Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south. Penang is the second smallest Malaysian state in area after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. It is composed of two parts – Penang Island, where the seat of government is, and Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley in English) on the Malay Peninsula).
The name "Penang" comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means "island of the areca nut palm" (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang may refer either to the island of Penang (Pulau Pinang) or the state of Penang (Negeri Pulau Pinang). In Malay, Penang's capital George Town was called and labelled in old maps as Tanjung Penaga (Cape Penaigre), named after the many ballnut trees (also known as Alexandrian laurels, Calophyllum inophyllum) on the coast, but now usually shortened as Tanjung (the Cape).
Archaeological evidence shows that Penang (island and its mainland territory) was inhabited by the Semang-Pangan of the Juru and Yen lineage, both now considered extinct cultures. They were hunter-gatherers of the Negrito stock having short stature and dark complexion, and were dispersed by the Malays as far back as 900 years ago. The last recorded aboriginal settlement in Penang was in the 1920s in Kubang Semang.
The first evidence of prehistoric human settlement in what is now Penang were found in Guar Kepah, a cave in Seberang Perai in 1860. Based on mounds of sea shells with human skeletons, stone implements, broken ceramics, and food leftovers inside, the settlement was estimated to be between 3000 to 4000 years old. Other stone tools found in various places on the island of Penang pointed to the existence of Neolithic settlements dating to 5000 years ago.
The geographical term of "Penang Island" first appeared in the "The Nautical Charts of Zheng He" written on the expeditions of Zheng He (Cheng Ho) in Ming dynasty during the reign of the Yongle Emperor. In the 15th century, the Chinese navy using the record of nautical chart as navigation guide from "Con Dao Islands" (Pulo Condore) to Penang Island, Penang has been seen to trade with Ming dynasty (modern China) in the 15th century.
Agricultural land in 2008 is used for (in descending total area) oil palm (13,504 hectares), paddy (12,782), rubber (10,838), fruits (7,009), coconut (1,966), vegetables (489), cash crops (198), spices (197), cocoa (9), and others (41). Two local produce for which Penang is famous for are durians and nutmegs. Livestock is dominated by poultry and domestic pigs. Other sectors include fisheries and aquaculture, and new emerging industries such as ornamental fish and floriculture.
Culture and heritage
There are two major Western orchestras in Penang – the Penang Philharmonic (formerly Penang State Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (PESSOC), and the Penang Symphony Orchestra (PSO). The ProArt Chinese Orchestra is an orchestra playing traditional Chinese musical instruments. There are also many other chamber and school-based musical ensembles. The Actors Studio at Straits Quay is a theatre group which started in 2002. Dewan Sri Pinang at The Esplanade and the Performing Arts Centre of Penang (Penangpac) at Straits Quay are two of the major performing venues in Penang.