Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

State formation and the evolution of naval strategies in the Melaka Straits, c. 500–1500 CE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2013

Abstract

The Strait of Melaka and connected waterways have been critical to, and directly affected, the formation of littoral states, societies and economies in eastern Sumatra, the Riau Islands, the Malay Peninsula, and Singapore. The history and nature of statehood in the region is interrelated to the way in which naval capabilities evolved, but, as argued in this article, perhaps not in the straightforward fashion often assumed. Naval capabilities and strategies evolved in tandem with state policy to adapt to changes in the wider Asian maritime political economy which was dominated at various times by China and India. This article examines the factors that affected maritime policy in the Melaka Straits c. 500 to 1500 CE, and the extent to which these furthered the viability of the mainly Malay port-polities, and in particular the regional hegemonic state of Srivijaya in eastern Sumatra. The study utilises textual records, epigraphic materials, and literature to reconstruct a more nuanced picture of maritime states and naval power in premodern Southeast Asia.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The National University of Singapore 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

1 Bronson, Bennet, ‘Exchange at the upstream and downstream ends: Notes towards a functional model of the coastal state in Southeast Asia’, in Economic exchange and social interaction in Southeast Asia: Perspectives from prehistory, history and ethnography, ed. Hutterer, Karl L. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1977), pp. 3952Google Scholar; Miksic, John N., ‘Traditional Sumatran trade’, Bulletin de l'École française d'extrême orient (BEFEO) 74 (1985): 423–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 Wolters, O.W., The fall of Srivijaya in Malay history (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1970)Google Scholar; Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘Shipshape societies: Boat symbolism and political systems in insular Southeast Asia’, in Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th centuries, ed. Marr, David G. and Milner, Anthony C. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), pp. 187214Google Scholar; Andaya, Leonard Y., Leaves of the same tree: Trade and ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Milner, Anthony C., The Malays (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Reid, Anthony, ‘The structure of cities in Southeast Asia, 15th to 17th centuries’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (henceforth JSEAS) 11, 2 (1980): 235–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Manguin, Pierres-Yves, ‘The merchant and the king: Political myths of Southeast Asian coastal polities’, Indonesia 52 (Oct. 1991): 4154CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Wolters, O.W., Early Indonesian commerce: A study of the origins of Srivijaya (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), pp. 240–2Google Scholar; Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘The vanishing jong: Insular Southeast Asian fleets in trade and war (fifteenth to seventeenth centuries)’, in Southeast Asia in the early modern era: Trade, power and belief, ed. Reid, Anthony (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 197213Google Scholar; Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘The amorphous nature of coastal polities in insular Southeast Asia: Restricted centres, extended peripheries’, Moussons 5 (2002): 7399CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Burbank, Jane and Cooper, Frederick, Empires in world history: Power and the politics of difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), pp. 149–84Google Scholar.

6 Charney, Michael W., Southeast Asian warfare, 1300–1900 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 104–30Google Scholar; Flecker, Michael, ‘The South-China-Sea tradition: The hybrid hulls of South-East Asia’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36, 1 (2007): 7590CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Green, Jeremy, ‘Maritime archaeology in Southeast and East Asia’, Antiquity 64 (1990): 347–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Levi, S., ‘Ptolemee, Le Niddesa et la Brhatkatha’, Études Asiatiques II (1925): 155, 431–2Google Scholar; Gungwu, Wang, The Nanhai trade: Early Chinese trade in the South China Sea (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003), pp. 1528Google Scholar.

8 Wolters, Early Indonesian commerce, pp. 159–72.

9 Silian, Yao, Liangshu [History of the Liang] (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan gongsi, 1984), 54, 16a17bGoogle Scholar.

10 Heng, Derek, ‘Situating Temasik within the larger regional context: Maritime Asia and Malay state formation in the pre-modern era’, in Singapore in global history, ed. Heng, Derek and Aljunied, Syed Muhd Khairudin (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), pp. 36–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Sastri, K.A. Nilakanta, History of Sri Vijaya (Madras: University of Madras, 1949), p. 113Google Scholar.

12 Sriwijaya: History, religion and language of an early Malay polity; Collected studies by George Coedes and Louis Charles Damais, ed. Manguin, Pierre-Yves and Sheppard, Mubin, Monograph of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (henceforth MBRAS), no. 20 (Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS, 1992), p. 46Google Scholar.

