Every Stone Tells A Story – I

I : Airlangga and Garuda

by Rose Gan

Back in the good old days when we could all still visit museums, the Lost Kingdoms exhibition at Muzium Negara offered us a fascinating journey around the early civilisations of South East Asia and Indo-China.  I was stopped in my tracks by a series of stones from Indonesia, personally very dear to my heart. It felt very much like a surprise visit from old friends.

The Museum Nasional Indonesia (MNI) is a vast repository for collections gathered from across the Indonesian archipelago since the earliest days of the V.O.C. Raffles himself once housed the ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ in his own residence in Batavia; some of current exhibits were originally part of his personal collections. The present museum building (opened in 1868) is a graceful Graeco-Roman structure at the very heart of Jakarta. Two new modern buildings have since been added. The Museum is a cornucopia of delights, so vast that it is impossible to take in its riches in one visit; each huge hall alone hosts enough to fill an entire morning.

MNI exterior: Gedung Gajah (Museum National, Jakarta). Image:  © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

When I was guiding there, one section became my go-to place, sometimes simply as a getaway from the madding crowds of Central Jakarta, where traffic is so dense at any time of day that it is usually at a noisy standstill. In the Stone Courtyard, a serene peristyle garden surrounded by a shady portico, one could sit in silence, surrounded by hundreds of silent stones, a perfect place for contemplation. The sculptures, of many different types and styles, are randomly arranged higgle-piggle on different levels, some obscured behind others, some set above eye-level, and some only visible on one’s knees. Stones of astonishing importance are often relegated to hidden corners and easily missed, or jumbled in with broken roof ornamentation and water spouts. Commemorative statues, guardians, mythical beasts, gods, kings, and queens, countless lingga and yoni, obelisks and containers, peripih and prasasti: the list goes on and on. And at the centre of the peristyle lawn, a herd of Nandis lie contentedly chewing their cud.

Stone Courtyard, Museum National, Jakarta. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Many of the significant pieces have been relocated to the modern wings next door, now set on raised plinths or behind glass, perfectly lit from above and with detailed vitrine notes, given their proper pride of place. But I still feel privileged to remember when they were almost forgotten, their loveliness buried away without any information to mark them. Then it was almost impossible for a visitor without a guide to understand their importance. This fired my curiosity and set me off on an obsession to learn more about them. The Lost Kingdoms exhibition brought my favourite pieces back to me in a wholly unexpected setting.

These stones fall into two main groups: Arca (statues) and Prasasti (inscribed stones). The former are more instantly appealing because of their undoubted aesthetic attraction and the stories that the figures and motifs describe. The Prasasti, however, are difficult to interpret: they are plainer and more obscure. Both conceal a wealth of information that unlocks many early events in the history of the archipelago that might otherwise be lost for ever. This series of blog posts aims to shed a little light on the perplexing subject should we be able to peek again inside the exhibition any time soon!

Airlangga and Garuda

The Airlangga statue, Lost Kingdoms exhibition. Image: © Maganjeet Kaur

This dramatic piece is arguably the highlight of the exhibition. Described as on loan from MNI, it is in fact currently at the Museum in Trowulan, the site of the great Majapahit capital. It was originally located at Belahan on nearby Mount Penanggungan where two famous bathing places from the 11th century were devoted to Airlangga, one of the most revered kings of East Java, who died in 1049. Such sites were erected as memorials to the ascension of a human ruler into his deified existence, and were often erected some years after the actual death. Mount Penanggungan is an idyllic place, cool, lush, green, and silent. A mystical aura of tranquillity and age-old knowledge hangs heavy in its forests, where devotees have worshipped since time immemorial.

Set amongst this scene, these ritual bathing places, an essential feature in the religious practices of the Hindu-Buddhist era, are astonishing stone constructions at one with the mountain itself. They contain niches for statuary and pools fed by water spouts in the shape of mythical beasts. This statue once held centre stage in such a grotto, where now only two female statues remain, at the base of the structure. Their naked breasts form twin spouts to feed the pool below.

The ritual bathing pool at Candi Belahan, Mount Penanggungan. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Anandajoti Bhikku ( Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Airlangga was the son of King Udayana of Bali and Princess Mahendradatta, the daughter of the great East Javanese ruler, Dharmawangsa Teguh. In 1016 during a palace coup, King Dharmawangsa and his entire family were killed; Prince Airlangga escaped, taking refuge with a group of hermit monks. Some years later, he returned and defeated the local princes, becoming the ruler of East Java, and establishing a new dynasty based at Kediri. During his long and peaceful reign, East Java enjoyed a flowering of art, learning, commerce and good governance.

This memorial depicts Airlangga as a young man in the prime of life, sitting on a lotus throne in a Hindu lalitasana posture: his left leg in half lotus and his right hanging down, to represent kingship. Airlangga’s hands form the Buddhist dhyanamudra, the gesture of meditation, also reflected in his serene countenance and lowered eyes. He is dressed as befits a king, replete with golden jewellery and clad in a long ornate sarong. It was customary in commemorative statuary for the face to be expressionless; this is not meant to be portraiture but implies spiritual awakening.

Close up of Vishnu/Airlangga at Lost Kingdoms exhibition. Image: © Rose Gan

The effigy, however, is about so much more than Airlangga’s human existence. On close observation, we become witnesses to his deification and ascension to immortality, illustrated in terms of allegory. Airlangga is Vishnu, the Preserver, one of the three deities of the Trimurti that holds the universe in balance. In his upper right hand, he spins the cakra (wheel), representing the power over life and death. In his upper left is the sankha (conch shell) a musical instrument that wards off demonic forces and signifies the creation of the universe. These motifs are particularly associated with Vishnu, whose cult was strong in Bali; Airlangga was known for his devotion to him. This Vishnu bears many divine symbols: the jatamakuta crown, reserved for deities, along with the caste cord and multiple arms.

The most dynamic aspect of the assembly, however, is the figure of Garuda, in his most fierce anthropomorphic manifestation, more deity than bird, an interesting counterpoint to the tranquil stillness of the god. Vishnu’s right foot rests on Garuda’s shoulder, signifying his authority, but Garuda is more than a mere vahana (vehicle) for the deity. This representation vividly depicts an episode from Garuda’s backstory, that of his great battle with his traditional enemies, the nagas, one of whom can be seen coiled around the base of the sculpture, vicious head raised in attack.

The Legend of Garuda

Garuda was born from an egg, a human boy with wings. His mother Vinata had been enslaved by her sister, Kadru, the mother of all serpents. Later the nagas promised Garuda that if he stole amrita, they would free his beloved mother from servitude. This seemed an impossible task. The elixir (amrita) was in the hands of the gods. They guarded it jealously for it was the source of their immortality and protected inside a great ring of fire where fierce rotating blades slaughtered anyone who tried to enter. Beyond were two giant poisonous snakes. Garuda was equal to the challenge. First, he defeated a host of gods, driving them in all directions. Next, he channelled water from the Great Ocean to extinguish the fire. Shrinking himself, he managed to evade the blades to reach the serpents, whom he destroyed. Holding the amrita in his mouth without swallowing, Garuda took to the air with the intention of delivering it to the nagas. On the way, however, he met Vishnu who promised him immortality if Garuda would become his mount. In return he would help Garuda in his quest to save his mother. Then he met Indra, the god of the sky, who promised to allow him to devour the nagas if he returned the amrita. So, Garuda flew to the kingdom of the nagas, placed the precious amrita on the ground and thus liberated Vinata. Then he informed the snakes that before consuming the elixir, they must ritually cleanse. This allowed time for Indra to sweep down and recover the amrita.  Garuda then battled the nagas, ultimately devouring them. From that day forward, Garuda became the implacable enemy of snakes, as well as the ally of the gods and the mount of Vishnu.

This legend is packed with allegory. Garuda’s attributes may be inspired by the Indian short-toed eagle which lives entirely on a diet of snakes. This made him protector against poison, or the devourer of evil. In early animist Indonesia, birds and nagas had always been worshipped as ancient spirits of the forest. In the Hindu-Buddhist period, this battle between sky and earth became a central theme of the duel between opposing cosmic forces. By the Majapahit period in East Java, Garuda underwent a further metamorphosis until his human characteristics disappeared, and he became a giant bird. He even acquired a phoenix-like appearance, adopted from Chinese influence, just as the naga later took on a dragon-like perspective.

It should be noted that although this statue is generally believed to represent Airlangga, this is largely conjecture and has been challenged by some historians. Another theory believes that Belahan was constructed in the century before Airlangga. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Vishnu and Garuda are depicted here and that the statue is in memory of a significant king of the region.

