Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Legend of Mt Kinabalu - Chinese Hero in Sabah Folklore

Another version, the Legend of Mount Kinabalu, Chinese Hero in Sabah Folklore, and the story goes….. 

Once upon the time, the dragon that lived at the top of Mount Kinabalu was said to have a ‘Butiza’ - a lunimous jewel, a bezoar stone, which he used as his wonderful lamp and plaything. It was his prized possession and he guarded it jealously.

Every day the dragon played with it and at night, the people of Ranau and Tamparuli could see the bright "jewel" being tossed up and caught again and again on the dragon's forked tongue. The dragon would sometime swallow the "jewel" if need be, to hide it from prying eyes. He could regurgitate the "jewel" at will when his stomach was empty.

The story of the dragon's luminous jewel spread widely. When it reached the ears of China's emperor, he decided it should be his. He sent many of his best warriors to retrieve the jewel but none ever came back as they were either eaten or killed by the dragon. Thus the local Dusun started calling the mountain "Kina Balu", as many women became widows because their husband died fighting in the mountain. "Kina" was what the Dusun called the Chinese.

The Emperor finally decided to send his two sons, Wong Wang Kong and the younger Wong Song Ping to retrieve the jewel. They were each given a junk, provisions and men under their command. They reached the shore of Borneo after many months at sea, and trekked their way to Mount Kinabalu.

After many weeks of trekking, they reached the foot of Mount Kinabalu. They made camp and started to "recce" the mountain to formulate the plan to retrieve the jewel. At night, they could see a light seemingly floating up and down at the top of the mountain.

After few days of "recce", they agreed that it was seemingly an impossible task as the mountain was thick with vegetation and even managed to slash the way up to the mountain peak, the dragon would have been alerted. 

Wong Wang Kong was disheartened and retreated to his royal tent a defeated man. However, unlike his older brother, Wong Song Ping was unfazed with the challenge. 

Wong Song Ping made a colorful lantern with a candle holder in it, he lit the candle and the lantern glowed like a fabulous gem. Satisfied with the lantern, he next moved on to make a giant kite with sturdy long ropes. Then he observed the dragon's behavior from afar. He noted that the dragon would leave his jewel unguarded at certain hour of the day to forage for food.

When the wind was blowing at the hour that the dragon was foraging for food, he mounted himself on the giant kite and launched himself into the air with his men holding on to the ropes. 

He was airborne and flew till he reached where the jewel was; he grabbed the dragon's jewel and replaced it with the lantern that he had made. Then he mounted back to the kite, launched himself to the air and his men pulled him back.

Once he hit the ground, quickly he told his men and his elder brother to pack up and leave. It would be a matter of time that the dragon would see through the ruse and they made a mad dash to their ships. They managed to reach their ships in record time to set sail.

Just then, the dragon realized that the "jewel" was a flimsy lantern. It was night and the dragon surveyed the surrounding area, he saw from afar a bright light. He flew towards the light with rage, when about to catch up with Wong Song Ping and his brother.

Wong Song Ping's men thought that they were going to perish as they saw the dragon coming their way. The dragon flew so fast and so enraged that trees bent over as he flew past. Fire was spewing from his nose and his face grimaced with extreme rage. The petrified men helplessly observed what was a tiny light minutes ago had turned bigger and bigger in a matter of short period. One of the men said, "He's gaining on us! We're not going fast enough! What can we do? What can we do?"

Again it was the younger Wong Song Ping who came up with an idea. He told his men to heat up cannon balls until red hot and shoot at the dragon. He told his brother Wong Wang Kong to order his men to do the same thing on the other ship. Soon they were confronted by the dragon, their ships were violently rocked as the dragon flapped his wings causing strong gust of wind.

As the "jewel" was on Wong Song Ping's ship, the dragon's attack was most aggressive. The dragon swooped down a few times and grabbed a few of Wong Song Ping's men, bit off their heads and discarded their headless bodies. 

Wong Song Ping and his men were unable to fire their canons as they were dislodged from their places due to the violent rocking. Part of the ship was on fire caused by the red hot cannon balls that had rolled out of the pile and the men frantically tried to put out the fire while desperately trying to avoid being grabbed by the dragon. 

Wong Song Ping took a piece of cloth, put a red hot canon ball in it and then with both hands, swung it above his head a few times before releasing the projectile towards the dragon. The dragon was taken by surprise and thinking that the glowing object was his 'jewel', he opened his mouth and swallowed the cannon ball.

 As he did, there was a look of surprise in his eyes and he let out a horrible wail. The hot cannon ball had seared his stomach and white froth was coming out from his mouth. The dragon fell into the water and thrashed frenziedly in the water by the unimaginable pain. Exhausted and heavy with the iron cannon ball inside his stomach, the dragon soon gave up the pursuit and fell behind. 

When they saw the dragon was not pursuing them anymore, everyone shouted with joy over their victory. The men including Wong Wang Kong's, thought that Wong Song Ping was a hero and they shouted, "Long live Prince Wong Song Ping!”

The seed of jealousy was growing in the elder brother's heart for the adulation shown by the men to his younger brother.

"Surely, Song Ping will be father's favorite when His Highness learned of his exploit", thought the elder brother. Soon they reached China. As news of sighting of their junks spread, ordinary people stopped whatever they were doing and rushed towards the port. As their junks slowly navigated their way towards the port, the adventurers were pleasantly surprised to see many people lining along the edges of the port.

The people were shouting in joy over their triumphant return. Amongst the crowd were loved ones of the brave men that accompanied the two brothers.  There were many tears of joy amongst them too because everyone thought they would never return again as many had gone before and never return. 

When they were on land, Wong Wang Kong took his brother to the side for privacy and said, "Brother, being that I am the older one. It is only right that the jewel be mine and for me to present it to our father, His Highness".

Without much hesitation, he took the jewel from Wong Song Ping. Wong Song Ping was surprised by his brother's action but being an unselfish man and loving his elder brother, he let Wong Wang Kong had his way.

Wong Wang Kong led the triumphant procession towards the palace escorted by the palace guards who had been ordered by the Emperor to receive them when news of their return got to him. The younger Wong Song Ping obediently walked behind his elder brother, humbly letting his elder brother basked in glory.

The Emperor was happy to see them, not only because Wong Wang Kong had the "jewel' in his hands but also because his two sons had returned home safely and triumphantly. There was an additional motive why he sent his two sons in harm's way; he had wanted to test his sons. Having them returned home alive would have been enough for him but having them returned home successful in their task was an added bonus. "My sons are truly worthy of my throne!” thought the Emperor as he embraced both of them.

Wong Wang Kong presented the "jewel" to the Emperor. "Father, we hope Your Highness will be pleased with this gift", Wong Wang Kong offered. The Emperor laughed heartily and said, "It is yours to keep, my son. Take it as a reward for your success. The task was just a ruse to test you and you have made me proud. Now tell me of your adventure!”

Wong Wang Kong told his father about the hardship and danger they faced while in Borneo but neglected to tell the Emperor of his younger brother's cleverness in retrieving the "jewel" and saving their lives.

The Emperor was a wise man and he understood the temperament of his children. Seeing the change in Wong Song Ping's expression while Wong Wang Kong told his story, the Emperor knew that he was not being told the whole truth.

That evening, the Emperor contemplated the situation. He admitted that it was an unexpected outcome. He had expected that Wong Song Ping would be the one to retrieve the "jewel" because while Wong Wang Kong was competent in martial arts and in his study, Wong Song Ping was more creative in solving problems and he thinks fast on his feet. 

The Emperor appreciated these qualities of his younger son although he wished that his son would behave more like a Prince sometimes. He also observed that Wong Song Ping always gave in to his elder brother since they were young.

He summoned the captain of Wong Song Ping's junk the following morning to his private chamber. In the privacy of the chamber, the captain related to the Emperor all that had happened. The captain's version of the story confirmed what the Emperor had suspected. The Emperor felt sad and he secretly ordered his first jeweler to make a replica of the "jewel" and handed it to Wong Song Ping.

Wong Song Ping gratefully accepted his father's gift but the realization had set in on Wong Song Ping. One day it would be inevitable that he and his brother would get into a fight. It saddened him with the possibility of that and he did not want any of it to be happened. He decided to leave China.

Wong Song Ping called on his captain and his men to tell them his intention. They readily offered their service because they trusted their young prince. 

One quiet moonless night, they set sail from China. Wong Song Ping did not say goodbye to the Emperor as he knew the Emperor would have none of it. He did not have any particular destination; he told his captain that they should sail to wherever the monsoon wind blew them.

After many weeks, they reached a river mouth on the coast of Brunei. The Sultan of Brunei Halah Batatar sent his brother to receive the party. They exchanged gifts and the party decided to stay in Brunei. 

When his friendship with the Sultan, Halah Batatar, deepen Wong Song Ping asked for the hand of the Sultan beautiful daughter in marriage. The Sultan readily consented to the marriage and great feast and rejoicing were held throughout the land. Through the years that followed, the Sultan saw all the wise and courageous things that his son-in-law did, his trust and affection for him grow. He therefore decided that be became his successors after his death. 

Wong Song Ping, Prince of China, slayer of the dragon of Kinabalu became the second Sultan of Brunei, who ruled wisely and well.

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