The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

When recollecting the establishment of Malacca sultanate, we should trace it back to the ancient sources of Srivijaya kingdom and Ming reign of China dynasty. When the triumph of Srivijaya Kingdom declined and Majapahit had dominated over Java and Srivijaya archipelago, it changed a dramatically life of the young prince Parameswara of Srivijaya kingdom. In 1378 AD, the Emperor Hongwu, a founder of Ming dynasty in China, sent envoys to designate the prince as a king of Srivijaya. Majapahit regarded this action as a defiance to Majapahit’s authority and legitimacy over Srivijaya that had been under its domination since 1275 AD, and the envoys were killed in the quarrel.1)

The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries
The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

To avoid the threat from Majapahit, the prince Parameswara was forced to flee to Temasek island (present-today Singapore). As a fifth-generation descendant of the Palembang prince Seri Tri Buana, who had founded Temasek (Singapore) in the thirteenth century, prince Parameswara sought a refuge from the prince Temagi of Siam, the regent of Temasek and allay of Majapahit. After a few years, he set an uncompromisable dispute to Majapahit by killing prince Temagi of Siam. This carless action made King Siamese King Ayyuthaya in Siam (now Thailand) and Majapahit kingdom in Java furious. The Siamese Kingdom’s troops, allied with Majapahit fleet, attacked Temasek and forced Parameswara to escape from Temasek island to Muar (now Johor), and then Malacca in 1400 AD. In 1402, Parameswara established the Malacca kingdom (now Malaysia) ruling the Malay Peninsula that was inhabited around 2,000 people.2)

The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries
The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

In the beginning of his reign, Parameswara boosted Malacca’s position internationally by establishing the diplomatic relations with China, where he visited in 1405 and 1409 AD. He realized that the existence continuity of his fledgling state would be threatened by both Majapahit and the Siam Kingdom, which had claimed the sovereign over the entire Malay Peninsula. Therefore, Parameswara sought to forge an alliance with the reign of Ming dynasty from China.3) His initiative also confirmed that the new Chinese dynasty would be interested in expanding and developing the trade with Southeast Asia. In 1405 AD, the Emperor Yongle of Ming dynasty assigned his Muslim eunuch, Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He), to evolve companionship and trade relations to Indian Ocean States and to endeavor these states into tributary relationship with China dynasty.4)

According to Chinese chronicle on Archipelago, in 1403 AD the Emperor Yongle of early Ming dynasty sent the missions under eunuch Ma Bin to Java, and eunuch Yin Qing to Malacca, which those names are referred as Admiral Zheng He or Cheng Ho. In 1405 AD Parameswara reciprocated it by sending his envoy to the court of Ming dynasty, and the envoy was welcomed pleasantly. The official reception of this envoy implied formal Ming endorsement of Malacca as an independence kingdom in Malay. In addition, on November, 11, 1405, Malacca was awarded as the status of a tributary polity and was endowed with the Emperor’s inscription, thus Malacca officially obtained the protection from Chinese Ming dynasty.5) In 1409 AD, admiral Cheng Ho along with his forty-eight fleets visited Malacca. He bore official tablets of Ming Emperor confirming that Malacca and its neighborhood under king Parameswara as an independent kingdom in the view of Ming dynasty.6)

After embracing Islam and becoming Muslim in 1410 AD, King Parameswara transformed the Hindu kingdom of Malacca into Muslim Sultanate of Malacca, and he was then entitled an honor title as “Sultan Iskandar Syah.” His Muslim empresses, soldiers and palace officials transformed them as the devout Muslims. Ma Huan, a Chinese Muslim translator for Admiral Cheng Ho, visited Sultan Parameswara in 1414 as a Secretary Dragoman of envoy of Chinese Emperor Yong Le. Ma Huan noted that Sultan Parameswara practiced his religion obediently.7) Afterward, Sultan Parameswara passed away in 1414 AD and his throne was succeeded by his son, Sultan Megat Iskandar Syah reigning from 1414 to 1424 AD. Following his father’s footsteps ruling the throne, Malacca formally adopted Islam as its state religion and continued to become a Muslim sultanate rather than a Hindu kingdom of his predecessors. Based on the most credible text, Iskandar Syah entwined a closely political and trade relation with China, even he personally visited the palace of Ming dynasty in 1419 AD.

