Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Malacca (Malay: Melaka, dubbed The Historical State or Negeri Bersejarah amongst locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The capital is Malacca Town. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.
Although one of the oldest Malay sultanates, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor, rather than a Sultan, acts as the head of state.

Sultanate of Malacca
Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a simple fishing village inhabited by local Malays. Malacca was founded by Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince of Palembang who fled Sumatra following a Majapahit attack in 1377. He found his way to Malacca c. 1400 where he found a good port accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Straits.
According to a popular legend, Parameswara was resting under a gray tree near a river while hunting, when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by the courage of the deer, and taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful, Parameswara decided on the spot to found an empire on the very place that he was sitting. He named it 'Melaka' after the tree under which he had taken shelter. Another version of the story says that Parameswara chose the name 'Malacca' from the Tamil word 'mallakka' which means upside down or on ones back. Old illustrations of the scene where the mousedeer kicks the dog shows the dog falling on its back into the river, hence the inspiration. Parameswara converted to Islam in 1414 and changed his name to 'Raja Iskandar Shah'. In collaboration with allies from the sea-people (orang laut) the wandering proto-Malay privateers of the Straits, he established Malacca as major international port by compelling passing ships to call there, and establishing fair and reliable facilities for warehousing and trade. Mass settlement of Chinese, mostly from the imperial and merchant fleet occurred during the reign of Parameswara, occurred in the vicinity of the Bukit China ("Chinese Hill") area, which was perceived as having excellent Feng Shui (geomancy) in Malacca then. Sultan Iskandar Shah died in 1424, and was succeeded by his son, Sri Maharaja also called Sultan Muhammad Shah.
The prosperity of Malacca attracted the invasion of the Siamese. Attempts in 1446 and 1456, however, were warded off by Tun Perak, the then Bendahara (a position similar to Prime Minister). The development of relations between Malacca and China was then a strategic decision to ward off further Siamese attacks.
Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important stopping point for Zheng He's fleet. To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, allegedly a princess of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah who reigned from 1456 until 1477. Her attendants married the locals and settled mostly in Bukit China (Bukit Cina).(See Zheng He in Malacca). Scholars have disputed Hang Li Po's status in China as because she was never recorded as a princess in the Chinese court of the Ming Dynasty in the Ming Chronicles. At the time of the arrival of the Sultan's envoy, the reigning Ming Emperor was Jingtai Emperor. Records of his reign was expunged following the ascension of Tianshun in 1457. It is likely that if she were a princess in the Ming court, records of her might not exist. In many historical text, she was said to have been a princess in the court of the Yongle Emperor(1402-1424).
A cultural result of the vibrant trade was the expansion of the Peranakan people, who spread to other major settlements in the region.
During its prime, Malacca was a powerful Sultanate which extended its rule over the southern Malay Peninsula and much of Sumatra. Its rise helped to hold off the Thai's southwards encroachment and arguably hasten the decline of the rival Majapahit Empire of Java which was in decline as Malacca was rising. Malacca was also central in the spread of Islam in the Malay Archipelago.

European colonization
In April 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships. They conquered the city on August 24, 1511. It became a strategic base for Portuguese expansion in the East Indies. Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last Sultan of Malacca took refuge in the hinterland, and made intermittent raids both by land and sea, causing considerable hardship for the Portuguese. In the meantime the Portuguese built the fort named A Famosa to defend Malacca (its gate is all that remains of the ruins at present). "In order to appease the King of Ayudhya" (Siam, whom had always intended in invading Malacca if not due to the latter's good relationship with the Ming Emperor, China) "the Portuguese sent up an ambassador, Duarte Fernandes, who was well received by Ramathibodi." in 1511.Finally in 1526, a large force of Portuguese ships, under the command of Pedro Mascarenhas, was sent to destroy Bintan, where Sultan Mahmud was based. Sultan Mahmud fled with his family across the Straits to Kampar in Sumatra, where he died two years later.
It soon became clear that Portuguese control of Malacca did not mean they now controlled Asian trade that centred around it. Their Malaccan rule was severely hampered by administrative and economic difficulties. Rather than achieving their ambition of dominating Asian trade, the Portuguese had fundamentally disrupted the organisation of the network. The centralised port of exchange of Asian wealth exchange had now gone, as was a Malay state to police the Straits of Malacca that made it safe for commercial traffic. Trade was now scattered over a number of ports amongst bitter warfare in the Straits.
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in Malacca in 1545, 1546 and 1549. In 1641 the Dutch defeated the Portuguese to capture Malacca with the help of the Sultan of Johore. The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1795 but they were not interested in developing it as a trading centre, placing greater importance to Batavia (Jakarta) in Indonesia as their administrative centre. However they still built their landmark better known as the Stadthuys or Red Building.
Malacca was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Bencoolen on Sumatra. From 1826 to 1946 Malacca was governed, first by the British East India Company and then as a Crown Colony. It formed part of the Straits Settlements, together with Singapore and Penang. After the dissolution of this crown colony, Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union, which later became Malaysia.
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