A wonderful book by Richard Winstedt, one of his earlier works published before his more popular books such as Malaya and Its History and The Malay Magician. In this book, Winstedt gives an overview of the Malayan region as a whole, covering all aspects including its history and archaeology, arts and crafts, beliefs, the different ethnic groups, its industries and so on. And although many such books have been written, Winstedt’s stands out as being especially specific and detailed, and will be very useful not only for the general reader, but also for historians and even antique collectors, with numerous interesting photographs that illustrate his points.
As an example, here is a description of Malay metal-work:
“Several foliated patterns in Malay gold and silver work may be traced in the carved frames of the panels on Boro-budur, the great Buddhist memorial in Java. A lotus flower is common on waist-buckles. An ornamentation with prominent gadroons “is the same as the lotus pattern found on the base of Buddhist idols,” and is called by Malays the pine-apple pattern. Is it possible that this pre-Islamic art with its Indian traits dates back to the great Malay kingdom, Buddhist Palembang? Or course, in the north of the Peninsula later Siamese influence may have left its mark.”
And on language:
“The Malay language has a dozen words for ‘fall,’ ‘hit,’ ‘carry,’ and so on, but it is destitute of words to express feelings and abstract ideas. Long before the coming of Islam, Malay borrowed many Sanskrit words, not only for religious and ethical ideas by words for ‘price, property, work,’ for ‘plough, weapon, coffin, prison, bell,’ words for certain fruits and flowers, words for feelings and sensations, a court vocabulary and a few astronomical terms. Hardly any loan-words are Prakrit. Seeing that Islam came first from India, Persian, the literary and diplomatic language of the Muslims of Northern India, left traces, secondhand and not direct, mostly literary and not colloquial. Hindustani has left words for ‘reins, glanders, stable, buggy’; for ‘vinegar, bread, rice-gruel.’ There are many loan-words from Tamil, the language of Muslim traders who have trafficked with Malays for centuries: words for ‘ship, bed, curtain, carat, bowl, matrix, screw-jack, wedge, pond, coriander, watermelon, gratis.”
About Winstedt (from Wikipedia):
Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt KBE CMG FBA (2 August 1878 – 2 June 1966), or more commonly R. O. Winstedt, was an English Orientalist and colonial administrator with expertise in British Malaya.
Winstedt was born in Oxford and educated at Magdalen College School and New College, Oxford, from which he received an MA. His brother was Eric Otto Winstedt, a Latinist and gypsiologist.
In 1902 he became a cadet in the Federated Malay States Civil Service, and was posted to Perak where he studied Malay language and culture. In 1913 he was appointed District Officer in Kuala Pilah, and in 1916 appointed to the Education Department. In 1920 he received his DLitt degree from Oxford. He married Sarah Winstedt, a physician and surgeon with the Colonial Medical Service whom he had met in Kuala Pilah, in 1921.
He served as the first President of Raffles College, Singapore, 1928–1931. He also served as acting Secretary to the High Commissioner, Director of Education for Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States (FMS), as a member of Legislative Council, Straits Settlements, 1924–1931 and as a member of the FMS Federal Council, 1927–1931. He was president of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1927, 1929 and 1931. After a term as General Adviser to Johore, 1931–1935, Winstedt retired from the Malayan Civil Service.
He returned to England and was appointed Lecturer, then Reader, and ultimately Honorary Fellow, in Malay at the School of Oriental Studies in London, where he also served as a member of the Governing Body, 1939–1959. During World War II, he broadcast in Malay to Japanese-occupied Malaya. He retired from active teaching in 1946.
Winstedt served on numerous boards and advisory groups, most notably at the Royal Asiatic Society in London, of which he was repeatedly the president and a Gold Medallist in 1947. Other organisations included the Association of British Malaya, of which he was president in 1938, the Colonial Office Advisory Committee on Education, 1936–1939, and the Royal India Society. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Member of the Southeast Asia Institute, the Royal Batavian Society, and the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde.