British Malaya - Malacca River

THE best recognized authority on the early history of the Malays is a book styled Sejara Malayu, the Malay annals. The foundation for this work was a manuscript of Malay history, which somehow seems to have found its way to Goa, and about the year 1612 it was entrusted to an unknown scribe, who "edited" the book, and, in the process, no doubt did what he thought was necessary to invest it with importance and bring it up to date. The book, as it now appears, is so manifestly untrustworthy in details that it is difficult to place much reliance upon the general statements contained in it Like the ramblings of the insane, who jumble up fact with fiction, there is truth in this record ; but as there is very little supporting testimony, and small means of winnowing the wheat from the chaff, it is impossible to do more than quote from the annalist those statements to which early European writers seem to have given a somewhat large credence. According to the Malay story, a certain Raja Bachitram Shah (afterwards known as Sang Seperba), with two followers, suddenly appeared at a place called Bukit Siguntang Maha Meru, in Palerabang, Sumatra, and the Raja described himself as a direct descendant of Alexander the Great The story was accepted, and Sang Seperba became the son-in-law of the local chief; but, not content with ruling over Palembang, he sailed to Java, to Bentan (where be left a son.


Sang Nila Utama), and finally back to another state in Sumatra, named Menangkabau.

Sang Nila Utama, having married the daughter of the Queen of Bentan, left that island and settled on the neighbouring island of Singapura, where he founded the Lion City in or about the year 1160.1 Singa is Sanskrit for a lion, and pura for a city, and the fact that there are no lions in that neighbourhood nowadays cannot disprove the statement that Sang Nila Utama saw, in 1160 or thereabouts, an animal which he called by that name — an animal more particularly described by the annalist as “ very swift and beautiful, its body bright red, its head jet black, its breast white, in size rather larger than a he-goat." That was the Lion of Singapura, and whatever else is doubtful the name is a fact ; it remains to this day, and there is no reason why the descendant of Alexander should not have seen something which suggested a creature unknown either to the Malay forest or the Malay language. It is even stated, on the same authority, that Singapura had an earlier name, Tamasak, which is explained by some to mean a place of festivals. But that word, so interpreted, is not Malay, though it has been adopted, and applied to other places which suggest festivals far less than this small tropical island may have done, even so early as the year 1160. It is obvious that the name Singapura was not given to the island by Malays, but by colonists from India, and if there were an earlier name, Tamasak or Tamasha, that also would be of Indian origin. The fact proves that the name Singapura dates from a very early period, and strongly supports the theory that the Malays of our time are connected with a people who emigrated from Southern India to Sumatra and

1 Mr. J. R. Logan, a recognized authority, writing in 1848, thinks it probable that Singapura was originally peopled from the island of Bentan, and that Sang Nila Utama, arriving from the coast of Sumatra, married the daughter of the then Raja of Singapura and settled in the island, becoming its ruler.


Java, and thence found their way to the Malay Peninsula. It seems to be accepted that Sang Nila Utama founded or developed a famous city by the river and on the hill of Singapura, where he lived for many years, and died in 1208. He was succeeded by his lineal descendants, and the city grew and prospered, and attracted trade from West and East, till a jealous neighbour, the Raja of Majapahit, in Java, sent a great expedition to attack Singapura. The attack failed miserably, and the Javanese were beaten off; but in 1252 — still according to the annalist — the then Raja of Singapura, one Iskandar, or Alexander, by name, publicly impaled one of his wives for a supposed offence, and the lady's father, a high official named the Bandahara, was so enraged, that he invited the people of Majapahit to come over, and promised to open the grates of the citadel for them. The Raja of Majapahit eagerly accepted this offer, sent over an immense fleet and army, and, the gates being duly opened in the dead of night, the Javanese entered and put most of the inhabitants to the sword. A few escaped from the city and the island, and after wandering through the Peninsula, settled at Malacca, where they founded a new city, from which their descendants were driven by Albuquerque and the Portuguese in 1511.

