survived until scrapping in December 1912.

The third line was in Negeri Sembilan. This time, a firm by the name of Hill and Rathborne was granted a concession to construct and operate the 24 ¾ mile long line between Seremban and Port Dickson.Construction started in 1888 and it was completed in 1891. The name of the company set up to run this line was Sungai Ujong Railway Company Limited. The locomotive was aptly named Sungai Ujong and it was later sent to Selangor and was called FMSR 4. It was sold to a contractor in 1909.

Tin production in our country was the fourth largest in the world in the 1870’s, then we became the largest producer in the 1880’s and by the 1890’s, British Malaya was producing more tin than the world’s production combined. Also at this time, the country was heading into agriculture and rubber became the major crop. Commercial cultivation of rubber was developing rapidly and most of the rubber plantations were located along the railway lines.

Model of locomotive used in the Taiping to Port Weld line displayed at Gallery C, National Museum. Photo source : Eric Lim

By the end of the first phase, twenty railway lines were already being constructed connecting all the major mining towns and districts in Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan to their respective ports. The second phase started in 1896, which saw the amalgamation of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang into the Federated Malay States (FMS)under one central administration headed by Frank Swettenham as the first Resident General.

Frank Swettenham, in a bid to unify the railway lines, put forth several suggestions. He suggested a line from Tapah Road to Kuala Kubu (thus linking Perak and Selangor railway system), a line from Taiping to Kuala Perai (Province Wellesley) and an extension of the Pudoh-Sungai Besi-Cheras to the south to connect to the Sungai Ujong line in Seremban. In 1901, saw the formation of the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) and two years later in 1903, Province Wellesley, Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan were connected by rail, linking Perai in the north to Port Dickson in the south. Edwin Spooner was appointed as the first FMSR General Manager. By this time, an additional thirty-seven lines were constructed across the FMS.

On 1 December 1905, the section from Tampin to Malacca town was officially opened thus extending the North-South trunk line from one Straits Settlement to another. The Straits Times reported on 4 December 1905 that ‘it is now possible to leave Malacca at 1 pm and arrive in Penang at 6.21 on the following day instead of taking two to three days by steamer’. Malacca Government Railway was awarded the concession to construct the railway line. The following year, they extended the main line from Tampin to Gemas and upon completion, Malacca Government Railway was absorbed into the FMSR.

During the expansion of the railway lines in the FMS, Frank Swettenham had wanted to connect the FMSR from Penang to Singapore passing through Johore but it was turned down by Sultan Ibrahim, who took over the throne from Sultan Abu Bakar who had died in 1895. That impasse ended on 11 July 1904 when the Railway Convention was signed in London. Construction began northward from Johore Bahru at the end of 1904 and in March 1905, construction from Gemas moving southward started. The line passing through Johore was completed in August 1907. However, the line was opened to the public on 1 July 1909 and was known as the Johore State Railway. It later came under the FMSR when the FMS government managed to lease it for 21 years, starting from January 1912 with rental paid each year at an incremental rate. The section to cross the Straits of Johore was made possible with the construction of a causeway at the end of 1919. It was opened for goods trains on 17 September 1923 and later to passenger trains on 1 October 1923.

The next important event that took place was the signing of the Anglo Siamese Treaty a.k.a Bangkok Treaty on 10 March 1909. The treaty was intended to resolve the dispute over railway development and control in the Peninsula. For the latter, the states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu were ceded to the British. These four states became known as the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and Johore was later added to this grouping.

Photo source / The Imperial Locomotive : A study of the Railway System in British Malaya 1885 – 1942

The stage was set for the next grand expansion of the FMSR into the UMS and to the last state in the FMS i.e Pahang. Construction of the railway line connecting Bukit Mertajam to Alor Setar started towards the end of 1912 and it was officially opened in 1915. It was then linked to Bukit Ketri in Perlis on 15 October 1917 and reached the border town of Padang Besar on 1 March 1918. The line from Padang Besar linked up with the Siamese Railway system and it was opened on 1 July 1918. This marked the start of international train services between the two countries, with an initial schedule of three times a week between Perai and Bangkok. The following year, saw the first international express train service from Thonburi to Malaya. By 1920, it was possible to transverse the entire West coast of Malaya, from Padang Besar to Johore Bahru, by rail.

Between 1910 and 1931 theEast Coast line was constructed from Gemas to Pahang and Kelantan, while in Kelantan, construction began from Tumpat. On 15 October 1917, the construction from Gemas had reached Kuala Lipis. In May 1920, it marked another important milestone for the FMSR, with the start of construction of the longest river bridge in the country, the Guillemard Bridge, as a crossing over the Kelantan River. This 600 metres bridge was completed in July 1924. The other river bridge built by FMSR is the Victoria Bridge in Perak, which was built in 1900. The date 5 September 1931 witnessed the completion of the East Coast line connecting Gemas and Bahau (in Negeri Sembilan) through to Mentakab and Kuala Lipis (in Pahang) and finally to Gua Musang, Tumpat and Sungai Golok (in Kelantan).

Guillermard Bridge / Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

By 1935, fifty years after the start of the first British built railway line, FMSR had laid 1321 miles of railway tracks and built 213 permanent stations and 76 halts across the Peninsula. Terengganu remained the only state not connected by the FMSR. (The new railway link infrastructure, East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will be connecting all the East coast states namely Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang to the West coast).

