Introductory chapter of James Jackson's Planters and Speculators

James Charles Jackson received his doctorate from the Department of Geography, University of Malaya in 1965. Planters and Speculators is adapted from his PhD thesis entitled “Chinese and European agricultural enterprise in Malaya, 1786-1921: a geographical study of expansion and change."

At the close of the eighteenth century the Malay Peninsula was a scantily-populated, jungle-covered wilderness politically divided into a series of small states of varying degrees of independence and isolation. Settlement was restricted to small, traditionally-organised and often temporary Malay coastal and riverine kampongs, to a few diminutive mining centres in the foothills and to a shifting aboriginal population elsewhere. Internal communication was limited to the rivers and occasional jungle-tracks, and the peninsula produced little for export to the outside world save small quantities of tin; gold and jungle produce. It was a region almost totally devoid of export-orientated agriculture.

John Crawfurd's description of Singapore Stone and Fort Canning Hill

(Monday, 4 February 1822) On the stony point which forms the western side of the entrance of the salt creek, on which the modern town of Singapore is building, there was discovered, two years ago, a tolerably hard block of sand-stone, with an inscription upon it.

One part of the Singapore Stone, currently on display at the entrance of the National Museum of Singapore. Other pieces of the original epitaph are believed to be at the Indian Museum of Calcutta. The epitaph was destroyed by the British in 1843 but a few fragments with inscriptions were rescued and shipped to Royal Asiatic Society in Calcutta for decipherment.
This I examined early this morning. The stone, in shape, is a rude mass, and formed of the one-half of a great nodule broken into two nearly equal parts by artificial means; for the two portions now face each other, separated at the base by a distance of not more than two feet and a half, and reclining opposite to each other at angle of about forty degrees. It is u…

John Crawfurd's description of the old Malay Wall of Singapore

(Sunday, 3 February 1822) I walked this morning round the walls and limits of the ancient town of Singapore, for such in reality had been the site of our modern settlement.

It was bounded to the east by the sea (BR), to the north by a wall (RMN), and to the west by a salt creek or inlet of the sea (NCB). The inclosed space is a plain, ending in a hill of considerable extent, and a hundred and fifty feet in height. The whole is a kind of triangle, of which the base is the sea-side, about a mile in length

The length of the shoreline estimated by Crawfurd is probably incorrect since the length of BR is approximately half-a-mile. In order to match Crawfurd's description, we need to extend the shoreline to Point A.

From Point A, we can then draw a nice straight line to the base of the hill, N. If this reconstruction is correct, then AMN should form the line of the old Malay Wall. Since RMN is the actual line of the old Malay Wall, Crawfurd's original description must be incorrec…

A series of unfortunate relocations of the book collection of Hsü Yün Ts‘iao

The book collection of scholar Hsü Yün Ts‘iao 許雲樵, subject of much controversy, will not leave Singapore after all.

A private library will be set up in Lim Teck Kim Road, off Cantonment Road, specially for the 30,000 books, periodicals and newspaper clippings, most of which are Southeast Asian history.

China trip. The library will be financed and administered by a proposed company, the driving force of which is Mr. Kho Bak Weng 許木榮, assistant managing director of Sindo Timber Enterprises Pte Ltd 森都公司.

Mr Hsü, 76, had planned to sell his collection to the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) 馬來西亞馬華公會 in Kuala Lumpur for $150,000. Local libraries, he said, were not interested in the collection which he wanted to sell as a “package deal".

The books are of no great use to him because of his poor health, he said, and the money would pay for a trip to China.

Mr Kho said on Tuesday that he telephoned Mr. Hsu's son immediately after reading newspaper reports about 10 days ago o…

Long division of infinite series

Long division of numbers is usually taught in primary schools to children as one of the basic arithmetic skills. Consider, for example, \(486 \div 5\).

It technically requires the child to atomize 486 into blocks of fives. There is a number of ways to split the number. Since we know that \(90 \times 5 = 450\), one way to do \(486 \div 5\) is: $$\begin{align}486 &= (\mathbf{90} \times 5) + (480 - \mathbf{90} \times 5) + 6\\ &= (90 \times 5) + 30 + 6\\ &= (90 \times 5) + (6 \times 5) + (5 + 1)\\ &= (90 + 6 + 1)\times 5 + 1\\ &= 97 \times 5 + 1 \end{align}$$ We can also repeat the process with a different seed number, for instance, instead of 90, we can start with 80: $$\begin{align}486 &= (\mathbf{80} \times 5) + (480 - \mathbf{80} \times 5) + 6\\ &= (80 \times 5) + 80 + 6\\ &= (80 \times 5) + (50 + 30) + (5 + 1)\\ &= (80 + 10 + 6 + 1)\times 5 + 1\\ &= 97 \times 5 + 1 \end{align}$$ This essentially means that 486 can be atomized into 97 blocks …

The Bahasa Malaysia July Paper of 1976

In 1960, Bahasa Melayu was gradually dosed into our national schools as the language of instruction. But it wasn't until 1970 that the Bahasa Melayu paper in MCE (Malaysia Certificate of Education) was renamed to Bahasa Malaysia and was made a compulsory subject. It means that you need to pass your Bahasa Malaysia in order to pass your MCE.

And in order to get into Form Six, which was then the only way for a middle class student to get a university education, a pass was not good enough, at least a weak credit is needed to secure a seat in HSC (Higher School Certificate). The introduction of the Bahasa Malaysia July Paper was essential because a lot of good students failed to obtain a pass or a credit when they sat for their Bahasa Malaysia paper for the first time.

The MCE 1972 result, as announced by the then Education Minister, Inche Hussain Onn, on Wednesday, 4 April 1973
GroupPassedFailed BahasaGeneral failureTotalMalays6,7511462,4459,342Non-Malays9,31414,1164,35427,784All1…

Mahavira and Nobi Nobita

The opening title of the 1988 film Nobita no Parareru Saiyūki 大雄平行西遊記. This film is perhaps the only film where you can find Mahavira 大雄 and Nobita 大雄 together The main hall of a Mahayana buddhist temple is normally known as the Mahavira Hall or 大雄寶殿 (Dàxióng Bǎodiàn) in Chinese.

The following calligraphic plaque, for instance, was photographed two years ago when I was at Kaiyuan Temple 開元寺 in Quanzhou 泉州.
Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou The four chinese ideograms symbolising both Mahavira and the hall are rendered by a certain magistrate of Quanzhou named Sun Chaorang 孫朝讓 in standard script 楷書, probably on the 15th day of the 8th month of the year of Renwu of Chongzhen 崇禎壬午仲秋 (Proleptic Gregorian: August 29, 1642).

If you pay attention to the two vertical lines on the plaque, you will notice that the regnal name of Emperor Zhu Youjian, 崇禎, and the name of the calligrapher were both written in red ink.

Apparently writing your name with a red pen was not actually a probl…