Bibliography

Kinney, Ann R. with Klokke, Marijke J, Kieven, Lydia (2003) Worshipping Siva and Buddha: The Temple Art of East Java, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Reichle, Natasha (2007), Violence and Serenity: Late Buddhist Sculpture from Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Resink, Th. A. (1968) Belahan or A Myth Dispelled. Indonesia 6 pp.2-37.

Gan, Rose, ed. (2011) Museum Nasional Training Materials, 3rd edition: Vol 4. Stones and Bronzes, MNI Jakarta.

Mamoru Shinozaki in Syonan-To

by Eric Lim

It was December 1941. The British in Malaya knew that the Japanese invasion was imminent. However, they had a secret plan in place, known as Operation Matador.The plan was to destroy the landing bays at Songkhla and Pattani in Thailand so that the Japanese could not land there. However, that plan failed to be activated.

On ‘Blue Monday’ 8 December 1941, just after midnight, the Japanese army landed at Kota Bharu and two other towns in Thailand, namely Pattani and Singora (a.k.a Songkhla). Approximately seventy minutes after the landing in Kota Bharu, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbour. These two attacks marked the start of the Pacific War and World War II in Asia.

Source: The Star Online

Japanese forces took two routes – one from the north at Jitra, making their way down the west coast, and the other from Kota Bharu, taking the east coast. They fought Allied Forces, comprising British, Indian and Australian armies, all the way down to the south, to their final destination ‘Fortress Singapore’, also nicknamed ‘Gibraltar of the East’.

In less than two months, Japanese forces had invaded the whole of the Malay Peninsula and made landfall in Singapore on 7 February 1942. The Battle of Singapore came to a halt after a week of fighting when British Lieutenant General Arthur Percival surrendered the island to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. It came as a great shock to PM Winston Churchill as it is recorded to be the largest British surrender in its history.

Immediately, Japanese Military Administration took over control and, on the very next day, Singapore was renamed Syonan-To (Light of the South). Less than a week later, Japanese forces started Operation Sook Ching (Chinese term meaning ‘purge through cleansing’). The Japanese term for the operation was ‘Dai Kensho’ meaning ‘great inspection’. Chinese males aged 18 to 50 were rounded up and brought to screening centres set up around the island. They were inspected by the Kempeitai (Japanese military police) and Imperial Guards Division; those suspected of being anti-Japanese were taken away to killing sites and executed, their bodies thrown into the sea. The operation was initially planned from 21 to 23 February 1942 but it was extended to 4 March 1942.

Mamoru Shinozaki

Source: Wikipedia

Mamoru Shinozaki started work in a Japanese news agency and was posted to Shanghai in 1934. Two years later, he joined the Japanese Foreign Office as press attaché. In 1938, he was transferred to the Japanese Consulate General in Singapore and his job was to report on local conditions and British military defence. In September of 1940, he brought two Japanese military officers to various locations on the island as well as in Malaya to survey military installations and study British defence capability.

His activities did not escape the eyes of the Special Branch and he was put on surveillance. On 21 September 1940, Shinozaki was arrested and convicted of espionage and sentenced to three and a half years of rigorous imprisonment. He was incarcerated in Changi prison. With the fall of Singapore, Shinozaki was released and he was appointed Adviser of Defence Headquarters. He was tasked to reassemble the documents of the Japanese Consulate and issue protection cards to diplomats and other foreigners from neutral countries.

It was during the Sook Ching massacre that Shinozaki used his good connection with the Japanese chief and his position to issue personal protection cards to thousands of Chinese thus sparing their lives from execution. One of the men that he saved was Lim Boon Keng. Lim was a medical doctor and a strong advocate of social and educational reforms in Singapore. He was the president of the Xiamen University in China. He co-founded the first locally owned insurance firm in Singapore and the Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) Bank. He was well known in the Chinese community.

In the midst of the Sook Ching operation, Shinozaki had asked Lim to be the leader of the Overseas Chinese Association (OCA). The OCA was the brainchild of Shinozaki; its function was to mediate between the Japanese Military administration and the local Chinese community. After much persuasion, Lim finally accepted the post and, at the same time, Shinozaki became its Adviser. It was formed on 2 March 1942. As soon as OCA was formed, Shinozaki was removed from his post and replaced by Toru Takase who used the Association to demand 50 Million dollars from the Chinese community. It was extremely difficult to meet the demand, even after two extensions. This prompted the Japanese administration to include Chinese communities from the states of Malaya into the Association. After another three extensions, the Association only managed to collect 28 Million dollars. Eventually, Takase allowed the Association to take a loan of 22 Million dollars from the Yokohama Specie Bank. The cheque of 50 Million dollars was presented to the Japanese by Lim and 57 Chinese leaders on 25 June 1942.

With that episode over, Shinozaki returned to OCA in August and again took the post as Adviser. In the same month, he was appointed as the Chief Welfare Officer and he helped in the setting up of the Eurasian Welfare Association (EWA). Similar to the OCA, EWA was the representative of the Eurasian community to the Japanese administration. A prominent surgeon in Singapore at that time, Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar, was appointed as the President of EWA.

Japanese authorities foresee an eventual shortage of food to feed the island’s population of a million people. Hence, they immediately embarked on the promotion of the Grow More Food Campaign. People from all walks of life including school children and Government servants, were encouraged to grow their own food and be self-sufficient. However, the campaign failed to produce results. Moving forward, Japanese authorities took a tougher stance and one of the plans was the setting up of agricultural settlements outside the city. Again, the services of Shinozaki were required and he was tasked to oversee the resettlement project.

Shinozaki turned to the OCA and persuaded them to take up the offer. OCA was coaxed into the plan when Shinozaki made several promises to them – the settlement would be self-governing, the Japanese would not interfere, and the settlement was assured of constant rice supply until they become self-sufficient. With that assurance, a committee was formed and headed by Lim. A team was dispatched to survey a suitable site in Malaya. After much consideration, Endau in Johor was selected as the site for the new settlement. Endau was the choice because of the accessible supply of fresh water and arable land that was ideal for agriculture.

Endau

Endau is located on the northern tip of east Johor and close to the border with Pahang. The location of the town was already in the maps published by the British as early as 1793 and 1805. However, it was then known as Blair’s Harbour, named after Archibald Blair who was working for the Bombay Marine (Bombay Marine evolved into the Royal Indian Navy of today). He came to the South China Sea, did a survey, and reported that the site of Endau was potentially a ‘good harbour’. He did a similar survey of the Andaman Islands during that time and, today, the capital city of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is named after him, Port Blair.

The Endau settlement was also known as the New Syonan Model Farm and it was entirely for the Chinese community. Japanese authorities had targeted to evacuate 300,000 Chinese to the settlement. As the next step, OCA made efforts to raise money for the project and managed to raise one million dollars. This was followed by construction work – clearing the jungle, and building roads and houses. OCA also assigned suitable candidates to head the various departments set up to help the settlers. The departments were agricultural, medical and health, supply, public works, timber mill, and public peace and order. With all these in place, the pioneer settlers arrived in September 1943. The population grew and by the end of the first year, Endau attracted 12,000 settlers. Progressively, the settlement saw the establishment of a bank, school, paper factory, sawmill, and several restaurants. It was becoming a successful self-sufficient scheme and it attracted the attention of anti-Japanese guerrillas in Malaya, the Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). They attacked the settlement and claimed the lives of several settlers. Again, Shinozaki came to the rescue when he managed to enter into a secret pact with the MPAJA guerrillas by offering rice in exchange for peace. The Endau settlement continued until 1945 when the Japanese Occupation ended.

Bahau

The Eurasian community also wanted to participate in the voluntary migration scheme primarily because the community felt that they were constantly being monitored by the Japanese Military Police and this created fear and insecurity. This prompted the Roman Catholic Bishop, Adrian Devals, and Herman De Souza Sr, a representative of the Eurasian community, to make the trip to Bahau in Negeri Sembilan to assess its suitability. The Eurasian community gave their thumbs up and it was reported to Shinozaki. However, Shinozaki had reservations about the new settlement. It was further away from Singapore and sending support from the island would be difficult – they would have to count on support from the Negeri Sembilan government. Furthermore, it was difficult to clear the vegetation and the land was unsuitable for agriculture.

The plan went ahead and the Japanese named the new settlement Fuji-go, which means Fuji village or ‘beautiful village’. The first group to arrive consisted mainly of bachelors. They were selected by the Japanese to help lay the foundation of the new settlement as well as to set up a model farm and transfer farming techniques to the settlers. Between December 1943 and April 1944, some 2,000 Eurasians arrived at Bahau, and they brought with them curtains and pianos to furnish their new homes. Shinozaki and Paglar made frequent visits to Bahau, bringing with them food and medicines for the settlers. Life in the new settlement was no bed of roses, as most of them did have farming knowledge. Many suffered from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria. At the end of the Japanese Occupation, it was reported that the number of settlers was estimated to be around 3,000. Besides the main groups of Eurasian and Chinese Roman Catholics, there were also a small group of European Protestants and neutrals from countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Romania, and Russia.

Piano brought to Bahau (Photo from The heartlander tourist / Lioncityboyzach)

At the end of Japanese Occupation in August 1945, the settlements were abandoned and the settlers returned to Singapore. Besides Endau and Bahau, the Japanese also created a settlement in Pulau Bintan (largest island in the Riau Province, Indonesia) for the Indians.

When the British returned to Singapore, Mamoru Shinozaki was interned in a Jurong camp but he was freed when the Chinese and Catholic communities petitioned the British for his release. He acted as a witness in a number of post-war trials in Singapore. He died in 1991.

Bibliography

Invasion of Malaya: First shot in the Pacific War – Rouwen Lin / The Star 8 Dec.2016. [https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/people/2016/12/08/invasion-of-malaya-the-japanese-arrive/]

The occupation of Singapore Part 3: The Bahau and Endau Settlements, The Heartlander Tourist, posted by Lioncityboyzach on 18 Feb 2014. [https://heartlandertourist.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-occupation-of-singapore-part-3-the-bahau-and-endau-settlements/]

Singapore Infopedia [https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/]:

  • Mamoru Shinozaki – Chua, Alvin
  • Operation Sook Ching – Ho, Stephanie
  • Oversea Chinese Association – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Grow More Food Campaign – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Endau Settlement – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Bahau Settlement – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia

King Tutankhamun

TREASURES OF THE GOLDEN PHARAOH EXHIBITION

SAATCHI GALLERY LONDON

by V. Jegatheesan

For a long time now, I have been interested in the history of Egypt, its associated pyramids, the discoveries, and of course King Tutankhamun. Why I have never visited Egypt is a question I have yet to answer myself.

Hence, when I read a newspaper article last November about an exhibition in London on artefacts of King Tutankhamun (or King Tut as he is affectionately known), I decided to make the trip for mid-March this year. The exhibition was to have closed on 3 May 2020. Then came the virus scare, but the exhibition was to be the last tour and I had to see it, so I had to go, and so I did. A few days after I visited, the exhibition closed indefinitely.

The exhibition is at the Saatchi Gallery and if you read the website, you would have been fascinated as well.

Tutankhamun’s Priceless Treasures to Make Final London Appearance

TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Celebrates the Centenary of Howard Carter’s Discovery; Unprecedented Collection Coming to Saatchi Gallery in November

Produced by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and IMG, and presented by Viking Cruises

The words ‘Final London Appearance’ struck me. The exhibition was to have gone on to Boston and Sydney and finally to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo where the artefacts will be placed and never to go on tour again. I chose London, as I had other plans such as visiting relatives, British Museum etc. But two days after my Saatchi Gallery visit, I cut short my trip and returned home.

This description is only of my visit and of the artefacts with some explanations. It is not a detailed study of King Tutankhamun and Egyptology.

Access was scheduled in batches each half hour and so you bought the ticket according to when you want to go. You could spend any length of time and so could be passed over by crowds of later batches.

There are 150 artefacts on display in vitrines over two floors. Of these, more than 50 artefacts are travelling out of Egypt for the first and last time. Each artefact was described on a panel below. The exhibition is really of objects involved in the journey of King Tut to the afterlife and immortality. I had ordered an audio guide and when I asked, the Reception staff were kind enough to lend me a file of the script after I showed them my MV Pass! They also allowed me to scan the pages before I returned the file!

Doctor Tarek El Awady is the curator of this exhibition. His comments are also heard in the audio guide, together with comments made by Howard Carter who led the expedition to King Tut’s tomb, sponsored by Lord Carnarvon. My descriptions include comments from both Tarek and Carter. As a background, Lord Carnarvon was among other things, an Egyptologist and had sponsored other digs as well; he was also a collector of Egyptian antiquities. In 1918, he got a concession to dig in the Valley of Kings. Howard Carter was an archaeologist and worked for him; Alfred Lucas did the restorations.

After a short introductory video, we enter the exhibition hall. As mentioned, the contents of the tomb connected the world the King was leaving behind with everything he would need on the journey and in the afterlife. These were cosmetic boxes, painted trunks, and carrying cases – all filled with beautiful items and a lot of other equipment and weapons.

On the walls are posters quoting spells from the Book of the Dead. This book is a collection of funerary texts consisting of magic spells. These spells are a guide for the spirit of the deceased through the netherworld, or underworld, as it journeys to the afterlife. There is no one Book for all, as each person can have one prepared for him or herself. In the earliest days, it was only royalty who had one but, later, others could also afford to prepare one for themselves.

Below is an example of a spell. It is Spell 144 from the Book of the Dead and tells of the Power of Words. Words are magic and repeatedly speaking the name of the deceased ensures immortality.

Spell 144 from the Book of the Dead

The journey of King Tut to the afterlife is really the journey of his Ba, the spirit that travels to the afterlife, while his Ka, the soul, remains with the body. The body is mummified to stay intact for when the Ba returns as a bird, to merge with the Ka for the magic of rebirth. To quote Tarek…….. ‘for the ancient Egyptians, death is not the end, it is a beginning of a journey to an eternal afterlife. That is why there are so many things made for him. He is a traveller. He needed to be well equipped with all he needs for the journey, a mysterious journey as no one knew what it is like. Each artefact has a purpose’.

The entire philosophy and theory is vast and too complicated for a quick study, and I will not go into the details. Furthermore, there are so many artefacts to show and describe, so I will just give a few interesting samples. The ambience in the galleries was dark with low lighting and the artefacts had lights shone on them. Taking pictures was a challenge but I managed by taking my time. At one point, someone politely whispered to me…’you are not the only one here taking pictures you know, excuse me’! I only gave a smile in return.

There is a display of vases as you enter. In the one on the left, there was residue of perfumed oil, oils being important in their rituals. The vase on the right has inscriptions about King Tut and his wife Ankhesenamun. She is actually his half-sister, and her mother was the renowned Queen Nefertiti. It was normal tradition in Egyptian Royalty for marriages between siblings.

A display of vases

Next is a collection of painted wooden containers for food for the Ka, or the soul of King Tut. Since the Ka is said to remain in the tomb, it needs to be fed. Food would include breads, meats, grains, spices and fruits.

Food Containers

The red box below has ebony, gold leaf, and bronze on it, as well as cartouches of King Tut. A cartouche is an inscribed oval on an item with the name of the pharaoh to which it belongs. The box is among 50 elaborate boxes serving as luggage for King Tut’s journey.

And you thought only Australian Aborigines had Boomerangs?

Below is the wooden armchair for King Tut. He was King at the age of 19 years, so the furniture made for him was smaller than usual. The footstool is of ebony and ivory from sub-Saharan Africa and the wood is probably cedar from the Middle East. Such was the stretch of their influence. The chair is also ebony and ivory with gold leaf. The gilded wooden bed next to it is ebony covered in gold leaf.

An interesting ritual, not shown of course, is the weighing of the heart. The deceased’s heart is placed on a scale and countered with a feather from the goddess Maat. If the scales balance, the heart was deemed sin-free by Osiris. Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead. If not, the heart would be eaten by the goddess Ammit who is part crocodile, hippopotamus, and lion. The heart is very important and is left behind in the mummy while other organs are removed. It was believed to be the centre of intelligence as well as feelings and was needed in the rebirth.

Below is a statuette of Amenhotep III, the grandfather of King Tut. Interestingly, a lock of hair belonging to his wife, Queen Tiye, was found together with this statuette. The lock of hair thus dates to 3400 years ago!

Amenhotep, grandfather of King Tut

This truly beautiful artefact is a canopic coffin (coffinette). It stands 10 inches (25.4 cm) tall and contained King Tut’s liver. Designed as a replica of his sarcophagus, it consists of a lid and box. There are four coffinettes inlaid with gold, coloured glass, and carnelian, and they contained the viscera of the pharaoh. The viscera are the liver, stomach, lungs, and the intestines. The four coffinettes are each placed in a jar closed with a calcite stopper. The jars were then placed in an elaborate canopic shrine (not displayed). The coffinettes bear the likeness of the King so that his Ba will be able to recognise him.

This gilded wooden shrine-shaped box shows scenes of King Tut and his wife Ankhesenamum, and it is made of wood encased with thick sheet gold. The scenes are of various episodes in the life of the King and Queen. Such life-experience scenes make it feel as if it were yesterday. Being in the tomb, King Tut wishes that such an afterlife with his Queen would await him.

Please click on ‘Page 2’ below to continue to the next page or click here. Coming up next page: Curse of the Trumpet.