In leaving for the present the Malay annals, it is interesting to record, in the words of the writer, the dire fate of the Bandahara who betrayed his master, even though the provocation was considerable, " By the Power of God Almighty," says the annalist, "the house of Sang Ranjuna Tapa (the Bandahara) became a ruin, its pillars fell, and rice was no longer planted in the land. And Sang Ranjuna Tapa, together with his wife, were changed into stones ; and these are the stones which may be seen lying by the river of Singapura." 
In comparatively modem times, early in the last century, there was still lying by the river of Singapore


a strange stone with an inscription that was never deciphered. The stone has disappeared ; by an act of vandalism it was blown to pieces, and though some fragments were rescued and sent to the Calcutta Museum, the rest of it helped to fill the swamp on which the present town is buil.
With the doings of Albuquerque and his expedition we are on somewhat safer ground, though the opinions of the Portuguese historians in regard to the Malay are open to serious question in the light of modern knowledge. An enthusiastic Englishman, Mr. John Crawfurd, a member of the East India Company's service, and one of the first Residents of Singapore, visited Malacca in 1821 and wrote : " We cannot, as Europeans, but survey with pride the spot on which stood the bridge by which Albuquerque, at the head of seven hundred Europeans, stormed walls and intrenchments that were guarded by thirty thousand barbarians." Unfortunately, it is more than probable that the seven hundred Europeans, the thirty thousand barbarians, and the walls and entrenchments were all equally imaginary. That Albuquerque, so soon after the discovery of the route round the Cape, and so immediately after his own arrival in India, should have undertaken two hazardous expeditions against such a distant and little known place as Malacca, clearly proves the courage and the foresight of this great adventurer ; but as to the amount of resistance he met with, in the absence of any record from Albuquerque himself, we may form a judgment from the fact that Malays do not build walls, and that Lewis Wertemanns, of Rome, writing of a voyage made by him in 1503, says:

“Sailing westward towards the city of Malacka, we arrived in eight days' sailing. Not far from this city is a famous river named Gaza, the largest I ever saw, containing twenty-five miles in breadth. On the other side is seen a very great island called Sumatra and is


of old writers named Taprobina.1  When we came to the city of Malacka (which some call Meleka) we were incontinent commanded to come to the Sultan, being a Mahomedan and subject to the great Sultan of China and payeth him tribute, of which tribute the cause is, that more than eighty years ago that city was builded by the Sultan of China for none other cause than only for the commodity of the haven, being doubtless one of the fairest in that ocean. The region is not everywhere fruitful, yet hath it sufficient of wheat and flesh and but little wood. They have plenty of fowls as in Calient, but the Popinjays are much finer. There is also found Sandilium and Tin, likewise elephants, horses, sheep, kyne, pardiles, bufflos, peacocks, and many other beasts and fowls. They have but few fruits. The people are of blackish ashe color. They have very large foreheads, round eyes, and flat noses. It is dangerous thereto go abroad in the night, the inhabitants are so given to rob and murder. The people are fierce, of evil condition and unruly, for they will obey to no Governor, being altogether given to rob and murder, and therefore say to their Governors that they will forsake country if they strive to bind them to order, which they say the more boldly because they are near unto the sea and may easily depart to other places. For these causes we spent no long time here, but hiring a brigantine, we sailed to the Island of Sumatra where in few days sailing we arrived at a city named Pidir, distant about eighty miles from the continent or firm land," 
That was in 1503, and though the writer is far from accurate in his statements, and appears to have mistaken the Strait of Malacca for the River of Gaza (by which name the River Muar, in Johore, appears to have once been known), he would surely have mentioned the fortifications if there had been any worth the name.

1 Other writers  give Tapprobane as the ancient name of Ceylon.


The following passage is from the Hon. E. J. Stanley's translation of the MS. attributed to Duarte Barbosa, but said by Mr. Stanley to be really the work of Magellan, It is specially interesting for the description of the Malays, so often regarded by ignorant people as savages. The MS. dates from the beginning of the sixteenth century : —
"This city of Malaca is the richest trading port and possesses the most valuable merchandise, and most numerous shipping and extensive traffic that is known in all the world. And it has got such a quantity of gold that the great merchants do not estimate their property nor reckon otherwise than by bahars1 of gold, which are four quintals each bahar. There are merchants among them who will take up singly three or four ships laden with very valuable goods and will supply them with cargo from their own property. They are very well made men and likewise the women. They are of a brown colour and go bare from the waist upwards, and from that downwards cover themselves with silk and cotton cloths, and they wear short jackets halfway down the thigh of scarlet doth, and silk, cotton, or brocade stuffs, and they are girt with belts, and carry daggers in their waists wrought with rich inlaid work ; these they call querix.2 And the women dress in wraps of silk stuffs, and short skirts much adorned with gold and jewellery, and have long beautiful hair. These people have many mosques, and when they die they bury their bodies. Their children inherit from them. They live in large houses and have gardens and orchards and pools of water outside the city for their recreation. They have got many slaves who are married with wives and children. These slaves live separately and serve them when they have need of them. These Moors who are named Malays are very polished people, and gentlemen, musical, gallant, and well proportioned,"

Whether Malacca, as Albuquerque found it in 1511,

1 One bahar or bhara is equal to 400 lbs. av    2 Kris.


was a fortress or only a nest of pirates, it is certain that it was a place of great repute as a harbour and mart, and its fame, not only as an emporium for the immediate neighbourhood, but also as a convenient place of call and shelter, on the route to the furthest East, attracted Albuquerque to its conquest and occupation. There the Portuguese remained for 130 years; there they built the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, and there was the scene of the labours and supposed miracles of St. Francis Xavier. Let the travelled stranger stand, to-day on the summit of that hill, by the walls of that ancient church, and as he looks across the close turf —

Where Sun and Shadow chequer-chase the green, —

through the branches of the poinsiana — a flat, brown network, covered and high-piled with glorious crimson blossom, just edged with foliage — down to the shore close beneath him, out to the roadstead with its picturesque boats, an island here and there; and then across the blue water, away out to the horizon, where sea and sky meet in another blaze of brilliant colour; he will admit that the East has few fairer prospects, and that Albuquerque, and those with him, did well when they chose this spot as the site of the Church of Our Lady del Monte. But the authority of the Portuguese never reached beyond the confines of the town, and it is very doubtful whether Malacca in its palmiest days ever equalled the prosperity and importance of Singapore under the Malay rulers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 
In 1641 the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Malacca, and at once proceeded to firmly establish themselves behind the strong fortifications. For all that, the fortunes of the place steadily declined, and early in the eighteenth century the population bad dwindled to five thousand people all told. The Dutch made Malacca the head quarters of their enterprise in the Malay Peninsula, and


opened trading stations — factories, as they were called — in Perak, Selangor, and other Malay States, where tin was bought and commodities bartered with the Malays. From about 1779 till 1795 (when Malacca was taken by the British) the trade of the place revived ; but the occupation of Pinang by the East India Company and later, the establishment of an English station at Singapore, deprived Malacca of all importance as a great eastern market and port of call. Under the Treaty of Vienna, Malacca was handed back to the Dutch in 1818 ; but the place came finally into our possession under the treaty with Holland of 1824.

Curiously enough, it was only so lately as 1861, long after the days when the earliest English settlers in Singapore had done their best to collect all available information concerning the past history of the Malay Peninsula, that a manuscript, by Manuel Godinho de Eredia, written at Goa, in 1613, and addressed to Philippe III, King of Spain, was discovered in the Royal Library at Brussels. This MS., while describing Malacca and many other parts of the Malay Peninsula, gives the writer some claim to be considered as one of the discoverers of Australia, not in his own person, but through a small expedition dispatched by him in 1610. The paper was only published in 1882, with all its maps and illustrations, together with a translation in French by M. Leon Janssen, member of the Geographical Society of Brussels. The work is full of interest as regards Malacca and its neighbourhood, and claims respect from the fact that Godinho de Eredia was himself born at Malacca, on 16 July, 1563, being the son of de Juan de Heredia Aquaviva and a Malay lady, the daughter of the Raja of Supa, in Macassar. At thirteen years of age Godinho was sent to the Jesuit College at Goa, to be educated for the priesthood, but his passion for geography and exploration led him to abandon the religious life and devote himself to difficult and dangerous journeys


