Don: Even mythical objects found in history textbooks


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 18 Jan 2012

PETALING JAYA: It is not just legends like Princess Hang Li Po, Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat who made their way into history textbooks but also mythical objects like the Taming Sari keris, said historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim.

“The younger generation tends to attach too much importance to personalities and objects without historical evidence and just based on oral legend,” he said, referring to 15th century warrior Hang Tuah and the Taming Sari curved dagger that legends said belonged to him.

Prof Khoo of Universiti Malaya, who is part of a committee to analyse the History curriculum, had said on Monday there is no written record of Hang Li Po, Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat and the stories that have made it into the history books are just myths.

Asked about the famous Taming Sari keris, which is said to possess magical powers, Prof Khoo said the legends and myths surrounding the keris may have been mere stories spun to entertain communities in the old days.

He also dismissed talk that the Taming Sari was being kept in a museum abroad.

“The keris is said to have been part of the royal regalia during the Malacca Sultanate and had found its way to the Perak royal household, which traces its link to Malacca,” he said.

Regarding Hang Tuah, Prof Khoo said views about him were influenced greatly by public perception and not on actual facts.

“We get our view of what Hang Tuah was like from movies portrayed by the late P. Ramlee to the extent that even a painting of the legendary figure at the National Museum bore resemblance to the actor,” he added.

Citing another example that could lead to confusion, Prof Khoo said the recent move by the Malacca Government to review the state’s founding date from the late 1300s to 1262 was based merely on Hikayat Bustaman (a record of Malay annals that first appeared in the 1800s).

“They (the state government) have yet to show evidence despite my advice to state officials to look at the archives in Bangkok related to the early Siamese kingdoms,” he said, adding that there was a danger of eroding the nation’s true history if there was reliance on legends and myths.

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