Now and then, I get questions from visitors to the Museum on how, in the past, explorers, travellers, and others communicated with the peoples of the places they visited. Going to a country with a different language in today’s world is not a problem – with dictionaries available literally at your fingertips, with Google Translate, or even with applications on smartphones that translate one language to another on the fly. In any case, English is the universal language these days.
However, how about Christopher Columbus, Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and so many others during earlier times – how did they communicate with the locals they encountered? …………. read more
The simplest method to study the heavens is to stick a stick into the ground and observe its shadow at different times of day. This is the basis of sundials and the ‘stick’ is known as a gnomon. Apart from telling time of day, the resulting sun angles can also be used to tell the time of year.
Residing in a serene corner on the grounds of the National Planetarium are miniaturised replicas of three famous astronomical observatories from different parts of the world together with Malaysia’s own iconic timepiece. These are more sophisticated than the stick but they function essentially as gnomons. The four timepieces tell different stories, each compelling in its own way. The mysterious Stonehenge continues to hide its secrets, defying the hundreds of researchers bent on probing its depths. As you walk the grounds, gaze at the Guo Shou Jing Observatory and be amazed at the astronomer that conceived this marvel. Imagine the intellectual discourses that would have taken place at the Jai Singh Observatory, not only among local astronomers but also among those from afar as Bavaria, France, and Portugal. Recapture the excitement of Merdeka at the Merdeka Sun Clock.
Stonehenge, one of England’s most visited sites, was once sold at an auction for £6600! On 21 September 1915, Cecil Chubb, a barrister, was sent to an auction by his wife, Mary, to buy dining chairs; he returned home, instead, as the proud owner of a few acres of ruins, much to Mary’s chagrin. Fortunately, Chubb’s intentions were to protect the monument and, three years later, he donated Stonehenge to the nation, receiving a knighthood in exchange.
While the experts agree that Stonehenge was built in different phases by different groups of people, possibly for different functions, there is no common consensus on the constitution of the phases and the functions of the stones. The structure dates to around 3000 BCE, reaching its present shape around 1800-1500 BCE. The original structure was a henge, a circular flat area surrounded by a ditch, with the only difference from other henges being in its size – a whopping 100 metres across. Outer and inner banks surrounded the ditch and 56 circular cavities ran along the inner bank. Named Aubrey holes after the person who first noticed them, the cavities were believed to have initially contained bluestones but were used in a later period for cremation burials.
The stones at the centre of the circle started being erected in different phases from around 2500 BCE, possibly beginning with the five trilithons. These were followed by the other stones including the bluestones, sarsen circle, heel stone, slaughter stone, and the four station stones. Attempts to link Stonehenge with observations of the heavenly bodies have mostly been refuted. It has been pointed out that it was not necessary to build a huge stone structure in order to make astronomical observations that could easily have be done using simpler tools. However, researchers acknowledge that Stonehenge is aligned on its northeast to southwest axis with the occurrences of solstices. There is also an interesting link between the heel stone and the midsummer solstice. There are a number of other connections with astronomy but a detailed discussion on the astronomical functions of the various stones, while fascinating, is outside the scope of this article.
Guo Shou Jing Observatory
This observatory was built in 1276 under orders by Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty in China. The observatory measures the sun’s shadow at noon and its variation throughout the year. It was named after the observatory’s creator, the renowned astronomer Guo Shoujing. The observatory lies near Gaocheng town, southeast of Dengfeng city in the Henan Province in China. Today, it is known as the Gaocheng Observatory or, more popularly, as the Dengfeng Observatory.
The observatory has two components: a platform formed by a truncated pyramid and a horizontal scale known as shigui.
