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Pulau Pinang
State Flag Coat of Arms
State motto: "Bersatu dan Setia" (United and Loyal), formerly "Let Penang Lead"
Capital George Town
Governor Tun Dato' Seri Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas
Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon
Area 1,056 km2
 - Est year 2000

State anthem Untuk Negeri Kita ("For Our State")
Time Zone UTC +8

Penang (Malay: Pulau Pinang; Chinese: 檳城) is a Malaysian state located on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.


The name "Penang" comes from the word "pinang", the betel nut tree (Areca catechu). The name "Pulau Pinang" translated literally from Malay means "betel nut island".

The general Chinese name for Penang is 檳城 (pinyin: Bīnchéng / Bīngchéng), which loosely refers either to the city of George Town, the island of Penang, or the state of Penang. If more precise names are needed, then George Town is 喬治市 (Qiáozhì Shì), Penang Island is 檳榔嶼 (Bīnláng Xù - not the more modern Yǔ for 嶼)) or 檳榔島 (Bīnláng Dǎo) and Penang state is 檳州 (Bīn Zhōu). Province Wellesley is 威省 (Wēi Shěng).


The state is geographically and administratively divided into two sections:

  • Penang Island: an island of 293 square kilometres located in the Straits of Malacca; and
  • Seberang Perai (also known as Province Wellesley): a strip of land of 760 square kilometres across a narrow channel on the Malay peninsula.

The state capital of Penang, George Town and its principal town on the mainland, Butterworth has a close proximity to several satellite towns in Kedah and Perak, forming a large urban area in northwestern Peninsular Malaysia. George Town was accorded city status by Queen Elizabeth II on January 1, 1957.

The highest point in Penang is Penang Hill, on the island (the actual peak at 830 metres above sea level is called Western Hill, which is considered to be part of Penang Hill).

The state has the highest population density in Malaysia with 2,031.74 people per square kilometre on the island and 865.99 people per square kilometre on the mainland. Penang is the only state in Malaysia in which the ethnic Chinese are a majority. The ethnic composition in 1995 was:

  • Ethnic Chinese: 772,700 or 65%;
  • Malay: 246,700 or 23%;
  • Ethnic Indian: 127,000 or 11%;
  • Others:
    • Bumiputra: 1,300;
    • Non-bumiputra: 6,200.



Penang, originally part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah, was given to the British East India Company in 1786 by the Sultan of Kedah, in exchange for military protection from Siamese and Burmese armies who were threatening Kedah. On 11 August 1786, Captain Francis Light, known as the founder of Penang, landed in Penang and renamed it Prince of Wales Island in honour

of the heir to the British throne.

The location of the island at the opening of the Straits of Malacca attracted the British East India Company to use the island as a natural harbour and anchorage for their trading ships, and as a naval base to counter growing French ambitions in the region. The settlement on the north-eastern tip of the island was named George Town after King George III of Great Britain.

Unbeknownst to the Sultan, Light had acted without the approval of the East India Company when he promised military protection. When the Company failed to aid Kedah when it was attacked by Siam, the Sultan tried to retake the island in 1790. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Sultan was forced to cede the island to the Company for an honorarium of 6,000 Spanish dollars per annum. This was later increased to 10,000 dollars, with Province Wellesley (Seberang Prai) being added to Penang in 1800. An annual honorarium of 10,000 ringgits continues to this day to be paid each year by the Malaysian Federal Government to the state of Kedah.

In 1826, Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, became part of the Straits Settlements under the British administration in India, moving to direct British colonial rule in 1867. In 1946 it became part of the Malayan Union, before becoming in 1948 a state of the Federation of Malaya, which gained independence in 1957. In 1963 it became one of the 13 states of Malaysia.

The island was a free port until 1969. Despite the loss of the island's free-port status, from the 1970s to the late 1990s the state built up one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia, in the Free Trade Zone around the airport in the south of the island.

Recently (in 2004), widespread dissatisfaction with the decline of Penang has led to a media campaign to return Penang to its former glory.

State government

The state has its own state legislature and executive, but these have very limited powers in comparison with those of the Malaysian federal authorities.

The head of the state executive is a Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia. The present Governor is Tun Dato' Seri Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas. In practice the Governor is a figurehead, and he acts upon the advice of the state Executive Council, which is appointed from the majority party in the Legislative Assembly.

The current Chief Minister of Penang, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon is from the Gerakan party which its representatives have held the chief-ministership since 1969. It is the only state chief-ministership in Malaysia which is held by an ethnic Chinese, reflecting the state's ethnic majority.

