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The Legends of Mount Kinabalu

April, 2017
“Once upon a time there was a giant living…at the foot of Mount Kinabalu.” – Ansow Gunsalam, 1983
The Legends of Mount Kinabalu
Being part of the third largest island in the world, Sabah is abundant with rich culture, diverse ecosystem, and many more hidden gems ready to be explored. One of the many mysteries that stares at us each day (literally, especially when the sky is clear of clouds) is none other than the majestic Mount Kinabalu itself.
A mountain so highly regarded by our ancestors as well as present time by the locals, Mount Kinabalu is known as Aki Nabalu, ‘the revered place of the dead’, Aki also means ‘grandfather and/or male ancestors’ in KadazanDusun dialect. Before the spread of Christianity, a majority of indigenous people here were pagans who practiced animism. They believed in spirits and invisible beings are it good or evil spirits. It was believed (then) that the summit of Mount Kinabalu was the highest point in Borneo, which is why spirits would go there to enter the afterlife.

Before climbing up the treacherous mountain (during those days), locals would perform religious ceremony upon reaching the summit. These rituals were to pacify these roaming spirits who lived there in order not to harm them and giving them safe passage. Nowadays, these ceremonies are conducted annually by the National Park guides. Part of the ritual is to offer seven chickens, eggs, betel nuts, sirih leaves, lime, rice, as well as local cigars.

The Legends of Mount Kinabalu
Another legend has it that the name Kinabalu, Kina meaning ‘China’, and Balu meaning ‘Widow’, put it together in English and you’ll get Chinese Widow.
The Kadazan tale goes like this;-
Many centuries ago there was a Dragon living at the summit of the tallest mountain, deep in the jungles of Borneo Island, guarding a precious pearl. Upon hearing this, the Emperor of China sent all his three sons to steal the pearl from the dragon. Whoever succeeded, would get the throne. There were three princes. So off they went to Borneo Island (on their own) in search of this amazing pearl guarded by the ferocious dragon. The eldest and second prince failed to retrieve the pearl from the dragon whilst the youngest prince, with his ability to outsmart the dragon, was able to steal the pearl at ease and slew the dragon (of course with a few cuts and bruises here and there for added macho-ness).
Descending back to the tropical jungle of Borneo and hurt, the youngest prince was rescued by native villagers who nursed him back to health. There, he met a beautiful Kadazan woman which he fell in love with and soon after, married her. After years of living on Borneo Island, the prince felt homesick, so he decided to go back and visit his family back in China, promising his wife and family that he will return and bring them to China with him.
His wife grew anxious of waiting for him that she would go to the coastal area and wait for his ship to dock. However, her village was so far in that she decided to climb the highest mountain nearby, so she could have a wider and further view of ships sailing the South China Sea. From then on, locals would see her climbing the mountain each sunrise, coming back only after sunset to attend to her children.
Heartbroken, but still determined that her prince charming would come back, she eventually fell ill and died at the top of the mountain. Touched by her loyalty to her husband, the spirits of the mountain turned her into stone, facing the South China Sea, so she could forever wait for her husband’s return.”
The Legends of Mount Kinabalu
Locals say that St. John’s Peak is the stone her body was turned into.
So what happened to Prince Charming? Well, he returned safely back to China and received a grand welcome by his family for slaying the dragon and (most importantly) outsmarting the dragon into stealing his pearl. He told his parents of his new life in Borneo and how he wanted to bring them to China, which they (obviously) disagreed and told him he was already betrothed to a princess from another kingdom.
So what do you think? Do you like it? I love it! This heart-wrenching tale will forever be in my heart and for many generations to come, while Mount Kinabalu will forever stand high and mighty in Borneo Island. Here are some pictures for you to see the beauty of Mount Kinabalu area. If you are interested in climbing Mount Kinabalu, contact us now for more information.

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