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Hang Tuah
هڠ تواه
Artist's depiction of Hang Tuah, Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum
Bornc. 1431 – c. 1444
Sungai Duyung, Malacca Sultanate
EraMalacca Sultanate
A bronze mural of Hang Tuah that exhibited at the National Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hang Tuah (Jawi: هڠ تواه‎, from /tuha/ or /toh/ (توه);[1] born c. 1431 – c. 1444), according to the semi-historical Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu), was a warrior and Laksamana (equivalent to modern-day Admiral) who lived in Malacca during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah in the 15th century.[2] However, there is limited historical evidence for his existence.[3] He was supposedly a great laksamana, or admiral, a diplomat and a silat master. Hang Tuah is the most illustrious warrior figure in Malay literature. He is however, a somewhat controversial figure and there is much in dispute about the factual basis of Hang Tuah's story.[4]


The veracity of Hang Tuah has been the subject of debate of historians for a century. In 2012, historian Khoo Kay Kim, noted that there was no historical evidence for Hang Tuah's existence.[5] Since 2016, some historians have suggested that that Hang Tuah is referred to in the Rekidai Hoan,[6] an official record from the Ryukyu Islands.[7] The document spans the period from the 15th to the 19th century and records the arrival of a certain admiral from Malacca. The document mentions the word "Lezoumana" or "Lo-hsi-ma-na" (Laksamana), Hang Tuah's supposed title, according to the Malay Annals. However, since Hang Tuah is not mentioned by name, this claim remains unproven.[8]


Regardless of the historicity of Hang Tuah, his ethnicity is the source of some dispute. Legend has it that Hang Tuah had aboriginal Malay ancestry.[9] In the early 21st century, there arose an unfounded cybermyth that Hang Tuah was of Chinese descent.[10][11][12]


According to legend, Hang Tuah learns silat together with his four comrades, Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu. Their teacher is Adi Putra, a renowned master who lived a hermetic life at the top of a mountain. The comrades encounter and deal with a man running running amok. Following this incident, Hang Tuah is presented to Sultan Muzaffar Shah of Malacca by his bendahara, Tun Perak.[13]

Hang Tuah's Well in Kampung Duyong, Malacca
Hang Tuah Mausoleum, located in Tanjong Kling

Hang Tuah's 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)[14] and Hikayat Hang Tuah (a romantic collection of tales involving Hang Tuah).

Hang Tuah is said to have become the sultan's constant aide, accompanying the king on official visits to foreign countries. On one such visit to Majapahit, Hang Tuah fights a duel with the famed pendekar Taming Sari. After this brutal fight Hang Tuah emerges as winner, and then Singhavikramavardhana, the ruler of Majapahit, bestows upon him Taming Sari's kris or dagger. The Keris Taming Sari was named after its original owner, and is purported to be magical, empowering its owner with physical invulnerability.

Hang Tuah is also said to have acted as the sultan's ambassador, travelling on the king's behalf to allied countries. Another story concerning Hang Tuah's loyalty to the ruler is found in the Hikayat Hang Tuah, and involves his visit to Inderaputra or Pahang during one such voyage. The sultan sends 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 falls under the impression that Hang Tuah had come to persuade her to marry him, not the sultan, and agrees to elope with him to Malacca. It was only during the voyage home that Hang Tuah reveals his deception to Tun Teja. The Hikayat Hang Tuah and Sejarah Melayu each carry different accounts of this incident. The Hikayat records that it is Hang Tuah who persuades Tun Teja to elope with him, thus deceiving her.

Perhaps the most famous story in which Hang Tuah is involved is the fight with his closest childhood companion, Hang Jebat. Hang Tuah's deep loyalty to and popularity with the sultan leads to rumours being circulated that Hang Tuah is having an illicit affair with one of the sultan's dayang (court stewardesses). The sultan then sentences Hang Tuah to death without trial for the alleged offence. The death sentence is not carried out, however, because Hang Tuah's executioner, the bendahara (chief minister), goes against the sultan's orders and hides Hang Tuah in a remote region of Malacca.

The story continues, with Hang Jebat, believing that Hang Tuah was dead, murdered unjustly by the king he served. Hang Jebat then decides to avenge his friend's death. Hang Jebat's revenge allegedly becomes a palace killing spree or furious rebellion against the sultan (sources differ as to what actually occurred). It remains consistent, however, that Hang Jebat wreaks havoc onto the royal court, and the sultan is unable to stop him, as none of the warriors dares to challenge the more ferocious and skilled Hang Jebat. The bendahara then informs the sultan that the only man who is able to stop Hang Jebat, Hang Tuah, is still alive. The bendahara recalls Hang Tuah from his hiding place and the warrior is given full amnesty by the sultan and is instructed to kill Hang Jebat. After seven gruelling days of fighting, Hang Tuah is able to kill Hang Jebat.

The two main sources for Hang Tuah differ yet again on the details of the final aspect of his life. According to the Hikayat Hang Tuah, it is Hang Jebat who avenges his friend's death, only to be killed by the same friend, but according to Sejarah Melayu, it is 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 15th and early 16th century,[15] but the Hang Jebat story, as the more romantic tale, remains more popular.

Hang Tuah is said to continue to serve Malacca after the death of Hang Jebat. Later in life, Hang Tuah is ordered by Sultan Mahmud Shah to court a 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 Malacca-Johor border. According to legend, the Princess meets with Hang Tuah, and only agrees to marry the sultan if he satisfies a list of requirements, or pre-wedding gifts. The list includes a golden bridge linking Malacca 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 knows the tasks will not be fulfilled, and is so overwhelmed that he fails his king that he flings his kris into a river and vows only to return to Malacca if it resurfaces, which it never does. He then vanishes into thin air.

