- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- Timor Leste
- United Arab Emirates
- Hong Kong
- Korea, North
- Korea, South
- Select State/Province
Accommodation > Resort
Entertainment > Theme Park
Transport > Airport
Entertainment > Theme Park
Culture/Sightseeing > Museums
Public > Greenery/Leisure
Malaysia (/məˈleɪʒə/ mə-LAY-zhə or /məˈleɪsiə/ mə-LAY-see-ə) is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population exceeded 27.5 million, with over 20 million living on the Peninsula.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963, with si being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation. Since independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on English Common Law. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The head of state is the King, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.
Malaysia contains the southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai. Located in the tropics, it is a megadiverse country, with large numbers of endemic flora and fauna. It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. The first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos. Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the 1st century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influence on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the 4th or 5th century. The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the 2nd century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the 15th century. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijaya empire. After the fall of Srivijaya, the Majapahit empire had influence over most of Peninsular Malaysia and the Malay Archipelago. Islam began to spread among Malays in the 14th century. In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a prince of the former Srivijayan empire, founded the Malacca Sultanate, commonly considered the first independent state in the peninsula. Malacca was an important commercial centre during this time, attracting trade from around the region. Parameswara became a Muslim, accelerating the spread of Islam.
In 1511 Malacca was conquered by Portugal, after which it was taken by the Dutch in 1641. In 1786 the British Empire established a presence in Malaya, when the Sultan of Kedah leased Penang to the British East India Company. The British obtained the town of Singapore in 1819, and in 1824 took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. By 1826 the British directly controlled Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements. By the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, to whom the rulers were bound to defer by treaty. The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Development on the Peninsula and Borneo were generally separate until the 19th century. Under British rule the immigration of Chinese and Indians to serve as labourers was encouraged. Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo after it was leased from the Sultanate of Sulu in 1878. In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a Crown colony.
In the Second World War the Japanese army invaded and occupied Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew. Popular support for independence increased after Malaya was reconquered by Allied Forces. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection. During this time, mostly Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. After this a plan was put in place to federate Malaya with the British crown colonies of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore. The proposed date of federation was 31 August 1963, however, the date was delayed until 16 September 1963 due to opposition from Indonesia's Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples' Party.
Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13 May race riots in 1969. After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputra. Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanisation beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally-based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North-South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya. However, in the late 1990s the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets.
Malaysia has a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. The original culture of the area stemmed from indigenous tribes that inhabited it, along with the Malays who later moved there. Substantial influence exists from Chinese and Indian culture, dating back to when foreign trade began. Other cultural influences include the Persian, Arabic, and British cultures. Due to the structure of the government, coupled with the social contract theory, there has been minimal cultural assimilation of ethnic minorities.
In 1971, the government created a "National Cultural Policy", defining Malaysian culture. It stated that Malaysian culture must be based on the culture of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, that it may incorporate suitable elements from other cultures, and that Islam must play a part in it. It also promoted the Malay language above others. This government intervention into culture has caused resentment among non-Malays who feel their cultural freedom was lessened. Both Chinese and Indian associations have submitted memorandums to the government, accusing it of formulating an undemocratic culture policy.
Some cultural disputes exist between Malaysia and neighbouring countries, notably Indonesia. The two countries have a similar cultural heritage, sharing many traditions and items. However, disputes have arisen over things ranging from culinary dishes to Malaysia's national anthem. Strong feelings exist in Indonesia about protecting their national heritage. The Malaysian government and the Indonesian government have met to defuse some of the tensions resulting from the overlaps in culture. Feelings are not as strong in Malaysia, where most recognise that many cultural values are shared.
Traditional Malaysian art was mainly centred around the areas of carving, weaving, and silversmithing. Traditional art ranges from handwoven baskets from rural areas to the silverwork of the Malay courts. Common artworks included ornamental kris, beetle nut sets, and woven batik and songket fabrics. Indigenous East Malaysians are known for their wooden masks. Each ethnic group have distinct performing arts, with little overlap between them. However, Malay art does show some North Indian influence due to the historical influence of India.
