Cradle of an early civilisation (Malaysia)

Artifact trade, ceramics, Philip Greco, weaponry, looting


14 June 2006 (The Star Online) – A feature on the archaelogical features of Bujang Valley in Kedah, Malaysia.

Cradle of an early civilisation

The Bujang Valley in Kedah was the bustling centre of a rich and prosperous kingdom between the third and 12th century AD.

It was then known as Nusantara, a Sanskrit word which means ‘seat of all felicities.’

The area, which was also called Bujanga or ‘Valley of the Serpent’ was Southeast Asia’s central trading entreport which dealt with cargo brought by Arab, Chinese, Indian as well as maritime traders from the Malay archipelago.

[Tags]Buddhist culture, Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum, Bujang valley, Hindu Culture, candis, Nusanatara, Kedah[/tags]

Related Books:
Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XXVIII, Pt. 1
Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic society, Vol. XLIII, Part 1
Arts of Southeast Asia (World of Art) by F. Kerlogue
Hindu-Buddhist Architecture in Southeast Asia (Studies in Asian Art and Archaeology, Vol 19) by D. Chihara

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

19 thoughts on “Cradle of an early civilisation (Malaysia)”

  1. It is a shame that Malaysian government trying to omit the truth of the first settelement in the penisular…i still remember whn i was a kid, i used to go to Bujang Valley’s museum and lots of indian artifacts like shiva idols, lingga’s, idol of ganesha…exhibited there….recently about a year ago, i was speechless whn i see other islamic stuffs replacing the original artifacts…its as if they are trying to change the whole history and truth…i wish i can do something to stop it…

  2. wow. that’s really alarming and sad to hear. I haven’t visited the Bujang Valley yet and I hope to do so in the coming year or so. I hope they at least preserve the candis, because it is one of those sites that are under-rated.

  3. It would be a loss to all Malaysians if indeed history is supressed. What they want to focus would only represent a certain time period. to lose the heritage that a country before that will mean that the country only has a short history and they will have limitations for the people of the country. People need to be objective when recording history.

  4. To me, Ketuanan Melayu is the false notion of malay greatness or malay supremacy. Truth is – there is nothing to associate the malay race with greatness.

    By any widely accepted standards, it will be obvious to see that the malay race does not qualify to be called one of the great races on this world. Truth is that the Chinese and Indians have a culture accomplished far greater and much more than these jokers have.

    It should be Chinese and Indian supremacy in Malaysia. The only reason why malays have power in Malaysia is because they have the biggest population, and the racist rhetoric of the malay Umno politicians always sway the malay vote towards themselves.

    Anyway, back to the untrue notion of Ketuanan Melayu. Let us see what malays have accomplished. Has any malay won the Nobel Prize – no. Has any malay been nominated for the Nobel Prize – most probably not.

    By contrast, numerous Chinese and Indians have won the Nobel Prize and various other awards. The Chinese and Indian diaspora is widely recognized as two of the three most successful diasporas in history, the other being the Jewish diaspora. All over the world, Chinese and Indians have become successful artists, CEOs, doctors, filmmakers, scientists, writers, etc, etc.

    Name one malay who is widely recognized around the world in his or her field. The only malay whose name might be recognized out of this country is Mahathir, and he is part Indian. Is malay culture recognized as a world renowned culture – no.

    Malay culture, if cultures were ranked, would be close to the bottom. What is their culture compared to the great Chinese and Indian cultures that are centuries old and really rich! The Chinese and Indians have a 5000 years old history during which China and India have played a very important part in world history.

    Nobody knew about malays until the Indian kings of south India first came here. That is why the oldest archeological remains in Malaysia, in Lembah Bujang, are Hindu temples.

    The malay sultanate itself was started by a Hindu – Parameswara. And even at the height of its power, the Malacca sultanate was nothing more than a vassal of the Chinese emperor.

    Have any malay architect designed anything worthwhile – no. Have any malay author won the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer Prize – no. Have any malay filmmaker won an Oscar – no. Have the malays achieved anything in sports – no.