of discovery in the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago. Godinho states that the name " Malacca " was only given in 1411, and that it was derived from a tree; a likely enough supposition and one generally accepted. Twenty-five miles to the north-west of the town of Malacca is a rocky promontory, called, in Godinho's time and to this day, Tanjong Tuan by Malays, Cape Rachado by Europeans. The Malay name was given because Tanjong Tuan1 is the burial place of the founder and first ruler of Malacca, and Godinho says that in 160O the remains of his marble tomb were still to be seen on the promontory. Godinho is responsible for the statement that from this point there was, in the time of Claudius Ptolemy, A.D. 163, a very narrow isthmus to a place called Tanjong Balvala, in the island of Sumatra. He adds that the people of the Peninsula used to walk across this isthmus to Sumatra, or Samata, as it was first known, and he says the word Samata means Peninsula, and that Ptolemy called it the Golden Chersonese.

There have been great differences of opinion amongst old writers as to the derivation of the word "Sumatra." None of the suggested derivations are very convincing, but if Sumatra is, as Godinho states, a corruption of Samata — the name given in some of the old maps of the island — the explanation is not far to seek ; for the Peninsula Malay might say, Tanah Sa-mata, which means the land opposite, the land facing us. On a clear day the hills of Sumatra are visible from the lighthouse on Cape Rachado, and, if ever there was a narrow isthmus between the Peninsula and the island, it would be natural for the Malays of Malacca to call the land at the other end of that isthmus Tanah Sa-matta-mata. That suggestion rests on very slender grounds, and Sir Henry Yule says that Samudra(the spelling adopted by certain early geographers) is Sanskrit for the sea. In Godinho's time the Malay

1Tanjong Tuan means “the Headland of the Master.”


Peninsula was called Ujong Tanah — Land's End — whereas now it is called Negri Malayu, i.e. the Malay Country, while Sumatra is called Pulau Percha, the torn island, as though it had been torn off the mainland, or Tanah Sabrang, the country across the water. There is a very similar instance in the case of Pinang. That island, now separated from the mainland by a wide and deep stretch of sea, is still called " Tanjong " by all Malays ; tanjong being the Malay for a promontory.

Again, it has been suggested that Sumatra is a corruption of Samudra, the name of a small place on the east coast, which was probably frequented by early navigators, and so gave its name to the whole island. That seems probable, for it is very doubtful whether the natives of the place have ever called the island " Sumatra," though they would understand that this was the name by which it was known to white men.

A careful examination of ancient charts, so far as they are to be found in the British Museum, shows that the first mention of Sumatra is to be found in Martin Waldsee-muller's Carta Marina, dated 1516, where the island is called Samotra. It appears under the same name in the Harleian Mappemonde of 1536 (British Museum Add. MS. 5413)1 And in this map a very distinct shoal or bank is marked exactly at the spot where Eredia places the narrow isthmus of sand between Cape Rachado and Sumatra. Pierre Descelier's Mappemonde of 1546 and 1550 give Sumatra, and also indicate the shoal. It is also interesting to note that the first mention of Singapore on any ancient map is found in the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Abraham Ortelius, dated Antwerp, 1570, where the island appears as Cincapura. All these authorities give Taprobane as the ancient name of Sumatra, and by none of them is this island called the Golden Chersonese.

M. Henri Cordier, commenting on a passage in Odoric


de Pordenone's Voyages en Asie (temp. 1350), which alludes to the custom of branding with hot irons employed by certain tribes in Sinohara (Sumatra), says that this refers undoubtedly to one of the kingdoms of Sumatra, which has given its name to the whole island. He adds that the name Sumatra has been known from the earliest times, and was called by Chinese voyagers Sou-men-ta-la. M. Verbeck, in his Annals of the Extreme Orient (I, page 186), says that the real native name of the island is Poulo Pertjah — or Pulau Percha as we should now write it — and that is correct. M. Devic (Merveilus de l'Inde, page 235) quotes a curious legend from the Malay chronicles of Pasi — probably he means the Sijara Malayu already mentioned — to account for the origin of the name Sumatra. It is to this effect : that one Marah Silou, while hunting with dogs in the north of the island, came upon a huge ant as large as a cat, which he caught and ate, and that he made his dwelling in that place and called it Samoudra, which means a great ant. As a matter of fact Semut is the Malay for ant ; but the story is far-fetched, and appears to have been invented by the annalist to give colour to the apparent resemblance between Semut and Sumatra. Pauthier, in a note on page 565 of his Marco Polo, says: " Sumatra, a name of Indian origin (Soumatra — excellent matter or substance), was given (to this island) without doubt at the time when the Buddhist religion was introduced there."

Godinho gives careful plans of the original Malacca fort, built by Albuquerque in 1511, and of the much more elaborate works existing in 1605. The latter, which are minutely described, were in the shape of a pentagon, the base inland, the apex on the seashore with a strong tower on the water's edge. The circumference of the walls (partly stone and partly timber) was 655 brasses (one " brasse " being equal to ten hands, say five feet), and they contained the castle and palace of the


governor, the palace of the bishop, the hall of the Council of State, and that of the Brothers of Mercy. There were five churches within the walls, that of Our Lady of the Annunciation being inside the Jesuit College on the hill, while another was in the Convent of the Dominicans, and a third in that of the Augustins. The cathedral church was called Notre Dame de l’Assomption.

There were four gates in the walls of the fortress leading to three “ faubourgs,” or suburbs, the principal being styled Tranqueira, which is explained to mean palissade, on account of the proximity of a long rampart of stone. Godinho concludes his notice of the town with the statement that there lived in the fortress, besides the garrison, three hundred married Portuguese with their families. Within and beyond the walls there were 7400 Christians, with four religious houses, fourteen churches, two hospitals with chapels, and several hermitages and oratories.

The Portuguese writer, whilst furnishing information on many other subjects, describes the flora and fauna of the Peninsula with minuteness and considerable accuracy, but he says there is a tree called the " snake tree " (canafistola), which is so powerful a protection against poison that when a venomous snake sees even the root of it he has to bow his head. Then, amongst the beasts of the land, he describes the armadillo, his scales, and his habit of tying himself up in a ball ; but what is most surprising is that the elephant has a deadly fear of this creature, because if attacked the armadillo fights, seizes the elephant by the trunk, and, " according to the wild tribes," remains fixed there for several days, until the elephant dies of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. There are snakes, too, which carry shining stones in their heads — bezoar stones, no doubt. Again, according to certain Malays, Godinho affirms that a stone was taken from the head of a snake


and sold to some merchants from Mecca. "The stone was white, crystalline, with changing lights of red and blue, and sometimes it shed a light in the darkness of night, but not a strong light, because the stone was only the size of a partridge's egg." Godinho says the wild tribes of the Peninsula are convinced that these stones are found in the beads of some snakes and some beasts. He adds that in Corea there are centipedes of an amazing length, which carry a light strong enough to light a room ; and, warming to his subject, tells how, in 1594, the King of Bali, near Java, had in his palace a hare with four eyes, two for ordinary use, and two on the top of his head, which were so luminous that they sufficed to light the King's palace at night. It is only fair to state that though Godinho was aware that the Malay forests contained tailless apes, he does not pretend that they were in any way related to the wild tribes who, he says, went about naked and resembled satyrs. Godinho states, with perfect truth, that Malay fortifications were always of wood, with a deep and wide outside ditch, in the bottom of which were placed sharpened sticks, termed caltrops. Godino quotes classic authorities to prove that there was, in A.D. 163, an established trade between Egypt and the Coromandel coast, and from the latter to the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. The small isthmus already mentioned was, he says, destroyed by violent tempests and the Malacca Strait formed. He traces the course of this trade as, by land, from Alexandria to Cairo (the ancient Bubalis), and thence to Suez, where ship was taken, and the merchants sailed down the Red Sea to Aden ; then coasting along the shores of Arabia, Persia, and Hindustan they made for the Coromandel coast and Taprobane, the ancient name of Ceylon. From there they sailed past the mouths of the Ganges to Ujong Tanah (the Malay Peninsula), and reached a port called Sabbara, in the Sabbara Sea, to the north of Tanjong Tuan and the


