Pahang (ڤهڠ in Jawi, orڤهڠ دار المعمور — Pahang Darul Makmur with the Arabic honorific meaning “Abode of Tranquility”) is the third largest state in Malaysia, after Sarawak and Sabah, and the largest in Peninsular Malaysia. The state occupies the huge Pahang River river basin. It is bordered to the north by Kelantan, to the west by Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, to the south by Johor and to the east by Terengganu and the South China Sea. Its state capital is Kuantan, and the royal seat is at Pekan. Other important towns include Jerantut, Kuala Lipis, Temerloh and the hill resorts of Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands, Bukit Tinggi and Fraser’s Hill. The state’s total area is 13,953 square miles (36,137 km²) and it’s population is 1,623,200 as of 2015.
Peninsular Malaysia straddles a rich quartz vein that is associated with the mountain range in the center. Rainforest covers much of the highlands, but it tends to be thinner, with more deciduous trees. Ferns are also extremely common, thanks mainly to the high humidity and fog that permeates the area. The Cameron Highlands area in the west is home to extensive tea plantations. The area is the highest on the mainland, and the climate is temperate enough to have distinct temperature variations year round. The area is also known as a major supplier of legumes and vegetables to both Malaysia and Singapore.
Genting Highlands is known as Malaysia’s playground. It is home to several hotels, a theme park and Malaysia’s only casino. Genting Highlands was developed by Lim Goh Tong, who envisioned a hillside getaway destination for people wanting to get away from city hustle and bustle, and is conveniently situated 40 minutes from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, accessible by highway. The border of Genting Highlands straddles both the states of Pahang and Selangor. The famous silk merchant and fashion designer Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared in the area, and it was also home to the Communist guerrillas who fought the British during the 1950s. There is also a population of native Orang Asli who live in the area, although most have been relocated from the forests to other areas.
The north of the state is home to the country’s largest national park, Taman Negara. This large primary rainforest is extensive, and is home to many rare or endangered animals, such as the tapir, kancil, tigers, elephants and leopards. Rainforest covers 2/3 of the area of the state, and the peninsula’s highest point, Mount Tahan, is located within Taman Negara. Since the equator is so close, the rain forests in Malaysia are among the oldest in the world: roughly 130 million years old.
The largely mountainous state flattens out towards the coastline, and this is where the state capital Kuantan is located. There are also many islands offshore, including Tioman Island, with extensive coral reef systems. Fine stretches of beach are found from Kuantan heading to Terengganu. A traditional fishing industry still exists along the coast.
Based on Chinese records, Pahang was known to the Chinese as Phang or Pahangh, other variations include Pang-Hang, Pang-Heng, Pong-Fong, Phe-Hang, and Pang-Kang and others. In 1225, Chau Ju-Kua wrote the book Chu-Fan-Chi and mentioned that amongst the states controlled by San-Fo-Chi was one called Peng-Keng, supposedly modern day Pahang. The Arabs and Europeans at that time called it as Pam, Pan, Phang, Paam, Poa, Paon, Phamm, Paham, Fanhan, Phang and Pahagh. G.R Tibbets, a historian who commented the story written by Mas’udi thought that Fanjab (in Mas’udi’s book) was Pahang. He preferred to call it Fanhan, Panghang/Panhang, rather than Fanjab.
The name ‘Pahang’ has been said to originate from the language of a Siamese aborigines tribe, meaning ‘ore’. The aborigines used to live here and opened up several mining areas, especially in Sungai Lembing. According to an old Malay story, at the place near the Pahang River, on the opposite side of Kampung Kembahang, a large ‘mahang’ tree fell across the river, thus the name ‘Pahang’ originated.
Archaeological evidences revealed the existence of human habitation in the area that is today Pahang from as early as the paleolithic age. At Gunung Senyum, relics of mesolithic civilization using pleolithic implements have been found. At Sungai Lembing, Kuantan, paleolithic artifacts have been discovered chipped and without traces of polishing, the remains of a 6,000 years old civilization. Traces of Hoabinhian culture is represented by a number of limestone cave sites. Late neolithic relics are abundant, including polished tools, quoit discs, stone ear pendants, stone bracelets and cross-hatched bark pounders. By around 400 BC, the development of bronze casting led to the flourishing of the Đông Sơn culture, notably for its elaborate bronze war drums.
