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NUS Press

To' Janggut: Legends, Histories, and Perceptions of the 1915 Rebellion in Kelantan

Cheah Boon Kheng

 

To' Janggut, or "Old Long Beard", deconstructs a popular legend concerning an uprising that took place in the Malay state of Kelantan in 1915 by contrasting several rival versions of what took place. Cheah Boon Kheng examines literary and folk accounts, photographs, newspaper reports, scholarly interpretations and classified 'hidden' official reports, finding that incidents and images associated with one version are subsequently revised, contradicted, or denied in alternate accounts.

 

Although the 1915 rising was a relatively minor incident that took place in a remote part of rural Kelantan during World War I, it has captured the imagination of the people. In this study, Cheah considers its broader significance for historians by reassessing ideas of historical truth and the meanings and functions of history, biography, photography and other genres. The reconstruction of each incident in the different versions provides a form of argumentation and raises a series of questions. Did To' Janggut rebel against the Sultan, or was he a dupe of the Sultan? Was the incident a tax rebellion, or an anti-colonial rising? Did the Kelantan aristocracy support the Sultan, or were they attempting to unseat him? In the end, the reader is left to determine which version if any can be said to represent historical truth.