Saturday, 29 October 2011

Maembong's Art Gallery: The Rise & Fall of The Malacca Empire (1400 - 1511)

History of the Malacca Empire from its founding to its fall to the Portuguese in 1511. Done in oil on 183x244cm canvas, 50 pieces linked. Part of the History of Malaysia (1940-2011) segment. I am working on the 1511-1940 segment, when done overall length should be 2 kilometers.

Chapter One
The above text......

I had a dream to tell the story of the rise and fall of the Malacca Empire to the world as told by Tun Sri Lanang in his 'Sulalatus Salatin'. Uncompromisingly retold in my own version so as to be well understood and beneficial to younger generations. Said he "The Malays of today are deeply divided and embroiled in daily slander and fisticuffs among themselves. Learned Malays are backstabbing those not in tow to their ideas. And the Malays will be weak and will be subjugated again. My fervent wish the Malays are well bonded and strong.

"In the beginning the Malays were great seafarers and very apt at building ocean going vessels and today the Malay race could be traced from Champa in Vietnam to Madagascar to the west and the islands in between. A Malay sailor called Panglima Awang (Enrique) was the first to circumnavigate this earth completely, as Magellan whom he was with, was killed in Cebu, the Philippines, thus did not complete his circumnavigation alive. The Malays were conquerors and all the lands under the east wind were their domain. And they were efficient traders, and built Malacca into an entrepot of international repute. The Greeks called the Malay Peninsula the Golden Chersonese, and the success were from the backs of the Malays.

"The Portuguese were bent on capturing Malacca but could not overpower the overwhelmingly strong Malays without meticulous scheming including bribes, driving wedges between factions, and ultimately the Malays came divided and conquered. And the Malays lived live paupers in their own land. After the Portuguese came the Dutch, then the English. After almost 500 years on their knees, the Malays attained independence and set to establish their own Government, but it was not to be like the old days. There are 'learned' Malays hardened with colonial thoughts wanting to revert back to colonial days, wishing the Malays to be overran again. And they schemed, and they bribed, and they ridiculed, and the Malays are divided again. And while the Malays bickered, the lands wealth are picked up by others. The Malays are not a complete entity if only form the Government but not involved in trade as in the old days. Trade made the Malays powerful, and take you heed of this. Do not forget the mistakes of the past so that your future generation would not have to beg in their own land. Remember you the land is you and all that come after you. Do this Malay Annals so that they know. Gather all those learned Malays for this task. And they will unite other Malays. And the united Malays will be strong and powerful and the saying 'The Malays Shalt Not Be Obliterated From This Earth' will remain unchallenged."

And thus I set out to illustrate the Malay Annals on The Rise & Fall of The Malacca Empire in its truest entity as spread out henceforth........

Chapter Two
The year was 1400 of the common era, and Sri Parameswara wade through the brushes and came to a river called Bertam. The land around the estuary were hilly. He rested under a shady tree and beckoned to his men to hunt the wild game. Later he saw two hunting dogs chasing a white mousedeer. Suddenly the mousedeer kicked one dog and it fell into the swamp, the other dog ran off. Parameswara and his men were dumbfounded.

Chapter Three
And said Sri Parameswara "good place this, the mousedeer's strong, what more a man. Good place to build a city." His men concurred. He asked "what's the name of this tree I rested under?". His men answered "Malacca tree, sire".  "So it is we shall call this place MALACCA" and he ordered his men to build a city at the spot.  Before long the city was built. The palace was by the sea closed to the estuary. On the other side of the river was a trading post built on 20 stilts. And that's where the Malaccans trade. And all the east heard of the new port of call, and traders from far and wide came. Words came to China, and the Yung-lo Emperor dispatched ambassador Yin Ching to Malacca. The year was 1405.

Chapter Four
With the changing of the monsoon the Chinese Ambassador sailed back to China with a delegation from Malacca carrying gift. The Chinese Emperor was delighted and reciprocated with a Ruler's Seal and a Royal Yellow Umbrella. And tus Malacca thrived. The Local farmers planting anything from tapioca,pineapple, sugar, yam to other staple food and spice. They also reared chicken, ducks, goats and buffaloes. And by the sea and rivers were found turtles, tortoises, crocodiles. Tigers and other wild game inhibit the hinterland.
Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) called at Malacca and Parameswara took the opportunity to visit China on the board the Chinese fleet. He was accorded a grandiose reception. His entourage stayed for two months in Nanking.

Chapter Five
Raja Besar Muda succeeded his father Parameswara as the second ruler, taking the title Raja Megat / Makuta. He went to China on board Cheng Ho's returning fleet, but was not accorded the same reception as his father as the Chinese Emperor was battling his foes up north.  Raja Megat returned to Malacca. And Malacca grew and prospered. Tin was discovered and they extracted it through sieving or 'dulang washing'. They melted it and cast into ingots known as 'bidor'. Ten bidor were tied with cane, and made into the state treasury. Malacca's success irked Siam, as the new state never paid homage to the northern power. The Siamese ravaged the countryside and robbed traders Malacca bound. Raja Megat appealed to China for help, and the Emperor sent stern warning to Siam to leave Malacca be. With Chinese protection, Malacca grew bigger and stronger...

Chapter Six
Raja Megat died and his son Raja Kechil Besar was installed the third ruler taking the title Seri Maharaja. He went to China to inform the Emperor of his father's demise and of his succession. Once there was a ship from Jeddah anchored in the port of Malacca. A 'makhdum' named Saiyid Abdul Aziz and his men came ashore and performed a prayer on the beach. Curious natives gathered, and words reached within the palace. Seri Maharaja came on his elephant. To satisfy his curiosity, the ruler brought Abdul Aziz to the palace. Saiyid Abdul Aziz explained to the ruler the religion of Islam, and the latter was moved, and accepted the new faith. All the dignitaries followed suit. The ruler adopted a new Muslim title - Sultan Muhammad Shah. Thus was built the first mosque in Malacca, and Abdul Aziz taught the Sultan and the new converts the tenets of Islam.

Chapter Seven
The Sultan arranged the Government; the Chief Minister (Bendahara) be known as 'Seri Wak Raja'. Raden Anum was made Prime Minister with the title 'Seri Amar DiRaja', and Tun Perpateh Besar made Treasurer entitled 'Seri Nara DiRaja'. Seri Nara married the Bendahara's daughter Tun Ratna Sandari. 
Sultan Muhammad Shah was the first ruler to turn yellow to a royal color, not to be used in any form by ordinary folks. Since white could be seen from afar, it was the choice color for the Sultan's umbrella / shade, whilst yellow was reserved for the Regent. And such rule applied to this day.
When the Sultan decided to bestow 'titles' on a person, the latter would be taken to the palace on an elephant, or a horse, or just on foot, depending on his hierarchy level. And there were umbrellas, green, blue, red, and only on special occasion yellow. Once inside, the court's courtier would read out the recipient's best characteristics. Then came the dress change award; a Bendahara would receive a suit comprising a headgear, sash, top and bottom wear in silver plate held by five courtiers, whilst princes' and other ministers' suit borne by four. And some were accorded just one plate borne by one courtier, yet others the gift just held in hand by the ruler's servant, the lowest possible acknowledgement by the state.
When foreign envoys came ashore, the letters were paraded astride an elephant with musical accompaniment. Ministers would lead the way to the palace, eunuchs and other palace officials follow the letter bearing elephant.

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