Gateway to Maritime Silk Road


Explore Brunei, the richest country in Asia

BY :丝路云帆 Yuan&Tang

UPDATED :October 25, 2019


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In recent years, Guangzhou has taken great efforts to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of ancient Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

Last year, Guangzhou launched the Maritime Silk Road Cultural Tour, an event aimed to promote cultural exchanges and cooperation between countries along the ancient sea routes through roadshows and themed public activities. The event was held in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Cyprus last year.

This year, the Maritime Silk Road Cultural Tour is scheduled to cover Southeast Asian countries Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines, which had frequent exchanges with China in ancient times.

What's so special about the three countries and what roles had they played in the ancient Maritime Silk Road? We will probe into these three countries in following articles.

Located on the northern shore of the Island of Borneo, Brunei Darussalam, although occupying less than 1% of Borneo’s land area, is the only sovereign country on the island. The country, one of the smallest in the world, is honored as the richest in Asia for boasting vast natural resources of oil and gas.

The country also boasts fascinating culture and amazing tourist attractions. Following are some of them you should not miss when you visit Brunei.
Istana Nurul Iman

Built in 1984, Istana Nurul Iman, with 1,788 rooms, is the Sultan of Brunei's lavish Royal Palace and the world's largest residential palace. It is located on top of a hill overlooking the capital and the Brunei River. Its golden domes and sweeping rooflines make for an awe-inspiring view, even from a distance and are glittering examples of Brunei's enduring royal heritage.
Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

This ornately decorated mosque, built in 1994, is surrounded by landscaped gardens and fountains. This mosque is a fine example of Islamic architecture built with a devotion to details.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

One can't help but notice Brunei Darussalam’s iconic landmark in the city centre of Bandar Seri Begawan–the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Completed in 1958, it was named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, Al-Marhum Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, during his reign. This architectural wonder is considered one of the most beautiful pieces in Southeast Asia.

Kampong Ayer

Known to some as the 'Venice of the East', Kampong Ayer is the world’s largest settlement on stilts. This floating village is home to some of the friendliest people who might just open their doors to you and insist you come in and share a hearty home-cooked meal.

Jerudong Park

Situated in the bustling district of Brunei-Muara, Jerudong Park features all kinds of rides for all ages. Roaming freely through a beautifully landscaped and kid-friendly playground will be a delight for the young ones.

Brunei is also home to some of Asia's best natural reserves and field study centres, such as the world famous Ulu Temburong National Park and the Kuala Belalong Field Study Centre, both of which offer an exciting array of ecotourism and adventure activities.

It is also well worth mentioning that the luxurious country is imbued with a number of cultural heritages of ancient Maritime Silk Road. Bordering the South China Sea in the North, Brunei was an indispensable part in China’s overseas trade and cultural exchanges through sea routes.

The friendly ties between China and Brunei can date back to the Western Han Dynasty(206 B.C.-A.D. 24) when sea trade started between both sides. Later in Ming Dynasty(1368―1644 A.D.), Zheng He, famous Chinese navigator, once stopped in Brunei during his second and fifth voyages to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

In 1408, Abdul Majid Hassan, king of Brunei was recorded to have come to China with his family and a retinue of some 150 people, on the fleet led by Zheng He, to pay respects to emperor Chengzu. The king unfortunately died not long after he arrived in Nanjing, and was buried there with a high-profile funeral.

The tomb of the foreign king is still preserved in Nanjing, testifying to the long history of Sino-Brunei ties and the cultural exchanges facilitated by Zheng He's voyages through the ancient Maritime Silk Road.

In 1972, a stele inscribed with some Chinese characters was discovered by German archaeologist Wolfgang Franke, and later was determined to be the tombstone of Chinese official Pu Gong, who died in Brunei during Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.).

Evidence for Sino-Brunei exchanges centuries ago also can be found in Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum. Housing a 500-year-old shipwreck and thousands of Chinese artifacts salvaged, the museum preserves the heritage of ancient Maritime Silk Road which links China, Brunei and the rest of Southeast Asia.

The museum is located at the ancient Bruneian capital Kota Batu, whose old port is said to have received a large number of ships running between China and Brunei centuries ago.

Nowadays, Brunei and China have enhanced trade and investment cooperation between both sides. More and more Chinese also go to visit the country that has a long history of business and cultural exchanges with China.

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