isthmus. Godinho suggests that Sabbara1 (so called by Ptolemy) was the port of Calan (the present Klang, on the coast of Selangor), and he adds that from this place the merchants made their way to Tanjong Tuan, and thence by the isthmus to Sumatra — the Golden Chersonese. Or they might have sailed across the Sabbara Sea to Auro, or Aru, in Sumatra, and thence made their way by river to Tacola, or Tico, in the centre of the island. The return voyage was the same journey reversed. Pliny says that in the time of Caius Cassar, the son of Augustus, the navigation of the Red Sea to Arabia was well known, and after his time the extension of that voyage to Persia and Ceylon was recognized ; but, as Godinho points out, it is strange that before Ptolemy no writer mentions the journey to Ujong Tanah and Sumatra, while Marco Polo, who made his return journey from China by Sumatra and Ceylon in 1292, knew nothing of the Malay Peninsula. All this is very interesting, and seems to support Godinho's contention that Malacca grew to importance subsequent to 1292. This view also accords with the statement of the Malay annalist that Singapore was destroyed in 1252, and Malacca was peopled by refugees from that city. Godinho fixes the date of Malacca's foundation as 1411; but it was probably much earlier, though it may not have attained to any great importance till the time named. 
Speaking of the Malika of his day, Godinho says :—

''This land is the freshest and most agreeable in the world. Its air is healthy and vivifying, good for human life and health, at once warm and moist But neither the heat nor the moisture is excessive, for the heat is tempered by the moist vapours arising from the waters, at the same time that it counteracts the dampness of the excessive rains of all seasons, especially during the changes of the moon."

1 There is an island, off the east coast of Sumatra, almost exactly opposite to Tanjong Tuan, called Segaro. If this be merely a coincidence it is certainly a curious one.


It is worthy of note that Godinho states that there were springs of mineral oil — minhat tanat he calls it, meaning no doubt minyak tanah, the Malay for "earth oil." Such springs probably exist, and it would be a good thing for Malacca if they could now be located. 

There is a chapter on " Gunoledam," which is the writer's method of spelling Gunong Ledang, the Malay name for a mountain near Malacca, known to Europeans as Mount Ophir. On this hill there were, and still are, a few aborigines called Orang Benua, and this is what Godinho says of them : —

" These Benua of the woods, in the same way and by the same methods and the use of the same words, transform themselves into tigers, lizards, crocodiles, and other animals ; they are thus enabled to communicate with the absent, like the Sorcerers of Tuscany who had power to show distant objects. In this regard I must again mention dom Georges de Santa Lucia, first Bishop of Malacca, who tried to put a stop to the evil done by these Forest Benua when, in the guise of tigers, they came by night to Malaca to kill unresisting women and children. The Bishop wished to excommunicate them and made public prayer in the Cathedral. Then, after High Mass and the procession of the fete of the Assumption of Our Lady of the Fortress, he solemnly excommunicated these tigers. Since that time they have never entered the villages, nor killed men, women, or children, and the Christians thank God for it. Many natives, struck by this miracle, were converted in the year 1560, as well as a number of idolatrous Chelis."

If any excuse is needed for these references to and quotations from the work of Manuel Godinho de Eredia, it must be found in the great interest which attaches to a record, written so long ago, by one who was bom and bred in Malacca. Moreover, the manuscript has not, so far as


I am aware, received any attention from English writers on Malaya, though Godinho possessed and utilized opportunities of research and observation which were not shared by better known authorities. Francois Valentyn, for instance, whose great work on the East Indies was published at Dordrecht and Amsterdam in 1726, devotes a considerable space to the Malay Peninsula, and especially to Malacca, which was then under the dominion of Holland.

