Pinang or Penang (both: pənăngˈ) [key], state (1991 pop. 1,065,075), c.400 sq mi (1,040 sq km), Malaysia, on the Strait of Malacca. It consists of Pulau Pinang (an island of 108 sq mi/280 sq km), formerly known as Georgetown; and Province Wellesley (292 sq mi/756 sq km), a strip of territory on the Malay Peninsula adjacent to Pulau Pinang. On the island is the capital, the city of Pinang, also known as George Town (1991 pop. 219,376); it is Malaysia's second-busiest port. It was founded in 1786 by British merchants and was ruled by Great Britain until it became part of what is now Malaysia in 1957. The city has a botanical garden, museums, and performing arts center. The island has large tin-smelting works, and large areas are devoted to rice and rubber. Well over half the inhabitants of the state are Chinese. Indians are less numerous; less than a third are Malays.
Pinang Island was the first British settlement on the Malay Peninsula. It was occupied in 1786 by Francis Light of the British East India Company with the permission of the sultan of Kedah. After an unsuccessful attempt to retake the island (1791), the sultan agreed on a settlement from the British of an annual stipend, and in 1800 he also ceded Province Wellesley. Pinang, together with Province Wellesley, Malacca, and Singapore, became known as the Straits Settlements. Under the British, Pinang grew rapidly in commercial importance, although it was surpassed by Singapore. Pinang joined the Federation of Malaya (see Malaysia) in 1948.