The Malacca Sultanate and Admiral Zheng He
Most of you will be wondering what on earth am I doing writing about history, when this site is mainly dedicated to the connoisseurs of the gentlemen’s game of golf.
Well, there are a few reasons for that:
1. The last few months we have seen how enthralled the country got when discussing one aspect of the country’s history that every political party had something to say about it, on top of the many police reports made against the interpreter of the facts.
2. It is a pity that every time I updated this site (which is quite rare), many people I know could not really appreciate the humour that has been injected into the articles, as those who do not play golf simply don’t understand most of what was written. In fact even some of the golfers could not get the humour. That just shows what a varied bunch of people golfers are.
3. Finally, when you don’t have a job, it can drive you insane. So before you curse your bosses, jobs, companies that you work for, be thankful that you have jobs to go to. Be thankful that you have to get up early in the morning every day (unlike me who rarely see the sun rise), getting stuck in the jam, getting stuck in the air-conditioned office, and having to get home late into the nights (and not seeing the beautiful sunset which I get to see every day).
Since I do not want any political parties to get involve in my interpretation of history, and getting police reports made against me, I have decided to choose a historical event that happened hundreds of years ago, that the facts, whilst plenty, are all up for interpretation.
I have to be honest that I have never been a historical buff, as I think there is no point living in the past. It is the future that matters. But history is fascinating, and as one politician I can’t recall said, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”. History is fascinating because in many instances no one can really verify it as everyone is dead!! As Voltaire said, “History consists of a series of accumulated imaginative inventions”.
So I choose to write about the Malacca sultanate and the link with the great Chinese mariner, Admiral Zheng He, or as some of us may remember during our history lessons in school, Laksamana Cheng Ho. What we were not taught however is that Zheng He was born in Yunnan and a Muslim, and his original Chinese name was Ma Sanbao and his Muslim name was Mahmud Shamsuddin. He was considered a Hui Chinese, although his great great grandfather was a Persian and the governor of Yunnan. The name Zheng He was bestowed to him by Emperor Chengzu. He was also a eunuch. Imagine that, first he was circumcised as a Muslim, and then had the whole thing cut off!!! Painful!!!!!!
As I said, I am not a history buff, and I am quite sure that I was asleep most of the time during history classes, though I think I did get an “A” during the standard 5 exam. Since I got an “A”, I should be quite competent to comment on the facts that were presented by the equally sleepy teacher.
Now, if you can recall, we were taught that Admiral Zheng He visited Malacca and as a show of respect brought with him a princess from China to be married off to the Sultan of Malacca, a beautiful young princess called Hang Li Po. Imagine that, a beautiful Chinese princess was given to the Sultan of Malacca. Imagine our bulging eyes (for those of us not sleeping) listening to this tale. The largest and most powerful kingdom on earth (in those days, and may one day be again) sending its own princess to be married off to the sultan of one tiny place called Malacca!!! Off course I am not disputing the fact that the sultan did marry a Chinese maiden from China. After all, the proof is all there, the Nyonya and Peranakan traditions, and what nots. But a princess??? Strange that there’s not a single record of her during the Ming dynasty!!!
I believe this is what happened.
Admiral Zheng He was in his ship just off the coast of Malacca. His trusted aide came up to him and said, “Your Excellency, we will be at the Malacca port tomorrow. May I present you my report on what I have on the Malacca sultanate so that you know what we need to do?”
Zheng He looked at the aide, and growled (not sure whether eunuch can still growl), “Hmmmm!!!”, just like before Justice Bao sentenced the accused to death.
The aide then continued, “The place is ruled by a sultan called Mansur Shah, and he is a Muslim just like you, Your Excellency”, and then whispering, “except that he still has a penis and as a Muslim has a few wives”. You can imagine how scared this aide was, facing this great admiral, and trusted aide of the emperor but no penis!!! You can also imagine the sly smiles around the room.
Zheng He then growled again, “Ok, what else?”, a little bit upset by the mention of his lack of penis.
The aide continued, “The sultan’s court is guarded by five fearsome warriors, Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu and Hang Lekir”.
Zheng He looked puzzle, “Hang???, That sounds Chinese. Are they Chinese warriors?”
The aide then realized that his research did not go far enough. “Oh, no, Your Excellency, I believe “Hang” is a title bestowed upon those with royal blood”, hoping his lie would not be discovered.
“Very strange!”, growled Zheng He again. He has to growl a lot to show that he is still a man despite having his penis chopped off by the Emperor. “What else?”.
The aide continued, “I think the sultan is expecting some gifts from China, but we only have silk and mandarin oranges on the ship Your Excellency. I don’t think he is going to be too happy!”
“Hmmmm…. Let me sleep on it, since we will only be at the port tomorrow!”, Zheng He growled again.
So that night, Zheng He started to think. What can he give a sultan who has everything? All night he could not sleep, and finally at dawn decided to go to the ship’s kitchen to have some porridge. And then he saw this lovely maiden, cooking in the ship’s kitchen. You see those days, they allow women on Chinese ships as most of the sailors were eunuchs and they can’t have sex with these women!! So it was fairly safe to have women on board.
“What’s your name young lady?”, Zheng He asked. The young cook answered, “Li Po”.
And then it struck him. Maybe he could give the young maiden to the sultan as a bride, but wouldn’t the sultan be insulted to be given a cook as a bride? So he called his aide to his cabin.
“I have an idea!” and so Zheng He told him what he had in mind.
The aide was shocked, to say the least. Has this great admiral gone mad, offering a cook as a bride to the sultan of Malacca?? What was he thinking? He must be thinking with his dick, except he does not have a dick!!!
But the great admiral was adamant, and there must be a way to present this cook to the sultan without insulting him.
And then he smiled. “I know what to do!! Let’s bestow her the title “Hang” and present her to the sultan as a princess from China.
And that is how, the sultan of Malacca ended up marrying a “supposedly” Chinese princess by the name of Hang Li Po.
Now let’s consider the logic.
First, why is it despite having given a bride to a sultan of a foreign nation, there was no mention of Hang Li Po or any princess being given as a bride to the sultan in the records of the Ming dynasty? Of course we all know that many of the books and records were burned by the communist, but even then, not one mention anywhere????
Two, it is common practice in China those days to send beautiful young ladies who were presented as from the royal blood to foreign land to be married off. And who would turn down a Chinese princess???
So, is that the truth that historians will agree on? As said by Henry Adams (who the hell is Henry Adams, I hear some of you mumbling!), “The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values his honesty; for if he cares for his truths, he is certain to falsify his facts.”