Situated in the heart of Southeast
Asia at one of
the world's major crossroads, Malaysia has always
been pivotal to trade routes from Europe, the
Orient, India and China. Its warm tropical climate
and abundant natural blessings made it a congenial
destination for immigrants as early as 5,000 years
ago when the ancestors of the Orang Asli, the
indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, settle
here, probably the pioneers of a general movement
from China and Tibet.
They were followed by the Malays, who brought
with them skills in farming and the use of metals.
Around the first century BC, strong trading links
were established with China and India, and these
had a major impact on the culture, language and
social customs of the country. Evidence of a Hindu-Buddhist
period in the history of Malaysia can today be
found in the temple sites of the Bujang Valley
and Merbok Estuary in Kedah in the north west
of Peninsular Malaysia, near the Thai border.
The spread of Islam, introduced by Arab and Indian
traders, brought the Hindu-Buddhist era to an
end by the 13th century.
With the conversion of the Malay-Hindu rulers
of the Melaka Sultanate (the Malay kingdom which
ruled both side of the Straits of Malaka for over
a hundred years),, Islam was established as the
religion of the Malays, and had profound effect
on Malay society.
The arrival of Europeans in Malaysia brought a
dramatic change to the country. In 1511, the Portuguese
captured Malaka and the rulers of the Melaka Sultanate
fled south to Johor where they tried to establish
a new kingdom. They were resisted not only by
the Europeans but by the Acehnese, Minangkabau
and the Bugis, resulting in the sovereign units
of the present-day states of Peninsular Malaysia.
The Portuguese were in turn defeated in 1641 by
the Dutch, who colonized Melaka until the advent
of the British in the Dutch exerted any profound
influence on Malay society.
The British acquired Melaka from the Dutch in
1824 in exchange for Bencoolen in Sumatra. From
their new bases in Malaka, Penang and Singapore,
collectively known as the Straits settlements,
the British, through their influence and power,
began the process of political intergration of
the Malay states of Peninsular Malaysia.
After World War II and the Japanese occupation
from 1941-45, the British created the Malayan
Union 1946.This was abandoned in 1948 and the
Federation of Malaya emerged in its place. The
Federation gained its independence from Britain
on 31 August 1957.In September 1963, Malaya, Sarawak,
Sabah, and initially Singapore united to form
Malaysia, a country whose potpourri of society
and customs derives from its rich heritage from
four of the world's major cultures - Chinese,
Indian, Islamic andWestern