13 Sastri, History, p. 116.

14 Ibid., pp. 120–21.

Ibid

15 Tibbetts, G.R., A study of the Arabic texts containing material on Southeast Asia (Leiden: Brill, 1979), p. 33Google Scholar.

16 Tibbetts, Arabic texts, p. 35.

17 The version of the Account of the Eminent Monk Fa Xian (高僧法显传) in this article may be found in the Taisho Tripitaka, vol. 51, no. 2085, accessible from the SAT Daizōkyō Text Database, http://21dzk.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/SAT/index_en.html (last accessed on 13 Apr. 2011).

18 Ibid., vol. 51, no. 2085, 865c (last accessed on 13 Apr. 2011).

Ibid

19 Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘The Southeast Asian ship: An historical approach’, JSEAS 11, 2 (1980): 266–76Google Scholar.

20 Bangwei, Wang, Datang xiyu qiu fa gao sengzhuan [大唐西域求法高僧传 Accounts of the Western travels of eminent monks of the Tang in search of scriptures](Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988), p. 175Google Scholar.

21 Pu, Wang, Tanghuiyao [Institutional history of the Tang dynasty] (Tokyo: Zhongwen chubanshe, 1978), 98, 1751Google Scholar. Author's translation.

22 Kulke, Hermann, ‘“Kadatuan Srivijaya”— Empire or kraton of Srivijaya? A reassessment of the epigraphical evidence’, BEFEO 80, 1 (1993): 159–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 Lieberman, Victor, Strange parallels: Southeast Asia in global context, c. 800–1830. Vol. 2. Mainland mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the islands (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 764Google Scholar; Tambiah, Stanley J., World conqueror and world renouncer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 102–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 Songshi [History of the Song dynasty 宋史], ed. Tuo Tuo et al., 489, 14089; Yunwu, Wang, Ma Duanlin: Wenxian tongkao [馬端臨: 文獻通考 Encyclopaedia of literary contributions] (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1936), 332, 2610, 2Google Scholar. Also, see Heng, Derek, Sino–Malay trade and diplomacy from the tenth through the fourteenth century (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2009), p. 81Google Scholar.

25 Jiarong, Chen and Jiang, Qian, Zhufanzhi zhubu [諸蕃志注補 Treatise on the Foreign Barbarians] (Hongkong: Hongkong University Press, 2000), p. 47Google Scholar. Author's translation.

26 Karashima, Noboru and Subbarayalu, Y., ‘Ancient and medieval Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions relating to Southeast Asia and China’, in Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola naval expeditions to Southeast Asia, ed. Kulke, Hermann, Kesavapany, K. and Sakhuja, Vijay (Singapore: ISEAS, 2010), pp. 279, 280Google Scholar.

27 Christie, Jan Wisseman, ‘The medieval Tamil-language inscriptions in Southeast Asia and China’, JSEAS 29, 2 (1998): 257–8Google Scholar; Sastri, History pp. 132–3.

28 Heng, Sino–Malay, pp. 86–7.

29 For differing interpretations of the historical implications of the Guangzhou inscription, refer to Heng, Sino–Malay, pp. 88–91; and Seong, Tan Yeok, ‘The Sri Vijayan inscription of Canton (A.D. 1079)’, Journal of Southeast Asian History 5, 2 (1964): 1726CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Wolters, Early Indonesian commerce, p. 241.

31 Kuwabara, Jitsuzo, ‘On P'u Shou-Keng’, Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko 2 (1928): 179Google Scholar.

32 Derek Heng, ‘Situating Temasik within the larger regional context’, pp. 39–40.

33 See, for example, Hall, Kenneth R., A history of early Southeast Asia: Maritime trade and societal development, 100–1500 (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011)Google Scholar; Andaya, Leaves of the same tree, pp. 49–81.

34 Youxiang, Tu, Zhou Qufei: Lingwai daida [嶺外代答 Answers from beyond the Southern Mountains] (Shanghai: Yuandong chubanshe, 1996), p. 42Google Scholar. Author's translation.

35 Chen and Qian, Zhufanzhi zhubu, pp. 46–7. Author's translation.

36 Chen and Qian, Zhufanzhi zhubu, p. 46.

37 Hirth, Freidrich and Rockhill, W.W., Chau Ju-Kua: His work on the Chinese and Arab trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, entitled Chu-fan-chi (New York: Paragon, 1966), pp. 62–3Google Scholar.

