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Kualalumpur history

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History

ORIGINAL PEOPLE
The first evidence of human life in the region was a 40,000-year-old skull
found in Sarawak in 1958, but the oldest human relics found on the peninsula date back about 13,000 years. ‘Perak Man’ was genetically similar to the
Negrito people who still live in the north of the peninsula. The Negritos were
joined by Malaysia’s first immigrants, the Senoi, from southern Thailand,
and later by the Proto-Malay, ancestors of today’s Malays, who came by sea
from Indonesia between 1500BC and 500 BC. For more information on
Malaysia’s indigenous people see p25.

EARLY TRADE & EMPIRES
By the 2nd century AD, Malaya was known as far away as India and Europe.
Ptolemy, the Greek geographer, labelled it Aurea Chersonesus (Golden
Chersonese) and Indian traders referred to the land as Savarnadvipa (Land
of Gold). Malaya soon became a trading stop for Indian merchants in search
of precious metals, tin and aromatic jungle woods. The first formalised religions on the peninsula – Hinduism and Buddhism – arrived with Indian
traders, giving rise to the first recorded Hindu kingdom on the peninsula,

THE LOST KINGDOM OF LANGKASUKA
We should not really be surprised that the early kingdom of Langkasuka was lost. Even at the
time, people were unable to agree on its exact location. Chinese explorers claimed it was on
the east coast, while Malay histories place it on the west coast near Penang. Probably there
was just one kingdom extending right across the peninsula. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries,
Langkasuka’s power dwindled and the Funan Kingdom, centred in what is now Cambodia, took
over control of the region, before they were in turn supplanted by the Srivijaya Empire. The
kingdom of Langkasuka disappeared from the map, though part of its name lives in on in the
islands of Langkawi.

2nd century AD
First trade recorded between
Malaya and the ancient world.

