A Very Rough Guide To BROGA

by Eric Lim

Photo source : Bumi Satu Kampung Dalam 2 Negeri – i Kampung Baru . Imbasan Sejarah Kampung Baru Cina Selangor – Published by Jawatankuasa Tetap Pembangunan Kampung Baru Kerajaan Selangor -First edition 2012 – pp 158 – 159

Introduction

The little town of Broga is like a game of soccer, played in two halves. It is uniquely located within two states – one side is within the mukim of Semenyih, Hulu Langat,  in Selangor and the other, falls under the mukim of Lenggeng, Seremban, Negri Sembilan (coordinates 2°56′14″N 101°54′40″E). A border agreement was administered during British administration (more details further down).

To differentiate between the two, the Selangor side is called Tarun Broga. Incidentally, there is a Kampung Tarun on the outskirts of Broga town at the Negri Sembilan side. Similar to many towns in the former Federated Malay States, Broga developed because of tin mining; subsequently rubber was cultivated and, later, farming activities were predominant. Today, it is a popular eco and agro tourism destination.

History

There are many versions as to how the name Broga came about. At the top on the list: it came from the word buragas, the name of an ancient mystical beast that lived in the surrounding forest. When tin was discovered, the area became berharga (‘precious’ in Malay). This was corrupted to ‘Beroga’ and subsequently, it became ‘Broga’. To the Orang Asli community, broga is the name of a bird that lives on top of the hill. It was also believed that Broga was the name of the river that flows through the area.

In the modern context, in America, the word broga is increasingly getting popular! The word combines ‘brother’ (Bro) and ‘yoga’ (Ga), the name of a new form of exercise regime particularly for men that combines fitness exercises with traditional yoga postures. The roles are now reversed, Broga (the exercise that is) is so popular that now women are queuing up to join the men in doing it. A check on the local scene, Broga the exercise, is still not available in Malaysia.

The town started as early as 1851 with the arrival of a group of Hakka immigrants from the neighbouring Jelebu district. Broga was under the jurisdiction of Sungai Ujong until 1883. In this year, the Selangor and Negeri Sembilan state boundaries were redrawn Lukut district in Selangor was exchanged for the Ulu Semenyih district, which also included Beranang and Broga. Lukut was among the earliest and tin producing areas in our country from 1830 to 1860 while Ulu Semenyih, at the time, was covered with virgin jungle and sparsely populated.

Towkay Goh Ah Ngee / Photo source : Parish History, Church of the Holy Family Kajang

Towkay Goh Ah Ngee was the person credited for the start of tin mining in the district of Ulu Semenyih. Towkay Goh started as a businessman and contractor, and later put his faith in tin mining. He was successful in his first ventures at Rawang and Serendah in the 1880’s. He then moved to the Broga district and he was again successful in opening up a highly profitable mine. To reach his mine, he made an extension of a branch cart road from Semenyih and it was to be the very first road to Broga. Unlike many of his peers, Goh Ah Ngee was a Catholic convert. One of the important innovations that he brought to the mining industry was direct employment of labour. When British Resident W.H. Treacher made a tour of the area, he reported that it was a Chinese Catholic Settlement. Goh Ah Ngee later moved to Kajang to embark on coffee planting. He left the operation of the mines in Broga in the hands of his son-in-law, Lai Tet Loke. Tin mining activities in Broga continued into the early 20th century and saw the introduction of tin dredges in the area. The remnants of that era can be seen in the name of an existing road in the area aptly called Jalan Kampung Kapal.

The early 20th century, as in many places in Western Peninsula, saw the emergence of rubber as the main crop and the people of Broga switched to rubber cultivation. It continued until today albeit on a much smaller scale.

During the Malayan Emergency, a total of 993 residents in and around Broga were rounded up and resettled at the Broga New Village under the Briggs Plan in 1950. Three years later, 850 of them tried to escape from the village perimeter but all of them were arrested and remanded for ten days. In 1954, a Chinese primary school (today SJK (C) Kampung Baru Broga) was established within the new village and it started with an enrolment of 150 pupils. Earlier, it was believed that a Chinese school was set up in 1902 but it has ceased to exist.

The ‘A history of Malaysia – Sino interactions’ exhibition held in 2019 revealed an interesting discovery in Broga. This was a Chinese patriotic song entitled ‘Song of a new-born Malaya’, a song about the deep feeling of love and longing of the Chinese community for their motherland and, at the same time, their earnest hopes and aspirations for the new nation of Malaya. The song was adopted by the Chinese community in Broga in the middle of the 1950s.

Photo source : A History of Malaysia – Sino Interactions exhibition

Moving forward to 2002, sleepy Broga was thrust into the limelight when it was named the new site for the RM 1.5 billion thermal incinerator project, which was relocated from Kampung Bohol, Puchong. The proposed site was on state land adjacent to the Sungai Lalang Forest Reserve, at the foothills of the Main Range. The proponent of the project was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and Ebara Corporation, a Japanese waste management company, to build the incinerator. Upon completion, it would be the largest waste incinerator in Asia with the capability to incinerate 1,500 tonnes of rubbish a day. Broga-born Alice Lee Yoke Kim and some of the town folks immediately rose to protest the project amidst worries about pollution risks, disposal of toxin incinerator ash and they expressed concerns with the maintenance of the incinerator. They took the Government to court in 2003 and fought tooth and nail for four years until finally in July 2007, the court announced that the project was terminated. As a result, the Government had to pay RM 100 million as compensation to the equipment suppliers and contractors. The campaign to stop the Broga incinerator project (from 2002 to 2005) was recorded and made into a documentary entitled ‘Alice lives here’ by an independent production house, Reel Power Productions 2005.

Places of interest

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC)

Located along Jalan Broga (Selangor state road B34) which starts at the left turn off Federal Route 1 just after the town of Semenyih is the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) (1). It would have been ‘living next door to the waste incinerator’ had the project been given the go ahead. UNMC was established in 2000 and it is a partnership between the university, Boustead Holdings Berhad and YTL Corporation Berhad. It opened at Wisma MISC in Kuala Lumpur and in September 2005, it moved to the current multi-purpose built park campus. Occupying a 101 acres site, it was the first ever branch campus of a British university established outside the United Kingdom. Currently, UNMC has over 4500 students from more than 70 countries. University of Nottingham has another branch campus at Ningbo, Zhejiang Province in China.

Broga Hill / Bukit Broga

Just a short distance from UNMC is Broga Hill / Bukit Broga (2), a popular hiking destination. It is located at the edge of the Titiwangsa Range and at 400 metres (1312 feet) in altitude, it is rated as an easy hike, even for beginners. The actual name of Broga Hill is Bukit Lalang, which refers to the cogon grass that grows abundantly at the top of the hill in place of the missing trees. It has a unique appearance but it is proving to be the special feature of the hill as it provides an unobstructed and panoramic view of the land below. There are three peaks where visitors can hike up to for viewing but the first peak seems to be the crowd favourite. For those who want a challenge, they can continue hiking further 3.1 km to Gunung Tok Wan, which is 675 metres high and another 1.2 km to Puncak 18 at 809 metres high. Unlike the cogon grass at Broga Hill, these trails are surrounded by more familiar primary rainforest. The hill was given another boost when some scenes from a local hit movie ‘Ola bola’ were shot here.

Broga Hill / Photo source : https://paradisevalleybroga.com/en_US/

Broga Shi Na Du / Sak Dato Temple

Unlike the earlier sites, which are located on the Selangor side, this site is located in Negri Sembilan and it is listed on top of the ‘Must Do’ list when visiting Broga. The place is Broga Shi Na Du / Sak Dato Temple ( (武來岸玉封石哪督廟) (3). This temple is believed to be more than 150 years old. The name is closely connected with the Orang Asli community living in the neighbouring village. Aman was his name and he was a miner. As he had many Chinese friends, he had wanted to adopt a Chinese name and finally decided on the surname ‘Shi’ (stone in Mandarin) and he became known as Shi Man. During the Japanese Occupation, Japanese army had planned a mass killing of residents of Broga but the action was not carried out when a mystery person suddenly appeared on the scene. The residents believed that the mysterious person was none other than Shi Man. When he died, he was deified as Shi Na Du (in Mandarin) or Sak Dato (in Cantonese).

A new temple was established at the current site in 1970 to replace the first temple. It has undergone several upgrading works, including a suspension bridge, a koi pond, various statues including the twelve Chinese zodiac animals, pavilions, an herb garden, a cultural centre, benches and a tarred path around the temple and park. There is also a huge statue of Sun Wukong (Monkey King of the ‘A journey to the West’ fame), which made its way into the Malaysia Book of Records as the tallest statue of Sun Wukong in the country.