Speaking of Malacca, Valentyn says : —

"The country in which it is situated was called by Ptolemy and the Ancients, Terra or Regio Aurifera, or the gold-bearing country, and Aurea Chersonesus or the Golden Peninsula, the latter name being conferred on account of its being joined to the countries of Tana-Sery1 (Tenasserim) and Siam by a narrow neck of land. It is the southernmost country of the continent of India, and is separated from the island of Sumatra by a fine strait which is known by the name of the Strait of Malakka, and sometimes by that of the Strait of Singapoera (commonly called Sincapoera) after a very ancient town on its shores. The strait has to be penetrated many miles before the important city of Malakka is reached."

This statement in reference to Ptolemy and the Golden Chersonese is at variance with that made by Eredia, whose contention, founded on Ptolemy's Map XI of Asia and other ancient charts, is that Sumatra was the Golden Chersonese of Ptolemy. The arguments of geographers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries must be weighed by the knowledge of those times ; but if Eredia was mistaken on this point, the error probably disposes of the story of the narrow isthmus between Cape Rachado and Sumatra ; for if the Malay Peninsula was Ptolemy's Golden Chersonese, then the isthmus was the

1 Malay, Tanah Sri, the fortunate land ; or perhaps Tanah Sireh, i.e. the country of the sireh vine.


Isthmus of Kra, in the north of the Peninsula, between Southern Siam and Northern Malaya. The Sinus Sabaricus would then have been the Gulf of Martaban or the Mergui Archipelago, and the Sinus Perimulicus the Gulf of Siam.

To return to Valentyn.

Continuing his account of Malacca, the historian says : —

" On the north-west side of the town there is a wall, a gate, and a small fortress ; a river also enters the sea here, the water of which is fresh at low water and salt at high water. It is full forty paces wide, and the stream is usually very strong. It is called the Crysorant. There is another river on the east side of the town. The land on the opposite side of the river is of average height with that of the town, to which it is joined by a wooden bridge ; but that on the south-east side is very marshy, and is generally flooded after rain, except a narrow strip along the beach, which is somewhat higher. There are several handsome and spacious streets in the town, but unpaved ; and many fine stone houses, the greater part of which are built after the Portuguese fashion, very high. They are arranged in the form of a crescent There is a respectable fortress, of great strength, with good walls and bulwarks, and well provided with cannon, which, with a good garrison, would stand a hard push. Within the fort there are many strong stone houses and regular streets, all bearing tokens of the old Portuguese times ; and the tower which stands on the hill has still a respectable appearance, although it is in a state of great dilapidation,

" This fortress, which occupies the hill in the centre of the town, is about the size of Delfshaven, and has also two gates, with part of the town on a hill, and the outer side washed by the sea. It is at present the residence of the Governor, the public establishment, and of the garrison, which is tolerably strong. Two hundred years ago it was a mere fishing village, and now it is a handsome city.


“ In former times the fort contained eleven or twelve thousand inhabitants, but now there are not more than two or three hundred, partly Dutch and partly Portuguese and Malays, but the latter reside in mere attap huts in the remote corners of the fort Beyond it there are also many handsome houses and tidy plantations of cocoanut and other trees, which are occupied chiefly by Malays.

'' This is a city remarkably well situated for trade, the Straits having been long frequented by shipping, especially from Bengal, Coromandel, Surat, Persia, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Siam, Tonkin, Tsjina (China), and many other parts, so that the gross revenue in the year 1669, consisting of import duty at 10 per cent, export duty at 3 per cent, with certain local taxes, amounted to 74,950.19.0 florins."

So Valentyn draws the picture of the Malacca of two hundred years ago, then the only European possession in Malaya, ; but why the historian, whose work was published in 1726, should have gone to the year 1669 for his statistics is somewhat strange, especially as he gives a list of the Dutch governors of Malacca from 1641 to 1717. In leaving this famous authority, we must acknowledge our indebtedness for what is probably the first edition of a now well-known story. It is too good to be lost, or put in any words but his own : —

" People are not safe here (i.e. Malacca) from wild beasts when out in the forest The Heer van Naarsen (a friend who himself related to me the occurrence) was once accidentally ran against by a tiger, and on several other occasions he encountered this animal, when his horse always became unmanageable. There are also many elephants and other beasts. This gentleman also related to me that he once saw a tiger spring upon a deer that had taken to the water to escape, but the deer got away, and the tiger was in the meantime pulled down by an alligator.”


