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Jean-Marc MICHEL | profile | all galleries >> Malaysia >> Malacca tree view | thumbnails | slideshow


Malacca ( Melaka), dubbed as Negeri Bersejarah (Malay: historical state) or Negeri Hang Tuah (Hang Tuah state) is the second smallest state in Malaysia. It is located in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. The state's capital is Malacca Town.
Although one of the most historically important Malay sultanate was in Malacca, the state has no Sultan today. Instead, the head of state is the Governor or Yang Di-Pertuan Negeri.

Malacca is on the southwest coast of the Malay Peninsula opposite Sumatra, with the states of Negeri Sembilan to the north and Johor to the east. The offshore Besar Island is also part of Melaka.

History: Malacca was founded by Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince who left Sumatra in 1396 in order to further his enmity with the Majapahit Empire. 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 the very place that he was sitting. He named it "Melaka" after the tree under which he had taken shelter.
Parameswara converted to Islam in 1414 and changed his name to "Sultan Iskandar Shah". What started as a fishing village then grew into the most important port in the region, attracting traders from Java, India, Arabia and China, and served as a stopping point for China-India trade during the two monsoon periods. Mass settlement of Chinese, mostly from the imperial and merchant fleet occurred during the reign of Parameswara, occurred in the vicinity of the Bukit China ("Chinese Hill") area, which has among the best Feng Shui (geomancy) in Malacca then. Sultan Iskandar Shah died in 1424, and was succeeded by his son, Sri Maharaja.
Unfortunately, the prosperity of Malacca attracted the invasion of the Siamese. Attempts in 1446 and 1456, however, were warded off by Tun Perak, the then Chief Minister. The development of relations between Malacca and China was at that time a strategic decision to ward off further Siamese attacks.
Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important outpost for Zheng He's spectacular exploration fleet. To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, allegedly a princess of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Mansur Shah who reigned from 1456 until 1477. Her attendants married the locals and settled mostly in Bukit China.
A cultural result of the vibrant trade was the expansion of the Peranakan people, who spread to other major settlements in the region.
During it's heyday Malacca was a powerful Sultanate which extended it's rule over the southern Malay Peninsula and much of Sumatra. It's rise help to hold off the Thai's southwards encroachment and arguably hasten the decline of the rival Majapahit Empire of Java. Malacca was also central in the spread of Islam in the Malay Archipelago.

Colonization: Malacca was conquered on August 24, 1511 by the Portuguese viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque and 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. Finally in 1526, a large force of Portuguese ships, under the command of Pedro Mascarenhas, was sent to destroy Bentan, where Sultan Mahmud was based. Sultan Mahmud fled with his family across the Straits to Kampar in Sumatra, where he died two years later.
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in Malacca in 1545, 1546 and 1549. In 1641 the Dutch defeated the Portuguese to capture Malacca with the help of the Sultan of Johore.
The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1795 but they were not interested in developing it as a trading centre, placing greater importance to Batavia (Jakarta) in Indonesia as their administrative centre.
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 became Malaysia.

Culture: Malacca is well-known for its food. Most notable of all is the Nyonya-Baba cuisine which is a mixture of Chinese and Malay cooking with most dishes being spicy in nature.
Melaka's ethnic Portuguese population is a unique cultural and historical legacy of Portuguese colonization in the 16th and 17th century. Even to this day, many of the ancient traditions passed down since the Portuguese occupation are still practised, i.e. "Intrudu" (water festival that marks the beginning of the Catholics fasting season, the season of Lent), "branyu" (traditional dance), "santa cruz" (a yearly fiesta of street celebrations).

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