Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hang Tuah In History

Received emails from friends attaching someone called Monkey who made fun of Hang Tuah.  Here is my reply.  This is no monkey business, leave it to the historians to debate.

Some newspapers carried an interview with Tan Sri Professor Emeritus Dr. Khoo Kay Kim who rejected Hang Tuah as a historical figure fit to be a Malaysian hero.  His view was disputed by Datuk Professor Emeritus Dr. Nik Hassan, an archaeologist and Kassim Ahmad, a literary intellectual who studied the text.  In the same vein, V. Braginsky, a Russian Malay literary scholar and Leonard Andaya, a renown American historian, many years ago believed in the historicity of Hang Tuah.

With due respect, Prof. Khoo Kay Kim is from an old Rankean school of history that could see only easy to read and easy to see facts, and only hard facts, especially, as he mentioned, those western and Chinese sources.

To be fair and objective historians must also refer to other sources, such as the Malay historiography and oral history, two sources that are widely used. In this case, Hang Tuah is mentioned in the book, Sejarah Melayu and, of course, later it generated a full narrative in an other book, Hikayat Hang Tuah that originated from an oral history. In addition there are other evidence from Hang Tuah's own descendants who keep a genealogy and perhaps more well known are his well and grave. Obviously, these are enough sources to argue the existence of the Malaysian hero,Hang Tuah; a real historical figure.

However, the under current of this debate is not so much Hang Tuah's historicity but his ethnicity, a constestation initiated by a racist theoretical framework unknowingly adopted by some journalists.

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