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The history of illegal gambling and chap ji kee in Sarawak

More than a hundred years ago, chap ji kee or chap jee ki was a famous gambling game in Sarawak. Today, you can be thrown in jail for playing the illegal gambling game of chap ji kee.

What is chap ji kee

It is believed this game started in Johor in the early 1890s before spreading to Singapore, Malaya and eventually Sarawak.

Based on the 12 game pieces from Chinese chess, each piece was assigned a number.

The gamblers then lay bets on a combination of two numbers from 1 to 12. Hence, there were 144 possible combinations.

The numbers could also be replaced with other characters such as animals or Chinese characters.

There were few ways to bet; firstly one could bet on the combination of numbers in a particular order. Winners could earn winnings up to 100 times their bets.

Secondly, the gamblers could bet two numbers to appear in either order. Win this and you get paid up to 50 times the stake.

Or gamblers could bet on one single number from either draw and get paid 20 times their stakes.

Another popular form of playing chap ji kee involved gamblers placing their bets on gaming tables and using Chinese playing cards. This version was known as chap ji kee pangjang or long chap ji kee.

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The longer version of chap ji kee used Chinese playing cards in their bets. Photo by Pixabay.

At first, chap ji kee was played on a board or table with gamblers staking their bets in person.

Slowly, the game evolved into collecting bets from gamblers at their homes or on the street. This was to avoid detection of authorities who prohibited the game.

In Singapore, the game was called the “housewives’ opium”. Bored housewives turned to the game as a way of bringing more excitement into their lives and provide some distraction from their daily responsibilities.

Although the women in general did not play for high stakes, the little winnings they had was satisfactory enough to buy something nice for themselves or their children.

Chap ji kee in Sarawak

In Sarawak, gambling was legalised by the Brooke government since it provided a large revenue to the state.

Some historians believed that the Brooke government could hardly do without opium and gambling.

Apart from needing the money, it was also a way for the government to keep the activities under their radar.

Back then, the Brooke government would not have had enough resources to enforce any anti-gambling laws.

At first, these gambling dens, just like the opium farms, were run by the government.

On July 1, 1885 under the issue of the Farms Order, the government opened a tender to private contractors for periods of three years.

The first company to receive the tender was Ong Ewe Hai & Co. It had the exclusive rights to open and keep gambling houses. Furthermore, they were allowed to license the opening and keeping of gambling houses within the district from Tanjung Datu to the Sadong river.

Back then, the government even assigned two policemen to keep the peace at these gambling houses in Kuching.

At first, there was no restriction on the opening hours of these gambling houses or the age of gamblers.

So young and old were welcomed to throw in their money at any given time of the day.

Restrictions on gambling

By the late 1920s, Kuching Chinese community leaders started to petition the government to put tighter rules on gambling.

Finally, the government announced their tighter restrictions in a notice which was published in the Gazette on December 1928.

The notice stated that from 1st January, 1929, public gaming would only be permitted in the following streets in Kuching; Carpenter Street, India Street, Bishopsgate Street and China Street.

On top of that, chap ji kee and those under 16 years of age were not allowed to gamble in Kuching and throughout the first division.

1929 was also the year when public gambling in Kuching would only be allowed from 4pm to 6am.

By 1930, the prohibition of chap ji kee and of gambling by those under the age of 16 was extended to the whole of Sarawak.

If gambling was legal, why was chap ji kee illegal?

According to The Sarawak Gazette writer Loh Chee Yin, it was not surprising that chap ji kee was prohibited as it caused the greatest misery among the people.

“There is no skill in the game and the dividend is high – a $1 bet will give you a return of $10, and $10 will yield $100 and so on if you are lucky,” Loh wrote.

He continued, “I remember the scene of a Chap Jee Kee den operated at a shophouse along Wayang Street during Japanese occupation period. Twelve Chinese characters were painted on a table measuring about 5 feet by 8 feet.

“The banker sat on one side of the table with two assistants standing around. Twelve similar characters were carved on ‘chips’, which were kept in a sack made of thick cloth. The banker placed his hand inside the sack and selected the character he wanted by feeling with his finger, similar to the Braille used by the blind! The chip was then hidden inside a wooden box about the size of a match box, then placed on top of the table. Each better started to put his bet on the character that he thought was in the box. Finally the banker revealed his chips and paid accordingly. The result was written on a small blackboard hung up in front of the shop. One session took about fifteen minutes.”

Chap ji kee back then and today

Loh also shared stories of gamblers sleeping in the graves of their relatives in the hopes that the dead would reveal a favourable word or a result of a chap ji kee game.