References

https://www.academia.edu/1517283/The_Imperial_Locomotive_A_Study_of_the_Railway_System_in_British_Malaya_1885_1942 / updates@Academia.mail.com

Kaur, A. (1980). The Impact of Railroads on The Malayan Economy, 1874-1941. The Journal of Asian Studies, 39(4), 693-710. doi:10.2307/2055178 

Postcards from the south : Memory and history of the Malaysian railways / Book by Mahen Bala / Originally published 2018

The Quran and the Sunnah

by Afidah Rahim

There are two handwritten copies of the Quran in Gallery B. Both these Malay Qurans are from the 19th century CE. Our curator will be explaining these manuscripts in a journal article next year. As an addendum to my blog article regarding the Prophet’s traditions, this article highlights the content displayed on the Qurans in gallery B to illustrate the sunnah (the ‘way of the Prophet’). Prophet Muhammad (saw) recited these particular surahs (chapters) on different occasions. Sunnah denotes the actual actions, practices and sayings of the Prophet.

Muslims believe the Quran text is the divine, unaltered Word of God, as revealed orally to Prophet Muhammad (saw) via the Archangel Gabriel in the 7th century CE. Upon memorising the revelations, the Prophet’s closest companions proceeded to transcribe them on palm wood, parchment, bones and later, onto paper. Al-Quran derives from the Arabic word qara’a meaning ‘to read’ or ‘to recite’.

The act of writing occupies an esteemed place in Islamic tradition. Much effort is placed on glorifying the Word of God through calligraphy and manuscript art. Some Ottoman and Indian Qurans were illuminated on every page with gold and colours. Malay Qurans have a defining feature in that only the beginning, middle and end pages are ornately decorated. This is in keeping with Malay values of understatement, restraint and balance. Some Malay Qurans, as in the case of our Javanese Quran in gallery B, do not even make the central pages a feature. Looking at our gallery B Qurans, we note the significance of the four illuminated pages: two at the beginning and two at the end.

The Terengganu Quran in gallery B displays the first surah, Al-Fatihah (the Opener) on the right-hand side and the start of the second surah, Al-Baqarah (the Cow) on the left-hand side. Al-Fatihah is a summary of the entire Quran. Its key verse translates to ‘You (solely) we worship, and You (solely) we ask for help from’. This oneness of God is the essence of Islamic faith. The second verse of Al-Baqarah means ‘That is the Book, in which there is no doubt, guidance for the God-conscious’. Therefore, Muslims consider the Quran as the sacred book for complete guidance, relevant for all time.

Terengganu Quran displaying the first two pages

The Quran explains when and which direction one should pray, while Prophet Muhammad (saw) showed by example what words and movements to use during prayer. Following the Prophet’s sunnah, the Al-Fatihah is recited whilst standing within every prayer. There are exceptions and modifications to standing e.g. for the elderly and in certain circumstances. However, the words recited remain the same.

The Javanese Quran in gallery B exhibits the final two surahs, Al-Falaq (the Daybreak) and An-Nas (Mankind). Both these surahs are words of protection from evil: Al-Falaq against external elements and An-Nas against evil from within. These two surahs are known as al-Mu’awwidhat (the Refuges). According to Hadith Sahih Al-Bukhari 5016/7, the prophet’s wife Aisha’ narrated that Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to recite both these surahs when he became sick and also, before sleeping every night. Hence, these acts are examples of the Prophet’s sunnah, which Muslims should follow.

Javanese Quran showing the final two pages

In the shahada, Muslims profess that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad (saw) was the best role model and the Quran confirms his exemplary character. We wish ‘peace be upon him’ by saying sallallahu alaihi wasallam (saw) after his name.

At Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) final sermon, he said: ‘I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray’.

References

The Noble Quran translated by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan (1997) Riyadh: Darussalam

Gallop A.T. (2012) The Art of the Malay Quran. Arts of Asia. Jan-Feb 2012

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (2020) Mirrors of Beauty. KL. IAMM

M Uthman El-Muhammady (1998) The Quran and the Hadith. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Religions and Beliefs Vol. 10, KL: Editions Didier Millet

Natasha Kamaluddin (2018) The First Six: An Introduction to the Noble Quran. Back to Basics Vol. 2 KL: Dakwah Corner

Ros Mahwati Ahmad Zakaria (2005) Manuscripts: The Word Made Manifest. The Message and the Monsoon, KL: IAMM

Muzium Negara gallery storyboards & Wikipedia

Muhammad Azam Adnan, Muzium Negara Gallery B curator

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zj36gwx/revision/2

https://sunnah.com/urn/46900

Titi New Village

by Eric Lim

Titi is in the district of Jelebu in Negri Sembilan and it is about 43 km from the state capital, Seremban, using Federal Route 86. From the Selangor side, Titi is accessible from Hulu Langat and Semenyih on the B32 (Selangor state route) that crosses the border to meet up with N32 (Negri Sembilan state route).

Titi sign at the south entrance / Photo source : Eric Lim

The name Titi comes from a Malay word referring to a narrow passage to cross a ditch, drain or a tributary and usually made from log of a palm or coconut tree. However, the Chinese call it Titi Kong (知知港) which could possibly be referring to jetty/jetties found in the town in the past. Sungai Glemi is a tributary that meanders gently across the town and flows to join Sungai Triang. It flows northeast and ultimately falls into Sungai Pahang and finally into the South China Sea.

The Orang Asli were the earliest inhabitants in this area and they were already using this waterway to supply tin and various jungle produce to the commercial centre at the mouth of Sungai Pahang. In the 17th century, Minangkabau from Sumatra migrated into the state in large numbers and Jelebu was dominated by them. They were mainly in agriculture with tin prospecting mostly a part-time work to make some side income. The Chinesefirst arrived in the district in about 1860 and the first Chinese temple, Lian Hua An, was built in 1876.