The early iron civilization in Pahang that began around the beginning of Common Era is associated by prehistorians with the late neolithic culture. Relics from this era, found along the rivers are particularly numerous in Tembeling Valley, which served as the old main northern highway of communication. Ancient gold workings in Pahang are thought to date back to this early iron age as well.
The Kra Isthmus region of the Malay peninsula and its peripheries are recognized by historians as the cradle of Malayic civilizations. Primordial Malayic kingdoms are described as tributaries to Funan by the second century Chinese sources.
Ancient Pahang sits astride the ‘Austric marchland’ — the territory where the Mon-Khmer-speaking (Austroasiatic) cultures meet up with the Malayic and pre-Malayic-speaking (Austronesian) cultures. The early settlers lived by mining gold, tin and iron and planting rice. They left many traces; irrigation works, mine workings, remains of brick buildings, and probably the pottery industry at Kuala Tembeling. Ancient settlements can be traced from Tembeling to as far south as Merchong. Their tracks can also be found in deep hinterland of Jelai, along the Chini Lake, and up to the head-waters of the Rompin. One such settlement was identified as Koli from Geographia, a thriving port located on the estuary of Kuantan River, where foreign ships stopped to barter and resupply.
By the middle of fifth century, a polity suggestive as ancient Pahang, was described in the Book of Song as Pohuang or Panhuang (婆皇). The king of Pohuang, She-li- Po-luo-ba-mo (‘Sri Bhadravarman’) was recorded to have sent an envoy to the Liu Song court in 449-450 with forty one types of products. In 456-457, another envoy of the same country, led by a Senapati, arrived at the Chinese capital, Jiankang. This ancient Pahang is believed to had been established later as a mueang to the mandala of Langkasuka-Kedah centered in modern-day Patani region that rose to prominence with the regression of Funan from the sixth century. The Langkasuka-Kedah with its city states that controlled both coastal fronts of Malay peninsula, assumed importance in the trading network involving Rome, India and China. The growth in trade brought in foreign influence throughout these city states. The discovery of many Buddhist votive tablets and Hindu icons points toward strong Indian influence during this period.
By the beginning of eighth century, Langkasuka-Kedah came under the military and political hegemony of Srivijaya. However, the gradual domination of Langkasuka-Kedah was not achieved by conventional warfare, and no records of major seaborne naval expeditions exist. The submission of Langkasuka-Kedah to the might of Srivijaya was of benefit and interest to the former for, as a commercial center, it was useful to be allied to a powerful with a navy strong enough to protect them.
In the centuries that followed, up to the final decline of Srivijaya, Langkasuka-Kedah was one of its closest allies and Kedah rose to become a principal port and even the seat of the Srivijayan Maharaja. Langkasuka-Kedah’s fortune were, therefore interwined with Srivijaya’s, and the former’s decline only came after the fall of the latter to Chola raids from South India in the eleventh century. The power vacuum left by the collapse of Srivijaya was filled by the rise of Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom, commonly known in Malay tradition as ‘Ligor’. By the thirteenth century, the kingdom succeeded to incorporate most of the Malay Peninsula including Pahang under its mandala. During this period, Pahang, designated as Muaeng Pahang was established as one of the twelve naksat city states of Ligor. In the early 14th century, the fortune of Ligor was in turn eclipsed by the rise of Thai Buddhist power, and the expansion southwards by Ram Khamhaeng of Sukhotai who brought it under Thai hegemony.
The fourteenth century, was the time of the earliest recorded evidence of Islam in the east coast of Malay peninsula. The period also coincides with Pahang, began consolidating its influence in the southern part of the Malay peninsula. The kingdom, described by Portuguese historian, Manuel Godinho de Erédia as Pam, was one of the two kingdoms of Malayos in the peninsula, in succession to Pattani, that flourished before the establishment of Melaka in the fifteenth century. The Pahang ruler then, titled Maharaja, was also the overlord of countries of Ujong Tanah (‘land’s end’), the southerly part of the peninsula including Temasek. The Majapahit chronicle, Nagarakretagama even used the name Pahang to designate the Malay peninsula, an indication of the importance of this kingdom.
The History of Ming records several envoy missions from Pahang to the Ming court in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the year 1378, Maharaja Tajau sent envoys with a letter on a gold leaf and bringing as tribute six foreign slaves and products of the country. In the year 1411, during the reign of Maharaja Pa-la-mi-so-la-ta-lo-si-ni (transliterated by historians as ‘Parameswara Teluk Chini’), he also sent envoys carrying tributes. The Chinese returned the favor in 1412 by sending the legendary Admiral Zheng He as an envoy to Pahang, and in the year 1414, Pahang sent tribute again to China. In the year 1416, they sent tribute together with Kozhikode and Java envoys, and in return Zheng He was again ordered to go to Pahang.
The fifteenth century witnessed the rise of Melaka Sultanate, which under the Sang Sapurba dynasty had aggressively consolidated its influence on the west coast of Malay peninsula. Earlier at the end of thireenth century, the dynasty wrested the small trading outpost at Temasek from Pahang influence and established the short-lived Kingdom of Singapura which was sacked by the Javanese a century later. The renegade last king Seri Iskandar Shah established Melaka to succeed Singapura.
Muzaffar Shah, the fifth Sultan of Melaka who reigned from 1445 to 1458 refused to acknowledge the suzerainty of Ligor over his country. The Ligorians, in assertion of their claim, sent an invading army led by Awi Chakri, overland to Melaka. The invaders, who were aided by Pahang auxiliaries, followed the old route by the Tembeling, Pahang and Bera rivers. They were easily defeated and fled back by the same route. Subsequently, they attempted a naval invasion, but were again beaten.
Muzaffar Shah then conceived the idea of checking Ligorian pretensions by attacking the Ligor vassal state of Pahang. An expedition was organized by Muzaffar’s son, Raja Abdullah and was personally led by the Melakan Bendahara Tun Perak with two hundred sail, big and small, accordingly proceeded to Pahang and conquered it in the year 1454. The reigning ruler of Pahang, Maharaja Dewa Sura, fled to the interior while his daughter Putri Wanang Seri was captured. The victors, anxious to gain the goodwill of the Bendahara, hastened in pursuit of the fugitive king until he was captured and carried together with his daughter to Melaka.
In the year that Pahang was conquered, Raja Abdullah married Putri Wanang Seri, the daughter of the captive king, whose name had been changed, probably on conversion to Islam, to Putri Lela Wangsa. By her he had two sons Raja Ahmad and Raja Muhammad.
Accompanied by Tun Hamzah who was appointed Bendahara for the new kingdom, by Seri Akar Raja as his Hulubalang, by a Penghulu Bendahari, and a Temenggung, and by a hundred youths and a hundred maidens of noble family, Raja Muhammad proceeded to Pahang where he was duly installed Sultan about the year 1470 with the tile Sultan Muhammad Shah. The boundaries of his kingdom extended from Sedili Besar to the south up to border with Terengganu to the north. The first Melakan ruler of Pahang, appears to have settled at Tanjung Langgar in Pekan, the old seat of the former pre-Melakan rulers.
The events of this period are obscure. There is reason to believe that Raja Ahmad, the elder brother of the newly appointed Sultan of Pahang, who also had been passed over for the succession to the Melaka throne, as a consolation was installed heir to the Pahang Sultanate by his father in Melaka and proceeded to the country between the years 1470-1475.
On September 17, 1475, Sultan Muhammad died and was buried at Langgar on the Pahang Tua. The inscription on his tomb gives his name, descent and the date of his death. According to the commentaries of the younger de Albuquerque, Sultan Mansur of Melaka had, by a daughter of the king of Pahang, a son who was poisoned. It is more likely that this conjecture was in reference to Sultan Muhammad.
In 1500, the ruler of Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom, known in Malay tradition as Ligor, on the instructions of the King of Ayutthaya, with a large army invaded Pahang through Kelantan and the Tembeling. The common danger made the Pahang people forget their squabbles with Melaka. Sultan Mahmud sent a Melakan army, under Bendahara Seri Maharaja to help Pahang. Among the leaders of the expedition were Laksamana Khoja Hassan and the Hulubalang Sang Setia, Sang Naya, Sang Guna, Sang Jaya Pikrama, and Tun Biajid. The forts at Pekan were strengthened, the people mobilized, and the arms got ready. There was delay in completing the main fortification called the ‘Fort of Pahang’, also known as Kota Biram, which stood on the site of the modern Sultan Abu Bakar Museum, but it was eventually completed before the invasion. The people composed a song, the first line of which ran: “the fort of Pahang, the flames devour”. The invaders made only a half hearted attempt on Pahang, and were soon put to fight with severe losses. They were forced to return by the route which they had come. This was the last Siamese invasion of Pahang.
In 1511, the capital of Melaka was attacked and conquered by the Portuguese Empire, prompting a retreat of Sultan Mahmud’s court to Pahang by the Penarikan route. There, he was welcomed by Abdul Jamil. The deposed ruler stayed a year in the country during which time he married one of his daughters, whose mother was a Kelantanese princess, to Sultan Mansur. Between 1511-1512, while Mahmud was in Pahang, Sultan Abdul Jamil died and was buried at Pekan in the graveyard Ziarat Raja Raden. In the inscription on his tomb, his name given as Abdul Jalil and the date of his death is 917 AH. It is recorded in de Albuquerque’s commentaries, that Sultan Mahmud died of grief in Pahang. The Portuguese must have mistaken Abdul Jamil, who died exactly at the date, for Sultan Mahmud. After Abdul Jamil’s death Sultan Mansur was the sole ruler. He was slain by all of his hulubalang between the years 1512 and 1519, for adultery with one of the wives of his father.
Mansur was succeeded by his first cousin, Raja Mahmud, another son of Muhammad Shah, who may be the prince who is described as ‘the son of the original ruler of Pahang’ (anak Raja Pahang raja yang asal) in the Malay Annals. The new Sultan’s first royal wife was his first cousin, Raja Olah. After his accession to the throne, he married about the year 1519 a second wife, Raja Khadija, one of the daughters of his cousin Marhum Kampar. This marriage which took place at Bintan was designed to strengthen Marhum Kampar position in his fight against the Portuguese. Mahmud was installed Sultan by his new father in law.
Pahang forged an unusual relation with the Portuguese during Sultan Mahmud’s reign. According to Os Portugueses em Africa, America e Oceania, in the year 1518, Duarte Coelho visited Pahang and stated that the Sultan of Pahang agreed to pay a cup of gold as an annual tribute to Portugal. This act was thought to be a sign friendship shown by the Sultanate, but was regarded by the Portuguese as a sign submission. Manuel de Faria e Sousa relates that until 1522 the Sultan of Pahang had sided with the Portuguese, but seeing that the tide of fortune had turned against them, he, too became their enemy. Ignorant of this change, de Albuquerque sent three ships to Pekan for provisions, where two of his captains and thirty men were killed. The third made his escape but was slain with all his men at Java. Simon Abreu and his crew were also slain on another occasion. Valentyn further records that in 1522 several Portuguese who had landed at Pahang, in ignorance that the Sultan there was son in law to the Sultan of Johor, were murdered, many others were compelled to embrace the Islamic faith, while those who refused to do so were tied to the mouth of cannons and blown to pieces.
The Portuguese, who apparently up to that time had made no attack on Pahang, exacted a stern reckoning in 1523. In that year, the Sultan of Johor again invested Melaka with the ruler of Pahang as his ally, and gained a victory over the Portuguese in the Muar River. The Laksamana attacked the shipping in the roads of Melaka, burnt one vessel and captured two others. At this crisis, Martim Afonso de Sousa arrived with succours, relieved the city, and pursued the Laksamana into Muar. Thence he proceeded to Pahang, destroyed all the vessels in the river and slew over six hundreds people in retaliation for the assistance given by their ruler to the Sultan of Johor. Numbers were carried into slavery.
