Port and polity of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra (5th – 14th centuries AD)

Various textual sources have revealed the existence of several kingdoms, trading centres and harbour cities on the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra from the 3rd century AD onwards. They subsequently came under the influence of the kingdom of Funan and the kingdom of Srivijaya, which relied on the help of sea people, the so-called “orang laut”, to gain power over Sumatra. By the late 7th century, Srivijaya was the major maritime power in Southeast Asia, and Palembang became the most important entrepot. Even though Srivijaya controlled commerce in the area, previous trading patterns continued to exist. According to archaeological evidence, there were numerous local entrepots on the Malay Peninsula and in Sumatra which entertained commercial relations for instance with China, India and Western Asia. Further polities functioned as collecting centres and feeder points. After Srivijaya, the Malacca Sultanate became the dominant power in the area.

Related Information

  • Author(s):
    Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abd Rahman
    5th century AD to 14th century AD
    Language of article:

    International Seminar for UNESCO Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue “Harbour cities along the Silk Roads”. 9-14 January 1991. Surabaya, Indonesia.

    Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand

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