MALAYS, the name given by Europeans to the people calling themselves Orang Malayu, i.e. Malayan folk, who are the dominant race of the Malay Peninsula and of the Malay Archipelago. Broadly speaking, all the brown races which inhabit the portion of Asia south of Siam and Indo-China, and the islands from the Philippines to Java, and from Sumatra to Timor, may be described as belonging to the Malayan family, if the aboriginal tribes, such as the Sakai and Semang in the Malay Peninsula, the Bataks in Sumatra, and the Muruts in Borneo, be excepted. For the purposes of this article, however, only those among these races which bear the name of Orang Malayu, speak the Malayan language, and represent the dominant people of the land, can be included under the title of Malays. These people inhabit the whole of the Malayan Peninsula to the borders of lower Siam, the islands in the vicinity of the mainland, the shores of Sumatra and some portions of the interior of that island, Sarawak and Brunei in Borneo, and some parts of Dutch Borneo, Batavia and certain districts in Java, and some of the smaller islands of the archipelago. Though in these lands they have for not less than a thousand years enjoyed the position of the dominant race, they all possess a tradition that they are not indigenous, and that their first rulers " came out of the sea," with a large band of Malayan warriors in their train. In the peninsula especially, where the presence of the Malays is more recent than elsewhere, many traditions exist which point to a comparatively recent occupation of the country. It has been remarked that there is evidence that the Malays had attained to a certain stage of civilization before ever they set foot in Malaya. For instance, the names which they give to certain fruits, such as the duri-an, the rambut-an and the pulas-an, which are indigenous in the Malayan countries, and are not found elsewhere, are all compound words meaning respectively the thorny, the hairy and the twisted fruit. These words are formed by the addition of the substantial affix " -an," the use of which is one of the recognized methods by which the Malays turn primitive words into terms of more complex meaning. This may be taken to indicate that when first the Malays became acquainted with the fruits which are indigenous in Malayan lands they already possessed a language in which most primary words were represented, and also that their tongue had attained to a stage of development which provided for the formation of compound words by a system sanctioned by custom and the same linguistic instinct which causes a Malay to-day to form similar compounds from European and other foreign roots. For any aboriginal race inhabiting these countries, such important articles of diet as the duri-an, etc., could not fail to be among the first natural objects to receive a name, and thus we find primary terms in use among the Sakai and Semang, the aborigines of the Peninsula, to describe these fruits. The use by the Malays of artificially constructed terms to denote these things may certainly be taken to strengthen the opinion that the Malays arrived in the lands they now inhabit at a comparatively late period in their history, and at a time when they had developed considerably from the original state of primitive man.
In the Malay Peninsula itself there is abundant evidence, ethnological and philological, of at least two distinct immigrations of people of the Malayan stock, the earlier incursions, it is probable, taking place from the eastern archipelago to the south, the later invasion spreading across the Straits of Malacca from Sumatra at a comparatively recent date. The fact that the semi-wild tribes, which are ethnologically Malayan and distinct from the aboriginal Semang and Sakai, are met with almost invariably in the neighbourhood of the coast would seem to indicate that they reached the peninsula by a sea, not by a land route, a supposition which is strengthened by their almost amphibious habits. Many of these tribes have retained their pristine paganism, but many others it is certain have adopted the Mahommedan religion and have been assimilated by the subsequent and stronger wave of Sumatran immigrants. A study of the local dialects to be met with in some of the districts of the far interior, e.g. the Tembeling valley in Pahang, whose people are now Mahommedans and in many respects indistinguishable from the ordinary Malays of the peninsula, reveals the fact that words, current in the archipelago to the south but incomprehensible to the average peninsula Malays, by whom these more ancient populations are now completely surrounded, have been preserved as local words, whereas they really belong to an older dialect once spoken widely in the peninsula, as to-day it is spoken in the Malayan islands. This would seem to show that in some instances the earlier Malay immigrants fell or were driven by the later invaders back from the coast and sought refuge in the far interior.
Until recently many eminent scientists held the theory that the Malayan peoples were merely an offspringof theMongolstock, and that their advance into the lands they now inhabit had taken place from the cradle of the Mon- or' g "ia" golian race that is to say, from the north. In the fifth edition of his Malay Archipelago, A. R. Wallace notes the resemblance which he traced between the Malays and the Mongolians, and others have recorded similar observations as to the physical appearance of the two races. To-day, however, fuller data are available than when Wallace wrote, and the more generally accepted theory is that the Malayan race is distinct, and came from the south, until it was stayed by the Mongolian races living on the mainland of southern Asia. The cranial measurements of the Malays and an examination of their hair sections seem to bear out the theory that they are distinct from the Mongolian races. Their language, which is neither monosyllabic nor tonic, has nothing in common with that of the MonAnnam group. It has, moreover, been pointed out that had the Malays been driven southwards by the stronger races of the mainland of Asia, it might be expected that the people inhabiting the country nearest to the border between Siam and Malaya would belong to the Malayan and not to the Mon-Annam or Mon- Khmer stock. As a matter of fact the Sakai of the interior of the peninsula belong to the latter race. It might also be anticipated, were the theory of a southward immigration to be sustained, that the Malays would be new-comers in the islands of the archipelago, and have their oldest settlements on the Malayan Peninsula. The facts, however, are in exact contradiction to this; and accordingly the theory now most generally held by those who have studied the question is that the Malays form a distinct race, and had their original home in the south. Where this home lay it is not easy to say, but the facts recorded by many writers as to the resemblance between the Polynesian and the Malayan races, and the strong Malayan element found in the languages of the former (see Tregear's Maori and Comparative Polynesian Dictionary, London, 1891), have led some students to think that the two races may have had a common origin. John Crawfurd, in the Dissertation to his Dictionary of the Malay Language, published in 1840, noted the prevalence of Malayan terms in the Polynesian languages, and attributed the fact to the casting away of ships manned by Malays upon the islands of the Polynesian Archipelago. The appearance of the same Malayan words in localities so widely separated from each other, however, cannot be satisfactorily accounted for by any such explanation, and the theory is now more generally held that the two races are probably allied and may at some remote period of history have shared a common home. It has been suggested that their separation did not take place until after the continent which once existed in the north Pacific had become submerged, and that the Malays wandered northward, wrjile the Polynesian race spread itself over the islands of the southern archipelago. All this, however, must necessarily be of the nature of the purest speculation, and the only facts which we are able to deduce in the present state of our knowledge of the subject may be summed up as follows: (a) That the Malays ethnologically belong to a race which is allied to the Polynesians; (6) that the theory formerly current to the effect that the Sakai and other similar races of the peninsula and archipelago belonged to the Malayan stock cannot be maintained, since recent investigations tend to identify them with the Mon-Annam or Mon-Khmer family of races; (c) that the Malays are, comparatively speaking, newcomers in the lands which they now inhabit; (d) that it is almost certain that their emigration took place from the south; (e) and that, at some remote period of their history, they came into close contact with the Polynesian race, probably before its dispersion over the extensive area which it now occupies.
The Malays to-day are Sunni Mahommedans of the school of Shafi'i, and they habitually use the terms Orang Malayu, i.e. a Malay, and Orang Islam, i.e. a Mahommedan, as synonymous expressions. Their conversion from paganism took **" place during the 13th, 14th and 1sth centuries of our era. ons. -j-^g ra j a O f Achin, in northern Sumatra, is said to have been converted as early as 1206, while the Bugis people in Celebes are supposed not to have become Mahommedans until 1495. Mahommedanism undoubtedly spread to the Malays of the peninsula from Sumatra, but their conversion was slow and gradual, and may even now in some respects be regarded as imperfect. Upon the bulk of the Malayan peoples their religion sits but lightly. Few are found to observe the law concerning the Five Hours of Prayer, and many fail to put in an appearance at the Friday congregational services in the mosques. The Fast of Ramadhan, however, is generally observed with some faithfulness. Compared with other Mahommedan peoples, the Malays are not fanatical, though occasionally an outbreak against those of a different creed is glorified by them into a holy war. The reason of such outbreaks, however, is usually to be found in political and social rather than in religious grievances. Prior to their conversion to Mahommedanism the Malays were subjected to a considerable Hindu influence, which reached them by means of the traders who visited the archipelago from India. In Mode of Life, etc.
