Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chinese leader Liu Shan Bang

This is a forgotten sad story of a Chinese leader Liu Shan Bang, the Twelve Kongsi operating in the Mau San gold mine, and the once prosperous self governed mining town of Bau Lama or Mau San.

The Mau San Tian Tsze Lung Kung is more than a century old. It was founded around the time when gold & antimony were discovered in Mau San, about 1820 – 1830. The host deity is Lau Chu Tian Tsze, a deity of Hakka origin since most of the miners were Hakka, originally mostly from Sambas, Kalimantan. This temple provided the pioneer miners spiritual supports and also served as a centre for cultural activities & other administrative matters of the Twelve Kongsi.

Before the arrival of Sir James Brooke, Sarawak was under the rule of Brunei. Around that time, Sarawak, particularly the settlement around the gold mining areas were facing an uprising against the Brunei ruling from native Dayaks and the Malays. James Brooke assisted the Sultan of Brunei to settle the local civil war & thus was granted the White Rajah to rule Sarawak.

As the Brooke Administration began to establish his rule over Sarawak, he began to impose taxes etc, prohibited opium & wine trading, and restricted trading & export of gold & antimony, particularly to the self governing Mau San and the Twelve Kongsi.
It was said that James Brooke earlier on had established agreement with the Twelve Kongsi of non intervention on respective areas, partly of his busy involvement with the local civil war between Brunei & local Dayaks, and earlier political circumstances.

The Twelve Kongsi and the Chinese miners in Mau San had already well established since then. They were well contented in their self rulings since the earlier Brunei poor administration, & the civil war.

The reforming Brooke administration had angered the Mau San miners & the Twelve Kongsi, and thus a rebellion was started against the White Rajah.
The rebellion was initiated in 1857 at Tian Tsze Lung Kung in Mau San by Liu Shan Bang, the leader of the Twelve Kongsi.

600 armed miners, without proper weapons & military training, paddled down the Sarawak River & attacked the Astana. James Brooke escaped the assault. Five Europeans were killed, and one was mistaken to be James Brooke. With no political will & planning the Chinese miners stayed or ruled Kuching for 3 days before returning to their base.

By then, James Brooke had already been given time for retaliation. The counter attacks by Brooke’s army, with combined forces of Skrang Iban warriors & Malays loyal to him, defeated the Chinese miners badly.

In Jugan Siniawan, more than a hundred miners were killed; including the leader Liu Shan Bang himself. Dead bodies were left & decomposed everywhere in the area. The smell was said to be so bad that the nearby place is now called 'Buso' (in Malay, it means rotten or stink). The Shan Teck Temple in Siniawan was later constructed in memory of the tragic event of Liu Shan Bang & his associates.

The remaining miners retreated further to Mau San, some escaped to Kalimantan, most perished on the way. Many miners & families hid in nearby cave (the Ghost Cave named after the tragedy) and subsequently hunted down & killed by the Rajah forces; most were suffocated to death, including many women & children. The Mau San mining settlement, together with the Twelve Kongsi was thus wiped out after the incident.

The decomposed smell of dead bodies in Ghost Cave & surrounding areas in Mau San had lasted for weeks; it is not known whether the town, ‘Bau’ (means smelly, in Malay), got its name from the incident.

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