This proneness to accept the marvellous tales of strange countries was not peculiar to Valentyn and Eredia. The latter seems to have gone to the Orang Benua when he wanted a new sensation, and they gratified him with stories of the Witch of Gunong Ledang — stories which they probably more than half believed themselves. But it seems rather unkind of the Heer van Naarsen, the man who " was accidentally ran against by a tiger," to have taken advantage of his personal friend, a minister of the gospel, to tell him that story about the tiger and the crocodile (it must have been a crocodile, for there are no alligators in Malaya), just because the good man had accepted the "accident " without question. Still, all things are possible, and if it was the same tiger which rubbed himself against van Naarsen's leg, and afterwards, by another accident, jumped into the crocodile's mouth, it was as good a way as any other for the author to get rid of the hero of his romance. The Portuguese explorer told us that the Malacca tigers of the middle of the sixteenth century were dealt with by excommunication; a hundred, or a hundred and fifty years later, the Dutch historian leads them, by a chapter of accidents, to a sudden and painful end. There are some survivors still, and from time to time their adventures give colour to stories almost, if not quite, as strange as these. After all, it is these simple touches which make the dry bones of the dead live again for us ; and with the writings of these worthies before us, with some knowledge of the place and the people they describe, we can see first Eredia, then Valentyn, strolling round the walls of Malacca, passing through her gates, lingering in her streets, gossiping with her people, listening to the last thrilling tale, the latest marvel of the land or sea.

And in the evening, when the sun was setting and each, in his day had climbed to the top of that hill in the centre of the fortress, as the bells of the churches rang out the angelus, or called the Hollander to his simpler worship,


they would gaze out through the green leafage, over the red roofs and level rice fields ; now to blue hills inland, and now to the summer sea, with its burden of strange craft, loaded with all the riches of the fragrant and mysterious East. And each in turn — the son of Portugal and Malaya, not less than the reverend and learned Hollander — would dwell with pride on his country's coveted possession of Malacca, famous city of romantic story, the goal of the earliest and most venturesome spirits of western adventure. As the Portuguese explorer did not dream that the Dutch would drive his countrymen from Malacca, so the historian was spared the mortification of knowing that Holland, in her turn, would have to yield her position in Malaya to England. Neither foresaw that the days of Malacca were already numbered ; and that, whatever flag waved over Portuguese Cathedral and Dutch Stadt House, the glory of Malacca was on the wane, and her place in the far eastern seas was to be taken, her commerce and importance increased a thousandfold, by the English occupation of the once famous, but then uninhabited, island of Singapore. So the ancient Singapura disappeared, struck down violently, betrayed and sacked in a night, and the survivors journeyed north-west and founded Malacca, drawing thither much of the trade and prosperity of their earlier home. Now again, after six hundred years, Singapore rises from its ashes and draws to itself the trade of all rivals within a thousand miles. Having regard to the position and circumstances of Singapore, the fact need cause no surprise. What is strange is that, in those six hundred years, there should have been no Portuguese, no Hollander, no Englishman, with curiosity and application enough to make himself acquainted with the ancient history of Singapore, and prescience enough to realize that the existence, which had been suddenly and violently stifled, would revive into a new and far more vigorous life the moment it was carefully and intelligently


treated. The opportunity was there always, but the hand to seize it, to make the most of it, was wanting. The fire of the ancient city was not dead, it smouldered. Sir Stamford Raffles came, nursed the ashes, fanned them with foresight, with infinite knowledge, with tact, and, above all, with firm determination. Almost at once the place blazed into life and fame; and today Singapore, counted by the tonnage of her shipping, is the eighth largest port in the world, with a population of 250,000 people  forty different nationalities.

[Webmaster Note : Founding of Malacca.]

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