In Malacca, a place called Dutch Square is drawing the attention and admiration of both local and international travelers. Dutch Square, known to many as The Stadthuys, is an important structure because without it, Malacca would
The city of Malacca has an exciting pre-history that marched all the way to the construction of The Stadthuys. In the silent years of unwritten history, this part of Malaysia was a simple fishing village. It is said that in 1400, Parameswara sailed to this part of the country and discovered that the area could serve as a very strategic port along the Malacca Strait. Parameswara was the last Raja (King) of Singapura (Singapore). Also known as Iskandar Shah or Sri Majara, Parameswara established a sultanate here, and long after, the sultanate was trading with Chinese and Arab merchants and overseas traders. Because of the constant trade with the Arabs, the city turned to Islam in the 14th Century.
In the 15th Century, relations with China solidified and Malacca became a vassal state of China under the Ming Dynasty. The Malay Sultanate was gaining significance and power in the area until the Portuguese arrived in 1509, but the native Malay people with the help of the Arabs prevailed and the invaders left. After two years, however, they came back to re-claim something that was not theirs in the first place. It was in this point of history when European countries pigheadedly claimed ownership of every piece of land they sat foot on, as though they were gods to claim ownership of countries. Asia was divided among the Europeans, because the continent had much to offer. The Portuguese built fortresses, walls, and forts all over Malacca to ward off other European invaders. True enough, somebody did come along, and in 1641, the Dutch took over, and began what would be a 150-year rule.
Immediately as they arrived, one of the first things they built was the red building they called The Stadthuys. It was the center of Dutch rule, the Dutch Town Hall. It was the “White House” of the Dutch people in Malacca. The Dutch took extra care in constructing this important edifice that they completed construction only in 1660, almost 20 years in the making. It was not only the seat of power, but also the residence of the Dutch governors and city officers.
Next in line to rule the city were the British, until it granted Malaysia its freedom on August 31, 1957.
Today, Dutch Square still stands as an important piece of history. It is home to the Historic Museum and Ethnography Museum. It has stood through the years as proof that Malacca does indeed deserve to be a World Heritage Site. Also, the Square is near other equally important ancient structures and sites such as the Saint’s Paul Church, Heeren House, A Famosa, Dataran Pahlawan, Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, and Bastion House. It is definitely one of the most important and celebrated buildings in Malacca, alongside Christ Church, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, and the Bukit China cemetery.