Step into the world of Malay stories – fantastical adventure tales of kings and heroes, founding myths of sultanates, and romantic poetry.
For centuries, Malay was the language of trade, diplomacy, religious discourse, and literature for maritime Southeast Asia. This exhibition explores traditional Malay literature captured in ink on paper – from handwritten manuscripts to early lithographed books.
These rarely seen items provide glimpses into the society that produced and read these literary works. Discover lesser-known stories of women authors and 19th-century lending libraries in the Malay world. Learn about the dramatic impact of printing on the manuscript tradition, and Singapore’s role as the early Malay/Muslim printing hub for the region.
The exhibition features precious manuscripts on loan from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, shown in Singapore for the first time. It is a unique opportunity to see these collections together.
Highlights include a manuscript (copied in 1710) of one of the oldest existing syair (narrative poem), which tells of the war (1666–69) between the Dutch and Makassar; the earliest manuscript on the exploits of the legendary Malay hero, Hang Tuah; one of the most ornate Malay manuscripts; and an 1811 letter from the sultan of Pontianak in Kalimantan to Stamford Raffles.
Come, discover these and other fascinating stories.