From road names to coffee brands, the name Hang Tuah – a famous warrior of Malacca, Malaysia in the 16th century – has lived on for centuries in Malaysia and Indonesia and is as synonymous with the Malay history and culture as, say, Alexander the Great to the Greeks.
Except that now the very existence of Hang Tuah, alongside his four other comrades and a Chinese princess said to have married a Malacca sultan, is being called into question.
A renowned Malaysian historian has gone on record to refute the existence of Malacca’s most-celebrated warriors – Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu – and a princess called Hang LiPo, as there is no mention of them in Chinese historical records.
“Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat and company were all mythical figures. There is no proof that they existed,” Emeritus Professor Khoo Kay Kim, chancellor of KDU University College was quoted as saying to a local radio station BFM, yesterday.
He said here that the Ming Dynasty historical records were a well-preserved and important source of information, but there was no mention of the princess being married to the Sultan of Malacca.
“The Chinese records showed that there was no Hang LiPo. She was supposed to be a princess sent to Malacca to marry the Sultan. But the chinese records didn’t show that. So, the story was probably made up to show how important Malacca was, that even the Emperor of China sent his daughter there to be married to the Sultan,” he said.
The comments made by the historian became a talking point for Malaysians, as they ponder the credibility of the historical lessons they learnt in school.
Under the Malaysian school system, students study the contributions of Hang Tuah to Malacca – an influential port in Asia from the 15th century to the early 16th century – as an admiral and faithful aide to the Malaccan Sultan.
Hang Tuah was also particularly singled out as a symbol of Malay heroism, for allegedly saying, “Never shall the Malays vanish from the face of the earth”, which is used as a war-chant for Malay nationalists in the country.
Later, Khoo, who is part of a committee set up to analyse the education system’s History curriculum, said to other media sources that myths and legends should not be part of the syllabus. A new History curriculum is expected in 2014.
“The main agenda for the committee is to instil a sense of patriotism (among students). My personal stand is that myths and legends should not be included in the curriculum. However, if they do choose to include them (myths), it should be clearly indicated that these stories are not factual,” he was quoted as saying to The Star yesterday.