The platform is 9.45 metres above ground level. Two staircases run up to the platform, on which has been built two rooms, joined by a single roof. The rooms raise the height of the structure to 12.62 metres. Each room has a window facing north and overlooking the horizontal scale below. The rooms also have a second window facing each other; a horizontal rod connects the two rooms through these windows. This rod acts as the gnomon. The height of the structure from the base to this horizontal rod is 9.75 metres, which is exactly 40 chi, a standard unit of measure in ancient China. A typical Chinese gnomon at the time was 8-chi tall (1.98 metres) – an example is the Tang period gnomon close to the vicinity of the Dengfeng Observatory. However, Guo Shoujing recognised a link between the height of the gnomon and the accuracy of the measurements; the resultant 40-chi gnomon at Gaocheng was thus innovative. It is said that Guo Shoujing’s move to a 40-chi gnomon was inspired by Middle Eastern astronomy, which had innovated large instruments, e.g. the Maragheh Observatory (1259 CE) in Iran.
The horizontal scale extended to the north of the large platform. The horizontal rod (gnomon) installed on the platform cast a shadow on the scale and this was the basis of the astronomical measurements. The horizontal scale, poetically known as the ‘sky-measuring ruler’, measures 31.19 metres in length or 128 chi. Two parallel troughs, linked at the ends, would have held water to check its level.
The Dengfeng Observatory became the first of 27 observatories built by Guo Shoujing in various places in China. He used his observatories to develop a new Shoushi (season-granting) calendar. However, most of the information on the length of the sun’s shadow for this calendar came from another 40-chi gnomon he built in Dadu. The calendar, which started in 1281, would continue to be used for 364 years – until the end of the Ming dynasty.
Jai Singh Observatory
Pur means ‘city’ in Sanskrit and hence Jaipur, the breath-taking ‘pink city’, capital of Rajasthan, can be translated as the ‘City of Jai’. More specifically, it is the city of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who founded the city in 1726. Maharaja Jai Singh was an avid astronomer and he made a detailed study of Indian astronomical treatises. These go as far back as the Vedic texts (c. 1500-900 BCE), in which the study of stars and planets was known as Nakstravidya. He also studied Aryabhata’s famous treatise, Aryabhatiya (c. 476 CE), Varahmihira (c. 500 CE) and Brahmagupta (c. 598 CE). During the time that Jai Singh was carrying out his research, Middle Eastern and European knowledge of astronomy was very advanced and Jai Singh had their treatises translated into Sanskrit for his studies.
Sawar Jai Singh’s studies led him to recognise errors in the ephemerides, i.e. the trajectory of astronomical objects, used to calculate the imperial calendar and the astronomical tables. However, his existing brass instruments were not good enough for him to carry out the recalculations needed to correct the errors. Hence, he commissioned the construction of a jantar mantar (astronomical observatory) in Delhi. This would become the first of five observatories he would establish between circa 1721 and 1743. The others were at Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura. The observatory at Jaipur was the largest, in keeping with Jai Singh’s vision of his capital city having state-of-the-art architectural and astronomical edifices. With the exception of the observatory at Mathura, these observatories still exist and are heritage sites.
The information board at the planetarium specifies that the replica on its grounds is the Samrat Yantra (King of Instruments) from the Delhi Observatory. A Samrat Yantra is essentially a sundial usually with a triangular pyramid as its gnomon. It is flanked by two quadrants and the shadow of the gnomon on these quadrants measures the sun’s movement.
The Samrat Yantra in Delhi has a colossal pyramid, measuring 21.3 metres in height. The hypotenuse of this right-angled triangular pyramid is parallel to the Earth’s rotation axis and the angle made by the hypotenuse and the horizontal is equal to the latitude of Delhi. The gnomon is flanked by two large quadrants, which lie on the plane of the equator. Their scales are graduated in a manner that allows the instrument to measure local time, right ascension, and declination. The Samrat Yantra allows measurements to a very high level of precision; both the Samrat Yantra at Delhi and Jaipur can measure time to an accuracy of two seconds.
Apart from the Samrat Yantra, the Observatory at Delhi has three other key instruments, each measuring different aspects of the movements of the heavenly bodies. These are: Misra Yantra, Jaya Prakasa Yantra and Rama Yantra. The Misra Yantra was built by Madho Singh, Jai Singh’s son. It is a compendium of five instruments including a Samrat Yantra.
