KUALA LUMPUR: Hang Tuah did not exist, and the claims that were made by some people who said they are his descendants are fables, asserts a damning report published in Berita Harian yesterday.
The article, which quotes Universiti Malaya's Prof Dr Ahmat Adam, said Hang Tuah was a fictional character that existed in the classic texts of Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah only, therefore claims of a finding of a grave and artifact related to him need more in-depth research .
The grave that is said to belong to Hang Tuah was good for tourism, but it was not the real resting place of the legendary warrior, said Ahmat in the report.
Berita Harian quoted Ahmat as saying this at a history seminar organised by Universiti Malaya's history department entitled 'Wujudkah Hang Tuah?'.
In fact, the name 'Hang Tuah' did not exist in 15th and 16th century and was detected for the first time in Hikayat Acheh, which was written in the 17th century.
"Those who are historians must remember, Sejarah Melayu is fiction which can be termed literary history text but not historical text.
"The character of Hang Tuah was already mentioned in Hikayat Hang Tuah which was written before Sejarah Melayu, so it was a character that was borrowed into the copy," said Ahmat in the Berita Harian report.
Ahmat said Malay authors of the era did not use real names for characters except for those of the Raja. What existed was the word Laksamana which means a follower of the Raja which is loyal, and this did not refer specifically to Hang Tuah.
"The word Laksamana refers to the title which is used by the Raja's follower that is loyal, while Hang Tuah is really Tuha which mean 'tua' or leader of leader. It was stated as Tuah because researchers had failed to read Jawi correctly.
"The word 'Hang' on the other hand, is an ancient Malay word which means skilled craftsman. Laksamana Hang Tuah is a title and does not refer to a person that we today know as Hang Tuah," he said.
In the Berita Harian report, Ahmat said the zeal of some researchers to prove the existence of Hang Tuah needed to be tempered by more research. The veracity of that source also needed to be verified.
Ahmat added that history needed to be based on objective truths and be impartial.
"I don't see that the claim of Hang Tuah's non-existence will upset the Malays because this is an academic opinion," he said.
If there are those who are upset, then they are ignorant, he added.
Last month, Universiti Putra Malaysia researchers created a stir when they claimed they found documents and an artifact related to Hang Tuah in the Okinawa prefecture of Japan.