The Pagan Tribes of Borneo by Charles Hose and William McDougall

This Etext Created by Jeroen Hellingman The Pagan Tribes of Borneo A Description of Their Physical Moral and Intellectual Condition With Some Discussion of their Ethnic Relations by Charles Hose and William McDougall With an Appendix on the Physical Characters of the Races of Borneo by A. C. Haddon In Two Volumes Preface In writing
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  • 1912
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This Etext Created by Jeroen Hellingman

The Pagan Tribes of Borneo

A Description of Their Physical Moral and Intellectual Condition With Some Discussion of their Ethnic Relations

by Charles Hose and William McDougall

With an Appendix on the Physical Characters of the Races of Borneo

by A. C. Haddon

In Two Volumes


In writing this book we have aimed at presenting a clear picture of the pagan tribes of Borneo as they existed at the close of the nineteenth century. We have not attempted to embody in it the observations recorded by other writers, although we have profited by them and have been guided and aided by them in making our own observations. We have rather been content to put on record as much information as we have been able to obtain at first hand, both by direct observation of the people and of their possessions, customs, and manners, and by means of innumerable conversations with men and women of many tribes.

The reader has a right to be informed as to the nature of the opportunities we have enjoyed for collecting our material, and we therefore make the following personal statement. One of us (C. H.) has spent twenty-four years as a Civil Officer in the service of the Rajah of Sarawak; and of this time twenty-one years were spent actually in Sarawak, while periods of some months were spent from time to time in visiting neighbouring lands — Celebes, Sulu Islands, Ternate, Malay Peninsula, British North Borneo, and Dutch Borneo. Of the twenty-one years spent in Sarawak, about eighteen were passed in the Baram district, and the remainder mostly in the Rejang district. In both these districts, but especially in the Baram, settlements and representatives of nearly all the principal peoples are to be found; and the nature of his duties as Resident Magistrate necessitated a constant and intimate intercourse with all the tribes of the districts, and many long and leisurely journeys into the far interior, often into regions which had not previously been explored. Such journeys, during which the tribesmen are the magistrate’s only companions for many weeks or months, and during which his nights and many of his days are spent in the houses of the people, afford unequalled opportunities for obtaining intimate knowledge of them and their ways. These opportunities have not been neglected; notes have been written, special questions followed up, photographs taken, and sketches made, throughout all this period.

In the years 1898 — 9 the second collaborator (W. McD.) spent the greater part of a year in the Baram district as a member of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, which, under the leadership of Dr. A. C. Haddon, went out to the Torres Straits in the year 1897. During this visit we co-operated in collecting material for a joint paper on the animal cults of Sarawak;[1] and this co-operation, having proved itself profitable, suggested to us an extension of our joint program to the form of a book embodying all the information already to hand and whatever additional information might be obtainable during the years that one of us was still to spend in Borneo. The book therefore may be said to have been begun in the year 1898 and to have been in progress since that time; but it has been put into shape only during the last few years, when we have been able to come together for the actual writing of it.

During the year 1899 Dr. A. C. Haddon spent some months in the Baram district, together with other members of the Cambridge Expedition (Drs. C. G. Seligmann, C. S. Myers, and Mr. S. Ray); and we wish to express our obligation to him for the friendly encouragement in, and stimulating example of, anthropological field work which he afforded us during that time, as well as for later encouragement and help which he has given us, especially in reading the proofs of the book and in making many helpful suggestions. We are indebted to him also for the Appendix to this book, in which he has stated and discussed the results of the extensive series of physical measurements of the natives that he made, with our assistance, during his visit to Sarawak.

We have pleasure in expressing here our thanks to several other gentlemen to whom we are indebted for help of various kinds — for permission to reproduce several photographs, to Dr. A. W. Nieuwenhuis, the intrepid explorer of the interior of Dutch Borneo, who in his two fine volumes (QUER DURCH BORNEO) has embodied the observations recorded during two long journeys in the interior; to Mr. H. Ling Roth for the gift of the blocks used in the preparation of his well-known work, THE NATIVES OF SARAWAK AND BRITISH NORTH BORNEO, many of which we have made use of; to Dr. W. H. Furness, author of THE HOME LIFE OF BORNEO HEAD-HUNTERS (1902), for several photographic plates made by him during his visits to the Baram in the years 1897 and 1898; to Drs. C. G. Seligmann and C. S. Myers for permission to reproduce several photographs; to Mr. R. Shelford, formerly Curator of the Sarawak Museum, for his permission to incorporate a large part of a paper published jointly with one of us (C. H.) on tatu in Borneo, and for measurements of Land Dayaks made by him; to Mr. R. S. Douglas, formerly Assistant Officer in the Baram district and now Resident of the Fourth Division of Sarawak, for practical help genially afforded on many occasions.

Finally, it is our agreeable duty to acknowledge our obligation to H.H. the Rajah of Sarawak, who welcomed to his country the members of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, and without whose enlightened encouragement of scientific work on the part of his officers this book would never have been written.

C. H.

W. McD.

JULY 1912.

Supplementary Preface by one of the Authors

I feel that it is necessary to supplement our joint-preface with some few words of apology for, and explanation of, the appearance of my name on the title-page of this book. For the book is essentially an attempt to set forth in condensed form the mass of knowledge of the tribes of Borneo acquired by Dr. Hose in the course of a quarter of a century’s intimate study of, and sympathetic companionship with, the people of the interior. My own part in its production has been merely that of a midwife, though I may perhaps claim to have helped in the washing and dressing of the infant as well as in its delivery, and even to have offered some useful advice during the long years of pregnancy. And, since it is more difficult to present a brief and popular account of any complex subject the more intimate is one’s knowledge of it, I may fairly hope that my superficial acquaintance with the pagan tribes of Borneo has been a useful ally to Dr. Hose’s profound and extensive knowledge of them; I have therefore gladly accepted my friend’s generous invitation to place my name beside his as joint-author of this work.

W. McD.


Chapter I
Geography of Borneo

Chapter II
History of Borneo

Chapter III
General Sketch of the Peoples of Borneo 28

Chapter IV
Material Conditions of the Pagan Tribes of Borneo 43

Chapter V
The Social System

Chapter VI

Chapter VII
The Daily Life of a Kayan Long House 116

Chapter VIII
Life on the Rivers

Chapter IX
Life in the Jungle

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII
Decorative Art

Chapter XIII
Ideas of Spiritual Existences and the Practices Arising from Them 1

Chapter XIV
Ideas of the Soul Illustrated by Burial Customs, Soul-Catching, and Exorcism

Chapter XV
Animistic Beliefs Connected with Animals and Plants 51

Chapter XVI
Magic, Spells, and Charms

Chapter XVII
Myths, Legends, and Stories

Chapter XVIII
Childhood and Youth of a Kayan

Chapter XIX
The Nomad Hunters

Chapter XX
Moral and Intellectual Peculiarities 194

Chapter XXI
Ethnology of Borneo

Chapter XXII

The Physical Characters of the Races of Borneo. By A. C. Haddon 311



List of Plates

1. Young Kayan Chief with middle-class Companion (in Colour). FRONTISPIECE
2. Bruni, the pile-built Capital of the Sultans of Bruni 2 3. A Jungle Path near Marudi, Baram District 4 4. A Limestone Hill at Panga in Upper Sarawak 6 5. Mount Dulit from the Tinjar River 8
6. (A) Keltie Falls, Mount Dulit, Sarawak. (B) Kenyahs stopping to camp for the Night on the Baram River 10 7. The Rejang River emerging from the central mountain Region 12
8. Gorge in the Rejang River above the entrance of Baloi Peh 14
9. The Rejang River winding through the Hill Country 16 10. The Rejang River about 300 Miles above its Mouth 16 11. Jungle enveloped in thick Moss on Summit of Mount Dulit 18 12. Head of the Rejang River 20
13. In the Headwaters of the Baram River 22 14. Lioh Matu (the Place of a Hundred Islands), at the Head of the Baram River 24
15. Fanny Rapid in the Pata River, Baram District 26 16. A Sea Dayak or Iban 28
17. Profile of Sea Dayak of Plate 16 28 18. A Sea Dayak Woman 30
19. Kayan Family of the Upper Rejang 32 20. An Uma Pliau (Kayan) Girl of the Baram District 32 21. Buling, the Son of a Kenyah Chief of the Baram District 34 22. (A) A curly-haired Kayan of the Baram. (B) Aban Tingan, a famous Kenyah Warrior, younger Brother of Tama Bulan 36 23. Klemantans of the Tinjar District, and one old Kayan Chief of Baloi, Laki Bo, wearing black Head-dress (back row, second figure, left) 38
24. Long Pokuns (Klemantans) of Tinjar River 38 25. Kalabit (Murut) Chief (in centre) with Followers, from the Source of the Baram River 40
26. Punans of Tinjar River 40

27. Tama Bulan Wang, the Kenyah Penghulu of the Baram District 42
28. Kayan Girl from the Upper Kotei District 44 29. Youthful Sea Dayaks in gala Dress 44 30. Sea Dayak Woman wearing Coat and Petticoat ornamented with Shells 46
31. Sulau, the Wife of a Kayan Chief, displaying her Collection of valuable old Beads 46
32. A Barawan Woman (Klemantan) of the Tinjar 48 33. Malanau Infant wearing Apparatus for moulding of the Head 48
34. A Long House in the Baram District 50 35. Murik Village of Long Tamala, Baram District 50 36. Gallery of a Kayan House at Long Lama, Baram District 52 37. Interior of a Kayan Dwelling-room 52 38. Heads hanging in the Gallery of a Kayan House 54 39. Beneath a Kayan House. To the left the Altar-posts for Offerings can be seen 54
40. Large Barn in which PADI is stored 56 41. Iban House 56
42. Gallery of Iban House 56
43. Iban Seat-mats. Iban Seed-baskets 58 44. (B) Tobacco-boxes; (C) Wooden Plate for rolling Cigarettes; (G) Gourd for Pith-heads of Darts; (P) Tobacco-pipes; (FP) Fire-piston; (F) Nose-flute 58
45. Kenyah Woman’s Hat. Kayan Tawak and Gongs 60 46. Ningka, a valuable old Sea Dayak Jar 60 47. Old earthenware Vessels much prized by all the Tribes 62 48. Ibans bargaining over old Jars 62
49. Tama Usong, leading Kayan Chief of the Baram District 64 50. Aban Deng, the Chief of the Long Wats (Klemantan) of the Baram District 66
51. Sebop (Klemantan) Chief haranguing his Followers 70 52. Kenyahs of the Pata River. The Men wearing Caps and the one squatting on the left are of the upper Class the others are of the middle Class 74
53. A Kayan making Fire by Friction with a PUSA 78 54. A Corpse in a Barawan (Klemantan) House. Party in the unfinished House of Jangan, Chief of the Sebops, on the occasion of the naming of his Child 82
55. Ibans felling a Tree 98
56. A Lirong Farm in the Tinjar River 100 57. Kayans of Baloi in the PADI-field. The Tatu on the Thighs is perceptible 102

