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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Oh yeah, she did pay a visit to Kuching. My mum told me about it.

Posted on: 2007/8/30 9:39
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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http://www.theborneopost.com/?p=26654


How did Kuching get its name?

“HAVE we been meowing up the wrong tree all this while in the search for the origin of the name Kuching? Has it anything to do with cats?

The question of how Kuching got its name has puzzled and bemused his-torians and spawned many stories, ranging from the plausible to outright nonsense in explaining how the name came about.

However, there never seems to be any serious effort to examine the historical facts and circumstances pertaining to the naming of the city in the quest to solve this puzzle.

One very important fact overlooked by many in tracing the origin of the name is that it was not the first Rajah Sir James Brooke who officially named the city Kuching. In fact throughout his 27-year reign, the capital of his Raj was Sarawak, the town named after the river that flows through it.

When James Brooke died in England at the age of 65 on 11 June 1868, he had already unofficially retired five years earlier and his nephew Charles Brooke was the de facto ruler of the State during that period.

By 3rd of August 1868 when Charles Brooke was installed the second Rajah, Sarawak had grown northward from the initial region that stretched from Tanjung Datu to Kalaka ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to the first Rajah in 1841 to encompass the Rejang basin.

Unlike his uncle whose charm and spirit of adventure was not matched by his ability as an administrator, Charles was a stern methodical man who saw the need for changes in the administration to make it more efficient.

One of the flaws he found very irksome was the confusion caused by the State Capital bearing the same name as the State and the river that flows through the town. It was like a nation called London with a capital called London and a river London flowing through the city.

To avoid this vexing situation Charles Brooke officially changed the name of the State Capital from Sarawak to Kuching on 12 August 1872. Curiously the proclamation of Kuching as the name of the State Capital and the date it happened received scant attention from historians and the event was consigned to the forgotten pages of the annals of the State’s history.

For some reasons the Malays and other natives of Sarawak never fully accepted the name change as most of them still continue to refer the State Capital as Sarawak after the official proclamation. As late as the 1970s more than 100 years after the official name change Kuching was still known as Sarawak among many of the older generation of Malays, Ibans and Bidayuhs.

My collegeaue Jimmy Adit, an Iban from the Samarahan District, confirmed this refusal to accept the name change, saying, “I remember my late father and other elders saying they wanted to go to Sarawak when they meant going to Kuching.”

“In fact there are still some old people alive today in my area who still call Kuching Sarawak,” he added.

This reluctance by the natives to accept the name change gives a strong clue to the origin of the name Kuching as it seems to suggest that it is a Chinese name and that the name change did not meet with universal approval from the other races of the State.

There is documentary proof a settlement called Sarawak existed before the arrival of James Brooke in 1839. Bob Reece in his book the ‘White Rajahs of Sarawak’ wrote about the description of the small town of Sarawak by a Dutch officer Major Georg Muller from Pontianak, then part of Dutch Indonesia, after his visit in 1822.

Muller described Srawak (the way he spelt it) as a ‘tiny settlement two hours rowing from the river estuary, its population amounted to no more than a 100 Malays and a handful of Chinese traders dealing in birds’ nests.’

Curiously, James Brooke in a private letter to John C Templer on 20 August 1839 telling him of his first visit to Sarawak mentioned the town of Kuchin (initially it was spelt without ‘g’), which he esti-mated to be about 37 miles from the mouth of the Sarawak River.

This led to speculation that he named the town ‘Kuchin’ because at first sight it reminded him of the Indo-Chinese port of ‘Cochin’. This notion is dispelled by his rather disdainful first impression of the town as he described it as a settlement with ‘… brown huts and longhouses made of wood or the hard stem of the nipah palm … sitting in brown squalor at the edge of mudflats.’

Cochin in the 1800s was a thriving port and was certainly not a collection of wooden houses sitting on the edge of mudflats!

Another vital fact often ignored by those trying to find out how Kuching got its name is that James Brooke never claimed or even mentioned he gave the name to the town in any of his letters or memoirs and the manner of his first mention of the town suggested that Kuching existed before his first visit to Sarawak.

Officially Kuching derives its name from the Malay word for cat, an accepted origin that allows the city to position itself as ‘Cat City’ in the world tourism map.