During British intervention, Sungai Ujong was the key mining area in the state even though Lukut fell under its control in 1878. Lukut was the chief tin producing area in the country between 1830 and 1860 but by the time it came under the jurisdiction of Sungai Ujong, tin was dwindling and it was in financial ruin because of the conflict between the Malays and Chinese. The then Acting Resident of Sungai Ujong, H.A. O’Brien reported in 1884 of an abundance of tin deposits in Jelebu and in June the following year, British took over the administration and appointed E.P. Gueritz as the first British Collector of Jelebu. Immediately, the district saw major developments like the construction of a bridle track to connect Sungai Ujong (later widened into a cart road in 1888), Jelebu Hospital built at Petaling as well as police stations at Bukit Tangga, Kuala Klawang and Titi. As for for tin mining in the district, two British-owned companies, Jelebu Mining and Trading Company and Jelebu Mining Company were given the monopoly over land and tax concessions. The special concessions ceased in 1893.

Next, it saw the arrival of small Chinese enterprises to prospect for tin. The towkays from Sungai Ujong and Malacca were not keen to invest in Jelebu due to its remoteness. This was a good opportunity for Siow Kon Chia to start tin exploitation. He was born in Lan-Lin village of Hui Zhou in Guangdong in 1864. He came to Malaya in 1892 where he worked in Melaka for two years. He then moved to Sungai Ujong where he met with Roman Catholic missionaries who offered him a job. It was during this time that he became a Christian. At the same time, he started tin speculating and eventually obtained permits to operate several mining sites in Titi. For his labour recruitment, he returned to his home village and offered to transport whole families out to Jelebu. During the first few years of the recruitment, over a thousand Siow clan families had migrated to Titi.

In 1905, Siow Kon Chia donated two acres of his land and financed the construction of a church. It is today the Saint Augustine Catholic Church. At the peak of his success, he married Maria Leong who was a Melaka born Baba Chinese. In time, Siow Kon Chia was regarded as the unofficial Kapitan China to help with the administration of Chinese in the area. Later, he moved his family to Seremban where he stayed until he died on 24 May 1929. His house located behind St Paul’s Institution had been used as the Headmaster’s residence; St Paul’s Institution was established in 1899 and was the first English school in Negri Sembilan.

Saint Augustine Catholic Church / Photo source : Eric Lim
Saint Augustine Catholic Church / Photo source : Eric Lim

When Siow Kon Chia’s business enterprises started to decline, it paved the way for a group of enterprising Siow men to emerge. Comprising five men – Min Foong, Piang Keow, Sin Tow, Lian Fook and Onn – they formed the Ban Lee Seng business enterprise with a capital of $100.00 per head. They started a provision store, selling work equipment and household needs. At the same time, they also operated a fish and vegetable stall at the local market. Later, they were involved in opening up land for rubber and cash crop growing. Within five years, they were very successful and opened another shop called Ban Yap Seng to cope with the business expansion. From 1920 to 1930, Ban Lee Seng was controlling the district’s transport services, groceries, meat and vegetable sales and equipment supplies. After a decade together, they decided to go their own way. They continued to prosper and became community leaders in Titi.

When the rubber boom started in the country, businessmen in Titi also took up rubber planting. However, rubber trees take about five to six years before they can be tapped. So while waiting, they planted cash crops like tapioca, vegetables, sugar cane and fruits like bananas and pineapples.

Mural of rubber plantation / Photo source : Eric Lim
Mural of pineapple farm / Photo source : Eric Lim

During the Japanese Occupation, Japanese soldiers arrived at the district on 7 January 1942, exactly one month from the date that they arrived in the Peninsular. It was early in the morning when about forty soldiers cycled into Kuala Klawang from Seremban. The troop was led by two guides who had stayed in Titi before the war and known by their Chinese names of Yah Te and Yah Ming, and had worked as a barber and photographer respectively. Within two weeks, the Japanese had formed a police force consisting of about one hundred men. The presence of the Japanese soldiers sent most of the Chinese in the area into hiding in the surrounding jungle.

Google Map showing Jelulung village (top) and site of memorial (bottom)

On the fateful day of 18 March 1942, about one hundred Japanese soldiers, who had cycled from Seremban the previous evening and joined by the soldiers stationed at the district police station, made their way to Jelulung village (余朗朗村) located next to Titi town. Due to its strategic location near the borders of Selangor and Pahang, Jelulung became a favourite hideout for resistance fighters. Japanese soldiers gathered the villagers at the marketplace on the pretext of meeting the people and conducting identity checks. Later, they went on a house-to-house search and when it was done, the villagers were herded into small groups and led away to isolated spots and nearby houses where they were stabbed to death by bayonets. Those who resisted were shot point blank. By dusk, the whole settlement was set on fire. A total of 1474 men, women and children were killed and the massacre was the highest single-day casualties recorded during the Japanese Occupation. In 1979, a memorial was built at the Titi Chinese cemetery and the exhumed remains were finally laid to rest there.

Memorial at Titi 
Photo source : Elaine Tan / Malaysia quiet remembrance / Asia Weekly / Elaine Tan

When the Japanese left Titi on 10 August 1945, MPAJA took control and set up the People’s Communist Government of Titi but just for a brief period. By 15 October 1945, British Military Administration (BMA) returned to power in Titi. By the time of the declaration of Emergency in the country, Titi and the surrounding settlements were already known for their communist activities. When the resettlement programme came into effect, squatters were evacuated into allocated housing sites in Titi New Village. By 1955, Titi New Village had grown in size and comprised Titi town, Titi-Mahfong, Titi-Hosapa and Titi-Kimloong; and the population had reached 5500. Next, it saw the re-emergence of secret society in Titi, the ‘new’ Hung Household and rival Wah Kee group until the next stage where the people of Titi had their first experience of democracy with the introduction of local government through a publicly elected committee of councillors.