Tales from the Malay Annals: A Brief Introduction

by Alvin Chua

The Malay Annals (known in Malay as Sejarah Melayu) is one of the most important works of traditional Malay literature. This work is known also as Sulalatus Salatin, which translates as Genealogy of Kings. This is an indication of the primary concern of the Malay Annals, i.e. the rulers of Melaka, the most famous kingdom in Malaysia’s history.

The extent of the Melakan Sultanate during the fifteenth century. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A fairly large number of manuscripts of the Malay Annals have survived till this day. Some of these are found in Malaysia, under the custodianship of either the Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (National Library of Malaysia) or the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature). The majority of manuscripts, however, are kept in libraries or institutions outside Malaysia. According to a 1967 article by Roolvink, 11 manuscripts are held by the United Kingdom, 12 by the Netherlands, five by Indonesia, and one by Russia. Although the majority of the manuscripts are late copies dating to the nineteenth century, the fact that so many manuscripts were produced reflects the high regard in which the Malay Annals was held.

The Malay Annals was originally written in Classical Malay in the Old Jawi script (a script adapted from Arabic for the writing of the Malay language). Subsequently, the work has been Romanised, and translated. The first English translation of the Malay Annals, for example, was made by John Leyden, and was published posthumously in 1821. It may be mentioned that in addition to the better-known English translations of the Malay Annals, there is also an incomplete French one. It’s lengthy title, Le Sadjarah malayou (l’arbre généalogique malais), ou, Histoire des radjas et sultans malais : depuis les origines jusqu’à la conquête de Malaka par Alphonse d’Albuquerque, en 1511 translates as The Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Family Tree), Or, History of the Malay Rajas and Sultans: From the Origins to the Conquest of Melaka by Afonso de Albuquerque, in 1511.


Frontispiece of a Jawi edition of the Malay Annals. Image: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).  

There are a number of questions surrounding the Malay Annals that have yet to be fully answered. For instance, the exact date of the text’s composition is unknown. According to Winstedt, the oldest copy of the Malay Annals is the Raffles MS No. 18, dating to 1612. Winstedt goes on to argue that the Raffles MS No. 18 was rewritten and compiled from an older manuscript, which he believes dates to before 1536. This manuscript is also believed to be the one closest to the original version of the text. Incidentally, the Raffles MS No. 18 resides today in London, at the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society.

The identity of the author of the Malay Annals is another unsolved mystery. Winstedt believes that the author of the original text was a Melakan at the court of Sultan Mahmud Shah, who ruled Melaka when it was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511. Winstedt is of the opinion that the writer survived the fall of the city, and that he continued writing until 1535. It is generally agreed that in 1612, the Bendahara Paduka Raja of Johor, Tun Muhammad bin Tun Ahmad, better-known as Tun Sri Lanang, was commissioned by Raja Bongsu (the future Sultan Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah of Johor) to rewrite, revise, and edit the Malay Annals.

The Malay Annals (Raffles MS No. 18) contains 31 chapters, beginning with a brief preface praising Allah, the Prophet, and his companions, as well as detailing the circumstances in which the manuscript was written. The story proper begins with Iskandar Zulqarnain (commonly identified as Alexander the Great), to whom the rulers of Melaka trace their ancestry, and ends with ‘Alauddin Ri’ayat Shah, the first Sultan of Johor. Apart from the rulers of Melaka, the pages of the Malay Annals are filled with many colourful characters, some of whom have become household names in Malaysia.

An artist’s impression of Sultan Mansur Shah’s palace, displayed at Gallery B, National Museum, Malaysia. © Museum Volunteers, JMM. Photographed by Cheong Weng Onn.

Despite its focus on the Melakan rulers, the Malay Annals is much more than a mere royal genealogy. This work sheds light on various aspects of the Melakan Sultanate, including its administration, foreign relations, economy, as well as social norms and customs. Having said that, it should also be noted that the Malay Annals was not meant to be a faithful record of historical events, and that many of its stories ought to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Still, the Malay Annals is a significant piece of work, not only as a work of Malay literature, but also for the information about the Melakan Sultanate it contains, and the strong influence it has exerted on the development of the Malay civilisation. Therefore, in 2001, the Malay Annals, following its nomination by Dato’ Haji A. Aziz Deraman, the former Director-General of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka,was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The ‘Tales from the Malay Annals‘ series on this blog will look at some of the stories contained within this manuscript. Do look out for these articles.

References

Raslin, A. B. & Effah, I. Z. (2013) ‘Sulalatus Salatin: Karya Agung Melayu di Institusi Simpanan Dunia’ in Seminar 400 Tahun Sulalatus Salatin. Kuala Lumpur, 29-30 October 2013.

Roolvink, R. (1967) The Variant Versions of the Malay Annals. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 123(3), pp. 301-324.

Sejarah Melayu [Cheah, B. K. (comp.), Abdul Rahman, Hj. Ismail (transcr.), 2009. Sejarah Melayu. Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.]

UNESCO, Memory of the World, n.d.. Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals). [Online]
Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/memory-of-the-world/register/full-list-of-registered-heritage/registered-heritage-page-8/sejarah-melayu-the-malay-annals/
[Accessed 24 March 2020].

UNESCO, 2012. Memory of the World. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd..

Winstedt, R. O. (1938) The Malay Annals Or Sejarah Melayu. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 16(3), pp. 1-226.

Historical Societies in our Country

by Eric Lim

Historical societies in our country have existed since the time of the Straits Settlements. The earliest was the Straits Asiatic Society formed at a meeting on 4 November 1877 at the Raffles Library and Museum in Singapore with its parent organisation, the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

The Asiatic Society of Bengal was founded on 15 January 1784 by Sir William Jones who was a lawyer and Orientalist. When he came to Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 25 September 1783, he took up the post as a Supreme Court judge and five months later, he formed the society, receiving strong support and encouragement from the Governor General of Bengal at that time, Warren Hasting. The setting of the society was to encourage Oriental studies.

The meeting on the formation of the Straits Asiatic Society was chaired by Archdeacon George Frederick Hose, who later became Bishop. It was attended by prominent members from the  expatriate communities in the three Straits Settlements states including D.F.A. Hervey (Resident Councillor of Malacca), Charles John Irving (Lieutenant General of Penang), and William A. Pickering (first Protector of Chinese of the Chinese Protectorate based in Singapore). The society started with an enrolment of 150 members. The Society’s mission was ‘to produce the collection and record of information relating to the Straits Settlements and the neighbouring countries’. Its other aims included producing a journal and establishment of a library.

The following year, the society was renamed Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society when its affiliation with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland or commonly known as Royal Asiatic Society, was confirmed on 6 May 1878. Bishop Hope was appointed as the first President of the Society and he went on to become one of the longest serving Presidents, from 1878 to 1908. The other founding members also took up appointments in the Society and contributed actively to its journal. The first journal was named Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society; it was dated July 1878 but it was published in September 1878.

The society then went through name-change on two occasions in accordance to the political situation of the time. In 1923, it was renamed Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society when the British influence went beyond the Straits Settlements; and in 1964, it was renamed Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, after the formation of Malaysia. The name remains until today. Its office was moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The name of the journal also changed in accordance to the renaming of the society. Some of its past illustrious members were Sir Hugh Clifford, Sir Frank Swettenham, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, Alfred Dent, and Henry Nicholas Ridley to name just a few. 

In 1930, of two more organisations were formed, namely the Malacca Historical Society and the Penang Historical Society. This was no coincidence as both states were under the Straits Settlements and had strong Western influence. Twenty-three years on, in 1953, the Malayan Historical Society (MHS) was formed, based in Kuala Lumpur. It was officially formed on 30 April 1953 at its first meeting held at the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall on Jalan Raja (the old City Hall). It was a grand inauguration attended by the British High Commissioner in Malaya, General Sir Gerald Templer, and the Malay Rulers – Sultan of Pahang, Yang DiPertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Sultan of Kedah, Sultan of Terengganu, Tengku Mahkota of Johor, Regent of Perak, and Deputy Raja of Perlis. Also in attendance were 200 local dignitaries – Datuk Onn Jaafar, Datuk Thuraisingam, Datuk Nik Ahmad Kamil, Datuk Tan Cheng Loke, and Tuan Za’aba, to name a few.

General Sir Gerald Templer in his speech emphasized that the Society is an effort to bring all the people of Malaya together to become a unified nation in the face of time and destiny of independence. He said ‘a nation which does not look back with pride upon its past, can never look forward with confidence towards its future’. He also tasked the Society ‘to ensure that things of beauty and historic value, old and new, find their way to a place where they’ll be properly cared for, and are not allowed to moulder, forgotten and unappreciated’. He also wanted the Society to work together with other organisations and the knowledge gathered about the history to be widely disseminated to the people: ‘This is not a Society for the Government, for the educated or for any class or section of the populations, it is for everybody, and everybody has something to contribute to it’.