Naturally that sobriquet endears the city to cat lovers all over the world and to strengthen that position a cat museum was established at the Kuching City North Hall at Petra Jaya.

However, the debate over the origin of the city’s name has never been resolved and research and plain common sense have debunked the claim that the city name is linked to the Malay word for cat.

A story often used to explain the origin of the city’s name has it that when James Brooke first arrived in Kuching, in wanting to find out its name, he pointed in the general direction of the town and asked a local Malay standing near him.

It so happened that at that particular mo-ment a cat was passing in front of them and the man, perhaps flustered by a rare encoun-ter an ‘orang puteh’, mistakenly thought Brooke wanted to know the name of the animal and answered ‘Kuching’.

This is a far-fetched tale made impossible to be taken seriously by the fact that the Sarawak Malay word for cat is ‘pusa’” and ‘kuching’ is the Malayan term for the feline.

A more plausible claim is that the city was named after a small tributary of the Sarawak River, Sungei Kuching, that flowed from the present Reservoir Park past Wayang Street into the main river at a point between the Tua Pek Kong Temple and the Chinese Museum (formerly the Chinese Cham-ber of Com-merce Buil-ding). It was filled up in 1928 to make way for the town’s expansion.

The river was so named because of the large number Mata Kuching (an edible fruit Nephelium Malarese) trees that grew wild along its banks. This theory runs into the same linguistic difficulty as the first one as the local word for cat is ‘pusa’ and it is unlikely that the stream was named Sungei Kuching after the fruit as there are local names for this fruit. The Ibans in Krian area call the fruit Buah Maung while in the Baram it is known as ‘Buah Isau’, Sarawak Ma-lays may have their own name for it al-though it is now ge-nerally known as Mata Ku-ching.

It is more likely that the stream was called Sungei Kuching after the name of the settlement through which it flowed.

Another tale linking Kuching to the cat tells about a large number of cats on the banks of the Sarawak River as the Royalist, James Brooke’s schooner, neared the banks in front of Kuching. Brooke wanting to impress his crew with the smattering of Malay he picked in Singapore pointed to the animals and said, “That’s kuching’. The crew mistakenly thought he meant the name of the place was Kuching — a conjecture that at best makes interesting reading.

If Kuching has nothing to do with cats in the Malay language, then its origin has to be linked to the other com-munity in the town back then — the Chinese. The Chinese settlers had a penchant for giving their own names to their new settlements or streets completely different from the local or official names and usually the names were connected to an outstanding feature in the area.

For example the Chinese name for the gold mining town of Bau is ‘Shak Lo Mun’ which literally means ‘Busy Rock Gate’ to Hakka settlers, obviously in reference to limestone hills there.

A vital man-made feature in the Chinese area of Sarawak in the early days was a big well from which the people drew their water. It was located at the end of Upper China Street just a stone’s throw from the fence of the St Thomas Cathedral.

As the popula-tion of the town increased, water from the well was not only inadequate but also unsafe the as there were frequent cholera outbreaks. In 1886, work on a reservoir located behind the town (the present day Reservoir Park) began and but it was only in 1895 that Kuching had piped water.

The availabilty of more reliable and safer sources of water rendered the well redundant and it was filled up to make way for a new street that branches off Carpenter Street. Officially it is called Upper China Street but to the Chinese in Kuching that street is known as ‘Tua Chayng Hang’ or ‘Big Well Street’

The exact site of the well is at number 59 Upper China Street, a shop selling and repairing scales. The floor of the shop is slightly sunken because it was bulit on top of the filled-up well.

It was either dug by the earliest Chinese settlers or was already there when they first set foot in the area because the well was referred to as the ‘old well’ among them and the Mandarin word for ‘old well’ is ‘ku (old) ching (well)! Except for a slight phonetic variation ‘ku-ching’ is pro-nounced Kuching as in the capital of Sarawak.

Dato Sim Swee Yong a community leader who owns some shops in Carpenter Street, confirmed that there was a well in the vicinity of the earliest settlelment of the Chinese in Sarawak.

Sim who is a Teochew said, “The early Teochew mer-chants in Kuching called the well ‘ku-chayng’ and I re-member my elders talking about the old well from which they drew water.”

