Hang Tuah is a legendary warrior/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 Malaysian Malay culture, and is arguably the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature.
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 semi-historical Malay Annals) and Hikayat Hang Tuah (a romantic collection of tales involving Hang Tuah).
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 Sari’s 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 Tuah’s 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 Inderaputra or 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 stewardess dayang. The Sultan sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial for the alleged offense. The death sentence was never carried out, however, because Hang Tuah’s executioner, the Bendahara, went against the Sultan’s 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 or the Malay Annals are unique in that they constitute the only available account of the history of the Malay Sultanate in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, 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 quoting the words “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 true 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.
Hang Tuah in Media
Hang Tuah is a prominent legendary figure in Malaysia’s popular culture and his story has been adapted into several movies. The more famous of these movies include Hang Tuah, starring the late P. Ramlee in the titular role, and Puteri Gunung Ledang, which starred M. Nasir as Hang Tuah. In 1995, XX Ray 2, a film by Aziz M. Osman was made and tells about modern scientists were sent back in Hang Tuah’s era. In the film, Hang Tuah (played by Jalaluddin Hassan) got the quote Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia from one of the scientists from future (played by Aziz M. Osman).TUAH film, which starred (Jamal Abdillah)
Hang Tuah Hypothesis Research
What really came into accounts of researchers and historian are the name ‘Hang’ itself. There no such name present for a Malay from that time until today. Even the culture did not describe the meaning of ‘Hang’. The name ‘Hang’ actually descends from China. It was believed that an entourage from China sent by its Emperor to settle down in Melaka as a sign of diplomatic friendship. To tie the strong bond between these two kingdoms, a princess from China, ‘Hang Li Poo’ were ordered to marry the Sultan. The Sultan placed the princess up on a hill and later named ‘Bukit Cina’ or Chinese Hill. Few men from the entourage were actually warriors and bodyguards for the princess Some of these men or their descendants were believed to be :
1. Hang Too Ah
2. Hang Jee Fatt
3. Hang Lee Ker
4. Hang Lee Kiew ,the warriors said the be in the Legend. The name ‘Hang’ was a surname from China and still today. Chinese names normally carries in 3 words. How it combined into a 2 words name were because the Malay culture in naming after conversion to Islam and at the same time remaining their names. These warriors blended in the Malay culture and proclaimed by the Sultan as the protected ones even they were converted or not. But how about Hang Kasturi? It should be ‘Hang Kar Tu Ree’ in Chinese. Notice that it had over 3 words that differed from a Chinese name. The answer could be because Hang Kasturi was actually their Malay friend who was very close and they grew up together. So to honor their friendship, the surname ‘Hang’ was awarded to him. Thus, the name ‘Hang Kasturi’ existed in the legend. There were few names which gave rise to the history of Melaka that carries the surname ‘Hang’. Which were Hang Nadim and Hang Biajin (Hang Tuah’s son). Both were also warriors. Their chronicles were too insufficient to be placed among the icons.
This hypothesis research was carried out by Department Of History, National University Of Malaysia (UKM).
Places and things named after Hang Tuah
- Four roads in Malaysia are named after Hang Tuah: Jalan Hang Tuah in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Malacca, and in Taman Khalidi Bharu, Muar, Johor
- The Royal Malaysian Navy has a frigate named KD Hang Tuah.
- A strip along Jalan Hang Tuah has been renamed Hang Tuah Mall and popularised as a tourist attraction.
- Streets : Jalan Hang Tuah in Medan, Pekanbaru, and Jakarta
- University of Hang Tuah in Surabaya, Indonesia
- The Indonesian Navy also has a frigate named KRI Hang Tuah.