Bujang Valley: Heritage, Archaeology, and National Identity

BOWEN LIAO is PhD student at the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS). He obtained his BA from Beijing Foreign Studies University and his MA is also from the Department of Malay Studies, NUS.

SIRD (First published, 2024)
including References


In stock

ISBN: 9786297575162 Product ID: 41513 Subjects: , Sub-subjects: , , ,

Bujang Valley: Heritage, Archaeology, and National Identity explores the understanding of the history of ancient site of the Bujang Valley and the role it plays in Malaysian national identity. The archaeological site of Bujang Valley is testimony to the interconnected global cultural and economic links of this region, the Malay Peninsula in particular, with the major civilisation polities of the world. In many ways it reflects the very dynamic of this region, that has witnessed constant civilizational, cultural and commercial contacts, and even clashes. The author attempts to approach Bujang Valley from various sources and perspectives. Creatively, he blends literary sources, archaeological studies, and heritage policies by the Malaysian authorities, as part of his discussion. Simply put, his attempts can be summed as deliberation on politics of heritage. The history of Bujang Valley is integral to the history of Kedah Tua. Often, literary and historical sources are given premium in our attempt to understand history and heritage. The availability of archaeological findings should harness our comprehension, although it alone cannot contribute to a more comprehensive understanding. Hence a multidisciplinary approach is very much needed.

Archaeological studies on Bujang Valley began during the British colonial era, and were succeeded and expanded by Malaysian archaeologists post-Independence. Today, Bujang Valley is one of the many important sites for Malaysian archaeological studies. The latter, like its historical counterpart, has always been a contested site of interpretations. Indeed, it is naive to see heritage as given, or that it is free from the manoeuvring of groups interests or even the state agenda. Studies like Liao’s provide insight into what has been done to archaeological sites and how, as to whether substantive initiatives have been made for their protection. Without state support, no resources can be made available for maintenance and research. If a heritage site falls into the hands of commercial tourism, then even more protection is needed, so that it is closely monitored, and its status not infringed by commercial considerations. All this depends on how the state bureaucracy, interest groups, and academics in this field are able to become the promoters and watchdogs of such heritage sites. This becomes more imperative when administrative neglect would eventually and usually allow it to be handed over to commercial interests. Such a formula has often caused more problems, as ill-advised planning could result in the mutilation of sites. When such things happen, the loss of heritage will be permanent.

The author deliberates on the related themes of heritage discourse in this book, which points to several imperatives. These are: (a) avoiding the static view of heritage. The heritage corpus must also be free of the captivity of colonial scholarship, as many prejudicial assumptions, myths and stereotypes on colonised indigenous groups still persist today; (b) ensuring that heritage realms are not simply for moneymaking opportunities, especially when sites are turned into tourist attractions, while the community that that heritage belongs to remains at the margin; and (c) empowering less-privileged groups or minorities, to see that heritage includes them, and they are not alienated by what we have labelled official national heritage. To simply say we need to encourage and empower them to appreciate heritage will not mean anything unless we fully comprehend some of the obstacles and challenges that prevent them from embracing the heritage domain. What we recognize as cultural and historical heritage inevitably involves choice and inclusion, and by that logic, it also means exclusion and denial, even relegation. This is where the problem begins.


1. Discovering the Bujang Valley
Heritage Studies and Heritage Practice
Studies on Bujang Valley

2. The Sources, History and Geography of Bujang Valley
Chinese Sources
Indian Sources
Arab Sources
Malay Sources
The Decline of Bujang Valley
The Question of Foreign Control
The Present Landscape of Bujang Valley
A Multicultural Entrepot?

3. The Development of Archaeological Studies on Bujang Valley
Heritage Explorations Under Colonial Rule
Heritage Explorations in Independent Malaysia
The Rise of Indigenous Voices
New Interest in the Bujang Valley

4. Bujang Valley and Tourism Development
Bujang Valley as a National Park? (Mid to Late 20th Century)
Bujang Valley as an Ecotourism Destination (2000-2007)
Bujang Valley as a National Historical Heritage (2008-2012)
Demolishment and Reconstruction of Bujang Valley (2012-2014)
Bujang Valley as a World Heritage Site (2015 – )
The Use of Bujang Valley

5. The Contest Over Bujang Valley’s Image and Importance
Authorised and Alternative Heritage Discourse
Crisis within Internationalisation of Heritage
The Absence of Other Voices

6. Bujang Valley Bridging Gaps Between Ethnic Groups?


Weight0.4 kg
Dimensions22.8 × 15.1 × 1.5 cm




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