Not too long ago, Sak Dato Temple was a popular filming location especially for the shooting of Chinese New Year music videos. It also became a place for divining lucky numbers. The temple is one of the largest full-sized Datuk Kong temples in the country and it is setting the trend in the pattern and design for future development of Datuk Kong temples in the country with an eye on the promotion of the tourism industry.

Sak Dato Temple / Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/Broga.SDT/

Training Camps

With a back-to-nature setting surrounded by lush forest, Broga is an ideal place for the setting up of training camps. Just within 42 km or about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, it is a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. There are three main training camps that offer both on-site as well as off-site activities with various types of accommodations from VIP chalets, honeymoon deluxe chalets, deluxe rooms to dormitories. There are also multi-purpose halls, seminar rooms and food catering.

Outdoor Team Building Adventure Camp or OUTBAC Broga in short (4), located at Kampung Sri Broga is the training camp that is nearest to the town. Established in 2002, Outbac specialises in team building activities and caters to a wide range of clientele. Outbac is spread over an area of 6.5 acres and is an internationally accredited (NARTA certified) campsite in Malaysia.

Next is Excel Training and Country Resort (5) located at Kampung Kapal. This 18 acres camp is built by Dato Hj. Mohd Fadzilah Kamsah, prominent and renowned motivational and training speaker. Some of the facilities and activities provided by Excel are a swimming pool, open-air cafeteria, paintball park and fruit farm walkabout.

Last but not least is Paradise Valley (6), located at Jalan Tarun Broga. As the street name suggests, it is on the Selangor side of Broga. Apart from meetings and team building activities, it is a good location for church retreats, family gatherings and weddings and receptions. It also provides various day tour programmes like wall climbing, kayaking, abseiling, flying fox and obstacle courses. Its off-site activities include Broga Hill hiking, waterfall trekking and caving.

Paradise Valley / Photo source : https://paradisevalleybroga.com/en_US/

Eco and Agro Tourism

Located within walking distance to Sak Dato Temple is Broga Bliss Eco Garden (7).It is an ideal place for a family gathering, private event and a retreat and facilities include a pool, organic farm, BBQ pitch and kitchen. There is also a campsite. Interestingly, located close by to Broga Bliss is Doghouse Broga (8), a boutique hotel for pet dogs which features dog villas, outdoor and indoor play areas and a swimming pool. As an additional service (and additional cost, of course), Doghouse Broga also provides pet taxi, a pick-up and return service.

As for organic farms, there are Fireflies Organic Farm Broga(9) and Ladybird Organic Farm (10), both located along Jalan Broga. Both offer their produce for sale and conduct educational tours where visitors can experience organic vegetable farming, from seed sowing through harvesting. A Farm Agrotech (11) was formed in 2012 as an agricultural consultancy company and later included aquafarming into their repertoire when they started to grow Tor tambroides, or empurau in Malay, in captivity. Today, they offer a full range of services to aqua and agricultural companies.

(L) Fireflies Organic Farm Broga / Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/firefliesorganicfarmbroga/(R) Ladybird Organic Farm / Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/LadyBirdOrganicFarm/

Getting There

From Cheras, use the Cheras – Kajang Expressway (E7) and exit to Kajang town. At the main intersection (between Stadium Kajang on the right and Police Station on the left), turn left to join Jalan Semenyih (this is Federal Route 1). Go all the way to Semenyih town, and at the T-junction just after the town, look out for signs to University of Nottingham and Broga (state route B34) and turn left. The distance is 8.2 km or about 11 minutes drive from this junction to Broga town.

References

Bumi Satu Kampung Dalam 2 Negeri – i Kampung Baru . Imbasan Sejarah Kampung Baru Cina Selangor – Published by Jawatankuasa Tetap Pembangunan Kampung Baru Kerajaan Selangor -First edition 2012 – pp 158 – 159.

https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/10391/broga

https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/focus/2015/10/27/a-precious-place-on-state-border-broga-new-villages-unique-landmarks-natural-attractions-are-pulling

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3350673?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (pp 155 -157)

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2007/07/07/broga-incinerator-project-called-off

Li Kheng Poh / In search of environmental justice in Malaysia: The cases of Broga and Bukit Merah / thesis submitted to University of Brighton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy / pp 18-21 and 28-32

Li Kheng Poh / In search of environmental justice in Malaysia: The cases of Broga and Bukit Merah / thesis submitted to University of Brighton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy / pp 18-21 and 28-32 https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/4759540/Li+Kheng+Poh+June2015+edited.pdf

Malaysia Campus History – The University of Nottingham – Malaysia Campus

https://www.malaysia-traveller.com/broga-hill.html

https://www.facebook.com/Broga.SDT/

https://www.jstor.org/stable/41493363?seq=29#metadata_info_tab_contents (pp 57)

Instructor qualification are from: OUTBAC Broga certified by: Instructor qualification are from: OUTBAC Broga certified by:

https://www.doghousebroga.com/

https://brogabliss.com.my/

https://www.malaysiacarcamping.com/2019/09/18/broga-eco-bliss-garden-campsite-negeri-sembilan/

https://www.facebook.com/firefliesorganicfarmbroga/

https://www.facebook.com/LadyBirdOrganicFarm/

http://www.empuraukl.com/

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Central Illuminations of Malay Qurans

by Afidah Rahim

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) has an extensive collection of Malay Qurans, from which two samples will be examined here. Malay Qurans are only ornately decorated at the beginning, the middle and the end. Considering that my previous blog article had highlighted the illuminated pages found at the beginning and end of Malay Qurans, this article features the central illuminations instead. In his forward to Al-Quran: The Sacred Art of Revelation Vol. II (2014), the Chairman of IAMM invites us to contemplate the beauty of both the meaning and physical appearance of these manuscripts. This is because embellishment of the Malay Quran is done to assist recitation and to bring forth emotions, for Muslims believe the Quran relates specifically to the heart of man. Hence, building on ‘The Quran and the Sunnah’, we will briefly touch upon tafsir (Quran exegesis) of the central illuminated pages.

Malay Qurans are sometimes decorated in the middle, possibly influenced by Uzbek, Kashmiri and Indian Qurans. This is done to celebrate the reader’s arrival at the halfway point – the ‘heart’ of the holy text. The decoration style is similar to the front and back pages. A Javanese Quran, for example, could feature batik-style motifs throughout its illuminated pages. Different scribes and illuminators may use different methods to indicate the centre e.g. letter, verse, surah or word count. According to the tradition of Quran reading in the Malay world, the word ‘wa-l-yatalattaf’ in Surah Al-Kahf verse 19 is accepted as the centre word of the Quran. This translates to ‘and let him be careful’ that means to conceal himself as much as possible. Malay Qurans, like Terengganu Quran 2012.13.6, may emphasise this word with enlarged or gilded script to mark its midpoint.

As far as illumination is concerned, Surah Al-Kahf (the Cave) can be said to be the central marking. Both the Malay Qurans featured here are illuminated at the start of Surah Al-Kahf. With reference to Tafsir ibn Kathir, Al-Hakim recorded from Abu Said that the Prophet (s.a.w) said “Whoever recites Surah Al-Kahf on Friday, it will illuminate him with light from one Friday to the next”. Tafsir ibn Kathir is the most widely accepted explanation of the Quran, based on other parts of the Quran itself as well as hadith i.e. ‘tradition’ referring to the narration, account and record of actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

Our first artefact is a Royal Terengganu Quran 1998.1.3427 dated 1871CE/ 1288AH. It is considerably large, measuring 43cm by 28cm and uses naskh script for clarity. Terengganu style is deemed the finest and most delicate of Malay Qurans. This artefact would have been copied during the reign of Sultan Baginda Omar (ruled 1831; 1839-76) who attracted foreign students and artisans to Terengganu by encouraging learning and industry. Foreign artisans then passed on their skills to the locals.

Central illuminated pages of Royal Terengganu Quran 1998.1.3427 dated 1871CE/1288AH Size 43 x 28 cm. Image credit: © Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

Malay Qurans have rich and symmetrical decorations. Both our artefacts have double-decorated frames illuminating the central pages. Similar to Malay woodcarving, these decorations include sulur-suluran (vegetal scrolls) and gunungan (mountain-shaped) motifs. Arabesques and geometric designs from the broader Islamic world are complemented with the permissible plant-motifs; avoiding figural representations. The arch-shaped gunungan motif is a legacy from the region’s Hindu past, which continued into the Islamic era since it reflects the natural landscape.

Colours too were produced from nature. The most popular colours used on Malay Qurans were red (from brazil-wood), black (from soot or charcoal) and yellow (from turmeric). Our Terengganu Quran features much gold, traditionally reserved for royal patronage.