38 Yu, Zhu, Pingzhou ketan [萍州可談 Conversation from the South] (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan gongsi, 1984)Google Scholar, 2: 5a & b. Heng, Derek, ‘Shipping, customs procedures and the foreign community: The Pingzhou ketan on three aspects of Guangzhou's maritime economy in the late eleventh century AD’, Journal of Song Yuan Studies 38 (2008): 1112Google Scholar. So Long, Kee, ‘Dissolving hegemony or changing trade pattern?’, JSEAS 29, 2 (1998): 299Google Scholar.

39 Wheatley, ‘Geographical notes’: 65; Burkill, I.H., A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 1986–90Google Scholar.

40 For more details on the Chinese trade in sandalwood, see Heng, Derek Thiam Soon, ‘The trade in lakawood products between South China and the Malay world from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries AD’, JSEAS 32, 2 (2001): 133–49Google Scholar.

41 Tu, Zhou, p. 42.

42 Wheatley, Paul, ‘Geographical notes on some commodities involved in Sung maritime trade’, JMBRAS 32, 2 (1959): 5140Google Scholar.

43 Chen and Qian, Zhufanzhi, pp. 46–7.

44 Ibid., pp. 344–57.

Ibid

45 Ibid., pp. 46–7, 66, 71.

Ibid

46 Ibid., pp. 368, 411.

Ibid

47 Ibid., p. 358. For information on the contraction of Srivijaya's sphere of influence in the northeast Malay Peninsula and the Gulf of Siam, see Wolters, O.W., ‘Tambralingga’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 21, 3 (1958): 587607CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

Ibid

48 E. Edwards McKinnon, ‘Kota Cina: Its context and meaning in the trade of Southeast Asia in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries’ (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, 1984); Miksic, John N., Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 1985)Google Scholar; Allen, S.J., Trade, transportation and tributaries: Exchange, agriculture and settlement distribution in early historic-period Kedah, Malaysia (Michigan: U.M.I. Dissertation Information System, 1988)Google Scholar; Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘Palembang and Srivijaya: An early Malay harbour-city rediscovered’, JMBRAS 66, 1 (1993): 2346Google Scholar; Archaeological recovery of the Java Sea wreck, ed. Flecker, M. and Mathers, William M. (Maryland: Pacific Sea Resources, 1997)Google Scholar; Guillot, Claude, Histoire de Barus, Sumatra: le site de Lobu Tua (Paris: Association Archipel, 1998)Google Scholar; Ridho, Abu and McKinnon, W. Edwards, The Pulau Buaya wreck: Finds from the Song period (Jakarta: Ceramics Society of Indonesia, 1998)Google Scholar; Michael Flecker, The archaeological recovery of the 10th century Intan shipwreck (Ph.D. diss., National University of Singapore, 2001).

49 Dazhen, Chen, Dade nanhaizhi [大德南海志 Treatise on the South Seas in the Dade era] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju bianjiaobu 1990), 7: 19a20bGoogle Scholar.

50 For a detailed discussion of similar naval operations by Oman within established maritime spheres of influence in the Western Indian Ocean, refer to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese empire in Asia, 1500–1700: A political and economic history (London: Longman Press, 1993), p. 192Google Scholar.

51 Chen and Qian, Zhufanzhi, pp. 47.

52 Evers, H.-D., ‘Traditional trading networks in Southeast Asia’, Archipel 35 (1988): 89100CrossRefGoogle Scholar; van Leur, J.C., Indonesian trade and society: Essays in Asian social and economic history (The Hague: W. Van Hoeve, 1955)Google Scholar.

53 Jiqing, Su, Daoyi zhilue jiaoshi [島夷志略校釋 Treatise on the Barbarian Isles], (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), p. 213Google Scholar.

54 Song, Xu et al. , Songhuiyao jigao [宋會要輯稿 Veritable records of the Song dynasty], (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1957)Google Scholar, zhiguan [職官 official governance]: 44: 8a, b. Also refer to Heng, Sino–Malay trade and diplomacy, pp. 48–52.

55 Heng, Derek, ‘Structures, networks and commercial practices of private Chinese maritime traders in island Southeast Asia in the early second millennium AD’, International Journal of Maritime History 20, 2 (2008): 41–8Google Scholar.

