Melaka (was Malacca) - Malaysia
If the ultra-modern architecture and forward-looking
citizens of Kuala Lumpur symbolise Malaysia's hopes for the future,
then the quiet, seaside city of Malacca, about 150 kilometers to
the south, is the guardian charged with the reflective task of preserving
its past. Five hundred years ago, an extraordinary empire rose and
fell here, its power and dreams suddenly caught off-guard by the
dawn of the Colonial Era.
The city was so coveted by the European powers
that the Portuguese writer Barbarosa wrote "Whoever is Lord in Malacca
has his hand on the throat of Venice." It was a major port along
the spice-route, and its harbor bristled with the sails and masts
of Chinese junks and spice-laden vessels from all over the hemisphere.
Because the city was originally built of wood, there are no crumbling
and stately reminders of the power once wielded by the Malaccan
Sultanate, but along shores of the Malacca River the scene has probably
Sloping rooftops of traditional Malay houses still
hang over the water, and seem to call out sleepily from the past.
The riverside is a part of the city that seems to have defied the
Portuguese, who captured the city in 1511 and occupied it for well
over a century.
The Portuguese influence is visible in the city's
architecture. As they did in other colonies, they taxed buildings
relative to their width, a policy that accounts for the deceptively
thin facades along the colonial streets. A building no more than
twelve feet across can easily extend backward two hundred feet,
its hidden interior a linear succession of high-ceilinged rooms
On the streets themselves, however, it is the Chinese
influence that is felt most. As they have done for hundreds of years,
Chinese merchants advertise the wares inside their shop houses with
bright red characters. Open air-fruit, vegetable, and fish markets
sing with cadences of people bargaining in Mandarin. On the edge
of the city is the largest Chinese graveyard outside of China itself,
a sprawling zone of fields, trees, and uterus-shaped tombstones.
Because of the huge cemetery and the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (the
oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia) there is an entire industry in
Malacca that produces goods exclusively for the dead - paper simulacra
that families burn as offerings to their lost loved ones. Because
the spirits need cash in the next world, piles of multi-colored
currency with the word "Hell Note" hang on display in what seems
like every other shop. If your ghosts like to travel, you can get
them first class tickets on Hell Airlines or, if they are Wall Street
types, cellular phones and computers. You can buy a dead person
just about anything in Malacca.
Over the centuries, the Chinese and local Malay
cultures in Malacca intertwined, eventually producing a completely
unique society, the Baba-Nyona. This fascinating micro-culture reached
its height around the turn-of-the-century, and Malacca's Baba-Nyonya
Heritiage Museum preserves typical Baba-Nyona household.
St Peter's Chinese Cemetery
The New Mosque |
The Remains of the Dutch Fortress
The history of Malacca is largely the story of
the city for which it is named, and the story of the city of Malacca
begins with the fascinating and partly legendary tale of the Hindu
The Malay Annals relate that Parameswara was a
fourteenth-century Palembang prince who, fleeing from a Japanese
enemy, escaped to the island of Temasik (present-day Singapore)
and quickly established himself as its king. Shortly afterward,
however, Parameswara was driven out of Temasik by an invasion, and
with a small band of followers set out along the West Coast of the
Malay peninsula in search of a new refuge. The refugees settled
first at Muar, but they were quickly driven away by a vast and implacable
horde of monitor lizards; the second spot chosen seemed equally
inauspicious, as the fortress that the refugees began to build fell
to ruins immediately. Parameswara moved on. Soon afterward, during
a hunt near the mouth of a river called Bertam, he saw a white mouse-deer
kick one of his hunting dogs. So impressed was he by the deer's
defiant gesture that he decided immediately to build a city on the
spot. He asked one of his servants the name of the tree under which
he was standing and, being informed that the tree was called a Malaka,
gave that name to the city. The year was 1400.
Although its origin is as much romance as history,
the fact is that Parameswara's new city was situated at a point
of enormous strategic importance. Midway along the straits that
linked China to India and the Near East, Malacca was perfectly positioned
as a center for maritime trade. Parameswara forged an alliance with
the powerful Ming dynasty of China, securing the fledgling princedom
from external threat, especially Siam. A political alliance with
the state of Pasai in northern Sumatra introduced Islam to Malacca.
