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What causes the lunar eclipse, according to Dusun mythology

According to Dusun mythology, Kinharingan is a creator deity who came from a rock in the middle of the sea with his sister/wife Munsumundok.

In one version of the legend, Kinharingan and Munsumundok walked across the water, perhaps like Jesus in the Bible, until they arrived to the house of the god Bisagit.

Bisagit gave the pair earth and there, Kinharingan created the Dusuns.

The Dusun legend of Kinharingan and the snake

Kinharingan once pounded rice and made flour from it. After he made the flour, he called all the animals in the world together and ordered them to eat it.

When their mouths were so full they could not speak, Kinharingan asked them, “Who can cast off his skin?”

The snake, who had only been putting his mouth into the flour and pretending to eat, was the only one able to answer because his mouth was not full.

The snake answered, “I can.”

“Very well,” said Kinharingan, “if that is so, you shall not die.”

That is how a legend started that the snake would not die unless a man killed it.

The Tarob and the Lunar Eclipse

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Here is a Dusun legend of how the lunar eclipse came about.

The children of Kinharingan were pounding rice when a spirit called Tarob came and ate it all up.

It became so that very time they pounded rice, the Tarob would come and eat it again.

Finally, they had enough and went to complain to their father.

Then Kinharingan told them, “If he comes again order him to eat the moon.”

When the Tarob came over wanting to steal the pounded rice again, Kinharingan’s children told him the exact thing that their father told them to.

Sure enough, the Tarob went to eat the moon, swallowing it and making it disappear from the night sky.

And that was how the lunar eclipse came to happen, accordin to Dusun mythology.

Know the legends behind these 5 famous Chinese desserts

Behind every traditional food, there is always a story. It should not be surprising that traditional Chinese food such as mantou, Dragon’s beard candy, Wife Cake, doufufa and even guilinggao will have it’s own lore and background story.

Here are the legends behind these five famous Chinese desserts:


You have seen this jelly-like Chinese dessert being sold at the supermarket.

Did you know that it is traditionally made from ‘gao’ or a paste of the under shell of the turtle such as the Chinese three-striped box turtle (Cuora trifasciata)?

It is traditionally prepared by boiling turtle shells for hours before adding in a variety of herbs.

After the water is thickened to form a jelly-like residue, rice flour and corn starch are added to make guilinggao.

There are guillinggao brands which use commercially farmed three-lined box turtles. As such, the traditional guilinggao is quite expensive. For those that use turtle shell in their ingredients, typically other species of turtles such as soft-shelled turtle are used.

However to make guilinggao at home, there is no need for you to catch a turtle, take off the shell and boil it.

Most commercially available guilinggao products today do not contain turtle shell powder.

Today, guilinggao powder is easily available in stores and supermarkets. Follow the instructions and add in as much sugar as your heart desires.

While it has never been proven, like many traditional Chinese desserts, gulinggao is believed to be medicinal to improve circulation, healthier complexion and good for the kidney.

Legend has it that the Tongzhi Emperor who reigned from 1861 to 1875 nearly cured his smallpox by taking guilinggao.

His mother, the Empress Dowager Cixi, on the other hand believed that his smallpox could be cured by worshipping a smallpox god.

After convincing the emperor not to take guilinggao anymore, the Tongzhi Emperor passed away soon after.

Was it because he stopped taking guilinggao or is there another reason for his death? We might never know.


The origins of doufufa can be traced back to as early as the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD).

According to legend, Emperor Gaozu of Han who reigned from 202-195AD had a grandson named Liu An.

He wanted to create something that would help him achieve immortality and Liu An thought the answer could be found in soybean.

After few attempts, he managed to create soft tofu. People of the Han Dynasty started to call it tofu brains because of its softness.

While Liu An did not get to live forever, his recipe has survived to this day.

Today, there are so many version of doufufa. Some have it with something sweet like sweet ginger soup while others tend to make it savoury by adding in soy sauce.

Meanwhile, Sarawakians love to have it with gula apong (palm sugar).

3.Dragon’s Beard Candy

Here is another Chinese dessert that originated during the Han Dynasty.

With no internet or TV, the Emperor found himself being entertained by an imperial court chef who performed complicated steps to make a new confection.

After stretching the dough into small, thin strands, a new recipe was created in front of the Emperor.

These strands reminded the Emperor of a dragon’s beard hence the name that we all know now.

Fast forward to the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the Communist Party of China banned any activities connected to the Han Dynasty – including Dragon’s Beard Candy.

People in China actually stopped making it for some time until recently with the new generation picking up the craft to make this traditional sweet again.

4.Wife Cake

Sometimes you can roughly guess there must be a legend behind some Chinese desserts according to their names.

Lo Po Beng – or its English translation Wife Cake – is actually a Chinese pastry made with winter melon, almond paste and sesame.

Long time ago, there was a poor couple who loved each other dearly. One day, the husband’s father fell sick.

The couple spent all their money to cure the poor old man but he was still not cured.

Without her husband’s knowledge, the wife sold herself as a slave for money to buy medicine for her father in-law.

Once the husband found out what his wife did, he created this pastry filled with winter melon and almond.