56 Zhao Yanwei, Yunlu manchao [云麓漫钞 Writings from the clouds and foothills], 1206, 5: 88.

57 Chen and Qian, Zhufanzhi, p. 78.

58 Hill, A.H., ‘Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai’, JMBRAS 33, 2 (1961): 160–61Google Scholar.

59 Hill, ‘Hikayat’: 127–8.

60 Su, Daoyi, p. 154.

61 Ibid., p. 213.

Ibid

62 Brown, C.C., Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 41–2Google Scholar.

63 Desawarnana (Nagarakertagama) by Mpu Pranpanca, trans. Robson, Stuart (Leiden: KITLV, 1995), p. 3Google Scholar.

64 Hill, ‘Hikayat’: 122.

65 Ibid.: 132.

Ibid

66 In C.C. Brown's translation, Brown denotes the quantitative noun as ‘sails’. This is not apparent from the transliterated version of the MS No. 18 of the Raffles collection, on which Brown's translation is based. In other words, the size of the vessels of the Queen of Bentan is not apparent, even though the number of vessels is clear. Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 18; Winstedt, R.O., ‘The Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu; the earliest recension from MS. no. 18 of the Raffles collection, in the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society, London’, JMBRAS 16, 3 (1938): 59Google Scholar.

67 For examples of such socio-political displays, see Brown, Sejarah Melayu, pp. 21, 44–9; Milner, Anthony C., The Malay raja: A study of Malay political culture in east Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula in the early nineteenth century (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1977), pp. 74–5Google Scholar; Gullick, J.M., Indigenous political systems of western Malaya (London: Athlone, 1958), pp. 4461, 65–94Google Scholar.

68 Heng, Derek, ‘Socio-political structure, membership and mobility in the pre-modern Malay coastal port-polity: The case of Singapore in the fourteenth century’, in Migration and membership regimes in global and historical perspective, ed. Bosma, Ulbe, Kessler, Gijs and Lucassen, Leo (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming)Google Scholar.

69 Hill, ‘Hikayat’: 127.

70 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 38.

71 Tibbetts, Arabic texts, pp. 59, 64–5.

72 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 26.

73 Geoff Wade, ‘The Zheng He voyages: A reassessment’, Asia Research Institute (ARI) Working Paper Series no. 31, ARI, National University of Singapore, 2004.

74 Gungwu, Wang, ‘The first three rulers of Melaka’, JMBRAS 61, 1 (1968)Google Scholar: Table II.

75 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, pp. 60, 91.

76 Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘Lancaran, ghurab and ghali: Mediterranean impact on war vessels in early modern Southeast Asia’, in Anthony Reid and the study of the Southeast Asian past, ed. Wade, Geoff and Tana, Li (Singapore: ISEAS, 2012), pp. 146–82Google Scholar; the design of the lancaran was likely to have been influenced by Middle Eastern ships.

77 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 60; Winstedt, ‘Malay Annals’: 98.

78 Manguin, ‘The vanishing jong’; Flecker, ‘The South-China-Sea tradition’; Nik Hassan Suhaimi B. Nik Adb. Rahman and Samsol Sahar, ‘Malaysian report’, paper presented at the ASEAN-COCI symposium on maritime and waterways, Terengganu, Malaysia, 23–28 Jan. 2006, p. 68.

79 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 91; Winstedt, ‘Malay Annals’: 98.

80 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 91.

81 Charney, Michael W., Southeast Asian warfare, 1300–1900, vol. 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), p. 126Google Scholar.

82 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 55.

83 Ibid., p. 70.

Ibid

84 Salleh, Muhammad Haji, ‘A white knight speaks the white man's tongue: Notes on translating the Hikayat Hang Tuah’, Indonesia and the Malay World 34, 100 (2006): 295405Google Scholar.

85 Brown, Sejarah Melayu, p. 91.

86 Manguin, ‘Jong’, p. 206.

87 Ibid.

Ibid

88 Guan, Kwa Chong, Heng, Derek and Yong, Tan Tai, Singapore: A seven-hundred year history (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2009), pp. 6382Google Scholar.

89 Charney, Southeast Asian warfare, pp. 104–30; Manguin, ‘Jong’, pp. 197–213.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 184 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-76cb886bbf-r88h9 Total loading time: 0.382 Render date: 2021-01-23T01:07:37.638Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

State formation and the evolution of naval strategies in the Melaka Straits, c. 500–1500 CE
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

State formation and the evolution of naval strategies in the Melaka Straits, c. 500–1500 CE
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

State formation and the evolution of naval strategies in the Melaka Straits, c. 500–1500 CE
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *