UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Population: 1.5 million (2010)
Density: 1500/sq. km. (3,800/ sq. mi.)
Human Development Index (HDI): .773 (high)
Time Zone: UTC/GMT +8
The history of modern Penang, originally part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, began when the island was leased by Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah to Captain Francis Light, an English trader-adventurer working for the Madras-based firm, J. Sullivan and de Souza and the East India Company, in exchange for military protection from Siamese (Thai) and Burmese armies who were threatening Kedah. On 11 August 1786, Captain Light landed on Penang at what is later called Fort Cornwallis and took formal possession of the island in the name of His Britannic Majesty, King George III and the East India Company. For Captain Light, Penang was a convenient trade port and an ideal location to curtail French expansion in Indochina and the Dutch foothold in Sumatra. Penang was Britain's first settlement in Southeast Asia, and was one of the first establishments of the second British Empire after the loss of its North American colonies. In Malaysian history, the occasion marked the beginning of more than a century of British involvement in Malaya.
In 1900, Penang, with her large population of Chinese immigrants, was a natural place for the Chinese nationalist Sun Yat-sen to raise funds for his revolutionary efforts in Qing China. These frequent visits culminated in the famous 1910 Penang conference which paved the way to the ultimately triumphant Wuchang Uprising which overthrew the Manchu government.
During World War II, Penang, then a British island garrison, suffered devastating aerial bombardments and finally fell to invading Japanese forces on 19 December 1941 as the British withdrew to Singapore. Penang under Japanese occupation was marked by widespread fear, hunger, and massacres which targeted the local Chinese populace.
The British returned at the end of the war and was intent to consolidate its rule over its possessions in British Malaya into a single administrative entity called the Malayan Union, but by then British prestige and image of invincibility were already severely dented. The Malayan Union was vehemently rejected by the people, and the Federation of Malaya was formed in its place in 1948, uniting the then Federated Malay States, Unfederated Malay States, and the Straits Settlements of which Penang was a part. Independence seemed an inevitable conclusion. Wong Pow Nee of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) party was Penang's first Chief Minister. He presided during the period of the Communist insurgency and the formation of Malaysia.
Penang is an island and state in Malaysia located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is composed of two parts – Penang Island, where the seat of government is, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. Highly urbanised and industrialised Penang is one of the most developed and economically important states in the country, as well as a thriving tourist destination. Penang has the third-highest Human Development Index in Malaysia, after the state of Selangor and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur. Its heterogeneous population is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language, and religion. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.
The name "Penang" comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang. Penang's capital George Town was called and labelled in old maps as Tanjung Penaga but now usually shortened as Tanjung (the Cape). Penang is often known as "The Pearl of the Orient", "东方花园" (Garden of the East) and Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara (Penang, Island of Pearls). Penang is shortened as "PG" or "PP" in Malay. Early Malays called it Pulau Ka-Satu or "First Island" because it was the largest island encountered on the trading sea-route between Lingga and Kedah. The Siamese, then the overlord of the Kedah Sultanate, referred to the island as Koh Maak.
On 7 July 2008, George Town, the historic capital of Penang, was formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside Malacca. It is officially recognised as having "a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia".