Huang Senping

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Huang Senping (Chinese: 黃森屏), Pengiran Maharaja Lela of Brunei. He is better known by his Hokkien name Ong Sum Ping to Bruneians. The Hokkien name implies that Huang Senping was a native of Fujian, China. This also finds support in the account of Brunei in Chapter 211 of the official History of Ming.[1]

Career and personal life[edit]

Little is known about Huang's early life because of the scarcity of records related to him. According to Wen Xiongfei 温雄飞 in the 《南洋华侨史》, Huang Senping came to Brunei in 1375 during the early years of China's Ming dynasty.[2][3] The Brunei History Centre presents a rather incredible story in which Huang Senping later married Princess Ratna Dewi, the daughter of Sultan Muhammad Shah of Brunei. For that he was conferred the nobility title of Pengiran Maharaja Lela and elected Chief of Kinabatangan.[4][5] Local Brunei Malay folklore suggest that there was a Chinese settlement in present-day Kinabatangan, Sabah. Linguistic evidence does not support the view held commonly by the Brunei History Centre that "Kinabatangan" could mean "Chinese river". According to early accounts which survive only in copies dating back to the 19th century such as Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei (Genealogy of the Brunei Kings) which was possibly first compiled during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Hassan (1582–1598) and subsequently copied and updated from time to time and also the Sejarah Melayu (written by Tun Seri Lanang in 1612), Huang Senping "succeeded his father-in-law. He was known as Sultan Ahmad and ruled Brunei". This version, however, contradicts later account engraved on the Batu Tarsilah (Genealogical Tablet of the Sultans of Brunei) written in 1807 that Sultan Ahmad was a brother of Sultan Muhammad Shah and he was not Huang Senping. The latter version is the accepted official history of Brunei.[6] During the Brunei Civil War (1661-1673), Sultan Muhyiddin of Brunei called for the assistance of Sultan of Sulu to help defeat Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin promising them independence as well as the territory of present-day (north-eastern) Sabah to be given to the Sultan of Sulu.[7] The promised territory was or included Kinabatangan.

In the early 20th century, a Chinese trader, Huang Zhuoru 黄卓如 stated that he chanced upon the tomb of Huang Senping located on a hill 1 li (about half km) from the Brunei capital at that time and there were Chinese inscriptions 黄总兵之墓 on the tombstone which meant 'Tomb of Commander Huang'.[5][8] Similarly, another Chinese trader from Guangzhou, Huang Qhuo Qi, alleged that he discovered the tomb of Huang Senping by accident in 1942, during a business trip to Brunei. .[9] However, the present whereabouts of this tomb is unknown and remains a mystery.

In 1947, a reef in the South China Sea was named 'Senping reef' 森屏礁 by the Government of the Republic of China in honour of Huang Senping.[10] In the Brunei capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, there is a street named after him, Jalan Ong Sum Ping, which is the only street in Brunei with a Chinese name.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

Huang Senping has been repeatedly cited as one of the main subjects in the legend of Mount Kinabalu. The legend tells of two Chinese delegates of the Ming — Huang and his well-built assistant Wang Kong[11] — sent to capture a precious gemstone from the mountain which was being guarded by a dragon.[12] Using his wits, Huang swapped the pearl for a lit glass bottle. Wanting to get all the credit, Wang Kong snatched the retrieved treasure and ran away. Bitterly appalled by his trusted assistant's behaviour, Huang chose to stay behind in Brunei.[11]


  1. ^ 《明史-列传第二百十一》
  2. ^ Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri (1990). Tarsilah Brunei- Sejarah Awal dan Perkembangan Islam. Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah
  3. ^ a b Lee 2013, p. 530.
  4. ^ Pusat Sejarah Brunei
  5. ^ a b Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri.(1990). Tarsilah Brunei- Sejarah Awal dan Perkembangan Islam. Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah
  6. ^ Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri.(1990).Tarsilah Brunei- Sejarah Awal dan Perkembangan Islam. Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah
  7. ^ Rozan Yunos (2008).Civil war wrecks chaos in the country
  8. ^ 《马星华人志》
  9. ^ Lee 2013, p. 533.
  10. ^ Sun Donghu. "The background and influence of the exotic toponyms in the South China Sea Islands". In Geographical Research. 
  11. ^ a b Lee 2013, p. 532.
  12. ^ Saunders, Graham E. (2002), A History of Brunei, RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 40—