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Buginese People
To Ugi
ᨈᨚ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ
Johor-AbuBakar 140x190.jpg TunAbdulRazak.jpg Raja Ali Haji.jpg
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Total population
7 million (2010 census)
Regions with significant populations
Indonesia (2010 census) 6,859,000[1]
        Sulawesi 4,656,291
        South Sulawesi 3,605,639
        South East Sulawesi 496,410
        Central Sulawesi 409,709
        West Sulawesi 144,533
        Kalimantan 943,323
        East Kalimantan 735,624
        West Kalimantan 137,239
        South Kalimantan 70,460
        Sumatra 316,987
        Riau 107,159
        Jambi 96,145
        South Sumatra 42,977
        Bangka-Belitung Islands 33,582
        Riau Islands 37,124
        Java 102,775
        Jakarta 68,227
        West Java 34,548
Malaysia 1,128,465
Singapore (1990 census) 55,374
Buginese, Indonesian, Malay
Sunni Islam (predominantly), Animism
Related ethnic groups
Makassar people, Mandarese people, Toraja

a An estimated 3,500,000 claim Buginese descent.

The Buginese people are an ethnic group - the most numerous of the three major linguistic and ethnic groups of South Sulawesi, in the southwestern province of Sulawesi, third largest island of Indonesia.[2] The Austronesian ancestors of the Buginese people settled on Sulawesi around 2500 B.C.E. There is "historical linguistic evidence of some late Holocene immigration of Austronesian speakers to South Sulawesi from Taiwan" - which means that the Buginese have "possible ultimate ancestry in South China", and that as a result of this immigration, "there was an infusion of an exogenous population from China or Taiwan."[3] Migration from South China by some of the paternal ancestors of the Buginese is also supported by studies of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups.[4] The Bugis in 1605 converted to Islam from Animism.[5] Some Buginese have retained their pre-Islamic belief called Tolotang, and some Bugis converted to Christianity by means of marriage; but they have remained a minority.[6]

Although many Buginese people live in the large port cities of Makassar and Parepare, the majority are farmers who grow wet rice on the lowland plains to the north and west of the town of Maros. The name Bugis is an exonym which represents an older form of the name; (To) Ugi is the endonym.[citation needed]

The Buginese people speak a distinct regional language in addition to Indonesian, called Basa Ugi, Bugis or Buginese. In reality, there are several dialects, some of which are sufficiently different from others to be considered separate languages. Buginese language belongs to the South Sulawesi language group; other members include Makassarese language, Torajan, Mandar and Enrekang, each being a series of dialects.[7]


Aru Pancana We Tenriolle, Queen of Tanette, South Sulawesi. Pictured accompanied by court ladies


Homeland in Sulawesi, Indonesia[edit]

The homeland of the Buginese is the area around Lake Tempe and Lake Sidenreng in the Walannae Depression in the southwest peninsula of Sulawesi. It was here that the ancestors of the present-day Bugis settled, probably in the mid- to late second millennium BC. The area is rich in fish and wildlife and the annual fluctuation of Lake Tempe (a reservoir lake for the Bila and Walannae rivers) allows speculative planting of wet rice, while the hills can be farmed by swidden or shifting cultivation, wet rice, gathering and hunting. Around AD 1200 the availability of prestigious imported goods including Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics and Gujerati print-block textiles, coupled with newly discovered sources of iron ore in Luwu stimulated an agrarian revolution which expanded from the great lakes region into the lowland plains to the east, south and west of the Walennae depression. This led over the next 400 years to the development of the major kingdoms of South Sulawesi, and the social transformation of chiefly societies into hierarchical proto-states.[8]

Migration to other areas[edit]

Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, Indonesia[edit]

The conclusion in 1669 of a protracted civil war led to a diaspora of Bugis and their entry into the politics of peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. The Bugis played an important role in defeating Jambi and had a huge influence in Sultanate of Johor. Apart from the Malays, another influential faction in Johor at that time was the Minangkabau. Both the Buginese and the Minangkabau realised how the death of Sultan Mahmud II had provided them with the chance to exert power in Johor. Under the leadership of Daeng Parani, the descendants of two families settled on the Linggi and Selangor rivers and became the power behind the Johor throne, with the creation of the office of the Yang Dipertuan Muda (Yam Tuan Muda), or Bugis underking.[9]

In Malaysian Borneo[edit]

The population is mainly concentrated on the east coast of Sabah, especially the districts within the Tawau Division.[10] The Bugis may probably have arrived in Sabah during the 16th century as merchants and fisherman, but there is no strong evidence to support that.[citation needed] Only in 1840, their arrival in Sabah has been acknowledged.[citation needed] The old ancestry are recognised by the state government of Sabah as one of the native ethnics in the state along with Suluk and many other ethnics.[11] However, any of their other new relatives who arrived from Sulawesi after the 20th century are not recognised as the ethnics of the state and will be considered as illegal immigrants.[note 1][12]

In northern Australia[edit]

Long before European colonialists extended their influence into these waters, the Makassarese, the Bajau, and the Buginese built elegant, ocean-going schooners in which they plied the trade routes. Intrepid and doughty, they travelled as far east as the Aru Islands, off New Guinea, where they traded in the skins of birds of paradise and medicinal masoya bark, and to northern Australia, where they exchanged shells, birds'-nests and mother-of-pearl for knives and salt with Aboriginal tribes.

