Historical Bau: The 12 Kongsi of Maw San and Liu Shan Bang

Maw San was named after the hat-shaped mountain of Gunung Krian in Bau and was visible from the town.

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By Wilfred Pilo

IF YOU FANCY A LITTLE HISTORICAL ADVENTURE, visit the once gold-mining town of Bau, which is about 29 Kilometer from Kuching City.

While there, take the golden opportunity to visit the old Bau town at Jalan Bau Lama called Maw San, named after the nearby hat shape mountain of the present-day Gunung Krian.


The hat shape mountain is visible from Bau town and is within the vicinity of Bau Blue Lake or the famous Tasik Biru.

It was all about gold

The concrete road sign of Maw San at Jalan Bau Lama in Bau.

Surprisingly, not many people or locals knew of this intriguing place (Maw San) and the hidden piece of history of Bau.

The old Bau or Maw San is now a tranquil residential area, but in the mid-1800s, it was thriving with the pioneer Hakka Chinese community who came here prospecting for gold and a better life.

At the height of the gold-mining activities, the estimated population of the prosperous community were estimated to be four thousand.

Visitors who come to Maw San or the old Bau can still trace the unique history of the place as what awaits visitors is the remnant of that era in the form of an intriguing “Black Wooden Pillar”.

The black wooden pillar now stood in the middle of a beautiful Chinese Pavillion at the end of Lorong Bau Lama 1.

The black wooden pillar

The remnant of the Twelve Kongsi flag pole holder at Maw San ( Old Bau) at Lorong Bau Lama 1.

As a visitor, you may wonder: What is that black wooden pillar, why is it there and what is its significance?

The mysterious black wooden pillar is actually the remnant of the flag pole holder of the “Twelve Kongsi” in the 19th century, a self-governed company founded by a Chinese migrant named Liu Shan Bang from Guangzhou, China.

As the name suggests, the Twelve Kongsi of Maw San had 12 leaders, including Liu himself, in the company whereby each of them had their own duties including internal and external affairs, finance, transportation, mining affairs and military.

Liu was in his twenties when he travelled from China with his siblings to Sambas, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, to find a better future and work as a gold miner.

Unhappy with the gold mining company in West Kalimantan, he came to Maw San with a few other miners and started gold-mining in Bau with the blessing of James Brooke’s government.

However, the dream of the economic prosperity of Maw San did not last long as Liu and his Twelve Kongsi members, fell out with the White Rajah rules that ended tragically, said to be due to taxation issue.

The Bau Chinese Insurgency

The unmarked gravesite of Liu Shan Ban is now a shrine at Lorong 2 Jalan Jugan of Siniawan, Bau.

This and other conflicts had led to discontentment among Twelve Kongsi goldminers, and in 1857, they eventually rose up against the Brooke government.

Liu led about 600 men and raided Kuching and the Astana. They managed to capture Kuching for a day, but Brooke escaped and regrouped his men.

The next day, the two forces faced off at Jugan, Siniawan.

In face of Brooke’s well-armed and outnumbered forces, Liu and his comrades were killed while some managed to escape.

Liu was only 57 years old when he was killed and was buried at Jugan. To mark his grave, a tombstone was erected.

Today, the gravesite is a shrine, and Liu had now become a deity called “Shin”.

Liu, the freedom fighter

The concrete entrance arch to Maw San at Jalan Bau Lama in Bau.

In 1993, Liu was recognised as a freedom fighter, liberator, and martyr and was added to the list of Sarawakian heroes when the Heroes’ Monument Park was unveiled.

The uprising saw many casualties, and even the prosperous Maw San settlement was obliterated in smoke and what remains is the flag pole holder of the Twelve Kongsi.

A proprietor of Good Luck Cafe, Jong Sal Cheng, who has been operating an eatery for 20 years at the historical site, is glad that Maw San is not gone and forgotten.

“There is evidence of history in this area, and visitors must know about it,” he said and passed over a golden cover book when met at his eatery recently.

“This book will tell you more of the history of Maw San, Liu Shan Ban and that wooden black pillar at the beautiful Chinese pavilion,” he said.

The book entitling “Return of the Hero Liu Shan Ban Pioneer of Bau Gold-Mining” was written by Dr Julitta Lim Shau Hua from the Association of Sarawak Chinese Academic Research in 2021.

Proprietor of Good Luck Cafe at Maw San (old Bau), Jong Sal Cheng showing a book of Liu Shan Ban.

Know our history

“Sarawakians must know the history of Sarawak and what transpired in our backyard.

“The remnant of the flag pole holder is a legacy to remind us of the history of Maw San and the gold mining community here. It also tells us to be resilient no matter who we are,” said Jong.

Jong said the Black Wooden Pole and the Shrine of Liu all have their unique stories to tell. He thus hoped visitors do not just visit the famous Bau Blue Lake or Tasik Biru but walk an extra mile to know the history of Bau town.

“It will make their visits here more fun, and we want Bau to be a tourism destination and put the town on the world map,” he said. — DayakDaily