Royal genealogies from Indonesia and the Malay world

The prestige of a royal house in the Malay archipelago rested in no small part on claims of  descent from illustrious ancestors. At the most deep-rooted level, myths of origin in Malay texts drew on primordial Austronesian beliefs of unity between the earth and sky, symbolised by the marriage between a prince who descended from heaven and a princess from the earth or water, who emerged from a mass of foam or a clump of bamboo (cf. Ras 1970: 81-99). With the coming of Islam, into this chain of descent were introduced powerful figures from the Islamic pantheon, pre-eminently the great hero Iskandar Zulkarnain (Alexander the Great), as well as the first man, Adam, and the Raja of ‘Rum’, as the Ottoman lands were known in the east. These ahistorical genealogies are found in court chronicles such as the Hikayat Raja Pasai, Sulalat al-Salatin or Sejarah Melayurecounting the origins of the sultanate of Melaka, the Hikayat Banjar from southern Borneo, and Hikayat Jambi from east Sumatra, preceding the more factual elements of the texts.


In the Sejarah Melayu, the sultans of Melaka are said to be descended from the union of Raja Iskandar (Zulkarnain) and the daughter of Raja Kidi Hindi. In this episode, Nabi Khidir marries the couple according to Islamic rites and asks Raja Iskandar if he agrees to the dowry of 300,000 gold dinars (‘Bahwa sudahlah hamba kahwinkan anak Raja Kidi Hindi yang bernama Syahral Bariah dengan Raja Iskandar, adapun isi kahwinnya tiga ratus ribu dinar emas 300,000, ridakah tuan hamba?’ Maka sahut Raja Iskandar, ‘Ridalah hamba’). British Library, Or. 14734, f.4v (detail)


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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


A ‘Golden letter’ in Malay to Napoleon III

“This beautiful royal Malay letter (Or.16126) from the ruler of Johor, Temenggung Daing Ibrahim, to the Emperor of France, written in Singapore in 1857, is a triumph of style over substance. Its thirteen golden lines pay effusive compliments to Napoleon III but little else, as can be seen from the translation (see link given below). The letter was accompanied by a handsome gift of Malay weaponry.

It is hard to know what either side hoped to gain from the despatch of such a magnificent missive, for in the mid-19th century French interests in Southeast Asia were primarily focused on Indochina, while Johor’s allegiance was firmly with the British. In the letter the Temenggung makes no requests of the French, and adroitly expresses his greatest praise for Napoleon III in terms of the Emperor’s cordial relations with Queen Victoria, ‘both sides thereby gaining in such strength that no other nation can match them, as long as the sun and moon revolve’ (bertambahlah kakuatan antara kedua pihak tiadalah siapa bangsa yang boleh bandingannya selagi ada perkitaran bulan dan matahari). It is most likely that the French envoy named in the letter, M. Charles de Montigny, who was in 1857 based in Singapore, procured the letter for his own personal or professional advancement.

Politically, historically and diplomatically this letter could be regarded as something of a dead end, but as a work of art it is far more significant. Despite the frequent use of gold in Malay manuscript illumination, this is the earliest known example of chrysography – writing in gold ink – in a Malay letter. It is beautifully illuminated with a rectangular golden frame on all four sides of the textblock, surmounted with an elaborate arched headpiece in red, blue and gold.

In format and structure, this epistle an exemplar of the courtly Malay art of letterwriting. At the top is the kepala surat or letter heading in Arabic, Nur al-shams wa-al-qamr, ‘Light of the sun and the moon’; this phrase is very commonly encountered in Malay letters addressed to European officials. The letter opens conventionally with extensive opening compliments or puji-pujian, identifying the sender and addressee, and with fulsome praise for the Emperor on account of his renown. Strangely, we do not encounter the Arabic word wa-ba‘dahu or its equivalents such as the Malaykemudian daripada itu, traditionally used to terminate the compliments and mark the start of the contents proper, for the simple reason that there is no real content to this letter. The compliments meld seamlessly with a brief mention of the French envoy entrusted with the letter, before gliding into the final section with a statement of the accompanying gift and thence onto the termaktub, the closing line giving the place and date of writing.

Or. 16126, r


“12 Apr 1857, In Malay in Jawi script.

Illuminated letter from the Temenggung of Johor to the Emperor of France, written in Singapore on 17 Syaaban 1273 (12 April 1857), with the black ink seal of Temenggung Ibrahim.