Merdeka Sun Clock
Originally installed at Merdeka Park, the Merdeka Sun Clock was moved to the National Planetarium in 1997. The Merdeka Park, a public park opened on 20 April 1958, was located outside Merdeka Stadium, venue of the declaration of Independence on 21 August 1957.
This sundial was the brainchild of Dato’ Stanley E. Jewkes, who had designed the Merdeka Stadium, Merdeka Park and, later, the National Stadium. His decision to include a sundial in the park was inspired by the solar clocks in India and by Stonehenge.
Malayan symbols have been weaved into both the gnomon and the bowl onto which the gnomon’s shadow is cast – the bowl is in the shape of a crescent and the pointer of the gnomon is an 11-pointed gold star representing the 11 states of Malaya (Sabah and Sarawak were not part of Malaya at that time). The clock measures time of year with zodiac signs used to represent months. Hour lines on a sundial are normally straight. However, the shape of the crescent bowl made this difficult and Jewkes compensated by building an equation of time into the lines. Two intersecting lines were drawn, differentiated by colour – one followed the sun as it moved north and the other as it moved south. An information board provides detailed instructions on measuring time using this solar clock.
Castleden, Rodney (2004) The Making of Stonehenge, Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Johnson-Roehr, Susan N. (2015) Observatories of Sawai Jai Singh II in C.L.N. Ruggles (ed.) Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, New York: Springer, pp. 2018-2028.
Lai Chee Kien and Ang Chee Cheong (2018) The Merdeka Interviews: Architects, Engineers and Artists of Malaysia’s Independence, Kuala Lumpur: Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia.
Pearson, Mike Parker (2013) Stonehenge – A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument, New York: The Experiment.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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).
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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).”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coming event – Festival Kota Kuala Kedah (Kuala Kedah Fort Festival)
After the war, Kuala Lumpur was developing rapidly as an economic hub, and by the early 1950’s, the British were worried about overpopulation and the building of squatters in and around Kuala Lumpur. To eliminate this problem, the solution was to build a satellite town. It was also a plan for the highest ranking British officer in Malaya at that time, Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer, to resettle ethnic Chinese who were living at the fringes of the jungle and was supporting the Communist Terrorists to new settlements.
In 1952, saw the creation of the satellite town and the following year, the satellite town was named Petaling Jaya (“Petaling” being the name of the district and “Jaya” Malay word with Sanskrit origin meaning victory or success). By the end of 1957, PJ (as called by the locals) grew into a township with over 3,200 houses, 100 shops and 28 factories. Also in the same year, saw the opening of the first phase of the Federal Highway linking the capital Kuala Lumpur, PJ and Port Klang and it was opened to traffic in 1959; and it essentially divided PJ into two halves, Southern PJ, that include the first settlement and by now known as PJ Old Town and Northern PJ.
Moving forward to the 1960’s, it was reported that the population of PJ had reached 35,100 in 1964 and the size had extended to an area of 19.9 square kilometres. PJ was growing steadily, in particular Northern PJ, where tall structures were built and one such building is the Main Tower of University Hospital, completed in 1966. This building became one of the landmarks of PJ. In the 1990’s, University Hospital was renamed University Malaya Medical Centre, in line with the expansion from a hospital into a full medical centre. We shall now look at the history of U.M.M.C.
To know about U.M.M.C, we have to first get to know about King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College. In the Anglo Dutch Treaty signed in 1824 between the British and Dutch, Malacca was offered to the British and in return, the Dutch got hold of Bengkulu (Bencoolen) located in Sumatra. Following this, saw the establishment of the Straits Settlements, combining the states of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, in 1826 with Penang as the administrative centre. Prior to the formation, the importance of Singapore as an international trading port grew tremendously since its founding in 1819, and in a short span of 4 years, Singapore already overtook Penang and Malacca in total trade figure. Recognizing the speed of growth, Singapore became the new administrative centre for the Straits Settlements in 1832. It was further boosted with the introduction of steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal to navigation on 17 November 1869, which cut travelling time from London to Singapore, from 117 days to just 45 days.
