A leading historian sought to end the seemingly endless debate over whether Malay folk hero Hang Tuah exists or not, by saying that there’s probably no way to know for sure, based on the scant evidence.
Fellow researcher at the Academy of Malay Studies in Universiti Malaya (UM), Prof Dr Henri Chmbert Loir, said today that enquiring into Hang Tuah’s personal history would need to be opened to even more debate and research, beyond his mentions as a prominent figure in the Salatus Salatin and the Hikayat Hang Tuah, the two tomes which directly name him.
Speaking at the forum Between History and Myth: Malay History and Hang Tuah in Malaysian Historiography, Dr Loir shut down scholarly arguments both for and against the premise that Hang Tuah was an actual person in local history.
“Prof Dr Ahmat Adam, research fellow at the UM History Department, failed to prove Hang Tuah did not exist, as it is impossible to conclude the matter based only on mispellings of jawi script,” Loir said, as quoted by Berita Harian.
“The literature has existed for centuries, and the existence of such a figure (as Hang Tuah) has been accepted by all Malaysians.”
Flipping the tables, he also dismissed the book Hang Tuah: Okinawa Notes by Dr Hashim Musa and Dr Rohaidah Kamaruddin which argues Hang Tuah was real, saying that the documents from the Japanese Ryukyu Empire and the letters of Portuguese admiral Alfonso de Alburquerque only mentioned an 80-year old general from Malacca moving to Singapore after the fall of the Malay sultanate.
“The documents do not mention Hang Tuah by name, and only serve to point to the existence of a great warrior and general during the Malay Sultanate of Malacca,” Loir said.