Two notable people from Titi are the late Qui Yun (1947-2006), a popular Hakka singer most remembered for the song Ah Po Mai Ham Choi, and Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai (born 1958), Founder and Executive Chairman of Top Glove Corporation Berhad.

References

Laurence K.L Siaw / Chinese society in rural Malaysia – A local history of the Chinese in Titi, Jelebu / thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the Department of History at Monash University.

Malaysia quiet remembrance / Asia Weekly / Elaine Tan / 4 April 2014 / www.chinadailyasia.com 

Massacre in Titi / atrocityinns.net > masacretiti

The Lukut massacres / www.sabrizain.org > malaya > sgor6

My Journey With Malaysia Airlines

Captain Lee Ean Keong

It is a dream of many young boys to fly, soaring high into the wide-open and mysterious skies and feeling adventurous and free. Mine was not any different except that I thought that if I were to take up flying I would be done with books and examinations, which proved to be otherwise. My journey with the airline started in July 1971 when I was selected as a cadet pilot with Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). It was right after finishing my Form Six (A-Level) in Ipoh.

Unknown to many, the airline started as Malayan Airways and it was actually formed way back in 1937. However, it did not take-off until 1947 due to the Second World War. Its Headquarters was in Singapore. In 1963 with the formation of Malaysia, the airline was renamed Malaysian Airways. Two years later, with Singapore leaving Malaysia in 1965, it was again renamed, this time to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). The airline was jointly operated by both Singapore and Malaysia. Malayan Airways Ltd (MAL) started with Airspeed Consul Aircraft and Twin Pioneers. Douglas DC 3 was later introduced into the airline fleet.

I was sent to the Philippines Airline Aviation School for flight training. After training, I was posted to Sabah as a young Second Officer flying as co-pilot on the Fokker Friendship F-27. The road system was not very good those days in East Malaysia. It was more convenient to travel by aeroplanes. As such, we have passengers coming on board carrying chickens in baskets and the next thing you know the chickens were running all over the cabin with the poor stewardesses chasing after them!

Most of the aeroplanes stationed in Sabah and Sarawak were Fokker Friendship F-27 that replaced the DC 3s and Britten Norman Islanders (BN-2). The B737-200 aircrafts were used for flights between East and West Malaysia and Singapore. The first jet aircraft was the de Havilland Comet 4 used for regional and international flights. Unfortunately, Comet 4 had some metal fatigue cracks in the wing structure, which was a safety concern for the airline. The aircraft was replaced with a couple of Boeing 707s.

As early as 1970, there were already differences in opinion between the two governments as to how MSA should be run. The Singapore government was interested in expansion of international routes whereas the Malaysian government was more interested in expansion of domestic routes for obvious reasons. Eventually, MSA was officially split on 30 September 1972 into Malaysian Airline System (MAS) and Singapore International Airlines (SIA). MSA was a very popular airline worldwide. Both governments wanted to utilise these alphabets in their new airlines. The Malaysian government used Malaysian Airline System (MAS) since mas in the Malay language means ‘gold’. The Singapore government called their airline Mercury Singapore Airline (MSA) but finally changed it to Singapore International Airline (SIA).

On 01 October 1972, MAS became operational with two flights taking off in the early morning. Utilising brand new B737-200, the first flight was from Subang Airport to Singapore piloted by Capt. Hassan Ahmad while the second flight from Subang Airport to Penang was piloted by Capt. Khairi Mohd. At that time, only 30 odd Malaysian pilots opted to come back to MAS from MSA. I was one of the pioneers. In my batch of 12 pilots, only three of us opted for MAS. As such, MAS had to recruit a number of expatriate pilots from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. I was then stationed in Kuching, Sarawak still flying as co-pilot on the F-27. I was transferred back to Kuala Lumpur and I started my B737-200 conversion course. As part of the course, I was sent to Christchurch, New Zealand for simulator training with the New Zealand National Airline. MAS had only ground instructors and classrooms for ground school but did not have any simulators then. Being operational on the B737, I was promoted to the rank of First Officer.

As the company expanded, MAS bought two B707 from Qantas. We were sent to Sydney for the conversion training with Qantas. MAS eventually bought a third one with the expansion of her international routes to Sydney, Melbourne, London and Europe. With upgrading to wide-bodied aircraft, MAS bought two McDonnell Douglas DC 10-30s. This time we were sent to Long Beach, California for a three months conversion-training course. This included flight training in Yuma, Arizona and ferrying the DC 10-30s back to Malaysia. MAS eventually sold off the three B707s and bought a third DC 10-30. The airline was becoming a well known and popular air carrier internationally. In 1981, we added the Airbus A300B4, a medium sized regional aircraft to our network. In the rural air services, the BN-2s were replaced with Twin Otters and the Fokker F-27s with Fokker F-50s.

In the late 1970s, I went down to the B737 fleet as a Captain. After three years, I was made a Flight Instructor conducting training and the checking of pilots. Pilots are checked for flying proficiency every five months in the simulator. Two years after that, I was appointed Fleet Manager for the B737 fleet. That was also the time the Malaysian government bought a B737-200 to be used as VVIP aircraft for the official use of the King and the Prime Minister. This aircraft had a Sitting room, Dining room, and Bedroom in the cabin with seats for 10-15 passengers at the back row. When not on VVIP flights, MAS would use the aircraft for normal service. The interior would be changed to the normal passenger-seating configuration. I have flown this special VVIP flights to many interesting places and destinations that were not commercially covered by MAS, for example Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa, Romania, Yugoslavia, Libya and even Timbuktu to name a few.

