Contesting the Stories of Sang Nila Utama

Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama
Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama

Divine King of Singapura

Also known as Sri Tri Buana, which means Lord of Three Worlds, this Palembang prince from Srivijaya founded the Kingdom of Singapura on the island of Temasek.

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Divine King of Singapura

I have arrived at Temasek, an island with unique white sand. On our way here, a relentless storm hit us. To lighten our load, we threw our possessions overboard, but my vessel continued to take on water. It was with a heavy heart that I threw my diadem
A diadem is a jewel-encrusted crown or headband worn by royalty or those in power. Besides the diadem worn by Sang Nila Utama, Wang Dayuan mentioned another diadem found in Singapura during his visits. He wrote that “in ancient times, when digging the ground, a chief came upon a jewelled headdress. The beginning of the year is calculated from the rising of the moon, when the chief put on his headgear and wore his dress to receive the congratulations. Nowadays, this custom is still continued”.
overboard. Immediately,…
An Orang Laut
An Orang Laut
1605
Oh, such is the willingness to give up his diadem to calm a storm! This is the exemplary leadership of our sultans, who hail from an unbroken lineage from Alexander the Great
According to the Sejarah Melayu, Sang Nila Utama was born to Raja Chulan, who ruled a powerful kingdom in India called Kalinga. He fell in love with a sea princess who bore him three princes, one of whom was Sang Nila Utama. It has also been written that Sang Nila Utama’s genealogy can be traced back to Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great or Raja Iskandar Zulkarnain. According to Malay epic Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain, the latter spread the faith of Ibrahim to its furthest limits in India.
. I heard this story recited many times, but I never tire of listening to the Sejarah Melayu!
Also known as the Malay Annals, the Sejarah Melayu chronicles the history and establishment of the Melaka Sultanate, its relationships with neighbouring kingdoms, and administrative practices of the period. However, it contains no dates. The work belongs to a popular literary genre which was read aloud, often for entertainment. The Malay Annals originated from a compilation of the genealogy of Malay rulers by an unknown Melakan author in 1436, but the original can no longer be found. Some scholars suggest it originated from the Ceritera Asal Raja-Raja Melayu Punya Keturunan (Story of the Origin and Descent of Malay Rajas), after many generations copied and revised the text.

The Meaning Behind the Lion

Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama
Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama

Divine King of Singapura

Also known as Sri Tri Buana, which means Lord of Three Worlds, this Palembang prince from Srivijaya founded the Kingdom of Singapura on the island of Temasek.

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Divine King of Singapura

I was hunting when I saw this strange animal. I asked all my men, "What beast is that? It had a red body and a black head; its breast was white and it was strong and active in build, and it is bigger than a he-goat". I’m still in shock…
Demang Lebar Daun
Demang Lebar Daun
Demang Lebar Daun
Demang Lebar Daun

A Palembang Chief

The ruler of Palembang, who abdicated his throne for Sang Nila Utama. He also married his daughter to Sang Nila Utama.

A Palembang Chief
1299
Your Highness, I have heard it said in ancient times that a singha
Singha means lion in Sanskrit. The sighting of the lion in Singapore was likely a way to explain Sang Nila Utama’s desire to re-establish his divine authority as Lord of Three Worlds on the island. In doing so, his divine and historic ancestral line shifted from Palembang to Singapore, and later to Melaka and Johor.
had this appearance.

Singapura, the Land Beneath the Winds

Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama
Sang Nila Uatama
Sang Nila Utama

Divine King of Singapura

Also known as Sri Tri Buana, which means Lord of Three Worlds, this Palembang prince from Srivijaya founded the Kingdom of Singapura on the island of Temasek.

Explore

Divine King of Singapura

Monsoon patterns dictated maritime trade in the Strait of Melaka. Ships from China would sail southwest to the Malay Peninsula in January, and return to China from June to August. Vessels heading for South India would leave the Malay ports between April and August with the southwest monsoon, or in…
Ma Cha Man
Ma Cha Man
Ma Cha Man
Ma Cha Man

An Envoy of the Yuan Dynasty

A Chinese envoy from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), who was sent in search of tame elephants.

An Envoy of the Yuan Dynasty
1330
The Yuan Court is seeking elephants from Champa, Cambodia and Long Ya Men
Wang Dayuan, a merchant-traveller, recorded that at the Long Ya Men settlement, the local population lived side by side with the Chinese settlers. The lack of separation between people was unique for trading ports at that time. The settlement was likely to have been named after a unique rock formation found near the Keppel area, also known as Batu Berlayer or Sail Rock in Malay. The rock formation was destroyed in 1848 to widen the entrance to the new harbour.
in Singapura.

The Nanhai Trade and Threats to Singapura

Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan

A traveller from Quanzhou

A Chinese Merchant-Traveller who wrote about early Singapura, from his two voyages to the kingdom, in his composition the Dao yi zhi lue, which means Description of the Barbarians of the Isles.

A traveller from Quanzhou

I've finally made it to the emporium
An emporium is an important centre of trade. To have traders describe it as an emporium meant that the Singapura Kingdom would have had fairly stable trading conditions.
of Temasek. It’s the 49th place I've visited, out of my goal of 99!
A Chinese Trader
A Chinese Trader
1330
Please be careful. Unlike your home in Quanzhou
Quanzhou is a port in Fujian that Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo considered “one of the two ports in the world with the biggest flow of merchandise”. Considered by contemporaries as the pre-eminent city in China in the 14th century, Quanzhou’s growth was spurred by lax enforcement of custom regulations. This allowed illegal trade to flourish for traders seeking to avoid the 15 percent tariffs imposed by the customs office.
, I hear that the region has become unsafe with the rise of the aggressive Javanese after they formed the Majapahit empire. There are rumours that their leader Gajah Mada is vowing to bring all the ports under his control!

Singapura's Early Pluralism and Multiculturalism

Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan

A traveller from Quanzhou

A Chinese Merchant-Traveller who wrote about early Singapura, from his two voyages to the kingdom, in his composition the Dao yi zhi lue, which means Description of the Barbarians of the Isles.

A traveller from Quanzhou

The island is abuzz with activity! Different groups of people co-exist peacefully
According to Wang Dayuan, Singapura was a harmonious city where different people lived together. At Long Ya Men, the Chinese community dwelled side by side with locals, which was unusual at that time. Wang only mentioned two overseas Chinese communities in his book. One consisted of survivors sent to attack Java in 1292, and the other was Long Ya Men in Singapura. According to historian John Miksic there could have been other Chinese communities at that time, which was not mentioned by Wang.
here. However, the Long Ya Men group seems dangerous and could be pirates. They tie their hair neatly in a bun and wear short, blue-green cotton clothes, and trade lakawood and tin dust. On the other hand, the…
A Chinese Trader
A Chinese Trader
1335
I worry about our ability to continue trading. There’s a Red Turban Rebellion
The Red Turban Army was a peasant rebel movement that flourished in northern China at the end of the Yuan Dynasty. Originally created to resist Mongol rule, the movement gained momentum because of famine caused by crop failures and floods in the 1330s. The cause eventually went as far as Korea. A Red Turban leader, Zhu Yuanzhang, later took the opportunity to launch a series of campaigns to defeat his rivals with the faction and the Mongols. In 1368, he proclaimed himself Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The following year, he successfully ended Mongol rule by capturing Beijing.
opposing Yuan rule. It seems they might succeed given the widespread unhappiness from crop failure, famine and floods. If they reinstall a Confucian king, private trade would disappear!

Goods and Trade in Singapura in the 14th Century

Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan
Wang Dayuan

A traveller from Quanzhou

A Chinese Merchant-Traveller who wrote about early Singapura, from his two voyages to the kingdom, in his composition the Dao yi zhi lue, which means Description of the Barbarians of the Isles.

A traveller from Quanzhou

The abundance of goods here is truly a sight to behold. The Temasek market is a real gem! I must come back.
A Chinese Traveller
A Chinese Traveller
1336
Wow, I just can’t believe all the things you can find here! Besides regional goods, I’ve found so many things in Singapura that remind me of home! But nothing beats eating a bowl of rice after many months at sea. And these tasty dishes with sauces from home are just heavenly!
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