Thursday, January 12, 2006


One of the issues of Arts of Asia magazine had an article, about four or five years ago I think, about the calligraphic masterpieces sent by South East Asian chiefs, rajas and sultans to each other as letters and diplomatic missives - formal letters with top-border scrolls, a main panel in Islamic arch form, the bismullah in glorious calligraphy at the top of the text, followed by salutations and mentions of titles, with, sometimes overshadowed by everything else, the actual message text - "Sultan Babullah respectfully requests that his honoured cousin Raja Dhi Lumpor return the two fishing vessels and the goat which were inadvertently apprehended off Pulau Bukit Island, and sends twenty Spanish reales and a cloak of honour in appreciation of the consideration" - followed by end statement and scribal notations of date, time, place, and any attachments. All, of course, in fancy court Malay - which was probably not the first or even the second language of either sender or recipient (many "Malay" noble families were actually Bugis or Makasarese, and the Achinese often spoke Arabic with greater fluency than they read Malay).
Ne'um At the Back of the Hill.

Okay, granted, 'cool' is relative.

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