It is believed that Parameswara changed his name to Iskandar Shah
at this time. In the years following Iskandar's death in 1424, Malacca
continued to flourish, benefiting from its strategic location that
facilitated the confluence of traders from many lands in the region.
Culturally, it was to become a major diffusion centre for Islam.
The city grew rapidly, and within fifty years it had become a wealthy
and powerful hub of international commerce, with a population of
over 50,000. It was during this period of Malacca's history that
Islam was introduced to the Malay world, arriving along with Gujarati
traders from western India. By the first decade of the sixteenth
century Malacca was a bustling, cosmopolitan port, attracting hundreds
of ships each year. The city was known worldwide as a center for
the trade of silk and porcelain from China; textiles from Gujarat
and Coromandel in India; nutmeg, mace, and cloves from the Moluccas,
gold and pepper from Sumatra; camphor from Borneo; sandalwood from
Timor; and tin from western Malaya.
Unfortunately, this fame arrived at just the moment
when Europe began to extend its power into the East, and Malacca
was one of the very first cities to attract its covetous eye. The
Portuguese under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque arrived first,
taking the city after a sustained bombardment in 1511. The Sultan
fled to Johor, from whence the Malays counterattacked the Portuguese
repeatedly though without success. One reason for the strength of
the Portuguese defense was the construction of the massive fortification
of A Famosa around the city, only a small portion of which survives
today. It was a sound move as Malacca came under frequent attacks
by neighbouring rivals Johor and Acheh. The constant presence of
imminent attacks gave a sense of uneasiness to the kingdom. This
impression was heightened with the suppression of Islam in the Christianising
of the port-kingdom.
A Famosa ensured Portuguese control of the city
for the next one hundred and thirty years. Malacca's reputation
as the region's principal entreport was gradually undermined by
Batavia's emergence as a main spice trading port. In 1641, the Dutch
overran Malacca after General Antonio van Diemen defeated Portuguese
forces after an eight-month siege and a fierce battle. Malacca was
theirs, but it lay in almost complete ruin and was subsequently
reduced to an outpost, a point of tax collection and a lay-by for
ships. Over the next century and a half, the Dutch rebuilt the city
and employed it largely as a military base, using its strategic
location to control the Straits of Malacca. In 1795, when the Netherlands
was captured by French Revolutionary armies, Malacca was handed
over to the British to avoid capture by the French. Although they
returned the city to the Dutch in 1808, it was soon given over to
the British once again in a trade for Bencoleen, Sumatra. The Anglo-Dutch
Treaty of 1824 placed Malacca under them as well. In 1826, Penang,
Singapore and Malacca were grouped together under the Straits Settlements
political unit. From 1826, the city was ruled by the English East
India Company in Calcutta.
Robert Fullerton was the first Straits Settlements
Governor and was based in Penang. He reported to the British Governor-General
in India. A Resident Consular governed Malacca and Singapore.
The Straits Settlements administration lasted
until 1942, when it experienced Japanese occupation from 1942 to
1945 when the Japanese forces attacked the Malay Peninsula. After
the Japanese defeat, Malacca was placed under the British Military
Administration from September 1945 to early 1946.
British colonialists in London formed the Malayan
Peninsula Planning Unit in 1943, and on 10th October
1945, the Malayan Union scheme was laid out before the British Parliament.
A day later, Sir Harold MacMichael was sent to the Malayan Peninsula
to obtain the agreement of the Malay Rulers. According to this agreement,
Penang, Malacca and 9 other Malay states were united under the Malayan
Malay opposition groups derailed the Malayan Union
plan, and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was formed
under Dato' Onn Jaafar's leadership on 11th May 1946.
The Malay Federation was founded on 1st February 1948
and on 31st August 1957, independence was declared.
Independence did not arrive until 1957, when anti-colonial
sentiment culminated in a proclamation of independence by His Highness
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia's first Prime Minister.
crescent and star of five points denote royal sovereignty.
The red represents a warrior and the blue represents the universe.
