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Melayu Kingdom (known as Ma-La-Yu in Chinese text 末羅瑜國 ) was a classical Southeast Asian kingdom that existed in the 7th century of common era. The only primary source for much of the information of the kingdom was from the account of I Ching who visited the Malay Archipelago between 688–695. The exact location of the kingdom is still the subject of studies among historians. A popular theory speculated that the kingdom was established around present-day Jambi on Sumatra, Indonesia, approximately 300 km north of Palembang. According to the theory further, it was founded by ethnic groups in the Batanghari river area and gold traders from the Minangkabau hinterland. However, the theory is disputed as the geographical location of Jambi contradict with the description made by I Ching himself, who explicitly mentioned that the kingdom is located half way sail between Ka-Cha (Kedah) and Bogha (Palembang)”.
The use of the term “Melayu” and its other spelling variants can be traced back to the beginning of common era. Among its earliest appearance was in Vayu Purana where the word “Malayadvipa” (literally “insular mountain continent”) was mentioned, referring to the mountainous terrain of Malay Peninsula. Then, the term “Maleu-Kolon” was used in Geographia by Ptolemy which is believed to have originated from the Sanskrit term malayakolam or malaikurram, referring to a geographical part of Malay Peninsula. In 7th century, the first use of the term for a nation or a kingdom was recorded by I Ching. An inscription on the south wall of the 11th century Brihadeeswarar Temple also made a reference to Malaiyur, a kingdom that had “a strong mountain for its rampart” in Malay Peninsula that fell to the Chola invaders during Rajendra Chola I‘s campaign.
In the later Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the word Ma-La-Yu was mentioned often in Chinese historical texts – with changes in spelling due to the time span between the dynasties – to refer to a nation near the southern sea. Among the terms used was “Bok-la-yu”, “Mok-la-yu” (木剌由), Ma-li-yu-er (麻里予兒), Oo-lai-yu (巫来由) – traced from the written source of monk Xuan Zang), and Wu-lai-yu (無来由). In the chronicle of Yuan Dynasty, the word “Ma-li-yu-er” was mentioned in describing the Sukhothai Kingdom‘s southward expansion against Malay states of the peninsula:
“..Animosity occurred between Siam and Ma-li-yu-er with both killing each other…”
In response to the Sukhothai’s move, a Chinese envoy arrived at the Ram Khamhaeng‘s court in 1295 bearing an imperial order: “Keep your promise and do no evil to Ma-li-yu-er”.This nation of “Ma-li-yu-er” that appeared in the Chinese record possibly a similar nation that was mentioned by the famous Venetian traveler Marco Polo (1254–1324) who lived during the same period. In Travels of Marco Polo, he made a reference to a kingdom named “Malauir” in the Malay peninsula. The Khmer recorded the nation of Melayu, however, its progeny Srivijaya, was also called Melayu.
According to the translation by Slamet Muljana, the word bhūmi Mālayu (literally “Land of Malayu”) is incribed on the Padang Roco Inscription, dated 1286 CE, according to the inscription, bhūmi Mālayu is associated with the Dharmasraya kingdom. On the Amoghapasa inscription, dated 1347 CE, the word Malayapura (literally “city of Malaya” or “kingdom of Malaya”) was proclaimed by Adityawarman, again referring to Dharmasraya. The word “Melayu” is also mentioned in the Malay annals referring to a river in Sumatra:
“…Here now is the story of a city called Palembang in the land of Andelas. It was ruled by Demang Lebar Daun, a descendant of Raja Shulan, and its river was the Muara Tatang. In the upper reaches of the Muara Tatang was a river called Melayu, and on that river was a hill called Si-Guntang Mahameru…”
I Ching’s account
On his route via Malay archipelago, I Ching visited Srivijaya twice and stay there some seven years (from 688 to 695), studying and translating the original texts, either in Sanskrit or in Pali. Srivijaya seems to have been a very flourishing country in the time of I Ching, which he initially called “Bogha” during his first visit. When the kingdom became great, and extended so far as Malayu, which seems to have been annexed or to have come spontaneously under the realm of Bogha prince, the whole country as well as the capital received the name “Sribogha” or Srivijaya. The change of the name Malayu to Sribogha must have happened just before I Ching’s time or during his stay there, for whenever he mentions Malayu by name, he added that “it is now changed to Sribogha”.
The following extract from I Ching’s work describes further on his route via Bogha and Malayu:
Wu Hing came to Bogha after a month’s sail. The king received him very favourably and respected him as a guest from the land of the son of heaven of the Great Tang. He went on board the king’s ship to the country of Malayu and arrived there after fifteen days sail. Thence he went to Ka Cha, again after fifteen days. At the end of winter he changed ship and sailed to the west.
Further for the determination of the location of Sribogha-Malayu, I Ching furnishes the following important data:
In the country of Sribogha, we see the shadow of the dial-plate become neither long nor short (i.e “remain unchanged” or “no shadow”) in the middle of the eighth month (Autumnal equinox), and at midday no shadow falls from a man who is standing on that day, so it is in the middle of spring (Vernal equinox).
Thus it can be inferred that the country of Sribogha covered the place lying on the equator, and the whole county therefore must have covered the north east side of Sumatra, from the southern shore of Malacca, to the city of Palembang, extending at least five degrees, having the equatorial line at about the centre of the kingdom.
According to I Ching, Hinayana Buddhism was predominantly adopted in Srivijaya, represented for the most part by the Mulasarvastivada school, however there were few Mahayanists in Malayu. Gold seems to have been abundant in the kingdom, where people used to offer the Buddha a lotus flower of gold and used golden jars. Moreover, people of the kingdom wear a type of long cloth and used fragrant oil.
Kingdom of Melayu.
Buddhist kingdoms in Sumatra appeared around the sixth century and to-7. History records two Buddhist-oriented government in Sumatra, the Melayu and the Government of the kingdom of Sriwijaya. Sriwijaya kingdom of further hamper dominate all the information about the state of Sumatra -7 century to the 11th. Malay government is one of the oldest government in Indonesia. Based on historical evidence of bias was found, estimated Melayu kingdom centered in Jambi province, exactly on the edge of the river channel Batanghari. Along the river channel Batanghari be found many relics temple and sculptures.
Other historical sources which can be used as an indication of the existence of the Melayu Kingdom is a note from one of the Chinese rover named I-Tsing (671-695). It mentions that in the 7th century there was a kingdom called Malay government politically incorporated into the territory of the Kingdom of Sriwijaya. From the story I-Tsing, please note that the Melayu kingdom located in the Straits of Malacca is the nearest trade route between India and China. According to the Book Negarakertagama, in 1275, King Kertanagara from the government in Java hold conquest expedition to Sumatra. The expedition is called expedition Pamalayu.
After long enough under the authority of Srivijaya, the Melayu government reemerged as the center of power in Sumatra. In 17, Nagari, son Adwayawarman Melayu kingdom rule. Nagari ruled until the year 1375. Then, succeeded by his son Anangwarman.