58. Kenyah Women resting from Weeding in the PADI-field 104 59. Kenyah Women at their Farm 106
60. Kenyahs measuring the Length of the Shadow of the ASO DO at Noon to determine the Time for sowing PADI 108 61. Klemantan Women dressed as Men at the harvest Festival 114 62. The Garden of a Kayan House, I.E. the Area between the House and the River, with Fruit-trees and PADI Barns 116 63. Elderly Kayan Woman ascending the House-ladder with Basketful of Water-vessels 118
64. The Gallery of a Klemantan (Sebop) House, Tinjar District 120
65. Jungle Fruits 122
66. A Klemantan Village, showing the Balawing Pole 124 67. Kayans splitting Rattans for Mat-making 126 68. A Kayan Party sitting in the Gallery of a Long House 126 69. Entertaining Guests in the Gallery of a Klemantan (Barawan) House 128
70. Lepu Pohuns (Klemantans) of the Tinjar River 130 71. (A) Ibans preparing a Boat for a long Journey. (B) Kayan War-boat on the Lower Baram 132
72. A Halt at Batu Pita on the Baram 132 73. Cooking the mid-day Meal on a gravel Bed, Baram River 134 74. Boat proceeding up the Rejang River below the Palagus Falls 134
75. Poling up the Palagus Falls, Rejang River 136 76. (A) Kenyahs hauling a Boat over Rapids. (B) Hut built on River-bank for a night’s Shelter 136
77. A Boat about to descend the Falls at Long Bukau, Rejang River 138
78. Boat roofed with Leaf-mats on the Dapoi River, Baram District 138
79. Kayans fishing with Cast-net in the Upper Baram River 140 80. Fishing with Rod and Line at the Tipang Falls of the Baram 140
81. Typical Scene in the uppermost Reaches of a River 142 82. Kenyah Hunters at Work with the Blow-pipe 144 83. Kenyah Hunter returning Home with young Pig 146 84. Kayan Hunting-party camping for the Night 146 85. Ibans setting Traps for Pheasants and small Mammals. Punans at Home 148
86. Kayans working Gutta-percha 150 87. (A) Gathering the IPOH Dart-poison. (B) Usong, a Kayan Youth of upper Class, Son of Tama Usong (Plate 49) 152

88. Kenyah collecting IPOH Poison 152 89. Klemantans making Fire in the Jungle by sawing one Piece of Bamboo across another 154
90. Instructing Kayan Youths in the jungle 156 91. Kenyah and Kayan Swords and Sheaths 158 92. Spears and Paddles (Kayan and Klemantan) 160 93. Kayan and Kenyah War-caps 162
94. Coat and Cap, Sword, Knife, and Shield of Kenyah Warrior (in Colour) 164
95. A Murik (Klemantan) Youth in War-dress 166 96. Klemantan War-boat ascending a Reach of the Baram near Marudi 168
97. Pole set up in River by Kayans to mark the Spot where a favourable Omen was observed 170
98. Scouts watching a Boat in Trouble at the Mouth of the Akar River, Baram District 172
99. Iban War-party in the Jungle 174 100. Kayan House fenced in for Protection against Enemies 176 101. Kenyah Mode of Attack 178
102. Kayan Woman dancing, and carrying in right Hand a Head dressed in Leaves 180
103. Iban War-boats on the Rejang River 182 104. Iban Scouts on the alert 184
105. Punan Heads taken by Ibans 186 106. Iban Women dancing with human Heads 188 107. Kalabit Smiths using stone Hammers. The Bellows are simpler than those described in text 194
108. Iban making Fire-pistons 196
109. Iban House in course of Construction 198 110. Kanowit (Klemantan) Baskets and Beadwork 200 111. Kayan Knife and Axes 202
112. Kenyah hewing out Shaft of Blow-pipe before boring it 204 113. Kenyahs drilling a Blow-pipe 206
114. Kenyah lashing Spear-blade to Blow-pipe 208 115. Kenyah making Dart for Blow-pipe 210 116. Kenyah making Dart-poison 212
117. Kenyahs making Bark-cloth 214
118. Iban Woman extracting Cotton-seeds 216 119. Iban Woman with Spinning-wheel 218
120. Iban Woman preparing the Web for dyeing 220 121. Iban Woman weaving 222
122. Carved Door to the Room of Aban Jau, a Chief of the Sebops (Klemantans), Tinjar River 226
123. Door of Room in Sebop (Klemantan) House. The two Figures near the Top probably represent Gibbons 228
124. Carvings on the Wall of the Gallery in a Long Ulai (Klemantan) House, Baram District 230

125. Prow of Klemantan War-boat (the Man is an Iban) 232 126. A Kenyah Pattern carved on a bamboo Tobacco-box 234 127. Annular Design worked on bamboo Tobacco-box (Kenyah) 236 128. Charcoal Drawings. The first depicts Women at Work on PADI Mortars; the second the feeding of Pigs and Fowls; the third the laying of a Corpse in the Tomb 238
129. Kenyah Sword-handle carved from a Deer’s Horn 242 130. Old Beads worn by Kayans (in Colour) 244 131. Blanket (Pua) woven by Iban Woman 246 132. Blanket (Pua) woven by Iban Woman 248 133. Tatu Patterns on Thighs of Kayan Women 250 134. Tatu Patterns on a Kalabit Woman 252 135. Kalabit Tatu (Woman) 254
136. Tatu designs 258
137. ,, 260
138. ,, 262
139. ,, 264
140. ,, 266
141. ,, 268
142. ,, 270
143. ,, 274
Kenyah Women husking PADI (in Colour) FRONTISPIECE 144. Kenyah Altar showing large round Stones known as BATU TULOI. Eggs offered to the Omen-birds in the Jungle 2 145. A Klemantan (Barawan) making Offerings of Eggs to the Gods 4
146. Balawing Pole on the left; Altar-post of Bali Penyalong on the right and in the middle a Post to which Pieces of the Flesh of slain Enemies have been skewered as Thank-offerings after successful War, set up before House of Long Pokuns (Klemantan) 8 147. Wooden Images set up before a Kenyah House at the Approach of an Epidemic of Cholera 12
148. Wooden Image of Bali Atap, a Kenyah God 16 149. Altar-posts set up before Klemantan House on return from War 20
150. (A) Temporary Shelter for Heads. (B) Gallery of a Kayan Long House 24
151. Kenyah Dayongs wearing Masks 30 152. Tomb of the Wife of a Chief of the Long Patas (Klemantan). The white Discs were formerly made of Shell, but nowadays European Crockery is used, and a German Firm supplies Dinner-plates provided with two Perforations which facilitate the attachment of the Plates 34 153. Tomb of a Sekapan (Klemantan) Chief 36 154. The Grave of Kuling, Daughter of Boi Jalong, the principal Kenyah Chief of the Batang Kayan River 40 155. Malanau Graves near Rejang Village 44 156. Peng Coffins deposited on Ledges of overhanging Cliff on the Mahakam. River 46
157. (A) Tama Bulan sacrificing a Pig to Bali Penyalong. (B) Balari, a Kenyah, sacrificing a Fowl to Bali Penyalong 58 158. A Kayan charging a Pig with a Message to the Gods 68 159. Kayans discussing the Liver of a Pig 80

160. Image of a Hornbill made by Ibans for use at Ceremonies 94 161. Group of Kenyahs. On the Top of the Pole can be seen an Image of the Hawk, Bali Flaki 106
162. An Enemy’s Head decorated by Kayans with various Charms 120 163. Image of Crocodile, and House provided for the Spirit whose Aid is invoked by Malanaus at the Bayoh Ceremony 126 164. A wooden Figure of Crocodile, and Decorations used at the Bayoh Ceremony by Malanaus 132
165. Mixed Group of Kenyah and Klemantan Boys 154 166. A Sekapan (Klemantan) Woman carrying Child in a Cradle 156 167. Iban Boys bathing. The Fence is for Protection against Crocodiles 158
168. (1) Fire-piston. (2) PUSA, used to make Fire at the naming of a Kayan Child. The Figure represents Laki Pesong 160 169. Kayans wrestling 164
170. A Dance which nearly resembles some recent European Developments of the Art 166
171. A Kayan dancing 168
172. A Lesson in Wood-carving (Kenyahs) 172 173. An Iban Wedding 174
174. Punans of the Baram 178
175. Elderly Punan Headman 180
176. A Punan Headman of the Tinjar 180 177. Punans of Bok (Baram) 182
178. Tatued Ukit of Rejang District 184 179. A Punan Camp in the Dapoi River 186 180. Punans working wild Sago 188
181. Punans working Camphor 190
182. Punan Mother and Child 192
183. Creeper hung across Mouth of tributary Stream to prohibit All-comers from ascending the Stream. 206 184. Brass Hooks and Sword-handles sent by Tama Kuling to the Resident of the Baram as Symbols of Peace 220 185. A Kayan of the Mahakam River
186. A Kayan Woman of the Mahakam River, East Borneo 226 187. An Orang Bukit (Klemantan) Woman, Baram District 228 188. Profile of Woman in Plate 187 230
189. Long Pokuns (Klemantans) of Dapoi River, Baram District 234 190. Lirong (Klemantan) Youths of Tinjar River 238 191. A Lirong Woman (Klemantan) of the Tinjar River 240 192. A Kajaman (Klemantan) Woman of the Upper Class 244

193. Land Dayak Men (Klemantans) from Upper Sarawak 250 194. (A) Land Dayak Girls of the Sadong District. (B) Land Dayaks of Upper Sarawak 252
195. Iban Women, Rejang District 254 196. A small Fort at Kanowit, Rejang District 260 197. The Fort at Claudetown (Marudi), with Squad of Rangers who form the Garrison 264
198. Entrance of the new Fort at Marudi, Baram District 268 199. Court-room in Baram Fort 272
200. The Silat River descending from Usun Apo to join the Baram, the High Road between East and West Borneo. 276 201. Kenyah masked Men going to meet former Enemies with Overtures of Peace 280
202. Klemantan Mask 284
203. Tama Kuling (ALIAS Boi Jalong), principal Kenyah Chief of the Batang Kayan District 288
204. Tama Kuling’s (Kenyah) Village at Tana Puti, Batang Kayan District 292
205. Madangs (Kenyahs) at the Peace-making at Marudi (1899) 296 206. The great Peace-making at Marudi (1899), Baram District, between the Kayan, Kenyah, and Klemantan Tribes of East and West Borneo 298
207. Racing of War-boats at Marudi during the Peace-meeting (1899) 300
208. Party of Kenyah Chiefs from the Batang Kayan on the Way to visit the Rajah of Sarawak at Kuching, before the Peace-making in the Baram in 1901 302
209. Final Instructions from the Resident of the Third Division of Sarawak to a Kayan Party about to attack Stronghold of Iban Rebels 304
210. Peace-making with Kana and the Iban Rebels at Kanowit 306 211. Madangs of Pliran with two Children newly restored to their Parents by the Government from Captivity with Ibans 308

N.B. — The following names are those of the gentlemen to whom we are indebted for permission to reproduce their photographs. After each name stands a list of the plates thus reproduced.

Dr. W. H. Furness. (Nos. 11, 32, 33, 40, 42, 44, 45, 48, 51, 52, 55, 62, 63, 82, 85, 87 (B), 93, 96, 99, 104, 147, 149, 152, 162, 165, 175, 179, 180, 181, 182.)

Dr. A. W. Nieuwenhuis. (Nos. 28, 37, 61, 67, 81, 151, 154, 165, 172, 183, 185, 186, 201, 204.)

Dr. A. C. Haddon. (Nos. 6, 22 (A), 43, 54, 76, 144, 150.)

Dr. C. S. Myers. (No. 157.)

Dr. C. G. Seligmann. (Nos. 87 (A), 207.)

Dr. Harrison W. Smith. (No. 194 (A).)

Mr. A. Moor. (No. 208.)

Mr. R. Shelford. (Nos. 193, 194 (B).)

The rest of the plates are from photographs taken by C. H.


The Eastern Archipelago.
Sketch Map of the Baram District, Sarawak. Sketch Map of Sarawak.


Geography of Borneo

Borneo is one of the largest islands of the world. Its area is roughly 290,000 square miles, or about five times that of England and Wales. Its greatest length from north-east to south-west is 830 miles, and its greatest breadth is about 600 miles. It is crossed by the equator a little below its centre, so that about two-thirds of its area lie in the northern and one-third lies in the southern hemisphere. Although surrounded on all sides by islands of volcanic origin, Borneo differs from them in presenting but small traces of volcanic activity, and in consisting of ancient masses of igneous rock and of sedimentary strata.

The highest mountain is Kinabalu, an isolated mass of granite in the extreme north, nearly 14,000 feet in height. With this exception the principal mountains are grouped in several massive chains, which rise here and there to peaks about 10,000 feet above the sea. The principal of these chains, the Tibang-Iran range, runs south-westward through the midst of the northern half of the island and is prolonged south of the equator by the Schwaner chain. This median south-westerly trending range forms the backbone of the island. A second much-broken chain runs across the island from east to west about 1[degree] north of the equator. Besides these two principal mountain chains which determine the main features of the river-system, there are several isolated peaks of considerable height, and a minor ridge of hills runs from the centre towards the south-cast corner. With the exception of the northern extremity, which geographically as well as politically stands apart from the rest of the island, the whole of Borneo may be described as divided by the two principal mountain chains into four large watersheds. Of these, the north-western basin, the territory of Sarawak, is drained by the Rejang and Baram, as well as by numerous smaller rivers. Of the other three, which constitute Dutch Borneo, the north-eastern is drained by the Batang Kayan or Balungan river; the south-eastern by the Kotei and Banjermasin rivers; and the south-western by the Kapuas, the largest of all the rivers, whose course from the centre of the island to its south-west corner is estimated at 700 miles. Although the point of intersection of the two principal mountain chains lies almost exactly midway between the northern and southern and the eastern and western extremities of the island, the greater width of the southern half of the island gives a longer course to the rivers of that part, in spite of the fact that all the six principal rivers mentioned above have their sources not far from this central point. The principal rivers thus radiate from a common centre, the Batang Kayan flowing east-north-east, the Kotei south-east by east, the Banjermasin south, the Kapuas a little south of west, the Rejang west, and the Baram north-west. This radiation of the rivers from a common centre is a fact of great importance for the understanding of the ethnography of the island, since the rivers are the great highways which movements of the population chiefly follow.

In almost all parts of the island, the land adjoining the coast is a low-lying swampy belt consisting of the alluvium brought down by the many rivers from the central highlands. This belt of alluvium extends inland in many parts for fifty miles or more, and is especially extensive in the south and south-east of the island.

Between the swampy coast belt and the mountains intervenes a zone of very irregular hill country, of which the average height above the sea-level is about one thousand feet, with occasional peaks rising to five or six thousand feet or more.

There seems good reason to believe that at a comparatively recent date Borneo was continuous with the mainland of Asia, forming its south-eastern extremity. Together with Sumatra and Java it stands upon a submarine bank, which is nowhere more than one hundred fathoms below the surface, but which plunges down to a much greater depth along a line a little east of Borneo (Wallace’s line). The abundance of volcanic activity in the archipelago marks it as a part of the earth’s crust liable to changes of elevation, and the accumulation of volcanic matter would tend to make it an area of subsidence; while the north-east monsoon, which blows with considerable violence down the China Sea for about four months of each year, may have hastened the separation of Borneo from the mainland. That this separation was effected in a very recent geological period is shown by the presence in Borneo of many species of Asiatic mammals both large and small, notably the rhinoceros (R. BORNIENSIS, closely allied to R. SUMATRANUS); the elephant (E. INDICUS, which, however, may have been imported by man); the wild cattle (BOS SONDIACUS, which occurs also in Sumatra); several species of deer and pig (some of which are found in Sumatra and the mainland); several species of the cat tribe, of which the tiger-cat (FELIS NEBULOSA) is the largest; the civet-cat (VIVERRA) and its congeners HEMIGALE, PARADOXURUS, and ARCTOGALE; the small black bear (URSUS MALAYANUS); the clawless otter (LUTRA CINEREA); the bear-cat (ARCTICTIS BINTURONG); the scaly ant-eater (MANIS JAVANICUS); the lemurs (TARSIUS SPECTRUM and NYCTICEBUS TARDIGRADUS); the flying lemur (GALEOPITHECUS VOLANS); the porcupine (HYSTRIX CRASSISPINIS); numerous bats, squirrels, rats and mice; the big shrew (GYMNURA); several species of monkeys, and two of the anthropoid apes. The last are of peculiar significance, since they are incapable of crossing even narrow channels of water, and must be regarded as products of a very late stage of biological evolution. Of these two anthropoid species, the gibbon (HYLOBATES MULLERI) is closely allied to species found in the mainland and in Sumatra, while the MAIAS or orang-utan (SIMIA SALYRUS) is found also in Sumatra and, though not now surviving on the continent, must be regarded as related to anthropoids whose fossil remains have been discovered there.[2]

The zoological evidence thus indicates a recent separation of Borneo and Sumatra from the continent, and a still more recent separation between the two islands.

The climate of the whole island is warm and moist and very equable. The rainfall is copious at all times of the year, but is rather heavier during the prevalence of the north-east monsoon in the months from October to February, and least during the months of April and May. At Kuching, during the last thirty years, the average yearly rainfall has been 160 inches, the maximum 225, and the minimum 102 inches; the maximum monthly fall recorded was 69 inches, and the minimum .66, and the greatest rainfall recorded
in one day was 15 inches. The temperature hardly, if ever, reaches 100[degree] F.; it ranges normally between 70[degree] and 90[degree] F.; the highest reading of one year (1906) at Kuching was 94[degree], the lowest 69[degree]. Snow and frost are unknown, except occasionally on the summits of the highest mountains. Thunder-storms are frequent and severe, but wind-storms are not commonly of any great violence.

The abundant rainfall maintains a copious flow of water down the many rivers at all times of the year; but the rivers are liable to rise rapidly many feet above their normal level during days of exceptionally heavy rain. In their lower reaches, where they traverse the alluvial plains and swamps, the rivers wind slowly to the sea with many great bends, and all the larger ones are navigable by small steamers for many miles above their mouths: thus a large steam launch can ascend the Rejang for 160 miles, the Baram for 120, and some of the rivers on the Dutch side for still greater distances. The limit of such navigation is set by beds of rock over which the rivers run shallow, and which mark the beginnings of the middle reaches. In these middle reaches, where the rivers wind between the feet of the hills, long stretches of deep smooth water alternate with others in which the water runs with greater violence between confining walls of rock, or spreads out in wide rapids over stony bottoms. The upper reaches of the rivers, where they descend rapidly from the slopes of the mountains, are composed of long series of shallow rapids and low waterfalls, alternating at short intervals with still pools and calm shallows, bounded by rock walls and great beds of waterworn stones, which during the frequent freshets are submerged by a boiling flood. The whole river in these upper reaches is for the most part roofed in by the overarching forest.

Practically the whole of Borneo, from the seacoast to the summits of the highest mountains, is covered with a dense forest. On the summits this consists of comparatively stunted trees, of which every part is thickly coated with moss. In all other parts the forest consists of great trees rising to a height of 150 feet, and even 200 feet, and of a dense undergrowth of younger and smaller trees, and of a great variety of creepers, palms, and ferns. Trees of many species (nearly 500) yield excellent timber, ranging from the hardest ironwood or BILIAN, and other hard woods (many of them so close-grained that they will not float in water), to soft, easily worked kinds. A considerable number bear edible fruits, notably the mango (from which the island derives its Malay name, PULU KLEMANTAN), the durian, mangosteen, rambutan, jack fruit, trap, lansat, banana of many varieties, both wild and cultivated, and numerous sour less nutritious kinds. Wild sago is abundant in some localities. Various palms supply in their unfolding leaves a cabbage-like edible. Among edible roots the caladium is the chief. Rubber is obtained as the sap of a wild creeper; gutta-percha from trees of several varieties; camphor from pockets in the stem of the camphor tree (DRYOBALANOPS AROMATICA). But of all the jungle plants those which play the most important parts in the life of the people are the many species of the rattan and the bamboo; without them more than half the crafts and most of the more important material possessions of the natives would be impossible, and their lives would perhaps nearly conform to the conventional notion of savage existence as something ‘nasty, dull, and brutish.’ The jungle of Borneo is, of course, famous for its wealth of orchids, and can claim the distinction of producing the largest flower of the world (RAFFLESIA), and many beautiful varieties of the pitcher plant.

The forests of Borneo harbour more than 450 species of birds, many of them being of gorgeous colouring or strange and beautiful forms; especially noteworthy are many hawks, owls, and eagles, fly-catchers, spider-hunters, sun-birds, broad-bills, nightjars, orioles, miners, pigeons, kingfishers, hornbills, trojans, magpies, jays, crows, partridges, pheasants, herons, bitterns, snipes, plovers, Curlews, and sandpipers. Amongst these are many species peculiar to Borneo; while on the mountains above the 4000-feet level are found several species which outside Borneo are known only in the Himalayas.

Besides the mammals mentioned above, Borneo claims several species of mammal peculiar to itself, notably the long-nosed monkey (NASALIS LARVATUS); two species of ape (SEMNOPITHECUS HOSEI and S. CRUCIGER); many shrews and squirrels, including several flying species; a civet-cat (HEMIGALE HOSEI); a deer (CERVUS BROOKII); the bearded pig (SUS HARBATUS); the curious feather-tailed shrew (PTYLOCERCUS LOWII).

Reptiles are well represented by the crocodile, which abounds in all the rivers, a long-snouted gavial, numerous tortoises and lizards with several flying species, and more than seventy species of snakes, of which some are poisonous, while the biggest, the python, attains a length of thirty feet. The rivers abound in edible fish of many species; insects are of course numerous and varied, and, aided by the multitude of frogs, they fill the island each evening at sunset with one vast chorus of sound.


History of Borneo

The Pagan tribes of Borneo have no written records of their history and only very vague traditions concerning events in the lives of their ancestors of more than five or six generations ago. But the written records of more cultured peoples of the Far East contain references to Borneo which throw some small rays of light upon the past history and present condition of its population. It has seemed to us worth while to bring together in these pages these few historical notes. The later history of Borneo, which is in the main the story of its occupation by and division between the Dutch and English, and especially the romantic history of the acquisition of the raj of Sarawak by its first English rajah, Sir James Brooke, has often been told,[3] and for this reason may be dismissed by us in a very few words.

