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Chinese settlement and the Kinabatangan[edit]

Main articles: Kinabatangan and Kinabatangan River


The greater part of the official historical record for early Brunei until the arrival of Pigafetta is
based on legends and assumptions. The historical account – lacking any real evidence – has
been constructed in such a way that around 1370, Zhu Yuan Zhang sent representatives to
Brunei via Indonesia, and Brunei paid tribute to the Ming Chinese. This signified the strong
influence of the Ming Dynasty, and accounts for the combination of Ong Sum Ping's influence in
Brunei. In these 30 years, the two main powers combined quickly. The Chinese expanded their
influence from the East of the Kinabatangan River to Northern Borneo.
In 1402, after the death of Sultan Muhammad Shah ( or known before converting to Islam,
Awang Alak Betatar), his son Abdul Majid Hasan ascended the throne. Ong Sum Ping and
Pengiran Temenggong became regents. Bruneian history has seldom treated Hasan as the
second Sultan. In 1406, after the death of Sultan Majid Hasan, there existed a two-year power
vacuum. During this two years, Bruneian nobles were locked in a power struggle; in the end, with
the clever maneuvering of Ong Sum Ping, Sultan Ahmad came out victorious and Pengiran
Temenggong's faction lost. Ahmad thus became the second Sultan in Bruneian official History.
Sultan Ahmad was married to a sister of Ong Sum Ping. To further cement his influence on the
new sultan, Ong Sum Ping advised the sultan that a visit to China, a regional Asian power at that
time was good. Thus, the new sultan sent Ong Sum Ping and several court officials as
representatives to China to assure the new Ming Dynasty of continued tributary relationship. Ong
Sum Ping and his entourage landed on the coastal region of Fujian; emperor Yong Le had
officials organised a welcome party for Ong Sum Ping.
Advanced in age, Ong Sum Ping could not make the long journey back to Brunei, and died in
Nanjing. Prior to his death, he had pleaded with Emperor Yong Le to grant several wishes among
which (1) that Brunei continued to be a tributary kingdom, (2) Sungai Kinabatangan and the
surrounding area, decades ago under the province of the Mongol Yuan dynasty of China, be re-
annexed as Chinese territory, (3) that the highest mountain in the territory be named "Kinabalu"
or "new China" or alternatively some say "Chinese Widow". Emperor Yong Le granted his wish
and further conferred upon Ong's son Awang as the new ruler, and named the mountain of
Brunei as Chang Ning Mountain‫ – جبل السالم‬mean Jabel Alsalam ("mountain of peace") in Arabic.
In 1408, Awang returned to Brunei under the escort of Chinese Imperial eunuchs, officials and
soldiers. Awang succeeded to the position of Ong Sum Ping in Brunei, and continued to exercise
political power and influence upon the sultan. The Chinese still referred to him as Chung Ping –
General. In 1412, he paid tribute to Emperor Yong Le. The wife of Ong Sum Ping was also
buried in Brunei at a location which the local Malays called Bukit Cina. The sister of Ong Sum
Ping, who was the wife of Sultan Ahmad gave birth to a daughter. This daughter later inherited
the throne and her consort became Sultan Sharif Ali‫(سلطان شريف علي‬so he was Sayyidina-‫)سيدنا‬,
who came from the Arabian Peninsula‫الشبة الجزيرة العربية‬,. Sultan Sharif Ali was a descendant of
Nabi Muhammad SAW‫النبي محمد‬. The granddaughter and the Arabian were the ancestors of
today's sultan of Brunei.
Bruneians today, still believe that Ong Sum Ping was an ancestor of the Brunei royalty. Even
though the Bruneian royal family stressed more on the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja ‫مالي إسالم‬
‫براج‬, but they do not discpunt the Chinese connection. Ong Sum Ping's name was recorded
under the genealogy of the Sultans of Brunei. In the capital of Brunei—Bandar Seri Begawan
(similar with शशशश शशशशशश in Sanskrit) ‫بندر سري بغاوان‬, there exist a street named Jalan Ong
Sum Ping (Arabic: ‫)سارع ونغ سوم بينغ‬, and the Muzium Brunei also contained artefacts of Ong Sum
Ping. The tomb of Ong Sum Ping's son is also under the Bruneian government heritage
protection.
The historical "Silsilah Raja-raja Sulu" provide further evidence of Ong Sum Ping's existence.
According to the record of the Silsilah Raja-raja Sulu, Ong Sum Ping arrived at Brunei with
several Chinese soldiers on a commission to collect a certain precious Jewell, called Gomala, in
North Borneo, assumed to be on the highest mountain and said to be guarded by a dragon. Ong
Sum Ping and his men later landed on the eastern coast of North Borneo. The Chinese explorers
knew from vast experience that to reach a high mountain they had to logically start from the big
river mouth and move ever upwards to the source of the river. Ong Sum Ping set up a staging
station on the Kinabatangan river and sent men upriver. Unfortunately, the source of the
Kinabatangan river is not on Mount Kinabalu. After the demise of Ong Sum Ping, Awang the new
raja of Kinabatangan sent an expedition, this time up the Labuk River. It only managed to set up
another staging station at the confluence of the Liwagu Kogibangan and Liwagu Kawananan.