Tun Sri Lanang

Tun Seri Lanang is largely credited as being the author of Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals. He was a Bendahara (Prime Minister) to the Sultan of Johor at a time when the Johor sultanate was under attacked by the Portuguese and the Acehnese. His real name was Tun Muhammad while his official title, bestowed by the Sultan, was Bendahara Paduka Raja (Bendahara Paduka Raja III, Bendahara XIV, Johor).

Tun Seri Lanang was Bendahara (Prime Minister) to the Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah III, the descendants of the Malaccan sultans.  The Bendahara lived at a time of upheavals.  The Malaccan kingdom, which was the centre of the Malay world in the 15th century and the first decade of the 16th century, had fallen to Portuguese hands in 1511. With this defeat, the last Sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mahmud, fled Malacca together with family and supporters and took refuge in several places including Bintan.  He died in Kampar in 1528 and was succeeded by his son who took on the title, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II.  The new Sultan established the Johor Sultanate in 1528.  The Johor Sultanate faced attacks by the Portuguese in Malacca and the Acehnese in Sumatra, and was on the run frequently.

Tun Seri Lanang was an aristocrat of the Johor Sultanate, born and bred within the istana (palace) grounds of the Johor Lama (Old Johor).  During his lifetime, the Johor Sultanate was still under threat from its erstwhile enemies, causing the capital of the Johor court to shift from one place to another.  When Sultan Iskandar Muda of Aceh destroyed Batu Sawar, Johor, in 1613, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah III (b. 1597- d. 1615), the reigning Sultan of Johor, was captured and brought to Aceh together with his family and top officials including Bendahara Tun Seri Lanang.  It was against this background that Tun Sri Lanang was commissioned to write a story, setting out the descent of Malay rajas, to laud the splendour, greatness and superiority of the Malaccan Sultanate. This work came to be known as Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals. It was seen as the Johor court's attempt to invoke past glories of a mythical golden age in the face of repeated invasions. According to Windstedt, Tun Seri Lanang wrote the Malay Annals during his imprisonment in Pasai (northeastern coast of Aceh), between February 1614 and January 1615.

Authorship of Sejarah Melayu
Apart from being a top advisor to the Sultan of Johor, Tun Seri Lanang was also a literary great. He is largely credited as the author of Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals. The Annals is tilted Sulalatus Salatin in Arabic, meaning geneology or descent of kings.  It traces the line of the Malaccan kings, which included Sri Tri Buana who founded Singapore and his descendants who ruled Singapore for five generations.  The last ruler of Singapore, Sultan Iskandar Shah, fled after being attacked by the Javanese and founded Malacca.

There have been claims that Tun Sri Lanang was not the author of Sejarah Melayu but had worked on previous writings, thus relegating his role to more of a compiler and editor.  According to historians, the original text of Sejarah Melayu was written some time in the 15th or 16th century, probably in 1526, and modified by the Johor court in 1612, as commissioned by Raja Abdullah (the younger brother of Sultan Alauddin). Tun Seri Lanang wrote the Annals based on stories he heard which had been passed down from his forefathers.  But his efforts in enhancing the Annals could not be surpassed; his intimate knowledge of the court due to his aristocratic and political background made the Annals a close representation of Malay court at that time.

Tun Sri Lanang's death
It was traditionally believed that Tun Sri Lanang died as a prisoner-of-war in Aceh, but new evidence states otherwise.  Sultan Iskandar Muda who invaded Batu Sawar was said to have appointed Tun Seri Lanang as the Raja of Samalanga, Aceh. Under his reign, Samalanga became the centre of Islam in eastern Aceh. His tomb is said to be at Lancok, Samalanga, Bireuen, Aceh.

A document of Tun Sri Lanang's proclamation to the position of raja and a reply letter written by Tun Sri Lanang in gold ink forwarded to the King of England by Sultan Iskandar are claimed to be in a British Museum. Tun Seri Lanang's family was also given important positions in court. Some of his descendants returned to Johor and assumed positions in court and became part of present day Trengganu, Pahang and Johor sultanates' ancestry.

Marsita Omar


Abdullah Zakaria bin Ghazali. (1994). Kesultanan Johor, 1528-1885. In Abdullah Zakaria bin Ghazali & Zainal Abidin Borhan (eds.), Johor: dahulu dan sekarang (pp. 19-22). Kuala Lumpur: Persatuan Muzium Malaysia.
(Call no.: R Malay 959.5119 JOH).

Brown, C. C. (1970). Sejarah Melayu, or, Malay annals. (pp. ix-xiv). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 SEJ).

Leyden, J. (2001). John Leyden's Malay annals (pp. b-b2). Malaysia: MBRAS.
(Call no.: RSING 959.51 JOH).

Miksic, J. N., & Low, C. M. G. (Eds.). (c2004). Early Singapore, 1300s-1819: Evidence in maps, text and artifacts. Singapore: Singapore History Museum.
(Call no.: SING 959.5703 EAR).

Shaharom Husain. (1959). Tun Seri Lanang: Riwayat hidup dan sandiwara (pp. 1-6) [Microfilm: NL 10326). Singapura: Pustaka Melayu.

Andaya, B. W, & Andaya, L. Y. (2001). The history of Malaysia (pp. 35-36). Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave. Retrieved May 28, 2006, from www.palgrave.com/pdfs/0333945042.pdf

Bullis, D. (2001, July/August). Beyond the monsoon. Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved June 14, 2005, from www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200104/beyond.the.monsoon.htm

Helmi Hass. (2004). Tun Sri Lanang, antara tawanan dan raja. Retrieved June 14, 2005, from www.tunsrilanang.com/news03.htm

M. Adli Abdullah. (2004). Tun Sri Lanang: Permata Melayu di negeri Aceh. Retrieved June 14, 2005, from www.tunsrilanang.com/news01.htm

Sabri Zain. (n.d.). Singapore renegade. Retrieved May 28, 2006, from www.sabrizain.demon.co.uk/malaya/parames1.htm

The information in this article is valid as at 2005 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Authors, Malay--16th century
Language and literature>>Rhetoric>>Authorship
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Malaysia

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