The coasts of Borneo have long been occupied by a Mohammedan population of Malay culture; this population is partly descended from Malay and Arab immigrants, and partly from indigenous individuals and communities that have adopted the Malay faith and culture in recent centuries. When Europeans first visited the island, this population, dwelling for the most part, as it still does, in villages and small towns upon the coast and in or near the mouths of the rivers, owed allegiance to several Malay sultans and a number of subordinate rulers, the local rajahs and pangirans. The principal sultans had as their capitals, from which they took their titles, Bruni on the north-west, Sambas in the west, Pontianak at the mouth of the Kapuas river, Banjermasin in the south at the mouth of the river of the same name, Pasir at the south-east corner, Kotei and Balungan on the east at the mouths of the rivers of those names; while the Sultan of Jolo, the capital of the Sulu islands, which lie off the north coast, claimed sovereignty over the northern end of Borneo. But these Malay sultans were not the first representatives in the island of culture and of civilised or semi-civilised rule; for history preserves some faint records of still earlier times, of which some slight confirmation is afforded by surviving traces of the culture then introduced.

In spite of all the work done on the history of the East Indies, most of what occurred before and much that followed the arrival of Europeans remains obscure. There are several Asiatic nations whose records might be expected to contain valuable information, but all are disappointing. The Klings, still the principal Hindu traders in the Far East, visited the Malay Archipelago in the first or at any rate the second century after Christ,[4] and introduced their writing[5] and chronology. But their early histories are meagre and unsatisfactory in the extreme. The Arab culture of the Malays, which took root in Sumatra in the twelfth century, is of course of no assistance in regard to events of earlier date, and does not give trustworthy and detailed accounts until the fifteenth century. The Chinese, on the other hand, always a literary people, carefully preserved in their archives all that could be gathered with regard to the “southern seas.” But China was far away, and many local events would possess no interest for her subjects. Under the circumstances, the official historians deserve our gratitude for their geographical descriptions and for the particulars of tribute-bearing missions to the Son of Heaven, though they have little else to tell.

The first account we have been able to find referring to Borneo is a description of the kingdom of Poli from the Chinese annals of the sixth century. Poli was said to be on an island in the sea south-east of Camboja, and two months south-east of Canton. The journey thither was made by way of the Malay Peninsula, a devious route still followed by Chinese junks. Envoys were sent to the Imperial court in A.D. 518, 523, and 616. “The people of this country,” our authority says, “are skilled in throwing a discus-knife, and the edge is like a saw; when they throw it at a man, they never fail to hit him. Their other arms are about the same as in China. Their customs resemble those of Camboja, and the productions of the country are the same as of Siam. When one commits a murder or theft they cut off his hands,[6] and when adultery has been committed, the culprit has his legs chained for the period of a year. For their sacrifice they choose the time when there is no moon; they fill a bowl with wine and eatables and let it float away on the surface of the water; in the eleventh month they have a great sacrifice. They get corals from the sea, and they have a bird called s’ari, which can talk.” A later reference to the same place says: “They carry the teeth of wild beasts in their ears, and wrap a piece of cotton round their loins; cotton is a plant of which they collect the flowers to make cloth of them; the coarser kind is called KUPA, and the finer cloth T’IEH. They hold their markets at night, and cover their faces…. At the east of this country is situated the land of the Rakshas, which has the same customs as Poli.”[7]

This is an interesting account in many ways, and tallies very closely with what other evidence would lead one to suspect. For there is reason to think that Bruni, before it became Mohammedan, was a Bisaya kingdom under Buddhist sovereigns and Hindu influence; and nearly all the particulars given with regard to the people of Borneo are true of one or other of the races allied to Bisayas and living near Bruni to-day. The discus-knife, a wooden weapon, is not now in use, but is known to have been used formerly. The wild Kadayans sacrifice after every new moon, and are forbidden to eat a number of things until they have done so. The Malanaus set laden rafts afloat on the rivers to propitiate the spirits of the sea. The very names of the two kinds of cotton, then evidently a novelty to the Chinese, are found in Borneo: KAPOK is a well-known Malay word; but TAYA is the common name for cotton among the Sea Dayaks, though it is doubtful whether it is found in Sumatra at all, and is not given in Marsden’s great Dictionary. The use of teeth as ear-ornaments may refer to Kenyahs. If these identities are sufficient to show that Poli was old Bruni, we have an almost unique illustration here of the antiquity of savage customs. That an experience of fourteen hundred years should have failed to convince people of the futility of feeding salt waves is a striking demonstration of the widespread fallacy, that what is old must needs be good.

Poli had already attained a certain measure of civilisation, and even of luxury. The kingly dignity was hereditary, and the Buddhist monarch was served with much ceremony. He was clad in flowered silk or cotton, adorned with pearls, and sat on a golden throne attended by servants with white dusters and fans of peacock feathers. When he went out of his palace, his chariot, canopied with feathers and embroidered curtains, was drawn by elephants, whilst gongs, drums, and conches made inspiriting music. As Hindu ornaments have been found at Santubong together with Chinese coins of great antiquity, as the names of many offices of state in Bruni are derived from Sanskrit, and the people of Sarawak have only lately ceased to speak of “the days of the Hindus,”[8] there is nothing startling in the statement that the kings of Poli were Buddhist.

Whatever Poli may or may not have been, there is little question that Puni, 45 days from Java, 40 from Palembang, 30 from Champa, in each case taking the wind to be fair, was Bruni. The Chinese, who have neither B nor double consonants in their impoverished language, still call the Bornean capital Puni. Groeneveldt says that the Chinese consider Puni to have been on the west coast of Borneo. This state is mentioned several times in the annals of the Sung dynasty, which, though only ruling over Southern China, had a complete monopoly[9] of the ocean trade for three centuries (960 to 1279 A.D.). Puni was at that time a town of some 10,000 inhabitants, protected by a stockade of timber. The king’s palace, like the houses of modern Bruni, was thatched with palm leaves, the cottages of the people with grass. Warriors carried spears and protected themselves with copper armour. When any native died, his corpse was exposed in the jungle, and once a year for seven years sacrifices were made to the departed spirit. Bamboos and palm leaves, thrown away after every meal, sufficed for crockery. The products of the country, or at least such as were sent as tribute, were camphor, tortoiseshell, and ivory.[10]

In the year 977, we are told, Hianzta, king of Puni, sent envoys to China, who presented tribute with the following words: “May the emperor live thousands and tens of thousands of years, and may he not disapprove of the poor civilities of my little country.” The envoys presented a letter from the king. This was written on’ what looked like the very thin bark of a tree; it was glossy, slightly green, several feet long, and somewhat broader than one inch; the characters in which it was written were small, and had to be read horizontally. In all these particulars the letter resembled the books of magic which are still written by the Battas of inland Sumatra.[11] The message ran: “The king of Puni, called Hianzta, prostrates himself before the most august emperor, and hopes that the emperor may live ten thousands of years. I have now sent envoys to carry tribute; I knew before that there was an emperor, but I had no means of communication. Recently there was a merchant called Pu Lu, whose ship arrived at the mouth of my river; I sent a man to invite him to my place, and he told me that he came from China. The people of my country were much delighted at this, and preparing a ship, asked this stranger to guide them to the court. The envoys I have sent only wish to see Your Majesty in peace, and I intend to send people with tribute every year. But when I do so I fear that my ships may occasionally be blown to Champa, and I therefore hope Your Majesty will send an edict to that country with orders that, if a ship of Hianzta arrives there, it must not be detained. My country has no other articles,[12] and I pray Your Majesty not to be angry with me.” The envoys were entertained and sent home with presents. In 1082 A.D., a hundred years later, Sri Maja, king of Puni, sent tribute again, but the promise of yearly homage was not kept. Gradually the Sung dynasty declined in power, and East Indian potentates became less humble.

In the thirteenth and the early part of the fourteenth centuries Bruni owed allegiance alternately to two powers much younger than herself, Majapahit in Java, and Malacca on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Both these states were founded in the thirteenth century.[13] Majapahit, originally only one of several Javan kingdoms, rapidly acquired strength and subjugated her neighbours and the nearest portions of the islands around. Malacca, formed when the Malay colony of Singapore was overwhelmed by Javanese, became the great commercial depot of the Straits and the chief centre of Mohammedanism in the Archipelago. The two powers therefore stood for two faiths and two cultures: Majapahit for Brahminism and Hindu influence, Malacca for Islam and the more practical civilisation of Arabia.

In the earliest years of the fourteenth century Bruni was a dependency of Majapahit, but seems to have recovered its independence during the minority of the Javan king. It is to this time that the tradition of the Kapuas Malays ascribes the arrival of the Kayans in Borneo.[14] Then Angka Wijaya extended the power of Majapahit over Palembang in Sumatra, Timor, Ternate, Luzon, and the coasts of Borneo. Over Banjermasin he set his natural son. In 1368 Javanese soldiers drove from Bruni the Sulu marauders who had sacked the town. A few years later the ungrateful king transferred his allegiance to China, and not long afterwards, with calculating humility, paid tribute[15] to Mansur Shah, who had succeeded to the throne of Malacca in 1374 A.D.

An extraordinary incident occurred at the beginning of the fifteenth century, which again — and for the last time — draws our attention to the Chinese court. The great Mongol conquerors, Genghis and Kublai Khan, had little to do with the Malay Archipelago, though the latter sent an unsuccessful expedition against Java in 1292. But the Ming emperors, who were of Chinese blood, came to power in 1368 and soon developed the maritime influence of the empire. For a few years there was a continual stream of East Indian embassies. During the last twenty years of the century, however, these became more rare, and in 1405 the Chinese emperor found it necessary to send a trusted eunuch, by name Cheng Ho, to visit the vassal states in the south. This man made several journeys, travelling as far as the shores of Africa, and his mission bore immediate fruit. Among others, Maraja Kali, king of Puni, although Cheng Ho does not appear to have called on him in person, sent tribute in 1405; and so pleased was he with the embroidered silk presented to him and his wife in return, that he visited the Son of Heaven three years later. Landing in Fukien, he was escorted by a eunuch to the Chinese capital amid scenes of great rejoicing. The emperor received him in audience, allowing him the honours of a noble of the first rank, and loaded him with gifts. The same year, having accomplished his one great ambition of “seeing the face of the Son of Heaven,” this humbled monarch died in the imperial city, leaving his son Hiawang to succeed to the throne of Puni. Having induced the emperor to stop the yearly tribute of forty katties of camphor paid by Puni to Java, and having agreed to send tribute to China every three years, Hiawang returned home to take up the reins of government. Between 1410 and 1425 he paid tribute six times, besides revisiting the Chinese Court; but afterwards little Puni seems to have again ignored her powerful suzerain.

It is probable that the Chinese colony in North Borneo which gave its name to the lofty mountain Kina Balu (Chinese widow) and to the Kina Batangan, the chief river which flows from it, was founded about this time. Several old writers seem to refer to this event, and local traditions of the settlement still survive. The Brunis and Idaans (a people in the north not unlike the Bisayas) have legends differing in detail to the effect that the Chinese came to seize the great jewel of the Kina Balu dragon, but afterwards quarrelled about the booty and separated, some remaining behind. The Idaans consider themselves the descendants of these settlers, but that can only be true in a very limited sense. Both country and people, however, show traces of Chinese influence.

There is good evidence that the Chinese influence and immigration were not confined to Bruni and the northern end of the island. In south-west Borneo there are traces of very extensive washings of alluvial gravels for gold and diamonds. These operations were being conducted by Chinese when Europeans first came to the country; and the extent of the old workings implies that they had been continued through many centuries. Hindu-Javan influence also was not confined to the court of Bruni, for in many parts of the southern half of Borneo traces of it survive in the custom of burning the dead, in low relief carvings of bulls on stone, and in various gold ornaments of Hindu character.

The faith of Islam and the arrival of Europeans have profoundly affected the manners and politics of the East Indies, and now it is difficult to picture the state of affairs when King Hiawang revisited China to pay homage to the Emperor. In 1521, within a hundred years of that event, Pigafetta, the chronicler of Magellan’s great exploit, was calling on the “Moorish” king of Bruni, in the course of the first voyage round the world. The change had come. Of the two new influences, so potent for good and evil, Mohammedanism made its appearance first. The struggle for religious supremacy ended in the complete victory of the Prophet’s followers in 1478, when Majapahit was utterly destroyed, thirty years before the capture of Malacca by the Portuguese.

How early the Arab doctrines were taught in Bruni is impossible to state with any precision. Local tradition ascribes their introduction to the renowned Alak ber Tata, afterwards known as Sultan Mohammed. Like most of his subjects this warrior was a Bisaya, and in early life he was not a Mohammedan, not indeed a civilised potentate at all, to judge by conventional standards; for the chief mark of his royal dignity was an immense chawat, or loin-cloth, carried as he walked by eighty men, forty in front and forty behind. He is the earliest monarch of whom the present Brunis have any knowledge, a fact to be accounted for partly by the brilliance of his exploits, partly by the introduction about that time of Arabic writing. After much fighting he subdued the people of Igan,[16] Kalaka, Seribas, Sadong, Semarahan, and Sarawak,[17] and compelled them to pay tribute. He stopped the annual payment to Majapahit of one jar of pinang juice, a useless commodity though troublesome to collect. During his reign the Muruts were brought under Bruni rule by peaceful measures,[18] and the Chinese colony was kept in good humour by the marriage of the Bruni king’s brother and successor to the daughter of one of the principal Chinamen.

Alak ber Tata is said to have gone to Johore,[19] where he was converted[20] to Islam, given[21] the daughter of Sultan Bakhei and the title of Sultan, and was confirmed in his claim to rule over Sarawak and his other conquests.[22]

Sultan Mohammed was succeeded by his brother Akhmad, son-in-law of the Chinese chief, and he was in turn succeeded by an Arab from Taif who had married his daughter. Thus the present royal house of Bruni is derived from three sources — Arab, Bisaya, and Chinese. The coronation ceremony as still maintained affords an interesting confirmation of this account. On that occasion the principal minister wears a turban and Haji outfit, the two next in rank are dressed in Chinese and Hindu fashion, while the fourth wears a chawat over his trousers to represent the Bisayas; and each of these ministers declares the Sultan to be divinely appointed. Then after the demonstration of loyalty the two gongs — one from Menangkabau, the other from Johore — are beaten, and the Moslem high priest proclaims the Sultan and preaches a sermon, declaring him to be a descendant of Sri Turi Buana, the Palembang chief who founded the early kingdom of Singapore in 1160 A.D., who reigned in that island for forty-eight years, and whose descendants became the royal family of Malacca.

The Arab Sultan who succeeded Akhmed assumed the name Berkat and ruled the country with vigour. He built a mosque and converted many of his subjects, so that from his reign Bruni may be considered a Mohammedan town. To defend the capital he sank forty junks filled with stone in the river, and thus formed the breakwater which still bars the entrance to large ships. This work rose above the water level, and in former times bristled with cannon. Sultan Berkat was succeeded by his son Suleiman, whose reign was of little consequence.

Neglecting Suleiman, we come now to the most heroic figure in Bruni history, Sultan Bulkiah, better known by his earlier name, Nakoda Ragam. The prowess of this prince has been celebrated in prose and verse. He journeyed to distant lands, and conquered the Sulu islands and eastern Borneo. Over the throne of Sambas he set a weak-minded brother of his own. He even sent an expedition to Manila, and on the second attempt seized that place. Tribute poured into his coffers from all sides. His wife was a Javanese princess, who brought many people to Bruni. These intermarried with the Bisayas, and from them it is said are sprung the Kadayans, a quiet agricultural folk, skilled in various arts, but rendered timid by continual oppression. Some have settled recently in the British colony of Labuan, and others in Sarawak round the river Sibuti, where they have become loyal subjects of the Rajah of Sarawak.

Nakoda Ragam’s capital at Buang Tawa was on dry land, but when he died, killed accidentally by his wife’s bodkin, the nobles quarrelled among themselves, and some of them founded the present pile-built town of Bruni. It was to this Malay capital and court that Pigafetta paid his visit in 1521 with the surviving companions of Magellan. His is the first good account from European sources of the place which he called Bornei, and whose latitude he estimated with an error of less than ten miles.[23]

It is easy to see from Pigafetta’s narrative[24] that at the date of his visit the effects of Nakoda Ragam’s exploits had not evaporated. The splendour of the Court and the large population the city is said to have contained were presumably the result of the conquests he had made in neighbouring islands. The king, like the princes of Malacca before the conquest, had his elephants, and he and his courtiers were clothed in Chinese satins and Indian brocades. He was in possession of artillery, and the appearance and ceremonial of his court was imposing.

From this time onwards the power of Bruni has continuously declined. Recurrent civil wars invited the occasional interventions of the Portuguese and of the Spanish governors of the Philippines, which, although they did not result in the subjugation of the Malay power, nevertheless sapped its strength.

The interest of the later history of Borneo lies in the successive attempts,[25] many of them fruitless, made by Dutch and English to gain a footing on the island. The Dutch arrived off Bruni in the year 1600, and ten days afterwards were glad to leave with what pepper they had obtained in the interval, the commander judging the place nothing better than a nest of rogues. The Dutch did not press the acquaintance, but started factories at Sambas, where they monopolised the trade. In 1685 an English captain named Cowley arrived in Bruni; but the English showed as little inclination as the Dutch to take up the commerce which the Portuguese had abandoned.

At Banjermasin, on the southern coast, more progress was made. The Dutch arrived there before their English rivals, but were soon compelled by intrigues to withdraw. In 1704[26] the English factors on the Chinese island of Chusan, expelled by the imperial authorities and subsequently driven from Pulo Condar off the Cochin China coast by a mutiny, arrived at Banjermasin. They had every reason to be gratified with the prospects at that port; for they could sell the native pepper to the Chinese at three times the cost price. But their bitter experiences in the China seas had not taught them wisdom; they soon fell out with the Javanese Sultan, whose hospitality they were enjoying, and after some bloody struggles were obliged to withdraw from this part of the island.

In 1747 the Dutch East India Company, which in 1705 had obtained a firm footing in Java, and in 1745 had established its authority over all the north-eastern coast of that island, extorted a monopoly of trade at Banjermasin and set up a factory. Nearly forty years later[27] (1785), the reigning prince having rendered himself odious to his subjects, the country was invaded by 3000 natives of Celebes. These were expelled by the Dutch, who dethroned the Sultan, placing his younger brother on the throne; and he, in reward for their services, ceded to them his entire dominions, consenting to hold them as a vassal. This is the treaty under which the Dutch claim the sovereignty of Banjermasin and whatever was once dependent on it. In this way the Dutch got a hold on the country which they have never relaxed; and, after the interval during which their possessions in the East Indies were administered by England,[28] they strengthened that hold gradually, year by year, till now two-thirds or more of the island is under their flag and feels the benefits of their rule. If there are still any districts of this large area where Dutch influence has even now barely made itself felt, they will not long remain in their isolation; for the Controleurs are extending their influence even into the most remote corners of the territory.

To turn again to the north-western coast and the doings of Englishmen, in 1763 the Sultan of Sulu ceded to the East India Company the territory in Borneo which had been given him when he killed the usurper Abdul Mubin in Bruni. In 1773 a small settlement was formed on the island of Balambangan, north of Bruni; and in the following year the Sultan of Bruni agreed to give this settlement a monopoly of the pepper trade in return for protection from piracy. In the next year, however, Balambangan was surprised and captured by the Sulus. It was reoccupied for a few months in 1803, and then finally forsaken.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Malays of Bruni, Sulu, and Mindanao, with native followers and allies, inspired we may suppose by the example of their European visitors, took to piracy — not that they had not engaged in such business before, but that they now prosecuted an old trade with renewed vigour. English traders still tried to pay occasional visits, but after the loss of the MAY in 1788, the SUSANNA in 1803, and the COMMERCE in 1806, with the murder of the crews, the Admiralty warned merchants that it was CERTAIN DESTRUCTION to go up river to Bruni. For forty years this intimation was left on British charts, and British seamen followed the humiliating counsel. Not until the early forties was peace restored, after an event of the most romantic and improbable kind, the accession of an English gentleman to the throne of Sarawak.

Of this incident, so fateful for the future of the western side of Borneo, it must suffice to say here that James Brooke, a young Englishman, having resigned his commission in the army of the British East India Company, invested his fortune in a yacht of 140 tons, with which he set sail in 1838 for the eastern Archipelago. His bold but vague design was to establish peace, prosperity, and just government in some part of that troubled area, whose beauties he had admired and whose misfortunes he had deplored on the occasion of an earlier voyage to the China seas. When at Singapore, he heard that the Malays of Sarawak, a district forming the southern extremity of the Sultanate of Bruni, had rebelled against the Bruni nobles, and had in vain appealed to the Dutch Governor-general at Batavia for deliverance from their oppressors. Under the nominal authority of the Sultan, these Bruni nobles, many of whom were of Arab descent, had brought all the north-western part of Borneo to a state of chronic rebellion. They had taught the Sea Dayaks of the Batang Lupar and neighbouring rivers to join them in their piratical excursions, and, being to some extent dependent upon their aid, were compelled to treat them with some consideration; but all other communities were treated by them with a rapacity and cruelty which was causing a rapid depopulation and the return to jungle of much cultivated land.

Brooke sailed for Sarawak in August 1839, and found the country torn by internal conflicts. The Sultan had recently sent Muda Hasim, his uncle and heir-presumptive to the throne of Bruni, to restore order; but this weak though amiable noble had found himself quite incapable of coping with the situation. Brooke spent some time surveying the coast and studying the people and country, and gained the confidence of Muda Hasim. After an excursion to Celebes, Brooke sailed for a second visit to Sarawak just a year after the first, and found the state of the country going from bad to worse. Muda Hasim besought him to take command of his forces and to suppress the rebellion. Brooke consented, and soon secured the submission of the rebel leaders on the condition that he (Brooke), and not any Bruni noble, should be the governor and Rajah of Sarawak. Muda Hasim had offered to secure his appointment to this office as an inducement to him to undertake the operations against the rebels; Brooke therefore felt himself justified in granting these terms. And when later Muda Hasim, no longer threatened with disgrace and failure, showed himself disinclined to carry out this arrangement, Brooke, feeling himself bound by his agreement with the rebel leaders, whose lives he had with difficulty preserved from the vengeance of the Bruni nobles, insisted upon it with some show of force; and on September 24, 1841, he was proclaimed Rajah and governor of Sarawak amid the rejoicings of the populace. Muda Hasim, as representative of the Sultan, signed the document which conferred this title and authority; but since he was not in any proper sense Rajah of Sarawak, which in fact was not a raj, but a district hitherto ruled or misruled by Bruni governors not bearing the title of Rajah, this transaction cannot properly be described as an abdication by Muda Hasim in favour of Brooke. Brooke accordingly felt that it was desirable to secure from the Sultan himself a formal recognition of his authority and title. To this end he visited the Sultan in the year 1842, and obtained from him the desired confirmation of the action of his agent Muda Hasim. The way in which the raj of Sarawak has since been extended, until it now comprises a territory of nearly 60,000 square miles (approximately equal to the area of England and Wales), will be briefly described in a later chapter (XXII.).