21

A HISTORY OF PIRACY

As a modern independent nation, Malaysia has only been around since 1963,
though the peninsula became independent of British colonial rule in 1957.
The early history of the peninsula is hazy because of a lack of written records
but events from the rise of the Melaka Sultanate in the 16th century were
well documented by the nations which came here to trade with, and later
rule over, the Malay peninsula. The following sections sketch in the main
events – see the history sections of Kuala Lumpur (KL), Melaka and Penang
for details...
lonelyplanet.com HISTORY •• The Melaka Empire
As a modern independent nation, Malaysia has only been around since 1963,
though the peninsula became independent of British colonial rule in 1957.
The early history of the peninsula is hazy because of a lack of written records
but events from the rise of the Melaka Sultanate in the 16th century were
well documented by the nations which came here to trade with, and later
rule over, the Malay peninsula. The following sections sketch in the main
events – see the history sections of Kuala Lumpur (KL), Melaka and Penang
for details of the rise of these destinations.
ORIGINAL PEOPLE
The first evidence of human life in the region was a 40,000-year-old skull
found in Sarawak in 1958, but the oldest human relics found on the penin-
sula date back about 13,000 years. ‘Perak Man’ was genetically similar to the
Negrito people who still live in the north of the peninsula. The Negritos were
joined by Malaysia’s first immigrants, the Senoi, from southern Thailand,
and later by the Proto-Malay, ancestors of today’s Malays, who came by sea
from Indonesia between 1500BC and 500 BC. For more information on
Malaysia’s indigenous people see p25 .
EARLY TRADE & EMPIRES
By the 2nd century AD, Malaya was known as far away as India and Europe.
Ptolemy, the Greek geographer, labelled it Aurea Chersonesus (Golden
Chersonese) and Indian traders referred to the land as Savarnadvipa (Land
of Gold). Malaya soon became a trading stop for Indian merchants in search
of precious metals, tin and aromatic jungle woods. The first formalised re-
ligions on the peninsula – Hinduism and Buddhism – arrived with Indian
traders, giving rise to the first recorded Hindu kingdom on the peninsula,
H i s t o r y
First trade recorded between
Malaya and the ancient world.
2nd century AD 700 1400
The Buddhist Srivijaya Empire
dominates Malaya, Singapore,
Indonesia and Borneo for six
centuries.
Foundation of Melaka, the most
successful Malay sultanate.
Langkasuka (from the Sanskrit for ‘resplendent land’); see opposite . Many
key Malay words such as bahasa (language), raja (ruler) and jaya (success)
are also Sanskrit terms.
From the 7th century to the 13th century, Malaya become dominated
by the Srivijaya Empire, based in southern Sumatra. This Buddhist empire
controlled the entire Malacca Straits, Java and southern Borneo and became
fabulously rich from trade with India and China. Under the protection of the
Srivijayans, a significant Malay trading state grew up in the Bujang Valley
area in the far northwest of the Thai-Malay peninsula. The growing power
of the southern Thai kingdom of Ligor and the Hindu Majapahit Empire of
Java finally led to the demise of the Srivijayans in the 14th century.
THE MELAKA EMPIRE
Founded around the 14th century, Malaya’s greatest empire was the brain-
child of the renegade Hindu prince Parameswara (see p136 ), from Sumatra,
who declared himself independent from the Javanese Majapahit Empire
and was forced to flee to Temasek (Singapore). On arrival, Parameswara
befriended the local chieftain, then killed him and pronounced himself
ruler over the peninsula. From his base at Temasek, Parameswara and
his pirate army wrought havoc on shipping and trade, until a huge Thai
force drove Parameswara north to Melaka. As a seafarer, Parameswara
recognised a good port when he saw it and he immediately lobbied the
Ming emperor of China for protection from the Thais in exchange for
generous trade deals.
The Srivijaya Empire comes to
an end.
14th century 1445 1509
Islam becomes Melaka’s state
religion and spreads through-
out Southeast Asia.
The Portuguese land on the
Malay Coast.
© Lonely Planet Publications
There are estimated
to be 560 Christian
missionaries striving
to convert the Orang
Asli (Original People;
indigenous Malaysians)
in Malaysia. Muslim
groups are working just
as hard to convert Orang
Asli to Islam – several
state governments have
allegedly offered cash
rewards for every Orang
Asli converted.
THE LOST KINGDOM OF LANGKASUKA
We should not really be surprised that the early kingdom of Langkasuka was lost. Even at the
time, people were unable to agree on its exact location. Chinese explorers claimed it was on
the east coast, while Malay histories place it on the west coast near Penang. Probably there
was just one kingdom extending right across the peninsula. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries,
Langkasuka’s power dwindled and the Funan Kingdom, centred in what is now Cambodia, took
over control of the region, before they were in turn supplanted by the Srivijaya Empire. The
kingdom of Langkasuka disappeared from the map, though part of its name lives in on in the
islands of Langkawi.
The Other Malaysia by
Farish A Noor is a collec-
tion of articles in which
the writer uses forgotten
gems of Malaysia’s his-
tory to comment on and
critique contemporary
Malaysian politics.
A HISTORY OF PIRACY
From the start of maritime trade to the present day, the Strait of Melaka has provided rich pick-
ings for pirates. The earliest recorded seafaring pirates were the Orang Laut (Sea Gypsies), who
were employed to police the trade routes by the Srivijaya Empire, but soon turned to piracy
themselves. Parameswara, the founder of Melaka, also staged daring raids on traders from his
temporary base of Temasek (Singapore); see p136 . A millennium later and piracy is still a problem
in the Strait of Melaka. There were 50 attacks in 2006, down from 79 in 2005, despite coordinated
sea patrols by the Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian coast guards.
The tradition of piracy continues on land. Malaysia is one of the world’s most notorious centres
for pirate goods – clothes, software, DVDs, auto parts, you name it. For many visitors, this makes
Malaysia a shopping mecca. Convincing fakes of big name brands cost a fraction of the price of the
real thing. Unfortunately, it’s not just big business that suffers – the trade in pirate software, films
and music increases the price of legitimate goods for everyone and reduces the amount of money
available to new artists and film makers. In response to international pressure, the government
is slowly starting to crack down on the counterfeiting industry; take a walk around Chinatown’s
Petaling Street Market ( p77 ) and judge for yourself how successful this has been…
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