At the end of the meeting, a Council was formed and it was headed by the first President, Datuk Mahmood Bin Mat. Its office was initially housed at the National Museum, but it was later moved to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. In 1976, the Government provided a Government house located at No.958, Jalan Hose, Kuala Lumpur to be utilised as MHS’s headquarters. Tun Hussein Onn, the then Prime Minister, officially opened the building on 31 August 1976. Later, Tun Hussein Onn managed to secure a plot of prime land in Kuala Lumpur and awarded it to MHS. On 1 December 2003, MHS officially relocated to its new headquarters at Wisma Sejarah, No.203, Jalan Tun Razak, opposite the Institut Jantung Negara/National Heart Institute. 

The first publication by MHS was entitled The Malayan Historical Journal; it was published in May 1954 and the editor was J.C. Bottoms. The annual subscription was twelve dollars and a single number (per issue) was priced at three dollars. In 1957, Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard took over from J.C. Bottoms and the journal was renamed Malaya in History. This journal went on for 15 years until April 1972, when Prof. Zainal Abidin Wahid took over, but from this time on (until today), the journal is produced in the Malay language and given a new name Malaysia dari segi Sejarah (Malaysia in History, in English). The late Prof. Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim was next in line to hold the editorial chair when he came on board in 1978 until 1989; he was then replaced by Prof. Dr. Nik Hassan Shuhaimi.

In addition to the journals, MHS also publishes books and monographs. Some of the bestsellers include Lembah Bujang (published in 1980), Historia (1984), Changi, the lost years (1989), Duri dalam daging (2001) and The Malay Civilization (2007). Today, the Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia in Malay) maintains branch offices in all the states.

References

Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society official website  [https://www.mbras.org.my/]

Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia / Malaysian Historical Society official website [http://www.psm.org.my/]

Singapore Infopedia website [https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/]

Some Islamic Artefacts at Muzium Negara

by Afidah Zuliana binti Abdul Rahim

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) 20th Anniversary Curators’ Sharing Sessions enhanced my appreciation of the Islamic artefacts on display at Muzium Negara. Here is an opportunity to highlight the artefacts in Gallery B based on information gleaned from the IAMM curators and publications.

The Malay world began to accept Islam from the 13th century onwards, with evidence first found in northern Sumatra. This early phase was characterized by a superficial understanding of the faith. From the 1400s, the Malays increased their understanding on living as Muslims. Eventually, from the 18th century onwards, there was an even deeper understanding of Islam, through the emergence of Islamic scholars such as Syeikh Daud al-Fatani and Raja Ali Haji.

Intellectual centres in the Malay archipelago included Palembang, Aceh, Batavia, Riau-Lingga, and Patani. These centres became Malay scriptoria where scribes and illuminators copied religious and literature manuscripts.

The Holy Quran on display at Gallery B originates from Terengganu, on the East Coast of the Peninsula. It is a sample manuscript from an area distinguished for its Islamic scholarship and calligraphic expertise. This Quran is a 19th century specimen in Naskh script – a calligraphy style valued for its clarity in assisting non-Arabic speakers recite the Quran accurately. Its arabesque design with floral motifs and vegetal scrolls reflect the natural Malay world. Red and green, colours also seen in woodcarving, echo the decorative traditions of this region. The use of gold suggests that this Quran was made for a royal patron.

Nakula (1980) wrote about the relationship between Islam and the Malay arts. One’s faith in the oneness of Allah can be manifested in the creation of artworks. In modern Malaysia, apprentices of master carver Adiguru Norhaiza Nordin are required to sit in nature so that they may realise the cosmic dimension and have the vision of multiplicity in oneness and oneness in multiplicity. With this understanding, the woodcarvers may then integrate all elements of their being into its proper centre, thus attaining purity and wholeness when executing their art.

The soul of Malay woodcarving is influenced by the moral ethical values connected with Malay worldviews. The poem below illustrates the Malay philosophy on woodcarving:

Tumbuh berpunca   
Punca penuh rahsia
Tajam tidak menikam lawan
Lilit tidak memaut kawan

Growth from a source
A source full of secrets
Sharp does not stab foe
Twines do not tie friend

The first two lines allude to Divinity – the starting point of life (God) is not seen. The other two lines indicate Community – the bowing leaves signify respect for one another and that there is harmony even in conflict.

The motifs carved contain underlying messages and sometimes act as a reminder. The door panel on display combines calligraphy and floral motifs, which reminds one of the Creator. Some motifs remain from pre-Islamic days, for example the lotus but these are given a new interpretation to fit the teachings of Islam. Woodcarvings are only displayed in clean or sacred places.

Calligraphy is also used for protection as shown by our red vest with verses. This talismanic vest would have been worn as an undershirt to safeguard its wearer in battle. A similar-looking 19th century silk vest from the Malay Peninsula with Quranic verses displayed at IAMM is made from the underside of the Kiswah – the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca.

A distinctive sample of calligraphy from the Malay world is found on the tombstone of Sultan Mansur Shah. Batu Aceh tombstones are usually found in pairs – one for the head and the other for the foot of the grave. This tombstone has been moved from its original site, which probably explains why only one remains. In true Batu Aceh style, it has a Sufi couplet inscription referring to the transience of life. The calligraphy on this tombstone is challenging to read due to its overlapping nature. Recently, the IAMM curators have deciphered and translated the inscriptions for Muzium Negara. Look out for the new description on display.

A noteworthy artefact in Gallery B is the 16th century ceramic plate from the Ming Dynasty inscribed with Quranic verses. The Aceh-style Swatow dish was a more affordable plate for the middle-class Acehnese who aspired to own Chinese ceramics. Its calligraphy may not be fine or accurate as it was mass-produced for the export market. The back of a similar plate at IAMM shows the crude finish with sandy grits on its base. It is likely that the piece at Muzium Negara has a similar base, albeit hidden from sight.

Islamic metalwork was once highly sought after in Europe. Such metal items made for the European market were known as Veneto Saracenic. Iran was renowned for fine metalwork as exemplified by the 17th century Isfahan copper bowl in Gallery B. Safavid Iran metalwork emphasized steel and copper, usually finished with tin. Isfahan was then its capital city. The use of figural motifs was allowed in the arts, with the understanding that such items were not displayed in sacred places. The copper bowl has calligraphic inscriptions and scenes of daily life – characteristic of Shia Islam.

Aceh-style Swatow dish (top right) and Isfahan copper bowl (left)

References

Abdullah Mohamed @Nakula (1980) Falsafah dan pemikiran orang-orang Melayu: hubungan dengan Islam dan Kesenian, Kuala Lumpur: Kementerian Kebudayaan Belia dan Sukan.

Introduction to Islamic Arts – Calligraphy: The collection of the IAMM (2016)

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Guide Book (2014)

Fountain at Dataran Merdeka

by Eric Lim

In my last article, I wrote about two Colonial monuments that were initially located at the Government Offices, now renamed as Sultan Abdul Samad Building, at Dataran Merdeka. First, the King Edward VII bronze bust on a marble pedestal, which was positioned right in front of the building and unveiled on 16 April 1912. The second monument is the bronze statue of Sir Frank Swettenham, erected on the front right-hand corner of the building and facing Gombak River. It was announced publicly for the first time on 19 January 1921 and it was a grand occasion attended by the Rulers from the Federated Malay States and top ranking British officials at that time.

During the Japanese Occupation, both monuments were removed and hidden away. After the war, the monuments were returned to their original sites. Today, they are standing tall at the grounds of the National Museum. Besides these two monuments, which originated at Jalan Raja, another monument still exits at Jalan Raja – at Dataran Merdeka.

This only surviving monument is the Fountain, located at the southern end of Dataran Merdeka, close to the 95 metres tall flagpole and near the intersection between the old General Post Office, the current Textile Museum and the former National History Museum, which was closed in November 2007. Prior to becoming the museum, the building housed the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (today they are known as Standard Chartered Bank).

Information board next to the fountain

A close scrutiny of the information on the board next to the Fountain, facing Jalan Raja only provides a one line introduction – `At the corner of the square stands a fountain that was built in 1897`. It was no surprise with the absence of facts of its origin and history because since it was erected, it was already shrouded in mystery. This prompted the Malayan Historical Society in Kuala Lumpur to put the record right with the help of the National Archives. They published their findings in their half-yearly magazine called `Malaya in History` volume VIII / number 1 / December 1962 issue.