There are two local authorities in Penang, the Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang) and the Municipal Council of Province Wellesley (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai). Local councillors have been appointed by the state government since local elections were abolished in Malaysia in the 1960s. The

state is divided into 5 administrative divisions:

  • Seberang Perai:
    • Central Seberang Perai (Seberang Perai Tengah)
    • Nothern Seberang Perai (Seberang Perai Utara)
    • Southern Seberang Perai (Seberang Perai Selatan)
  • Penang Island:
    • North-East District (Daerah Timur Laut)
    • South-West District (Daerah Barat Daya).

The current Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, hails from the mainland town of Kepala Batas, whereas the former Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim is from the town of Bukit Mertajam, also in Province Wellesley.

In May 2005, there were calls by UMNO members from the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), to rotate the Chief Minister post between BN component parties but the Prime Minister rejected the idea. Analysts have pointed out that if Penang does have a Malay chief minister, by logic the other 11 Malay majority states would also have to have a Chinese or Indian as Chief Minister. From a bigger perspective, this idea would not be feasible to the UMNO-ruled states.


Main article: Penang cuisine

Penang island, also known as the "Pearl of the Orient", is a paradise for food lovers, who come from all over Malaysia and Singapore to sample the island's unique cuisine. Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. Penang is especially famous for the "hawker food" sold and eaten by the street, in which noodles and fresh seafood feature strongly.

The north shore of Penang, known as Batu Feringghi, is a popular beach resort, characterised by high-rise hotels. Many tourists also spend time in the historic centre of George Town, which is largely made of nineteenth-century Straits Chinese shophouses, with Indian and Malay quarters. Anglo-Indian colonial buildings are also to be found amongst elaborate Chinese and Indian temples and Indian-Muslim mosques. The Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in the city and Snake Temple in Bayan Lepas area are some of the famous tourist destinations. One of Penang's more well-known landmarks is KOMTAR, the tallest building in Penang.

Penang is most famous for being a "food paradise", attracting both locals and foreign tourists. Gurney Drive is one such place where typical Penang cuisine can be found in an open-air environment.


Penang state is today the third-largest economy amongst the states of Malaysia, after Selangor and Johore. Manufacturing is the most important component of the Penang economy, contributing 45.9% of the State's GDP (2000). The southern part of the island is highly industrialised with high-tech electronics plants (such as Intel, AMD, Motorola, Agilent, Hitachi, Osram, Bosch and Seagate) located within the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone.

The entrepôt trade has greatly declined, due in part to the loss of Penang's free-port status, but also due to the active development of Port Klang near the federal capital Kuala Lumpur. However, there is a container terminal in Butterworth which continues to service the northern area.

Other important sectors of Penang's economy include tourism, finance and other services.


The lingua franca of Penang, depending on social class and social circles, are English, Penang Hokkien, and Malay. (But note, Mandarin is gaining ground).

Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China, but incorporates a large number of borrowed words from Malay and English. Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.

Malay is spoken locally with northwest dialect features, such as hang for "you" and depa for "they/them".

English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in Malaysian English.

Other languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese and Tamil, are also spoken in the state. Teochew is heard more on Province Wellesley than on Penang Island.


Penang island is connected to the mainland by the 13.5-kilometre Penang Bridge (completed in 1985), one of the longest bridges in Asia. Ferry services are available between Georgetown and Butterworth (where the nearest Malayan Railway station is located) on the mainland and to the resort island of Langkawi in the north.

Penang International Airport (PEN) is located in the south of the island, and international flights are available to London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Medan, Taipei, Bangkok, Bangalore, Seoul, Riau, Xiamen and Guangzhou.

A quaint mode of transportation, the three-wheeled trishaw, still operates in certain parts of George Town. However, with the advent of modern transportation, the trishaw has increasingly become merely a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, modern transportation has also brought the problem of traffic congestion to Penang's roads, as most of the roads in the city centre are narrow, due to lack of proper planning.

The Monorail page of refers to Penang having a monorail planned.

Famous Penangites

Malaysia's fifth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also from Kepala Batas, Penang.

Anwar Ibrahim, the ex-deputy prime minister when Tun Dr Mahathir was the PM, is also from Penang where Cherok Tok Kun is his hometown.

Dr. Wu Lien Teh (1879 - 1960), world-renowned Plague Fighter and pioneer in the modernization of China's public health system, was from Penang.

Malaysia's legendary actor/singer/director P.Ramlee is also a Penangite.

The famous shoe designer, Jimmy Choo was born in Penang.

The current international women's squash champion Nicol David is from Penang.


  • The Penang Tourism Action Council. . Retrieved Jul. 26, 2005.

States and Federal Territories of Malaysia
States: Johor | Kedah | Kelantan | Malacca | Negeri Sembilan | Pahang | Perak | Perlis | Penang | Sabah | Sarawak | Selangor | Terengganu
Federal Territories: Kuala Lumpur | Labuan | Putrajaya

Penang پنانگ Penang Pulau Pinang Pulau Pinang ペナン州 Penang 檳城

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Penang". A list of the wikipedia authors can be found here.