Buginese people

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Buginese people
To Ugi
ᨈᨚ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ
Pengantin bugis - panoramio.jpg
Buginese couple in traditional costume during their wedding
Total population
6 million (2010 census)
Regions with significant populations
            South Sulawesi3,618,683
            East Kalimantan735,819
            Southeast Sulawesi496,432
            Central Sulawesi409,741
            West Sulawesi144,554
            West Kalimantan137,282
            South Kalimantan101,727
            West Papua40,087
 Malaysia (Peninsular and Sabah)500,000[2]
 Singapore11,000[citation needed]
Buginese • Indonesian
 • Islam: 98.99%

 • Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic): 0.55%

 • Hindu (incl. Tolotang): 0.41%  • Other (including Buddhist): 0.05%[3]
Related ethnic groups

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

The Buginese or Bugis people are an ethnic group—the most numerous of the three major linguistic and ethnic groups of South Sulawesi (the others being Makassar and Toraja), in the southwestern province of Sulawesi, third largest island of Indonesia.[5] The Bugis in 1605 converted to Islam from Animism.[6] The main religion embraced by the Bugis is Islam, with a minority adhering to Christianity or a pre-Islamic indigenous belief called Tolotang.[7]

Despite the population numbering only around 6 million, the Bugis are influential in the politics in modern Indonesia, and historically influential on the Malay peninsula and other parts of the archipelago where they have migrated, starting in the late seventeenth century. The former Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, is Bugis. In Malaysia, the sixth Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin have Bugis ancestry.

Although many Bugis 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.[8]

The Bugis people speak a distinct regional language in addition to Indonesian, called Buginese or Bugis (Buginese: Basa Ugi), with several different dialects. The Bugis language belongs to the South Sulawesi language group; other members include Makassarese, Toraja, Mandar and Enrekang.[9]


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


The Austronesian ancestors of the Bugis 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."[10] Migration from South China by some of the paternal ancestors of the Bugis is also supported by studies of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups.[11]

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.[12]

Migration to other areas[edit]

Sumatra and Malay Peninsula[edit]

Bugis children in traditional attire in Singapore, circa 1890.

The conclusion in 1669 of a protracted civil war led to a diaspora of Bugis and their entry into the politics of the Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. 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.[13]

In modern Malaysia, Buginese are classified as Bumiputera (like members of other historical immigrant ethnicities originating from Indonesia).[14]

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 padewakang. 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 (1792), S.78 ff., “The Buggesses in general are a high-spirited people; they will not bear ill usage... They deserve the character given of Malays in general, by Monsieur Poivre, in his Travels of a Philosopher, 'fond of adventures, emigration, and capable of undertaking the most dangerous enterprizes'.”


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 Bugis 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. The Bugis recognise a cousin up to the ninth degree. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage (matrilocal).

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

The Bugis people recognise five separate genders.[15] These are makkunrai and oroané, which correspond to cisgender male and female respectively, as well as calabai and calalai, which correspond to trans men and trans women respectively, and bissu, which is less easily comparable to Western ideas of gender.[16]


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. In the early 17th century, the Minangkabau ulama, Dato Ri Bandang, Dato Ri Tiro, and Dato Ri Patimang spread Islam in South Sulawesi.[17] The Bugis converted from indigenous animistic practices and beliefs to Islam. By 1611, all the Makasar and Bugis kingdoms had converted to Islam. According to Nurman Said 95% of the Bugis are Muslims. There are a small number of Bugis who do not take Islam as their religion. Some Bugis converted to Christianity by means of marriage but their number remained small. A Bugis community living in Amparita in the Sidenreng Rappang Regency retain their pre-Islamic beliefs, called Tolotang.[7]

Because most Bugis people are Muslims, the Hajj is seen as a prestige by them.

In literature[edit]

A settlement of Bugis people in the fictional country of Patusan plays a key role in Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bugis population make up 1/5 of the population but were gradually merged with the Malay population after the 1820s.[4]


  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. ^ "Bugis.PeopleGroups.org". Joshua Project. 23 March 2021.
  3. ^ Aris Ananta, Evi Nurvidya Arifin, M Sairi Hasbullah, Nur Budi Handayani, Agus Pramono. Demography of Indonesia's Ethnicity. Singapore: ISEAS: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2015. p. 273.
  4. ^ Joshua Eliot (1993). Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore Handbook. Trade & Trade & Travel Publications. p. 363. ISBN 09-007-5142-8.
  5. ^ Michael G. Peletz, Gender pluralism: southeast Asia since early modern times. Routledge, 2009. ISBN 0-415-93161-4
  6. ^ Keat Gin Ooi, Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, From Angkor Wat to East Timor. ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-57607-770-5
  7. ^ a b Said, Nurman (Summer 2004). "Religion and Cultural Identity Among the Bugis (A Preliminary Remark)" (PDF). Inter-Religio (45): 12–20.
  8. ^ Shiv Shanker Tiwary & Rajeev Kumar (2009). Encyclopaedia of Southeast Asia and Its Tribes, Volume 1. Anmol Publications. p. 47. ISBN 978-81-261-3837-1.
  9. ^ Mills, R.F. 1975. Proto South Sulawesi and Proto Austronesian phonology. Ph. D thesis, University of Michigan.
  10. ^ Susan G. Keates, Juliette M. Pasveer, Quaternary Research in Indonesia. Taylor & Francis, 2004. ISBN 90-5809-674-2
  11. ^ Li, H; Wen, B; Chen, SJ; et al. (2008). "Paternal genetic affinity between Western Austronesians and Daic populations". BMC Evol. Biol. 8: 146. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-146. PMC 2408594. PMID 18482451.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "History", Embassy of Malaysia, Seoul Archived 30 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "KAReBA 2019 dijangka dihadiri 10,000 pengunjung". 8 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 2011-07-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Graham, Sharyon (1 July 2004). "It's like one of those puzzles: Conceptualizing gender among Bugis". Journal of Gender Studies. 13 (2): 107–116. doi:10.1080/0958923042000217800. S2CID 143529152.
  17. ^ Naim, Mochtar. Merantau.
  18. ^ Loveard, Dewi (25 June 1999). "Target: The Attorney General Andi Ghalib is himself the subject of a probe". Asiaweek. Retrieved 7 June 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]