Seal inscription:al-wāthiq billāh Datuk Temenggung Seri Maharaja ibn Temenggung Seri Maharaja sanat 1257 // AL WASEKCUPBILAH DATU TUMONGONG SREE MAHARAJAH BIN TUMONGONG

‘He who trusts in God, Datuk Temenggung Seri Maharaja, son of Temenggung Seri Maharaja, the year 1257 (AD 1841/2) //

He who trusts in God, Datu Temongong Sree Maharajah, son of Tumongong’

Malay text of the letter:Nur al-shams wa-al-qamr

Bahawa ini surat menyatakan tulus dan ikhlas serta suci putih hati hening dan jernih yang tiada menaruh syak dan waham di dalamnya selagi ada peridaran cakrawala matahari dan bulan perkitaran malam dan siang thabit jua ‘ala al-dawam iaitu daripada saya Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja Johor yang ada bertahta kerajaan kuasa memerintahkan kepada masa ini di dalam negeri Johor dar al-aman wa-al-ihsan mudah-mudahan barang disampaikan Tuhan seru sekalian alam ini jua kiranya datang ke hadapan dengan hormatnya di atas tahta kerajaan majlis to his … Imperial the … [?Malay rendering of French title?]

Imperial Peransis a.p.p.r.a.n iaitu Yang Dipertuan Besyar Maharaja yang maha mulia yang ada bersemayam di atas tahta singgasana kerajaannya di dalam negeri Peransis berkuasa memerintahkan segala daerah takluk selama2nya dengan sejahteranya yang amat setiawan lagi bangsawan serta bijaksana di atas pandai mengambil hati segala sahabat handai taulannya bayan al-qarib wa-al-ba‘id maka termasyhurlah namanya kepada sekalian negeri yang ada manusia di dalamnya di atas angin dan di bawah angin yang kepujian semenanya seperti nara setu yang amat harum bahunya ditiup angin nur al-‘ashiqin melimpahlah kepada sekalian negeri di dalam dunia segala bangsa apa lagi sebab berikat2an Yang Dipertuan Besar Maharaja Permaisuri Inggeris bertambahlah kakuatan antara kedua pihak tiadalah siapa bangsa yang boleh bandingannya selagi ada perkitaran bulan dan matahari dari itu sebab tulus dan ikhlas saya berjumpa dengan wakil Yang Dipertuan Maharaja yang maha mulia iaitu nama Tuan Montigny itulah sebab berita yang amat sangat elok nama yang kepujian yang saya pun banyak suka mendengar khabar wakil Yang Dipertuan Maharaja yang maha mulia, dari itu sebablah saya hadiahkan sesuatu karis dan dua tomba pakaian cara Melayu tiadalah dengan sepertinya hanyalah tanda berkasih2an serta berpanjangan selama2nya haraplah saya akan diterima Yang Dipertuan Maharaja Yang Maha Mulia barang akan jadi gunanya, wa al-salam.

Termaktub surat ini tujuh belas hari bulan Syaaban yaum al-Ithnin di dalam bandar Singapura sanat 1273 seribu dua ratus tujuh puluh [tiga].

English translation of the letter:Light of the sun and the moon

This is a truthful and sincere letter which emanates from a pure unsullied heart, peaceful and clear, which never entertains suspicion and mistrust as long as the sun and moon revolve in the firmament and night follows day, as is the case for all eternity, from me, Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja of Johor, who is at present on the throne holding the reins of government in the state of Johor, abode of safety and benevolence, may it be conveyed by the Lord of this whole world, entering respectfully into the presence of the throne of His Imperial … of France …, that is, His Majesty the Emperor who sits on the throne of state of France, ruling over all the dependencies evermore in peace, who is most loyal and noble and wise in engaging the affections of his friends and neighbours far and near, whose name is renowned in all lands in which mankind is found, in the west and in the east, whose fame is as a rare herb whose fragrance is spread by the wind ‘the light of the lovers’, enfolding all the nations of the world and all races, who is furthermore in alliance with Her Majesty the Queen the England, both sides thereby gaining in such strength that no other nation can match them as long as the moon and sun revolve, therefore the reason that in all sincerity and honesty I met with Your Imperial Majesty’s envoy named Mr Montigny is because of the great fame of your illustrious name, and I was greatly pleased to hear news from Your Imperial Majesty’s envoy, and therefore I present a keris and two measures of cloth for Malay dress, which are not as they should be, merely as a sign of everlasting affection, may they be of some use to Your Imperial Majesty, with greetings of peace. This letter was written on the seventeenth of Syaaban, on Monday, in the port of Singapore, the year 1273, one thousand two hundred and seventy [three].”

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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


International Conference on Local Knowledge (ICLK) 2016

ICLK 2016.jpg

The organisers of the Regional Conference on Local Knowledge (RCLK) have embarked on a new initiative by expanding the scholarly discourse on Local Knowledge through its Regional Conferences since 2011 onto the international stage in 2015.
This initiative is known as the International Conference on Local Knowledge (ICLK). ICLK would therefore like to invite experts, scholars and practitioners to the conference which will be held from 27h – 28th July 2016 in St Giles Wembley, Penang, Malaysia.
Local knowledge refers to knowledge and expertise which originate from local and indigenous cultures that have developed over time. Its practices have been absorbed naturally and effortlessly into the local communities. The study on Local Knowledge is aimed at enabling social transformation through a paradigm shift that forefronts local epistemology.
Abstract submission
14 April 2016
Abstract acceptance
29th April 2016
Full paper submission
30th June 2016
Final registration and payment of fees
30th June 2016
27th – 28th July 2016
International Conference on Local Knowledge 2016
Conference Secretariat
Sekretariat Kearifan Tempatan
Level 3, Toray-USM Building C26,
Universiti Sains Malaysia
11800 Gelugor,
Tel : +604 – 6536777 / +604 – 6536779
Tel : +604 – 6536781
Email :
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Uncategorized