Most of the countries that we flew to would provide security personnel for our King or Prime Minister on arrival. We do, however, carry our ‘Mat Bonds’ (Malaysian James Bonds), as I like to call them, with us sometimes, all three of them from Bukit Aman. On the lighter side, during our flight to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, when the Prime Minister came down from the aeroplane, our national anthem was played but the Singapore flag was raised!!!! The next day, the newspapers in Port Moresby ran an apology on their front-page headlines, because it seemed the next week, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, PM of Singapore was supposed to visit Port Moresby.

Another incident was during our recce trip to Tonga, we were told that there would be a large roasted pig as the centre dish of the traditional Tongan feast. We politely told them that our Prime Minister is a Muslim and does not eat pork. On our actual arrival day, it was announced on the Tongan radio that Malaysian Prime Minister has arrived and proceeding to the King’s palace for a Tongan feast and all the pigs were running about happily! For the Prime Minister’s flight, smoking and alcoholic drinks were not allowed in the aircraft.

To be competitive in the aviation market, in addition to a disastrous air accident in America involving the crash of a DC-10 on take-off due to the opening of a cargo door, MAS replaced the DC-10s with two Jumbo jets B747-200 in the mid-1980s. A third jumbo jet that came into service was a B747-300 with an extended upper deck. This was the time we started our USA services into Los Angeles. With sufficient flying hours and seniority, I became the captain of the Airbus A300 for two years, captain of the DC-10 for a year and became a jumbo jet captain at a young age of 36. Two years later MAS bought the B747-400, which has no flight engineer, just 2 pilots in the cockpit. Eventually, MAS sold the two classic jumbo jets B747-200 and the B747-300 and replaced them with thirteen B747-400s. This aircraft can fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to London. On this long haul flight, we carry two sets of pilots. There is a bedroom right behind the cockpit for the pilots to rest. Most of the flight engineers, 40 years and below, were retrained as pilots.

The first two B747-400s were the Combi version. The first half of the cabin was filled with passenger seats and second half with space for cargo containers. It was during one of my flights from London direct to Kuala Lumpur that a Lamborghini belonging to a Sultan was in the cabin cargo compartment. Flying the B747-200/300/400 from 1987 until my retirement in 2011, has taken me to many interesting and lovely places. Unlike many other airlines, MAS flies to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa and onwards to Buenos Aires in Argentina. In my years with the airline, I have seen and heard pilots and cabin crew complaining about the places and hotels we night-stopped, but that one place that I have not heard any complaints about is Honolulu, Hawaii. I guess, probably the only complaint would be not enough layover days there! I also had the honour of ferrying one of the new B747-400 aircrafts from the Boeing factory in Seattle, USA direct to Kuala Lumpur. It was almost a fifteen and a half hour flight.

Another interesting flight is operating cargo flights, which is a different cup of tea, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. MAS had two B747-400 full cargo aeroplanes. The whole cabin from the nose to the tail of the aircraft is loaded with cargo containers or sometimes animals like cows, sheep, goats and horses. For long haul flights, we carry two set of pilots and no cabin crew. The pilots had to heat up their own meals and make their own drinks. There was a flight I did that carried 400 cattle from Australia to the Middle East. The difficult part was to maintain the cabin temperature at 22°C. This is to ensure the cows did not develop too much gas in the stomach. False fire alarms in the cargo section had been activated on some previous flights due to excess gas produced by the many cows. Turbulence can cause anxiety to the nervous cattle too. Cargo flights also stop at destinations that normal MAS flights do not operate to for example, Milan, Italy and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

When I retired in 2011 from flying, I had clocked almost 20,000 flying hours. MAS had bought six Airbus A380 superjumbo jets. With a shortage of flight instructors, I was re-employed to train pilots in the simulator conversion courses for the B737-400 and B747-400. I did this for three years and finally decided to enjoy my retirement even though MAS wanted me to continue for a few more years.

Malaysia Airlines has always been an excellent airline. The cabin crew has won six awards and its pilots and engineers are well sought after in the international market. The airline has encountered some bumps and thumps but it is still a good and favourite airline among the locals and foreigners.

Many airlines and businesses in the tourism industries are now facing difficult times in this pandemic period. Malaysia Airlines is no different and I wish the airline all the best. This national airline has touched the lives of all Malaysians near and far.

Captain Speedy

by Eric Lim

Early this month, after a round of golf, a friend invited us to his farm for lunch. In the midst of enjoying the food, another friend arrived bringing a bottle of whisky and immediately announced that it is a product of Malaysia!

Indeed the whisky is distilled, blended and bottled in our country. The only difference is the spelling of whisky, which in this case is spelt ‘whiskey’. It carries a name ‘Timah’, Malay for tin, and, on the bottle, there is a picture and a brief write up on Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy. In August this year, ‘Timah’ won a silver award at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition 2020. Intrigued, I decided to do a search on Captain Speedy, in short, and barely twenty-four hours later, there was a news article about a plea to restore a colonial structure in Taiping, and that structure was none other than the former residence of the man!

James Speedy was 17 when he joined the Bengal army in 1828 where he stayed until 1835. In October that year, James married Sarah Squire, daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel, in Agra and he re-joined his regiment, which had moved to Meerut near Delhi in 1836. It was here that Captain Speedy was born on 26 November 1836. 

1854 – 1871 (India, Abyssinia, Sudan, New Zealand)

Captain Speedy had his education in England and following his father’s footsteps, he joined the army at seventeen. He was sent to join the regiment in Meerut in 1854. He served in India until 1860, and during this time, he was awarded two medals for his regiment’s involvement in the Indian Mutiny in Punjab and Eusoffian Expedition. Here, he learned to speak Urdu.

He then left the army and moved to Africa where he was employed by King Theodore of Abyssinia (Ethiopia today) to train his army. He was given the Amharic name of ‘Basha Felika’ (meaning ‘speedy’). He worked here for eighteen months and he picked up Amharic. After a falling out with the King, he fled the country in autumn of 1861. He reappeared in 1863 in Kassala, a city in neighbouring Sudan, where he met Captain Cameron who was then the British Consul at Massawa, a port on the Red Sea coast (today Massawa is also known as Mitsiwa, and is in Eritrea). Captain Speedy was offered the post of Vice Consul and he worked until January 1864.

Next, he travelled to New Zealand where his parents had emigrated eight years ago and he was a member of the Waikato militia that fought in the New Zealand Wars. He was promoted to Captain and was awarded a medal for his service and land grant in the Waikato of confiscated lands. He later sold the land to Bill Cowan.

Speedy in New Zealand. Image Credit: Wikitree Free Family

Meantime, the relationship between Britain and Abyssinia had worsened. King Theodore had captured some Europeans and diplomacy had failed to release the prisoners. This led Britain to arrange a military mission to be headed by General Sir Robert Napier. Captain Speedy was found in Australia in 1867 and he was recruited into the mission in Abyssinia. Captain Speedy made a return to Africa in 1868 but this time as acivilian interpreter where his knowledge of the country and languages proved valuable. On 13 April 1868, British forces stormed through the stronghold of King Theodore at Magdala and discovered that the King had committed suicide. Empress Tiruwork Wube died a month later on the way to the coast, leaving behind an eight- year-old son, Dejatch Alamayou (Prince Alamayou) under the care of Napier. Having been friends with the late King during his service in 1860, Captain Speedy offered to look after Alamayou and Napier agreed. The Abyssinian War gained the fourth medal for Captain Speedy.

Upon his return to Britain, Captain Speedy was appointed as Guardian of the young Abyssinian prince by Queen Victoria. On 15 December 1868, Captain Speedy married Cornelia Mary, daughter of Benjamin Tennyson Cotton, a wealthy Isle of Wight landowner, at Freshwater and Alamayou was a groom. A few months later, in 1869, Captain Speedy returned to India with his wife and Alamayou. He was appointed the District Superintendent of the Oudh Police from 1869 to 1871. Captain Speedy had accompanied the Duke of Edinburgh who was the second son of Queen Victoria, on a shooting trip in Nepal. Captain Speedy had big game shooting experience in Sudan, when he fled from Abyssinia in 1861. He was given a kukri with an ivory handle by the Chief Minister of Nepal. Kukri is a type of machete with a distinct recurve in the blade and originates from the Indian subcontinent.

1871 – 1877 (British Malaya)

After his two years in India, it was time to move again. In 1871, Captain Speedy arrived at Penang to work as the Superintendent of Police. His first contribution to Penang was the planting of a baobab tree. This is regarded as the oldest non-indigenous tree planted in our country. When Frank Swettenham met them, he said ‘the boy (Alamayou) was in good hands, for Speedy and his wife were very fond of him’.

In December, Speedy escorted Alamayou to England where he was sent to Cheltenham College in the care of its headmaster, Dr. Jex Blake. Captain Speedy then returned to Penang while Alamayou continued his studies in England. In 1874, when Dr. Jex Blake moved to Rugby School, Alamayou followed him. Alamayou left in 1878 to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and after a year, he left to Leeds to study under Cyril Ransome, a master whom Alamayou had met at Rugby School. He then contracted pleurisy and died on 14 November of 1879. He was eighteen years of age. The funeral took place a week later at the St. George’s Chapel, Windsor and Captain Speedy were present at the funeral. By the order of Queen Victoria, a brass plaque to his memory was installed and it bears the words ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in’.

Prince Alamayou and Captain Speedy. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Long Jaafar was a tax collector in Larut. It was here that he accidentally discovered tin ore, first, while bathing in a stream and second, when he found his elephant! In 1848, Long Jaafar encouraged Chinese to mine in his land and, subsequently, Chinese capitalists from the Straits Settlements invested in these mines, bringing an influx of Chinese immigrants to Larut. Long Jaafar prospered and the Sultan made him the administrator of the district of Larut, Matang and Selama in 1850. He died in 1857 and he was succeeded by his son, Ngah Ibrahim, who was granted even more powers by the Sultan; he was installed as the Orang Kaya Mantri and given control over Larut.

At its peak before 1872, there were 40 000 Chinese working on the mines in Larut. The Chinese were divided into two rival clans – Hai San, comprising mostly Hakka and Hokkien, and Ghee Hin, predominantly Cantonese. They vied for control over the tin mines. The Malays were also fighting among themselves over collection of taxes and, like the Chinese, they were also divided into two groups, Ulu (up-river); and Hilir (down river). When Sultan Ali died in 1871, they also fought for the throne of Perak. The two Chinese groups allied with different Malay factions and the conflicts between the factions resulted in the Larut War.

With the situation getting out of control, Ngah Ibrahim went to Penang to offer an appointment to Captain Speedy to restore order in Larut. He was made an offer of a salary and one-third of the revenues of Larut. Captain Speedy immediately resigned from his police post and left for India on 27 July 1873 on a mission to recruit sepoys for his troop in Larut. He returned with a force of 110 sepoys in late September. The frequent clashes of the Chinese caused the disruption of the supply of tin and this led to the British intervention in January 1874. Organized by the then Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Andrew Clarke, the Pangkor Treaty was signed on board the HMS Pluto, near Pangkor Island. It managed to solve the Chinese tin mining conflict and the Perak succession dispute. The treaty also marked the start of the Resident programme in the Peninsular. 