    Chinese and Indians have achieved all this. So there is no real Ketuanan Melayu. It is a fiction concocted by racist stupid politicians to keep the “kampung malays” happy thinking that they have had a glorious past.

    They don’t. Their history isn’t worth mentioning. You would never find a mention of malays or Malaysia or Tanah Melayu in most books of world history while entire chapters are devoted to the history of China and India.

    The discriminative constitution and law of Malaysia is just a recognition of this fact. The malay leaders and to every single malay knows that on a level playing field, the malays will never be able to compete with the Chinese and Indians.

    As to the discussions, I can see some hatred in it but then none of it was untrue. I think most Malaysians have done a good job maintaining harmony and peace, but I can see how and why some may be pushed to hatred because of all the discrimination that goes on.

    I mean come on, the discrimination towards non-malays is so wide-ranging that I am sure some people will feel robbed.

    How do you think a Chinese or Indian student feels when he has worked his ass off to study for STPM and gets excellent result and then sees his malay friends who didn’t work as hard and get as good result fly off to the England, Japan, USA etc, under JPA scholarship!

    How do you think a Chinese or Indian contractor feels when his superior contract bid loses out to an inferior bid by a malay company!

    What is going on in Malaysia is wrong. We should work towards creating a pure meritocracy, because history has shown that only meritocracies prosper and survive. It seems now that the Chinese or Indians don’t even get fair representation in legal matters, as illustrated by the Moorthy case. Things need to be changed before bad things start to happen.

  5. Many malays don’t like to admit it, but once upon a time, they were not Muslims like everyone else!

    Malays were part of the migration of Polynesian peoples whose original home was Yunan in China to South-East Asia in what is known as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia……….

    At that time the Orang Asli were already well settled in the malay Peninsula, so that makes them the most legitimate of the bumis.

    Malays were animists then for hundreds of years until Indians crossed Bay of Bengal to South-East Asia and spread Indian and Hindu culture to the peoples there.

    Hence we had the great Hindu kingdoms which later also became Buddhist kingdoms of Srivijaya, Majapahit, Langkasuka – but main thing to note is that racially the peoples were malays and speak old malay language.

    Islam only came to South-East Asia from 1400 after foundation of Malacca by Parameswara. Again from India crossed Bay of Bengal and spread Islam to South-East Asia. Malacca sultans were among the first converts and the rest is history.

    Please note that the malays have been Muslims for only 600 years and have been Hindus/Buddhists very much longer – at least 2000 years. Malay culture is very much influenced by Hindu culture including Sanskrit words like the wayang kulit, raja, maharaja, etc.

    Unlike Javanese, who are proud of their Hindu/Buddhist past reflected in great empires like Srivijaya and Majapahit, malays are generally ashamed to dwell on their pre-Islamic Hindu/Buddhist past.

    On the contrary some malays try to be like the Arab wannabes, trying to cleanse the malays of their Hindu/Buddhist past – in this even the songs and films of P Ramlee become victimized!

    If Islam had not come to South-East Asia, malays would still be Hindus/Buddhists like the Balinese which is not a bad idea as Balinese are considered very peaceful people.

  6. Malays are a diverse group of Austronesian peoples inhabiting the malay archipelago and malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.

    The original Austronesians from southern China crossed the strait of Taiwan and settled modern day Taiwan around 8000 – 4000 BCE.

    These first settlers landed in northern Luzon in the Philippines. Over the next thousand years up until 1500 BCE, their descendants started to spread south to the rest of the Philippine islands, Celebes, northern Borneo, Moluccas, and Java.

    The settlers in Moluccas sailed eastward and began to spread to the islands of Melanesia and Micronesia between 1200 BCE and 500 BCE respectively. Those that spread westward reached Sumatra, the malay Peninsula and southern Vietnam by 500 BCE.