When the Fountain was completed, KLites believed it was built to commemorate the Chief Inspector of Police, Steve Harper of the Selangor Military Police who died at home in 1896. He was at his prime at the time of his passing. Steve was popularly known to the locals as `Tuan Steeb`. Steve was one of three brothers who were very popular and successful in Selangor. There was Alfred Harper who was the Chief Clerk of the Courts and it was reported that he died at about the same time as Steve. And the third brother, Archie Harper, who founded the well-known firm of A.C Harper & Co. Ltd., which were agents for the Straits Steamship Company and importer for Peter Dawson`s Scotch whisky. Archie was one of the early members of Selangor Club (now Royal Selangor Club) and he was the first and best three Honorary Secretaries of the club. Archie retired in 1906.

The fountain

The publication at that time, the Malay Mail (newspaper) and Selangor Journal (periodical), appeared to support this tradition. The former reported that a fund was started in January 1897 to commemorate the late Steve Harper and it went on to receive contributions from KLites. The newspaper also published the list of contributors from time to time and it further reported that the memorial should take the form of a drinking fountain to be erected at the central market (built in 1888, it is still called Central Market, located at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. However, it is no longer a wet market but now houses mostly arts and craft, and souvenir shops). The Fountain was finally completed later that year but it was constructed at the Padang (now Dataran Merdeka). KLites concluded that it was the cop’s fountain and believed it was moved from the central market to the present site at an earlier date.

A year later after the start of the collection of subscription for the Steve Harper memorial, the Malay Mail reported in its 18 April 1898 issue that Mr Bellamy, the Selangor State Deputy Superintending Engineer, had informed in a meeting that the Fountain at the Padang was built by the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board at a cost of four thousand dollars. He recommended that the contributions toward the Steve Harper memorial fund be used for other schemes. One of them was to buy school books for the underprivileged students attending the prestigious Victoria Institution.

The Malay Mail followed up on this pending issue and reported in its 2 May 1898 publication that a meeting was organized on 30 April and it was decided after a vote count that the scheme for the purchase of school books was adopted. The three who voted namely Towkay Loke Yew (wealthy businessman), Thambusamy Pillai (leader of the Tamil community and businessman) and Mr Shaw (Headmaster of the Victoria Institution) were appointed the trustees of the fund. (For the record, Towkay Loke Yew voted against the book scheme, instead proposed for another fountain to be erected).

The project to erect the Fountain was given out to an engineering firm Messrs Riley, Hargreaves & Co, which carried out the work in October and November 1897. The materials were imported from England. The company was also involved in the building of two bridges in Kuala Lumpur, on Market Street and High Street (today, they are Leboh Pasar Besar and Jalan Tun HS Lee respectively).

The Malayan Historical Society concluded that the Fountain was erected by the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board with their own funds and not erected to commemorate the late Steve Harper.

(The current location of the Fountain is not its original site. It was moved to the current position when the Dataran Merdeka project was completed in late 1989)

(The Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board was formed on 14 May 1890 and their responsibilities include sanitation, upkeep of roads, lighting of streets, planning and other functions. It would eventually become the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Kuala Lumpur) and now Kuala Lumpur City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur).

References

Three Memorials on Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur – A note on their History from the National Archives, Malaya in History, vol. VIII (1), December 1962, pp. 39-40.

Rimba (1922) Bygone Selangor: A Souvenir, Kuala Lumpur: Charles Grenier & Son.

Discovering the stories of Melaka

by Karen Woo

On 27 February 2020, 14 participants from Museum Volunteers Batch 34 (Patricia, Katya, Grazia, Cen, Melissa, and Annie) and Batch 36 (Debbie, Veronika, Fazlin, and I) with our friends (Yvonne, Ryoko, and Melissa’s two children) made a day trip to Melaka. We gathered at the car park of the National Museum at 6:30 am. From there, our chartered van made its way to Melaka. Traffic was smooth and we arrived in Melaka at the Dutch Square at about 9 am where we met up with our guide, Colin Goh. Casper and Marliza (from Batch 36) also joined us during the tour in Melaka, making it a group of sixteen.

Colin introduced everyone to the history of Melaka from its founding by Parameswara, to the development of the Malay Sultanate of Melaka, and the important contributions made by its maritime laws to international maritime law. However, this followed with the decline of Melaka, to its conquest, first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and subsequently the British. 

Following the introduction, Colin showed us the sites in Melaka, some of which were already familiar to us, accompanied with stories told from his local perspective. A visitor to Melaka cannot miss visiting the Dutch Square where Stadthuys, Christ Church, Melaka Clock Tower, and water fountain are prominently located. However, interestingly, apart from Stadthuys and Christ Church, both Melaka Clock Tower and water fountain were not constructed by the Dutch but were proud contributions by the people of Melaka. The clock tower was erected by a Melakan Baba who made his fortune in Singapore, whilst the water fountain was built by the people to celebrate the anniversary of Queen Victoria.

First on our list of stops was Christ Church. The Christ Church, which was planned as a commemoration of a centenary of the Dutch occupation of Melaka in 1641, was only completed in 1753. Inside the church, the original pulpit and lectern were the only two remaining Dutch artefacts.  Colin also showed us the oldest Christian tombstone, which is part of the floor of the church. It is dated 1562, and it is for a lady by the name of Giomar.

The tombstone dated 1562 of Giomar found inside Christ Church

The famous Stadthuys was the office of the Dutch Governor and Deputy Governor, and it was later extended to provide residence for other high officials. The lower level was also used as a warehouse for the VOC. The Stadthuys would subsequently be occupied by the British; it is a museum today.

From there, we made our way up to St. Paul’s hill. It was a nice, shady walk with an elevated view of the Dutch Square, the vast area of reclaimed land (and buildings) with a glimpse of the replica of the Flor de la Mar in the far distance.

The view on the way to St. Paul’s hill with the replica of the Flor de la Mar in the distance

Our story continues on St. Paul’s hill. It is said that in 1521, upon deliverance from calamity in the high seas, a Portuguese captain, out of gratitude, built a small wooden church on the hill. Later, when St. Francis Xavier arrived, the Portuguese authorities gave him the piece of land to build a school and the small church was also enlarged. St. Francis Xavier used this location as a base for his missionary journeys to Japan and China. From this historical event, today, this church has established a friendship with a church in Kagoshima in Japan, and there have been exchanges between them.    

The white church on top of St. Paul’s hill served as a strategic landmark for navigators sailing down the Straits of Melaka. Upon spotting it, they would know that they were approaching Melaka.  These days, one could still see the white church peeping out from behind the Ramada and Emperor hotels.

St. Paul’s Church with statue of St. Francis Xavier on top of St. Paul’s hill

Apart from this, St. Paul’s Church had other important roles, including as a burial ground for the Dutch and the British and even as a hanging gallows. There were many tombstones on display inside and Colin regaled us with some interesting stories. My favourite undoubtedly is that of the wife of Jan Van Riebeck, founder of Cape Town in South Africa. He was posted to Melaka for two years. During that time, his wife passed away and was buried in this church. Later, a memorial was built in Cape Town for Jan Van Riebeck and the authorities requested for the tombstone of his wife. The British agreed, and today, a plaque marked the spot where the tombstone used to be. This is such a nice story, and today, the couple’s tombstones are reunited in the memorial.

The plaque to mark the spot of the tombstone of the wife of Jan Van Riebeck in St. Paul’s Church

With that, we bid farewell to St. Paul’s Church and made our way to our next must visit spot, the Porta de Santiago (of the fortress). However, did you know that this gate was not part of the fortress? It was actually known as Bort’s Gate (to the Dutch) or Old Gate (to the British). Nevertheless, those who used the gate called it Porta de Santiago. 

Focusing on the top of Porta de Santiago, Colin pointed out the Dutch emblem which comprises of a rectangle that is surrounded by battle weapons. Within the rectangle, a lady holding a stalk of wheat is placed on the left and a soldier bearing a shield with the words “VOC” is on the right, separated by a shield in the centre. On the front side of the Porta de Santiago, the year “1670” can also be clearly observed.

The Dutch emblem with the year “1670” on the front side of the Porta de Santiago

Colin also shared that some believed secret tunnels existed and connected the fortress to St. Paul’s hill and to St. John’s fort. The theory was that after the banishment of the Knights Templar in Europe, their remnants went to Tomar in Portugal and that order evolved into the Order of Christ. When the Portuguese came to Melaka, the Order of Christ, consisting of engineers and builders, also came along. Though the existence of the secret tunnels has not been proven, it certainly adds an air of mystery and intrigue to Melaka.