Get Out of Debt by Robert T. Kiyosaki

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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Sacred Economics with Charles Eisenstein

For more info:

“Money is an agreement, it doesn’t have value all by itself. It has value because people agree that it has value. Economist will tell you what money does, that it facilitates exchange, you use it to count things and keep track of things. You write some numbers, on a magical piece of paper called a check, and you can cause all kinds of abundant of goods to come to your house and you can even cause misery for thousands of people if you are one of the highest initiate of the magic of money.

Scarcity is built into the money system on a most obvious level, Its because of the way money is created, as interest bearing debt. So any time a bank lends money into existence, the money comes along with a corresponding amount of debt. and the debt, because there’s interest on it, is always greater than the amount of money. So it essentially throws people, into ‘competition’ with each other for never enough money.

Growth is another thing that is built in our money system. Economic growth means that you have to find something that was once nature and make it into a goodor was once a gift relationship and make it into a service. You have to find something that, people once got for free or did for themselves or for each other, and then take it away and sell it back to them

By turning things into commodities, we get cut off from nature. in the same way we are cut off from community. We look at nature with eyes, well, its just a bunch of stuff. And that leaves us very lonely, and leaves us with many basic human needs that go unmet. And if you have money, you might try to fulfill this hunger through purchasing, through buying things, or through accumulating money itself. Of course now we are nearing the end of growth Our planet can’t sustain much more growth. Thats why the crisis we have today wont go away.

For example, you are not supposed to actually hate monday, and be happy when you have to go to school. School should be something that you love, Life should be something that you love, We didn’t earn any of the things that really keep us alive or that make life good. We didn’t earn air, we didn’t earn being born, we didn’t earn our conception, we didnt earn being able to breathe, we didnt earn having a planet that can provide food. we didnt earn the sun. So i think that in some level, people have an inborn gratitude, because on some level we know that we didnt earn any of this  We know that life is a gift.  Well if you know if you’ve received a gift, then the natural response is gratitude. the desire to give in turn.

In a gift economy, its not true, the way it is in our money economy. that everybody is in competition with everybody else. In a gift society, if you have more than you need, you give it to somebody who needs it, thats how you get status. and thats even where security comes from. because if you build up all that gratitude, then people are going to take care of you, too. And if there’s no gifts, then there’s no community. And we can see as society has become more monetized, that community has disappeared. People long for it but you can’t just . have community as an add on to monetized life. You have to actually need each other, people desire to enact their gifts and they were free from money, they would do it. But money is so often a barrier.

People think – Oh I would love to do this but can I afford to do this? Is it practical? Money stops them.  What beautiful thing would I do? What am I called to do? Would it be to set up big gardens for homeless people to take care of and reconnect them to nature? Would it be to clean up toxic waste site? What would you do? What beautiful thing would you do? And why isn’t it practical to do these things? Why isn’t there money in those things?

An economy that embodies the principle of the gift, is an economy that is simply grounded in the truth.  The task before us is to align money with the true expression of our gifts. it requires a very different mechanism, for the creation of money and the circulation of money. They include things like negative interest, which reverse the effects of usury. They include things like the internalization of costs, so you can no longer pollute and have somebody else or future generations pay the costs.  They include social dividends, sharing in the wealth that comes from what should be the commons. The land, the aquifers, our cultural heritage. They include a relocalization of a lot of economic functions, they include all kinds of peer-to-peer financing and peer-to-peer revolution. What will it take to take away this shift from the current money system?

The current money system just work less and less well. Growth can only be maintained at a higher cost and higher cost. Even our best effort can’t keep the economy from growing. as fast as it needs to for the system to work and that creates further misery, people just can’t take it anymore. Even the people on top, even the winners, of this artificially induced competition, they are not happy either. Its not working for them either. So i think we are going to see a series of crisis moments, each one more severe than the last. And at each crisis moment, we’ll have a collective choice, do we give up the game and join the people? Or do we hold on even tighter? Its really up to us to determine, at what point this wake up point will happen.

You know, a child plays, a child plays and develops his or her gifts, but doesn’t apply them towards their true purpose yet. And thats what humanity been doing, we’ve been messing around, playing with our gifts of technology and culture, and developing these gifts. Now we are coming into ‘adulthood’,  and its time to apply them to our true purpose. At the beginning that will be simply heal the damage thats been done. And there’s a lot of healing that needs to be done. and its almost impossible actually.  You could say we are really in the business of creating miracle here on earth. I’m saying that its something impossible from an old understanding of reality but possible from a new one.And  in fact its necessary, and in fact anything less than that is even worth trying.”

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Zeitgeist: Moving forward

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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What gives a dollar bill its value? – Doug Levinson

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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized