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A kampong (kampung in Malay) is the term for a village in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore and a "dock" in Cambodia. The term applies to traditional villages, especially of the indigenous people, and has also been used to refer to urban slum areas and enclosed developments and neighbourhoods within towns and cities in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Christmas Island. The traditional kampong village designs and architecture have been targeted for reform by urbanists and modernists and have also been adapted by contemporary architects for various projects.

The English word "compound", when referring to a development in a town, is thought to be derived from the Malay word of kampung.[1]


The word 'kampung or kampong derived from Bahasa Malayu (Malay Language). The word “kampung” is often glossed today as “village”.


In Brunei, the term kampong (also kampung) primarily refers to the third- and lowest-level subdivisions after districts (Malay: daerah) and mukim (equivalent to subdistrict). Some kampong divisions are sufficiently villages by anthropological definition or in its traditional sense, while others may only serve for census and other administrative purposes. There are also some which have been incorporated as part of the capital Bandar Seri Begawan and a few towns.

A kampong is generally led by a ketua kampung or village head. Infrastructure-wise, it typically has a primary school and a balai raya or dewan kemasyarakatan, the equivalent of a community centre. Because many kampongs have predominantly Muslim residents, each may also have a mosque for the Jumu'ah or Friday prayers, as well as a school providing the Islamic religious primary education compulsory for Muslim pupils in the country.[2]

Both kampong and kampung are used with equal tendency in written media as well as in official place names. For example, Keriam, a village in Tutong District, is known as 'Kampung Keriam' by the Survey Department but 'Kampong Keriam' by the Postal Services Department—both being government departments.[3][4]


In Cambodia, "kampong – កំពង់" for everyday use is defined as a place of river or lake shore where people can dock their private small boats. It also defines a dock facility for commercial or passenger ferries and boats, such as Neak Loeung's ferry-dock (កំពង់ចម្លងអ្នកលឿង) and Akreiy Ksatr's ferry-dock (កំពង់ចម្លងអរិយក្សត្រ).

The term kampong has been widely used in Cambodia, assumingly for thousands of years, to name places such as provinces, districts, communes and villages—for instance, Kampong Som (ក្រុងកំពង់សោម; currently Sihanoukville), Kampong Cham (ខេត្តកំពង់ចាម), Kampong Thom (ខេត្តកំពង់ធំ), Kampong Chhnang (ខេត្តកំពង់ឆ្នាំង), and Kampong Speu (ខេត្តកំពង់ស្ពឺ) provinces; Kampong Trach (ស្រុកកំពង់ត្រាច), Kampong Trolach (ស្រុកកំពង់ត្រឡាច), and Kampong Siem (ស្រុកកំពង់សៀម) districts; Kampong Khleang (ឃុំកំពង់ឃ្លាំង) and Kampong Kdei (ឃុំកំពង់ក្តី) communes; and Kampong Prasat (ភូមិកំពង់ប្រាសាទ), Kampong Krabei (ភូមិកំពង់ក្របី), and Kampong Our (ភូមិកំពង់អ៊ួរ) villages. (Page 37, Chun Nat, Dictionnaire Cambodgien, Institut Bouddhique, Phnom Penh, 1967).

Based on the references above, the meaning of kampong in Khmer can also arguably be defined as an area or place located nearby a river or lake that people named their place after they have arrived or formed their community afterwards.


Traditional houses and pond pavilion of Kampung Naga, a traditional Sundanese village in West Java, Indonesia.

In Indonesia, kampung generally refers to "hamlet", which is the opposite of the so-called "city" known in Indonesian as kota. However, most Indonesian cities and towns initially consisted of a collection of kampung settlements. Kampung also usually refers to a settlement or compound of a certain ethnic community, which later became the name of places—such as the Kampung Melayu district in East Jakarta; Kampung Bugis (Buginese village); Kampung Cina (also known as Pecinan), which refers to a Tionghoa village or could be equivalent to Chinatown as well; Kampung Ambon (Ambonese village); Kampung Jawa (Javanese village); and Kampung Arab (Arabs village).

In the island of Sumatra and its surrounding islands, the indigenous peoples have distinctive architecture and building type features including longhouses and rice storage buildings in their kampungs. Malays, Karo, Batak, Toba, Minangkabau and others have communal housing and tiered structures.

The term kampung in Indonesia could refer to a business-based village as well—for example, Kampung Coklat (lit. "the Chocolate village") in Blitar, East Java, which mainly produced and sold chocolate products (bars, candies, powders, coffee, cocoa butter, etc.) from the local cacao farmers; Kampung Seni (lit. "the Arts (and Performances) village") in various places across Indonesia that mainly focused to produce and sell the local arts from the local artists; and Kampung Batik (lit. "the Batik village") which mainly produced and sell the batik as well as available for the batik-making courses and training. In 2009, several Kampung Batik in collaboration with the other official entities (mainly Batik Museum) in Pekalongan, Central Java, recognized by the UNESCO regarding the "Education and training in Indonesian Batik intangible cultural heritage for elementary, junior, senior, vocational school and polytechnic students" as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Register of Good Safeguarding Practices List.[5] The kampungs in Indonesia have also attracted global tourist attraction as well, such as the Kampung Panglipuran in Bali that was awarded as one of the world's cleanest villages in 2016.[6]

A kampung in Indonesia is led either by a Ketua Rukun Tetangga (abbreviated as Ketua RT), Kepala Desa (abbreviated as Kades), Kepala Dusun, or Tetua Kampung. All terms are equivalent as "the leader of kampung" with slightly differentiation. While for the kampungs, it is led by whether the Ketua Rukun Warga (abbreviated as Ketua RW), Camat, and Kepala Kelurahan (could be simply known as lurah). All terms are equivalent as "the leader of kampungs" with slight differences.[citation needed]


Huts by a river
Riverside kampong on the road from Kuantan to Dungun in 1964

In Malaysia, a kampung is determined as a locality with 10,000 or fewer people. Since historical times, every Malay village came under the leadership of a penghulu (village chief), who has the power to hear civil matters in his village (see Courts of Malaysia for more details).

A Malay village typically contains a mosque or surau, paddy fields or orchards and wooden Malay houses on stilts. It is common to see a cemetery near the mosque. There is barely any proper roads, but just regular dirt roads for village people to travel between kampongs.

The British initiated the Kampong Baru ("New Village") program as a way to settle Malays into urban life. Malaysia's long serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad lauded urban lifestyles in his book The Malay Dilemma[citation needed] and associated kampong village life with backward traditionalism. He also had the kampung sentiggan (squatter settlements) cleared and new buildings constructed to house them.[7]


The native Malay kampung are found in Singapore, but there are few kampung villages remaining, mostly on islands surrounding Singapore, such as Pulau Ubin. In the past, there were many kampung villages in Singapore but development and urbanization have replaced them. Development plans for Kampong Glam have been controversial. Singapore is also home to Kampong Buangkok, featured in the film The Last Kampong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From 'Kampong' to 'Compound': Retracing the forgotten connections". singapurastories.com.
  2. ^ Azahari, Izah (21 October 2017). "Brunei will remain a MIB-guided nation, thanks to religious education". Borneo Bulletin. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Geoportal". Brunei Survey Department. Retrieved 2017-09-10.
  4. ^ "Postcodes". Brunei Postal Services Department. Retrieved 2017-09-10.
  5. ^ "Education and training in Indonesian Batik intangible cultural heritage for elementary, junior, senior, vocational school and polytechnic students, in collaboration with the Batik Museum in Pekalongan". UNESCO. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Penglipuran Village". bdf.kemlu.go.id. Bali Democracy Forum. 2018. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  7. ^ Loo, Yat Ming (2013). Architecture and Urban Form in Kuala Lumpur: Race and Chinese Spaces in a Postcolonial City. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9781409472995.