    According to the Encyclopedia of Malaysia, the Negritos, who number approximately 2000, are regarded as the earliest inhabitants of the malay Peninsula.

    They are of Australo-Melanesian affinity and probably descend from the people of Hoabinhian cultural period, with many of their burials found dating back 10000 years ago.

    They speak Austroasiatic languages, as do their Senoi agriculturalist neighbours. The Senoi and Proto-malay arrived much later probably during the Neolithic period.

  7. A great site; should spread it around more. I’ll do my part..
    The Malays are great Padi planters, chauffers,Toll Booth Staff, Gardeners(artistic)peons, janitors and child molesters and the laziest breed.. They should just be left alone to rot, when the Chinese and Indian Towkays start disposing of all their assets in Malaysia- and reinvesting overseas; like they are doing now..
    What’s left behind for the smart Malays will eventually dwindle and they will be left with nothing.. OR
    Leave the Malays alone and all by themselves, take away the money making machines (Chinese, Indians and other non Malays) for just 5 years; you see them rot and die. B’cos they don’t have the capability to think or earn, but only spend. They need our brains to work for them.. They should back track, be sincere to themselves and admit where they belong.
    Their homes(the jungles) are being cleared and that’s why they have invaded our Towns and cities.. They should be sent ‘home’..

  8. Seeing the range of responses from this post, I’d like to remind everyone to refrain from making sweeping generalizations that can be construed as racist. I gather that some Malaysian policies are discriminatory (I’m not Malaysian, so I do not know or understand the full extent of the affirmative-action programme), but it is entirely unfair to condemn members of any particular race based on those discriminatory policies.

    To bring this discussion to where it first began – that discourse in Malaysian history tends to shy away from talking about the pre-Islamic period, one also has to remember that history is by its very nature political. There is no such thing as an apolitical or politically-neutral history (and by extension, archaeology) because all history is narrated from a definite point of view.

    IMHO, the travesty in this Malaysian discourse of history is not so much that is starts from the (Islamic) Melaka Sultanate but it ignores the (at least) 1,400 years preceding it.

  9. Good Wishes.

    For god sake… would it be grateful for all citizens in this country 2 know the
    “Real” H_I_S_T_O_R_Y of
    “MALAYSIA”… for betterment of avoiding racisms?? What’s happening in Malaysia is so unfair… and anyone (outsiders) who stepping on this land will say this although those leaders pretending from eyes of this world….
    People who claming for property (land) should at least think rationally once, to acknowledge what would have happened if (Non-Malays) were not here… and what will happen if (Non-Malays) steps out either…
    We have to admit that nothing belongs to us and vice versa…
    For the reason, our own “soul” is not belongs to us permanently…what about the rest??
    So please.. It’s our responsible to generate such peaceful generations in future… Unlike current conditions.
    Whereby the truth lies “No one can live a life by their own without asking/renting/seeking/sharing of
    (Goods, services, ideas…etc) from the person who standing next to them… we have to depend on others somehow rather in overall…and that’s the nature of ‘living’ itself.
    We are human beings. Be wiser by admitting your ignorance, be dignify by learning from mistakes’ which have made and be wiser again by gaining knowledge for goodness of all.

    Human who can respect another ‘human’ is qualified to carry themselves as a Human…
    Not by fighting for rights but rather fighting for giving rights to all equally.

    God Bless.

  10. It’s been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all “Malaysian” free for all. While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled “Contesting Malayness”? Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the “Malays” to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

    Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also “Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular”)

    Of course, we also have the Minangkabau’s which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

    So the million Dollar Question… Is there really a race called the “Malays”? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

    Neither do the “Malays” who live on the West Coast of Johor. They’d rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as “Achenese”? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a “Malay” and see what response you get… you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

    In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

    available for on-line viewing at:
    http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/12/3/focus/16212814&sec=focus

    An excerp is reproduced here below:

    “The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

    The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

    Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. ”

    The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people’s who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the “Lego-type” language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called “Indonesians” even though the majority of “Malays” have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called “Malay”…. Anyhow you may define it.

