A bronze sculpture of Hang Tuah with Ta' Melayu Hilang Di-Dunia written at the top. Exhibited at the National History Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hang Tuah is a legendary Malay hero who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. He was the greatest of all the laksamana, or sultan's admirals, and was known to be a ferocious fighter. Hang Tuah is held in the highest regard, even in present-day Malay culture, and is arguably the most well-known and illustrious figure in Malay history and literature.
Hang Tuah was born in Kampong Sungai Duyong, Malacca, to Hang Mahmud and Dang Merdu Wati. His interest in religious knowledge and skill in the art of self-defence became apparent at a young age, and he was said to be inseparable from his four childhood friends: Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu. Hang Tuah and his close-knit group of friends eventually became the Malaysian equivalent of the Three Musketeers. He perfected his natural abilities at self-defence by practicing silat under a teacher named Guru Adi Putra, who also taught Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu. It was under this teacher's instruction that Hang Tuah also learned how to meditate.
As a youth, Hang Tuah was first noticed by the Bendahara (in modern parlance, the Prime Minister) of Malacca, Tun Perak. A band of pirates ran amok, causing havoc in a village, and Tun Perak and his guards' attempts to quell the unrest resulted in further attacks on the Bendahara. The Bendahara's guards fled, but when Hang Tuah and his friends saw the commotion, they were reported to have killed the group of pirates, thus saving the Bendahara. Tun Perak was so impressed by the boys' courage that he recruited them to work at the palace, where the five youths rose in the ranks, eventually becoming feared members of the Sultan's royal guard.
Hang Tuah's Career
Hang Tuah's illustrious career as an admiral or laksamana includes tales of his absolute and unfaltering loyalty to his Sultan, some of which are chronicled in Sejarah Melayu (the historical Malay Annals) and Hikayat Hang Tuah (a more romantic collection of historical tales).
Hang Tuah became the Sultan's constant aide, accompanying the King on official visits to foreign countries. On one such visit to Majapahit, Taming Sari, a famous Majapahit warrior, challenged Hang Tuah to a duel. After a brutal fight, Hang Tuah emerged as winner and the ruler of Majapahit bestowed upon him Taming Sariís kris or weapon. The Taming Sari kris was named after its original owner, and was purported to be magical, empowering its owner with invincibility. It is said to be the source of Hang Tuahís alleged supernatural abilities.
Hang Tuah also acted as the Sultan's ambassador, travelling on his Sultan's behalf to allied countries. Another story concerning Hang Tuah's legendary loyalty to the Sultan is found in the Hikayat Hang Tuah, and involves his visit to Inderaputa, in Pahang during one such voyage. The Sultan sent Hang Tuah to Pahang with the task of persuading the princess Tun Teja, who was already engaged, to become the Sultan's companion. Tun Teja fell under the impression that Hang Tuah had come to persuade her to marry him, not the Sultan, and agreed to elope with him to Melaka. It was only during the voyage home that Hang Tuah revealed his deception to Tun Teja.
The Hikayat Hang Tuah and Sejarah Melayu each carry different accounts of this incident, however. The Hikayat records that it was Hang Tuah who persuaded Tun Teja to elope with him, thus deceiving her. Sejarah Melayu, however, claims that it was another warrior, Hang Nadim, who deceived Tun Teja.
Perhaps the most famous story in which Hang Tuah is involved is his fight with his closest childhood companion, Hang Jebat. Hang Tuah's deep loyalty to and popularity with the Sultan led to rumours being circulated that Hang Tuah was having an illicit affair with one of the Sultan's concubines. The Sultan sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial for the alleged offence. The death sentence was never carried out, however, because Hang Tuah's executioner, the Bendahara, went against the Sultanís orders and hid Hang Tuah in a remote region of Melaka.
Believing that Hang Tuah was dead, murdered unjustly by the Sultan he served, Hang Jebat avenged his friend's death. Hang Jebat's revenge allegedly became a palace killing spree or furious rebellion against the Sultan (sources differ as to what actually occurred). It remains consistent, however, that Hang Jebat wreaked havoc onto the royal court, and the Sultan was unable to stop him, as none of the Sultan's warriors dared to challenge the more ferocious and skilled Hang Jebat. The Bendahara then informed the Sultan that the only man able to stop Hang Jebat, Hang Tuah, was still alive. The Bendahara recalled Hang Tuah from his hiding place and the warrior was given full amnesty by the Sultan and instructed to kill Hang Jebat. After seven gruelling days of fighting, Hang Tuah was able to kill Hang Jebat.
It is notable that the two main sources of Hang Tuah's life differ yet again on the details of his life. According the Hikayat Hang Tuah, it was Hang Jebat who avenged his friend's death, only to be killed by the same friend, but according to Sejarah Melayu, it was Hang Kasturi. The Sejarah Melayu is the more purely historical account, but the Hang Jebat story, as the more romantic tale, remains more popular.
Hang Tuah continued to serve Malacca after the death of Hang Jebat. Later in his life, as Hang Tuah progressed in his years, the warrior was ordered by the successive Malaccan Sultan to court a legendary princess on the Sultan's behalf. The Puteri Gunung Ledang (Princess of Mount Ledang) was so named because she resided on Mount Ledang at the Melaka-Johor border. According to legend, the Princess met with Hang Tuah, and only agreed to marry the Sultan if he satisfied a list of requirements, or pre-wedding gifts. The list included a golden bridge linking Melaka with the top of Gunung Ledang, seven trays of mosquito livers, seven jars of virgins' tears and a bowl of the Sultan's first born son's blood. Hang Tuah knew the tasks would not be fulfilled, and was said to be so overwhelmed that he failed his Sultan that he flung his kris into a river and vowed only to return to Melaka if it resurfaced, which it never did. It was also said that he then vanished into thin air. According to other sources, however, Hang Tuah lived until old age, and his body is said to be have been buried in Tanjung Kling in Melaka, where his tomb can still be seen today.
Hang Tuah the Legend
Hang Tuah is famous for saying "Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia" which literally means "Malays will never vanish from the face of the earth" or "Never shall the Malay(s) (race) vanish from the face of the earth". The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism.
He remains an extremely popular Malay legend, embodying the values of Malay culture at the time, when allegiance and loyalty were paramount above all else. The Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat story, whether completely truthful or not, represents a paradox in the Malay psyche about loyalty and justice, and remains a point of debate among students of Malay history and literature.
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