5,000 years ago when the ancestors of the Orang Asli, the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, settle here, probably the pioneers of a general movement from China and Tibet. Theywere followed by the Malays, who brought with them skills in farming and the use of metals.Around the first century BC, strong trading links were established with China and India, andthese had a major impact on the culture, language and social customs of the country. Evidence of a Hindu-Buddhist period in the history of Malaysia can today be found in the temple sites of theBujang Valley and Merbok Estuary in Kedah in the north west of Peninsular Malaysia, near the Thai border. The spread of Islam,introduced by Arab and Indian traders, brought the Hindu-Buddhistera to an end by the 13th century. With the conversion of the Malay-Hindu rulers of the Melaka Sultanate (the Malay kingdom whichruled both side of the Straits of Malaka for over a hundred years),,Islam was established as the religion of the Malays, and had profound effect on Malay society.The arrival of Europeans in Malaysia
brought a dramatic change tothe country. In 1511, the Portuguese captured Malaka and the rulersof the Melaka Sultanate fled south to Johor where they tried toestablish a new kingdom. They were resisted not only by theEuropeans but by the Acehnese, Minangkabau and the Bugis,resulting in the sovereign units of the present-day states of Peninsular Malaysia. The Portuguese were in turn defeated in 1641 by the Dutch, who colonized Melaka until the advent of the British in the Dutch exerted any profound influence on Malay society. The British acquired Melaka from the Dutch in 1824 inexchange for Bencoolen in Sumatra. From their new bases in Malaka, Penang and Singapore,collectively known as the Straits settlements, the British, through their influence and power, began the process of political intergration of the Malay states of Peninsular Malaysia. After World War II and the Japanese occupation from 1941-45, the British created the Malayan Union1946.This was abandoned in 1948 and the Federation of Malaya emerged in its place. TheFederation gained its independence from Britain on 31 August 1957.In September 1963, Malaya,Sarawak, Sabah, and initially Singapore united to form Malaysia, a country whose potpourri of society and customs derives from its rich heritage from four of the world's major cultures -Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Western.