This chapter discusses how the Malayu were one of the earliest and most influential groups in the Straits of Melaka. As an ethnonym, “Malayu” initially referred to the communities living in southeast Sumatra and later came to include those settled along both coasts and in the central and northern interior areas of the island. However, most studies overlook an emerging culture in the northern portion of the Straits of Melaka that formed the antecedents of Malayu culture. The settlements in northern Sumatra and in the Isthmus of Kra and the Malay Peninsula were part of an extensive network of communities, named the “Sea of Malayu.” The chapter explores this exchange network, depicting how the long and profitable interaction within this common “sea” produced a shared cultural idiom that helped shape Malayu identity.
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