Malay Peninsula

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Malay Peninsula
Native name:
Semenanjung Tanah Melayu  (Malay)
လေး ကျွန်းဆွယ်  (Burmese)
คาบสมุทรมลายู  (Thai)
Photo of Malay Peninsula taken by the crew of Expedition 28 on board the International Space Station.
Location of the Malay Peninsula.
Location Southeast Asia
Coordinates 7°00′N100°00′E / 7.000°N 100.000°E / 7.000; 100.000 Coordinates: 7°00′N100°00′E / 7.000°N 100.000°E / 7.000; 100.000
Adjacent bodies of water Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean
Area242,363.8 km2 (93,577.2 sq mi)
Highest elevation2,187 m (7175 ft)
Highest point Mount Tahan
Peninsular Malaysia
Largest settlement Kuala Lumpur
Region Tanintharyi
District Kawthaung
Largest settlement Kawthaung
Southern Thailand
Largest settlement Hat Yai

The Malay Peninsula (Malay: Semenanjung Tanah Melayu) is a peninsula in Mainland Southeast Asia. The landmass runs approximately north–south and, at its terminus, is the southernmost point of the Asian continental mainland. The area contains Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand, and the southernmost tip of Myanmar (Kawthaung). The island country of Singapore also has historical and cultural ties with the region. The peninsula is indigenous to or historically inhabited by the Malays, an Austronesian people.


The Titiwangsa Mountains are part of the Tenasserim Hills system, and form the backbone of the peninsula. They form the southernmost section of the central cordillera which runs from Tibet through the Kra Isthmus (the peninsula's narrowest point) into the Malay Peninsula. [1] The Strait of Malacca separates the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra while the south coast is separated from the island of Singapore by the Straits of Johor.


The Malay term Tanah Melayu is derived from the word Tanah (land) and Melayu (Malays), thus it means "the Malay land". The term can be found in various Malay texts, of which the oldest dating back to the early 17th century. [2] It is frequently mentioned in the Hikayat Hang Tuah , a well-known classic tale associated with the legendary heroes of Malacca Sultanate. Tanah Melayu in the text is consistently employed to refer to the area under Malaccan dominance. [3]

In the early 16th century, Tomé Pires, a Portuguese apothecary who stayed in Malaca from 1512 to 1515, uses an almost identical term, Terra de Tana Malaio, with which he referred to the southeastern part of Sumatra, where the deposed Sultan of Malacca, Mahmud Shah, established his exiled government. The 17th century's account of Portuguese historian, Emanuel Godinho de Erédia, noted on the region of Malaios surrounded by the Andaman Sea in the north, the entire Strait of Malacca in the centre, a part of Sunda Strait in the south, and the western part of South China Sea in the east. [4]

Prior to the foundation of Malacca, ancient and medieval references to a Malay peninsula exist in various foreign sources. According to several Indian scholars, the word Malayadvipa ("mountain-insular continent"), mentioned in the ancient Indian text, Vayu Purana , may possibly refer to the Malay Peninsula. [5] [6] [7] Another Indian source, an inscription on the south wall of the Brihadeeswarar Temple, recorded the word Malaiur, referring to a kingdom in the Malay Peninsula that had "a strong mountain for its rampart". [8] [9] Ptolemy's Geographia named a geographical region of the Golden Chersonese as Maleu-kolon, a term thought to derive from Sanskrit malayakolam or malaikurram. [10] While the Chinese chronicle of the Yuan dynasty mentioned the word Ma-li-yu-er, referring to a nation of the Malay Peninsula that was threatened by the southward expansion of the Sukhothai Kingdom under King Ram Khamhaeng. [11] [12] During the same era, Marco Polo made a reference to Malauir in his travelogue, as a kingdom located in the Malay Peninsula, possibly similar to the one mentioned in the Yuan chronicle. [13] [14] The Malay Peninsula was conflated with Persia in old Japan, and was known by the same name. [15]

In the early 20th century, the term Tanah Melayu was generally used by the Malays of the peninsula during the rise of Malay nationalism to describe uniting all Malay states on the peninsula under one Malay nation, although this ambition was largely realised with the formation of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Malay for "Federation of Malaya") in 1948. [16]


The Malay Peninsula is covered with tropical moist forests. Lowland forests are dominated by dipterocarp trees, while montane forests are home to evergreen trees in the beech family (Fagaceae), Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), laurel family (Lauraceae), tropical conifers, and other plant families.

The peninsula's forests are home to thousands of species of animals and plants. Several large endangered mammals inhabit the peninsula – Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus), tiger (Panthera tigris), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), and siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus). [17] The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) once inhabited the forests, but Malaysia's last rhinoceroses died in 2019, and the species' few remaining members survive only in Sumatra. [18]

The peninsula is home to several distinct ecoregions. The Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests cover the northern peninsula, including the Tenasserim Hills and the Isthmus of Kra, and extend to the coast on both sides of the isthmus.

