Friday, October 14, 2011

History: Hang Li Poh's Well

Hang Li Poh, a Princess from China during the Ming Dynasty is a famous name in the history of Melaka. She was sent by her father, Emperor Yong Le who was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China in 1459 to marry the reigning Sultan of Melaka, Sultan Mansur Shah in order to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Upon arriving Melaka, the Sultan gave the Princess and her entourage of 500 ladies-in-waiting "Bukit China" (Chinese Hill) as a wedding gift. Legend has it that the followers of the Princess built a well in 1459 at the foot of Bukit China for her daily use.

This well, known as Hang Li Poh's well or King's well is said to be the oldest well in Melaka. It is believed that the well never dried up, not even during times of extreme drought and it became the city's only source of water then.

In 1511, upon conquering Melaka, the Portuguese secured the well and hence gained total control of the well to serve as one of their main sources of water supply. In retaliation, the Javanese filled the well with poison and many who drank from it died of poisoning. According to the Portuguese Historian, Diogo de Couto, many Portuguese soldiers died from drinking the water from the well.

In 1677, after the Dutch conquered Melaka, they enclosed the well with solid brick walls in a bid to maintain their rights over it and to prevent the well from being poisoned again.

The wall erected by the Dutch is still present today, surrounding and safeguarding the well.

Today, it has become a wishing well. Tourists and locals alike can be seen throwing coins into it, making wishes and hoping their wishes would come true. It is said that whoever throws coins into the well or drink its water will soon return to Melaka.

Bukit China, on the other hand is now a Chinese Burial ground. There are about 12,000 graves here with many of them dating as far back as to the Ming Dynasty. It has the distinction of being the largest Chinese cemetery outside China. Bukit China is indeed truly a "Historical Hill".