Traditional Malay music and performing arts appear to have originated in the Kelantan-Pattani region with influences from India, China, Thailand and Indonesia. The music is based around percussion instruments, the most important of which is the gendang (drum). There are at least 14 types of traditional drums. Drums and other traditional percussion instruments and are often made from natural materials. Music is traditionally used for storytelling, celebrating life-cycle events, and occasions such as a harvest. It was once used as a form of long-distance communication. In East Malaysia, gong-based musical ensembles such as agung and kulintang are commonly used in ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. These ensembles are also common in neighbouring regions such as in the southern Philippines, Kalimantan in Indonesia, and Brunei.
Malaysia has a strong oral tradition that has existed since before the arrival of writing, and continues today. Each of the Malay Sultanates created their own literary tradition, influenced by pre-existing oral stories and by the stories that came with Islam. The first Malay literature was in the Arabic script. The earliest known Malay writing is on the Terengganu stone, made in 1303. Chinese and Indian literature became common as the numbers of speakers increased in Malaysia, and locally produced works based in languages from those areas began to be produced in the 19th century. English has also become a common literary language. In 1971, the government took the step of defining the literature of different languages. Literature written in Malay was called "the national literature of Malaysia", literature in other bumiputra languages was called "regional literature", while literature in other languages was called "sectional literature". Malay poetry is highly developed, and uses many forms. The Hikayat form is popular, and the pantun has spread from Malay to other languages.
Malaysia's cuisine reflects the multi-ethnic makeup of its population. Many cultures from within the country and from surrounding regions have greatly influenced the cuisine. Much of the influence comes from the Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Javanese, and Sumatran cultures, largely due to the country being part of the ancient spice route. The cuisine is very similar to that of Singapore and Brunei, and also bears resemblance to Filipino cuisine. The different states have varied dishes, and often the food in Malaysia is different from the original dishes.
Sometimes food not found in its original culture is assimilated into another; for example, Chinese restaurants in Malaysia often serve Malay dishes. Food from one culture is sometimes also cooked using styles taken from another culture, This means that although much of Malaysian food can be traced back to a certain culture, they have their own identity. Rice is popular in many dishes. Chili is commonly found in local cuisine, although this does not necessarily make them spicy.
Holidays and festivals
Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some are federally gazetted public holidays and some are observed by individual states. Other festivals are observed by particular ethnic or religion groups, and the main holiday of each major group has been declared a public holiday. The most observed national holiday is Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) on 31 August, commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957. Malaysia Day on 16 September commemorates federation in 1963. Other notable national holidays are Labour Day (1 May) and the King's birthday (first week of June).
Muslim holidays are prominent as Islam is the state religion; Hari Raya Puasa (also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Malay for Eid al-Fitr), Hari Raya Haji (also called Hari Raya Aidiladha, the translation of Eid ul-Adha), Maulidur Rasul (birthday of the Prophet), and others being observed. Malaysian Chinese celebrate festivals such as Chinese New Year and others relating to traditional Chinese beliefs. Hindus in Malaysia celebrate Deepavali, the festival of lights, while Thaipusam is a religious rite which sees pilgrims from all over the country converge at the Batu Caves. Malaysia's Christian community celebrates most of the holidays observed by Christians elsewhere, most notably Christmas and Easter. East Malaysians also celebrate a harvest festival known as Gawai. Despite most festivals being identified with a particular ethnic or religious group, celebrations are universal. In a custom known as "open house" Malaysians participate in the celebrations of others, often visiting the houses of those who identify with the festival.
Popular sports in Malaysia include soccer, badminton, field hockey, bowls, tennis, squash, martial arts, horse riding, sailing, and skate boarding. Badminton matches attract thousands of spectators, and since 1948 Malaysia has been one of three countries to hold the Thomas Cup. The Malaysian Lawn Bowls Federation was registered in 1997. Squash was brought to the country by members of the British army, with the first competition being held in 1939. The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia was created on 25 June 1972. Malaysia has proposed a Southeast Asian football league. The men's national field hockey team ranked 15th in the world as of August 2010. The 3rd Hockey World Cup was hosted at Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, as well as the 10th cup. The country also has its own Formula One track–the Sepang International Circuit. It runs for 310.408 kilometres (192.88 mi), and held its first Grand Prix in 1999.