The Buginese sailors left their mark and culture on an area of the northern Australian coast which stretches over two thousand kilometres from the Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Throughout these parts of northern Australia, there is much evidence of a significant Bugis presence. Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down on the northwestern monsoon in their wooden pinisi. They would stay in Australian waters for several months to trade and take trepang (or dried sea cucumber) before returning to Makassar on the dry season off shore winds.

As Thomas Forrest wrote in A Voyage from Calcutta to the Mergui Archipelago, "The Buginese are a high-spirited people: they will not bear ill-usage...They are fond of adventures, emigration, and capable of undertaking the most dangerous enterprises."


Bugis traditional clothing

Most present-day Buginese now earn their living as rice farmers, traders or fishermen. Women help with the agricultural cycle and work in the homes.

Most Buginese people live in stilted houses, sometimes three meters (9 ft) or more off the ground, with plank walls and floors.

Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents and ideally take place between cousins. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage.

The Buginese' diet consists mainly of rice, maize, fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and coffee. On festive occasions, goat is served as a special dish.

The Buginese people recognise five separate genders.[13] These are makkunrai and oroané, which are similar to cisgender male and female respectively, as well as calabai, calalai, and bissu, which are less easily comparable to Western ideas of gender.[14]


In the early 17th century, the Minangkabau ulema, Dato Ri Bandang, Dato Ri Tiro, and Dato Ri Patimang spread Islam in South Sulawesi.[15] The Bugis converted from indigenous animistic practices and beliefs to Islam. A few west coast rulers converted to Christianity in the mid-16th century, but failure by the Portuguese at Malacca to provide priests meant that this did not last. By 1611, all the Makasar and Bugis kingdoms had converted to Islam, though pockets of animists among the Bugis To Lotang at Amparita and the Makasar Konja in Bulukumba persist to this day.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Akhsan Na'im, Hendry Syaputra (2011). Kewarganegaraan, Suku Bangsa, Agama dan Bahasa Sehari-hari Penduduk Indonesia Hasil Sensus Penduduk 2010. Badan Pusat Statistik. ISBN 9789790644175. 
  2. ^ Michael G. Peletz, Gender pluralism: southeast Asia since early modern times. Routledge, 2009. ISBN 0-415-93161-4
  3. ^ Susan G. Keates, Juliette M. Pasveer, Quaternary Research in Indonesia. Taylor & Francis, 2004. ISBN 90-5809-674-2
  4. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408594/figure/F1/
  5. ^ Keat Gin Ooi, Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, From Angkor Wat to East Timor. ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-57607-770-5
  6. ^ Said, Nurman (Summer 2004). "Religion and Cultural Identity Among the Bugis (A Preliminary Remark)" (PDF). Inter-Religio (journal) (45): 12–20. 
  7. ^ Mills, R.F. 1975. Proto South Sulawesi and Proto Austronesian phonology. Ph. D thesis, University of Michigan.
  8. ^ Caldwell, I. 1995. 'Power, state and society among the pre-Islamic Bugis.' Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 151(3): 394-421; Bulbeck, D. and I. Caldwell 2000. Land of iron; The historical archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana valley. Hull: Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull.
  9. ^ "History", Embassy of Malaysia, Seoul
  10. ^ Omar Mamat (2012). Memori Bukit Pantai: sebuah catatan pengalaman (in Malay). ITBM. pp. 48–. ISBN 978-983-068-922-7. 
  11. ^ "Sabah's People and History". Sabah State Government. Retrieved 25 March 2015. The Kadazan-Dusun is the largest ethnic group in Sabah that makes up almost 30% of the population. The Bajaus, or also known as "Cowboys of the East", and Muruts, the hill people and head hunters in the past, are the second and third largest ethnic group in Sabah respectively. Other indigenous tribes include the Bisaya, Brunei Malay, Bugis, Kedayan, Lotud, Ludayeh, Rungus, Suluk, Minokok, Bonggi, the Ida'an, and many more. In addition to that, the Chinese makes up the main non-indigenous group of the population. 
  12. ^ Fausto Barlocco (4 December 2013). Identity and the State in Malaysia. Routledge. pp. 77–85. ISBN 978-1-317-93239-0. 
  13. ^ http://www.insideindonesia.org/edition-66/sulawesi-s-fifth-gender-3007484
  14. ^ Graham, Sharyon (1 July 2004). "It's like one of those puzzles: Conceptualizing gender among Bugis". Journal of Gender Studies. 
  15. ^ Naim, Mochtar. Merantau. 


  1. ^ Most of the native Buginese in Sabah have lived since before the formation of Malaysia. When Malaysia was formed, all of them who lived in the Malaysian soil automatically gained citizenship (like the other races in Sabah) compared to their newly arrival relatives who lived in Indonesian soil at the time and only came to Malaysia after the country been formed.

Further reading[edit]

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