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Semang Negroid Negrito Australoid Malaysia.png
Total population
c. 4596
Regions with significant populations
Malaysia Malaysia 4296
Thailand Thailand 300
Batek, Mendriq, Lanoh, Kintaq, Kensiu
Related ethnic groups
Australoids (especially Negritos), Orang Asli

The Semang are a Negrito ethnic group of the Malay Peninsula .Lowland Semang tribes are also known as Sakai, although this term is considered to be derogatory by the Semang people.[1] They are probably the indigenous peoples of this area.[citation needed] They have been recorded to have lived here since before the 200s Common Era (CE). They are ethnologically described as nomadic hunter-gatherers. See also Bajaus and Aetas.[2]


The Semangs live in caves or leaf-shelters that form between branches. A loincloth for the men, made of tree bark hammered out with a wooden mallet from the bark of the terap, a species of wild bread-fruit tree, and a short skirt of the same for the women, is the only dress worn; many go naked.[citation needed]

Scarification is practised. The finely serrated edge of a sugarcane leaf is drawn across the skin, then charcoal powder rubbed into the cut.[citation needed]

They have bamboo musical instruments, a kind of jaw harp, and a nose flute. On festive occasions, there is song and dance, both sexes decorating themselves with leaves.[citation needed]

The Semang bury their dead simply,[clarification needed] and place food and drink in the grave.[citation needed]

They have used Capnomancy (divination by smoke) to determine whether a camp is safe for the night.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hajek, John (June 1996). "Unraveling Lowland Semang". Oceanic Linguistics 35 (1): 138–141. doi:10.2307/3623034. JSTOR 3623034. 
  2. ^ Fix, Alan G. (June 1995). "Malayan Paleosociology: Implications for Patterns of Genetic Variation among the Orang Asli". American Anthropologist, New Series 97 (2): 313–323. doi:10.1525/aa.1995.97.2.02a00090. JSTOR 681964. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernatzik, H. A., & Ivanoff, J. (2005). Moken and Semang: 1936-2004, persistence and change. Bangkok: White Lotus. ISBN 974-480-082-8
  • Gomes, A. G. (1982). Ecological adaptation and population change: Semang foragers and Temuan horticulturists in West Malaysia. Honolulu, Hawaii (1777 East-West Rd., Honolulu 96848): East-West Environment and Policy Institute.
  • Human Relations Area Files, inc. (1976). Semang. [Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms.
  • Mirante, Edith (2014) "The Wind in the Bamboo: Journeys in Search of Asia's 'Negrito' Indigenous Peoples" Bangkok, Orchid Press.
  • Rambo, A. T. (1985). Primitive polluters: Semang impact on the Malaysian tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ann Arbor, Mich: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. ISBN 0-915703-04-1