The Kangar-Pattani floristic boundary crosses the peninsula in southern Thailand and northernmost Malaysia, marking the boundary between the large biogeographic regions of Indochina to the north and Sundaland and Malesia to the south. The forests north of the boundary are characterized by seasonally-deciduous trees, while the Sundaland forests have more year-round rainfall and the trees are mostly evergreen. Peninsular Malaysia is home to three terrestrial ecoregions. The Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests ecoregion covers the mountains above 1000 meters elevation. The lowlands and hills are in the Peninsular Malaysian rain forests ecoregion. The Peninsular Malaysian peat swamp forests include distinctive waterlogged forests in the lowlands on both sides of the peninsula. [19]

Extensive mangroves line both coasts. The Myanmar Coast mangroves are on the western shore of the peninsula, and the Indochina mangroves on the eastern shore.

See also

Related Research Articles

Geography of Malaysia Physical Features of Malaysia

The geography of Malaysia deals with the physical and human geography of Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country. There are two major parts to this country, Peninsular Malaysia to the west and East Malaysia to the east. In addition, there are numerous smaller islands surrounding both landmasses. Peninsular Malaysia is situated on the southernmost section of the Malay Peninsula, south of Thailand, north of Singapore and east of the Indonesian island of Sumatra; East Malaysia comprises most of the northern part of Borneo island, with land borders shared with Brunei to the north and Indonesian Borneo which is to the south.

Malays (ethnic group) Ethnic group

Malays are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the eastern Sumatra, Malay Peninsula and coastal Borneo, as well as the smaller islands which lie between these locations — areas that are collectively known as the Malay world. These locations are today part of the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, southern part of Thailand, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

Kra Isthmus

The Kra Isthmus in Thailand is the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula. The western part of the isthmus belongs to Ranong Province and the eastern part to Chumphon Province, both in Southern Thailand. The isthmus is bordered to the west by the Andaman Sea and to the east by the Gulf of Thailand.


Malesia is a biogeographical region straddling the Equator and the boundaries of the Indomalayan and Australasian realms, and also a phytogeographical floristic region in the Paleotropical Kingdom. It has been given different definitions. The World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions split off Papuasia in its 2001 version.

Southern Thailand Region in Hat Yai

Southern Thailand is a southernmost cultural region of Thailand, separated from Central Thailand region by the Kra Isthmus.

Titiwangsa Mountains

The Titiwangsa Range, also known as "Banjaran Besar" by locals, is the chain of mountains that forms the backbone of the Malay Peninsula. The northern section of the range is in southern Thailand, where it is known as Sankalakhiri Range.

Melayu Kingdom

The Melayu Kingdom was a classical Buddhist kingdom located in Southeast Asia.


Indo-Burma is a biodiversity hotspot designated by Conservation International.

Tenasserim Hills Mountain range in Southeast Asia

The Tenasserim Hills or Tenasserim Range is the geographical name of a roughly 1,700 km long mountain chain, part of the Indo-Malayan mountain system in Southeast Asia.

Peninsular Malaysia Mainland, western portion of Malaysia in Southeast Asia

Peninsular Malaysia (Malay: Semenanjung Malaysia), also known as West Malaysia or the Malaysian Peninsula, formerly known as Malaya, is the part of Malaysia which occupies the southern half of the Malay Peninsula in Mainland Southeast Asia and the nearby islands. Its area totals 132,265 km2 (51,068 sq mi), which is nearly 40% of the total area of the country; the other 60% is East Malaysia. For comparison, it is slightly larger than England (130,395 Km2). It shares a land border with Thailand to the north.

Tenasserim–South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests Ecoregion in Southeast Asia

The Tenasserim–South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests are a tropical moist forest ecoregion in Southeast Asia. The ecoregion extends north–south along the Kra Isthmus. It includes lowland forests along the coasts, and montane forests in the Tenasserim Hills and Bilauktaung range, which form the mountainous spine of the isthmus.

Malay world Geopolitical and sociolinguistic term

The Malay world or Malay realm, is a concept or an expression that has been utilised by different authors and groups over time to denote several different notions, derived from varied interpretations of Malayness, either as a racial category, as a linguistic group or as a political-cultural group. The use of the term 'Malay' in much of the conceptualisation is largely based on the prevalent Malay cultural influence, manifested in particular through the spread of the Malay language in Southeast Asia as observed by different colonial powers during the Age of Discovery.

Phuket Range

The Phuket Range is a subrange of the Tenasserim Hills in the Kra Isthmus, Thailand.

Peninsular Malaysian rain forests Ecoregion in Southeast Asia

The Peninsular Malaysian rain forests is an ecoregion on Malay Peninsula and adjacent islands. It is in the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome.

Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests

The Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests is an ecoregion on Malay Peninsula. It occupies the mountainous spine of the peninsula in Malaysia and southernmost Thailand. It is in the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome.

Sulawesi lowland rain forests

The Sulawesi lowland rain forests is a tropical moist forest ecoregion in Indonesia. The ecoregion includes the lowlands of Sulawesi and neighboring islands.


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