“All dreams during the night were closely examined to see whether they had any relations to the twelve characters. The bankers in their turn, made offerings to their gods, asking for protection against the spirits which might reveal the secret of his words. In short; hell of a mess,” he shared.

While chap ji kee is still a form of illegal gambling to this day, the variation of this game might be still played in private and isolated circles today.

An Iban legend about the immortal Garai and his blowpipe

Here is an Iban legend from the Batang Ai area as recorded by N.S Haile on Aug 31, 1954 in the Sarawak Gazette.

A long time ago, there was an Iban Balau man named Garai.

One day, Garai went out hunting in the Klingkang Range with his blowpipe where he bumped into a very large spirit known as Antu Gayu.

Despite the blowpipe in the spirit’s hand, Garai was not frightened by Antu Gayu as he stood his ground.

Looking at Garai’s bravery, Antu Gayu challenged him, saying, “Let us see who can stick his darts into that rock. Whoever is successful will kill the other.”

Antu Gayu then pointed at a sheer sandstone cliff located in the Klingkang range.

Garai agreed, letting Antu Gayu go first.

While the spirit was selecting three of his strongest and sharpest darts, Garai excused himself and disappeared into the babas (bushes).

It did not take him long to find a pedalai tree from which he tapped some of the sticky rubber, and wound it around the tips of his darts before returning to the spirit.

Antu Gayu shot his three darts first. Although his darts were spirit darts which are much stronger and sharper than human darts, they still could not shatter the rock.

Meanwhile, Garai’s darts stuck into the rocks thanks to the pedalai rubber.

“It seems I’m the winner. You can see my darts have all stuck in. Well, nothing remains to be done but to kill you,” Garai said to the spirit.

The spirit immediately showed himself a coward as he tried to bargain for his life.

Garai’s reward after winning the competition

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Antu Gayu tried to offer Garai some gold to which he replied he already had plenty.

The spirit then offered him some jars and gongs and Garai also said he had plenty.

“Well then, some medicine to make you a strong walker,” Antu Gayu said.

Garai responded, “I already am a strong walker, I can go farther and faster than anyone else in this area. I think it will be the best if I just kill you.”

Again, Antu Gayu negotiated offering him the charm that would make Garai irresistible to women.

To that Garai answered that he was a happily married man, so he did not need the charm.

Finally, the spirit offered him something that he took into consideration: eternal youth.

“You’ll never get old! Never die! What do you think of that?” Antu Gayu asked.

Garai in the end agreed, “If you can make me stay young forever, I won’t kill you.”

The Antu Gayu then produced a small knife and he asked Garai to swallow it.

After feeling assured that it would not cause him any harm, Garai did as the spirit told him to do.

“Now, you will never get old. Unless, you told anybody the reason for your everlasting youth and of how you put me to shame with your blowpipe, then you will die,” said the spirit.

How the immortal Garai spent his life

So Garai went on living his life day by day without getting older. When his wife got too old, with her consent he took a younger woman as his new wife. And he continued to outlive seven of his wives.

His grandchildren and great-grandchildren all became older than him.

Like all curious grandchildren, they wondered at his immortality, and begged him to let them know his secret. After being persuaded by them, the immortal Garai decided to tell them the truth, resigned himself to death.

But first, he asked them to prepare a big feast to celebrate the end of his life.

So pigs and chickens were killed and cooked while tuak (rice wine) were brewed.

Once all the feasting was done, Garai began to tell his story on how he gained his immortality.

As he finished his storytelling, the knife that he swallowed flew out from his throat.

Suddenly there was a flash of lightning and the immortal Garai met his end by being turned into stone. Shaped like a man but smaller, people began to call it “Batu Garai”.

Legend has it the stone is now kept by the people of Marakai in Kalimantan, and that it is locked in a chest. Some people believe it has extraordinary medicinal and therapeutic properties.

Iban pregnancy taboos as recorded by Rev William Howell

Born on Sept 15, 1856, Reverend William Howell was a Eurasian born to a Welsh engineer named Frederick Howell and a Malay woman.

He was raised in Kuching before he left for England to study at St Augustine’s College in Canterbury.

When he returned to Sarawak in 1878, he spent most of his life preaching in the Batang Lupar area.

While doing his missionary work, Rev Howell contributed many articles on Iban folklore, culture and language.

On March 16, 1910, he published an article in The Sarawak Gazette highlighting the pregnancy taboos practiced by Iban women in the olden days.

Apart from what have listed below, there were plenty other pregnancy taboos according to Howell “of a minor character which are not worth mentioning”.

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Here is a list of Iban pregnancy taboos as recorded by Rev William Howell:

1.It is forbidden for husband and wife to cut off creepers that hang over the water or the road, or else the mother would suffer from hemorrhage after delivery.

2.It is forbidden to dam a stream, to plait rattan, to make a bubu (fish trap) and to drive a nail into a board, or else the woman would have difficulty in the delivery.

3.It is forbidden to pour out oil, or else the child would suffer from inflammation of the ears.

4.The husband and wife are forbidden from fixing the hilt of the parang for fear the child will be born deaf.

5.The expecting parents are not allowed to break an egg or else the child would be blind.

6.They are not allowed to plant banana plants or else the child would be blind.

7.The husband and wife are forbidden to burn the wood of the ficus to warm themselves or else the child would be dumb.

8.They are are forbidden to kill any animals or else the child would be deformed or have a nose bleed.

9.To scrape smooth the shell of a coconut is forbidden, or else the child’s hair would not grow.

10. Not to bring a freshwater turtle into the room, if not the child would not be born.

11.Never dye anything black, or the child will be black.

12.If the woman were to go anywhere, she must return by the same way so that her child should not know how it is to be delivered.

13.The expectant mother is forbidden to eat anything in a mosquito net or else the child will be a stillborn.

14.The expectant mother is not allowed to carry any stones or the child will be paralysed.

15.Speaking of stones, the pregnant mother is not allowed to cast stones into the water, or else the child will not be delivered and the mother will die.

16.Do not bend any piece of wood into a circle or else the child will not prosper.

Animal sacrifices to ensure smooth pregnancies

Overall, the whole period of an Iban woman’s pregnancy was filled with anxiety and fear that the bad spirits (antu) might assault her and her innocent baby.

For instance, a bad dream or a small accident such as a fall was considered a sign of incoming danger during her delivery. Hence, a fowl had to be sacrificed to appease the spirit.

Back then, it was common to hear women talking about how many fowls had been killed during her pregnancy.

Do you know any other olden Iban pregnancy taboos? Let us know in the comment box.

How the cobra got its venom according to a Kedup legend

Local folktales and legends commonly have an answer for everything. Although they are not scientifically correct, it is still entertaining to know how some things came about from a mythical point of view.

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How did this snake get its venom? Credits: Pixabay
Here is a legend of how the cobra got its venom according to a legend recorded from Ulu Kedup, Sarawak:

Long time ago, there was a black fish called the ikan dudok. This fish was the most poisonous of creatures, so much so that if a man’s shadow even fell on a pool in which the ikan dudok was lurking, the man would immediately die.

The cobra, although a wise and cunning beast, in those days had no weapons of defence, but wore in the centre of his head a bright jewel.

One day, the cobra sidled up to the pool where the ikan dudok lay and hissed. “Oh black fish! Are you not ashamed of the deaths you caused? You are a stupid fish, unfit to have this virulent poison which you use so indiscriminately.”

The cobra then asked the fish to give its poison in exchange for the bright jewel on his head.

Then the cobra reared up his head in the sun and the fish saw the sparkling jewel.

He agreed to the exchange, vomiting out the poison on a handy leaf. In the meantime, the cobra gave up its jewel (which of course, was not a real diamond).

“Good!” said the cobra, “Now I promise you that I will not spread death with this poison as you have; I will only strike men in their eyes or on their big toe.”

Thus to this day, the cobra rears up proudly to search for his victims’ eyes. Meanwhile, the legend also explains why you can find a white stone in the head of every ikan dudok.

As for the leaf that the fish chose to vomit on, its poison is called daun api. One can get a painful rash with just a brush from this leaf.

The local Kanowit version of the Fox and Steele murders

After two of Brooke’s officers – Charles James Fox and Henry Steele – were murdered in 1859, the government named two suspects behind the crime.

They were Saweng (sometimes spelled Sawing) and Sakalai (sometimes spelled Sekalai).

So who were they and what drove them to kill the officers?

Here is what the local Kanowit people believed happened in the Fox and Steele murders:

This version of the story was told by Jaro Lamit who was a former chief of Kampung Bedil, Kanowit. He told the story to The Sarawak Gazette in September 1963 when he was already in his mid-eighties.

In the olden days, there were many tribes living in Kanowit, including the Kanowit tribe. The Kanowit people were more populous in this area than the other tribes.

Two of their chiefs were Saweng and Sakalai. Sakalai, however was a Melanau from Matu by birth.

According to Jaro, the site of the secondary school at Kanowit in the 1960s used to be where two longhouses stood.

“In those days the Kanowit people were divided into three ranks; Raja (aristocrats), Panyin (middle class) and Dipan (slave). The aristocrats lived in the middle apartments of the longhouse; the middle class (panyin) lived on either side and the slaves (dipan) lived with the families of the aristocrats. They worked for the aristocrats and everybody lived at peace,” Jaro stated.

Then a beautiful girl named Nyalade came into the picture. Saweng only had eyes on Nyalade and wished to have her hand in marriage.

However, Nyalade had her own mind, telling Saweng, “If you are really a brave man and invulnerable, you go and cut off the heads of the two white fowls on the other side of the river.”

Nyalade was actually refusing to marry Saweng because he already had a wife and two children.

Saweng, nonetheless, felt ashamed and threatened with Nyalade’s dare. He then told his people to pack all their belongings and make refuge at Kabah river (Nanga Kabah) where they built a stronghold.

Determined to prove his bravery, Saweng and a few of his men – including Sakalai – went to the fort where Fox and Steele stayed.

Jaro told the gazette, “Before they reached the Fort, Saweng said to Sakalai and his friends, ‘When I begin to chew betel nut, you will kill those Europeans.’ When they reached the Fort, Saweng began to chew betel nut, and Sakalai and his friends took their parangs and killed them.”

Fox and Steele Kanowit Bazaar
Kanowit bazaar in 2016.
The aftermath of the murders
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The double homicide of the Brooke officers had led the Brooke government to send punitive expedition against the Kanowit people. Credit: Pixabay.

After the news of the murders reached the White Rajah, the Brooke government sent a punitive expedition to Kanowit.

They made the fort into a stronghold and attacked the surrounding villages with their guns and cannons.

Meanwhile, Saweng and his followers made their escape to Kabah river to their stronghold.

The Ibans that the Brooke recruited knew about this so they followed them to the stronghold. Some of these Ibans were once allies to Saweng.

After a ferocious fight between Saweng and his men against Brooke and his Iban warriors, Saweng’s troop started to break apart.

As many of his followers died during the battle, those who came from Matu, Igan and Mukah to fight went back to their own homes.

Even some of the Kayan and Bukitan people who helped him perished during the battle.

Saweng, however did not falter. He attempted to escape up the Rajang river to the Iran river. There, he fought another fierce battle with the Brooke troops.

Jaro said, “The water of the Iran river became red with blood. After a long fight at the Iran river, Saweng and his followers could not longer stand the heavy fire of the Rajah’s party, and escaped to the Pelagus river where they again made a stand.”

Saweng and his followers continued to fight through the Brookes as they made another escape to the Kejaman longhouse at Tuju Metahap, near the Belaga bazaar today.

There, he made the Kejaman longhouse as his stronghold. Legend has it that he hung a mat in front of the house in order to protect it. It was said that none of the bullets fired on the longhouse were able to penetrate the magical mat.

Nonetheless, many of the Sekapan and Kejaman people paid the price for harbouring Saweng and his men.

Saweng’s final escape to Anap

After staying with the Kejaman people Tuju Metahap, Saweng then went to Anap.

When Saweng and his followers fought against the Rajah’s expedition, his children Gadap and Metalai were actually still living in Kanowit.

Upon learning about this, the Rajah reportedly sent a letter to Saweng in Anap telling him that his children were under arrest.

In order to free his children, Saweng decided to surrender himself to the Rajah in Kuching. There, he was put in jail.

They tried to put him to death by different kinds of methods such as stabbing and shooting but all failed.

The Kanowit people believed he had some power that made him invulnerable.

According to Jaro: “In the end Saweng said to the Rajah, it is painful to have your men trying to kill me like this, and it will be better for me to die quickly. Saweng then asked the Rajah to kill him himself and the Rajah took his dagger and killed Saweng.”

How did Sarawak headhunters conduct an ambush in the olden days?

An ambush was a favourite strategy among Sarawakians in the olden days especially when headhunting was still in practice.

The tactic had proven effective in winning tribal wars, including the Great Kayan Expedition in 1853.

Here are some records from the 19th century sharing how Sarawak headhunters carried out an ambush back then:
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Punan heads taken by Sea Dayaks Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Punan’s heads taken by Sea Dayaks Pagan Tribes of British North Borneo Hose & MacDougall Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
1.Brooke Low in Catalogue of the Brooke Low Collection in Borneo
An ambush with luring

According to Low, one of the favourite defence strategies back then was to entice the leading boats of the enemy into an ambush on shore.

“As everybody in the attacking party is anxious to be foremost in the race for heads, there are sure to be one or two boats so far in advance of the rest as to make it worth the defenders’ while to put them to their mettle. Some convenient spot is selected and a strong defending party placed in ambush among the trees. One or two men are thrown out to stroll upon the shingly bed to lure the enemy to their destruction.”

The moment the bait is sighted, the boats give chase, and as the enemies leap ashore, the men in ambush spring from their covert to their feet and hurl stones to shatter the shields, and engage with spears and swords in what should be a short but desperate conflict.

“As the main body are seen winding up the river, whooping and yelling, and crashing up in clouds of spray and with a rush of waters, the defense plunge into the thicket with the heads they have obtained, and far away before the enemy have recovered from their discomfiture, and are prepared to follow.”

An ambush without luring

Additionally, Sarawak headhunters also did ambushes without any baiting or luring.

The simplest ambush was laying in hiding until waiting for just the right moment before leaping in front of their unsuspecting (and hence unprepared) enemy and going straight into a hand to hand combat.

Dayaks always attacked from the right side of the enemy’s march. This was because it was the unprotected side of the enemy as the shield was always carried in the left hand.

2.Reverend Horsburgh in Sketches of Borneo (1858)

Meanwhile, Horsburgh recorded that some headhunters would go as far as hiding in the wells of their enemies, covering their heads with leaves and sitting for hours in the water waiting for a victim.

He added, “Then when any woman or girl came to draw water, they would rush out upon her, cut her down, take her head, and flee into the jungle with it before any alarm could be given.”

3.Captain Henry Keppel in A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in H.M.S Meander (1853).

Here is a more intricate way Sarawak headhunters carried their attacks back then, by disguising themselves as farmers and speaking in the local tongue.

They put broad-brimmed hats usually used by farmers to lure women to come out from hiding.

This method of ambush was recorded by Keppel when he was in the Sadong area.

He stated, “Thus disguised, these miscreants stealthily dropped down the river in the small canoes which they found on the banks; and imitating the Sadong dialect, they called to the women to come out of their hiding places, saying that they had come to convey them to a place of safety. In many instances the strategem was but too successful. And the helpless women, rushing down with their infants in their arms, became the prey of these wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

7 types of mental illness according to Murut traditional beliefs

In January 1968, the Psychiatric Specialist-in-Charge of Sarawak Mental Hospital K.E. Schmidt published a paper called ‘Some Murut Concepts of Mental Illness’ in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

The Murut people are an indigenous ethnic group found in the southwest interior of Sabah, northern part of Sarawak, Brunei and North Kalimantan in Indonesia.

They are known to be the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting.

The paper explored the traditional understanding behind mental health and how native healers played important roles in the successful treatment of mental illness.

It also described the different concepts of mental illness according to the traditional knowledge of Murut people.

So here are seven types of mental illness according to Murut traditional beliefs:
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What is going on with someone’s mental health according to Murut traditional knowledge? Credits: Pixabay.
1.Ruden repan (rupan means ‘well’)

According to Murut beliefs,this illness is due to a haunted well. All Murut interviewed by Schmidt agreed that this was the number one cause of mental illness.

He stated, “If a person passes within two feet of a well or more important, if he comes into the contact with the water, he will have visual and auditory hallucinations of crowds of people who want to catch him. He therefore runs away. The urge to escape ‘them’ may be strong that he might even run into fire in order or escape. He will call out the names of those who he believes want to kill him, usually names of people unknown in the community.”

Sufferers will often die from exhaustion especially since they may refuse food and water. They might jump into the river in an attempt to drown themselves or attempt to hang themselves to be free from the terror of their ‘tormentors’. When they do not see their hallucinations, they will sit quietly and be withdrawn. Such a phase may last from one to several weeks, and spontaneous remissions are known to occur.

According to Murut beliefs, these wells are set up by the spirits under the big trees where they live. They are always at the foot of a hill and are known by the community to be haunted. Thus when a man sets out on a hunt, offerings are made to the spirits of these wells.

If there is no sacrifice, the spirit of the well may disturb the hunter.

So how to heal a person with ruden repan?

The traditional healer or ngurur will make images of animals and send them to the well. Along with these images, there are eggs, rice and household articles piled up on an altar where he will chant incantations.

Then, the ngurur will appeal to the spirits not to disturb the person anymore. If the ngurur is not properly rewarded (which is usually in the form of a buffalo or jars), relapse may occur on the patient.

2.Ruden Talai (talai means a kind of tree)

Ruden talai happens when coming into contact with the fallen leaves or touching a type of tree locally known as pelai or pulai.

The Murut people believe if the trees are disturbed and cut or the under bush is cleared, mental illnesses will occur to whoever that cause them.

Schmidt pointed out, “The illness begins with tiredness and pain in the limbs and trunk. The patient cannot sleep at night, has headache and as in ruden rupan has visual hallucinations of people who want to kill him. A person affected by this kind of mental illness will be aggressive and attack people i.e. running amok.”

3.Ruden meruai

In this condition, the patient will sometimes fall into the fire. They fall as if they were fascinated and attracted by it and have in some instances died from the burns.

The Murut believe that the spirit of the fire takes possession of the patient. Similarly, the spirit of the water will be at work if a person has a fit while taking a bath, and those of the earth of the fit occurs on land.

One of the cures prescribed by the ngurur is fasting. According to Schmidt, there exists some similarity here with dehydration achieved by the diuretic Diamox in the treatment of epilepsy in Western medicine.

4.Ruden mebuyai (mebuyai means stupid)

This condition occurs among young people who for unknown reasons change or become demented. They give indirect answers, are indecisive, aimless and drive-less.

Some people even attribute this condition to ‘sumpah’ or a curse.

5.Ruden sinoso (sinoso means poisoned)

Schmidt pointed out, “This is another allegedly induced psychosis, caused in this case by mixing into the food or drink something which has been obtained from certain trees. This may also kill. The person, after an interval of a day or so will begin to feel cold and wish to sit by the fire. Later, he may feel hot and wish to cool himself. He will often sit motionless for long periods and will neither eat nor drink. In no more than a month, he will die.”

Just like ruden mebuyai, the Murut believe it is another cause of mental illness which is the work of a paid charmer.

Additionally, they believe that a spell of this kind can be imposed for a limited period.

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A mental illness according to Murut belief can be caused by a paid charmer.
6.Ruden pa’lamai

Here is another mental condition caused by a paid charmer. The charmer will uses a kind of grass or a concoction from it and then plant it as a love charm into the seams of a persons’ garment.

When planting it, a charm is spoken: “Each time you wear this garment you will think of him who pays me. You will die if you do not return his love. If you do not die, you will become insane, but you will get well if you marry him.”

What a way to drag someone to marry you! But no worries, there is a cure to break this love spell.

Just throw the urine of several people into the face of the affected person.

7.Mururu teruaien

“Mururu” means “lose” while “teruaien” is “thinking”. It is a condition of dementia without violence but possibly with elements similar to autism which occurs in young people.

Overall, Schmidt deduced that the Murut concepts of mental illness are the various forms of schizophrenia that have been ‘fairly clearly differentiated’.

“Ruden rupan could correspond to acute hebephrenia, ruden talau does appear to have most of the features of paranoid schizophrenia, ruden sinoso sounds like catatonic schizophrenia and ruden pa’lamai may be looked upon as coming nearest to simple schizophrenia,” he stated.

Meanwhile, ruden mebuyai might be simple schizophrenia or post-encephalitic state and ruden meruai covers epilepsy including its symptomatic forms.

Read the rest of Schmidt’s paper here.

How Apai Saloi and Apai Sumang Umang became frenemies

Apai Saloi (which means Saloi’s father) is a famous comical legend in Iban folktales. His stories would often be told by an elder at night at the longhouse as a source of entertainment.

Behind his foolish deeds, there is always a lesson to be learnt when it comes to Apai Saloi stories.

One of the famous characters in Apai Saloi’s tales, besides his long-suffering wife, Chelegit, and his children, is Apai Sumang Umang.

Here is how Apai Sumang Umang tricked Apai Saloi into exchanging a house with him:

Iban ethnologist Benedict Sandin recorded and sent this legend to publication on November 30, 1965 in The Sarawak Gazette.

One day Apai Sumang Umang told Apai Saloi that he was eager to build a new house. Apai Saloi replied that he too would like to build one since his house was too old. In fact, his house was built by his father when Apai Saloi was just 7 years old.

A few days later, Apai Saloi took his sons to look for belian wood to build their house. They gathered a lot from the forests.

Apai Sumang Umang, on the other hand, did not collect any belian wood. Instead, he merely cut some flimsy bamboos, building his house out of them.

Eventually, they finished building their new houses and moved in. Two years went by before Apai Saloi went to visit Apai Sumang Umang at his house.

As they conversed with each other, the wind blew gently, making a variety of musical sounds in the holes left by Apai Sumang Umang’s depleting bamboo house.

Curiously, Apai Saloi looked around trying to figure out where the sounds came from.

In the meantime, Apai Sumang Umang, who knew what his guest was looking for, kept quiet, his clever mind working.

