Did you know what happened in other parts of the world while Melaka was in its formation to greatness? If you said no, then follow us along a milestone path of discoveries.
Flashback Facts – The 1400s
So the story goes like this. An exiled prince from Palembang named Parameswara landed on a coastal fishing village in 1400, while on a quest to find a new place to rule. Feeling tired, he snoozed away under a Melaka tree but was jarred awake by a commotion. What he saw was a mouse deer giving swooshing flying kicks a la Bruce Lee to his pesky hunting dogs (or so the story goes). Totally awed by the deer’s courage and declaring it as auspicious, the prince decided that Melaka (named after the Melaka tree) would be his new Kingdom.
A diorama of a Sultan holding court in his palace
Now, a revered Chinese diplomat and explorer known as Admiral Zheng He (or locally known as Laksamana Cheng Ho) started diplomatic relations between China and Melaka in 1409. So strong were the ties that they decided to seal the deal through matrimony, where the Emperor’s daughter, princess Hang Li Po travelled across the treacherous seas in 1458 just to marry the reigning Sultan Mansur Shah, a man she had never met. How’s that for an arranged marriage, eh? Oh! And this also established the Peranakan lineage and culture, as the princess’ entourage settled in Melaka as well.
Art. Music. Science …Around the same time halfway across the globe, Europe awoke from its own slumber and a period of discovery began. The Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci invented the parachute and completed his most iconic religious painting – The Last Supper. It was also a time where the formidable Forbidden City and amazing Machu Picchu completed construction, the first proper toothbrush was invented in China, the Inca Empire began and Christopher Columbus discovered America.
The breathtaking ancient ruins of Machu Picchu
Swiss daredevil Olivier Vietti-Teppa’s successful jump from 2,000 feet using a prototype made from Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute sketch
The vast compounds of the Forbidden City
Flashback Facts – The 1500’s
A visual of a Portuguese explorer
Here comes the first 130 years of colonisation in Melaka by the Portuguese! They were the first Europeans to set foot in Asia during the Second Wave of the European Exploration by Sea and made quick to put down their roots when they conquered Melaka in 1511. Without wasting time, their mighty leader Alfonso de Albuquerque commissioned the structure of the now famous A Famosa and the awe-inspiring St. Paul’s Church, to affirm their presence as masters of Melaka. However, they made a real mess of things while singlehandedly scattering the port trade to the four winds. And that’s how the next batch of conquerors came crashing down on them, with the help of the Sultan of Johor.
A Famosa Fort was an impressive structure once upon a time
What’s left of St. Paul’s Church today
On another note, the famous St. Francis Xavier made a few visits to Melaka as he wanted it to be the Eastern base of his missionary operations where he also opened the first school in Melaka – St. Paul’s College.
Leonardo da Vinci completes the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting in Vatican City, Magellan sails around the world proving the Earth is round (#truestory); William Shakespeare rose to literary fame , an Italian invents ice cream (#anothertruestory) and mechanical inventions advances!
Mona Lisa, the world’s most mysterious and famous painting
The ever toothsome ice cream
Flashback Facts – The 1600’s and 1700’s
The era of the Dutch rule
After the Dutch gave the Portuguese some serious kick in the … erm … legs, they took over the colonisation of Melaka in 1641 and of course, left some territorial marks in the form of the impressive Stadthuys or Red Building, where the Dutch Governor and his minions oversaw daily administrative tasks. Even if they were not interested in making Melaka a central trading port for the East and West, they still left lasting impressions on the locals right until the British took over in 1824.
The impressionable Stadthuys and Christ Church
St. Paul’s Church has stood the test of time
1600s. The Scientific Revolution took control, Galileo saw the moons of Jupiter through his telescope, Isaac Newton studies gravity, the microscope is invented, the British East India Company sets up trading posts in India, Rembrandt completes his Jacob Wrestling with the Angel painting, the Taj Mahal is built and the first modern novel, Cervantes’s Don Quixote de la Mancha, was published.
The grandiose Taj Mahal, one of the 7 Wonders of The World
How cool is this rocket-looking microscope?
1700s. England jumpstarts the Industrial Revolution and James Watt followed suit by inventing the steam engine. Also, Captain James Cook discovers Hawaii (aloha!), the United States Constitution is signed, the first graphite pencils were introduced, and discovered in a Cathedral in Mexico City was the hidden Aztec Calendar Stone!
What secrets lie within this Aztec Calendar?
James Watt’s invention enabled locomotive transportation
Flashback Facts – The 1800’s and The 1900’s
British troops in Melaka during WWII
The British had it easy-peasy. With the stroke of a few quills, they swapped real estate with the Dutch and et voilà! Melaka was theirs for the ruling (also known as the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824). Together with Penang and Singapore, Melaka became part of the Straits Settlement and thrived under Sir Stamford Raffles’ command of the British East India Company. With a thirst for rubber in Europe, rubber plantations were started helping to recover Melaka’s economy. Melaka was on the bounce (pun intended).
Illustration of the economic activities sustained by the British East India Company
Rubber tapping remains the same then and now
Until WWII, when Melaka was held captive by the Empire of Japan in 1942, everything came to a handbraking stop. But the sun shone again when the latter surrendered to the British in 1945. It’s back to cucumber sandwiches and tea time, right until 31 August 1957 when Melaka merged with the other Peninsular states and became Malaya, an independent sovereign free of colonial rule, finally!
Japanese rule was short lived
1800s. The age of Innovation and Modernisation has arrived! Things that were invented like the collapsible zinc oil paint tube, accordion, Scotch tape, lawn mower, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, Thomas Edison’s gramophone and phonograph, Kodak camera, flashbulb photography and Valdermar Poulsen’s first tape recorder. Other amazing stuff to note is the completion of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.5, Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise piece become instant hits; so does Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube, and Charles Darwin publishes the Origin of the Species.
The gorgeous Eiffel Tower
Eastman Kodak’s revolutionary camera
Beethoven’s legacy can still be heard today in most households and orchestras
1900-1950s. Where do we even begin?! Too many inventions, creations, buildings to mention but we’ll throw in a few anyway. Let’s see … inventions such as the paper clip, plastic, T-shirt, washing machine, Henry Ford’s Model T, cheese burger, ballpoint pens and Velcro – many of which are still in use today. Serious stuff like the first Nobel Peace Prize and Pulitzer Prize was awarded, the Empire State Building was completed, Gandhi went on his Salt March and Einstein proposed his Theory of Relativity. And the entertaining fun stuff – the first Silent Movie, The Great Train Robbery was screened, Kellogg’s launched their corn flakes, first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, Disneyland opens, Piet Mondrian completes Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue, Superman debuted in comic books and Dr. Seuss published The Cat in the Hat.
Henry Ford’s babies
The best invention ever! Cheeeeese Burgeeeeerrrr
The Empire State Building standing tall and proud
The happiest place on Earth a.k.a. Disneyland
The most famous art in the 20th Century – Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue
It’s evident how significant moments in history have shaped Melaka and the modernised world that we’re living in today. Let’s take our hats off to the movers and shakers of the past, especially to the colonial chieftains of Melaka, for continuing to inspire greatness and innovation in our present and future civilisation.