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CHAPTER 3

THE HISTORY
OF
ANCIENT BRUNEI

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“Oh mankind! We have created you from a 
male and female, and made you into nations 
and tribes, that you may know one another. 
Verily, the most honourable of you in the sight 
of Allah is that (believer) who has at­Taqwa 
[i.e. one of the muttaqun: i.e. pious and 
righteous persons who fear Allah much 
(abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds 
which He has ordained)]. Verily, Allah is 
All­Knowing, All­Aware”

Surah Al­Hujarat verse 13
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OFF
THE ANCIENT PEOPLE OF BORNEO

Where did the ancient people of Borneo live a long time ago?

They lived in small villages.

What does the word ‘tribe’ refer to?

A group of people who are usually
related to one another and who have a
common language and culture.

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STONE AGE INSCRIPTIONS
TOOLS ARABIC
SANSKRIT

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

HINDU AND CHINESE
BUDDHIST ARCHIVAL
STATUES RECORDS
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PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE USE
OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

Difficult to work out what the information means.
For example, the records in the Chinese archives
made references to areas in the northwest coast of
Borneo.

Different names were also found, such as:

YE-PO-TI, PO-LO-CHUNG,
P’O-LI OR PO-NI

which may refer to the same place.
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PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE USE
OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

Different meanings to the words:

BORNEO
BRUNEI
To some historians: Brunei was referred to as the whole island.

To the Europeans: Brunei was referred to as Borneo.

TODAY : Borneo is referred to as the whole island and
Brunei is a small part of Borneo.

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Old Map of Borneo

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Map of the island of Borneo today

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A Dutch’s description
Admiral von
Noort’s Report in
December 1600

Difficult to make out the
meanings as well as the
description

Although the task of gathering information is difficult,
historians and archaeologists have managed to find different
sources.
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WRITTEN RECORDS OF OTHER COUNTRIES

Since the first few centuries A.D., there was evidence
to show the presence of trade in the northwest coast of
Brunei with:

 Traders from countries in Southeast Asia.

Foreigners especially from China and India.

Chinese traders in the 6th century mentioned a place
found in the northwest of Borneo as P’o-li.

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VIJAYAPURA

Historical evidence showed that Vijayapura was the first Brunei
kingdom.

Evidence was obtained from historical records from the
Chinese and Indian traders who visited the ports.

Main activity was in trade.

Traded in camphor.
It was the main export.

Also exported forest products. Camphor trees and flowers

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OFF
HISTORY OF VIJAYAPURA

Records obtained from accounts written by the Chinese
and Arabs in the 7th century.

It was founded by members of the royal family of the
Funan empire.

The royal family escaped Funan during the attack on Funan
by the Chenlas.
Believed to have landed on the northwest coast of Borneo.

Captured P’o-li and changed its name to Vijayapura, which
means victory.
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OFF
HISTORY OF VIJAYAPURA
The Chinese referred to Vijayapura as
FO-SHIH-PU-LO.

The Arab traders named it SRIBUZA.

During the 7th century, Vijayapura thrived on the sea-borne trade.

It also extended its control over the

 Coastal areas of northern Borneo.
 Coastal parts of the islands off the northern most coast of
Borneo (present day Phillipines).
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OFF
PO-NI
In 977 A.D., the Chinese reported the use of the name Po-ni
instead of Vijayapura to refer to the Brunei kingdom.

Po-ni was located on Brunei bay.

People practised Hinduism and Buddhism.

Po-ni was a trading empire which exported good quality
camphor.

A thriving port with a navy made up of nobles and whose
sailors were Orang lauts. (Sea nomads)

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REPORT ON PO-NI BY CHUA JU-KUA

Po-ni had more than 100 warships
to protect its trade.

Po-ni’s king was carried in a litter
(usongan in Bahasa Melayu)
when he went outside his palace.

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OFF
CHINESE REPORT ON PO-NI IN 1280

PO-NI was
controlling large
parts of Borneo
Islands.
(Present Day
SABAH and
SARAWAK)

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OFF
END OF PO-NI

Became a vassal state of the Majapahit empire around
1365.
Had to pay an annual tribute of 40 katis of camphor.