In Southeast Asia, copying the Quran was only entrusted to professional, religious scribes. These scribes were occasionally under the supervision of a royal atelier. The design of our Royal Terengganu Quran suggests a foreign artisan. The clues lie in the noticeable use of lapis lazuli blue along with non-local choice of floral and vegetal decorations. Lapis lazuli was imported from Afghanistan or China and was no doubt an expensive pigment. Nonetheless, typical of Terengganu style, there is an outer frame i.e. a border running along the exterior edges with curved corners.

Normal pages of Royal Terengganu Quran 1998.1.3427 with Surah Al-Anfal heading in red and text in black naskh script. Image credit: © Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

The central pages here include verses 1 to 17 of Surah Al-Kahf. It is noteworthy that some Qurans have abridged tafsir annotations written in the white margins of the illuminated pages, even though such is not the case here. The main theme of this surah is letting go of materialism. It begins with praise to Allah for sending us the Quran. The first passage warns of great trials ahead but gives glad tidings to the believers. Subsequently, the story of the youths who fled to a cave is told. According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, these youths were sons of Byzantine leaders who lived under a tyrannical king called Decianus, who tried to dictate their religion. Refusing to believe in multiple gods, these youths hid in a cave and they were protected by Allah. In other words, the youths defied worldly authority to guard their tawheed (belief in the one and only God) and they were thus saved from persecution.

The central illumination of our second artefact, Quran 2004.2.3, also includes an outer frame with curved corners, which is unusual for Javanese Qurans. This Quran measures 30cm by 20cm and is therefore, smaller than our first artefact. Our Javanese Quran displays similar motifs to the Terengganu Quran including gunungan, floral and vegetal scrolls. In addition, this artefact shows an interlocking black pattern within its innermost frame, known as ‘banji’, suggesting its Cirebon (West Javan) origin. In Javanese Qurans, the banji (swastika) motif derives from the island’s Hindu-Buddhist history and is present because it resembles the regional craft of rattan weaving.

Central illuminated pages of 19thcentury CE Javanese Quran 2004.2.3 Size 30 x 20 cm. Image credit:© Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

This Javanese Quran uses red, gold and black, along with a more striking blue. Blue is more prominent in Javanese Qurans in a variety of shades including indigo to light sky blue. The surah headings are in red thuluth script while its text is in black naskh. The European paper watermark shows a lion within a roundel, topped off by a crown, which dates this Quran to the 19th century CE. Synthetic (French) ultramarine as a substitute to lapis lazuli was available during this time, which may have been used here.

The illuminations here surround verses 1 to 9 but one word of Surah Al-Kahf. The word ‘al-kahfi’, which gives the surah’s name, occurs in verse 9. With the addition of verse 10, the illuminated pages and missing word ‘ajaban’ (wonders) would protect its reader from the false messiah. Referencing Tafsir ibn Kathir, Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Ad-Darda’ that the prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever memorizes ten ayat from the beginning of Surah Al-Kahf will be protected from the Dajjal”.

Normal pages of Javanese Quran 2004.2.3 with text in naskh script. Image credit:© Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

It is now clear that these central pages hold particular benefits for the Quran reader. Surah Al-Kahf is appropriately illuminated since spiritually, its reader can be illuminated with light for up to a week. The illuminated pages are indeed arresting amidst the normal pages of text. Nonetheless, even the normal pages may have ornamentation at regular intervals along the margins to indicate the reader’s position within the holy text e.g. juz’ or nisf markers. Both artefacts showcased above represent the exquisite craftsmanship and artistry of nineteenth century CE Malay manuscripts.

Marginal ornament marking nisf (half a juz’ or hizb) in Terengganu ‘tapered-tendril’ style from Quran 1998.1.3427 Image credit:© Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

References

The Noble Quran translated by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan (1997) Riyadh: Darussalam

Abdullah Zakaria Ghazali (2011) Terengganu Sultanate, The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, The Rulers of Malaysia Vol. 16. KL: Editions Didier Millet

Gallop A.T. (2012) The Art of the Malay Quran. Arts of Asia. Jan-Feb 2012

IAMM (2020) Mirrors of Beauty. KL. IAMM

IAMM (2016) Introduction to Islamic Arts – Calligraphy. KL: IAMM

IAMM (2014) Al-Quran: The Sacred Art of Revelation Vol. II. KL: IAMM

IAMM (2008) Malay Manuscripts: An Introduction. KL: IAMM

IAMM (2006) Al-Quran: The Sacred Art of Revelation. KL: IAMM

Natasha Kamaluddin (2020)The Halfway Point. KL: Natasha Kamaluddin

Rajabi Abdul Razak (2009) The 19th Century Malay World Qurans in the Collection of IAMM. An Application and Analysis of the Colourants.

Ros Mahwati Ahmad Zakaria (2005) Manuscripts: The Word Made Manifest. The Message and the Monsoon, KL: IAMM

IAMM gallery storyboards & Wikipedia

IAMM curator – Dalia Mohamed

https://www.alim.org/quran/tafsir/ibn-kathir/surah/18/0/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/al-Dajjal

Through the Loops: Forts at Gallery C

by Grazia Daminelli

A fort is any construction work erected to strengthen a position against an attack. What was to be defended? Was there any attack, siege, or capitulation? The answer to these questions may help shed light on key events in Malaysia’s history.

In Gallery C of Muzium Negara we find major and minor references to five forts: A Famosa and Fort St. John, both in Melaka; Kuala Kedah Fort on the estuary of the Kedah river; Fort Cornwallis in George Town, Penang; and ‘pillboxes’ in Kelantan. Through them, we can read the colonial history of peninsular Malaysia. But there are many other forts in Malaysia, some of which go back to pre-Islamic history … (continue reading)

Replica of Kacapuri Gateway (Kuala Kedah Fort) at the carpark entrance to Muzium Negara
Image copyright: Jörg Widany

A Very Rough Guide to MANTIN

by Eric Lim

Introduction

The town of Mantin, in the state of Negeri Sembilan, sits in a valley surrounded by hills. It is about 16 km northwest of the state capital, Seremban, lying close to the Negeri Sembilan-Selangor border. The town came into prominence as a tin mining town, then shifted to agriculture and today, it is known for a variety of produce such as jackfruit, mangosteen, rambutan and, of course, the King of Fruits, Durian.

History

Originally, the town was known as Setul, the name of a fruit. This native fruit is also known locally as sentul or kecapi. Setul was located about eight miles away from Seremban. When the Kapitan Cina of Sungai Ujong, Sheng Meng Li, was killed in 1862, Chinese coolies decided to leave Sungai Ujong; many of them arrived and settled at a place slightly away from Setul, and the settlement eventually came be known as Mantin. Local legend has it that the name ‘Mantin’ came from a corruption of the words ‘mine tin’ or ‘many tin’, names which the British gave to the area with reference to its rich tin deposits. Subsequently, migrants from Huizhou, located on the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, came to work in the newly established tin mines in the area. They settled at Kampung Attap, which later became known as Kampung Hakka or Hakka Village.

On 1 February 1903, the Federated Malay States Railway line was opened from Bangi to Batang Benar, which is near Mantin. It was later extended to Seremban on 2 April the same year. The availability of train service brought new arrivals to the town and amongst them, the Sikhs who came to work as security guards in the mines. When the police station was established in 1910, another wave of Sikhs who worked in the police force arrived. Mantin was a favourite sanctuary and hiding place for refugees and, during the Japanese Occupation, Hakka groups from Titi in the interior Jelebu district came to seek refuge.

The town’s strategic location along Federal Route 1made Mantin a key pit stop for motorists plying the North-South trunk road. The town saw a decline when the North-South Expressway was opened in the early 1980’s but with the extension of LEKAS (highway connecting Kajang to Seremban) and the opening of the Mantin toll plaza on 31 December 2008, the town is regaining its glory.

Places of Interest

The Church of St. Aloysius

Located at Jalan Besar, the Church of St. Aloysius [1] has become the iconic landmark of Mantin. This neo-Gothic structure was erected in 1901 and it once housed a nunnery. The church is strategically located just opposite Kampung Hakka, the heartbeat of the town during its early years. Though it has been here for more than a century, the church is in good condition and is still an important place of worship for the local Catholic community. The Gereja Kebangkitan Kristus located at Kampung Belihoi, Mantin, is also under the administration of the Church. This chapel was established in 1950.