the islands of Bali and Lombok the people still profess a form of Hinduism, and Hindu remains are to be found in many other parts of the archipelago, though their traces do not extend to the peninsula. Throughout, however, the superstitions of the Malays show indications of this Hindu influence, and many of the demons whom their medicine-men invoke in their magic practices are clearly borrowed from the pantheon of India. For the rest, a substratum of superstitious beliefs, which survives from the days when the Malays professed only their natural religion, is to be found firmly rooted in the minds of the people, and the influence of Mahommedanism, which regards such things with horror, has been powerless to eradicate this. Mr W. W. Skeat's Malay Magic (London, 1900) is a compilation of all the writings on the subject of Malay superstitions by the best authorities and contains considerable original matter.
The Malays of the coast are a maritime people, and were long famous for the daring character of their acts of piracy. They are now peaceable fisher-folk, who show considerable ingenuity in their calling. Inland the Malays live by preference on the banks of rivers, building houses on piles some feet from the ground, and planting groves of coco-nut, betel-nut, sugar-palm and fruit-trees around their dwellings. Behind their villages the rice-fields usually spread, and rice, which is the staple food of the people, is the principal article of agriculture among them. Sugar-cane, maize, tapioca and other similar products are grown, however, in smaller quantities. In planting rice three methods are in use: the cultivation of swamp-rice in irrigated fields; the planting of ploughed areas; and the planting of hill-rice by sowing each grain separately in holes bored for the purpose. In the irrigated fields the rice plants are first grown in nurseries, and are subsequently transplanted when they have reached a certain stage of development. The Malays also work jungle produce, of which the most important are gutta, rattans, agila wood, camphor wood, and the beautiful kamuning wood which is used by the natives for the hilts of their weapons. The principal manufactures of the Malays are cotton and silk cloths, earthenware and silver vessels, mats and native weapons. The best cotton cloths are those manufactured by the Bugis people in Celebes, and the batek cloths which come from Java and are stamped with patterns. The best silks are produced by the natives of Pahang, Kelantan and Johor in the Malay Peninsula. Lord Leighton pronounced the silver ware from Malaya to be the most artistic of any exhibited at the Colonial Exhibition held in London in 1886. The pottery of the Malays is rude but curious. When the first Europeans visited the Malay Archipelago the Malays had already acquired the art of manufacturing gunpowder and forging canon. The art of writing also appears to have been independently invented by the Malayan races, since numerous alphabets are in use among the peoples of the archipelago, although for the writing of Malay itself the Arabic character has been adopted for some hundreds of years. The Malays are excellent boat-builders.
While the Malays were famous almost exclusively for their piratical expeditions they naturally bore an evil reputation among Europeans, but now that we have come into closer . , contact with them, and have learned to understand ^ & a ' them better, the old opinions concerning them have been greatly modified. They used to be described as the most cruel and treacherous people in the world, and they certainly are callous of the pain suffered by others, and regard any strategy of which their enemies are the victims with open admiration. In ordinary circumstances, however, the Malay is not treacherous, and there are many instances recorded in which men of this race have risked their own lives on behalf of Europeans who chanced to be their friends. As' a race they are exceedingly courteous and self-respecting. Their own code of manners is minute and strict, and they observe its provisions faithfully. Unlike many Orientals, the Malays can be treated with a friendly familiarity without such treatment breeding lack of respect or leading to liberties being taken with the superior. The Malays are indolent, pleasure-loving, improvident beyond belief, fond of bright clothing, of comfort, of ease, and they dislike toil exceedingly. They have no idea of the value of money, and little notion of honesty where money is concerned. They would always borrow rather than earn money, and they feel no shame in adopting the former course. They will frequently refuse to work for a wage when they most stand in need of cash, and yet at the invitation of one who is their friend they will toil unremittingly without any thought of reward. They are much addicted to gambling, and formerly were much given to fighting, though they never display that passion for war in the abstract which is characteristic of some of the white races, and their courage on the whole is not high if judged by European standards. It is notorious, however, on the coasts that a Malay gang on board a ship invariably gets the better of any fight which may arise between it and the Chinese crew. The sexual morality of the Malays is very lax, but prostitution is not common in consequence. Polygamy, though allowed by their religion, is practised for the most part among the wealthy classes only. The Malays are an intensely aristocratic people, and show a marvellous'Ioyalty to their rajas and chiefs. Their respect for rank is not marred by any vulgarity or snobbery. The ruling classes among them display all the vices of the lower classes, and few of the virtues except that of courtesy. They are for the most part, when left to their own resources, cruel, unjust, selfish and improvident.
