Review Essay Of “Jacques de Coutre’s And Matelieff’s Singapore and Johor”: Exploring Sources On Pre-Modern History of Singapore, pp. 10 of 11

Some corroboration may be made with Chongguan Kwa’s examination of the porcelain shards: 1. the shards appear to be parts of blue-white ceramics and the dating is established tagged to the period of the Wanli Emperor (1563-1620) of the Ming Dynasty in China. Some of the pieces have glaze that are severely degraded. 2. Kwa adds that the “landscape print first appeared in the 15th century developed to become the dominant decorative theme in transitional porcelain.” Kwa notes specifically that the Chinese imageries drew inspiration from classic novels and that earlier inspiration for transitional ceramics was more Daoist. 3. As a link to how far the porcelain might have been traded, Kwa alerts that Shah Abbas of Persia (r. 1588-1629) had “amassed a huge collection, which he donated to a dynastic shrine in 1611.” Connecting with the narrative made so far, other than the Geldermalsen, there is certainly good possibility that porcelain from China were carried by European and other ships from different regions in the trans-regional trade from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean (Kwa, 2004, pp. 86-94).   


The pre-1819 history of Singapore has made great progress since 2000. As an attempt to review P. Borschberg’s abridged books on Jacques de Coutre and Matelieff’s documents in relation to Singapore and its vicinity, this paper hopes to add to the effort to promote greater awareness of the pre-Rafflesian history of Singapore. Jacques de Coutre and Matelieff’s documents can provide the context of the wider region for Singapore in the 17th century as well as some glimpse into developments on the Singapore Island. These included information on the power-holders in the Straits of Melaka during the early 17th century as well as the people that might have settled in Singapore during this period. The picture can be further corroborated with indigenous sources such as The Precious Gift and archaeological findings to fill the picture of 17th or 18th-century Singapore. In September 2015, a Straits Times article featured a descendent of Tengku Hussein who expressed their desire for Singapore’s history to give greater recognition to the Istana Kampong Gelam (currently Malay Heritage Centre). Indeed, the understanding of the pre-modern history of Singapore is inextricably linked with the larger heritage of the Malay Sultanates and the wider region. Living and traveling in a predominantly Malay region necessitates us to better appreciate the history and culture of our environs.


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