    The writer failed to identify (probably didn’t know), that the “Malay” definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the “Orang Asli” are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an “Orang Asli”, they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

    Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

    With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

    Getting interesting? Read on…

    “Malay” should also include the Taiwanese singer “Ah Mei” who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the “Malays”. And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

    Try calling the Bugis a “Malay”. Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

    Ready for this?

    The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Chinese and the Arabs. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

    Let’s not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous “Hang” family member… Hang Li Poh. And who was she? the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won’t that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline “Baba” ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh?

    Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but a decided that they were strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY?

    The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this “coffee table book” by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

    So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

    By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

    Of the 3 books listed, “Contesting Malayness” (about S$32 for soft cover) is “banned” in Malaysia; you will need to “smuggle” it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons…. 🙁 or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

    The other, “Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular” (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

    While the “Sejarah Melayu” (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

    Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the “chaos” this seminar created…… 🙁

    There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the “Archipelago Series” endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

    It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as “Proto-Malay” and “Deutero-Malay”, to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

    In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

    The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

    The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

    Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

    It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the “Golden Hindu Era” of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

    “PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

    But you may say, “Sejarah Melayu” calls it “Melayu”? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name “Melayu”?(Google Earth will show this village).

    By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

    Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that “Melayu” comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn’t help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

    And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is “Karut” (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which “Malay” history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, “Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa”, and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

    I find this strange.

    I also find, that it is strange that the “Chitti’s” (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

    Instead of “Malay”, I believe that “Maphilindo” (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be “MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica”. And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word “Malay” technically and accurately defines a race.

    This is most unfortunate.

    So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

    We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

    You must understand now, why I was “tickled pink” when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was “Truly Asia”. They are so correct… (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

    BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

    I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the “malays” are not even a race; not since day one.

    “Truly Asia Boleh”

  11. I’m not a Malay, but I’m a convert to Islam, which I learned from the compassion showed to me by my Malay friends, much more than I had ever gotten from my Chinese relatives…

    On a personal level, as per my conversations with Malay friends, Malays know and freely admit that before the arrival of Muslim traders and missionaries in the 13-15th centuries, they were initially animists, then Hindus and Buddhists. As Pak Ripin told me “Oh, orang Melayu dulu-dulu ramai yang Hindu.” Just a plain statement of fact. Nothing hidden and no animosity. And now they have collectively chosen to be Muslim.

    History implies that they chose their religion freely at ‘each’ stage of their history. One proof is that even with the arrival one by one of the European invaders, none were able to Christianise the Malay. As if they didn’t try. Quite a remarkable fact I would say.

    @ Zachary Han

  12. Hi! I’m a Malay, read all your comments and I’m sure you can guess how I feel right now…..but I’m not here to argue whatsoever…
    Just to let you all know that I’m living in Sg. Petani which is very near Lembah Bujang. Last week I went to see the latest USM’s excavation site in Lembah Bujang conducted by Prof Mokhtar Saidin (a Malay mind you!).
    They’ve unearthed a square building base with a round pavement circling it. What interest me is that all the vertices are on abt 1/4 of the pavement! Don’t know how to describe it but hopefully USM will release the photos soon. They said an expert Hindu Sami couldn’t identify the building too. Heard they also found inscriptions with unknown alphabets; not Hindu-Buddha, not Khmer. A possibility of the Funan’s!?!…but no Funan’s inscription ever found. Could this be the first? This is just what I heard…..if they lied to me, I’m lying to you…sorry! But please look out for their latest news,ok. Hope all of you are as excited as I am!

  13. The local workers helping with the xcavation told me…somehow their excitement makes me believe them!

  14. Hello, especially to orangSP thank you for your enthusiastic update on the USM archaeological discoveries in Kedah. My doctorate was in Asian cultural studies and I follow regional history and these types of developments closely.

    If you talk about civilisation, then let me boldly state that among all the peoples that I’ve studied and personally known, I think the Malay people are among the MOST civilised!

    The racist detractors in previous posts are looking only from a materialistic culture (‘great’ monuments, ancient artifacts) and historic events (empires, dynasties). But these are only physical. Did they historically lead to sustained peace, social justice, control of violence or conflict resolution from then until today?

    Let’s just look at one tiny detail but hugely significant factor: women in society. The Chinese and Indians have well-documented problems with the overall treatment of women in their ‘civilisations’:

    Confucius essentially didn’t even hide his disdain for women and ensured the male dominance in aspects such as ancestor worship through male lines. For centuries Chinese women were humiliated and tortured with bound feet that maimed and made life difficult for them, and for what purpose? And even today many of my Chinese and Korean friends couldn’t hide their disappointment when their wives’ ultrasounds showed they were expecting girls, because they still feel that girls will not continue their family name line and will ‘belong’ to their husband’s after marriage. Women are still sub-consciously treated like property. Girl abortions among Chinese outnumber boys in the millions.

    The Indians are worse. In some Indian communities historically ‘suttee’ was expected where when a husband dies his wife was expected to throw herself on his funeral pyre and die with him. The ‘women pay dowry’ system that shamefully still exists among Indians to this day goes completely against civilised practical norms. Pitifully, it results in millions of Indian women suffering from dowry-related marriage problems and even being murdered -euphmistically called ‘kitchen accidents’. Did you see the NatGeo documentary “India’s missing girls”? Yes the most sad part is the infanticide of millions of Indian girls because their families have this uncivilised idea that girls are a burden. And let’s not even get started with ‘honour killings’ of women still rampant in the Indian Sub-continent.

    In my entire years of contact and observation with Malays, I have never found such incidences as all the above among Malay peoples. Traditionally Malay women have always been equal with the menfolk and for example have never been swathed in dark burqas and hidden away. They never had to pay ridiculous dowries. They didn’t have to worship their husband’s ancestors. Malay women don’t even need to change their names to their husband’s upon marriage thus making it less traumatic in the case of divorce, and children don’t have to follow a family surname that is male chauvinistic – these are even more civilised than Western societies!! And when I found the little-known fact that a Malay’s name among his or her family changes after death to Bin/Bt [the mother’s name] to symbolise the return to the mother earth that we come from I was awe-struck at the poetic beauty of this practice. It is sublime and fair, and highly civilised.

    Never have I seen any of my many Malay friends show anything but gratefulness to God in getting boy OR girl. This is confirmed by a saying found in a 16th century Malay book: “Anak lelaki itu semacamnya nikmat, tapi anak perempuan itulah sebenarnya rahmat.” It shows their wisdom in how we think boys are ‘superior’ but in the end it’s the girls who bring more blessings. This is just one aspect of non-material civilisation that we have found Malay society to be better than the racist criticisers’.

    There are at least 3 or 4 more areas where they are very advanced and more credit should be given such as lower homicide rates, and no oppression of minorities such as the Chinese do to Tibetans and Uighurs or Indian Hindu upper caste treatment of Dalits that I saw myself in the streets of Orissa, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

    The very fact that most Malays in this reader group like orangSP didn’t go off on an angry tirade against perceived slights against Malays is a psychological indicator of civilised restraint. In the end I agree with Zachary Han it makes people like “vesewe” (real name?) look very uncivilised through their own shallow rantings.

    Cheers everyone! Dr. Kerry B. Chester

  15. Hello again. Coming back to find Dr Kerry’s post here is such a pleasant surprise!
    Thank you so much for the explanation.
    Having said all that, I guess you must be wondering how the Malays (55%) in Malaysia being the only ‘civilized’ race (as you said it) live with the others.
    Personally I think the impact of Islam to our culture that played the vital role here.
    We were taught to be kind to all including our enemies. Be patient and accept what others do to us as challenges in life. Furthermore revealing their wrong doings may just worsen the situation.

    But patients do have their limits. Ours surprisingly, could turn to the world known ‘amok’- I think the only Malay word that’s being used universally.
    May 13 incident in 1969 is an example of a serious ‘amok’ incident. Let’s pray that it won’t happen again.

    By the years, the Malays are getting closer to their religion and later they begin to realize that leaders should be among those well educated and has strong faith in Islam as religion and politic are inseparable. Injustice to all, greed, corruption, cronyism, arrogance etc. could be reduce if not eliminate in the hand of faithful Leaders and by Allah’s will.

    To make matters worse for us here, a Malay political party not based by Islam is aware about this change amongst the Malays. One of their desperate measures to perpetuate their power is to scare the Non-Muslim of Islamic rules when actually Islamic rules are only meant for Muslims.
    They never really did what they want the non-Malays to believe they do. e.g. JPA scholarships are not for the poor at all. In fact, many of scholars are their Datuks’ kids! When asked, their answer is simple…the poor may not be able to pay back JPA’s money!
    Same goes with the contractors’ case, given to their members only…if given to others, that’s only for ‘show’ in ‘their’ media.
    We suffer in their reign nonetheless. 🙁
    M’sia needs a change and only in togetherness we can make it a reality. Perhaps the 13th GE !?!……and I’m soo.. away from the topic! 🙂

    Now back to Dr Kerry’s post- your example about Malays changing surname to mother’s name is actually an Islam ceremony. In fact, there’s a chapter in the Quran called Surah An-Nisa’(means woman) that really focus on woman. Here’s 1 verse of it;
    ‘You are forbidden to inherit woman against their will and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr you have given them, unless they commit illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.’
    Surah An-Nisa’; Verse 18.

    I couldn’t agree more with Noel that ‘history is by its very nature political’.
    I haven’t been to Muzium Lembah Bujang for quite some time but if it’s true that our Govt is trying to ‘shy away’ from the pre-Islamic Period, it actually contradicts with the teachings of Islam.
    It is an obligation for all Muslims to gain as much knowledge as he/she could and archaeology is one of it, right. Archaeologists’ findings are clues from Allah S.W for us to understand more about His creations.
    The Dinosaurs for example, strengthen our belief about the age of Earth. In Kitab Jam’ul-Fawaa’id(one of the many Islamic books that elaborate Quran), there’s a story abt Prophet Mohamad S.A.W. during his Israk-Mikraj journey, saw a very old lady that stooped till her head touches her knees. Malaikat Jibrail told him that the old lady represents the age of earth.

    In Hikayat Merung Mahawangsa(used to be a history book during my parents schooling years), the ancestors of Sultan Kedah mentioned that they themselves destroyed all their statues(Berhala)-which also explains why there are not many statues found in Lembah Bujang,right. This also shows that they’ve embraced Islam whole-heartedly till they were willing to destroy their most precious possession- their statues! Isn’t this something to be proud of?

    Allowing USM to do their excavation at Lembah Bujang could also mean that the Govt. is not exactly trying to shy away from the pre-Islamic Period after all. Let’s just wait for the outcome.

    ‘Let’s make it a better place for you and for me…..’
    -remembering Mikaeel Jackson.

  16. well…its another rubbish frm the hadis or qur’an??the quran never said there was dinosaurs….n micheal jackson was not a muslim either…haha

  17. The Holy Quran never said about Dinosaurs because Quran isn’t a book of ‘Science’ but its a Book of ‘Signs’. Since we are in the Archaeology topic, here are 2 examples of the Historical miracles of the Quran;

