Malay Peninsula, the name given by geographers to the long and narrow tract which projects southward from Indo-China, and forms the southern extremity of the Asiatic continent, bounded E. by the China sea and the gulf of Siam, and W. by the bay of Bengal and the straits of Malacca, It is sometimes called by the Malays Tana Malay u, "Malay Land," and is supposed to be the Golden Cher-sonesus of the ancients. It extends from the parallel of the head of the gulf of Siam, in lat. 13° 30' N., to Cape Burus on the soutlnyest, about 30 m. from Singapore, in lat. 1° 15' N., and to Cape Romania on the southeast, in lat. 1° 17' N.; length about 900 m., greatest breadth about 180 m.; estimated area, exclusive of Tenasserim, about 80,000 sq. m.; pop. conjectured to be about 500,000. The upper and narrower part of the peninsula has a population composed chiefly of Siamese, or a mixed race of Siamese and Malavs called San sam. The western half, N. of lat. 10°, form a part of the district of Tenasserim in Britisl Burmali. The lower part, or the peninsuh the restricted sense, is the country of tin Malays, and has an area of about 60,000 sq. in Along the shores of the peninsula are main islands, of which the principal are Salang, Tru tao, Lancava or Langkavi, and Penang on the W. side.
Singapore, Batan, and Bingtang at the southern extremity, and Tantalem on tin E. coast. The most important political division of the peninsula is the British Straits tlements (Penang, Malacca, and Singapore), which, though small in area, have about hall the population of the country. With the exception of the portion included in Tenasserim, the N. part of the peninsula, as far S. as the bay of Chya on the E. oast, in about lat. 9° N., is subject to the king of Siam. The Malay states are Quedah, Perak, and Salangore on the W. side; Patani, Kalantan, Tringanu, and Pa-hang on the E. side; Rumbowe, Jehole, and Jompol in the interior; and the principality of Johore, which comprises the southern extremity of the peninsula. A few of these are dependent on Siam, several only nominally; but most of them are independent and under the protection of the British. A range of granite mountains runs through the whole length of the peninsula, on both sides of which spread alluvial plains, not much elevated above the sea. The maximum altitude of the range is attained E. of Quedah, between lat. 6 and 7 N., where it is about 6,000 ft. Further N. the loftiest peaks are only about half this height. The most extensive of these plains are on the W. side of the mountains.
The rivers are numerous but small, and few of them navigable except so far as the tide ascends them; the largest are the Perak on the west and the Pahang on the east. The only lake of any considerable extent lies between Malacca and Pahang. - The zoology of the peninsula is varied and extensive. There are ten species of monkeys, and an ant-eater. There are several species'of bats, of which the most remarkable is the Jcalung or vampire, which is larger than a crow; it flies high in great flocks, and is very destructive to fruit. The only plantigrade animal is a small bear (urw/a Malayen-sis). There are eight species of the feline family,'of which the largest are the tiger and the leopard, both very numerous and destructive to human life. The domestic cat has a tail about half as long as that of the European cat. The domestic dog exists as a vagrant without a master, and there are said to be wild dogs in the forests. The Indian elephant and two species of rhinoceros are met with. The Malay tapir and the wild hog are abundant. The ox and the domesticated buffalo are used for riding and for draught. The domestic ox is small and short-legged, but strong and hardy; and there are two species of wild ox, one of which, called by the Malays saladang, seems to be peculiar to the peninsula.
There is a species of wild goat, and a small species of domestic goat. Throe species of deer are met with in the peninsula, one of which is the small mnntjac. The sheep and the rabbit are not indigenous, but have been introduced by Europeans. Swine and fowls are very abundant. The most remarkable birds are the marak or wild peacock, the double-spurred peacock, a small and beautiful species, several species of pheasants, a partridge, snipe, sun birds, woodpeckers, the wild cock, and the domestic cock, the last a small but very courageous bird. The species of pigeons are very numerous, and some are no lamer than a thrush; the prevailing color is green. The parrot family is numerous, but is not remarkable for brilliancy of plumage. The swallow whose nest is eaten by the Chinese is found in the caves of the islands. The birds of prey consist of a variety of kites and hawks. Among the reptiles are the alligator, the iguana, several species of small lizards, and about 40 species of snakes, of which three or four, among them the cobra, are venomous. Fish are very plentiful, and form the principal animal food of the mass of the people. The white pomfret, called bairal by the Malays, is said to be one of the most delicate fishes in the world to the European palate.
The only cetaceous animal is the dugong. The neighboring seas afford a large and beautiful variety of shells. - The forests yield ebony, sapan, and eagle wood, and several species valuable for timber. Rattans, bamboos, and palms furnish most of the materials used by the Malays in constructing their houses. Rice, cocoanuts, yams, the sugarcane, and esculent fruits are the chief products of agriculture. The grain used on the peninsula is mostly imported from Sumatra and Bengal. Among the fruits, those most esteemed are the durian and the mangosteen. The durian is an oval spine-covered fruit, of a preen color and about as large as a cocoanut, while the mangosteen is reddish brown in color and spherical in shape. Pineapples are plentifully produced in great perfection. Caoutchouc and other valuable gums and resins, drugs, spi-ces, ivory. and horns are exported, and coffee, cotton and tobacco are raised. The most remarkable and valuable product of the peninsula, however, is the gutta percha tree, which was here first made known to Europeans. The tin mine-, in many parts of the country are extensive; but they are imperfectly worked, and of late years, owing to the exhaustion of sur-face ores, the product has declined. Some gold is produced.
The climate of the peninsula is hot and moist The mean annual temperature at the level of the sea is nearly 80 , the mean range being from 70 to 90°. There is no rainy season but rain falls at short intervals throughout tin- year, and there are heavy dews and frequent fojrs. Generally the climate is not unhealthy, though tier, are some spots nfected with a most pestiferous malaria. - The native population of the peninsula, with the exception of the northern portion and the black woolly-haired people known as the Se-mangs, who inhabit the interior, are of the Malay'race, and speak the Malay language. Most of the Malays are settled and civilized, but others lead a nomad life on the land, the rivers, or the sea. The land nomads practise a rude agriculture; the river nomads live entirely in boats, and subsist on fish and wild roots. Their boats are about 20 ft. in length; at one end is the fireplace, in the middle are their utensils, and at the stern is the sleeping place, where beneath a mat a family of rive or six, together with a cat and dog, frequently find shelter. In these boats they skirt the shores of the rivers, collecting their food from the forests, and when one spot is exhausted proceed to another.
These people are pagans, and are very ignorant and filthy in their mode of life. The sea rovers roam over the whole archipelago in their prahus or boats, and are genarally pirates. The civilized and settled Malays are Mohammedans, and their governments are despotic. The peninsula is supposed by some writers to have been the original seat of the Malay race. The civilized Malays all claim to be descended from emigrants from Sumatra, who in the 12th century (about 1160) entered the peninsula at its S. E. extremity, where they founded Singapore, and gradually drove back the indigenous inhahi-' tants into the mountains. At the close of the 13th century the Malays, who had been pagans up to that time, adopted Mohammedanism, and from the year 1276 Mohammedan monarchs reigned at Malacca. In the 15th century a large part of the peninsula became subject to Siam. In 1511 Mohammed Shah, the Malayan sultan, was overthrown by the Portuguese under Albuquerque. At present the peninsula is much less populous than formerly, owing to foreign and intestine wars and the incursions of pirates. (For British possessions on the peninsula, see Malacca, Penang, Singapore, and Straits Settlements).