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, Wong Yin 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.
Wong Yin, 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.