Wednesday, 15 August 2012



     The Malay Archipelago refers to the archipelago between mainland South-eastern Asia and Australia. The name was derived from the anachronistic concept of a Malay race. It has also been called the Indo-Australian Archipelago, East Indies, Indonesian Archipelago, and other names over time. The term is largely synonymous with the term Maritime Southeast Asia. Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the group of over 25,000 islands is the largest archipelago by area, and fourth by number of islands in the world. It includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, East Malaysia and East Timor. The island of New Guinea or islands of Papua New Guinea are not always included in definitions of the Malay Archipelago.
Malay Archipelago or East India Islands, J&F. Tallis, from the Illustrated Atlas of the World, 1851

     Malays (Malay: Melayu Jawi: ملايو) are an ethnic group of Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula including the southernmost parts of Thailand, south coast Myanmar and island of Singapore, coastal Indonesian including east of Sumatra, coastal Borneo, including Brunei, coastal Sarawak and Sabah, and the smaller islands which lie between these locations - collectively known as the Alam Melayu. These locations today are part of the modern nations of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Myanmar, Southern Thailand and Western Indonesia.
   Historically, the ethnic Malays population is descended from several genetically related peoples who were largely of Animist, Buddhist or Hindu origin —the Austronesians, the Mon-Khmer peoples,] the Orang Laut, the Orang Asli, the Cham people, the ancient Kedahans, the Langkasukans, the Tambralingans, the Gangga Negarans, the ancient Kelantanese,] the Srivijayans, the ancient Bruneians, the Batak groups, the Dayak peoples and various other tribes inhabiting the Malay world.
    The golden age of Malay sultanates beginning in the 15th century, saw the construction of the common identity that binds Malay people together; language (with variant of dialects exist among them), Islam and their culture. The commercial diaspora of these sultanates effectively brought much of the Maritime Southeast Asia under the massive wave of Islamisation and Malayisation. Due to its fluid characteristics and the assimilation of the later immigrants from various part of the archipelago, Malay culture absorbed numerous cultural features of other ethnic groups, such as those of Minang, Aceh, and to some degree Javanese culture; however it differs by being more overtly Islamic than the Javanese culture which is more multi-religious.
    Also known as Melayu asli (aboriginal Malays) or Melayu purba (ancient Malays), the Proto Malays are of Austronesian origin and thought to have migrated to the Malay archipelago in a long series of migrations between 2500 and 1500 BC.] The Encyclopaedia of Malaysia: Early History, has pointed out a total of three theories of the origin of Malays:
    The Yunnan theory, Mekong river migration (published in 1889) - The theory of Proto Malays originating from Yunnan is supported by R.H Geldern, J.H.C Kern, J.R Foster, J.R Logen, Slamet Muljana and Asmah Haji Omar. Other evidences that support this theory include: stone tools found in Malay Archipelago are analogous to Central Asian tools, similarity of Malay customs and Assam customs, and the fact that the Malay language & Cambodian language are kindred languages because the ancestral home of Cambodians originated at the source of Mekong River.
    The New Guinea theory (published in 1965) - The proto Malays are believed to be seafarers knowledgeable in oceanography and possessing agricultural skills. They moved around from island to island in great distances between modern day New Zealand and Madagascar, and they served as navigation guides, crew and labour to Indian, Arab, Persian and Chinese traders for nearly 2000 years. Over the years they settled at various places and adopted various cultures and religions.
    The Taiwan theory (published in 1997) - The migration of a certain group of Southern Chinese occurred 6,000 years ago, some moved to Taiwan (today's Taiwanese aborigines are their descendants), then to the Philippines and later to Borneo (roughly 4,500 years ago) (today's Dayak and other groups). These ancient people also split with some heading to Sulawesi and others progressing into Java, and Sumatra. The final migration was to the Malay Peninsula roughly 3,000 years ago. A sub-group from Borneo moved to Champa in Vietnam roughly 4,500 years ago. There are also traces of the Dong Son and Hoabinhian migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. There was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. All these groups share DNA and linguistic origins traceable to the island that is today Taiwan, and the ancestors of these ancient people are traceable to southern China.



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