The northern end of Borneo had long been a hunting-ground for slaves for the nobles of Bruni and Sulu, whose Sultans claimed but did not exercise the right to rule over it. In 1877 Mr. Alfred Dent, a Shanghai merchant, induced the two Sultans to resign to him their sovereign rights over this territory in return for a money payment. The British North Borneo Company, which was formed for the commercial development of it, necessarily undertook the task of pacification and administration. In 1881 the company was granted a royal charter by the British Government; and it now administers with success and a fair prospect of continued commercial profit a territory which, with the exception of a small area about the town of Bruni, includes all of the island that had not been brought under the Dutch or Sarawak flag. In 1888 Sarawak and British North Borneo were formally brought under the protection of the British Government; but the territories remained under the rule of the Rajah and of the company respectively, except in regard to their foreign relations. In the year 1906 the Sultan of Bruni placed himself and his capital, together with the small territory over which he still retained undivided authority, under the protection of the British Government; and thus was completed the passing of the island of Borneo under European control.


General Sketch of the Peoples of Borneo

It is not improbable that at one time Borneo was inhabited by people of the negrito race, small remnants of which race are still to be found in islands adjacent to all the coasts of Borneo as well as in the Malay Peninsula. No communities of this race exist in the island at the present time; but among the people of the northern districts individuals may be occasionally met with whose hair and facial characters strongly suggest an infusion of negrito or negroid blood.

It is probable that the mixed race of Hindu-Javanese invaders, who occupied the southern coasts of Borneo some centuries ago, became blended with the indigenous population, and that a considerable proportion of their blood still runs in the veins of some of the tribes of the southern districts (E.G. the Land Dayaks and Malohs).

There can be no doubt that of the Chinese traders who have been attracted to Borneo by its camphor, edible birds’ nests, and spices, some have settled in the island and have become blended with and absorbed by the tribes of the north-west (E.G. the Dusuns); and it seems probable that some of the elements of their culture have spread widely and been adopted throughout a large part of Borneo. For several centuries also Chinese settlers have been attracted to the south-western district by the gold which they found in the river gravel and alluvium. These also have intermarried with the people of the country; but they have retained their national characteristics, and have been continually recruited by considerable numbers of their fellow countrymen. Since the establishment of peace and order and security for life and property by the European administrations, and with the consequent development of trade during the last half-century, the influx of Chinese has been very rapid; until at the present time they form large communities in and about all the chief centres of trade. A certain number of Chinese traders continue to penetrate far into the interior, and some of these take wives of the people of the country; in many cases their children become members of their mothers’ tribes and so are blended with the native stocks.

Among the Mohammedans, who are found in all the coast regions of Borneo, there is a considerable number of persons who claim Arab forefathers; and there can be no doubt that the introduction of the Mohammedan religion was largely due to Arab traders, and that many Arabs and their half-bred descendants have held official positions under the Sultans of Bruni.

During the last half-century, natives of India, most of whom are Klings from Madras, have established themselves in the small trades of the towns; and of others who came as coolies, some have settled in the towns with their wives and families. These people do not penetrate into the interior or intermarry with the natives.

With the exception of the above-mentioned immigrants and their descendants, the population of Borneo may be described as falling naturally into two great classes; namely, on the one hand those who have accepted, nominally at least, the Mohammedan religion and civilisation, and on the other hand the pagan peoples. In Bruni and in all the coast regions the majority of the people are Mohammedan, have no tribal organisation, and call themselves Malays (Orang Malayu). This name has usually been accorded them by European authors; but when so used the name denotes a social, political, and religious status rather than membership in an ethnic group. With the exception of these partially civilised “Malays” of the coast regions and the imported elements mentioned above, all the natives of Borneo live under tribal organisation, their cultures ranging from the extreme simplicity of the nomadic Punans to a moderately developed barbarism. All these pagan tribes have often been classed together indiscriminately under the name Dyaks or Dayaks, though many groups may be clearly distinguished from one another by differences of culture, belief, and custom, and peculiarities of their physical and mental constitutions.

The Mohammedan population, being of very heterogeneous ethnic composition, and having adopted a culture of foreign origin, which may be better studied in other regions of the earth where the Malay type and culture is more truly indigenous, seems to us to be of secondary interest to the anthropologist as compared with the less cultured pagan tribes. We shall therefore confine our attention to the less known pagan tribes of the interior; and when we speak of the people of Borneo in general terms it is to the latter only that we refer (except where the “Malays” are specifically mentioned). Of these we distinguish six principal groups: (1) Sea Dayaks or Ibans, (2) the Kayans, (3) Kenyahs, (4) Klemantans, (5) Muruts, (6) Punans.

A census of the population has been made in most of the principal districts of Sarawak and of Dutch Borneo; but as no census of the whole country has hitherto been made, it is impossible to state with any pretence to accuracy the number of the inhabitants of the island. Basing our estimate on such partial and local enumerations as have been made, we believe the total population to be about 3,000,000. Of these the Chinese immigrants and their descendants, who are rapidly increasing in number, probably exceed 100,000. The Malays and the native converts to Islam, who constitute with the Chinese the population of the towns and settled villages of the coast districts, probably number between three and four hundred thousand; the Indian immigrants are probably not more than 10,000; the Europeans number perhaps 3000; the rest of the population is made up of the six groups of barbarians named in the foregoing paragraph.

Any estimate of the numbers of the people of each of these six divisions is necessarily a very rough one, but it is perhaps worth while to state our opinion on this question as follows: Klemantans, rather more than 1,000,000; Kenyahs, about 300,000; Muruts, 250,000; Sea Dayaks, 200,000; Kayans, 150,000; Punans and other peoples of similar nomadic habits, 100,000 — I.E. a total of 2,000,000.

(1) Of all these six peoples the Sea Dayaks have become best known to Europeans, largely owing to their restless truculent disposition, and to the fact that they are more numerous in Sarawak than any of the others. They have spread northwards over Sarawak during the latter half of the last century, chiefly from the region of the Batang Lupar, where they are still numerous. They are still spreading northward, encroaching upon the more peaceful Klemantan tribes. They are most densely distributed in the lower reaches of the main rivers of Sarawak, especially the Batang Lupar and Saribas rivers, which are now exclusively occupied by them; but they are found also in scattered communities throughout almost all parts of Sarawak, and even in British North Borneo, and they extend from their centre in Sarawak into the adjacent regions of Dutch Borneo, which are drained by the northern tributaries of the Great Kapuas River.

The Sea Dayak is of a well-marked and fairly uniform physical type. His skin is distinctly darker than that of the other peoples of the interior, though not quite so dark as that of most of the true Malays. The hair of his head is more abundant and longer than that of other peoples. His figure is well proportioned, neat, and generally somewhat boyish. His expression is bright and mobile, his lips and teeth are generally distorted and discoloured by the constant chewing of betel nut. They are a vain, dressy, boastful, excitable, not to say frivolous people — cheerful, talkative, sociable, fond of fun and jokes and lively stories; though given to exaggeration, their statements can generally be accepted as founded on fact; they are industrious and energetic, and are great wanderers; to the last peculiarity they owe the name of Iban, which has been given them by the Kayans, and which has now been generally adopted even by the Sea Dayaks themselves.

The good qualities enumerated above render the Iban an agreeable companion and a useful servant. But there is another side to the picture: they have little respect for their chiefs, a peculiarity which renders their social organisation very defective and chaotic; they are quarrelsome, treacherous, and litigious, and the most inveterate head-hunters of the country; unlike most of the other peoples, they will take heads for the sake of the glory the act brings them and for the enjoyment of the killing; in the pursuit of human victims they become possessed by a furious excitement that drives them on to acts of the most heartless treachery and the most brutal ferocity.

All the Sea Dayaks speak one language, with but slight local diversities of dialect. It is extremely simple, being almost devoid of inflections, and of very simple grammatical structure, relying largely on intonation. It is closely allied to Malay.

(2) The Kayans are widely distributed throughout central Borneo, and are to be found in large villages situated on the middle reaches of all the principal rivers with the exception of those that run to the north coast. They occupy in the main a zone dividing the districts of the lower reaches of the rivers from the central highlands from which all the rivers flow.

They are a warlike people, but less truculent than the Sea Dayaks, more staid and conservative and religious, and less sociable. They do not wantonly enter into quarrels; they respect and obey their chiefs. They are equally industrious with the Sea Dayaks, and though somewhat slow and heavy in both mind and body, they are more skilled in the handicrafts than any of the other peoples. They also speak one language, which presents even less local diversity than the Sea Dayak language.

(3) The Kenyahs predominate greatly in the highlands a little north of the centre of Borneo where all the large rivers have their sources; but they are found also in widely scattered villages throughout the Kayan areas. In all respects they show closer affinities with the Kayans than with the Sea Dayaks; as regards custom and mode of life they closely resemble the Kayans, with whom they are generally on friendly terms; but they are easily distinguished from the Kayans by well-marked differences of bodily and mental characters, as well as by language. Physically they are without question the finest people of the country. Their skin-colour is decidedly fairer than that of Sea Dayaks or Kayans. They are of medium stature, with long backs and short, muscular, well-rounded limbs; a little stumpy in build, but of graceful and vigorous bearing. They are perhaps the most courageous and intelligent of the peoples; pugnacious, but less quarrelsome than the Sea Dayak; more energetic and excitable than the Kayan; hospitable and somewhat improvident, sociable and of pleasant manners; less reserved and of more buoyant temperament than the Kayan; very loyal and obedient to their chiefs; more truthful and more to be depended upon under all circumstances than any of the other peoples, except possibly the Kayans.

The Kenyahs speak a number of dialects of the same language, and these differ so widely that Kenyahs of widely separated districts cannot converse freely with one another; but, as with all the peoples, except the Sea Dayaks, nearly every man has the command of several dialects as well as of the Kayan language.

(4) The Klemantans. Under this name we group together a number of tribes which, though in our opinion closely allied, are widely scattered in all parts of Borneo, and present considerable diversities of language and custom. In physical and mental characters they show affinities to the Kenyahs on the one hand and to the Muruts on the other. They are less bellicose than the peoples mentioned above, and have suffered much at their hands. They are careful, intelligent, and sociable, though somewhat timid, people; skilful in handicrafts, but less energetic than the Kayans and Kenyahs, and inferior to them in metal work and the making of swords and spears and boats. The blow-pipe is their characteristic weapon, and they are more devoted to hunting than any others, except the Punans.

