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China's Southern Sea

Needles and Sago

Sultan Mansur of Melaka certainly continued and encouraged Parameswara's policy of encouraging the friendship and protection of China. The Sejarah Melayu's account of Sultan Mansur's first encounter with China, and his subsequent marriage to the daughter of the Emperor, is famous.

When news reached China of the greatness of the Raja of Malaka, the Raja of China sent envoys to Malaka: and as a complimentary gift to accompany his letter he sent needles, a whole shipload of them. And when the envoys reached Malaka, the king ordered the letter to be fetched from the ship with due ceremony and borne in procession. And when it had been brought into the palace it was received by a herald and given by him to the reader of the mosque, who read it out. It ran as follows:-"This letter from His Majesty the Raja of Heaven is sent to the Raja of Malaka. We hear that the Raja of Malaka is a great raja and we desire accordingly to be on terms of amity with the Raja of Malaka. Of a truth there are no rajas in this world greater than ourselves, and there is no one who knoweth the number of our subjects. We have asked for one needle from each house in our realm and those are the needles with which the ship we send to Malaka is laden."

When Sultan Mansur Shah heard how the letter ran he smiled. He then gave orders that the ship should be cleared of the needles and filled with fried sago. Tun Perpateh Puteh, younger brother of Bendahara Paduka Raja, was then commanded by Sultan Mansur Shah to go as envoy to China. He set out and after a voyage of some length arrived at his destination. .... A letter from the Sultan of Malaka was then read and the Raja of China was pleased to hear what it said. And the sago was brought a of China, and he asked how it was made. And Tun Perpateh Puteh answered, "After this fashion, your Highness: our Raja ordered that each of his subjects should roll out a grain of sago enough to fill a ship. That will indicate how many are our Raja, no man knows their number!" Then said the Raja of China, "Great indeed must be this Raja of Malaka! The multitude of his subjects must be as the multitude of our own. It would be well that I should marry him with my daughter!" ...

... The Raja of China bade Ling Ho (his Chief Minister) make ready ships to convey Ling, his daughter, to Malaka. Ling Ho did so, and when nearly ready, the Raja of China chose out five hundred youths of noble birth (sons of ministers), with a high officer in command, to escort his daughter Princess Hang Liu; and several beautiful women-attendants accompanied her. ... they then set sail for Malaka, which they reached after a voyage of some length. Word was brought to Sultan Mansur Shah that Tun Perpateh Puteh had arrived, bringing with him a daughter of the Raja of China. Sultan Mansur Shah was well pleased and gave orders to his chiefs and war-chiefs to welcome her..... And when she appeared, Sultan Mansur Shah was astonished by the beauty of Princess Hang Liu, daughter of the Raja of China, and he gave orders that she embrace the faith of Islam. When this had been done, Sultan Mansur Shah married the princess, daughter of the Raja of China: and by her he had a son to whom he gave the name of Paduka Mimat. This Paduka Mimat had a son named Paduka Sri China, who in his turn had a son named Paduka Ahmat, father of Paduka Isap. And the five hundred sons of Chinese ministers (who accompanied her) were bidden to take up their abode at Bukit China: and the place goes by that name to this day. It was they who made the well at Bukit China, and it is their descendants who are called "the Chinese yeomen (biduanda)". And Sultan Mansur gave robes of honour to the Chinese minister who had brought the princess, and the minister then sought leave to return to China. The king thereupon commanded Tun Telanai and Mentri Jana Putra to go (as envoys) to China, for now for the first time Sultan Mansur Shah was sending 'obeisance' to the Raja of China, having married his daughter.


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Write to the author: sabrizain@malaya.org.uk

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