According to other sources, Hang Tuah lives to an old age, and his body is buried in Tanjung Kling in Malacca, where his tomb can still be seen today; however some say his body is actually buried elsewhere. Other sources state that, following the arrival of the Portuguese, Hang Tuah moves to Singapore.[16][17]


Hang Tuah remains popular in Malaysia, embodying the values of allegiance and loyalty. The legend of the tragic friendship between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat represents the conflict between loyalty and justice.[citation needed]

Hang Tuah is associated with the saying, "Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia, selagi berpegang teguh kepada Agama Islam," meaning, "Never shall Malays vanish from the earth, as long as they adhere to the religion of Islam". The saying is a rallying cry for Malay nationalism.[18][19] However, there is no historical record attributing the saying to Hang Tuah.[20]

In popular culture


Hang Tuah is a prominent figure in Malaysia's popular culture and his story has been adapted into several movies. Famous portrayals include:


In 1951, Indonesian author Nasjah Djamin wrote Hang Tuah (Untuk Anak-Anak) ("Hang Tuah for Children") published by Balai Antara, making it the first locally published comic book in the country.[22]

Places and things named after Hang Tuah

Hang Tuah Jaya
Admiral Hang Tuah Jamek Mosque

In Malaysia

In Indonesia

See also


  1. ^ Adam, Ahmat (2016-01-01). Antara Sejarah dan Mitos: Sejarah Melayu & Hang Tuah dalam Historiografi Malaysia (in Malay). SIRD. ISBN 978-967-2165-93-4.
  2. ^ David Levinson & Karen Christensen (2002). Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, Vol. 4. Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 39, 139. ISBN 0-684-80617-7.
  3. ^ Arman Ahmad (12 December 2015). "Hang Tuah 'did not exist', claims historian". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 20 May 2016.
  4. ^ Nadia, Alena (2022-05-15). "Filmmakers attempt to piece together fragments of Hang Tuah". Malaysiakini. Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  5. ^ "Don: Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, and Hang Li Po are myths". Malaysiakini. 17 January 2012. Archived from the original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  6. ^ Musa, Hashim; Rodi, Rozita Che; Muhammad, Salmah Jan Noor (2018). "Surat Hang Tuah Kepada Raja Ryukyu: Kebijaksanaan Ilmu Diplomasi Melayu Tradisional". Jurnal Melayu Sedunia (in Malay). 1 (1): 162–190. ISSN 2637-0751.
  7. ^ Aman, Azlansyah; Ros, Azhar Mad (2016). "Sejarah Perdagangan Maritim Ryukyu Serta Hubungannya Dengan Melaka". Sejarah. 25 (2): 58–72. doi:10.22452/sejarah.vol25no2.4. ISSN 2756-8253.
  8. ^ Iszahanid, Hafizah (2016-04-29). "Hang Tuah sampai bila pun tidak dapat dibuktikan" (in Malay). Retrieved 2023-03-18.
  9. ^ Winstedt, R. O. (1962). A history of Malaya. Singapore: Marican.
  10. ^ Donplaypuks (7 May 2008). "Parameswara didn't convert, Hang Tuah not Chinese". Malaysiakini. Archived from the original on 16 June 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  11. ^ Khalifa, Faiq (22 May 2017). "Hang Tuah is Chinese? Hang on a second…". Free Malaysia Today. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  12. ^ Idrus, Rusaslina (2016-05-03). "Multicultural Hang Tuah: Cybermyth and popular history making in Malaysia". Indonesia and the Malay World. 44 (129): 229–248. doi:10.1080/13639811.2015.1133135. ISSN 1363-9811.
  13. ^ Braginsky, V. I. (1990-01-01). "Hikayat Hang Tuah; Malay epic and muslim mirror; Some considerations on its date, meaning and structure". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 146 (4): 399–412. doi:10.1163/22134379-90003207. ISSN 0006-2294.
  14. ^ Britannica CD - Sejarah Melayu Archived 2011-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals)
  16. ^ Musa, Hashim; Rodi, Rozita Che; Muhammad, Salmah Jan Noor (2018-09-24). "SURAT HANG TUAH KEPADA RAJA RYUKYU: KEBIJAKSANAAN ILMU DIPLOMASI MELAYU TRADISIONAL". Jurnal Melayu Sedunia. 1 (1): 162–190. ISSN 2637-0751.
  17. ^ Albuquerque, Afonso de; Birch, Walter de Gray (1875). The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboquerque, second viceroy of India. University of California. London : Printed for the Hakluyt society.
  18. ^ Liok Ee Tan (1988). The Rhetoric of Bangsa and Minzu. Monash Asia Institute. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-86746-909-7.
  19. ^ Melanie Chew (1999). The Presidential Notes: A biography of President Yusof bin Ishak. Singapore: SNP Publications. p. 78. ISBN 978-981-4032-48-3.
  20. ^ Adam, Ahmad (2016, May 23). Hang Tuah: Laksamana Melaka dalam Sejarah Kebudayaan Melayu? [Seminar presentation], Kelab Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  21. ^ Iklan Kit Kat feat. M Nasir
  22. ^ Mazelan Anuar (Jan–Mar 2024). "Kaboom! Early Malay Comic Books Make an Impact". BiblioAsia. Vol. 19, no. 4. National Library Board, Singapore. pp. 42–3.
  23. ^ "MCP . Hikayat Hang Tuah . bibliography". Retrieved 2022-04-29.

Further reading