The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries
The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

The legacy of Sultan Parameswara also continued and boosted the type of sultanate trading system that linked vast of widespread ports in Malacca with traders around the world. These links included with areas as far away as Genoa and Venice in Italy, the Muslim entrepôts of Arabia and Gujarat, the Coromandel coast, Bengal, the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and the ports in Canton (Now Guangzhou) in China. For about a century of its earliest establishment as an independent Muslim sultanate imperium, Malacca escalated its power and influence by conquering or competing its nearby rivals, or by alliance and trading accords with its partners. With its robust power and influence, the Malacca sultanate also survived several assaults by Siam of Ayutthaya kingdom (present-today Thailand) and its vasal states, first overland from Pahang and then by sea. In 1456 AD, off Batu Pahat in the southern peninsula, the forces of Malaccan Sultan Muzakkar Syah (1446 – 1458 AD) overcame a vastly superior Siamese Armada by strengthening Malacca’s position as a political, commercial, and military strongpoint. The territory ruled by the Malacca sultans eventually incorporated lands on the Sumatran as well as the Malayan coasts of the straits, which thus became a waterway completely controlled by the Islamic empire of Malacca. Thus, in the reign of later reign, Sultan Mansyur Shah (1458 – 1477 AD), Sumatran port polities such as Siak, Kampar, Jambi and Indragiri; the Riau and Karimun archipelagoes; and Malayan ports in Johor, Selangor, Pahang, Perak, and Kelantan became vassals and under tribute system of Malacca.8) Malacca became the great kingdom that grew into an important port and the golden era of an sultan. The Malacca Sultanate was said to consist of the entire of the Malay Peninsula, the eastern parts of Sumatera and the Riau-Lingga Archipelago.

As the most heavily strenuous trade and supreme state in international trade, the Straits of Malacca was considered to have been important center in a process of political and trade interest in Southeast Asia for other countries from Europe. Alfonso de Albuquerque (1460-1515 AD), a Portuguese nobleman, the second Governor and Captain-General of India, was a key player in much of the Portuguese expansion efforts in Malacca straits. The Portuguese empire had conquered Goa in India in 1510 AD and this triumph emerged its awareness about the importance of Malacca. The Portuguese empire intended to become one of the most powerful nations in the world with widen its tiny kingdom and simultaneously overspread its religion and reduced the influence of Islam in the East. Under Sultan Mahmud Syah (1488 – 1511 AD), Malacca forced a serious conflict with the Portuguese when Malaccans attacked the Portuguese fleet and took a number of prisoners. Albuquerque demanded Sultan Mahmud Syah to return the Portuguese prisoners, but Sultan replied with assertively answers. This Sultan’s response was used as an excuse for Portuguese to invade Malacca, rather it was the commerce and political domination in Malacca. On the 2nd of May 1511, with 19 ships with a troop of 800 Portuguese and 600 Malabar fleets, he decided to sailed from Cochin and organize an expedition destined to conquer and control Malacca as the principal point of trade in Southeast Asia. In 24th August 1511, Malacca sultanate’s reign tumbled down under the Portuguese empire.

The collapse of Malacca sultanate affected the Malacca-Chinese traders living in Malacca. Chinese authors argued that the Malacca-Chinese were not treated too favorably by the Portuguese. It is generally true that why Chinese junks tended to avoid Malacca after 1511 AD, sailing to other ports instead. Presumably these ports were located in mainly on the east coast of the Malayan peninsula and on Sumatra. Johor, in the deep south of the peninsula, was another place where many Chinese were round-trip.9) The conquest of Malacca in 1511 AD also changed the trading world in Java island of Indonesia. Many Chinese who were Muslims sided with other Islamic traders against the Portuguese. According to The Malay Annals of Semarang and Cirebon, Chinese settler living on northern Java even became involve in counter-attacks on Malacca conqueror. Javanese vessels were indeed sent out but suffered disastrous defeat. The ports in Demak and Jepara alone lost more than seventy voyages of junks. High losses in shipping must have caused temporary reduction in the exchange of commodities on several Java trade routes. This in turn compelled several Islamic ports to invite the Portuguese to trade with them. It is not known to what degree the Java-Chinese were affected by these developments, but probably they had committed large sums to warfare against the Portuguese so that it took them many years to recover from loses in ships and other capitals.10)