In 1369:
- Capital was attacked by Sulus.
- Gold and treasures were looted.
- Majapahit came to assist Po-ni.
- Po-ni became weak after the attack by
the Sulus.

There was a lot of gold in the kingdom.
Gold threads were sewn into cloth.
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END OF PO-NI

A Chinese Report which was dated in1371, described Po-Ni as
weak and poor.

It was totally controlled by the Majapahit Empire.

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A Chinese description of Po-ni in A.D. 1371

The country of Po-ni is hot and torrid with frequent storms.
The town has no outer wall, and its defence is effected by a fence
of tree poles… The king… goes barefooted. He has no horse or
sedan chair and goes about on foot...

… They have no proper dishes or cups and eat out of vessels made
of pei-to leaves woven together… They also have no pens or paper,
and write by engraving with knives on pei-to leaves.

There is no sign of the gold and wealth
mentioned by Chua Ju-kua in 1225.

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END OF PO-NI AND THE
FIRST SULTAN OF BRUNEI

The SULUS came to Po-ni in these kinds of boats to raid its
gold and treasures in 1365

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END OF PO-NI AND THE FIRST SULTAN
OF BRUNEI

The first ruler of Po-ni was Ma-Ha-Mo-Sha.
(From the Chinese records)

Historians believed that this was Awang Alak Betatar who took
a Muslim name Sultan Muhammad Shah and became the
First Muslim ruler of Brunei.

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FROM THE CHINESE REPORTS,
IT WAS NOTED THAT
 Muhammad Shah maintained friendly relations with China.

 Po-ni was a vassal state of the Majapahit empire until 1389 when
the ruler, Hayam Wuruk, passed away and the Majapahit empire
also declined.

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The Founding of Brunei
1. Long ago in Garang, a place in the 2. One day, Awang Alak Betatar called his
Temburong district, lived Awang Alak Betatar brothers for a meeting.
and his thirteen brothers. Awang Alak
Betatar was chosen by his brothers as their
leader because of his intelligence.

“We have stayed in Garang for years now,”
Awang Alak Betatar said. “How would you
feel if we were to find a new place to live,
brothers?”
His brothers agreed that this would be a
good idea.
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OFF
The Founding of Brunei
3. A week later, Awang Alak Betatar’s 4. Pateh Berbai and his brothers went
brothers, led by Pateh Berbai, began back to Garang to tell Awang Alak
their search. They landed at a site Betatar the good news. A conference
called Butir on the Brunei river. was then held and Awang Alak Betatar
agreed to his brothers’ suggestion.
Of all the places that we have been to, Butir
is the most suitable for a settlement. It is
flanked by hills with ample water supply
and the river is abundant with fish. I think
Brother Awang Alak Betatar will like it too.

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OFF
The Founding of Brunei
5. Weeks later, Awang Alak Betatar and 6. Each of Awang Alak Betatar’s
his brothers sailed together with their brothers set up his own house. Soon,
followers to establish the new more and more people came to settle
settlement which was to become Brunei there and Awang Alak Betatar became
Town. the first ruler of Brunei.

When they arrived, they began clearing
the bushes and cleaning the area.

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OFF
OTHER ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINGS

Arab and Chinese archival records.

Archaeological findings made in Brunei in Kota Batu.

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Chinese records
Brunei referred to as Po-Ni
Country of lasting tranquility

How did Brunei
get its name?

Arabian records
Darussalam
Abode of peace
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ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINGS

Remains of a trading settlement matching Arab
descriptions of Sribuza at Kota Baru.
Described as a city with houses floating on rafts at the
edge of a great bay fed by a river.
Evidence of Po-ni’s trade found such as:
Chinese pottery and coins at Muara
 Ceramics from Siam and China in Lumut

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HISTORICAL SOURCE OF BRUNEI
Syair Awang Semaun

Epic stories on the founding of Brunei

Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei

A record of the Sultans
of Brunei after Brunei
accepted Islam.

BATU TERSILAH 29
CHINESE RECORDS

HISTORY
OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL
ARAB RECORDS ANCIENT FINDINGS
BRUNEI

HISTORICAL SOURCES
OF BRUNEI

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