There are two notable coat of arms in Penang - one is the coat of arms of the state of Penang, while the other is the coat of arms of the Penang Island City Council.
Coat of Arms of the State of Penang
The current coat of arms has been in use since 1988. Its design, which incorporates the newly-completed Penang Bridge, is described as follows.
- Shield: Barry wavy of ten Azure and Argent upon a chief Or a depiction of the Penang Bridge Proper
- Crest: On a wreath of the Colours upon a mount a Pinang or Areca-nut palm leaved and fructed Proper
- Motto: "Bersatu dan Setia"
An areca nut palm tree (pokok pinang in Malay), from which Penang Island takes its name, forms the crest.
The Penang Bridge is depicted on the shield, symbolising the unity between the State and the Malaysian Federation (as the Penang Bridge links Penang Island and mainland Peninsular Malaysia). The bridge's two pillars stand for the two fundamental principles of the Malaysian federal government's controversial New Economic Policy - the eradication of poverty and the restructuring of society (this affirmative action policy of favouring only one race has been introduced after the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur). The four cables on the bridge represent four major ethnic groups - Malays, Chinese, Indians and Eurasians.
The wavy alternating blue and white lines signify the seas that surround Penang Island. There are five blue lines and five white lines; this symbolism reflects the five tenets of Malaysia's national philosophy, the Rukun Negara, as well as Penang's five administrative districts. Similarly, the blue and white torse underneath the areca nut palm tree symbolises the same meanings.
Interestingly, the motto 'Bersatu dan Setia' (United and Loyal) was adopted in 1950, during the height of the Penang Secessionist Movement. The motto may have meant loyalty to the British Crown, rather than to the Federation of Malaya at the time.
Historical Coat of Arms of the State of Penang
The coat of arms of the British crown colony of the Straits Settlements had been used since 1911. Penang was represented by the second quarter (top right quarter) of the shield, which contained an areca nut palm tree on a hill. The Straits Settlements was dissolved in 1946.
A new coat of arms for Penang was granted by a Royal Warrant from King George VI on 11 September 1949. Its description is as follows.
- Shield: Barry wavy of eight Azure and Argent upon a chief crenellée Or a plume of three ostrich feathers surmounted by a riband of the First on the riband the words Ich Dien in letters of the Third.
- Crest: On a wreath of the Colours upon a mount a Pinang or Areca-nut palm leaved and fructed Proper.
The Prince of Wales's feathers and its motto Ich Dien (German for 'I serve') symbolised the founding of Penang Island in 1786 as the Prince of Wales Island, while the wavy blue and white bars signified the Strait of Malacca surrounding Penang Island. The top blue bar was shaped like a fortress, an allusion to Fort Cornwallis which was built to protect Penang Island in its early years.
The motto 'Bersatu dan Setia' was added in 1950. As explained above, the motto was added when the Penang Seccesionist Movement was in full swing, suggesting that the loyalty of local Penangites may have been to the British Crown, rather than to the Federation of Malaya.
Coat of arms of the Penang Island City Council
The current coat of arms of the Penang Island City Council has been in use since 1974, when the George Town City Council was merged with the Penang Rural District Council to form the Penang Island Municipal Council. Although the coat of arms contain more Malaysian elements including its native Malay shield, it still confirms to traditional English heraldic principles. Its description is as follows.
- Shield: Barry wavy of eight Azure and Argent a chief embattled Or overall a Pinang or areca-nut palm leaved and fructed Proper
- Crest: On a wreath of the Colours mantled Vert doubled Or a crescent therefrom issuant a mullet of the Last
- Supporters: On a compartment of waves barry wavy Azure and Argent issuant therefrom a mount Vert two dolphins hauriant torqued of the First finned Or
- Motto: "Memimpin Sambil Berkhidmat" (Leading We Serve)
The motto 'Memimpin Sambil Berkhidmat' is a Malay translation of the original motto of the George Town City Council, 'Leading We Serve'.
Historical Coat of Arms of the George Town City Council
- Shield: Barry wavy of eight Azure and Argent a plume of three ostrich feathers Proper tied with a riband Or a chief embattled of the Last
- Crest: On a wreath of the Colours issuant from a wreath of palm Vert a lion passant guardant Azure
- Motto: "Leading We Serve"
The motto 'Leading We Serve' was a combination of the motto of the Prince of Wales, 'Ich Dien' and the unofficial motto of Penang, 'Let Penang Lead'.
- Christie, C.J., 1998. A Modern History of Southeast Asia: Decolonization, Nationalism and Separatism. I.B.Tauris.