Having at fierce attack and conquest of Portuguese over Malacca, it made Javanese Sultanate Demak in Java island alerted. Demak sultanate was a successor of Majapahit kingdom that had been collapsed. Located in central Java and led by a Muslim Javanese-Chinese sultanate under Sultan Raden Fatah (in Chinese name: Jin Bun), the collapse of Malacca was considered as a parlous clue for its territorial and commercial legitimacy in Java island. That was absolutely true that Albuquerque’s political alliance with Ratu Samiam (Prabu Surawesisa), the ruler of Sunda Kingdom in Western Java, posed a threat to Demak from 1511 to 1512 AD. Led by the second sultan of Demak, Pati Unus or in Chinese name: Yat Sun (1488–1521 AD) with the alliance of the Patih or ruler of Palembang in Sumatra, Demak Sultanate launched a naval assault on Malacca. The Muslim Javanese sultanate armada was defeated, and Pati Unus was killed in 1521 AD. Otherwise, in 1527 AD, when Portuguese armada under Francisco de Sa’s arrived at the harbor city of Sunda Kelapa, it was suddenly surrounded by Muslim from Demak and Cirebon commanded by Falatehan or Fatahillah, a family of Demak sultans. The Portuguese was then defeated, and as a commemoration of triumph over Portuguese, Falatehan renamed Sunda Kelapa as Jayakarta (present-today Jakarta) in 22nd June 1527 AD.11) The name Jayakarta derived from Sanskrit that means a “Victory Achieved”.

A major part of Malacca’s commercial structure as a center of trade under Portuguese witnessed the considerable dispersed and dissolution of trade dominance under Sultanate of Malacca. In one side, Portuguese was viewed to have deprived the city of its primacy in the economic life of the Malacca regions and its surroundings. Nevertheless, on other side, Portuguese was considered to have managed and maintained Malacca as a superfine trade omphalos in the Indian Ocean region. As a new controller of Malacca, Portuguese gradually integrated and adapted its strategies to prevailing conditions of local people’s order positioned as a prime contender of other countries. It created a new nucleus of free trade that was able to attract England and Dutch empires to involve their commercial interest in Malacca. Yet, in the later periods, the Malacca’s prosperity also changed its fine panorama into the long disputes and wars between the concerned economically and militarily. The arrival of England and Dutch in the late 16th century in Malacca Straits generated an interest conflict among of them. It was an acceleration of the decline in the heart of the Estado da India (Portuguese State of India) in the lead to the process of its failure in Malacca that had been conquered and controlled between 1511 to 1641 AD.

Bibliography:

    1. Tan Ta Sen, Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2009, pp. 175 – 176.

    2. Johannes Widodo, a Celebration of Diversity: Zheng He and the Origin of Pre-Colonial Coastal Urban Pattern in Southeast Asia, Leo Suryadinata (ed), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2005, p. 114.

    3. Tan Ta Sen, Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia, p. 176.

    4. Tan Ta Sen, “Did Zheng He Set Out to Colonize Southeast Asia?”, in Admiral Zheng He and Southeast Asia, Leo Suryadinata (ed), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2005, p. 44.

    5. Wang Gungwu, The Opening of Relations Between China and Malacca 1403 – 1405, in Admiral Zheng He and Southeast Asia, Leo Suryadinata (ed), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2005, 12 – 15.

    6. Johannes Widodo, a Celebration of Diversity: Zheng He and the Origin of Pre-Colonial Coastal Urban Pattern in Southeast Asia, p. 115.

    7. Widjojoatmodjo RA, Islam in the Netherlands East Indies, in the Far Eastern Quarterly, Association for Asian Studies, Vol. 1, 1942, p. 49.

    8. Donald B. Freeman, Straits of Malacca: Gateway or Gauntlet? McGill-Queen’s University Press, Quebec, 2003 p. 87.

    9. Anthony Reid (ed), Southeast Asia in the early modern era: Trade, power, and belief, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1993, p. 88.

    10. Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce: 1450 – 1680, vol. 2: Expansion and Crisis, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1993, p. 41.

    11. Ooi Gin Keat (ed), Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, ABC-CLIO Inc, USA, 2004, p. 410

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