Malaysian Culture

The flag of Malaysia is known as the Jalur Gemilang (meaning Stripes of Glory).  There are 14 red and white stripes to stand for the equality of the 13 member states and the federal government.  A crescent moon and a 14-point star stand for the unity among them.

The crescent moon represents Islam, the country’s official religion.  The blue stands for the unity of the Malaysian people and the yellow star stand for the royal color of the Malay rulers.

The flag was first raised up on September 16, 1963, to symbolize the flag of the Federation of Malaya.  Before this time, each state in had its own flag.

Malays (almost 28 million today) are an ethnic group of Austronesian people who live on parts of the modern nations of Malaysia, Western Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Burma, and Southern Thailand.  These countries are part of Asia.  The Malays population is descended from several tribes who lived in this region. The common language including dialects, Islamic religion and culture brought these tribes together who now share some similar traits.

The capital is Kuala Lumpur with 1.5 million people.  The area in Asia that the Malays inhabit is approximately 329,750 square kilometers, about the size of New Mexico – a southwestern state of the United States.

The geography of the region is a mix of coastal plains, hills, and mountains.  The climate is tropical with two monsoon seasons (one dry and one wet).

The major products produced include rubber, wood products, textiles, and palm oil. The traditional Malay houses are built using wood.  The houses have front porches and high ceilings.  There are many wood carvings (on average about 20 or more) in a typical house.  There is a lot of timber on the Malay Archipelago and woodcarving is a traditional craft.

The Buddhist Kingdom of Srivijaya ruled Malaysia from the 9th-13th centuries.  Then the Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit took over.  The state of Malacca ruled by a Muslim prince ruled afterward.  This is when Islam spread throughout the area.

The first Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese. They took over Malacca in 1511 and then controlled the area for over 100 years. The Dutch in 1641, followed by the British in 1795 who were the next conquerors. The British helped to develop some of the important industries this region has today.  The production of rubber and tin were started by the British.

Malaysia was occupied by Japan during World War II. Soon after the war, the country began to move towards independence. In 1957, several of the British territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya. Malaysia was also formed and became a separate independent country in 1963.  Malaysia is a democratic monarchy.  A Parliament helps run the country.

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