The Church of St. Aloysius. Image credit: Eric Lim

Kampung Hakka/Hakka Village

Just across the Church of St. Aloysius stand Kampung Hakka / Hakka Village [2]. It was the settlement of the pioneering Chinese coolies and, at its peak, Kampung Hakka was home to more than 300 families. It is situated along the banks of Sungai Setul and close to the heart of the mining activity. As the village grew, a school and a temple were added. The village was alienated to Majlis Perbadanan Nilai who later awarded the development of a new township to a private housing developer. Some of the villagers accepted compensation, abandoned their homes and left. Others decided to take their case to court. In 2013, the High Court ruled in favour of the developers but the villagers managed to obtain a stay order. The legal tussle is still going on and the villagers are awaiting clarifications from the state government. Kong Sook Koon, who at 93 could very well be the oldest resident, is determined not to be forced out. ‘Kampung Hakka is everything that matters’. Kampung Hakka is one of the oldest Hakka villages in our country.

Mantin Chinese Methodist Church (CAC)

Just next to Kampung Hakka’ entrance is the location of the Mantin Chinese Methodist Church (CAC) [3]. This church was built in 1925 and the cost of the building was raised almost in full by the local congregation. As part of their expansion plan, the church also runs a kindergarten, Tadika Methodist Mantin, at nearby Taman Setul.

Mantin Chinese Methodist Church. Image credit: Eric Lim

Cinemas

If cinemas are used as an indication of a town’s success, then this small town can be rated as successful. There were two cinemas in Mantin, the first cinema was called Thai Wah [4] and later came Universal Theater [5], which was completed in 1961. The former was located at the current Old Mantin Hawker Centre while the latter was located between the hawker centre and the adjacent two rows of shophouses, both along Jalan Besar.

Gurdwara Sahib Mantin

Still on the subject of places of worship, situated on elevated ground near the town’s T-junction is the Gurdwara Sahib Mantin [6]. Likely built in the early 1890’s, it is the oldest Sikh Gurdwara in Negeri Sembilan. The early Sikhs in the Mantin area were either employed as security guards in the various tin mines or they were policemen. A few of them raised cattle for their milk and owned bullock carts. The first temple building was made of wooden planks with an attap roof and later changed to zinc. In 1989, it was repaired and a new dining hall, kitchen and rooms were built to accommodate the Sikh sangat (congregation). A new single storey building was built at the back of the Gurdwara Sahib in July 2002. Mr Bagwan Singh mentioned an old discarded well on the premises, which was repaired and brought back to use again. He also said that the water from this well is believed to possess healing properties that could cure many ailments. The Gurdwara Sahib serves free food to its members and the public at its dining hall.

The first building with a zinc roof. Photo source: Saran Singh Sidhu – Gurdwara Sahib Mantin – Sikh Gurdwaras in Malaysia & Singapore. An Illustrated History 1873 – 2003 – Published by Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia – First edition 2003 – pp 112 to 114.

(L) Gurdwara Sahib Mantin. (R) Mr Bagwan Singh at the well. Image credit: Eric Lim

Educational Institutions

Taking advantage of the conduciveness of the surrounding environment, many institutions of higher learning have set up bases in Mantin. The first to do so is Kolej Tuanku Jaafar [7], a co-educational international boarding school established in 1991. The school caters to pupils aged 3 to 19 and it has a diverse population of students from over 22 different countries. KTJ is spread across an 80-acre site just outside of Mantin.

(L) Entrance to KTJ, image credit: Eric Lim – (R) KTJ, photo source : https://www.ktj.edu.my/

Next was Linton University College [8]. It was originally established in 1987 in Ipoh, Perak, and was known as Linton College. In 2005, Linton College was acquired by the KTG Education Group and the campus was relocated to the current location in Mantin. In March 2010, it attained university college status and was consequently renamed Linton University College. It provides programmes in Engineering, Built Environment, Information Technology, Business & Accounting and Applied & Visual Art. Today, the campus is also home to three of its affiliated institutes – Pertama Institute of Technology, Jati Institute and International Institute of Science Mantin. All four institutions provide programmes from Foundation right up to Masters.

Linton University College & Sign board pointing to Linton University College. Image credit: Eric Lim

On the other end of the town, located at the 8 ½ Mile, Jalan Seremban-Mantin is the Negeri Sembilan Skills Development Centre (NSSDC) [9]. This skill centre is a joint project initiated by the state government and a group of private industries in Negeri Sembilan.

Orchards

When the town was facing a downturn, the locals turned to agriculture. Today, there are many durian and fruit orchards around the fringes of the town. My Durian Orchard [10] located on the west side of the town offers visitors the opportunity to learn and taste the different varieties of durian. It also undertakes to export unopened whole fruit and seedless pulps to major cities in China. Apart from durian, fruits such as rambutan, mangosteen, langsat, jackfruit and many others can be purchased at stalls along the main road from the north leading to the town.

Getting There

You have three options:

1) From Cheras, use the Cheras-Kajang Expressway (E7) that links to Kajang Dispersal Link Expressway / SILK (E18). Look out for Exit 1804 Kajang Perdana, then link to LEKAS (E21) and look out for the exit to Mantin.

2) Alternatively, exit Kajang Dispersal Link Expressway / SILK (E18) at Exit 1805 Kajang Prima Interchange to link to Federal Route 1 (the North-South trunk road) to Semenyih, Beranang and Mantin.

3) From KL city centre, use Jalan Sungai Besi to go to the North-South Expressway (E2). Exit at Exit 214 Nilai, and follow the sign to Pajam. You can then decide to use Federal Route 1 to Mantin (toll-free) or use LEKAS (toll road) and exit at Mantin.

References

Saran Singh Sidhu – Gurdwara Sahib Mantin – Sikh Gurdwaras in Malaysia & Singapore. An Illustrated History 1873 – 2003 – Published by Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia – First edition 2003 – pp 112 to 114.

https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/focus/2017/10/23/a-town-that-tin-built-mantin-in-negri-sembilan-has-reinvented-itself-at-least-twice-in-the-last-200

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/02/03/court-backed-developers-loom-over-tin-mining-village-in-negeri-sembilan/

https://www.frim.gov.my/colour-of-frim/sentul-a-nearly-forgotten-but-nutritious-fruit/

https://www.archkl.org/index.php/parishes/89-church-of-st-aloysius

https://www.facebook.com/mantincmc/

https://www.facebook.com/NSSDC.HEP/

https://www.ktj.edu.my/

http://www.linton.edu.my/

http://mydurianorchard.com

Personal communications with Mr Bagwan Singh,

Personal communications with Dato’ Peter Lai, former state assemblyman of Mantin

Was Bujang Valley a Kingdom?

by Marie-Andree Abt

In our museum, Bujang valley (BV) is presented as the first Malay kingdom in the Peninsula, but, as far as I know before beginning this research, we have yet to find any artefact showing it was indeed a kingdom. I wanted to be sure and began to investigate. During my research, I learned a lot about BV, not always directly related to my research but I will share it anyway.

A kingdom is a country ruled by a king or a queen, as per Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary 7th edition.
Bujang valley (Malay: Lembah Bujang) “is a sprawling historical complex and has an area of approximately 224 square kilometres (86 sq mi) situated near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the north and Muda River in the south. It is the richest archaeological area in Malaysia.” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bujang_Valley)
Srivijaya Kingdom was situated in South Sumatra, with its capital at present day Palembang. It was founded in the seventh century by Dapunta Hyang who led twenty thousand troops from Minanga Tamwan to Palambang, Jambi and Bengkulu. This event is recorded in the Kedukan Bukit inscription dated 16th June 683, setting its birth in the seventh century. Chinese sources called Srivijaya “Shi Li Fo Shi” and the Arabs “Sribuza”. Its wealth comes from trade with China, India and the Arabs. It extends to the Strait of Malacca up to Burma and part of Java, over kingdoms that had existed since the second century, if one believes Chinese sources. These kingdoms were trading local products such as benzoin, camphor, dammar, spices, aromatic woods, ivory, tin and gold with Srivijaya, who then sent all that farther. This way of ruling is often described as a mandala (explained later in this article).

In the eighth century, Srivijaya had links with the Sailendra, a Javanese dynasty (which built Borobodur). Srivijaya was a centre of Mahayana Buddhism studies and Sanskrit at least until the twelfth century. Some kings gave money not only to build a temple in South Thailand, but also to repair temples in India and Guangzhou. It had a very good administration with a datu (minister) for each kingdom.

The Indian Tamil Chola king attacked first Kedah then Srivijaya in the eleventh century. Srivijaya was clever enough to make believe that it was the other way around; Chinese envoys always thought that Chola was under Srivijaya rule! In a memorial presented to the Song emperor Huizong in 1106, the Song Shi (Song Annals) records: ‘The Chola kingdom is subject to Srivijaya. We wrote to its ruler on coarse paper’.

The capital of Srivijaya was moved from Palembang to Jambi, centre of the Melayu kingdom, which gave its name to the Malay language. It marks the beginning of the decline of Srivijaya who shared its power between Kedah, Kota Cina and Jambi, becoming Three Vijaya according to Chinese accounts. In 1292, Three Vijaya fell under the Singarasi (another kingdom of which little is known) who then quickly fell to Majapahit. Majapahit founded its wealth not only on trade but also on agriculture, being based on Java, a volcanic fertile soil area. It lasted until 1520 with the rise of Islam in Java.

Srivijaya around the 8th century. Image credit: Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Indian written sources

The first to write about BV were the Indian. As early as the second century BCE, Indian writing related trade between BV and some ports of South India that lasted until the 10th century CE. Later, the inscriptions of Tanjore speak of a king of Kedah and Srivijaya and, in 1007, the Chola seemed to have already attacked Kedah. Scholars do not know why.

However, in 1025 the Chola king Rajendra, lobbied by Indian trading guilds fed-up of paying taxes to Srivijaya each time they send a boat in these waters, attacked Srivijaya. The description of this attack informed, “the Maharaja of Kedah and Srivijaya, named Samgramavijayottungavarman, was taken prisoner during the attack of Palembang”. Hence, it seems that, at this time, there was a king of Kedah, but ruling from Srivijaya since he obviously lived in Palembang. After the sacking of Srivijaya, a new Maharaja was enthroned – Sri Deva.

This new king could not “pay” anymore for the allegiance of his vassals and hence they sought independence. Among the first to do so was Kedah, who openly revolted in 1060. Sri Devi chose to make peace with the Chola Kingdom and sought their help to bring Kedah back into the Srivijaya mandala. In 1068, Virajendra, the ruler of Chola, attacked only Kedah, looted it and returned it, graciously, to Srivijaya. This uncommon event confused the Chinese who thought that Chola was under the rule of Srivijaya.

Candi Bukit Batu Pahat; the Merbok Archaeological Museum was built next to this candi

Chinese written sources

Chinese writings mention tributes given to China by the BV polity. In the Sui Shu (History of the Sui, completed in 636 CE), Kedah was called Chitu, Jietu, Geluo or Geluofashaluo. Two missions were sent from China in 607 and in 610. The first one left from Guangzou under the command of Chang Jun. It was bound for Chitu and Luocha. These two were the only destinations for the mission, showing the growing importance, at that time, of these transhipment centres for long distance Persian Gulf-India-China trade.

Chang Jun mentions that the capital of Chitu was named Sengzhi, perhaps located near the Muda River in what is now Kampung Sungai Mas. He describes it as a city surrounded by three concentric walls separated by one hundred paces each. “At each gate, there are painted flying spirits, fairies and Bodhisattva images… The king, we are told, is Li-Fu-Duo-Sai Qu-Tan (Riputro Gautama?). Behind his throne is  a golden crouching  bull and above it , one bejewel parasol and bejewelled fans left and right…Hundreds of Brahmans seated in rows facing each other on left and right. The practice of the residents was to respect Buddha and give special reverence to Brahmans. Indian music was played during the audience with the ruler. When the king sent a nayaka (leader or protector) as an emissary to China, with local products, he also sent a gold leaf letter”. Hence, it appears to be a Buddhist kingdom where Brahmans were key players advising the ruler and performing Indian-based ceremonies.

What is bothering me in this description is the presence of a triple enceinte. As far as I know, archaeologists never found any traces of these walls. Even, if their construction materials were used later as a source of stones or bricks for other constructions, they would have had some sort of foundations … that have not, yet, been found. So was Chitu really Kedah? In my opinion, it still needs to be proven. Other sources, including the Encyclopaedia of Malaysia: Early History, places Chitu in Kelantan. This makes more sense.

In the chronicles of the Tang dynasty (619 to 916 CE) translated by Winstedt, it seems that Kedah was called Kalah or Kora or Kala. It is said that this Kora has a king named Misi Pura Sri Pura and the customs of the people were the same as in Siam. But in the same book, Winstedt writes that Langkasuka was the former name of Kedah and that under the Liang dynasty (502 to 665 CE) people dated the birth of the country four hundred years earlier.

Seventy years after the Chitu mission, yet another name for Kedah in Chinese writing appears – Jietu, again a phonetic rendering of Kedah. In 671, the Chinese monk Yijing left Guangzhou and stopped over at Srivijaya where he studied Sanskrit. He then went to Kacha (probably Kedah) to board a boat to India. This was the first proof that Kedah may have been a major port of embarkation for the long journey to India. When he came back in 685, he noted that Kedah was now under Srivijayan rule. He explains that BV was the northern capital of Srivijaya, levying taxes on the merchandises coming from the West with Palembang, the southern capital, took care of the goods coming from the East.

There are also other sources showing that Jietu was an important port for merchants and monks on their way to India. The Xin Tang Shu notes that south of Panpan lay Geluo. Around 800, Jia Dan writes about Geluo, recording that it had 24 provinces – “It was a major trading port since the 9th century or earlier”. There is no evidence of diplomatic contact between Geluo and Tang China.

Bujang Valley pottery on display at the Merbok Archaeological Museum. Image credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Arab written sources

As early as the 8th century, Arabic navigational treaties mention Kalah. Several archaeologists have studied the writings of Arab or Persian merchants. According to as-Sin wa’l-Hind, Kalah was a kingdom located near the coast. Kalah-bar (government) was a kingdom under the control of al-Zabaj (Srivijaya). Sulayman describes Kalah as a colony of Srivijaya and an entrepôt trade centre where the traders called to obtain supplies of clean water. Abu Dalaf Misar stated that Kalah was a huge kingdom surrounded by walls, gardens, water, market and houses with a large population…”Kalah has its own social system that is really organised in terms of justice, treatment of offences and matters related to fines”… Katacha entrepôt developed rapidly since the fifth century and it is believed that the port existed since the early century CE. Kataha’s centre at that time was situated at today’s Sungai Mas. Various types of temple architecture and thousands of foreign ceramics are the best proof of it. Relative dating on inscriptions showed that Sungai Mas prospered since the fifth century. Later, the entrepôt was moved to Kampung Pengkalan Bujang.

Modern research

The discovery of glass fragments at site 18, Pengkalan Bujang, was reported by Quaritch-Wales in 1940. With the discovery of laterite stone blocks and bricks in the vicinity, Quaritch-Wales expects them to belong to a palace hall or a building structure in a palace. Ah! Finally proof of Kedah as a kingdom? … Not so sure.

Michel Jacq-Hergoualc’h explains in his Arts Asiatiques article in 1992 that Quaritch thought the main Indianisation of Kedah and South East Asia dated from 550 to 750 with a Pallava colonisation. Alastair Lamb restudied the same areas as Quaritch plus some others and concluded, “We can definitely not use periodization influenced by the too approximate and too partisan Quatrich work. For us, South Kedah is not a small kingdom created by Pallava, it is not even a Malay kingdom Indianised as Quatrich suggested.”

Overall, the study of Chinese ceramics shows that the trading activity moved to Kampung Sireh on Sungai Mudah for a few decades only. Then it moved to Melaka. Hence, from the fifth to eleventh century, BV was centred in Kampung Sungai Mas, South of Merbok River; it was mostly Buddhist if we believe the artefacts found at the candi. From the eleventh to early fourteenth century, the centre moved to Pengkalan Bujang, north of Merbok River and it became mainly Hindu. Beginning of the fourteenth century, it was moved again to Kampong Sireh, which silted at the same time Melaka became the predominant kingdom; so Kedah, as a port, started to decline.

In 2014, John Guy wrote on the formation of states in South East Asia. He does not know exactly how they functioned in term of political organization “whether they are best characterized by fiefdoms, polities, kingdoms or states is open to discussion”. O.W. Walters was the first to suggest they might work as a mandala-negara, an Indian model described in regional inscriptions as “radiating zone, strongest in its centre, weakest at the periphery with porous frontiers that intercepted adjacent tributary”. The peripheral states trade their local product with the more powerful one in the centre, who concentrate and finally send the goods further, creating a kind of loose federation based on trade.

I conclude by referring to Dr Nasha Rodziadi Khaw’s talk to the MV on 6th January 2021. He told us that Kedah trading ports existed from 6th century BC to 1371. It consisted of a confederation of trading polities for which no proof currently exists that they were kingdoms. Hence, so far, it seems we cannot conclude yet if BV was indeed a kingdom.

A sitting Buddha terracotta statue recovered at Site 21 Candi Pengkalan Bujang

References

Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, Early modern history, Archipelago press, 2001

Baker, Jim. Crossroads, Marshall Cavendish editions, 2008

Winstedt. R.O, History of Kedah

Guy John, Last kingdoms. Introducing early Southeast Asia, 2014

Wade Geoff. Beyond the Southern Borders: Southeast Asia in Chinese texts to the 9th century

Sulitiyono, Journal of marine cultures, volume 7

Ramli, Shuaimi Nik Abdul Rhaman, Zain Musa, Samsudin, Rodzi Abdul Razak. Arab-Persian merchants in the Malay peninsula based on foreign sources and archaeological data, Institute of Malay world and civilisation, Faculty of social sciences and humanities, School of history, politics and strategy, The national university of Malaysia.

Selvakumar, V. Commercial interactions between India and Southeast Asia during medieval period and future Interactions between ASEAN and India.

Jacq-Hergoualc’h Michel. Art asiatiques. 1992

Oxford advanced learners’ Dictionary ,7th edition

Munoz, Paul Michel. Early kingdoms of the Indonesian archipelago and the Malay peninsula. Dr Nasha Rodziadi Khaw. MV focus: History and archaeology of ancient Kedah, a reflection of multiculturalism in the Malay Peninsula.

Exhibition: Pandemic, Epidemic and Endemic

Do catch the ‘Pandemic, Epidemic and Endemic’ exhibition currently ongoing at Muzium Negara, scheduled to run until 31 March 2021. It is located in the hall between Galleries A and B. This is a small space but the exhibition packs a lot of information.

The bulk of the exhibits focus on the current Covid 19 pandemic, with display boards and dioramas tracing its history in Malaysia and globally. However, the exhibition also showcases other pandemics and epidemics including nipah, chikungunya, H1N1, H5N1, malaria, rabies and leprosy.

Having a heart… NGO’s helping the less privileged during the Covid-19 pandemic

Interesting are the government gazettes and circulars of old in bids to contain the various outbreaks.

The exhibition also includes usage of alternative medicine such as pomegranate to cure cough, tapeworm as well as diarrhea, and hibiscus for fevers and as an antidote for poison.

Chaulmoogra (Hydrocarpus wightianus) , known locally as buah kusta as it was used to treat leprosy before dapstone was formulated.
This belt is made from the sintok (Entada spiralis) root, used as a traditional medicine by the Orang Asli used to cure (among others) backache.
Some books on the various diseases

Many more interesting nuggets can be found at the exhibition. Do head to Muzium Negara where you can also catch another exhibition titled ‘The Power of Gold’ located at Gallery 1 in the JMM building.

Bukit Kutu a.k.a Treacher’s Hill

by Eric Lim

Ulu Selangor was one of the major tin mining districts in Selangor during the Colonial era and Kuala Kubu was a key mining town in the district. After the dam in this town broke in 1883, a new township was built nearer the Selangor River. The population grew in tandem with tin production and it soon became the administrative centre for the district.

William Hood Treacher was the British Resident of Selangor from 1892 to 1896 and, in 1893, he came on an inspection tour of Ulu Selangor. When in Kuala Kubu, he spent a night at Gunong Kutu and later commented that the hill could be a possible site for a sanatorium. His comment was followed up in an article in the Straits Times Weekly Issue (1893) quoting an official report by Selangor Gazette that Gunong Kutu had several advantages as a sanatorium which include fair accessibility via the construction of a bridle road, a good spring near the park and cool temperature.

Kuala Kubu in 1906 with Bukit Kutu in the background. Photo credit: http://peskubu.org/latar-belakang-sejarah-kuala-kubu/
William Hood Treacher. Wikimedia Commons

The British also considered possible hill stations in other Federated Malay States (FMS), namely Gunong Kledang in Ipoh, Gunong Angsi near Seremban and Gunong Tahan in Pahang. However, they remained undeveloped as they were not high enough and had limited flatlands to accommodate many visitors. In the case of Gunong Tahan, the project did not even begin because part of the hill was located in Kelantan, which was not part of the FMS.

Gunong Kutu was also known as Treacher’s Hill. It was later renamed Bukit Kutu, probably because it was more appropriate than being labelled a ‘gunong / mountain’. Bukit Kutu remains the official name until today. The first bungalow was erected by the Selangor Government in 1895 and this was followed by another bungalow constructed in 1904. It was reported that in each of the bungalows, there were four bedrooms, a dressing room, bathroom and a good-sized living room with a fireplace. Each bedroom had two beds, which were supplied with blankets. The bungalows were also fixed with telephones connected to the Kuala Kubu Exchange. Activities in the daytime included going for walks, playing tennis, croquet and stump cricket. Badminton and ping-pong were added in the later years. At night, there were card games like bridge and board games such as chess. On a clear day at Bukit Kutu, the naked eye could easily locate Kuala Kubu town, Rasa, Serendah and even faraway places like Fraser’s Hill, Pangkor Island, Port Swettenham and Morib. A telescope was also made available.

As for the location of Bukit Kutu, the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser in 1923 reported that ‘distance-wise, the route from Kuala Kubu Rest House to Bukit Kutu peak where the two bungalows were located took 8 ½ miles and 8 ¾  via a well graded path up the hill’. Permission to use the bungalows had to be obtained beforehand from the District Officer of Kuala Kubu and the rent was $1.00 per day per bungalow. Government officers were given free usage of the bungalows. The journey to the peak took no longer than 3 ½ hours and about 2 ¾ hours coming down. The Straits Times reported on 15 April 1930 that Rex Duncan and J.L Ross climbed to the peak on their motorcycles and they used a Matchless 250 cc motorcycle, one of the oldest marques of British motorcycles. Three years earlier, Mackenzie also used the same make of machine to reach the top.

Matchless motorcycles. Photo source : Pinterest

The service of sedan chairs carried by coolies was also available for those who choose not to walk and the cost was $1.80 for each coolie. Separately, coolies could be engaged to carry provisions, letters, etc. and it cost $1.30 each. The train line to Kuala Kubu was established in October 1894 and this provided some convenience for visitors to Bukit Kutu. Prior arrangements could be made to send boxes of provisions, cold storage, etc. on stated days to the Kuala Kubu railway station and staff from the Rest House would collect them and deliver these up the hill.

Kuala Kubu Rest House. Photo source : NATIONAAL ARCHIEF, THE HAGUE

It was reported in 1903 that a new breed of mosquito was found by Dr Daniel at Bukit Kutu, which closely resembled the malaria carrying Anopheles of Italy. It was named Anopheles treacheri. Bukit Kutu was rich in biodiversity with various kinds of flora and fauna and this led it being established as one of the earliest wildlife reserves in our country in 1922. The first in Chior, Perak was established in 1903, right after the Wildlife Animals and Wildlife Birds Protection Bill was formulated in 1902.

The popularity of Bukit Kutu started to decline when Fraser’s Hill opened to visitors in 1922. From 1926 onward, the site started facing problems of soil movement but requests for help from the state government did not materialize. Finally, on 31 December 1932, the resort ended its operations. In 1933, one of the bungalows was bought over by Mat Ripin at a price of $28.00 but, later, he had to return the property because he was a government servant. In 1936, the bungalows were again sold, this time at a price of $100.00 to T.E. Emmett who said he wanted it for his own private use. Since then, Bukit Kutu was abandoned and the path was lost in thick vegetation. A chimney and fireplace, main entrance steps and stone walls at the other end of the ridge are the only remnants of the bungalows.

Bukit Kutu in 1921 (colorized edition of the black & white photo). Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

Today, Bukit Kutu is a popular hiking spot. The starting point is at Kampung Pertak, an Orang Asli settlement located near the Selangor Dam. The tradition of getting permission to visit Bukit Kutu since its inception is still in place until today whereby a permit is still necessary for the hike to the peak; it can be obtained from the Police Station in KKB town.

References

Jimmy Oddstuff. Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu). Academia. 2012. (PDF) Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu) | Jimmy Oddstuff

Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 13 February 1923. Pp 5.

A week end on Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 22 April 1931. Pp 1.

In praise of Treacher’s Hill. The Straits Times. 14 July 1896. Pp 3.

A Selangor sanatorium. Straits Times Weekly Issue. 14 March 1893. Pp 2

Untitled. The Straits Times. 13 July 1903. Pp 4.

The journal of wildlife and parks. 1996/97. https://www.wildlife.gov.my/images/document/penerbitan/jurnal/Jil151996_97.pdf

Siti Farrah Zaini, Zuraini Md Ali, Brit Anak Kayan. Site selection criteria for British Colonial Hill Stations in Malaya. Department of Building Surveyor, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya. November 2017. https://umexpert.um.edu.my/public_view.php?type=publication&row=Njg3NzQ%3D

Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu. Bukit Kutu – Treacher’s Hill / Pusat peranginan dan Sanatorium 1893. Tarikh Kuala Kubu 1780 – 1931. © Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu (Peskubu). 2016. Pp 37 – 40.

The Importance of Taking Children to Museums

by Melissa Pereira

I remember it well – the day I took my daughter on her first visit to a museum. It was the National Science Centre in Bukit Kiara. She was two years old, barely out of her toddler’s gait, excitedly walking up and down the aisle, absorbing, gazing all around with wonder, taking it all in. I’m not sure what it was – the colours, the buttons to press, the lit up exhibits, the big pictures on the walls – the visit seemed like fun to her from the get go. She was too young then to have me explain much, or any, of the content, so we simply roamed the museum as I let her lead. It was truly memorable.

Many more visits followed, later with her younger brother in tow. As my children grew, our museum and gallery visits grew as well – in frequency, in the time spent as well as in attention to the exhibits.

Melbourne Museum. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Something about their response to our trips propelled me to make these trips part of their growing up years. I found that museums did something to kids that books could not. While books inform and educate, museums, through large installations, interactive displays and the like, have the ability to capture the imagination and spark curiosity that written words on pages, cannot quite. The immersive learning experience museums and galleries provide are incomparable.

Numerous curators and directors of museums and galleries agree that exposure to museums among young children have tremendous benefits. “Bringing children to museums opens their eyes to different ideas and perspectives that are relevant to their lives. This kind of exposure can help develop higher critical and creative thinking skills, which are integral to future success.” —Rebecca Davidson, Manager of School and Educator Programs, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.

Maria Montessori put it beautifully when she said, “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”

Museums, with their engaging exhibits, are a great place to spark a child’s curiosity. References to different places and times, displays of varying forms and styles and the weaving of captivating storylines around them, are powerful tools to capture a child’s imagination and can lead to lifelong learning.

Parents, teachers, curators and museum guides like ourselves, all play a pivotal role in making museum visits educational and fun for kids. For some children and students that visit Muzium Negara, especially from outside the Klang Valley, we must remember that the visit is one rife with opportunity – to engage and to inspire.

Below are some tips to keep in mind when guiding children in museums:

Be clear on what the main content will be.

  • Children have short attention spans. No matter how interesting the exhibits are, resists the urge to want to show them all off. Be clear on what the main message or learning topic is that you would like to share and stick to it.
  • It might help to do a quick brief on what to expect, before beginning the tour.
Children on tour at Gallery A, Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Pick pieces or exhibits that will allow bodily engagement. This does not necessarily have to be buttons to press or levers to pull. Large installations, the shape of which children can mimic or imitate with their bodies can have a tremendous impact too.

  • At the Makara, for instance, won’t it be fun to ask children how an elephant and a fish posing together might look like? Get a group of boys to show the others how Hang Tuah and his band of brothers might have looked together. Ask children to close their eyes and imagine what living in a New Village might have felt like. What modern cartoons or super hero would they depict with a Wayang Kulit puppet?
Hang Tuah mural, Gallery B, Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira
  • This is the time to have fun yourself! Embrace the child within and let your imagination be your guide. You’ll be surprised how refreshing the experience will be.
Scitech, Perth. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Large exhibits over wordy signboards…. anytime!

  • Guide children toward larger exhibits to create a ‘wow’ moment, and one they are not likely to forget – the tin dredge and rubber tree in Gallery C, the diorama of the Melaka port in Gallery B and of the Pangkor treaty in Gallery C – these are sure to hold a child’s attention.
National Visual Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

Trust the child.       

  • Remember that learning is innate in human beings, especially so in children. Trust that they are whole, able and competent – capable of absorbing and processing information and making sense of what they see. History is a wonderful subject, filled with lessons to teach everyone, the young included. Do your best to prepare, but let the pieces, the content and the child’s natural learning desire, do the rest.
Children on tour at Muzium Negara. Image credit: Melissa Pereira

“It is very important to take children to museums and galleries. Exposing children to museums at a young age will inculcate a love for history and culture. A good museum is a great informal learning platform that can complement formal learning. For example, after learning about ancient civilizations in textbooks, it may be interesting for children to see the actual tools and ornaments used by people from those times. They might also be able to better picture scenes of daily life or important events from history by looking at relevant dioramas or exhibits; or listening to audio guides at various stops. Artefacts like actual fossils and dinosaur bones can also inspire awe and prod curiosity. This provides more learning touch points and better multi-sensory learning for children, versus just reading about something. It will fire up all their other senses, and lead to better retention and recall of important points.

Museums also provide opportunities for children to learn how to observe things carefully, digest information, and assess what they still need to find out and to ask relevant questions.

Guides play a role to enhance and optimize the experience by doing a little groundwork beforehand to help to set the scene for the visit. Without context to link what they see to what they know and what is important to them, children will just get bored very quickly looking at a bunch of “rusty and musty old things”! Activity sheets for kids also help.

Spend a few minutes thinking about how to relate the exhibits and artifacts to things children are learning about in school, what they are interested in. Encourage them to express their opinions. Ask them to compare and contrast what they see to things they use or do now. For parents, I think children will really value this kind of time spent with family. Just as we are curious about what our children think about things, they are also curious about our opinions and us. Creating a positive experience at the museum will also lead them to associate learning with happy experiences as a family. I think these visits to museums and galleries create a shared experience and memory as well as opportunities for family members to have real and meaningful conversations.”

Li Hsian, Co-Facilitator of Art Discovery Tours and Coordinator of Children’s Programmes, ILHAM Gallery

References

Website – https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2014/importance-taking-children-museums

Website – https://www.montessorieducation.com/montessori-quotes

Federated Malay States Railway

by Eric Lim

The introduction of railways in our country occurred in the second half of the 19th century and the British played an important role in its development. However, a Malay Ruler beat the British to the construction of the country’s first railway.

He was Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar of Johor who laid the foundation for the construction of the Johore Wooden Railway (JWR) line connecting Johor Bahru and Gunong Pulai where he had envisioned constructing a sanatorium and a hill resort in 1869. James Meldrum was given the task to build the line. In 1875, upon the completion of the first phase, he invited Sir Andrew Clake and his wife to ride on the steam locomotive, which was purchased from India and was subsequently named Lady Clarke. A few months later, the incoming Governor, Sir William Jervois was invited for a ride. An article in the Straits Observer (Singapore) dated 21 September 1875 reported the abandonment of the JWR line. The JWR was a short-lived railway line purposely built for the Maharaja and his guests.

Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar / Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

In 1880, Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar ordered the construction of another railway, connecting Muar town and the coastal settlement of Parit Jawa, to eventually link with Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru. It became known as the Muar State Railway (MSR).Both JWR and MSR were funded from the state’s coffers. The early construction was done by Malay and Javanese workers and the line began operation on 11 March 1890. MSR was very profitable due to the high traffic of passengers and goods travelling between the terminals. Children attending English school in Muar travelled free. The opening of Jalan Abdul Rahman in 1918, greatly affected the traffic of MSR and eventually the line was closed in 1929. Below, news reports of construction workers who uncovered railway sleepers believed to be part of MSR.

The development of the railway system by the British tied up closely with their involvement in the politics of our country. The first phase started after the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 that saw the start of the Residential System.In 1880, Hugh Low, who was the British Resident of Perak, sought the approval and fund for the first British-built commercial railway line linking Taiping to Port Weld. Construction began in 1882 with help from the Pioneer Corporations of the British Army stationed in Ceylon. The line was completed in 1884 and opened for traffic on 1 June 1885. The locomotive was named Lady Weld, which later became FMSR 1 and ended its service in 1916.

In Selangor, Frank Swettenham who was then the British Resident recommended the construction of the 19-mile line between Kuala Lumpur and Bukit Kuda. It was opened to traffic on 10 September 1886 and it became the second line built by the British. It was extended from Bukit Kuda to Klang, a distance of 2 ½ miles on 17 April 1890. Lady Clarke from the JWR was used on the construction of the Selangor state railway. It was renamed as FMSR 2 and it survived until scrapping in December 1912.

The third line was in Negeri Sembilan. This time, a firm by the name of Hill and Rathborne was granted a concession to construct and operate the 24 ¾ mile long line between Seremban and Port Dickson.Construction started in 1888 and it was completed in 1891. The name of the company set up to run this line was Sungai Ujong Railway Company Limited. The locomotive was aptly named Sungai Ujong and it was later sent to Selangor and was called FMSR 4. It was sold to a contractor in 1909.

Tin production in our country was the fourth largest in the world in the 1870’s, then we became the largest producer in the 1880’s and by the 1890’s, British Malaya was producing more tin than the world’s production combined. Also at this time, the country was heading into agriculture and rubber became the major crop. Commercial cultivation of rubber was developing rapidly and most of the rubber plantations were located along the railway lines.

Model of locomotive used in the Taiping to Port Weld line displayed at Gallery C, National Museum. Photo source : Eric Lim

By the end of the first phase, twenty railway lines were already being constructed connecting all the major mining towns and districts in Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan to their respective ports. The second phase started in 1896, which saw the amalgamation of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang into the Federated Malay States (FMS)under one central administration headed by Frank Swettenham as the first Resident General.

Frank Swettenham, in a bid to unify the railway lines, put forth several suggestions. He suggested a line from Tapah Road to Kuala Kubu (thus linking Perak and Selangor railway system), a line from Taiping to Kuala Perai (Province Wellesley) and an extension of the Pudoh-Sungai Besi-Cheras to the south to connect to the Sungai Ujong line in Seremban. In 1901, saw the formation of the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) and two years later in 1903, Province Wellesley, Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan were connected by rail, linking Perai in the north to Port Dickson in the south. Edwin Spooner was appointed as the first FMSR General Manager. By this time, an additional thirty-seven lines were constructed across the FMS.

On 1 December 1905, the section from Tampin to Malacca town was officially opened thus extending the North-South trunk line from one Straits Settlement to another. The Straits Times reported on 4 December 1905 that ‘it is now possible to leave Malacca at 1 pm and arrive in Penang at 6.21 on the following day instead of taking two to three days by steamer’. Malacca Government Railway was awarded the concession to construct the railway line. The following year, they extended the main line from Tampin to Gemas and upon completion, Malacca Government Railway was absorbed into the FMSR.

During the expansion of the railway lines in the FMS, Frank Swettenham had wanted to connect the FMSR from Penang to Singapore passing through Johore but it was turned down by Sultan Ibrahim, who took over the throne from Sultan Abu Bakar who had died in 1895. That impasse ended on 11 July 1904 when the Railway Convention was signed in London. Construction began northward from Johore Bahru at the end of 1904 and in March 1905, construction from Gemas moving southward started. The line passing through Johore was completed in August 1907. However, the line was opened to the public on 1 July 1909 and was known as the Johore State Railway. It later came under the FMSR when the FMS government managed to lease it for 21 years, starting from January 1912 with rental paid each year at an incremental rate. The section to cross the Straits of Johore was made possible with the construction of a causeway at the end of 1919. It was opened for goods trains on 17 September 1923 and later to passenger trains on 1 October 1923.

The next important event that took place was the signing of the Anglo Siamese Treaty a.k.a Bangkok Treaty on 10 March 1909. The treaty was intended to resolve the dispute over railway development and control in the Peninsula. For the latter, the states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu were ceded to the British. These four states became known as the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and Johore was later added to this grouping.

Photo source / The Imperial Locomotive : A study of the Railway System in British Malaya 1885 – 1942

The stage was set for the next grand expansion of the FMSR into the UMS and to the last state in the FMS i.e Pahang. Construction of the railway line connecting Bukit Mertajam to Alor Setar started towards the end of 1912 and it was officially opened in 1915. It was then linked to Bukit Ketri in Perlis on 15 October 1917 and reached the border town of Padang Besar on 1 March 1918. The line from Padang Besar linked up with the Siamese Railway system and it was opened on 1 July 1918. This marked the start of international train services between the two countries, with an initial schedule of three times a week between Perai and Bangkok. The following year, saw the first international express train service from Thonburi to Malaya. By 1920, it was possible to transverse the entire West coast of Malaya, from Padang Besar to Johore Bahru, by rail.

Between 1910 and 1931 theEast Coast line was constructed from Gemas to Pahang and Kelantan, while in Kelantan, construction began from Tumpat. On 15 October 1917, the construction from Gemas had reached Kuala Lipis. In May 1920, it marked another important milestone for the FMSR, with the start of construction of the longest river bridge in the country, the Guillemard Bridge, as a crossing over the Kelantan River. This 600 metres bridge was completed in July 1924. The other river bridge built by FMSR is the Victoria Bridge in Perak, which was built in 1900. The date 5 September 1931 witnessed the completion of the East Coast line connecting Gemas and Bahau (in Negeri Sembilan) through to Mentakab and Kuala Lipis (in Pahang) and finally to Gua Musang, Tumpat and Sungai Golok (in Kelantan).

Guillermard Bridge / Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

By 1935, fifty years after the start of the first British built railway line, FMSR had laid 1321 miles of railway tracks and built 213 permanent stations and 76 halts across the Peninsula. Terengganu remained the only state not connected by the FMSR. (The new railway link infrastructure, East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will be connecting all the East coast states namely Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang to the West coast).

References

https://www.academia.edu/1517283/The_Imperial_Locomotive_A_Study_of_the_Railway_System_in_British_Malaya_1885_1942 / updates@Academia.mail.com

Kaur, A. (1980). The Impact of Railroads on The Malayan Economy, 1874-1941. The Journal of Asian Studies, 39(4), 693-710. doi:10.2307/2055178 

Postcards from the south : Memory and history of the Malaysian railways / Book by Mahen Bala / Originally published 2018

The Quran and the Sunnah

by Afidah Rahim

There are two handwritten copies of the Quran in Gallery B. Both these Malay Qurans are from the 19th century CE. Our curator will be explaining these manuscripts in a journal article next year. As an addendum to my blog article regarding the Prophet’s traditions, this article highlights the content displayed on the Qurans in gallery B to illustrate the sunnah (the ‘way of the Prophet’). Prophet Muhammad (saw) recited these particular surahs (chapters) on different occasions. Sunnah denotes the actual actions, practices and sayings of the Prophet.

Muslims believe the Quran text is the divine, unaltered Word of God, as revealed orally to Prophet Muhammad (saw) via the Archangel Gabriel in the 7th century CE. Upon memorising the revelations, the Prophet’s closest companions proceeded to transcribe them on palm wood, parchment, bones and later, onto paper. Al-Quran derives from the Arabic word qara’a meaning ‘to read’ or ‘to recite’.

The act of writing occupies an esteemed place in Islamic tradition. Much effort is placed on glorifying the Word of God through calligraphy and manuscript art. Some Ottoman and Indian Qurans were illuminated on every page with gold and colours. Malay Qurans have a defining feature in that only the beginning, middle and end pages are ornately decorated. This is in keeping with Malay values of understatement, restraint and balance. Some Malay Qurans, as in the case of our Javanese Quran in gallery B, do not even make the central pages a feature. Looking at our gallery B Qurans, we note the significance of the four illuminated pages: two at the beginning and two at the end.

The Terengganu Quran in gallery B displays the first surah, Al-Fatihah (the Opener) on the right-hand side and the start of the second surah, Al-Baqarah (the Cow) on the left-hand side. Al-Fatihah is a summary of the entire Quran. Its key verse translates to ‘You (solely) we worship, and You (solely) we ask for help from’. This oneness of God is the essence of Islamic faith. The second verse of Al-Baqarah means ‘That is the Book, in which there is no doubt, guidance for the God-conscious’. Therefore, Muslims consider the Quran as the sacred book for complete guidance, relevant for all time.

Terengganu Quran displaying the first two pages

The Quran explains when and which direction one should pray, while Prophet Muhammad (saw) showed by example what words and movements to use during prayer. Following the Prophet’s sunnah, the Al-Fatihah is recited whilst standing within every prayer. There are exceptions and modifications to standing e.g. for the elderly and in certain circumstances. However, the words recited remain the same.

The Javanese Quran in gallery B exhibits the final two surahs, Al-Falaq (the Daybreak) and An-Nas (Mankind). Both these surahs are words of protection from evil: Al-Falaq against external elements and An-Nas against evil from within. These two surahs are known as al-Mu’awwidhat (the Refuges). According to Hadith Sahih Al-Bukhari 5016/7, the prophet’s wife Aisha’ narrated that Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to recite both these surahs when he became sick and also, before sleeping every night. Hence, these acts are examples of the Prophet’s sunnah, which Muslims should follow.

Javanese Quran showing the final two pages

In the shahada, Muslims profess that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad (saw) was the best role model and the Quran confirms his exemplary character. We wish ‘peace be upon him’ by saying sallallahu alaihi wasallam (saw) after his name.

At Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) final sermon, he said: ‘I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray’.

References

The Noble Quran translated by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan (1997) Riyadh: Darussalam

Gallop A.T. (2012) The Art of the Malay Quran. Arts of Asia. Jan-Feb 2012

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (2020) Mirrors of Beauty. KL. IAMM

M Uthman El-Muhammady (1998) The Quran and the Hadith. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Religions and Beliefs Vol. 10, KL: Editions Didier Millet

Natasha Kamaluddin (2018) The First Six: An Introduction to the Noble Quran. Back to Basics Vol. 2 KL: Dakwah Corner

Ros Mahwati Ahmad Zakaria (2005) Manuscripts: The Word Made Manifest. The Message and the Monsoon, KL: IAMM

Muzium Negara gallery storyboards & Wikipedia

Muhammad Azam Adnan, Muzium Negara Gallery B curator

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zj36gwx/revision/2

https://sunnah.com/urn/46900