A detailed account of Portuguese operations in Pahang during the years 1522-1523 is given by Fernão Lopes de Castanheda. In 1525, Pedro Mascarenhas attacked Sultan of Johor’s Bintan, Pahang sent a fleet with two thousand men to help the defenders. The force arrived at the mouth of the river on the very day on which the bridge was destroyed. He dispatched a vessel with Francisco Vasconcellos and others to attack the Pahang force which was speedily put to flight. Sultan Mahmud of Pahang appears to have ruled in Pahang all through these events. His namesake of Melaka-Bintan, Marhum Kampar died in 1528, and was succeeded by a son Alauddin Shah II, a youth fifteen years of age. The young ruler visited Pahang about 1529 and married a relative of the Pahang ruler. Sultan Mahmud of Pahang died about 1530, and left two sons Raja Muzaffar and Raja Zainal, the former of whom succeeded him as Sultan Muzaffar Shah.
In 1540, Fernão Mendes Pinto gives an account of his voyage with a Portuguese merchant vessel in Pahang. Misfortune overtook them when they were caught in an uproar in Pekan, following the murder of a reigning Sultan. A ruthless mob attacked their resident and seized their goods which amounted fifty thousand ducats in gold and precious stone alone. The Portuguese managed to escape and proceeded to Pattani. They made representations to the King of Pattani, and he gave instant permission to take reprisals by attacking Pahang boats in the Kelantan River, then a province of Pattani, and to recover goods to the value what had been lost. The Portuguese took the king at his word, fitted out an expedition, and proceeded to the Kelantan River where they attacked and captured three junks owned by Pahang merchants, killing seventy four of the enemy, with a loss of only three of their men. The Sultan, who, according to Pinto, was killed in 1540 appears to have been Sultan Muzaffar. He was succeeded by his younger brother Raja Zainal, who assumed the title Sultan Zainal Abidin Shah.
Pahang formed part of the force of three hundred sail and eight thousand men which assembled in the Johor River for a reprisal attack on Pattani, but later negotiations settled the dispute. In 1550, Pahang sent a fleet to help Johor and Perak in the siege of Melaka but the Portuguese warships so harried the harbors of Pahang that the attackers had to retreat to defend their own capital. Sultan Zainal Abidin died about 1555 and was succeeded by his eldest royal son, Mansur Shah II, who about the time of his accession married his first cousin, Purti Fatimah, a daughter of Sultan Alauddin II of Johor (who died at Aceh in 1564). By her, he had a daughter Putri Putih also popularly known as Putri Kecil Besar, and a son, Raja Suboh. There is no further record on the fate of his son, but the daughter would become the ancestress of the future ruling families of Aceh and Perak.
Mansur II was killed about 1560 in a war against Javanese Hindus in southern Pahang and was succeeded by his full brother Raja Jamal who took the title Sultan Abdul Jamal Shah. During his reign, Raja Biajid and Raja Kasab, sons of Sultan Khoja Ahmad of Siak, came to Pahang. Raja Kasab married Putri Putih, a daughter of Mansur II. From this union, was descended on the male side, Muzaffar Shah II of Perak, and on the female side, Iskandar Thani of Aceh. Raja Kasab’s children by the Pahang princess were Raja Mahmud, and five daughters of whom the youngest was Putri Bongsu Chandra Dewi. Raja Mahmud was the father of Raja Sulong who ultimately became Muzaffar Shah II of Perak.
Abdul Jamal was murdered in 1560 and was succeeded by his half brother Raja Kadir who came to the throne with the title of Sultan Abdul Kadir Alauddin Shah. During his reign, Pahang enjoyed a brief period of cordial relations with the Portuguese . In 1586, Abdul Kadir sent a block of gold bearing quartz as a present to the Portuguese Governor of Malacca. As described by the Portuguese, gold was still commonly mined in quarries across Pahang and sold in great quantity in Melaka. However, this relationship with Portuguese was discontinued by Ahmad II, Abdul Kadir’s only son by a royal wife, who was a boy when he died in 1590. According to the Bustan al Salatin, Ahmad II reigned only for a year and was then replaced by his eldest half-brother by a commoner wife, Abdul Ghafur, as he was too young to govern the country. Abdul Ghafur who took the title of Sultan Abdul Ghafur Muhiuddin Shah had married in 1584, Ratu Ungu, a sister of Ratu Hijau, the Queen of Pattani. He also formed marriage connections with kings of Brunei. The Perak Annals relate that he also betrothed his eldest son to a grand daughter of Sultan of Perak. During his reign, Sultan Abdul Ghafur attacked the Portuguese and simultaneously challenged the Dutch presence in the Straits of Malacca. Nevertheless, in 1607, Pahang not only tolerated the Dutch, but even cooperated with them in an attempt to oust the Portuguese.