The population of Singapore also grew in tandem with the progress and this prompted a call to establish a medical school in 1889. But the plan did not take off until 1904 when a local businessman and philanthropist Tan Jiak Kim, petitioned to the colonial government for the setting up of a medical school. Immediately, the Chinese and non-European communities raised enough funds for the project and the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School was officially opened on 28 September 1905. The name was changed to King Edward VII Medical School when the school received a donation of $ 125,000.00 from the King Edward VII Memorial Fund in November 1912. The school was renamed again in 1921 as King Edward VII College of Medicine. When Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, the college building was taken over by the Japanese Army Medical Corp and used as it’s department of bacteriology and serology. After the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, the building was returned to the college authorities and classes resumed in June 1946.
The establishment of Raffles College was in 1918 to commemorate the centenary of the founding of Singapore. The college was designed by two London architects, Cyril Farey and Graham Dawbarn, after they had earlier won the competition for the design. It was set up as a college for higher education in the field of arts and sciences. However, due to a series of delays and unforeseen circumstances (Sir Stamford Raffles was away from Singapore most of the time was one of the reasons for the delay) it only commenced operation ten years later, in June 1928 with an inaugural batch of 43 students. It had its official opening on 22 July 1929 by Sir Hugh Clifford who was then the Governor of the Straits Settlements and British High Commissioner in Malaya. Earlier on, Sir Hugh Clifford was the British Resident in Pahang 1896 – 1900 and 1901 – 1903. It ceased operation during World War II and reopened on 10 October 1946.
After the war, a commission was set up to make recommendations concerning university education in Malaya. On 8 October 1949, King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College merged to form the University of Malaya. A grand ceremony was held at Raffles College to mark the event. Ten years later, on 15 January 1959, the university split to form the University of Malaya in Singapore and University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. The University of Malaya in Singapore became known as University of Singapore in 1962 and then in 1980, it is known as National University of Singapore, when it merged with Nanyang University.
University of Malaya was established on 1 January 1962 and is located on about 750 acres of land in Pantai Valley,Kuala Lumpur. Our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman was installed as the first Chancellor later that year. On 2 August 1965, saw the official opening of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Malaya by the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister Tun Haji Abdul Razak Bin Hussein. At the same time, Tun Haji Abdul Razak also laid the foundation stone of the University Hospital. The earliest erected structure of UM Medical Training Centre comprises of the faculty and the hospital. And by December 1966, the main building which is also known as the Main Tower of the hospital was completed. University Hospital began operation in March 1967 and before the end of that year, all the wards, clinics and the 24-Hour Accident and Emergency Unit have started operating. University Hospital was officially opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong IV, Al-Marhum Tuanku Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Zainal Abidin (Sultan of Trengganu) on 5 August 1968 to serve the three main areas of teaching, research and service. Tunku Abdul Rahman was also in attendance on that day.
University Hospital has since expanded extensively from its sole Main Tower and ancillary blocks and now is a medical complex with additional modern and purpose-built buildings like primary care medicine building (1992), East Wing containing the expanded Clinical Diagnostic Lab and Clinic Services Complex (1997), trauma and emergency building (2003), Obstetrics and Pediatrics building (2008), South Tower (2012) that houses the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine,Department of Bio-Medical Imaging and Cardiology Unit. Today, the hospital is officially known as University Malaya Medical Centre (U.M.M.C).
I make regular visits to U.M.M.C to donate blood at the Department of Transfusion Medicine. For those of you who are making resolution / plan for the coming new year, do consider to become a Blood Donor. You can register at the Department of Transfusion Medicine, U.M.M.C, National Blood Centre in Kuala Lumpur or at any blood bank of selected Government hospitals, and these centres are open every working day during office hours.
A kendi is a drinking or pouring vessel with two distinctive openings and a handle-less form. The two openings are the wider mouth on top of the vessel, where liquid can be poured in, and a spout to pour out from. It may or may not have a neck or lid. Liquid cools very quickly in the kendi. To drink from a kendi, the neck of the vessel is held and the liquid is poured without touching the lips. The vessel’s shape makes it easily transportable either on foot or by boat.