He asked instead whether Apai Saloi’s house made such pleasant music? To which Apai Saloi replied, “No, no matter how strong the wind blows.”

He also complimented Apai Sumang Umang on the lovely sounds his house made and how much he loved the flute-like sounds.

Apai Sumang Umang took the opportunity to ask Apai Saloi, “Would you exchange your soundless house for mine?”

Overjoyed, Apai Saloi immediately agreed to exchange their houses.

The exchange with Apai Sumang Umang

Apai Saloi went back to his family telling them about the exchange. About a week later, Apai Saloi visited Apai Sumang Umang again to confirm their agreement.

Apai Sumang Umang later told Apai Saloi that he only agreed on the exchange because he was his old friend. They then to agreed to move into each other’s house the very next day.

After the move, Apai Sumang Umang lived happily in Apai Saloi’s solidly-built house.

Meanwhile, Apai Saloi was happy to be enjoying the melodious sounds he had first fell in love with when he visited Apai Sumang Umang.

As time went by, the house Apai Saloi lived in continued to decay. Until one day, the worst thing happened to the house.

A storm hit, blowing Apai Saloi’s house away with all his worldly possessions.

Angry, Apai Saloi’s wife scolded him for his foolishness, and Apai Saloi vowed to take revenge on Apai Sumang Umang.

Brothels and sex workers in Sarawak under Brooke rule

Did you know that when Sarawak was under the reign of the Brooke family (1841-1946), there were regulations to keep the local sex industry in check?

Here are 10 things you need to know about prostitution in Sarawak during Brooke time.
1.The back alleys of Kuching’s Carpenter Street was known for its brothels.

Besides brothels, the street was once known for opium dens and gambling houses.

There are no other records found of possible brothels in Kuching or other parts of Sarawak.

2.There is no proper record on the number of brothels or of prostitutes in the country.

Actually, there is no proper record found on prostitution in Sarawak back then.

According to archivist Loh Chee Yin in The Sarawak Gazette on May 31, 1965, the revenue and expenditure reports over the period concerned do not indicate under which headings the licence fees from brothel keepers and prostitutes are classed.

He further stated, “The annual reports of the Medical Department of the same period do not even mention the number of prostitutes examined over the year, though they give detailed reports on lunatics and lepers.”

3.The first order referring to prostitution was issued on Sept 30, 1867.

If there was no record of legal prostitution, how do we know such activities exist in the first place?

When the first White Rajah had already left Sarawak and his nephew Charles was acting Rajah, there was a royal order referring to prostitution issued in 1867.

With the heading of ‘Contagious Diseases’, the order however was not directed towards the prostitutes but the Dayak fortmen instead.

It read, “Should any Dyak fortment wish to return to their homes on leave of absence, or on discharge, if suspected of having venereal disease they must be taken to the Medical Officer for examination, and should it be the case that any such disease has been contracted they are to be detained until cured.

“Strict attention is to be paid to this order; the necessary information as to the health of the men can be obtained from non-commissioned officers.”

4.In April 1886, more regulations were implemented to control the spread of venereal diseases.

Here are the summary of the regulations:

A)Any woman suffering from a venereal disease would not be permitted to practice as a prostitute and any man having the same disease would be forbidden to have connection with any woman.
B)A prostitute found at the usual fortnightly examination to be suffering from a venereal disease would be placed under treatment until cured. She had to pay the following fees – $1 for first consultation; 50 cent for every subsequent consultation plus charges for medicines.

5.Six years later in 1892, the fortnightly compulsory medical examination for prostitutes became voluntary.

Nonetheless, the Brooke government imposed heavier penalties ($50 fine or six months imprisonment) on brothel keepers and prostitutes for spreading sexual transmitted disease.

Furthermore, prostitutes from abroad had to undergo medical examination before the government allowed them entry permits.

6.Who were the migrant prostitutes back then?

Since there was no record, it is impossible to know who they were and where they came from.

However, there were records of Japanese immigrants coming in since 1915. Reportedly, some Japanese women were working in the red-light district of Kuching. The red-light districts could be referring to the back alley of Carpenter street.

7.In 1898, the Contagious Diseases Order was further amended.

These are the amendment made on the order:

A)Dayak fortmen on transfer to outstations were to be medically examined before leaving.
B)Medical examination of prostitutes was again compulsory. Additionally, it was to be done once a week instead of fortnightly.
C)Prostitutes found to have venereal diseases were to be detained until cured.
D)All brothels were to be registered at the police station and duly licensed.
E)Every brothel keeper had to supply to the police a list of the names and nationalities of the women in his brothel.
F)The inspector of police had right of entry to any brothel for purpose of checking.

