Fishing Village or Pirates’ Cove?

The Existence

The island of Singapore was not necessarily a laid-back fishing village or a rowdy pirate’s cove. At certain periods there could have been some truth as mentioned in Chinese chronicles and other records sighted. However, none can conclusively breathe a hint of truth.

In the 3rd century, Gang-tai, a Chinese envoy spoke of Piu Luo Zhong as an island inhabited by cannibals with tails and housed by the sea-shore (Orang Laut?). There is no evidence to support this claim. The Sea Gypsies (Orang Laut) were known to love fish and vegetables and did not include fellow humans in their diet.

It has been recorded that in the 11th century, the island was invaded by a Southern Indian Emperor, Rajendra Chola the First. However, what then happened is a mystery as there were no other records to verify this.

A century later, Admiral Zheng He’s navigation chart depicted an island named Tan Ma Hsi. The war between Temasek and Siam was also recorded in the Yuan Chih, the official history of the Yuan Dynasty. The Mongols called her Ma-Li-Yu-R. In 1320, their ruler desired elephants and sent a mission there just to bring back these leathery beasts. The place was also known as Long Ya Men (Dragon’s Tooth Gate) which is said to be our modern-day Keppel harbour. The Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan visited Long Ya Men a decade later and described the island as a small Malay settlement named Dan Ma Xi or Temasek.