The World's Last Great Discovery Civilisation - the Story of the Guangxi People in Lenggong

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Two areas in Peninsular Malaysia exhibit a notable concentration of Guangxi people: Bentong, Pahang; and Lenggong, Perak. The town of Lenggong in Upper Perak is situated just over an hour's drive north of Ipoh. Millions of years ago, the prehistoric era also left its mark in Lenggong. On 30 June 2012, the Lenggong Valley site was declared a World Heritage Site. What is the present status of the Lenggong Valley World Heritage Site? How should the road of tourism promotion continue?

Two areas in Peninsular Malaysia exhibit a high concentration of Guangxi people: Bentong in Pahang and Lenggong in Perak. The latter is situated approximately an hour's drive away.

About the etymology of the name "Lenggong", there are several versions, one of which is associated with a local landmark. According to local lore, an aboriginal man was attempting to fell a large tree when the trunk became wedged between two smaller trunks, preventing it from falling to the ground. In Malay, the term "terlanggong" is used to describe the stuck trunk. In time, the location where the tree trunk became lodged came to be known as "Lenggong".

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Tasik Raban is regarded by the local population as one of the three most beautiful lakes in the world. Its beauty is said to be enhanced by the sunrise, the day itself and the sunset. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

Lenggong is situated amidst mountainous terrain, offering a picturesque landscape and a temperate climate. Tasik Raban, characterized by its tranquil expanse, exudes a sense of solitude. Tasik Raban is regarded by the local population as one of the three most beautiful lakes in the world. Its beauty is said to be enhanced by the sunrise, the day itself and the sunset. It is regrettable that the Hollywood film Anna and the King, which was filmed here in 1999, failed to bring the lake to the forefront of the city's popularity. Over time, the area has become a place of beauty and sadness that has been largely overlooked.

After the discovery of prehistoric human remains and the complete skeleton of Perak Man, Lenggong Valley was listed as a World Heritage Site 

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The skeleton of Perak Man, which is more than 10,000 years old, is now housed in the National Museum of Malaysia. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

A mere 10-kilometre drive along Highway 76, situated close to Tasik Laban, leads to another renowned site: the Lenggong Valley.

On 30 June 2012, the Lenggong Valley site in northern Perak was inscribed on the World Heritage List. The site comprises four archaeological sites in two clusters, situated near the Perak River. These sites provide evidence of how prehistoric people made a living from the water. In this video, Wong Fook Seng assistant treasurer and tour guide of the Lenggong World Heritage Tourism Association, guides us through this mysterious place.

The first stop on the Lenggong archaeological tour was Bukit Jawa, the site of prehistoric stone tool making.

“It is believed that early humans inhabited the area by the river, with the Perak River situated approximately 500 meters downstream. During a visit to the area by Malaysian archaeologists in 1987, some unusual stones were discovered beneath the ground. These stones were believed to be the remains of tools and other items used by humans who had previously lived in the area, including axes, bowls and plates. This evidence indicates that humans were already living in the area between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.”

The second stop on the guided tour is Gua Kajang, which comprises Paleolithic and Neolithic living sites and burial caves.

“The area in which we are situated has been inhabited by humans for approximately 3,000 years, and the skeletons discovered here are incomplete. This is because the cave was contaminated with bat faeces, which were used as fertiliser by early farmers. When they were digging, they did not realize that these were human skeletons and inadvertently broke them.”

Continuing from Gua Kajang, several different caves can be observed, which were inhabited by prehistoric humans. Subsequently, the route leads to Gua Puteri, the most impressive of the caves. It is approximately the size of a football field and features an elaborate inner chamber comprising stalactites and stalagmites.

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Gua Puteri is the most impressive of the caves. It is approximately the size of a football field and features an elaborate inner chamber comprising stalactites and stalagmites. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

Gua Gunung Runtuh is situated at the opposite end of Bukit Kepala Gajah and is currently inaccessible. The actual skeleton of Perak Man was unearthed at this location in 1991, and the skeleton of Perak Man, which is more than 10,000 years old, is now housed in the National Museum of Malaysia.

Furthermore, a team of archaeologists from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) excavated an impact tuff breccia in Bukit Bunun. This is a rock formation resulting from the combination of a meteorite and rocks on the ground at high temperatures. Furthermore, the archaeologists discovered a hand axe embedded in the rock, which was subjected to analysis by a Japanese laboratory and found to be 1.83 million years old.

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The archaeologists discovered a hand axe embedded in the rock, which was subjected to analysis by a Japanese laboratory and found to be 1.83 million years old. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

In conjunction with investigations at several sites in the Lenggong Valley, it has been demonstrated that the region was inhabited by relatively large semi-sedentary human populations, with cultural remains dating back to the Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Metal Ages. Nevertheless, since its successful inscription on the World Heritage List in 2012, the Lenggong Valley site has not received the level of attention that it merits.

Perhaps the value of historical archaeology is far more precious than imagined, yet not a truth that can be appreciated by humans today.

Guangxi Braised Sliced Pork, Tofu Puffs and Steamed Chicken – Guangxi's Home Cooked Cuisine

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The Guangxi people in Lenggong have developed a distinctive Guangxi style of cooking, utilising local ingredients. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

As the saying goes, "living off the mountain, eating off the mountain", people in Guangxi typically reside in mountainous areas and have fewer opportunities to consume seafood. Nevertheless, Lenggong is renowned for its abundant river food. Consequently, the Guangxi people in Lenggong have developed a distinctive Guangxi style of cooking, utilising local ingredients.

In an interview, Zeng Tongsheng, the proprietor of Sauk Sun Kong Restaurant, observed that Guangxi residents in rural areas have a particularly extreme taste due to the necessity of replenishing their physical strength for manual labor. Braised slices of pork are a significant component of their culinary tradition. This dish is a traditional accompaniment to a variety of social occasions, including weddings and birthday celebrations. It is even said that "no banquet is complete without braised sliced pork".

Another representative dish of the Guangxi People is Guangxi Steamed Chicken, which is boiled chicken. The most important feature of this dish is a dipping sauce called Nam dipping sauce. The ingredients include ginger, green onion, coriander and peanuts. The key to a good dipping sauce is the ginger paste, which must be finely chopped to achieve the desired texture and retain the aroma of ginger. It is important not to over-chop, as this will result in a less appetising sauce.

In Guangxi, the filling of tofu puffs is pork with chives, but in Lenggong, the "home of swordfish", this has been improved to become the taste of the local people. Each family has its method of preparing tofu puffs, which typically involves combining the meat of swordfish, pork, or shrimp with coriander before shaping the mixture into a round form.

The local population also bestows upon each dish a distinctive name, but perhaps more importantly, these dishes embody the authentic taste of the native land.

Reposted in full from The Interview website

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