Have you ever wondered the history behind the Malaysian coat of arms?

I have ever since I visited the Tugu Negara back in 2006. I have two entries for the visit; they are here and here. On the monument itself is a coat of arms that differs from the current one. I have a photo of it but I cannot remember where I placed it.

Though curious of the difference, I never had the time to do a research on it. For the past few weeks however, a Malaysian Wikipedian by the nick of Bukhrin has been doing a remarkably good job on it.

Let us get started on the history of the Malaysian coat of arms.

The current Malaysian coat of arms is this:

Copyrights by the government of Malaysia. Fair use.

As the formal description goes, the five krises represent what was the Unfederated Malay States, the four rectangles in four colors represent what was the Federated Malay States, the lean tree and the bridge represent Penang, the shield between the hibiscus flower and the insignia of Penang is Sabah, the flower is the federation, the hornbill is Sarawak and the green tree is Malacca. Also of interest to me, the fourteen-pointed star represent the 13 member states and the federation.

It had not always been like that. Previously, it looked like this:

Copyright by Vector design. Fair use.

Notice the changes for Penang, Sabah and Sarawak. For Penang, the German term Ich Dien which means “I serve” is visible. For those unfamiliar with history, Penang was formerly called the Prince of Wales island, in honor of, well, the Prince of Wales. According to Wikipedia, the motto of the Prince of Wales is Ich Dien. Therefore, the similarity is not coincidental. I have a feeling that the change to the Penang’s insignia is caused by the Malaysian government’s eagerness to cut ties with the state’s colonial past. For Sarawak, I would venture the same reasoning that I offered for Penang plus another factor: the cross. I however am unsure why Sabah’s symbol was changed. Further, it seems that Sabah transfered its previous symbol to Sarawak.

Farther into history, the original 13-state coat of arms is this:

Copyrights unknown. Fair use.

Notice the tigers and the changes to the symbol of Sabah.

Of course, those three shields are related to the 13-state federation. Malaysia once was a 14-state federation. Singapore together with 13 other states formed Malaysia in 1963 but was expelled by the federation in 1965. So, between 1963 and 1965 inclusively, the coat of arms was like this:

Fair use.

Observe the crescent and the five stars which represent Singapore in place of the hibiscus.

The formation of the Malaysian federation however does not seem to demand a new design. See the Federation of Malaya’s coat of arms:

Fair use.

Observe how the symbol of the Federated Malay States dominates the center of the shield. Also, A Famosa for Malacca, instead of the tree, which really is the Malacca tree. Do not miss the tigers and the 11-pointed star too.

You think it began with the Malayan Federation?

Wait till you see the coat of arms of the Federated Malay States:

Most probably public domain. Fair use if not.

The FMS was established in 1895.

I do not know how the Malayan Union’s coat of arms looks like. The Malayan Union was the entity that existed between the loose British Malaya and the Malayan Federation. Specifically, between 1946 and 1948.

A question, what inspired the FMS’ coat of arms. Does anybody know?

Regardless, this means that the Malaysian coat of arms has undergone more than 110 years of evolution.

9 Responses to “[1037] Of evolution of the Malaysian coat of arms”

  1. on 06 Jan 2007 at 17:29 NSDS3HvLDjJd

    You know what this means: expand the [[Emblem of Malaysia]] article!

  2. on 10 Jan 2007 at 01:56 'Abidin

    I never knew the fleur-de-lis featured on our coat of arms before!

    On the scabbard for a keris forged to celebrate Merdeka the banner reads “Unity is Strength” with “Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu” in Jawi alongside; rather than both Rumi and Jawi renditions in Malay.

    It’s clearly a small step from the FMS flag, taking colours common to the constituent states’ flags, to the FMS coat-of-arms. Presumably the crown represented Her Britannic Majesty, but what’s the Jawi there? I can’t make it out.

  3. on 12 Jan 2007 at 23:34 Hafiz

    I can’t make out the Jawi too. But that is mostly because I’m bad with Jawi.

  4. on 18 Jan 2007 at 19:07 Romen

    My Jawi-reading friends tell me that the FMS Coat of Arms motto translates to “Dipelihara oleh Allah” or “Protected by God”. I am told it is written in very stylised Jawi and so it is quite hard to decipher.

  5. […] if you are interested, I have a post that walks through the possible evolutionary path of the Jata Negara. As you can see, the Fleur-de-lis is still visible. The current version has a betel nut tree and a […]

  6. […] Singapore is all but gone from the Malaysian coat of arms, the reverse is untrue. The reason is that the Singaporean crest is […]

  7. on 04 Aug 2009 at 19:10 Herman Felani

    Hi Hafiz! nice write-up on the evolution of the Malaysian coat of arms.

    Just a very minor note here. The device appearing on the former arms of Pinang is the Prince of Wales feathers (ostrich feathers) which was arranged in such a way that it happened to look like a fleur-de-lis.


  8. on 30 Nov 2009 at 13:27 Hafiz Noor Shams

    thanks herman. noted.

  9. on 12 Mar 2012 at 16:04 ggk

    On 31 August 1988 the flag of Sarawak was changed again because it resembled too much the flag of Czechoslovakia.

    also if you search around for the picture of HMS Malaya you can se the crest of FMS on the ship.

    Thanks for the info!

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