Whilst it is unknown when the kendi first appeared, etymological evidence suggests that such vessels were first used in Asia. This is evidenced from the various names used in Indonesia, such as ‘kandi’ in Toba and ‘kondi’ in Acheh, Sumatra, as well as ‘gendi’ in Java and ‘gandi’ in Macassar, Sulawesi. In South India, kendi was known as ‘gindi’ and ‘kindi’ in Kerala. Buddhist ceremonies in Sri Lanka utilized an earthen or metal ‘kendiya’ or ‘kotala’ (kotayala). The Sanskrit name for the container is ‘kundi’, which means a pot without a spout, and this is probably where the vessel’s name originated. It is also referred to as a ‘kundi-ka’; ‘ka’ meaning small in Sanskrit. The smaller kundika usually serves as a sprinkler. In addition, it is called “kamandalu” in Hindi, which means water jug or container used by Buddhist monks and priests.
Kendis have been produced and traded widely in South East Asia since early times. Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam became major sources, although kendi were also produced in China from the Tang Dynasty (618-906CE), primarily for export. The discovery of ceramic ware, such as celadon and brown-glazed ware, fine paste bottles and kendi was made from artefacts recovered from the Intan Wreck (930 CE), Cirebon Wreck (11th century), Java Sea Wreck (c1275 CE), and Bakau Wreck (15th century). Such discoveries underline the demand and use of the kendi. By the 17th century, kendis were made in Japan, the Netherlands and Germany, and Dutch blue-and-white delftware kendis depicted pictures of nature and everyday scenes.
The kendi is functional and utilitarian, being used for everyday storage, cooking as well as in spiritual ceremonies. Besides water, kendis were also used to decant wine, administer medicine, and as alterware for rituals, such as pouring or sprinkling ‘holy water’ during religious ceremonies. The practice of sprinkling holy water from kendis was widely used in Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies from the 7th to the 15th centuries. The kendi is one of the eighteen sacred items carried by Buddhist pilgrims, and Buddhist statues of Avalokitesvara and Maitreya (the future Buddha) are depicted holding such jugs. Similarly, Hindu statues and images of deities such as Brahma and Shiva are also depicted with kendis. The kendi is made of metal in Pakistan and is named the lota, and is still used by Muslims for ablutions before praying. The pots were also used to ward off evil and given as wedding gifts. In traditional Indonesian and Philippine societies, kendis were offered as funerary items and used in ritual ceremonies for pouring libations of holy water collected from sacred rivers. Archipelago rulers cleansed themselves with holy water poured from a kendi as a symbol of purification during their installation ceremony. Europeans also made use of kendis and even manufactured them, which they referred to as a ‘goglet’, from the Portuguese word ‘gorgoleta’, (with ‘gorja’ meaning throat).
Kendis can be either plain or patterned. The form can be either male or female: a male form taking an angular shape with square shoulders, while the female form is round. There was no tradition that dictated which form should be used for any specific purpose, although in remote Sumatran agrarian villages, men drink from a female kendi while women drink from a male kendi, to symbolize the importance of procreation and fertility. Another type of kendi which is a symbol of fertility is the kendi susu (milk kendi), which has a squat body and a spout in the form of a female breast.
Plain kendis usually have a flat base and take the shape of either a pumpkin or an onion, having either a mammiform or an elongated body with a tall neck, while others have short, straight necks. Kendis normally have a lipped mouth at the end of the neck and a spout on the shoulder. Bulbous kendis are the most common shape, usually made from unglazed fired clay or earthenware. Patterned kendis are often more elaborately shaped, taking the form of a creature such as a dragon, crocodile, frog, elephant, or goose, and can be scored with floral patterns or geometrical strokes. Some kendis have stylized leaf, floral or botanic scrolls, still life motifs or Buddhist emblems. Such ornate pieces are usually made either of precious metals such as gold, silver or bronze, or of fine porcelain or celadon. The kendi maling or thieves’ kendi is an interesting and unusual variety that originates from Indonesia. Also known as valalu kotalaya (secret jug) in Sri Lanka, this type has no upper aperture, and is filled by means of a funnel in the base when the inverted vessel is submerged.