The husband sold the pastry which he dedicated to his wife. Thankfully, the cake was a hit and the poor man managed to buy back his wife using the money that he earned.


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Some Chinese desserts like this mantou can be served as part of main course. Credit: Pixabay.

The Chinese mantou is a soft, white steamed bun. It is a popular side that can even be found in the frozen section at the supermarket.

The most famous legend behind mantou is related to human sacrifice.

During the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China (220-280AD), the Chancellor of Shu Han state Zhuge Liang led the Shu army on a campaign against Nanman forces or the Southern Barbarians.

After capturing the Nanman king Meng Hua, Zhuge Liang brought his army back to Shu Han.

The troops suddenly came across a very fast flowing river that could not be crossed.

One of the barbarian lords told Zhuge Liang that in the olden days the barbarians would sacrifice 50 men and throw their heads into the river to appease the river deity and allow them to cross.

Zhuge Liang did not want any of his men to lose their heads. Instead, he ordered them to slaughter the livestock and fill their meat into buns shaped roughly like human heads.

The men then threw these buns into the river.

Somehow, Zhuge Liang and his men managed to cross the river and he named the bun ‘mantou’ or barbarian’s head.

Nuns or concubines: Who invented Italian pastry, cannoli?

Cannoli is an Italian pastry which has recently made its way to Malaysia. It is a tube-shaped shell made of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling. Yum.

In Italian, cannoli is plural and its corresponding singular is cannolo. However in English, cannoli is usually used as a singular.

The shells are made basically from flour, sugar, butter, egg and oil. Meanwhile, the ingredients for the fillings are ricotta, powdered sugar, ground cinnamon and chocolate chips.

What makes this pastry more interesting besides its crispy shell and creamy filling is the legend behind its origin.

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From a harem to a convent, here are some theories behind who invented the cannoli:

1.Concubines made cannoli in order to capture the prince’s attention

Between 827 and 1091 AD, the city of Caltanissetta in Sicily was under Arab domination.

During the time, the city was known for its large number of harems. Even its name back then was ‘Kalt El Nissa’ which meant ‘women’s castle’.

With so many harems, then there must be many concubines. Usually, these concubines served only one prince.

The women of Caltanisseta reportedly were inspired by their prince’s ‘body part’ that they created a pastry shaped like it with a creamy filling in the middle. Ahem. Nudge nudge wink wink.

If it is true that the concubines in Caltanissetta created the cannoli just to impress their prince, the effort is nothing compared to the concubines in the Turkish drama The Magnificent Century, who resorted to poisoning and framing each other just to be the Sultan’s favourite.

Based on the life of Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife Hurrem Sultan, a slave girl who (of course) rises through the ranks of the harem’s hierarchy to become Sultana, the drama can be a guilty pleasure as you watch the concubines pulling all kinds of moves just to gain the Sultan’s attention.

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Credit to

2. The Christian nuns were trying to have fun

The Carnevale season, a celebration which started during the Middle Ages and is still being celebrated today in some part of the world, usually takes place before the liturgical season of Lent. It was celebration involved a lot of food, alcohol and meat before the abstinence of them during Lent.

Some historians believed that the nuns of Caltanissetta were being playful and wanted to join the festivities of Carnavale.

They came up with this brilliant idea of making a fountain with edible faucets where ricotta cream came out instead of water. Patrons would then fill the cannoli shell with cream.

The dessert was a hit and eventually became a year-round staple pastry in Sicily.

3.Former concubines who later became nuns were responsible for passing down the recipe

By 1086, when Arab rule in Sicily came to an end, the harems also started to disappear.

Some of the concubines decided to remain in Sicily and convert to Christianity.

A number of them is believed to have become nuns and resided in the monasteries.

They brought along with them food they cooked as concubines, including the cannoli.

Some historians believed that it was possible that the nuns who brought cannoli to the Carnevale were former concubines themselves or learned the recipes from their sisters who used to live in the harem.

While you might not look at cannoli the same way after knowing the ‘inspiration’ behind it, still we all need to thank these women. If it weren’t for them, we might never indulge in this crispy, sweet, creamy pastry.

Click here, here and here for the recipe.

The legends behind four ancient beauties of China

How beautiful can a woman be that her name and beauty inspires idioms and legends?

While no one in the current generation can claim to be that beautiful, these four ancient beauties of China definitely know how that feels.

The beauties of Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan and Yang Guifei are reportedly so out of this world that kings were swayed by them and even Mother Nature couldn’t compete.

There might be some exaggeration going on here but here are some of the legends behind the four ancient beauties of China:

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Xi Shi as depicted in the album Gathering Gems of Beauty created during Qing Dynasty. Credit: Public Domain.

1.Xi Shi

The first of the four ancient beauties of China is Xi Shi who lived during 7th to 6th century BC.

She was said to be so beautiful that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and sank below the surface.

The fish were literally killed by Xi Shi’s beauty.

Due to her beauty, she became a political tool between the Wu and Yue Kingdoms of ancient China.

King Goujian of Yue and his military advisor Fan Li were both hostages of King Fuchai from Wu Kingdom, turning Yue into a tributary state to Wu.

In order to strike back against Wu, Goujian decided to send trained beautiful women to Fuchai. One of the women was Yi Shi.

Despite being in love with Fan Li, Yi Shi went to Wu as a tribute.

The move was definitely a smart one because Fuchai had a weakness for beautiful women.

He was so bewitched by Yi Shi that he forgot all about his state affairs and killed his best advisor along the way.

As the strength of Wu dwindled, Goujian attacked his enemy and completely overpowered Wu’s army.

After the fall of his kingdom, Fuchai committed suicide.

There are different legends of what happened to Xi Shi after the fall of Wu.

One version is that Goujian killed her by drowning because he was afraid that he would be mesmerised by her beauty the way Fuchai was. (Oh yes, blame it on the women for your own weakness.)

Another version of the legend thankfully has a happy ending. Xi Shi reunites with Fan Li and they live together on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Taihu Lake.

2.Wang Zhaojun

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Just like Yi Shi, Wang Zhaojun was sent by Emperor Yuan to marry Chanyu Huhanye of the Xiongnu Empire to establish friendly relations with the Han Dynasty through marriage.

She first entered the harem of Emperor Yuan of Han in 36 BC.

According to the custom in the palace, the Emperor was first presented with portraits of all the candidates in the harem to choose as his wife.

Most women resorted to ancient way of catfishing; they bribed the artist Mao Yanshou to paint them to be more beautiful than they really were.

Since Wang Zhaojun refused to bribe him, Mao Yanshou painted an ugly portrait of her.

As a result, Emperor Yuan never visited her and she remained as a palace lady-in-waiting.

Then in 33BC, Huhanye of the Xiongnu Empire visited Han kingdom. He took the opportunity to request to become a son-in-law of Emperor Yuan.

Normally, the emperor would honour the request by offering the daughter of one of his concubines.

However, Yuan refused to give Huhanye a real princess for marriage so he ordered the plainest girl in the harem to be selected.

The matron of the harem gave the emperor the ugly portrait of Wang Zhaojun and he immediately agreed.

Only when she was presented to Huhanye did Emperor Yuan find out the beauty of Wang Zhaojun.

It was too late for Emperor Yuan to retract his decision and Huhanye was beyond happy to receive Wang Zhaojun as his bride.

The good news was that relations between two empires improved after the marriage. Unfortunately for the artist Mao Yanshou, he was executed for deceiving the Emperor.

The beauty of Wang Zhaojun

So how beautiful was Wang Zhaojun according to ancient texts? Legend has it that Wang Zhaojun left her hometown on horseback to join Emperor Yuan’s harem.

She was sad leaving her hometown that Wang Zhaojun began to play sorrowful melodies on a pipa.

A flock of geese flying over saw the beautiful Wang Zhaojun and immediately forgot to flap their wings and fell to the ground.


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Qing dynasty Romance of the Three Kingdoms illustration of Diaochan. Credit: Public Domain.

This ancient beauty of China is mostly a fictional character, famous for her role in the 14th century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

In the story, warrior Lu Bu fell in love with Diaochan up to the point that he betrayed and kill his own foster father.

It is not that sad and tragic story because the foster father is a tyrannical warlord named Dong Zhuo.

Diaochan was Dong Zhuo’s concubine. In order to kill the warlord, she made full use of her beauty to turn Lu Bu against Dong Zhuo. The plan seemed to be straight forward and simple; seduce both father and son while encouraging the son to kill the father.

Diaochan was highly praised in writings because thanks to her beauty, Dong Zhuo’s evil regime was put to an end.

She was said to be so beautiful with a face so luminous that the moon itself would shy away in embarrassment when compared to her face.

There are various accounts telling the fate of Diaochan. One account stated that Dong Zhuo’s followers killed her out of revenge, other said she ended up with Lu Bu and eventually was executed along with him when he lost in a battle.

4.Yang Guifei

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Painting of Hosoda Eishi titled “The Chinese beauty Yang Guifei”. Edo period, about AD 1800-20. Credit: Public Domain.

While Diaochan’s beauty made the moon shy away, Yang Guifei (whose real name was Yang Yuhuan) was so beautiful that the flowers were put to shame.

In 733, 14-year-old Yang Guifei married Li Mao, the Prince of Shou and the son of Emperor Xuanzong and Consort Wu.

Here comes the icky part; after Consort Wu died, Emperor Xuanzong became attracted to his daughter-in-law Yang Guifei.

Since it is scandalous to take your own daughter-in-law as your concubine even during ancient China, Emperor Xuanzhong sent Yang Guifei to be a Taoist nun.

Yang Guifei stayed as a nun for a brief moment before the emperor took her in again and made her an imperial consort.

In the meantime, Xuanzong bestowed a new wife on his son Li Mao.

Yang Guifei soon became Xuanzong’s favourite concubine. He loved her so much that the emperor had Yang Guifei’s favourite fruit lychee to be delivered to the capital for her.

The Grab riders of Ancient China would take night and day shifts from southern China, where the fruit grew, to the palace.

During the An Lushan Rebellion, the imperial court blamed Yang and the rest of her family for the rebellion.

This was because the conflict between Yang Guozhang (Yang Guifei’s second cousin) and An Lushan, a favourite official of Emperor Xuanzhong that drove An into rebellion.