Much has been written concerning the acts of homicidal mania called amuck (amok), which word in the vernacular means to attack. It was formerly believed that these outbursts were to be attributed to madness pur el simple, and some cases of amok can certainly be traced to this source. These are not, however, in any sense typical, and might equally have been perpetrated by men of another race. The typical amok is usually the result of circumstances which render a Malay desperate. The motive is often inadequate from the point of view of a European, but to the Malay it is sufficient to make him weary of life and anxious to court death. Briefly, where a man of another race might not improbably commit suicide, a Malay runs amok, killing all whom he may meet until he himself is slain.
The nervous affliction called latah, to which many Malays are subject, is also a curious trait of the people. The victims of this affliction lose for the time all self-control and all sense of their own identity, imitating the actions of any person who chances to rivet their attention. Accounts of these manifestations will be found in Swettenham's Malay Sketches (London, 1895) and Clifford's Studies in Brown Humanity (London, 1897).
The Malays wear a loose coat and trousers, and a cap or headkerchief, but the characteristic item of their costume is the sarong. Cost me a s '" c or cotton cloth about two yards long by a yard ' and a quarter wide, the ends of which are sewn together, eapoas, f ormmg a j o f skirt. This is worn round the waist folded in a knot, the women allowing it to fall to the ankle, the men, when properly dressed in accordance with ancient custom, folding it over the hilt of their waist-weapon, and draping it around them so that it reaches nearly to the knee. In the hall of a raja on state occasions a head-kerchief twisted into a peak is worn, and the coat is furnished with a high collar extending round the back of the neck only. This coat is open in front, leaving the chest bare. The trousers are short and of a peculiar cut and material, being coloured many hues in parallel horizontal lines. The sarong is of Celebes manufacture and made of cotton, to the surface of which a high polish is imparted by friction with a shell. The typical fighting costume of the Malay is a sleeveless jacket with texts from the Koran written upon it, short tight drawers reaching to the middle of the thigh, and the sarong is then bound tightly around the waist, leaving the hilt of the dagger worn in the girdle exposed to view. The principal weapon of the Malays is the kris, a short dagger with a small wooden or ivory handle, of which there are many varieties. The blade of a kris may either be wavy or straight, but if wavy the number of waves must always be uneven in number. The kns most prized by the Malays are those of Bugis (Celebes) manufacture, and of these the kind called tuasek are of the greatest value. Besides the short kris, the Malays use long straight kris with very narrow blades, shorter straight kris of the same form, short broad swords called sundang, long swords of ordinary pattern called pedang, somewhat shorter swords curved like scimitars with curiously carved handles called chenangkas, and short stabbing daggers called tumbok lada. The principal tools of the Malays are the parang or golok, a heavy knife used in the jungle, without which no peasant ever stirs abroad from his house, the beliong or native axe, and the pisau rant, which is used for scraping rattan. Their implements are very primitive, consisting of a plough fashioned from a fork of a tree, and a rude harrow. Reaping is usually performed by the aid of a curious little knife which severs each ear of grain separately. The fisherfolk use many kinds of nets, which they manufacture themselves. Sails, paddles, oars and punting-poles are all in use.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)