Melaka, Malaysia



According to the 16th century Malay Annals, Melaka was founded by Parameswara, a Hindu prince and fugitive from nearby Java. Legend goes that Parameswara was out on a hunt and stopped to rest near what is now the Melaka River. Standing near a "melaka" (Indian gooseberry) tree he was surprised to see one of his hunting dogs startled by a mouse deer that it fell into the river. Parameswara took this as a propitious sign of the weak overcoming the powerful and decided to build the capital of his new kingdom where he stood, naming it for the tree under which he had been resting.

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Sultanate Palace Museum, Melaka

Sultanate Palace Museum

Melaka was established around 1402 and had a navigable port sheltered by nearby Sumatra from across the narrow straits. The port was supplied with ample fresh water and enjoyed a central location in regional trading route. Melaka's fortunes soon increased and attracted Arab, Chinese and Indian traders as well as settlers. After the visit of the Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho in the mid-15th century, contact between China and Melaka intensified. In exchange for protection against Siam, Melaka became a vassal state of China's Ming Dynasty.

St. Paul's Church, Melaka

15th century St. Paul's Church

Things started to change with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1509. They were at first welcomed but  the sultan later turned against the Portuguese (realizing the Portuguese intention to seize the city) and they had to flee. In 1511 the Portuguese returned and successfully seized Melaka and turned the city into a massive walled fortress complete with cannons. It was believed that such fortifications could withstand the encroachments of other European powers eager for a slice of the trade with Asia.
Christ Church, Melaka

17th century Christ Church

In 1641 the Dutch put a naval blockade on Melaka and eventually seized the city after six months. During the siege much of the Portuguese city was destroyed and eventually plundered. After 150 years, the Dutch would also lose their hold on Melaka and later taken over by the British. By that time, the city had lost much of its importance as a major port on the regional Asian trading route. Today, the A'Famosa Fort, St. Paul's Cathedral and Stadhuys are all that remains of the Portuguese and Dutch conquest.

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