Penang is actually a state in Malaysia and name of its major island, situated on north-west coast of Malaysia by the famous Strait of Malacca. Penang is flanked by Kedah in the east and north, and Perak in south direction. It is the 2nd smallest Malaysian region after Perlis, and 8th most populous. It has two sections- Penang Island, it is the main seat of government, and Seberang Perai (previously Province Wellesley) on Malay Peninsula. Extremely urbanized and industrialized Penang is the most developed and financially important states as well as a flourishing tourist place.

State Facts and Background

Penang has the 3rd highest human development index after Selangor and the federal region of Kuala Lumpur. Penang has heterogeneous community is extremely diverse in ethnicity, language, culture and religion. An inhabitant of Penang is colloquially called as Penangite. The term “Penang” actually comes from the contemporary Malay language Pulau Pinang, it means “island of areca nut palm”. The name Penang might refer to the islet of Penang or the region of Penang. In Malay, the island’s main capital George Town was labeled in previous maps as Tanjung Penaga, named after the numerous ballnut trees (also called Alexandrian laurels) on the shoreline, but now generally labeled as Tanjung.

Penang is often recognized as “Pearl of the Orient” and Pulau Pinang Pulau (Penang, isle of pearls). It is shortened as “PG” in Malaysia. Early, people used to call it Pulau Ka-Satu or even “First Island” as it was the major island on the trading route between Kedah and Lingga. The Siamese, the overlord of Kedah Empire, referred to the islet as Koh Maak. In 15th century, the isle of Penang was known as Bīnláng Yù in the navigational maps utilized by Major Zheng He of Ming clan of China in his excursions to South Seas. 16th century historian in Portugal named Emanuel Godinho Eredia’s map of Malay in his “portrayal of Malaca” in 1612 referred to the islet as Pulo Pinaom.


Moreover, archaeological evidence proves that Penang (isle and its mainland region) was occupied by Pangan-Semang of the Yen and Juru ancestry, both now considered vanished cultures. They were actually hunter-gatherers of prominent Negrito stock having dark complexion and short stature and were isolated by Malays dating back to 900 years ago. The final recorded indigenous settlement in Penang was actually in 1920s in Kubang Semang.
The primary evidence of primitive human colony in what is currently Penang was actually found in Guar Kepah, a major cavern in Seberang Perai in the year 1860. According to the several mounds of sea shells that tend to include human skeletons, broken ceramics, stone implements and food leftovers, the settlement was expected to be between 3500 to 4000 years old. More stone tools unearthed in various locations on the islet of Penang pointed to the subsistence of Neolithic colonies dating back to 5000 years ago.

The geological word of “Penang Island” initially appeared in “the maritime charts of Zheng He” inscribed on the excursions of Zheng He in Ming Dynasty in the rule of Yongle Emperor. In 15th century, Chinese navy utilizing the record of maritime chart as navigation channel from Con Dao Island to Penang Isle, Penang has been observed to do business with Ming clan in 15th century. Moreover, one of the first Englishmen to arrive at Penang was the privateer and navigator Sir James Lancaster .
He on 10th April 1591, commanded Edward Bonadventure, cruised from Plymouth for famous East Indies, arriving Penang in June, 1592. He remained on the isle until September of the similar year and pillaging every ship he saw, only to come back to England in May, 1594.


The history of contemporary Penang, initially part of Malay empire of Kedah, started when the islet was actually given o rent by Sultan Abdullah Mukarram to Admiral Francis Light, an English adventurer working for Chennai-based company, Jourdain Sullivan and East India Company, in lieu for military fortification from Burmese and Siamese armies who were intimidating Kedah.

For Light, the island was a suitable magazine for business and an ideal place to limit French extension in Indochina and Dutch grip in Sumatra. 11th August 1786, Francis Light arrived at Penang at what is afterwards named Fort Cornwallis and in fact took formal control of the isle in the name of Britannic splendor, East India Company and King George III and renamed the isle Prince of Wales in respect of the descendant to the British empire but the word never caught on.
The island was Britain’s initial settlement in Southeast Asia region, and was the primary establishments of 2nd British rule after the sudden loss of North American settlements. In Malaysian account, the incident marked the commencement of more than 100 years of British rule in Malaya.
Unluckily for the Sultan, East India Company’s new governor-admiral Charles Cornwallis in fact made it clear that he cannot be party to Sultan’s disagreements with other Malay princes, or guarantee to guard him from the Burmese or Siamese.
Unbeknownst to Emperor Abdullah, Light had agreed to conceal different facts and information of the final agreement from both the parties. Moreover, when Light broke his promise of fortification, the Sultan tried fruitlessly to recapture the isle in 1790, and Sultan Abdullah was forced to concede the isle to the East India Company for a sum of 6,000 Spanish dollars every year. Light established the famous Penang Island as a free harbor to allure traders away from near Dutch trading ports.
The overall business objective was to promote trade and business among different countries so as to increase revenue. He also persuaded immigrants by promising or providing them additional land from the government by supposedly firing several silver dollars from the ship’s cannons into the deep forest.
Numerous early settlers and businessmen, including Light himself actually succumbed to malaria, thus earning premature Penang the nickname “white man’s grave”. However, there are several wonderful national parks, forest, wildlife, shopping malls and vibrant nightlife that can easily captivate your mind and imagination instantly.