    “HAMAN” AND ANCIENT EGYPT MONUMENTS

    The Qur’an relates the life of the Prophet Musa (as) with great clarity. As it tells of the conflict with the Pharaoh and his dealings with the Children of Israel, the Qur’an reveals a wealth of information about ancient Egypt. The significance of many of these historical points have only recently come to the attention of the learned people of the world. If one considers these points with reason, it quickly becomes clear that the Qur’an, and the fountain of information contained within it, has been revealed by the All-Wise Allah for it correlates directly with all major scientific, historic and archaeological finds in recent times.
    One such example of this wisdom can be found in the Qur’anic references to Haman: a character whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an, along with the Pharaoh. He is mentioned in six different places in the Qur’an, in which it informs us that he was one of Pharaoh’s closest allies.
    Surprisingly, the name “Haman” is never mentioned in those sections of the Torah pertaining to the life of the Prophet Musa (as). However, the mention of Haman can be found in the last chapters of the Old Testament as the helper of a Babylonian king who inflicted many cruelties on the Israelites approximately 1,100 years after the Prophet Musa (as).The Qur’an, far more in tune with recent archaeological discoveries, does indeed contain the word “Haman” in reference to the life of the Prophet Musa (as).
    The criticisms thrown at the book of Islam by some non-Muslims have disappeared by the wayside as an Egyptian hieroglyphic script had been deciphered, approximately 200 years ago, and the name “Haman” discovered in the ancient scripts. Until the 18th century, the writings and inscriptions of ancient Egypt could not be understood. The language of ancient Egypt was made up of symbols rather than words: hieroglyphics. These pictures, which tell stories and keep records of important events in the same way that modern words do, was usually engraved on rock or stone and many examples survived through the ages. With the spread of Christianity and other cultural influences in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Egypt forsook its ancient beliefs along with the hieroglyphic writing which was synonymous with that now defunct belief system. The last known example of the use of hieroglyphic writing was an inscription dated 394. The language of pictures and symbols was forgotten, leaving nobody who could read and understand it. Naturally, this made historical and archaeological study virtually impossible. This situation remained-until just over two centuries ago.
    In 1799, much to the delight of historians and other learned people, the mystery of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics was solved by the discovery of a tablet called the “Rosetta Stone.” This amazing find dated back to 196 B.C. The importance of this inscription was that it was written in three different forms of writing: hieroglyphics, demotic (a simplified form of ancient Egyptian hieratic writing) and Greek. With the help of the Greek script, the ancient Egyptian writings were decoded. The translation of the inscription was completed by a Frenchman named Jean-François Champollion. Hence, a forgotten language and the events related in it were brought to light. In this way, a great deal of knowledge about the civilization, religion and social life of ancient Egypt became available to mankind and this opened the way to greater knowledge about this important era in human history.
    Through the decoding of hieroglyph, an important piece of knowledge was revealed: The name “Haman” was indeed mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions. This name was referred to in a monument in the Hof Museum in Vienna. This same inscription also indicated the close relationship between Haman and the Pharaoh.200
    In the dictionary of People in the New Kingdom, that was prepared based on the entire collection of inscriptions, Haman is said to be “the head of stone quarry workers.”201
    The result revealed a very important truth: Unlike the false assertion of the opponents of the Qur’an, Haman was a person who lived in Egypt at the time of the Prophet Musa (as). He had been close to the Pharaoh and had been involved in construction work, just as imparted in the Qur’an.
    Pharaoh said, “Council, I do not know of any other god for you apart from Me. Haman, kindle a fire for me over the clay and build me a lofty tower so that perhaps I may be able to climb up to Musa’s god! I consider him a blatant liar.” (Qur’an, 28:38)
    The verse in the Qur’an describing the event where the Pharaoh asked Haman to build a tower is in perfect agreement with this archaeological finding. Through this brilliant discovery, the irrational claims of the opponents of the Qur’an were demonstrated to be false and intellectually worthless.
    In a miraculous way, the Qur’an conveys to us historical information that could not have been possessed or understood at the time of the Prophet (saas). Hieroglyphics could not be deciphered until the late 1700s so the information could not have been ascertained from Egyptian sources. When the name “Haman” was discovered in the ancient scripts, it was further proof of the infallibility of Allah’s Word.

    and another about the usage of the word King and Pharoah compared with Bible. You can read it here;

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Contrad/External/josephdetail.html

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