The Malay term Tanah Melayu is derived from the word Tanah (land) and Melayu (Malays), thus it means "the Malay land". The term can be found in various Malay texts, of which the oldest dating back to the early 17th century. In the early 16th century, Tomé Pires, a Portuguese apothecary who stayed in Malaca from 1512 to 1515, writes an almost identical term, Terra de Tana Malaio which he referred to the southeastern part of Sumatra, where the deposed Sultan of Malacca, Mahmud Shah established his exiled government. The 17th century's account of Portuguese historian, Emanuel Godinho de Erédia, noted on the region of Malaios surrounded by the Andaman Sea in the north, the entire Malacca Strait in the centre, a part of Sunda Strait in the south, and the western part of South China Sea in the east. Prior to the foundation of Malacca, ancient and medieval references to a Malay peninsula exist in various foreign sources. According to several Indian scholars, the word Malayadvipa ("mountain-insular continent"), mentioned in the ancient Indian text, Vayu Purana, may possibly refer to the Malay peninsula. The Greek source, Geographia, written by Ptolemy, labelled a geographical part of Golden Chersonese as Maleu-kolon, a term thought to derive from Sanskrit malayakolam or malaikurram. While the Chinese chronicle of Yuan dynasty mentioned the word Ma-li-yu-er, referring to a nation of Malay peninsula that threatened by the southward expansion of Sukhothai Kingdom under King Ram Khamhaeng. During the same era, Marco Polo made a reference to Malauir in his travelogue, as a kingdom located in the Malay peninsula, possibly similar to the one mentioned in Yuan chronicle. Coinage mostly represents four major kingdoms within the peninsula – Aceh, Malacca, Johor and Palembag. Other local coinage exists as well as they were many minor kingdoms and semi-autonomies.
See also: Straits Settlements
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