The Federation of Malaya Olympic Council was formed in 1953, and received recognition by the IOC in 1954. It first participated in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The council was renamed the Olympic Council of Malaysia in 1964, and has participated in all but one Olympic games since its inception. The largest number of athletes ever sent to the Olympics was 57 to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Malaysian athletes have won a total of four Olympic medals, all of which are in badminton. The country has competed at the Commonwealth Games since 1950 as Malaya, and 1966 as Malaysia, and the games were hosted in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. For the martial arts, there's two types of styles are being practiced in Malaysia; the Silat and the Malaysian kickboxing called Tomoi.
Malaysia's main newspapers are owned by the government and political parties in the ruling coalition, although some major opposition parties also have their own. A divide exists between the media in the two halves of the country. Peninsular-based media gives low priority to news from the East, and often treats the eastern states as colonies of the Peninsula. The media has been blamed for increasing tension between Indonesia and Malaysia, and giving Malaysians a bad image of Indonesians. The country has Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil dailies.
There is very little freedom of the press, leading to very little government accountability. The government has previously tried to crack down on opposition papers before elections. In 2007, a government agency issued a directive to all private television and radio stations to refrain from broadcasting speeches made by opposition leaders, a move condemned by politicians from the opposition Democratic Action Party. Sabah, where all tabloids but one are independent of government control, has the freest press in Malaysia. Laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act have also been cited as curtailing freedom of expression.
Malaysia is the 67th largest country by total land area, with a land area of 329,847 square kilometres (127,355 sq mi). It has land borders with Thailand in West Malaysia, and Indonesia and Brunei in East Malaysia. It is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway, and also has maritime boundaries with Vietnam and the Philippines. The land borders are defined in large part by geological features such as the Perlis River, the Golok River and the Pagalayan Canal, whilst some of the maritime boundaries are the subject of ongoing contention. Brunei forms what is almost an enclave in Malaysia, with the state of Sarawak dividing it into two parts. Malaysia is the only country with territory on both the Asian mainland and the Malay archipelago. Tanjung Piai, located in the southern state of Johor, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia. The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40 per cent of the world's trade.
The two parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both Peninsular and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to hills and mountains. Peninsular Malaysia, containing 40 per cent of Malaysia's land area, extends 740 kilometres (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 kilometres (200 mi). It is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains, part of a series of mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula. These mountains are heavily forested, and mainly composed of granite and other igneous rocks. Much of it has been eroded, creating a karst landscape. The range is the origin of some of Peninsular Malaysia's river systems. The coastal plains surrounding the peninsula reach a maximum width of 50 kilometres (31 mi), and the peninsula's coastline is nearly 1,931 kilometres (1,200 mi) long, although harbours are only available on the western side.
East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, has a coastline of 2,607 kilometres (1,620 mi). It is divided between coastal regions, hills and valleys, and a mountainous interior. The Crocker Range extends northwards from Sarawak, dividing the state of Sabah. It is the location of the 4,095.2 metres (13,436 ft) high Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Malaysia. Mount Kinabalu is protected as the Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highest mountain ranges form the border between Malaysia and Indonesia. Sarawak contains the Mulu Caves, the largest cave system in the world.
Around these two halves of Malaysia are numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi. The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons. The temperature is moderated by the presence of the surrounding oceans. Humidity is usually high, and the average annual rainfall is 250 centimetres (98 in). The climates of the Peninsula and the East differ, as the climate on the peninsula is directly affected by wind from the mainland, as opposed to the more maritime weather of the East. Local climates can be divided into three regions, highland, lowland, and coastal. Climate change is likely to affect sea levels and rainfall, increasing flood risks and leading to droughts.