MELAKA ( 古城马六甲 )
Sultanate of Malacca
Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a fishing village inhabited by local Malays. Malacca was
founded by Parameswara, also called Iskandar Shah or Sri Majara, the last Raja of Singapura (present day
Singapore) following a Majapahit attack in 1377. He found his way to Malacca around 1400 where he found a
good port—it was accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca
According to a popular legend, Parameswara was resting under a tree near a river while hunting, when one of
his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by
the courage of the deer, and taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful,
Parameswara decided on the spot to found an empire on that very spot. He named it 'Melaka' after the tree
under which he had taken shelter. Another version of the story says that Parameswara chose the name
'Malacca' from the Tamil word 'mallakka' which means upside down or on ones back. Old illustrations of the
scene where the mousedeer kicks the dog shows the dog falling on its back into the river, hence the
In collaboration with allies from the sea-people (orang laut), the wandering proto-Malay privateers of the
Straits, he established Malacca as a major international port by compelling passing ships to call there, and
establishing fair and reliable facilities for warehousing and trade. Mass settlement of Chinese, mostly from
the imperial and merchant fleet occurred during the reign of Parameswara in the vicinity of Bukit China
("Chinese Hill"), which was perceived as having excellent Feng Shui (geomancy). Sultan Iskandar Shah died in
1424. The prosperity of Malacca attracted the attention of the Siamese. Attempts at invasion made in 1446
and 1456, however, were warded off by Tun Perak, the then Bendahara (a position similar to Prime Minister).
The development of relations between Malacca and China was a strategic decision to ward off further Siamese
attacks. pore) and was succeeded by his son, Sri Maharaja also called Sultan Muhammad Shah.
Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important stopping point for Zheng He's fleet. To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, a princess
of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah who reigned from 1456
until 1477. Her attendants married the locals and settled mostly in Bukit China (Bukit Cina). (See Zheng He in Malacca). Scholars have
disputed Hang Li Po's status, as the Ming Chronicles in China do not mention her as a princess in the Chinese court of the Ming Dynasty. At
the time of the arrival of the Sultan's envoy, the reigning Ming Emperor was Jingtai Emperor. Since records of his reign were expunged
following Tianshun'a ascension to the throne in 1457, it is likely that records of Hang Li Po's status might no longer exist. Other historical texts
do mention that she was a princess in the court of the Yongle Emperor(1402–1424).
A cultural result of the vibrant trade was the expansion of the Peranakan people, who spread to other major settlements in the region.
During its prime, Malacca was a powerful Sultanate which extended its rule over the southern Malay Peninsula and much of Sumatra. Its rise
helped to hold off the Thai's southwards encroachment and arguably hasten the decline of the rival Majapahit Empire of Java which was in
decline as Malacca rose. Malacca was also pivotal in the spread of Islam in the Malay Archipelago.
After Vietnam destroyed Champa in the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa, they proceeded to engage in hostilities with Malacca with
the intent of conquest. The Chinese government sent a censor, Ch'en Chun, to Champa in 1474 to install the Champa King, but he
discovered Vietnamese soldiers had taken over Champa and were blocking his entry. He proceeded to Malacca instead and its ruler sent
back tribute to China. Malacca again sent envoys to China in 1481 to inform the Chinese that, while returning to Malacca from China in
1469, the Vietnamese attacked them, castrating the young and enslaving them. The Malaccans reported that Vietnam was not in control of
Champa but sought to conquer Malacca, but the Malaccans did not fight back due to lack of permission from the Chinese to engage in war.
The Chinese Emperor scolded them, ordering the Malaccans to strike back with violent force if the Vietnamese attacked.
In April 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships. They
conquered the city on August 24, 1511. It became a strategic base for Portuguese expansion in the East Indies. Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last
Sultan of Malacca, took refuge in the hinterland, and made intermittent raids both by land and sea, causing considerable hardship for the
Portuguese. In the meantime, the Portuguese built the fort named A Famosa to defend Malacca (its gate is all that remains of the ruins at
present). "In order to appease the King of Ayudhya (Siam), the Portuguese sent up an ambassador, Duarte Fernandes, who was well
received by Ramathibodi." in 1511. Finally in 1526, a large force of Portuguese ships, under the command of Pedro Mascarenhas, was sent
to destroy Bintan, where Sultan Mahmud was based. Sultan Mahmud fled with his family across the Straits to Kampar in Sumatra, where he
died five years later.
It soon became clear that Portuguese control of Malacca did not also mean they controlled Asian trade centred there. Their Malaccan rule was
severely hampered by administrative and economic difficulties. Rather than achieving their ambition of dominating Asian trade, the
Portuguese had disrupted the organisation of the network. The centralised port of exchange of Asian wealth had now gone, as was a Malay
state to police the Straits of Malacca that made it safe for commercial traffic. Trade was now scattered over a number of ports among bitter
warfare in the Straits.
Ruins of Fort A Famosa attracts millions of tourists to Malacca every yearThe Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in
Malacca in 1545, 1546 and 1549. In 1641, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese in an effort to capture Malacca, with the help of the Sultan of
Johore. The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1798 but they were not interested in developing it as a trading centre, placing greater
importance to Batavia (Jakarta) on Java as their administrative centre. However they still built their landmark, better known as the Stadthuys or
Malacca was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Bencoolen on Sumatra. From 1826 to 1946 Malacca was
governed, first by the British East India Company and then as a Crown Colony. It formed part of the Straits Settlements, together with
Singapore and Penang. After the dissolution of this crown colony, Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union, which later
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