Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tunku Halim's New Book

Some days ago, I chanced on a new book by Tunku Halim at MPH. The book title is "History of Malaysia: A Children's Encyclopedia". As a check on the factual accuracy of the book, I turned to the Parameswara section to see what Tunku has to say about him. To my horror, I read: Parameswara was married to Hang Li Po.

Tunku's statement is incorrect for the following reasons.

1. According to Sejarah Melayu, Hang Li Po was a Chinese princess married to Sultan Mansur Shah, not Parameswara.

2. Reputable historians in general doubt the historical existence of Hang Li Po, because the name of the princess cannot be found in the Chinese or Portuguese sources. It is only mentioned in Sejarah Melayu. And Sejarah Melayu is full of historical inaccuracies.

Concerning the origin of the name of the Chinese princess, I offer the following explanation.

The name "Hang" is easy, it is simply a transliteration of the word "汉", meaning Chinese, or the word could possibly derived from the Malay honorific meaning mister or miss. The name "Li Po" is probably the transliteration of the chinese word "礼部". The Malaccan officials who followed Parameswara to China on August 1411 was received by officials from the Ministry of Rites (礼部郎中). Probably the name got stuck in their mind when they returned to Melaka and got woven into the fabrics of Sejarah Melayu.

Probably Tunku needs to brush up his knowledge on Melaka. Although he is writing a book for children, it does not mean that he can simply write whatever he likes.

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