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MALAY PENINSULA

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 473 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MALAY PENINSULA (called by the Malays Tanah Malayu, i.e. the Malay Land), a lozenge-shaped strip of land projectinginto the China Sea, and forming the most southerly portion of the continent of Asia. Geographically, the peninsula begins at the isthmus of Kra, ro° N., at which point it is only between 6o and 70 M. in width, and the distance from sea to sea is further diminished by a large irregular salt-water inlet. Politically and anthropologically, however, this upper portion must be regarded as a continuation of the kingdom of Siam rather than as a section of Malaya. From the isthmus of Kra the peninsula extends south with a general inclination towards the east, the most southerly point being Tanjong Bulus in 1° 162' N. A line drawn diagonally down the centre from the isthmus of Kra to Cape Romania (Ramunya) gives the extreme length at about 750 miles. The breadth at the widest point, from Tanjong Pen-unjut in Trengganu to Tanjong Hantu in the Dindings territory, is about 200 M. The area is estimated at about 70,000 sq. m. The peninsula is bounded on the N. by Siam, on the S. by the island and strait of Singapore, on the E. by the China Sea, and on the W. by the Strait of Malacca. Physical Characteristics.—A range of granite mountains forms a backbone which divides the peninsula into two unequal portions, the larger of which lies to the east and the smaller to the west of the chain. Smaller ranges run parallel to the main mountain chain in many places, and there are numerous isolated spurs which have no connexion with either. The country is covered with limestone in many parts, and large isolated bluffs of this formation stand up in the plains both on the eastern and the western slopes. The descent from the summits of the range into the plain is somewhat less abrupt on the western than it is on the eastern side, and between the foot of the mountains and the Strait of Malacca the largest known alluvial deposits of tin are situated. On the eastern side of the range, after a steep descent, the granite formation speedily gives place to slates of vast depth, intersected here and there by fissures of quartz containing gold, and in many places covered by limestone which has been superimposed upon the slates. The highest known peak in the main range is that of Gunong Korbu, 7217 ft. above sea-level. The highest mountain is believed to be Gunong Tahan, which forms part of an isolated range on the eastern side, between Pahang and Kelantan, and is estimated at about 800o ft. The west coast throughout its whole length is covered to a depth of some miles with mangrove swamps, with only a few isolated stretches of sandy beach, the dim foliage of the mangroves and the hideous mud flats presenting a depressing spectacle. On the east coast the force of the north-east monsoon, which beats upon the shores of the China Sea annually from November to February, has kept the land for the most part free from mangroves, and the sands, broken here and there by rocky headlands thickly wooded, and fringed by casuarina trees, stretch for miles without interruption. The islands on each coast present the features of the shore to which they are adjacent. On both the east and the west coast the islands are thickly wooded, but whereas the former are surrounded by beautiful sands and beaches, the latter are fringed by mangrove-swamps. The whole peninsula may be described as one vast forest, intersected in every direction by countless streams and rivers which together form the most lavish water-system in the world. Only an insignificant fraction of these forests has ever been visited by human beings, the Malays and even the aboriginal tribe having their homes on the banks of the rivers, and never, even when travel-ling from one part of the country to another, leaving the banks of a stream except for a short time when passing from one river-system to another. The bulk of the jungle, therefore, which lies between stream and stream, has never been trodden by the foot of man. The principal rivers on the west coast are the Perak, the Bernam and the Muar. The first-named is far finer than its fellows, and is navigable for steamers for about 40 M. from its mouth, and for native craft for over 250 M. It is exceedingly shallow, however, and is not of much importance as a waterway. The Bernam runs through flat swampy country for the greater part of its course, and steam-launches can penetrate to a distance of over too m. from its mouth, and it is therefore probably the deepest river. The country which it waters, however, is not of any value, and it is not much used. The Muar waters a very fertile valley, and is navigable fOr native boats for over 150 M. On the east coast the principal streams are the Petani, Telubin, Kelantan, Besut, Trengganu, Dungun, Kmamun, Kuantan, Pahang, Rompin, Endau and Sedeli, all guarded by difficult bars at their mouths, and dangerous during the continuance of the north-east monsoon. The deepest rivers are the Kuantan and Rompin; the largest are the Kelantan and the Pahang, both of which are navigable for native boats for a distance of over 250 M. The Trengganu river is obstructed by impassable rapids at a distance of about 30 M. from its mouth. The rivers on the east coast are practically the only highways, the Malays always travelling by boat in preference to walking, but they serve their purpose very indifferently, and their great beauty is their chief claim to distinction. Magnificent caves are found on both slopes of the peninsula, those at Batu in Selangor being the finest on the west coast, while those of Chadu and Koto Glanggi in Pahang are the most extensive yet visited by Europeans on the east coast. They are all of limestone formation. So far as is known, the Malay Peninsula consists of an axial zone of crystalline rocks, flanked on each side by an incomplete band of sedimentary deposits. Granite is the most widely spread of the crystalline rocks; but dikes of various kinds occur, and gneiss, schist and marble are also met with. These rocks form the greater part of the central range, and they are often—especially the'granite—decomposed and rotten to a considerable depth. The sedimentary deposits include slate, limestone and sandstone. Impure coal has also been recorded. The limestone has yielded Proetus, Chonetes and other fossils, and is believed to be of Carboniferous age. In the sandstone Myophoria and other Triassic fossils have been found, and it appears to belong to the Rhaetic or Upper Trias.1 The minerals produced are tin, gold, iron, galena and others, in insignificant quantities. The tin occurs in the form of cassiterite, and is found chiefly in or near the crystalline rocks, especially the granite. As stream tin it occurs abundantly in some of the alluvial deposits derived from the crystalline area, especially on the west coast. Only two tin lodes are worked, however, and both are situated on the east coast, the one at Kuantan in Pahang, the other at Bandi in Trengganu territory. On the west coast no true lode has yet been discovered, though the vast alluvial deposits of tin found there seem to make such a discovery probable in the future. Since 1890 the tin produced from these alluvial beds has supplied between 50% and 75% of the tin of the world. Gold is worked with success in Pahang, and has been exploited from time immemorial by the natives of that state and of Kelantan. Small quantities have also been found on the western slope in Perak. Climate, &c.—It was formerly the custom to speak of the Malay Peninsula as an unhealthy climate, and even to compare it with the west coast of Africa. It is now generally admitted, however, that, though hot, it compares favourably with that of Burma. The chief complaint which Europeans make concerning it is the extreme humidity, which causes the heat to be more oppressive than is the case where the air is dry. On the other hand, the thermometer, even at Singapore on the southern coast, which is the hottest portion of the peninsula, seldom rises above 98° in the shade, whereas the mean for the year at that place is generally below 80°. On the main-land, and more especially on the eastern slope, the temperature is cooler, the thermometer seldom rising above 93° in the shade, and'falling at night below 70°. On an average day in this part of the peninsula the temperature in a European house ranged from 88° to 68°. The number of rainy days throughout the peninsula varies from 16o to over 200 in each year, but violent gusts of wind, called " Sumatras," accompanied by a heavy downpour of short duration, are more common than persistent rain. The rainfall on the west coast varies from 75 to 120 in. per annum, and that of the east coast, where the north-east monsoon breaks with all its fury, is usually about 155 in. per annum. Malarial fevers make their appearance in places where the forest has been recently felled, or where the surface earth has been disturbed. It is noticed that labourers employed in deep mines worked by shafts suffer less from fever than do those who are engaged in stripping the alluvial deposits. This, of course, means that a new station, where clearing, digging, and building are in progress, is often unhealthy for a time, and to this must be attributed the evil reputation which the peninsula formerly enjoyed. To Europeans the climate is found to be relaxing and enervating, but if, in spite of some disinclination for exertion, regular exercise is taken from the beginning, and ordinary precautions against chills, more especially to the stomach, are adopted, a European has almost as good a chance of remaining in good health in the peninsula as in Europe. A change of climate, however, is imperatively necessary every five or six years, and the children of European parents should not be kept in the peninsula after they have attained the age of four or five years. The Chinese immigrants suffer chiefly from fever of a malarial type, from beri-beri, a species of tropical dropsy, and from dysentery. The Malays formerly suffered severely from small-pox epidemics, but in the portion of the peninsula under British rule vaccination has been introduced, and the ravages of the disease no longer assume serious dimensions. Occasional outbreaks of cholera occur from time to time, and in the independent states these cause terrible loss of life, as the natives fly from the disease and spread the infection in every direction. As a whole, the Malays are, however, a remarkably healthy people, and deformity and hereditary diseases are rare among them. There is little leprosy in the peninsula, but there is a leper hospital near Penang on Pula Deraja and another on an island on the west coast for the reception of lepers from the Federated Malay States. Flora and Fauna.