In order to put an end to the rebellion, Emperor Xuanzhong reluctantly ordered his man to strangle Yang Guifei to death.

What to know about Asian fox spirits; huli jing, kumiho and kitsune

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Asian fox spirit is often depicted as having nine tails. Credits: Pixabay

Different cultures have their own versions of almost the same mythical creature, which is almost always inspired by the same animal. Take the fox, for example. Although there are some variations in their depictions, the fox often appears in the folklore of many cultures.

Typically, they are known as symbols of cunning and trickery, especially in Western and Persian folklore. Perhaps this reputation derived from fox’s ability to evade hunters.

Similarly in Asian folklore, they appear as fox spirits with the ability to disguise themselves as beautiful women. The widely known Asian fox spirits are huli jing, kumiho and kitsune which comes from Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures respectively.

Here are some interesting facts and stories about these three Asian fox spirits:

1. Chinese fox spirit, Huli jing

Overall in Chinese mythology, all things are capable of acquiring human forms, magical powers and immortality.

The ideas of species being able to transform, especially from non-human to human, started during the Han Dynasty.

Since then, the idea of the fox being able to form itself into human started to take shape.

The Huli jing walks on its four legs but has nine tails, which is why it is also known as the nine-tailed fox. As for how they are able to transform into a human? A fox needs to find a skull that fits on its head to be able to transform into a human being.

Chinese fox spirits often appear as young, beautiful but dangerous women.

There are several early accounts depicting the physical appearance and capability of huli jing.

Chinese historian Guo Pu wrote in Records from Within the Recondite, “When a fox is fifty years old, it can transform itself into a woman. When it is one hundred, it becomes a beautiful woman or a shaman; some become men and have sex with women. They can know events from more than a thousand li (miles) away and good at witchcraft, beguiling people and making them lose their senses. When they are a thousand years old, they can commune with the heavens and become heavenly foxes.”

Apparently, it is not pleasant to bump into one of these huli jing especially if you are a woman.

Qian Xiyan in the book The Garden of Cleverness (1613) said: “Foxes hide all day and run around all night. Foxes love women’s chambers, and when women in the capital have their period, they throw their dirty rags in the gutter, and the foxes come and lick up all the menstrual blood. No one sees them. This is probably the reasons they turn into monsters.”

2.Korean fox spirit, Kumiho

As all nine-tailed foxes come from China, the Korean counterpart of huli jing is a kumiho. If you are a huge Korean drama fan, you might be familiar with this fox spirit.

In 2010 My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Shin Min-ah plays the role of a kumiho. In that version of kumiho, she has superhuman strength, is exceptionally fast and can identify people and objects from far.

On the downside, she has a fear of water. This is due to her fox bead, which stores her life energy, and is made from goblin fire.

Meanwhile in Tale of the Nine-Tailed (2020), Lee Dong-wook is a kumiho named Lee Yeon who abdicated his position as the mountain spirit of Baekdudaegan to search the reincarnation of his mortal love. He follows her soul into the afterlife to give her the fox bead as her mark when she is reborn again.

Unlike other Asian fox spirits, kumiho is known to have a fox bead or yeowoo guseul.

According to Korean mythology, the fox bead provides power and intelligence to kumiho as well as absorb a human’s energy with it.

Furthermore, kumiho is often depicted as evil entities, compared to other fox spirits who have at least some moral compass and can therfore be either good or bad.

Just like the kumiho in Tale of the Nine Tailed, they are known for their capability to change their appearances. In most tales, they change into a beautiful woman who aims to seduce men in order to eat their livers or hearts.

In other versions of the folklore, if a kumiho abstains from killing and eating humans for a thousand days, it can be a true human and lose its evil character.

3.Japanese fox spirit, Kitsune

Just like kumiho, Japanese fox legends had their origins in Chinese huli jing. Similar to other fox spirits, kitsune is known to have shape-shifting ability.

However, they have to live a life of a normal fox for a hundred years before it can transform into a human. They can be male or female at any age but like other Asian fox spirits, kitsune’s preference is to be a young beautiful woman.

It was believed that any woman encountered alone, at dusk or night, could be kitsune. Kitsune’s other powers include fire breathing, being able to create lightning like Thor and enter people’s dreams as they please.

As for kitsune’s tails, it can have from one to nine of them. The only way to kill a kitsune is to cut off all of its tails. While only one of the tails is believed to be the source of its power, it is better to cut them all since you might not which tail is the main one.

Kitsune can be good or bad. The zenko kitsune is a follower of Inari, the Shinto deity of agriculture, harvest and fertility. Meeting a zenko kitsune is definitely a good sign.

On the contrary, the yako kitsune is not only mischievous but evil too.

According to Japanese mythology, a fox can possess a human and the victim is always a young woman.

The method of possession? The fox may enter beneath her fingernails or through her breasts. In order to get rid the fox spirit, an exorcism should be performed on that person, preferably at an Inari shrine.

Once the victim is freed from possession, he or she would never be able to eat food favoured by kitsune such as tofu or adzuki beans.

Special mentions: Ho Tinh

The least famous among these Asian fox spirits is the Vietnamese ho tinh.

Legend has it that ho tinh is a huge nine-tailed fox that inhabited a deep cave in Long Bien.

In a typical Asian fox spirits’ move, ho tinh would disguise itself as a beautiful woman. Then she would trick its victims into following it back to the mountains.

Somewhere in the mountains is ho tinh’s cave where it would trap and feed on them.

A Bidayuh legend of seven blind brothers and the origin story of Gawai Timpijog

Here at KajoMag, we love folklore and legends that people hardly ever heard of. Here is one about the story from the Bidayuh community about seven blind brothers:

Once upon a time there were seven brothers named Patu, Laja, Rangan, Tungulino, Bunga Nuing, Buku Tabu, and Mamang, the eldest.

They were all born blind, and to poor parents who found it a problem to provide for them.

Much of the time, they had nothing to eat. However, despite these hardships, they grew up fit and strong.

When the brothers felt able to start working, they each made a string, then joined the pieces together, coming up with a string that stretched up to more than 1 km. This they used as a guide-line to help them find their way back after going out into old jungle.

The seven blind brothers and an orangutan

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Orangutan. Credit: Pixabay

One day, they decided to go on a ‘tuba’ fishing expedition (tuba the plant with poisonous roots, not the brass instrument).

They tied the end of the string to their house and set off with their tuba roots, reeling out the string as they went. Upon reaching a stream, they threw in the roots, waited for the fish to die, and later gathered and cooked their catch.

Unbeknownst to them, an orangutan joined in their feast, eating the fish as it was served. The brothers, being unable to see, blamed each other for stealing the fish but could not decide who was the culprit.

Eventually one brother grabbed the orangutan’s hands.

Figuring out what had actually happened, with the help of his other brothers the orangutan was squeezed to death.

The brothers then prepped the orangutan for cooking and it was thoroughly enjoyed by them all.

The blind brothers gain their eyesight

At the end of the meal, one brother accidentally swallowed a bone which stuck in his throat. He gave a hard gulp, and to his surprise, his eyes opened and he could see. He told his brothers to swallow the bones too; to their delight they also were able to see.

The brothers decided to go on a wild boar hunt now that their sight was restored. They went into old jungle and killed many boars, which they smoked over a fire. Some of the meat was preserved.

Each day one brother in charge of the cooking would stay by the camp, but was frightened by daily visits from a huge wild man.

The brother would run into the jungle as soon as the visitor appeared, abandoning the smoked and preserved boar to the wild man.

The other brothers got very angry on returning to the camp and finding their meat already eaten.

Each declared he would fight and kill the wild man if he appeared again. So they took turns at guarding the camp. But all felt afraid at the visitor’s approach and ran away.

Mamang and the wildman

Then it came to Mamang’s turn to be on guard. He collected plenty of rattan vines and began to plait them in preparation for making a trap.

When the wild man appeared, he asked for some smoked pig but was diverted by the sight of Mamang plaiting his rattan. He sat close to Mamang and asked what he was doing.

Mamang replied he was tired from boar hunting and hoped the plaited rattan tied around his knees and elbows would cure him. (It was common in those days for aching knees and elbows, even wounds, to be covered with plaited rattan.)

He explained he had often used this treatment and found it most effective.

The wild man said he too was tired and asked to be treated. Mamang replied that such treatment deserved a good reward or the cure would not be a complete success.

Hence, the wild man offered the choice of one of his granddaughters in marriage.

Not wanting to be cheated, Mamang wisely said he must see the girls first before treatment started, so they together went to the wild man’s house.

Mamang’s choice for marriage was the youngest girl, whom he marked and covered in soot and charcoal.

The ‘treatment’ on the wild man

Back at the camp, treatment commenced with plaited rattans being fixed around the wild man’s knees and elbows. Mamang then put pieces of wood across the knots, and when the wild man complained of being hurt, he said this was part of the treatment.

The patient was eventually tied so thoroughly that he lay immobile on his back. Mamang then searched for a wooden club and used this to beat the man.

After a short struggle, the wild man lay dead. With the corpse pulled behind the camp, Mamang went to rest.

Later that evening the brothers returned with two pigs. They saw Mamang fast asleep, but as the smoked boar was safe, they could not accuse him of lazing around.

The pigs were cleaned and some were smoked over a large wood fire. When the fire burned low, Mamang told his brothers to fetch more logs from behind the camp. They were horrified to find the wild man’s corpse there, and ran back to ask him how it had been done.

Meanwhile, Mamang did not bother to tell them of the killing. Instead, he told them about the granddaughters they had been promised as wives.

He said they were all beautiful, except the youngest whom he described as filthy and ugly.

The last one to claim his bride would end up with this girl, he warned.

Seven brothers taking new wives

Next morning they set off to the wild man’s house, Mamang at first taking the lead but later falling back.

The brothers rushed into the house to take their choice. Mamang, being last, found only the blackened one left for him.

Before long they all had a wash, and then it was revealed that Mamang’s girl was the most beautiful after the charcoal was washed off.

Her name was Dayang Nion. The two were married and lived in the wild man’s house, while the rest of the couples made their homes nearby. Later the parents and then the whole village moved to the new site, and found life very pleasant there.

Patu lusting over his brother’s wife

Several months passed before Patu, who dearly loved Mamang’s wife, Dayang Nion, said he wished to make an exchange. She did not agree with this so Patu decided to kill Mamang.

Patu told the people he was sick and asked Mamang to go out and get certain pig and fish delicacies for him to be found only in very dangerous country.

Thankfully, Mamang survived the dangers. But when the cooked foods were offered, Patu said he had no appetite.

Next Patu asked his brother to trap pheasant, again in dangerous jungle, and once more refused to eat the birds when they were served. Finally he asked Mamang to collect mushrooms from a certain tree which he pointed to.

Dayang Nion knew of Patu’s evil intentions and warned her husband that the tree was old and unsafe.

However, he went ahead; the tree gave away under the man’s weight and Mamang soon lay dead on the ground. The body was buried and Dayang Nion mourned her husband for the customary five days.

Dayang Nion searching for her husband Mamang in the afterlife

When the five-day no-work taboo and grieving period was over, the widow set out from her home through old jungle determined to follow Mamang into Sibayan, the underworld, despite her mother in-law’s advice to the contrary.

She walked for several days and nights, and met eight kinds of freshwater fish. There were ikan bantah, ikat pait, ikan dungan, ikan puteh mpahat, ikan siluang, ikan buhing, ikan toman and ikan limpasih.

From these fish, Dayang Nion asked news of Mamang. Each said they had seen him pass, the ikan limpasih saying he had just gone by.

Dayang Nion quickened her pace and suddenly came upon Mamang watching a cockfight with people of the underworld.

Dayang Nion brings her husband back

Wanting to get her husband back from the underworld, she asked Tayung Kamayuh’s advice. She was an old woman who always helped those in need.

Unfortunately, Tayung Kamayuh said nothing could be done.

Dayang Nion went back to the place where she had last seen Mamang and called for him to return with her to the real world. He replied that he did not wish to return; people living on earth were bad, and anyway he was enjoying himself.

Tayung Kamayuh took pity on Dayang Nion in her sorrow and suggested she make several kinds of cake from rice flour. These were to be put on the roof of the old women’s outer verandah and would look like starlight. She said Mamang usually came to rest on the outer verandah, and if he saw the cakes, he would stop to count them.

Dayang Nion was told to seize Mamang while he counted and not be frightened if he transformed into a snake, centipede, dragon or other animal. Only if he changed into an egg was she to show fear.

Dayang Nion tried to remember the instructions most carefully as she was anxious to rescue her husband.

Next evening, Mamang came as expected to shelter on Tayung Kamayuh’s outer veranda, being tired after cockfighting.

He saw the cakes shining on the roof and began counting them, unaware of Dayang Nion until she seized him.

Mamang changed in turn into various animals as the old woman had warned, but Dayang Nion held tight. Only when Mamang finally turned into an egg did she show fear. She took the egg to Tayung Kamayuh.

Mamang coming back from the dead

On the following day, the old woman asked Dayang Nion to kill a young chicken and together they held a small ‘makan selamat’ (thanksgiving) dinner.

Dayang Nion’s next instruction were to fall six times on her way home, taking care not to break the egg as it now held her husband.

On the seventh fall, she was to put her full weight on the egg and Mamang would appear, although he would be unconscious. She was to bless him with a live chicken, at the same time saying this prayer:

Indi, duwuh, taruh, mpat, rimuh, inum, ijuh, tampa sua, tampa basa. Aku itih masi ihang Mamang massu tanah samar tanah dakus, tanah Sibayan mada nuh maring asla maring indih, mada nun marui missia lagi.

This means:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,

Oh! God Almighty, God of the religious,

I here bless Mamang’s soul,

Let it return to the beginning from the wasted and dirty places,

From the spirits of the underworld,

And become man again.

These instructions were to be remembered carefully. Dayang Nion then set off homeward with the egg and did exactly as she had been told.

After the seventh fall and recital of the prayer, Mamang did indeed come to life. Dayang Nion told him their adventures, for he thought he had been merely deeply asleep.

Mamang returns from the dead

They continued homeward together to be met at the village by overjoyed parents. A special feast was celebrated for Mamang’s return from the underworld, called the Gawai Timpijog.

Everyone in the longhouse had a good time dancing, singing and eating. Patu persuaded Mamang to dance with him but Mamang had planned revenge. While dancing, he pierced his brother’s throat with a bamboo tuak wine container and Patu fell down dead.

Nonetheless, this incident did not deter the party as they continued to enjoy themselves. The Gawai Timpijog lasted for three days.

When it was over, Patu was buried with respect. People suggested his wife should try to regain her husband from the underworld, as Dayang Nion had. However, she declined saying he had been killed with good reason.

Thus was the Gawai Timpijog inaugurated and it is to celebrate the passing of a person’s spirit to the underworld.

This legend was recorded by R. Naen and R. Nyandoh and was published in the Sarawak Gazette on Jan 31, 1965.

What is an Imoogi, the villain in K-drama Tale of Nine Tailed (2020)?

Are you watching Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020) right now?

Tale of Nine Tailed
Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020)

The drama focuses on 100-year-old gumiho (nine-tailed fox) named Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) who abdicated his position as the mountain spirit of Baekdudaegan for the reincarnation of his first love Ah-eum (Jo Bo-ah).

She was killed by Imoogi, a serpent beast in human form and Lee Yeon’s arch-nemesis.

This romance fantasy series is interesting to watch, especially if you love folklore and urban legends. It stars Lee Dong-wook, Jo Bo-ah and Kim Bum.

But first, what is an Imoogi? Is it as evil as it is depicted in Tale of Nine Tailed?

Imoogi, a Korean lesser dragon

According to Korean folk mythology, most dragons were originally imoogi or lesser dragons.

While other dragons are related to fire and destruction, the Korean dragon is associated with water and agriculture and can bring on rain and clouds.

It is said that imoogis resemble gigantic serpents. In some depictions, imoogi is depicted carrying a yeouijui in one of its claws.

Remember the Philosopher’s Stone in the Harry Potter series? A yeouiju is sort of like that.

Essentially, Korean mythology describes these imoogis as dragons in training. It will take them over a thousand years to become a true dragon. If (or when) they do catch a yeouijui falling from the sky, then they will become a full-fledged dragon.

Some legends say that the Korean Sun Goddess created imoogi from human girls. When they are born, the girl is marked on her shoulder with a dragon symbol. When the girl turns 17, she turns into an imoogi.

Legend of Kim Si-min and imoogi

While the battle is between a nine-tailed fox and imoogi in the drama, the fight is in fact between a soldier and the creature according to legend.

Kim Si-min was a soldier who fought during Imjin War or the Japanese Invasions of Korea (1592-1598).

When he was nine, his village was terrorised by a large imoogi that lived in a nearby cave. It often came out to frighten people and harm their livestock.

One day, Si-min decided to kill the imoogi. After reading a book about how a snake was caught using a mulberry bow and a sprouting arrow, Si-min had an idea.

At once, he gathered the local children and ran to the stream near the cave where the imoogi hid. They also placed a large stone to cover the entrance to the village.

Then, one of the children climbed a tree right next to the stream and the shadow of the child was reflected in the stream.

When the imoogi saw the reflection of the child in the stream, it came out from the cave. The moment its head popped out, Si-min shot it using the mulberry bow and a sprouting arrow that he brought.

The imoogi was killed and its blood turned the colour of the stream to red for days.

Imoogi’s power

It was believed that if a lake, pond or river had more than 2,500 fish, an imoogi would appear to become the king of all living creatures in that fresh water.

While a dragon was believed to have power to bring rain, typhoon and thunders, an imoogi, being the lesser dragon, could only bring clouds.

The good thing is that the spring water would not dry out if there was an imoogi living nearby.

Additionally, this mythical creature tended to be territorial. There were many cases of imoogis fighting each other over the rights of a lake.

Naturally, the stronger imoogis dominated the larger lakes with more fish while the weaker imoogis had to live in small ponds and rivers.

According to Lisa Graves in her book Mythical Beasts and Beings, there are theories that the imoogi could have actually been a titanoboa, a giant and thankfully, extinct snake that lived 58 million years ago.

Titanoboa was the longest and heaviest snake to ever exist.

However, the titanoboa was native to areas around South America and not Korea.

A legend of how the Timugon Murut people came into existence

The Timugon Murut is one of the 29 ethnic groups of Murut people.

Overall, the Murut people can be found mainly in Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia as well as in Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

As for Timugon Murut, they mainly live in Sabah. Each of the ethnic group of Murut people including Timugon Murut has its own distinct language, custom and even folklore.

Here is a tale on how the Timugon people was created as recorded by researcher Kielo A. Brewis in the paper The Death of a Timugon Murut (1987):

There was a great flood which saw everyone drown, except one young man, who climbed up a very tall coconut tree.

After the waters began to recede, he went down to look for survivors.

An angel from heaven (masundu) came to tell him that there were no other survivors and gave him a proposal instead – that they should marry.

The angel wasn’t anything like the shiny Western concept of an angel, but came in the form of a woman who was afflicted with a skin condition, similar to that of ringworm.

Even though he was the only person left on the planet, the young man did not want to marry her.

Instead he went off to find prettier girls, holding on to the hope that there were survivors besides himself.

In the meantime, the angel did not handle the rejection well.

In his absence, the angel made a clay figure that looked much like herself, except the figure did not have the markings of ringworm.

Then she made the figure into a living being by spitting red betel nut juice from her mouth onto it.

When the young man returned empty-handed and saw the beautiful girl who had been made from clay, he wanted to marry her.

Their descendant became the ancestors of the Timugon Murut.

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The man marries the woman who was made from clay. Credit: Pixabay.

How thousands of Dayak Taman people died due to a poisonous tree

Researcher Victor King recorded in his paper Main Outlines of Taman Oral Tradition (1975) that the Dayak Taman people once suffered a great setback in their population.

And it was all thanks to a tree.

So what was the poisonous tree and how did it kill thousands Dayak Taman people?

There was a man named Bai Upa who was so angry with life. If he lived in the 21st century, you might find him ranting on social media. But instead, he decided to fetch a special poison from the headwaters of the Kapuas river.

This poison was watery in appearance and only can be found in remote places.

Additionally, the poison oozed from the ground and in the center of the ooze stood a tree.

The poison was believed to be almost impossible to obtain. Any attempts in the past usually caused the death of the seekers.

Bai Upa was a wise man. Knowing the danger of fetching of this poison, he sent eight of his slaves instead.

It was said that nothing could live around the tree for a distance of 200 paces.

There were no grass, trees or flowers. Instead, they were bones of humans and animals scattered.

The locals believed that even its scent could kill.

Bai Upa’s slaves took turns to get the poison.

The first slave only got a few paces into the poison zone when he fell dead.

Meanwhile, the second got a little further and so on. Finally, the last slave managed to hold his breath and bit one of the lower branches of the tree.

Actually, biting the tree acted as an antidote for the poison. The slave managed to collect a small amount of the poison in a container with a tight cover.

After the slave got back to Bai Upa, he used the poison to kill his enemies.

When the corpses were thrown into the river, fishes ate the flesh.

When the Dayak Taman people downstream ate these fish, they died. According to King’s informant, that was how thousands of Dayak Taman died with many of their villages abandoned.

What is the poisonous tree?

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Antiaris toxicaria is a type of fig tree. Credit: Pixabay

Although King did not identify the poisonous tree, another researcher Richard B. Primack in his paper Moraceae Trees in the Religious Life of Borneo People wrote that the tree is ‘clearly about the Upas tree, Antiaris toxicaria.

Primack explained that only the latex of an Upas tree can be so poisonous.

He wrote, “There are certain inaccuracies in the exaggerated description, which was probably embellished to make the story more interesting. The poison does not ooze from the ground and does not fill the air. The vegetation under these trees is perfectly normal. People and animals can approach the tree without injury. The poison must enter the blood, generally by a poison dart, in order to be effective. Consequently, people downriver eating poisoned fish would not become poisoned. Also, biting the lower branches of the tree is not an antidote.”

It is fortunate that the poisonous tree in King’s story is not as powerful as it was said to be. Or else someone might turn it into a bio-weapon. And thankfully the antidote is not by biting the lower branches. People surrounding a tree and biting its lower branches would definitely be an interesting sight to see.

The Lun Bawang legend of a giant man named Temueng

Long time ago, there was a giant man named Temueng and his friend named Pengiran who first lived at Kemaloh in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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According to legends, these people were believed to be the ancestors of Lun Bawang people.

Benedict Sandin in his paper The Bisayah and Indigenous Peoples of Limbang, Sandin recorded the life journey of this Lun Bawang legendary hero.

“Temueng and Pengiran were much ashamed that they could not defeat in battle chief enemy named Yada. Therefore Temueng moved from Kemaloh to Punang Trusan, and Pengiran also moved and settled at Illot, now in Indonesian Borneo,” Sandin wrote.

The life of Temueng

Legend has it that owing to the extraordinary size of the body, Temueng could easily eat one whole pig per meal. He was also rumoured to be a very strong man.

Meanwhile, Abdul Karim Abdul Rahman in his paper History of the founding of Brunei Kingdom Based on Oral Tradition (2016) pointed out that Temueng was Upai Semaring’s son.

He is another giant who is a Lundayeh legend from the Krayan Highlands, Kalimantan.

Upai Semaring 4
Upai Semaring hill, where he allegedly lived in Krayan Highlands.

When he lived in the Ulu Trusan, he carved a number of rocks and the posts of his house were all made of rocks which are still intact at that location to this day.

According to Sandin, while at Punang Trusan, Temueng lived at the present day Semado Nesab village.

His house there was surrounded by wide and deep drains for protection against invasion by his enemies.

While Temueng was living at Long Lopeng, hundreds of Kayan came to attack him. Also known as Luping, Long Lopeng is a settlement in the Lawas division.

When the enemy came, he was reportedly at ease smoking his pipe.

But when they came, he knocked each one of them on the head with his pipe and killed them all.

A giant bigger than Temueng?

Another story circles around Temueng; one day Temueng went out hunting animals in the forest.

He found a huge coil of rattan which could be used in a fish trap.

Thinking that the coiled rattan cane was a leg ornament, he put his leg into it.

But the coil was bigger than Temueng’s leg, and this frightened him. Temueng immediately thought there was a giant bigger than him living in the area.

While Temueng was not afraid of those who were smaller than him, he was afraid of people bigger than him.

Terrified, he fled from Long Lopeng and down the Trusan river to live at the foot of a mountain near Long Merarap. It is believed that is where he stayed until he died.

The Lun Bawang people after the death of Temueng

It is unsure how Temueng died but the Lun Bawang people still remember him even many years on after his death.

In memory of his settlements on the upper Trusan river, the Lun Bawang people from Kemaloh moved to the lands between the headwaters of Trusan and Limbang rivers.

They moved there in small groups, each group gradually followed by others.

Expanding their territory, they moved down the Trusan till they were attacked by the Kayans.

According to Sandin, the Lun Bawang successfully repulsed the Kayans, driving them away.

To this day, the Lun Bawang still settle in various areas of Lawas and Limbang regions.

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