Lancaran (ship)

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A lanchara as drawn by Manuel Godinho de Eredia, 1600. Malay lancaran.png
A lanchara as drawn by Manuel Godinho de Erédia, 1600.

A Lancaran is a type of sailing ship used in the Nusantara archipelago. Although similar in shape to Mediterranean galleys, lancaran was the backbone of the regional fleet before Mediterranean influence came. [1]



The term lancaran is derived from Malay word lancar, which means "swift", "fast", "not hindered", and "velocity without effort". Thus the word lancaran may be interpreted as "swift vessel". [2]


A galley or lancaran from Madura, 1601. Notice the 'balai' (raised fighting platform), three forward facing cetbang, and at least one cetbang located near the aft of the ship. Warship of Madura.jpg
A galley or lancaran from Madura, 1601. Notice the 'balai' (raised fighting platform), three forward facing cetbang, and at least one cetbang located near the aft of the ship.

Lancaran is swift, local ship propelled by oars and sails with two quarter rudders, one on either side of the stern. Lancarans were taller than galley but equalled them in length. [3] They had one, two, or three masts, with junk sail or tanja sails (canted rectangular sail). Lancarans had a crew of between 150 and 200 crew. Lancaran can be equipped with several lela (medium cannon equivalent to falconet) and swivel guns of cetbang and rentaka variety. One distinguishing feature from the galley is the presence of an elevated fighting platform (called a balai), in which warriors usually stood and perform boarding actions. [1] Cargo lancaran could carry 150 tons of cargo. The lancaran of Sunda had unique masts shaped like a crane, with steps between each so that they are easy to navigate. [4]


Lancaran were used both as warships and for commerce. In the 14th-15th century A.D., Kingdom of Singapura and Sungai Raya each has 100 three-masted lancaran. [5] [6] During the Demak Sultanate attack on Portuguese Malacca of 1513, lancaran were used as armed troop transports for landing alongside penjajap and kelulus, as the Javanese junks were too large to approach shore. [7] Lancaran was the other type of vessels counted by Tome Pires after junks and penjajap upon arriving at a port. [4]

An Acehnese galley-like vessel towing a smaller boat, during 1568 siege of Malacca. The ship has 3 masts and double quarter rudder, also propelled with 12 row of oars. As it has 3 masts, it may be a "lancaran bertiang tiga". Three-masted Aceh ship in Malacca 1568.png
An Acehnese galley-like vessel towing a smaller boat, during 1568 siege of Malacca. The ship has 3 masts and double quarter rudder, also propelled with 12 row of oars. As it has 3 masts, it may be a "lancaran bertiang tiga".

Royal lancaran of Lingga is said to carry 200 men and about the size of large galleas (i.e. larger than ordinary galleys). Regular lancaran of Pasai is said to carry 150 men, and is under the command of Javanese captain. Large ones with 300 crew are said to have been Javanese vessels. In 1520s, smaller lancarans of Bintan and Pahang were armed with only 1 berço (breech-loading swivel gun, likely refers to cetbang), but also had arrows, spears, and fire-hardened wooden spars. Nicolau Pereira's account of 1568 Acehnese siege of Malacca said that Aceh's boats is usually lancaran. It has two row of oars and as long as galleys. [8] An anonymous work depicting the 1568 siege showed a ship with double quarter rudder and 3 masts, corresponds with "lancaran bertiang tiga" (three-masted lancaran) mentioned in Malay texts. [1]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Reid, Anthony (2012). Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast Asian Past. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 150–151. ISBN   978-981-4311-96-0.
  2. Collins English Dictionary , Second Edition, Collins (London & Glasgow), 1986, p. 868, ISBN   0 00 433135-4.
  3. Roy, Kaushik (2014). Military Transition in Early Modern Asia, 1400-1750: Cavalry, Guns, Government and Ships. A&C Black. p. 156. ISBN   1780938136.
  4. 1 2 Pires, Tome. Suma Oriental. The Hakluyt Society. ISBN   9784000085052.
  5. Nugroho, Irawan Djoko. Majapahit Peradaban Maritim. Suluh Nuswantara Bakti. ISBN 6029346008
  6. Sejarah Melayu, 14.9: 126-127. Quote: Because in that era the equipment of Singapura also one hundred three-masted lancaran, and Sungai Raya too (with the same equipment).
  7. Winstedt, Sir Richard (1962). A History of Malaya. Marican.
  8. Wicki, Joseph (1971). Lista de moedas, pesos e embarcacoes do Oriente, composta por Nicolau Pereira S.J por 1582. p. 137.