8.Charles Brooke was scared that the Dayak girls in Kuching mission schools would turn to prostitution upon graduation.

He once wrote in a letter, “I ask, what is it to be their future when they are grown-up? One thing very certain is they will never be able to live in their own country again or marry their own race nor be able to farm or do the work of Dyak women in their own land – separated from their own people -they will become waifs – to be prostitutes.

I should be sorry to think that this is what our Dyak girls will come to but it is in my opinion almost a certainty if they are educated in Kuching away from they own people to country.”

Charles then cited examples from the mission schools of Singapore and Penang where school girls were the occupants of the brothels or who ever were enticed there at night time.

Consequently, the second White Rajah ordered that the handful of Dayak girls in the Anglican and Roman Catholic schools in Kuching be sent home.

9.In 1927, the Women and Girls’ Protection Order was enacted.

The order was to make provision for the protection of women and girls. Plus, it made provision for the suppression of abuse in connection with prostitutes.

In addition to that, the government issued protection tickets to the prostitutes. On this ticket stated, “Whenever a prostitute has any grievance, she may come to the Protectorate, District Office, or Police Office, and complain. Anyone daring to prevent her will be arrested and punished. These tickets are to be always kept by you on the person.”

Who would have thought prostitutes during Brooke reign had their rights protected more than a lot of people these days?

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Do you think brothels in the olden days had a sign similar to this? Credits: Pixabay.
10.There were notices posted in brothels informing prostitutes of their rights back then.

“Women and girls! If any of you have been kidnapped, purchased, seduced, deceived, or pledged for money; or have been forced to swear before entering the brothel that you will act as prostitutes for a certain term of year- understand clearly that anyone who has committed any of these offences against you, and is detaining you in a brothel against your wishes, is acting in contravention of the Orders of the State will, if detected, be punished.

If therefore you have any grievance, do not be afraid to tell the Protector on his visit of inspection or come in person to this office or go to the police station and report the matter at any time you please. If you want to leave the brothel the government will certainly let you do what you like and will not allow you to be detained against your will. All persons residing in the State of Sarawak are free agents and cannot be kept under the restraint of others. Be all of you then watchful! Be not deceived by anyone! Observe this notice!

Office of Protector.”

Do you anymore information about prostitution in Sarawak during Brooke time? Share with us in the comment box.

Legend of the quarrel between Bakir hill and Gunung Lesung

Located in Sri Aman, Sarawak, Gunung Lesung National Park is a 500ha conservation area rich in flora and fauna.

But did you know that legend has it that Gunung Lesung (Lesong) used to be located elsewhere?

The legend of the quarrel between Bakir hill and Gunung Lesong

Iban ethnologist and Sarawak museum curator Benedict Sandin wrote in The Sarawak Gazette (Sept 30, 1965) about a quarrel that broke out between Bakir Hill and Gunung Lesong.

Referred to as Gunung Lesong by the Malay community, the mountain was widely referred to as Lingga mountain, or ‘Bukit Lingga’ by the Iban community, a name which still lives on to this day.

It is said that long ago Bakir Hill which lies to the west of Spaoh used to stand very close to Gunung Lesong.

“One day they argued about Mujau Hill. Each claimed that the latter was its spine as it stood close to them. No spirit could stop them quarrelling with each other, so one day they agreed to invite a hero, Tutong, from Gelong to settle their dispute,” Benedict wrote.

When Tutong came, he lit a fire and with his bellows he blew a huge cloud of smoke towards Bakir Hill and Gunung Lesong.

Suffocated by the smoke, Gunung Lesong rose into the air and moved away, taking everything that lived and rested on top with it.

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Gunung Lesung or Lusong was once located next to Bakir Hill.
After Gunung Lesong made the move

Benedict continued, “When it was about to cross the Batang Lupar river a man who had come with his boat from the the lower river saw a huge mountain flying up in the air and making a great noise.”

The man then asked what it was. Suddenly, he heard a voice answering him that Gunung Lesong was fleeing away from the Saribas to settle with Senyandang mountain at the lower part of Batang Strap, a tributary of Batang Lupar.

When it finally reached there, Gunung Lesung sat down next to Senyandang mountain. “After the Gunung Lesong (Lingga mountain) had settled there, the strap river’s name was changed into the Lingga River by which it is known nowadays, though the upper part of it is still known as Batang Strap.”

Today, you can see the peaks of Senyandang mountain and Gunung Lesong from afar. It is believed that the original site of Gunung Lesong in the Saribas area is now a swamp.

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