Captain Speedy in Larut. Image Credit: Wikitree Free Family

James Wheeler Woodford Birch was appointed the Resident of Perak and Captain Speedy as the Assistant Resident at Larut. Speedy’s top priority was to restore mining production. Next, he divided Larut into two – North (Klian Bahru) was awarded to Ghee Hin and the town was known as ‘Kamunting’; while the more prosperous South (Klian Pauh) was given to Hai San and Captain Speedy named the town ‘Thai Peng’ (Chinese for Everlasting Peace, it is Taiping today). Next, Captain Speedy started construction of roads and erected Government buildings and quarters, which also included the new government headquarters-cum-residence completed in early 1875. Sir William Jervois who took over from Sir Andrew Clarke in 1875 commented that the residence was ‘a large and very comfortable house’ and Birch said it was ‘a very commodious residence’.

Cornelia arrived in the middle of 1874 to join her husband, as did Speedy’s younger brother James Havelock Speedy who spent about 18 months in Larut. At the end of May 1876, Captain Speedy took 6 months leave to return to England to settle the inheritance left behind by Cornelia’s father who had recently died. The Speedy’s were now ‘very comfortable off’. They returned to Larut in early December 1876 by which time, the post of Assistant Resident of Larut was held by W.E. Maxwell. Captain Speedy was then moved to Durian Sebatang in Lower Perak where he stayed until he resigned at the end of 1877. The Speedys left British Malaya for good in January 1878 – his superiors were happy to see him leave!

Captain Speedy’s residence, 9 October 2004. Image credit: www.penang-traveltips.com

1878 – 1910 (Sudan, Abyssinia)

They arrived in Sudan where they stayed until July 1878. It was during this trip that Cornelia wrote letters back home to her mother, and shared with family and friends, and was later published into a book titled My wanderings in the Soudan in 1884. They also met some Germans and within a week, Captain Speedy could speak with them fluently in German, showing he had the gift of languages. In December of 1883, he was again called upon to join a diplomatic mission to Abyssinia (for the third time) as an interpreter, which he was ‘most happy to offer my services’, this time under the command of Vice Admiral Hewett. He was paid until January 1885. In March 1897, Captain Speedy took his final mission to Abyssinia under Rennell Rodd. The mission was over by the end of May. Cornelia had bought a house in the picturesque village of Chatsworth in Shropshire where they stayed until Captain Speedy died in August 1910 at the age of 73. Cornelia died seven years later at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

References

John M. Gullick / Captain Speedy of Larut / Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society / Vol.26 No.3 (163) Captain Speedy of Larut (November 1953) / https://www.jstor.org/stable/41503024

Plea to restore colonial structure in Taiping by Ivan Loh / Page 4, Starmetro – The Star / 8 October 2020

Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy (1836 – 1910) / Wikitree Free Family /wikitree.com

Captain Speedy’s bungalow, Matang, Perak, Malaysia / www.penang-traveltips.com

Malaysian whisky ‘Timah’ wins medal at San Francisco World Spirits Competition / Entertainment and Lifestyle – The Sun Daily / 13 August 2020

Gantang and Censer: The Prophet’s traditions

by Afidah Rahim

The ancient East-West maritime trade surrounding the Malay archipelago brought imported cultures to the local people. Islamization of the Malay world has influenced Malay culture since the 13th century CE. In the 15th century CE, Melaka became the centre of Islamic learning for the region. As Muslims, the Malays are guided by the Holy Quran, Hadith and sunnah. There are two handwritten copies of the Quran in Gallery B. This article highlights artefacts relating to the Hadith.

Hadith is translated as ‘tradition’ referring to the narration, account and record of actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Sunnah denotes the actual actions, practices and sayings of the Prophet. The chain of narrators of ahadith (the plural of hadith) has been meticulously traced to ensure authenticity. The Prophet’s tradition has given practical examples for Muslims to follow.

Ahadith were recorded under Caliph Umar’s orders and later, systematically compiled by the six imams: Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, al-Tirmizi, al-Nasa’i & Ibn Majah. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Bakkouz at Arabic Wikipedia

Gantang

The first type of zakat (charity tax) ordered by Allah was zakat fitrah on every individual Muslim with the means to give. It is taken mainly for the poor before the end of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. Based on Hadith 1511 of the Book of Zakat from Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘Ibn Umar said, The Prophet SAW made incumbent on every male or female, free man or slave, the payment of one sa’ of dates or barley as zakat-ul-fitr’.

The Arabic word sa’ translates to ‘small container’. In the Malay world, the gantang is a traditional unit of volume and the container for measuring it. There are two such containers in Gallery B – a copper one and a wooden one. The copper container is inscribed in Jawi with the words ‘This is a Brunei government gantang, the Just King, 1322 AH’. This dates it to 1904 CE when Brunei was ruled by Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. The copper container is 17cm high with a diameter of 19cm. The wooden gantang is from the Malay Peninsula and doubles up as a pounding mortar for rice flour. It is made from jackfruit wood and has been slightly decorated with a projecting ring at the top. It has the same height as the copper container but is smaller in diameter at only 13cm.

