Recounting the Memories of the Past

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Amoy, China

The present name for Amoy in China is Xiamen, a major city on the southeast coast of the People’s Republic of China. It is administered as a sub-provincial city of Fujian province with an area of 1573 square kilometres and population of 3.53 million. Xiamen and the surrounding southern Fujian countryside are the ancestral home to large communities of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Today, Xiamen is known in China as a prosperous and clean city with a pleasant subtropical seaside climate.

Xiamen is located along the coast of Southeast China opposite to Taiwan

Historically Amoy was mentioned in Thomas Forrest’s book called A Voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas, 1774-1776 as he highlighted the place an important port where Chinese Junks came from when 4 or 5 junks arrived annually to Brunei Town. The Chinese Junks came to Brunei simply for trade and their main pursuit of goods were the blackwood. I quote, ‘They (Chinese Junks) carry to China great quantities of blackwood, which is worked up there into furniture…’ In fact blackwood was also used to build more junks in China. Of course the Chinese Junks carried loads of goods for them to sell to Bruneians amongst them were ceramics and silk.


Illanun – the fiercest pirates in the Malay world?

As cited in the wikipedia, for centuries the Illanun was regarded as the fiercest pirates in the Malay world. It is thought that the Malay word for pirate, ‘lanun’, derives from the word ‘Illanun’. Originally from the area around Lake Lanao in Southern Mindanao, Illanun colonies spread from Sumatra through the Sulu Archipelago and the east coast of Borneo. Most Illanun are Muslim.

Illanun was probably the local pirates mentioned in the textbook who destroyed trading post of EIC in Balambangan. WH Treacher (first governor of North Borneo) also cited Borneo was full of pirates and headhunters – namely Illanun and Sea Dayaks. So it could be true Illanun or amongst others involved in the attack of Balambangan probably due to feeling of insecurity for the British success thus the British left to find a safer trading place (i.e. Labuan) offered by Brunei in exchange of protection against Sulu.

In addition, Illanun was also happened to be known as the Lords of the Eastern Seas. They were slave raiders who made a living by trading and capturing slaves whenever they were on seas. They would sell these slaves to cave owners to work in birds’ nest caves and to entrepreneurs to collect jungle produce in what is now known as Sabah and Sarawak.

An Illanun pirate


An Illanun warship. Upward to 100 feet long, it was paddled by more than 190 men. Illanuns were accomplished ship builders and sea mens.


EIC stands for East India Company and to be clear NOT English India Company even though it was also known as English East India Company just to separate the Dutch East India Company.

According to wikipedia it was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies (Malay Archipelago amongst others) but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China.

In the textbook it mentioned how EIC was offered the island of Labuan since they needed a safe place for anchorage and new trading post in Borneo by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien I in exchange of protection against Sulu. It did not take long before they left Labuan due to lack of profits and outbreak of Malaria (Early Labuan was filled with marshy ground and jungle). Hence, trading operation was still under the control of the Sultan Not until in 1846 when James Brooke became the first Governor of Labuan.

Company flag after 1801


According to wikipedia, absolutism refers to a form of monarchical power that is unrestrained by any other institutions. TheFreeDictionary by Farlex, on the other hand, defines the word as a form of government in which all power is vested in a single ruler or other authority.

In Brunei situation, the Sultan’s government is considered to be an absolute one because there is no other institution or political body that can challenge or even question him. Afterall he is the head of state and Islam. Having said that the establishment of legislative council helps to voice out opinions and issues concerning certain matters of the State . This government system has been practiced over many centuries ago and continued to be strong unlike those in other parts of the world or even our neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Brunei’s past wealth – Pepper!

It is quite interesting to know that Brunei’s past wealth was pepper. I read that from this general info relating to Brunei’s history that Brunei’s past wealth was not only gold and camphor (commonly cited in many texts and even textbook) but also PEPPER. Here is the link http://www.marimari.com/content/brunei/general_info/history.html .

In the textbook page 45 it mentioned the reason why John Jesse came to Brunei in 1774 was because of pepper. His job was to buy pepper from the Chinese gardeners along the Brunei River. According to Graham Saunders in his book A History of Brunei, John Jesse was sent to Brunei to make a treaty in which the East India Company’s protection was promised in return for a monopoly of the pepper cultivated in Brunei. This shows that pepper was seen as a valuable goods for the European, Brunei was still a commercial centre even though loss its territories in the north Borneo and that the cultivation of pepper in Brunei (grown by the Chinese garderners who also supplied junk trade) was probably favourable, accessible and in ‘huge’ quantities. This could have been true that historically, pepper was not only used for flavour in food or even medicine in Brunei but also as a mark of territories controlled by Brunei (as practised by Sultan Bolkiah).

Nowadays the cultivation pepper can hardly be seen in Brunei especially along the Brunei River. Possibly the abandonment of growing this crop was due to the problems associated with pests, diseases and drought.

Suffice to say that pepper is not a major contribution of wealth nowadays unlike in the past golden era’s of Sultan Bolkiah. While oil is now our king contributor of wealth, hopefully it will last long and other alternatives of generating wealth will come to surface in this modern and yet unpredictable times.

Upcoming Test on The Civil War

A gentle reminder to all history students,

There will be a short MCQ test (15 minutes) on the Brunei’s Civil War next week and this test will be included for the third term assessment. The date and class for the abovementioned test are as follow:

7E – Wednesday 27/7/11

7T- Monday 25/7/11

7R- Saturday 30/7/11

7U- Tuesday 26/7/11

7L- Saturday 30/7/11

To do well for this test, these essential questions below will give you an exact picture of what to expect for the test.

Broad questions

What were the causes of the Civil War?

What were the effects of the Civil War?

Specific questions

When did the War start and end?

Why did Pengiran Muda Bungsu killed the son of Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Mubin?

Who ruled Brunei between 1660 and 1661 and was known as Marhum Tumbang Di Rumput?

Who was the new Bendahara when Pengiran Abdul Mubin made himself as the Sultan? What was the reason behind this appointment?

Where did Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin moved to when there was a chaos in the old capital of Brunei?

Why was the Sultan of Sulu willing to help Sultan Muhyiddin defeat Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin?



Alexander Dalrymple

According to wikipedia Dalrymple (refer to textbook page 45) was born at New Hailes near Edinburgh (scotland) the seventh of sixteenth children (wowzer! a huge family indeed) of Sir James Dalrymple and his wife the daughter of the Earl of Haddington (seems very influential). He went to London in 1752 and was appointed a writer in the British East India Company, being first posted to Madras (India). While with the EIC he became interested in the possibilities of trade with the East Indies (India, the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines) and China and subsequently negotiated a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu and visited Canton at the age of only 22 (young and daring i would say).

The last sentence is consistent to the textbook whereby near the end of the 18th century, a British trader named Alexander Dalrymple made an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu to allow the British to use part of the coast of North Borneo and some nearby islands for their trade. In other words, the British wanted to gain full advantage of trade (spices, jungle products and exotic ones such as tortoise shells) by having a base (or station to dock their ships for loading goods and maintenance) close enough to the SPICE ISLANDS, BORNEO and THE PHILIPPINES. Apparently, they also made clear signal to other Europeans such as the Dutch and Spanish of their trading motives and gradual influence in Asia.  The only problem that British have to face was disturbances from the PIRATES!

Below is a potrait of Alexander Dalrymple

Sultan Muhyiddin

Hi readers and History students,

Sultan Muhyiddin was the 14th Sultan of Brunei and proclaimed himself as the Sultan when Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin left Kota Batu to Pulau Chermin. Civil War happened and he sought help from Sultan Sulu to defeat Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin. In the end, Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin was killed and he ruled Brunei from 1673-1690.

During his reign, he was known for his wisdom, strength and capabilities of uniting the people after the war. In fact he also ordered the issue of Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei to justify him as the rightful Sultan from the family of Sultan Muhammad Ali. Brunei’s borders at that time were the Sambas River in the West and Sibuku River in the East. In 1690 he died and was known as ‘Marhum Bungsu’.

Here is a picture of Sultan Muhyiddin’s tombstone at Tanah Perkuburan Islam Tarap Besar, BSB.

The Civil War

Hello readers, I have found 3 series video on The Civil War done by UBD students.The drawback is that it’s in Malay but anyway take a look.