Official Name Malaysia
Capital City Kuala Lumpur (1.4 mil)
Languages Bahasa Melayu, English, others
Official Currency Ringgit
Religions Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, others
Land Area 328,550 sq km (126,855 sq miles)
Federation of Malaysia (Persekutuan Malaysia in Malay) or simply Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. It consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea. West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Malay Peninsula) shares a land border on the north with Thailand and is connected by a causeway and a bridge on the south with the island of Singapore; East Malaysia, the northern and western part of the island of Borneo, is bordered to the south by Indonesia and borders the Sultanate of Brunei on the east, south, and west.
Politics: The federation of Malaysia is a constitutional elective monarchy. It is nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the king. Kings are selected for five-year terms from among the nine sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection.
Economy: The Malay Peninsula and indeed Southeast Asia has been a center for trade for centuries. Various items such as porcelain and spice were actively traded even before Malacca and Singapore rose to prominence. In the 17th century, large deposits of tin were found in several Malay states. Later, as the British started to take over as administrators of Malaya, rubber and palm oil trees were introduced for commercial purposes. Over time, Malaya became the world's major largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. These three commodities along with other raw materials firmly set Malaysia's economic tempo well into the mid-20th century.
Religion: Malaysia is a multireligious society, but Islam is the official religion of the country. The four main religions are Islam (about half the population), Buddhism (about 20 %), Hinduism (13 %), and Christianity (mostly in East Malaysia, i.e. Borneo). Until the 20th century, most practiced traditional beliefs, which arguably still linger on to a greater degree than Malaysian officialdom is prepared to acknowledge.
Culture: Malaysia is a multiracial society, consisting of 65% Malays, 20% Chinese, 10% Indians and 5% of other races. The Malays, which form the largest community, are mainly Muslims. The Malays play a dominant role politically and are known as bumiputera. Their native language is Malay (Bahasa Melayu), which is also the national language of the country. In the past, Bahasa Melayu was written widely in Jawi script. As time progresses, romanized script has over taken Jawi as the dominant script. The Chinese comprise of about a quarter of the population. They are mostly Buddhists (of Mahayana sect), Taoists or Christian, and speak a variety of Chinese dialects including Hokkien/Fujian, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew , and have been historically dominant in the business community. The Indians account for about 10% of the population. They are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India, speaking Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Hindi, living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. There is also a sizeable Sikh community. Eurasians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. A small number of Eurasians, of mixed Portuguese and Malay descent, speak a Portuguese creole, called Papia Kristang. There are also Eurasians of mixed Malay and Spanish descent, mostly in Sabah. Descended from immigrants from the Philippines, some speak Chavacano, the only Spanish creole in Asia. Cambodians and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect). Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes other percussion instruments (some made of shells); the rebab, a bowed string instrument; the serunai, a double-reed oboe-like instrument; flutes; and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving, and silver and brasswork.