Klemantans are to be found in every part of the island, but most of their villages are situated on the lower reaches of the rivers. They are most abundant in the south, constituting the greater part of the population of Dutch Borneo; in the north they are few, their place being filled by their near relatives, the Muruts. The latter constitute the principal part of the population of the northern end of the island, predominating over all the other peoples in British North Borneo, and in the northern extremities of Sarawak and of Dutch Borneo.

(5) The Muruts are confined to the northern part of Borneo. They resemble the Klemantans more closely than the other peoples. They are comparatively tall and slender, have less regular and pleasing features than the Klemantans, and their skin is generally darker and more ruddy in colour. Their agriculture is superior to that of the other peoples, but they are addicted to much drinking of rice-spirit. Their social organisation is very loose, their chiefs having but little authority. Besides those who call themselves Muruts, we class under the same general name several tribes which we regard as closely allied to them; namely, the Adangs in the head of the Limbang; the Kalabits about the head of the Baram; the Sabans and Kerayans at the head of the Kerayan river; the Libuns; the Lepu Asings at the head of the Bahau; Tagals and Dusuns in the most northerly part; the Trings of the Barau and Balungan rivers on the east.

(6) The Punans, among whom we include, beside the Punans proper, the Ukits and a few other closely allied but widely scattered small groups, are the only people who do not dwell in villages established on the banks of the rivers. They live in small groups of twenty or thirty persons, which wander in the jungle. Each such group is generally made up of a chief and his descendants. The group will spend a few weeks or months at a time in one spot (to which generally they are attracted by the presence of wild sago), dwelling in rude shelters of sticks and leaves, and then moving on, but generally remaining within some one area, such as the basin of one of the upper tributaries of a large river. They are found throughout the interior of Borneo, but are difficult to meet with, as they remain hidden in the depths of the forests. Unlike all the other peoples, they cultivate no PADI (rice), and they do not make boats or travel on the rivers. They support themselves by hunting with the blow-pipe, by gathering the wild jungle fruits, and by collecting the jungle products and bartering them with the more settled peoples. In physical characters they closely resemble the Kenyahs, being well-built and vigorous; their skin is of very light yellow colour, and their features are regular and well shaped. Mentally they are characterised by extreme shyness and timidity and reserve. They are quite inoffensive and never engage in open warfare; though they will avenge injuries by stealthy attacks on individuals with the blow-pipe and poisoned darts. Their only handicrafts are the making of baskets, mats, blow-pipes, and the implements used for working the wild sago; but in these and in the use of the blow-pipe they are very expert. All other manufactured articles used by them — cloths, swords, spears — are obtained by barter from the other peoples. Unlike all the other peoples, they have no form of sepulture, but simply leave the corpse of a comrade in the rude shelter in which he died. They sing and declaim rude melancholy songs or dirges with peculiar skill and striking effect. Their language is distinctive, but is apparently allied to the Kenyah and Klemantan tongues.

We propose to deal with the topics of each of our descriptive chapters by giving as full as possible an account of the Kayans, and adding to this some observations as to the principal diversities of custom and culture presented by the other peoples. For, if we should attempt to describe in detail each of these peoples with all their local diversities, this book would attain an inordinate length. The Kayans are in most respects the most homogeneous of these peoples, the most conservative and distinctive, and present perhaps the richest and most interesting body of belief and custom and art; while many of their customs and arts have been adopted by their neighbours, or are indigenous with them.

We may conclude this chapter by describing briefly in general terms the physical characters, and the habits and customs that are common to all or most of these pagan tribes.

These peoples present no very great differences of physical character. All are of medium height; their skin-colour ranges from a rich medium brown to a very pale CAFE-AU-LAIT, hardly deeper than the colour of cream. Their hair is nearly black or very dark brown, and generally quite lank, but in some cases wavy or even almost curly. Their faces show in nearly all cases, though in very diverse degrees, some of the well-known mongoloid characters, the wide cheek-bones, the small oblique eyes, the peculiar fold of the upper eyelid at its nasal end, and the scanty beard. In some individuals these traces are very slight and in fact not certainly perceptible. The nose varies greatly in shape, but is usually rather wide at the nostrils, and in very many cases the plane of the nostrils is tilted a little upwards and forwards. On the other hand some individuals, especially among the Kenyahs, have distinctly aquiline and well-formed noses. Amongst all these peoples, especially the Kenyahs, Punans, and Klemantans, there are to be seen a few individuals of very regular well-shaped features of European type.

Although as regards physical characters all these peoples have much in common, yet each of them presents peculiarities which are obvious to the eye of an experienced observer, and enable him without hesitation to assign to their proper groups the majority of individuals; and such recognition on mere inspection is of course rendered easier by the relatively slight peculiarities of dress and ornament proper to each group.

The pure-bred Kenyah presents, perhaps, the most clearly marked as well as the finest physical type. His skin, is the colour of rich cream with a very small dash of coffee. The hair of his head varies from slightly wavy to curly, and is never very abundant or long in the men. The rest of his body is almost free from hair, and what little grows upon the face is carefully plucked out (not, leaving even the eyebrows and eyelashes). This practice is common to all the peoples of the interior except the Sea Dayaks. His stature is about 1600 mm.; his weight about 136 pounds. His limbs are distinctly short in proportion to his body; his trunk is well developed and square, and both limbs and trunk are well covered with rounded muscles. His movements are quick and vigorous, and he is hardy and capable of sustaining prolonged toil and hardship. His head is moderately round (Index 79), his face broad but well shaped. The expression of his face is bold and open.

The Kayan has a rather darker skin of a redder tone. His legs are not so disproportionately short, but in all other respects his body is less well proportioned, graceful, and active than the Kenyah’s. His features are less regular and rather coarser and heavier; his expression is serious, reserved, and cautious.

The Murut is nearly as fair skinned as the Kenyah, perhaps a little ruddier in tone. His most characteristic feature is the length of his leg and lack of calf, in both of which respects he contrasts strongly with the Kenyah. The length of his leg raises his stature above the average. His intonation is characteristic, namely, somewhat whining; whereas the Kenyah’s speech is crisp and staccato.

The Klemantans present a greater variety of physical types, being a less homogeneous group. Roughly they may be said to present all transitions from the Kenyah to the Murut type. In the main they are less muscular and active than the Kenyah. It is amongst them that the upward and forward direction of the plane of the nostrils is most marked.

The Punan presents, again, a well-marked type. His skin is even fairer than the Kenyah’s, and is distinguished by a distinctly greenish tinge. He is well proportioned, graceful, and muscular, and his features are in many cases very regular and pleasing. His expression is habitually melancholy and strikingly wary and timid. In spite of his homeless nomadic life he generally appears well nourished and clean, and he seems less subject to sores and to the skin diseases which so often disfigure the other peoples, especially the Muruts, Kayans, and Sea Dayaks.[29]

All these peoples, with the exception of the Punans and similar nomads, live in village communities situated with few exceptions on the banks of the rivers. The populations of these villages vary from 20 or 30 persons only in the smallest, to 1500 or even more in a few of the largest; while the average village comprises about 30 families which, with a few slaves and dependants, make a community of some 200 to 300 persons. Each such community is presided over by a chief. A number of villages of one people are commonly grouped within easy reach of one another on the banks of a river. But no people exclusively occupies or claims exclusive possession of any one territory or waterway. With the exception of the Sea Dayaks, all these different peoples may here and there be found in closely adjoining villages; and in some rivers the villages of the different peoples are freely intermingled over considerable areas. The segregation of the Sea Dayak villages seems to be due to the truculent treacherous nature of the Sea Dayak, which renders him obnoxious as a neighbour to the other peoples, and leads him to feel the need of the support of his own people in large numbers. All find their principal support and occupation in the cultivation of PADI (rice), and all supplement this with the breeding of a few pigs and fowls and, in the north of the island, buffalo, with hunting and fishing, and with the collection of jungle produce — gutta-percha, rubber, rattan canes, camphor, sago. These jungle products they barter or sell for cash to the Malay and Chinese traders.

They have no written records, and but vague traditions of their past history and migrations. There is no political organisation beyond a loose coherence and alliance for defence and offence of the village communities of any one people in neighbouring parts of the country — a coherence which at times is greatly strengthened by the personal ascendency of the chief of some one village over neighbouring chiefs. One of the most notable examples of such personal ascendency exercised in recent times was that of Tama Bulan (Pl. 27), a Kenyah chief whose village was situated on one of the tributaries of the Baram river, and who by his loyal co-operation with the government of the Rajah of Sarawak greatly facilitated the rapid establishment of law and order in this district.

Except for these informal alliances obtaining between neighbouring villages of the people of any one stock, each village forms an independent community, ruled by its chief, making war and peace and alliances, and selecting patches of land for cultivation at its own pleasure. No village community remains on the same spot for any long period; but after fifteen, ten, or even fewer years, a new site is sought, often at a considerable distance, and a new village is built. The principal reasons for this habit of frequent migration, which has produced the intimate mingling throughout large areas of the peoples of different stocks, are two: first, the necessity of finding virgin soil for cultivation; secondly, the occurrence of epidemics or other calamities; these lead them to believe that the place of their abode supplies in insufficient degree the favouring spiritual influences which they regard as essential to their welfare. For among all these peoples animistic beliefs abound; they hold themselves to be surrounded on every hand by spiritual forces both good and bad, some of which are embodied in the wild creatures, especially the birds, while some are manifested in such natural processes as the growth of the corn, the rising of the river in flood, the rolling of thunder, the incidence of disease. And they are constantly concerned to keep at a distance, by the observance of many rigidly prescribed customs, the evil influences, and, to a less degree, to secure by propitiatory acts the protection and the friendly warnings of the beneficent powers.

One of the most peculiar features of the people of Borneo is the great diversity of language obtaining among them. The migratory habits of the people and the consequent mingling of communities of different stocks within the same areas, far from having resulted in the genesis by fusion of a common language, have resulted in the formation of a great number of very distinct dialects; so that in following the course of a river, one may sometimes find in a day’s journey of a score of miles half a dozen or more villages, the people of each of which speak a dialect almost, or in some cases quite, unintelligible to their neighbours. A necessary consequence of this state of affairs is that, with the exception of the Sea Dayaks, almost all adults speak or at least understand two or more dialects or languages, while most of the chiefs and leading men speak several dialects fluently and partially understand a larger number. The language most widely understood by those to whom it is not native is the Kayan; but since the recent spread of trade through large areas under the protection of the European governments, a simplified form of the Malay language has been rapidly establishing itself as the LINGUA FRANCA of the whole country. In Sarawak, where, during the last fifty years, the Sea Dayaks have spread from the Batang Lupar district and have established villages on all the principal rivers, their language, which seems to be a bastard and very simple branch of the Malay tongue, is very widely understood and is largely used as a common medium.

Note on the use of the term KLEMANTAN. The Malay name for Borneo is Pulu Klemantan, and we have adopted this name to denote the large group of allied tribes which in our opinion have the best claim to be regarded as representing the indigenous population of the island.


