Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Who are the Jambi?

The Jambi people (also known as the Melayu Jambi - i.e. Jambi Malay) primarily live in four of the six districts that comprise the Jambi Province of central Sumatera. These districts are Tanjungjabung, Batanghari, Bungo-Tebo, and the capital city of Jambi. The Jambi language is a branch of the Melayu (Malay) language cluster. Their culture is greatly influenced by the Minangkabau culture.Most of the area the Jambi inhabit is a lowland basin of dense jungles, peat bogs, swamps, and rivers--all drained by the mighty Batang Hari River (655 km. long) and its tributaries. The rivers are important to them not only as a means of transportation but as a source of fish. They are adept swimmers and fishermen. They use eight types of traditional fishing tackle, as well as the modern pukat (fishnet). They are great eaters of ikan (fish) and complain that a meal is incomplete without its distinctive flavor.

What are their lives like?

Most of the Jambi make their living by fishing. For catching fish they use different types of traps ranging from the traditional to the modern. Some of the types of fish they catch are: ringau, kelemak, toman, pati, baung, juaro, bujuk, seluang, gabus, betok, and serapil. In addition to fishing, farming and plantation work are important occupations for the Jambi people.The Jambi are proud of their status as descendants of an ancient Melayu kingdom that dates back to the 7th century. This pride, in fact, has threatened their economic development due to their unwillingness to accept modernization. This is evident as transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia are better off economically than most of the Jambi themselves. Travel between neighboring rural villages is more often done by river than by land. This is due to the Jambi mainly living in thick jungle areas with wide marshes, making land travel very difficult. The Jambi have many different kinds of ceremonies and rituals, which they celebrate at special occasions. These would include: birth of a child, naming a child, first hair cut, ear piercing for two-year old girls, and circumcision for sons between six and ten years old. When the children come of age, (15 year old girls and 17 year old boys), there is a ceremony to file their teeth as a symbol of their adulthood.

There are Jambi in Johor, Selangor and Perak.

The Early history of Jambi
The river port of Jambi, the capital of the province of that name, is situated in the central region of Sumatra on the river Batanghari which flows east into the Berhala Straits. Jambi is positioned on the busy sea route between China and India , and the region played a major part in early maritime trade. The Tang Annals record that as early as the seventh century A.D. and again in the ninth century Jambi sent ambassadors to the court of Chinese emperor ( Wang Gungwu 1958;74). These earliest records of Jambi show it to have been the original capital of Melayu ( Malaya Kingdom ) The ancient Hindu - Buddhist Kingdom of Sriwijaya also had its capital in Jambi at about this time.Muaro jambi, a large temple complex several kilometers downstream from the present capital may well have been the center of Buddhist learning referred to by the Chinese monk I-Tsing, who traveled from to India in 671. He studied in Sriwijaya for four years, then returned in 689 with four collaborators, to write two books in the Buddhist pilgrims and Buddhism of his time. It is during they stay that he noted that Malayu " is now the country of Sriwijaya".Scholars have differed in their interpretations of this remark,certainly the relationship between Melayu and Sriwijaya was a very close one, although there were some clearly period of Malay independence when Sriwijaya was based in nearby Palembang. By the eleventh century the capital had certainly moved to Jambi ( Wolters 1970:2 ). As well as functioning as an entreport, Jambi also produced its own exports including a variety of tree resins for use as incense, as well as cloves, tortoise-shell, gardenia flowers and cardamom. From Arab traders it imported cotton, fabrics and sword blades ; from China silk gauzes and thread, the latter possibly used in the manufacturer of silk brocades decorated in gold supplementary weft, the "songket" for which the Malay world later became famous.

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