Another expert backs Khoo on Li Po and Tuah

Sejarah Melayu is full of myths and legends, says the Malaysian Historical Society’s chairman for Kedah

(Free Malaysia Today) – A top official of the Malaysian Historical Society has come out in support of historian Khoo Kay Khim’s belief that neither the Chinese princess Hang Li Po nor the Malay warrior Hang Tuah ever existed.

The Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), the primary source of information about the two personalities, is “filled with myths and legends”, according to Wan Shamsuddin Mohd Yusof, the Historical Society’s chairman for Kedah.

No one had been able to prove that the princess or the warrior was a historical figure, he said, agreeing with Khoo’s statement on local radio station BFM on Monday.

Khoo later told FMT that the well-preserved records of the 16th century Ming dynasty made no mention of either character.

According to the Malay Annals, Hang Li Po was a Chinese princess given in marriage to Malacca’s  Sultan Mansur Shah. The book also narrates the exploits of Hang Tuah and his four comrades—Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu. It attributes remarkable combat skills to them and says they were responsible for maintaining security in Malacca.

Shamsuddin said he believed that Hang Li Po was created in an attempt to glorify Sultan Mansur.

“We have evidence on Zheng Ho, the famous Chinese naval fleet chief, visiting Malacca but we have no evidence to show the existence Hang Li Po or the five warriors,” he added. He concurred with Khoo that there is no mention of any of them in Chinese records.

He also agreed that the history syllabus for Malaysian schools contained many factual errors and suggested that the government set up a committee to revamp it.

He said he could not be certain of the causes of these errors. “Probably some people were in a hurry to create our history. Besides, our books are written by history teachers, not historians or those involved in the study of our nation’s history.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia academic Samsul Adabi Mamat said so-called historical “facts” could change with the availability of new evidence. “So Hang Tuah and Hang Li Po’s existence is still open for discussion.”

The important thing to do, according to Samsul, is to open an avenue that would allow experts to debate the matter.

He said some local historical documents, such as the Malay Annals, tended to glorify certain historical characters in order to create a cloud of mysticism.