Material Conditions of the Pagan Tribes of Borneo

With few exceptions, the main features of the dress, adornment, and weapons of all the peoples are similar, showing only minor differences from tribe to tribe and from place to place. The essential and universal article of male attire is the waist-cloth, a strip of cloth about one yard wide and four to eight yards in length (see Frontispiece). Formerly this was made of bark-cloth; but now the cotton-cloth obtained from the Chinese and Malay traders has largely superseded the native bark-cloth, except in the remoter regions; and here and there a well-to-do man may be seen wearing a cloth of more expensive stuff, sometimes even of silk. One end of such a cloth is passed between the legs from behind forwards, about eighteen inches being left dependent; the rest of it is then passed several times round the waist, over the end brought up on to the belly, and the other end is tucked in at the back. The man wears in addition when out of doors a coat of bark-cloth or white cotton stuff,[30] and a wide sun-hat of palm leaves, in shape like a mushroom-top or an inverted and very shallow basin, which shelters him from both sun and rain; many wear also a small oblong mat plaited of rattan-strips hanging behind from a cord passed round the waist, and serving as a seat when the wearer sits down. At home the man wears nothing more than the waist-cloth, save some narrow plaited bands of palm fibre below the knee, and, in most cases, some adornment in the ears or about the neck and on the arms.[31] The man’s hair is allowed to grow long on the crown of the scalp, and to hang freely over the back of the neck, in some cases reaching as far as the middle of the back. This long hair is never plaited, but is sometimes screwed up in a knot on the top of the head and fastened with a skewer. The latter mode of wearing the hair is the rule among the Muruts, who use elaborately carved and decorated hairpins of bone (the shin bone of the deer, Fig. 1). That part of the hair of the crown which naturally falls forwards is cut to form a straight fringe across the forehead. All the rest of the head is kept shaven, except at times of mourning for the death of relatives.

When in the house the man commonly wears on his head a band of plaited rattan, which varies from a mere band around the brows to a completed skull-cap. The free ends of the rattan strips are generally allowed to project, forming a dependent tassel or fringe (Pl. 21). A well-to-do Kayan man usually wears a necklace consisting of a single string of beads, which in many cases are old and of considerable value (Pls. 19 and 28). Every Kayan has the shell of the ear perforated, and when fully dressed wears, thrust forward through the hole in each shell, the big upper canine tooth of the tiger-cat; but he is not entitled to wear these until he has been on the warpath. Those who have taken a head or otherwise distinguished themselves in war may wear, instead of the teeth, pieces of similar shape carved from the solid beak of the helmeted hornbill. The youths who have not qualified themselves for these adornments, and warriors during mourning, usually wear a disc of wood or wax in their places (Pls. 19 and 21).

The lobe of the ear is perforated and distended to a loop some two inches in length, in which a brass ring is worn. Just above this loop a small hole through the shell is usually made, and from this a small skein of beads depends. Similar ear ornaments are worn by Kenyahs and some of the Klemantans, but not by Muruts, and by few individuals only among Punans and Sea Dayaks. Many of the latter wear a row of small brass rings inserted round the margin of the shell of each ear (Fig. 2).

Many of the men wear also bracelets of shell or hard wood.

Although the dress of the men is so uniform in essentials throughout the country, it gives considerable scope for the display of personal tastes, and the Sea Dayak especially delights in winding many yards of brilliantly coloured cloth about his waist, in brilliant coats and gorgeous turbans[32] and feathers, and other ornaments; by means of these he manages to make himself appear as a very dressy person in comparison with the sober Kayan and with most of the people of the remoter inland regions, who have little but scanty strips of bark-cloth about the loins.

The universal weapons of the country are sword and spear, and no man travels far from home without these and his oblong wooden shield. Some of the peoples are expert in the use of the blowpipe and poisoned dart. The blow-pipe and the recently introduced firearms are the only missile weapons; the bow is unknown save as a plaything for children,[33] and possibly in a few localities in the extreme north.[34]

The dress of the women is less uniform than that of the men. The Sea Dayak woman (Pls. 29 and 30) wears a short skirt of cotton thread woven in curious patterns of several colours, reaching from the waist almost to the knee; a long-sleeved jacket of the same material, and a corset consisting of many rings of rattan built up one above another to enclose the body from breast to thigh. Each rattan ring is sheathed in small rings of beaten brass. The corset is made to open partially or completely down the front, but is often worn continuously for long periods. She wears her hair tied in a knot at the back of her head.

The principal garment of the women of all the other peoples is a skirt of bark or cotton cloth, which is tied by a string a little below the level of the crest of the hip bone; it reaches almost to the ankle, but is open at the left side along its whole depth. It is thus a large apron rather than a skirt. When the woman is at work in the house or elsewhere, she tucks up the apron by drawing the front flap backwards between her legs, and tucking it tightly into the band behind, thus reducing it to the proportions and appearance of a small pair of bathing-drawers. Each woman possesses also a long-sleeved, long-bodied jacket of white cotton similar to that worn by the men; this coat is generally worn by both sexes when working in the fields or travelling in boats, chiefly as a protection against the rays of the sun. The women wear also a large mushroom-shaped hat similar to that worn by the men. With few exceptions all the women allow the hair to grow uncut and to fall naturally from the ridge of the cranium, confined only by a circular band of rattan or beadwork passing over the occiput and just above the eyebrows.

The principal ornaments of the women are necklaces and girdles of beads, earrings, and bracelets. A well-to-do Kayan woman may wear a large number of valuable beads (see Pls. 28 and 31). The bracelets are of ivory, and both forearms are sometimes completely sheathed in series of such bracelets. The ear-rings are the most distinctive feature of the Kayan woman’s adornment. The perforated lobes of the ears are gradually drawn down during childhood and youth, until each lobe forms a slender loop which reaches to the collar-bone, or lower. Each loop bears several massive rings of copper (Pl. 20), whose combined weight is in some cases as much as two pounds.[35] Most of the Kenyah women also wear similar earrings, but these are usually lighter and more numerous, and the lobe is not so much distended. The women of many of the Klemantan tribes wear a large wooden disc in the distended lobe of each ear, and those of other Klemantan tribes wear a smaller wooden plug with a boss (Pl. 32). The children run naked up to the age of six or seven years, when they are dressed in the fashion of their parents.

On festive occasions both men and women put on as many of their ornaments as can be conveniently worn.

Deformation of the Head

Some of the Malanaus, a partially Mohammedan tribe of Klemantans, seated about the mouths of the Muka, Oya, and Bintulu rivers of Sarawak, have the curious custom of flattening the heads of the infants, chiefly the females. The flattening is effected at an early age, the process beginning generally within the first month after birth. It consists in applying pressure to the head by means of a simple apparatus for some fifteen minutes, more or less, on successive days, or at rather longer intervals. The application of the pressure for this brief space of time, on some ten to twenty occasions, seems to suffice to bring about the desired effect. The pressure is applied while the child sleeps, and is at once relaxed if the child wakes or cries. The apparatus, known as TADAL (see Fig. 3), consists of a stout flat bar of wood, some nine inches in length and three wide in its middle part. This wider middle part bears on one surface a soft pad for application to the infant’s forehead. A [inverted T] strap of soft cloth is attached by its upper extremity to the middle of the upper edge of the wooden bar; and each end of its horizontal strip is continued by a pair of strings which pass through holes in the ends of the bar. The strings are brought together on the front of the bar at its middle and passed through the centre of a copper coin[36] or other hard disc. The bar is applied transversely to the forehead of the infant; the vertical strap runs back over the sagittal suture; the transverse strap is drawn tightly across the occiput, and the required degree of pressure is gradually applied by twisting the coin round and round on the front of the bar, and so pulling upon the strings which connect the ends of the bar on the forehead with the ends of the strap across the occiput (Pl. 33).

The effect produced is of course a flattening of brow and occiput and a broadening of the whole head. The motive seems to be the desire to enhance the beauty of the child by ensuring to it a moon-like face, which is the most admired form. The Malanaus seem to be by nature peculiarly round-headed; the question whether this is due to the effects of head-flattening practised for many generations, must be left to the investigations of the Neo-Lamarckians. They are also a peculiarly handsome people, and it seems more likely that, taking a pride in their good looks, they have, like so many other peoples, sought to enhance the beauty of their children by accentuating a racial peculiarity.


All the tribes except the Punans build houses of one type; but the size and proportions, the strength of the materials used, and the skill and care displayed in the work of construction, show wide differences. The houses of the Kayans are perhaps better and more solidly built than any others and may be taken as the type. Each house is built to accommodate many families; an average house may contain some forty to fifty, making up with children and slaves some two or three hundred persons; while some of the larger houses are built for as many as a hundred and twenty families, or some five to six hundred persons. The house is always close to a river, and it usually stands on the bank at a distance of 20 to 50 yards from the water, its length lying parallel to the course of the river. The plan of the house is a rectangle, of which the length generally much exceeds the width (Pl. 34).

Its roof is always a simple ridge extending the whole length of the house, and is made of shingles of BILIAN (ironwood) or other hard and durable kind of wood. The framework of the roof is supported at a height of some 25 to 30 feet from the ground on massive piles of ironwood, and the floor is supported by the same piles at a level some 7 or 8 feet below the cross-beams of the roof. The floor consists of cross-beams morticed to the piles, and of very large planks of hard wood laid upon them parallel to the length of the house. The projecting eaves of the roof come down to a level midway between that of the roof-beams and that of the floor, and the interval of some 4 to 5 feet between the eaves and the floor remains open along the whole length of the front of the house (I.E. the side facing the river), save for a low parapet which bounds the floor along its outer edge. This space serves to admit both light and air, and affords an easy view over the river to those sitting in the house. The length of the house is in some cases as much as 400 yards, but the average length is probably about 200 yards. The width of the floor varies from about 30 to 60 feet; the whole space between roof and floor is divided into two parts by a longitudinal wall of vertical planks, which runs the whole length of the house. This wall lies not quite in the middle line, but a little to the river side of it. Of the two longitudinal divisions of the house, that which adjoins the river is thus somewhat narrower than the other; it remains undivided in its whole length. The other and wider part is divided by transverse walls at intervals of some 25 or 30 feet, so as to form a single row of spacious chambers of approximately equal size. Each such chamber is the private apartment of one family; in it father, mother, daughters, young sons and female slaves, sleep and eat (Pl. 37). Within each chamber are usually several sleeping-places or alcoves more or less completely screened or walled off from the central space. The chamber contains a fireplace, generally merely a slab of clay in a wooden framework placed near the centre. The outside wall of this side of the house is carried up to meet the roof. The entrance of light and air and the egress of smoke are provided for by the elevation on a prop of one corner of a square section of the roof, marked out by a right-angled cut, of which one limb runs parallel to the outer wall, the other upwards from one extremity of the former. This aperture can be easily closed, E.G. during heavy rain, by removing the prop and allowing the flap to fall into its original position.

The front part of the house, which remains undivided, forms a single long gallery serving as a common antechamber to all the private rooms, each of which opens to it by a wooden door (Pls. 36, 38). It is in a sense, though roofed and raised some 20 feet above the ground, the village street, as well as a common living and reception room. Along the outer border of the floor runs a low platform on which the inmates sit on mats. One part of this, usually that opposite the chief’s apartment in the middle of the house, is formed of several large slabs of hardwood (TAPANG or Koompassia), and is specially reserved for the reception of guests and for formal meetings. The platform is interrupted here and there by smaller platforms raised some 3 or 4 feet from the floor, which are the sleeping quarters assigned to the bachelors and male visitors. At intervals of some 30 or 40 feet throughout the gallery are fireplaces similar to those in the private chambers; on some of these fire constantly smoulders.

Over one of these fireplaces, generally one near the middle of