We then continued the next part of our tour to Bukit Cina by van. On the way, we passed by the Sacred Heart Convent, the Convent of Infant Jesus primary and secondary schools, and the previous site of the first Malay College in the country (before it was transferred to Kuala Kangsar). The graves in Bukit Cina date back to the Dutch era. At the foot of the hill, a temple was built for the descendants who visited the graves to perform their filial rites. There was also a famous well, Perigi Raja, that used to serve the best quality water, so much so that the Dutch built a wall, with guard posts, to protect the well, and water was delivered on a daily basis by bullock carts to the fortress.

Now, we come to the story of Li Poh. According to the people of Melaka, Li Poh was the daughter of a captain, rather than a Princess. This land was given to Li Poh and her people. Subsequently, the Dutch granted the land title to Cheng Hoon Teng temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in this country.

We were then dropped off close to Jonker Street heritage walk for the final part of our tour. Colin showed us the different styles of architecture left behind by the Dutch and the British. For example, there were some shop houses with Dutch frontage, which have no walkway, as opposed to others with the British walkways. We could also observe these changes by walking through the back lanes. This could be seen through the extension of the shop houses and the different styles of cramps used – the “C” kramp for the Dutch and the “X” cramp for the British.

The mirror image “C” kramp can be observed

Jonker Street itself went through changes – it used to be a bustling street that was a commercial and residential area for the working class. However, nowadays with the commercialisation of the street, the residents have moved out and the old-style coffee shops have also been replaced by cafes.  

Nearby is Jalan Tukang Emas (or Goldsmith Street), which used to house the goldsmiths from India during the Dutch colonial time.  Today, this street, which is also known as Harmony Street, is home to a Hindu temple, a mosque, and a Chinese temple, all located within close vicinity to each other.

After such a long day and being out in the hot sun, we were ready for our next adventure – lunch at Nyonya 63. The air-conditioned restaurant with its lovely oriental ambience was a welcome and pleasant interlude. Lunch was an absolute delight to our senses – we had chap chay, cincaluk omelette, assam fish, nyonya fried chicken, prawns cooked in prawn gravy, and buah keluak chicken. One of the group’s favourite was the prawns cooked in prawn gravy as the sweetness of the pineapple lent its flavour and mellowed the taste of the curry.  Buah keluak chicken, being a Nyonya speciality, is an acquired taste, highly recommended for everyone to try. We ended with the all-time favourite desserts, cendol, and ondeh-ondeh, courtesy of a friend of Annie’s.

After lunch, we had about an hour of free time before bidding our farewell to Melaka and its secret charms to make our way back to the National Museum. We had such an enjoyable time and were making plans for a return visit to Melaka. Would anyone like to join us for round two of Melaka? 

The 16 of us, peering from behind our hats and sunglasses, with Porta de Santiago and St. Paul’s Church in the background

Cheong Ah Peng, the Father of Kalumpang

by Karen Loh

An hour’s drive north from Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway lies the town of Kalumpang. Situated in Hulu Selangor near Tanjung Malim, not many have heard of this small town much less its location. Founded by a tin miner, Kalumpang was unknown until the early 1900s and much of its development was due to the perseverance of one man – Cheong Ah Peng.

Cheong Ah Peng with his famous walking stick

Hailing from Guangdong, China, Cheong Ah Peng @ Chong Mun Peng or Cheong Hoong made his way to Malaya sometime around 1895 in search of tin. Cheong was fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. He eventually learnt to speak Malay and a bit of English whilst living in Malaya. It is unclear how many places Cheong looked for tin in the early days but he eventually struck big in a hill at Hulu Selangor. The mine was in the hill itself and miners had to walk up the hill every morning to enter the mine.

As more tin was mined from this hill generating much profit, Cheong built a row of nine double-story shophouses in Kalumpang (and similarly in Tanjung Malim), a Chinese temple close by, and a school for boys with male teachers. Later as the town of Kalumpang grew, more shophouses and houses were built together with a marketplace, a bus station, and a police station. Cheong even managed to secure five acres of land for a Chinese cemetery from the government. He became very rich, had two wives and three sons. He was recognised for his achievements by the Sultan of Selangor, who presented him with a walking stick and with this walking stick, the story goes that he would reprimand youths who dared to misbehave in his town. In 1924, Sultan Ibrahim of Johor also wrote a letter of commendation recognising Cheong as a progressive miner in Hulu Selangor. Such were his contributions that a road was named after him in Tanjung Malim.

The Chinese temple in Kalumpang

A Chinese newspaper; Malayan Thung Pau Daily News, published an article in October 1975 about Cheong Ah Peng, the town he built, and the tin miners who worked and settled there from early 1900. Here are excerpts from some of the tin miners’ stories:

A “My name is Yap. I came to Malaya when I was 14 years old. I came to work for Cheong Pak (uncle) who had a very big tin mine in the hill. I had to walk for 9 hours to reach the mine. The hilltop is a very lovely place to be on as the scenery is beautiful. From the top, one can even see the Straits of Melaka. The air is very cold around the hill. Cheong Pak was a very smart and nice man. Even though we were not allowed to take a day off from work, we had a big feast every time there was a festival. We culled chickens and ducks for the feasts and celebrated the festivals together. Some of the workers had to stay up in the hill to guard the mines. Cheong Pak built a long house for us to live in. Our days consisted of daily shifts of 4 hours per shift and we were paid every half year. During each payday, we used some of the money to gamble and Cheong Pak would join us too.

Besides working in the mines, we also grew vegetables during our free time. There were wild animals up in the hills. We encountered a black bear once and fortunately, no one was harmed. In 1926, the Government ordered the mine to be closed due to a very heavy thunderstorm that resulted in a severe landslide. It was rumoured that at least 10 men drowned but the workers were not from our mine. In fact, the people in our village were all very healthy and those who got sick were likely to have visited a prostitute den! Though we appealed to the Government not to close the mine as it still had tin deposits, we were still ordered to close it.”

B “I am Wong and 70 years old this year. I came to Malaya when I was 17 years old to look for work. My first job here was to dig out tin ore from the drains. The early miners believed that there were white crocodiles around the village but I have only ever caught one. With the help of 14 youths, we managed to trap the crocodile under a wooden bridge when the water was shallow. The crocodile was not white but grey in colour like any ordinary crocodile; it was 8 feet (2.4m) long and weighed over 100 kati (60 kg). Catching crocodiles seemed to be a favourite hobby for the people. Some even used dead chickens to lure the crocodiles though they often succeeded in catching only the smaller crocodiles weighing 10 kati (6 kg). We were paid every half year and I was the perfect gentleman as I did not go for the ‘dirty stuff’ (vices). With the money I saved, I got married and had eight children: 4 boys and 4 girls. Unfortunately, my wife passed away a few months ago.”

C “I am Siew and I remember that Cheong Pak was the person who lobbied for Chinese translation to be printed on railway tickets for our convenience, as most of us did not read English. Cheong Pak’s nickname was Sun Tai Wong (Mountain King). I was employed by Cheong Pak to guard and look after his buses. Cheong Pak owned a few buses and each bus could sit 23 passengers. Those days, a bus could travel 18 miles (29 km) with one gallon of petrol. Once there was a Japanese man who opened a photograph shop in Kalumpang. He turned out to be a spy. My second job with Cheong Pak was as a storekeeper in his mine. Everybody feared Cheong Pak, including Government officers as he was a fierce person and kept a revolver with him, which was a present from the Sultan at that time. Today, I believe that one of his daughters-in-law is living in Petaling Jaya and two of his grandsons, Cheong Loong Seng and Cheong Chap Ching are in Kuala Lumpur.

Today, there is only a small road in Kalumpang with 30 shophouses remaining and a population of about 3000 people. The original row of nine shophouses built by Cheong Pak was destroyed in a fire 50 years ago. The Cheong Fong Coffee Shop has a photograph of Cheong Pak with his friends. In this photograph, Cheong Pak is dressed in white, standing next to a car with his friends. It is believed that one of the people in the picture is Shuen Choong Sun (great man of China also known as Dr. Sun Yat Sen).”

Cheong, dressed in white, standing next to the cars in Kalumpang

D Leow, 74 years old. “I came to Kalumpang when I was 14 years old. When I arrived, Cheong Pak was already 50-60 years old. I remember my life with him around. He built two rows of houses at the Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh trunk road. When the houses were completed, many of the residents there rented the houses from him to start new businesses in the town. He was called Penghulu of Kalumpang.

Cheong Pak was a very nice and generous man. He did everything he could to keep us happy. He even attended court sessions with us. We adored him. Wherever he went, he would carry his walking stick, which was given to him by the Sultan. He built the (Chinese) temple in Kalumpang, which Dr. Sun Yet Sen visited and stayed a few nights while in Malaya. The temple has since been renovated three times. Cheong Pak donated a lot of money for the renovation. There is a plaque in the temple, which list him as a major donor. In 1907, Cheong Pak received $6000 from the Government for a major renovation. An important deity in this temple is the Malay Datuk statue, which stands 3 feet (0.91 m) tall. Nobody knows his actual name but it was believed that he was Cheong Pak’s good friend. When he died, Cheong Pak commissioned a statue in his form to remember him.”

Cheong decided to return to China after a few unfortunate incidents, taking his first wife with him. Maybe it was bad luck, cruel fate or maybe it was just an accident when a big fire burnt down his shophouses and much of the town. A severe thunderstorm also caused his mine to flood and collapse. He never recovered from these losses. His daughter-in-law, Choo Yuen Heng shares her story:

I married into the Cheong family when I was 20 years old. I lived with my husband, Cheong Po Seng in Kalumpang before moving to Ipoh. My father-in-law was a very nice, humble and generous man who was liked by all the people in Kalumpang. Even though he could only speak a few words of English, he managed to get along with government people and during each festive season, he gifted them food and wine. Those who worked with him became very rich but my father-in-law was unfortunate. First, his tin mine collapsed due to a big flood and then his shophouses burnt down. To rebuild the houses, he took a loan from a bank but as he could not repay the loan, he ended up selling his shophouses in Tanjung Malim. When his businesses failed, he returned to China leaving his second wife and myself behind in Malaya. My husband died shortly after the war (WWII). My father-in-law died at the age of 83. My son never knew his grandfather. We were only informed of Cheong Pak’s death by some sources in China.
Choo Yuen Heng, Cheong’s daughter-in-law

Although Cheong Ah Peng returned to China, his descendants here in Malaysia and the people of Kalumpang today remember Cheong’s legacy as the tin-miner who developed the town, built a famous temple, a school, a cemetery, created jobs, and was much revered by the people of Kalumpang.

Letter of commendation from the Sultan of Johor in 1924.

Two Colonial Monuments and a Malay Fort

by Eric Lim

I would like to bring your attention to two monuments located on the grounds of the National Museum. It is a pity that these monuments are hidden away in an obscure corner outside the main building. To access them: if you are entering the car park via Jalan Damansara, look out for a white archway that serves as one of the entrances to the National Museum (through the car park). Take the steps on the right (in between the archway and the locomotive) to reach the monuments. If you are already in the outside compound of the museum, locate the Bukit Bendera Penang Railway coach pavilion, and then take the steps on its right. Upon reaching the top, turn right for a further few steps. These two monuments are the King Edward VII bronze bust on a marble pedestal and the statue of Sir Frank Swettenham.

Before looking at the history of these two colonial monuments, it would be good to examine the white archway, which is a replica of Kacapuri Archway, one of two archways located at the Kuala Kedah Fort (the other archway is called the British Archway). Incidentally, there is also another replica (smaller in size) of the Kacapuri Archway at Gallery C in the main building.

Replica of Kacapuri Archway at Gallery C

The original fort was built during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman Shah II (1602-1619) with the help of the Portuguese who then used it as their military outpost. In 1619, Sultan Mahkota Alam of Aceh sent a fleet to destroy the fort and the Portuguese were ousted while 7,000 Malays including Sultan Sulaiman were taken captive. Next came the Bugis, who sided with the ruling Sultan Muhammad Jiwa against a power struggle with his younger brother in 1724. The feud ended two years later when the Bugis succeeded in driving away the enemy but it devastated Kedah. War broke out again in 1771; this time, the Bugis gave their support to dissident forces who wanted to depose Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah II, the 20th Sultan of Kedah. The Bugis managed to take control of the fort but Sultan Abdullah later obtained help from Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company (EIC), and the British recaptured the fort for Sultan Abdullah. Construction of the present fort then took shape and Sultan Abdullah immediately went on to strengthen the walls of the fort with stonework and bricks. He also purchased cannons from the British and Dutch, which were placed around the fort. The fort was completed in 1780.

The fort was then used by the EIC who in return, agreed to protect the Sultan from any attacks, in particular from its northern neighbour, the kingdom of Siam. This prompted the Sultan of Kedah to cede Penang Island to the EIC. In 1786, Francis Light declared British rule in Penang and named the island Prince of Wales Island and the town, Georgetown, in honour of King George III. However, the promise of protection by the British was never kept. The Siamese made a surprise attack in 1821 and the then Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II, fled to Penang. In 1831, Tunku Kudin, the son of the Sultan of Kedah, and his men managed to drive the Siamese away from Kedah but the Siamese returned with a stronger force to take over the fort once again. It was the same story again in 1838, but that was the final time the Siamese laid siege to the fort. During the period of the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945), the fort was used as a military base by the Japanese. Today, the area is called Kuala Kedah Fort Historical Complex and it was certified as a ‘historical land site’ by the Department of Museums and Antiquities on 31 August 1978.

King Edward VII

King Edward VII was born on 9 November 1841 in Buckingham Palace, London. He was the second child and first son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was given his father’s name and christened Albert Edward. Growing up, he was given rigorous education but he did not measure up to it. He was also forbidden to have a career in the army by his parents. In his role as Prince of Wales, he made many Royal Visits overseas that gained him popularity. In 1860, he became the first heir to the British throne ever to visit North America. It was a four- month round trip between the United States and Canada. He also toured the Middle East and India. In 1863, Albert Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and they were bestowed a son, Albert Victor, the following year. Prince Albert Victor did not live long and died before both his parents in 1892. After the passing of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, Albert Edward ascended the throne and chose the title King Edward VII (Queen Victoria was at that time the longest-reigning British monarch, until 9 September 2015 when the current Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her). King Edward VII ruled for 9 years and he passed away on 6 May 1910 of heart failure.

One year after the passing of King Edward VII, British officials in Kuala Lumpur decided to start a fundraising targeting two proposals – a memorial to the late King and upgrading works for the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in Singapore. A total of $2,446.89 (Straits Dollars) was collected for the memorial and $15,135.00 for the latter. The huge sum collected for the Medical School was made possible when local businessman Loke Yew contributed $15,000.00. In 1921, the medical school changed its name to King Edward VII College of Medicine.

The job to make a bronze bust of the late King was awarded to a young sculptor in London by the name of A. Stanley Young. The memorial was completed and shipped out from London on 30 December 1911 and when it reached our shore, it was immediately erected in front of the Government Offices (now Sultan Abdul Samad Building). The unveiling ceremony took place on 16 April 1912, performed by Lady Brockman, the wife of the Chief Secretary and witnessed by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah. During the Japanese Occupation, the bust was removed and hidden away by Mr. K.S Maniam of the Public Works Department. After the war, it was returned to its original site and now, the monument sits at the National Museum.

Sir Frank Swettenham

Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham was born in Belper, England in 1850. He arrived in our country as a young lad of 21 and learned the Malay language. This proved useful when he was involved in the Pangkor Treaty in 1874 as a translator on behalf of the Straits Settlements. After the first British Resident of Perak, J.W.W. Birch, was murdered, he became the British Resident for Perak for a while before moving to Selangor where he became the third British Resident of Selangor. He then returned to Perak and played a role in the formation of the Federated Malay States in 1896. He was appointed the First Resident General of the FMS from 1 July 1896 to 4 November 1901, taking up residence at Carcosa in Kuala Lumpur. While in office, he attended the First Durbar of the FMS held at Istana Negara at Kuala Kangsar in July 1897. From 1901 to 1904, he was the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlement; he retired in 1904. Sir Frank Swettenham was also a well-published author. His first book was “Vocabulary of the English and Malay languages” written in 1881. The book was printed at the Government Printing Office in Singapore. Upon retiring, he returned to London and died at a ripe old age of 96 on 11 June 1946.

Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, the eldest son of J.W.W. Birch, was the eighth British Resident of Perak, from 1904 to 1911. When he retired, he initiated a fundraising project to build a monument to commemorate the services and contributions of Sir Frank Swettenham. The monument took the form of a bronze statue made by a well-known English sculptor by the name of C.L Hartwell, A.R.A of London. The statue was erected at the front right-hand corner of the Government Offices (now Sultan Abdul Samad Building), facing Gombak River. The unveiling ceremony on 19 January 1921 was attended by the sultans of Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negri Sembilan as well as High Commissioner Sir Lawrence Guillemard, Chief Justice Sir John Murison and Sir Ernest Birch. The statue was removed during the Japanese Occupation but re-erected on the original site on 15 October 1946. A month later, sultans from nearly all the Malay States attended the unveiling of the restored statue by the then highest British officer, Sir Edward Gent. It was again moved in 1964 and today, the statue of Sir Frank Swettenham stands on the grounds of the National Museum, next to the bronze bust of King Edward VII.

Footnote

Coming event – Festival Kota Kuala Kedah (Kuala Kedah Fort Festival)

                         18-21 March 2020 @ Muzium Kota Kuala Kedah.