The extent of the Bruneian Empire in the 15th century
|Languages||Brunei Malay, Old Malay and Arabic languages|
|Last Empire Sultan|
|-||1885–1906||Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin|
|-||Empire begins||7th century|
|-||Became protectorate of British||1888|
|Currency||Barter, Cowrie and later Brunei pitis|
|Today part of|| Brunei
Part of a series on the
|History of Brunei|
House of Bolkiah
The Bruneian Empire was founded in the early 7th century on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. The Chinese referred to it as Po-ni, as both the Borneo and Brunei were usually transliterated as Po-li and Po-ni in Chinese texts.
At the first, the empire was ruled by pagan or Hindu kings, who were later converted to Islam by Indians, Arabs and merchants from other parts of Maritime Southeast Asia who came to trade and spread Islam. No local or indigenous sources exist to provide evidence for any of this, so Chinese texts have been used to construct a history of early Brunei. Boni in Chinese sources refers to probably Borneo as a whole, while Poli 婆利, probably located in Sumatra, is claimed by local authorities to refer to Brunei as well. The earliest diplomatic relations between Borneo (Boni 渤泥) and China are recorded in the Taiping huanyuji 太平環宇記 (978).
By the 15th century, the empire became a Muslim state. It controlled most of northern Borneo, and it became an important hub for the East and Western world trading system. During the rule of Bolkiah, the fifth Sultan, the empire expanded to cover all of the Borneo until Banjarmasin and reach to Seludong (present-day Manila), Sulu Archipelago including part of the island of Mindanao. The earliest recorded documentation by the West about Brunei was by an Italian known as Ludovico di Varthema. Ludovico was at the time on a route to the Maluku Islands when he landed in Borneo and met with the people of Brunei. The record of his documentation dates back to 1550.
"We arrived at the island of Bornei (Brunei or Borneo), which is distant from the Maluch about two hundred miles, and we found that it was somewhat larger than the aforesaid and much lower. The people are pagans and are men of goodwill. Their colour is whiter than that of the other sort....in this island justice is well administered..."
However, the empire lost much of its territory due to the arriving of the western powers such as Spanish, Dutch and the British. Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin later appealed to the British to stop further encroachment in 1888. The resultant "Treaty of Protection" made Brunei a British protectorate until 1984 when it gained independence.
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