—The soil of the peninsula is remarkably fertile both in the plains and on the mountain slopes. In the vast forests the decay of vegetable matter during countless ages has enriched 1 See R. B. Newton, " Notes on Literature bearing upon the Geology of the Malay Peninsula; with an Account of a Neolithic Implement from that Country " (Geol. Mag., 1901, pp. 128-134). See also the various reports by J. B. Scrivenor in Suppl. Perak Goo. Gazette, 1905,the soil to the depth of many feet, and from it springs the most marvellous tangle of huge trees, shrubs, bushes, underwood, creepers, climbing plants and trailing vines, the whole hung with ferns, mosses, and parasitic growths, and bound together by rattans and huge rope-like trailers. In most places the jungle is so dense that it is impossible to force a way through it without the aid of a wood-knife, and even the wild beasts use well-worn game-tracks through the forest. In the interior brakes of bamboos are found, many of which spread for miles along the river banks. Good hard-wood timber is found in plenty, the best being the merabau, penak, rasok and chengal. Orchids of countless varieties abound. The principal fruit trees are the duri-an, mangosteen, custard-apple, pomegranate, rambut-an, pulas-an, langsat, rambai„jack-fruit, coco-nut, areca-nut, sugar-palm, and banana. Coffee, tobacco, sugar-cane, rice, pepper, gambier, cotton and sago are cultivated with success. Great developments have been made of recent years in the cultivation of rubber in British Malaya. The principal jungle products are gutta and rubber of several varieties, and many kinds of rattan. The man-grove grows on the shores of the west coast in profusion. Agilawood, the camphor tree, and ebony are also found in smaller quantities. The fauna of the peninsula is varied and no less profuse than is the vegetable life. The Asiatic elephant; the seladang, a bison of a larger type than the Indian gaur; two varieties of rhinoceros; the honey bear (bruang), the tapir, the sambhur (rusa) ; the speckled deer (kijang), three varieties of mouse-deer (napoh, plandok and kanckil) ; the gibbon (ungka or wawa'), the siamang, another species of anthropoid ape, the brok or coco-nut monkey, so called because it is trained by the Malays to gather the nuts from the coco-nut trees, the lotong, kra, and at least twenty other kinds of monkey; the binturong (arctictis binturong), the lemur; the Asiatic tiger, the black panther, the leopard, the large wild cat (harimau akar), several varieties of jungle cat ; the wild boar, the wild dog; the flying squirrel, the flying fox; the python, the cobra, and many other varieties of snake, including the hamadryad; the alligator, the otter and the gavial, as well as countless kinds of squirrel, rat, &c., are found throughout the jungles of the peninsula in great numbers. On the east coast peafowl are found, and throughout the interior the argus pheasant, the firebacked pheasant, the blue partridge, the adjutant-bird, several kinds of heron and crane, duck, teal, cotton-teal, snipe, wood-pigeon, green-pigeon of several varieties, swifts, swallows pied-robins, hornbills, parakeets, fly-catchers, nightjars, and many other kinds of bird are met with frequently. A few specimens of solitary goose have been procured, but the bird is rarely met with. The forests literally swarm with insects of all kinds, from ficadae to beautiful butterflies, and from stick- and leaf-insects to endless varieties of ants. The scorpion and the centipede are both common. The study of the insect life of the peninsula opens a splendid field for scientific research, and the profusion and variety of insects found in these forests probably surpass those to be met with anywhere else in the world. Political Divisions and Population.—Politically the Malay Peninsula is divided into four sections: the colony of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States; the independent Malay State of Johor, which is within the British sphere of influence; the non-federated states under British protection; and the groups of states to the north of Perak and Pahang which are now recognized as lying within the sphere of influence of Siam. The colony of the Straits Settlements consists of the islands of Singapore, Penang and the Dindings, the territory of Province Wellesley, on the mainland opposite to Penang, the insignificant territory of the Dindings, and the town and territory of Malacca. The Federated Malay States under British protection consist of the sultanates of Perak, Selangor and the'Negri Sambilan on the west coast, and the sultanate of Pahang on the east coast. Johor is the only Malay state in the southern portion of the peninsula, the whole of which is within the British sphere, which has been suffered to remain under native rule. The non-federated states under British protection (since 1909) are Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah and Perlis (Palit). The population of the peninsula numbers about 2,000,000, of whom about 600,000 inhabit the colony of the Straits Settlements, about goo,000 the Federated Malay States, about 200,000 the Malay State of Johor, and about 250,000 to 300,000 the remainder of the peninsula. The population of the peninsula includes about 850,000 Chinese, mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the southern provinces of China, of whom about 300,000 reside in the colony of the Straits Settlements, 365,000 in the Federated Malay States, 15o,000 in Johor, and the remainder in smaller communities or as isolated traders scattered throughout the villages and small towns of the peninsula. The Malay population of the peninsula, including immigrants from the eastern archipelago, number 100° B 12 I10 2 8° 3 6 4 a 5 2 98 A 100
End of Article: MALAY PENINSULA
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