In 1607, the Dutch Empire began their trade mission to Pahang lead by the merchant Abraham van den Broeck. On November 7, 1607, a Dutch warship with Admiral Cornelis Matelief de Jonge onboard dropped anchor at Kuala Pahang. Earlier in 1606, Matelief, in an attempt to establish the Dutch power in the Straits of Malacca, was defeated twice by the Portuguese in the First Siege of Malacca and the Battle of Cape Rachado. Matelief, who had come to solicit the assistance of Pahang against the Portuguese, had an audience with the Sultan. The ruler emphasized the importance of alliance between Johor and neighboring states, and added that he would try to provide two thousand men in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion. At the Sultan’s request, Matelief sent him a gunner to test a piece of cannon that was being cast for Raja Bongsu of Johor. The Pahang people also manufactured cannon for firing projectiles which were better than those of Java but inferior to those of the Portuguese.
Matelief requested the Sultan to send as soon as possible two vessels to the Straits of Sabon to join the Johor vessels which were already there, and to despatch two more vessels to Penang waters to strengthen the Kedah and Achinese fleets to cut the Portuguese food supplies.
Abdul Ghafur tried to reforge the Johor-Pahang alliance to assist the Dutch. However, a quarrel which erupted between him and Alauddin Riayat Shah III, resulted in Johor declaring war on Pahang. In September 1612, the Johor army overran the suburbs of Pekan, which caused great death in the city. With the aid of Sultan of Brunei, Pahang eventually defeated Johor in 1613. Abdul Ghafur’s son, Alauddin Riayat Shah succeeded the throne in 1614. However, he was replaced a year later by a relative, Raja Bujang who was installed with the support of the Portuguese following a pact between the Portuguese and the Sultan of Johor. Raja Bujang’s appointment was not accepted by Aceh, which was then at war with the Portuguese. Aceh launched savage attacks on Pahang which, in 1617 forced Raja Bujang to flee to Lingga.
Pahang was nominally merged with Johor in 1623, when Johor’s Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah died and Raja Bujang emerged as the new ruler of Johor-Pahang, installed as Sultan Abdul Jalil Shah Riayat Shah III. From 1629 to 1635, Pahang, operating independently from Sultan Abdul Jalil III appeared determined to oust the Acehnese, allying itself with the Dutch and Portuguese whenever it was expedient to do so. However, in 1637, the appointment of Iskandar Thani to the throne of Aceh, led to the signing of a peace treaty between Pahang and Aceh at Bulang Island in the Riau-Lingga islands.
In 1648, Abdul Jalil III attacked Pahang in an attempt to reassert his position as Ruler of Johor-Pahang. Aceh eventually abandoned its claim over Pahang in 1641 — the same year Portuguese Malacca fell to the Dutch. With the decline of Aceh, Johor-Pahang gradually extended its suzerainty over Riau-Lingga islands, creating the Johor Empire.
From 1858 to 1863, Pahang was fought over in a civil war between the two sons of the reigning Bendahara. The war ended when Wan Ahmad was proclaimed the new sultan in 1887, but his role from that point onward was largely ceremonial, as the British forced him to sign a treaty bringing the country under control of a British Resident.
In 1896, Pahang joined Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan in the Federated Malay States. This evolved into the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and into the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
Scott #118 of Pahang is the only stamp from this state that I currently own; it is exactly the same design as Johore #196 featured previously as my only stamp from that state. The only difference is that the Pahang issue bears the portrait of Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah as well as the sultan’s coat of arms. Lithographed and perforated 12, the 30 cent stamp was released on October 25, 1986.