It can safely be surmised that the ‘Kuchin’ that James Brooke mentioned in his letter to Templer was actually the bazaar and Chinese quarters of Sarawak. It was also likely that the Malays and other natives also called the area ‘Kuching’ and so the name was actually just for a section of the town.

This explains why the First Rajah never mentioned Kuching as the capital of his Raj and why the non-Chinese never seem to accept Charles Brooke’s renaming of the town of Sarawak to Kuching.

And so it seems we have been ‘meowing’ up the wrong tree all this while and Kuching is not Cat-City but the City of the Old-Well.

It is time for us to correct our history and put the pussy in the well’. Link

Posted on: 2007/10/28 17:21
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Damn that article is too good to be in a forum. thank god for the research. many credits to the author and researcher!

Posted on: 2007/10/28 18:10
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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This is a wicked post mad. Thanks to thrasher for sharing and also the editor and writer of this article.

Posted on: 2007/10/28 19:22
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Great, now i know Kuching is not Cat-City but the City of the Old-Well.

Posted on: 2007/10/28 22:26
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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2006/1/19 13:06
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I have read a chinese book. forget the name already. Kuching is not cat. also not from the mata kucing fruit. Kuching is in Mandarin. "Ku" is Old in Mandarin, while "ching" is Harbour in Mandarin. The real name is "古津". Like Tianjing in China. Kuching also named "Co'chin" before.

Posted on: 2007/10/28 23:08
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Cochin...the most close theory the origin name of the kuching...

cochin one harbour city in mainland china

another cochin city is at wesr coast of india

and maybe rajah brooke want to have another cochin here....

and then cochin become kuchin and then kuching....

Posted on: 2007/10/29 21:22
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Sarawak Museum was specially built by Rajah Charles Brooke to house and display the arts and crafts of the indigenous people of Borneo. It was designed by the Rajah’s French valet on the lines of a town hall from his native Normandy, France and was described in the Sarawak Gazette as being in the Queen Anne style. It is rectangular in shape, 50 meters x 13.5 meters with walls and pillars of brick and roof of belian shingles and concrete. The galleries are lighted by dormer windows in the rood thus allowing a great area of wall space. In 1911 the building was extended to its present form, doubling the original exhibition space.

Posted on: 2008/2/12 17:07
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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Quote:

webmaster wrote:
Anyone know the date or year that these structures were built?

- Civic Centre
- Padungan Cat Statue
- Sarawak Museum

I manage to get some information on the Kuching Waterfront from the sedc website


Civic Centre Tower was officially opened by the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Hj. Abdul Taib Mahmud on September 4, 1988...
Its is approx. 240 feet tall, supported by 6 giant pillars and serviced by two bubble lifts. The top of the tower is a hexagonal shape, providing panaromic view from all sides. its hexagonal pattern is derived from the concept of a honeycomb, home for bees. The behavioral pattern of bees, especially their unity of purpose and hardwork, enhances the architectural concept, as it bears metaphorical reference to the prevailing unity and harmony in Sarawak's multi-racial society.

Posted on: 2008/2/12 17:21
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Re: Retracing History of Kuching
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2007/7/8 16:53
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Quote:

webmaster wrote:
wait wait. this sound interesting.

Quote:

i still remember the waterfront before it become current waterfront..the navy always park their ship there(at sarawak Shipping ..only one building left) there is one shell station beside the Chinese History Museum..Opposite the Tua Pek Kong


SHELL station beside the chinese museum? got ah?
i have absolutely no idea. i assume that was before the Waterfront was contructed? before 1993?

I manage to get this photo. Photo copyright of Mr Chan Kheng Hui of the Sarawak Photo-Art Society.

One quesiton though, what does the Ang Cheng Ho building do? a common resident flat?

This is the building that stood before it was replaced by Riverbank Suite.


If my memory doesn't serve me wrongly, our British Council Kuching branch was once located in the said Ang Cheng Ho Building. It was when I was in my early primary school days when my dad used to drop my sister there for their library. So I suppose it was more of an office building back then.

Just my little add-on to the history.

Posted on: 2008/7/22 16:08
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