Copper gantang from Brunei dated 1322 AH/1904 CE. Image credit: Afidah Rahim

In the Malay world, dates or barley mentioned in the Hadith above may be substituted with rice, as the staple food of the region. The gantang differs in definition between Malay states. Azman et al (2015) explains the difference in gantang capacity is due to its various sizes and the different types of rice (density and size) used in the weighing process. It is worth noting that in the past, there had been studies on the differences in equivalent weight of sa’ by Baghdad and Madinah jurists. Ibn Malik had said that the sa’ is a measure of capacity and it cannot be converted into weight. This is similar to the English ‘bushel’ e.g. one bushel of oats equals 32 pounds whereas one bushel of malt equals 34 pounds.

Wooden gantang from the Malay Peninsula made from jackfruit wood. Image credit: Afidah Rahim

In modern Malaysia, the traditional measure of gantang has been converted to the metric system with different results. The zakat fitrah in Selangor is calculated based on one Baghdad gantang of rice at 2.7kg whereas in Johor it is at 2.6kg. Malaysia adopted the Hanafi school opinion to pay zakat in currency value instead of using food. Each state religious authority in Malaysia sets its own zakat fitrah rates, ranging from RM5 to RM21 in 2020 CE. The main factor for these different rates is the type of rice consumed.  Most people pay RM7 and those who pay above this rate may consider the balance as sedekah (charity). Hence, the spirit of giving as an obligation on every able Muslim is observed in keeping with the Prophet’s tradition.

Censer

Muslims follow the Prophet’s tradition of burning incense in mosques and homes for purification. Censers are incense burners used in religious context. In the Malay archipelago, usually kemenyan (benzoin) is placed on hot coals to release fragrance. Most Malay households use brass incense burners. Both incense burners on display in Gallery B are from China.

The cylindrical blue and white incense vase is marked with the seal of Emperor Cheng Hua of the Ming dynasty, who ruled from 1465 to 1487 CE. Chinese Muslim eunuchs were influential at court during the Ming era. This porcelain censer is decorated with three medallions enclosing Arabic inscriptions in underglaze blue. It is without a cover for use with stick incense, popular in China. The ‘Mohammedan’ blue (also known as hui hui qing) is a cobalt blue obtained from Persia. Blue and white porcelain was produced at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, South China from the early 14th century CE. It is believed that high quality Jingdezhen porcelain was for use at court and Chinese Muslims there. Some Jingdezhen pieces were exported to important Muslims outside of China. Most ceramics exported to Southeast Asia were of lower quality produced at Fujian, called Swatow ware. These were often imitations of blue and white porcelain, mass-produced for the middle class export market.

Blue and white Ming Porcelain Censer with Arabic inscription meaning ‘Said the Prophet of God’. Image credit: Afidah Rahim

Our porcelain censer is likely to be a Swatow, with the main clue being the Emperor’s mark. Arabic or Persian inscriptions were introduced during the late reign of Emperor Hongzhi and early reign of Emperor Zhengde.  Emperor Cheng Hua’s reign precedes this period. In addition, its inscription is not easy to read since the Fujian potters were unlikely to be well versed in Arabic and therefore, susceptible to mistakes when copying.

The colourful incense burner on display is estimated to be from the 18th century CE Qing dynasty. It is made of metal and enamelled with cloisonné decoration. Cloisonné, also known as Muslim ware (Dashi Yao), was probably crafted by the Arab settlers of Western Yunnan. The technique involves the application of coloured-glass pastes within pattern-shaping cells made of copper or bronze wires soldered on metal. It was introduced during the 14th century CE Yuan dynasty and peaked under the Xuande reign era of the Ming dynasty (1426-1436).

Colourful Qing incense burner with cloisonné enamel. Inscription is the first part of the shahada (Muslim profession of faith). Image credit: Afidah Rahim

The calligraphic inscriptions (la ilaha illallah) on the burner and its cover means ‘there is no God but God’. Its design is a combination of the Sini script of the Hui Muslims with the motifs and symbolisms of the Han Chinese (notice the ruyi borders and imperial guardian lion knob). This artefact shows the synthesis of the two cultures.

Incense was sold in specialised markets of the perfumers (suq at-attariyyin) in and around the medieval Islamic world. Frankincense and myrrh were among the trade goods along the Silk Road. The Arabs had written about aloeswood and camphor from Tiyumah (Tioman) island off the Malay Peninsula from their 9th century travels. The Chinese used galangal, sage and Chinese weeping cypress in their censers. To this day, scent promotes a sense of well-being and is encouraged by the Prophet’s tradition.

Malay brass incense burner at Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. Image credit: Afidah Rahim

References

A. R. Azman et al (2015), Calibration of Gantang (Sa’) Based on Metric System for Agricultural Zakat in Malaysia, ASM Science Journal Volume 9(2)

IAMM (2009) Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Volume II

IAMM (2020) Mirrors of Beauty: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Guide

L. de Guise & Z. Sutarwala (2006) Spice Journeys: Taste and Trade in Islamic World, IAMM

MAIS (2014) Az-Zakah; Spirit, Realisation and Obligation, IAMM

M. Uthman El-Muhammady (1998) The Quran and the Hadith, The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Religions and Beliefs Vol. 10, KL Ed. Didier Millet

Othman Yatim (1989) Warisan Kesenian Dalam Tamadun Islam, KL Dewan Bahasa Pustaka

Othman Yatim (1998) The Early Islamic Period. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Early History Vol. 4, KL: Ed. Didier Millet

Wikipedia, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia & Muzium Negara Gallery storyboards

Muzium Negara Gallery B curator – En. Azam

Fiqh-us-Sunnah 2.71 Keeping the mosques clean and scenting them https://www.iium.edu.my/deed/lawbase/fiqh_us_sunnah/vol2/fsn_vol2b.html

Various ‘Majlis Agama Islam’ websites