The colours blue, yellow,
red and white on the Malacca flag reflect the exact colours
of the flag of Malaysia. This marks Malacca as a Malaysian
state. The crescent moon and star are the symbols of Islam,
the official religion of the state and country.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The A' Famosa Fort is adjacent to St. Paul's Hill
in Malacca Town. It is also known as the Santiago Fort. It was built
by the Portuguese conquerors in 1511 under the orders of Alfonso
de Albuquerque. The entrance gate was originally made of wood. This
was later widened and fortified with bricks and rocks from the ruins
of palaces, mosques and mausoleums. The fort was heavily damaged
when Dutch colonialists attacked the port and later on British colonialists
attempted to demolish it but was stopped by Sir Stamford Raffles.
What remains standing now is but a small part of the grand structure.
Alor Gajah People's Square
The Alor Gajah People's Square is a memorial to
Malay hero Datuk Dol Said and the Malay warriors of Naning and Alor
Gajah who fought against the British in the Naning Wars in 1832.
The Alor Gajah District Museum, built in 1989, is also located in
the square. The museum showcases a wide variety of antique items
such as farming tools and weaponry that were once used by the people
of this district.
Christ Church is located next to the Stadthuys.
The church was built in 1753 by Dutch colonialists. Its beauty lies
in its handmade pews and depiction of 'The Last Supper' in glazed
tiles, among others.
Proclamation of Independence Memorial
The Proclamation of Independence Memorial was built
in 1912 and was formerly the Malacca Club. The memorial preserves
glorious events and struggles leading to the declaration of Malaya's
Independence on 20th February 1956 at Padang Bandar Hilir, Malacca.
The memorial was officially opened by the first Prime Minister of
Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, on 31st August 1985.
The exhibits are derived from the period of the Malacca Sultanate
circa 1400 up to the Independence of Malaya in 1957. Documents,
photographs and artefacts relating to the successful declaration
are displayed here. Among the more notable exhibits are the clothing
and keris worn by Tunku Abdul Rahman whilst declaring independence
as well as the pen used to sign the declaration.
St. Paul's Hill
St. Paul's Hill was known as Malacca Hill during
the Malay Sultanate rule. The hill is named after St. Paul Church
which originally stood on this hill but is now only represented
by ruins. This church, which was the oldest Catholic church, was
originally a tiny chapel built by Captain Duarto Coelha in 1521.
A Portuguese, he built the church in memory of Mary or 'Our Lady
of the Hill' (Nosa Senhora Do Oiteiro) after narrowly escaping death
in the China Sea. The Jesuit priest, Francis Xavier, stayed at this
chapel each time he visited Malacca between 1545 and 1553. In fact,
his body was temporarily laid to rest here for 9 months. In 1556,
renovations began for a two-storey structure which took 12 years
to complete. It was then named the Annuciation Church. In 1590,
a tower was added to the main gate for security purposes. The church
was renamed St. Paul's Church by Dutch colonialists in 1641.
The Stadthuys is located off Jalan Gereja in Malacca
Town. This outstanding red-hued building, believed to be originally
white-coloured, was built by Dutch conquerors in 1650. Stadthuys
translates to 'town hall' in Dutch. It served as the official residence
of the Dutch Governor until the early 18th century. It was also
their administrative centre. After Malaya achieved independence,
the Stadthuys continued to be used as an administrative centre until
1961. The building now houses the Historical and Ethnography Museum.
Malaysia is in Ayer Keroh, some 15 km from Malacca Town. The village
traditional life-size authentic Malayl houses that exemplify the
architectural styles of each of the thirteen states of Malaysia.
Every house has unique architectural and design features. Each of
the houses was constructed by a master builder and is furnished
with elements characteristic of the culture of each state. Cultural
performances and demonstrations of traditional games are held every
week. Found nearby is Mini Asean, a park that showcases the traditional
houses of ASEAN nations.
Crocodile Farm is located in Ayer Keroh, 13 km from Malacca Town.
It is the largest crocodile farm in Malaysia and it houses more
than 200 crocodiles from six species. Crocodiles being bred include
the American alligator, albinos and hunchbacks (humpbacked). The
landscape has been adapted to suit the natural environment of these
||1,683 square km
| State Capital
Namely:- Alor Gajah, Jasin and Central Malacca
Breakdown of Races (1994)