Gunung Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia’sArchipelago and one of most impressive mountains in the world. It majestically stands in the Malaysian part of Borneo (Sabah), in Southeast Asia.
Borneo is located north of Java, Indonesia and it is the third largest island of the world, divided geographically, ethnically and culturally among Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Gunung Kinabalu is the highest peak of the island and stands at 13,455 ft above the sea level and represents the main part of the protected reservation of Kinabalu National Park established in 1964. It was listed by UNESCO as of special environmental significance in 2000.
The highest peak of the mountain remained impregnable until 1888, when an English explorer and naturalist managed to conquer what was believed to be the place where the ancestors souls dwell.
Many years after that achievement, Kinabalu used to be tightly guarded by the locals and therefore the outsiders had to attend to some meticulous ceremonies before climbing it.
Myths, Legends and Folktales – Reverence, Love, Loyalty
There are two translations of the name Gunung Kinabalu, the first of them coming from old indigenous language and meaning “the worshiping place of the ancestors”. Local people believe that their ancestor spirits dwell on the mountain top, so they performed ceremonies to pacify the spirit of the mountain and the souls of their dead forefathers. Nowadays, there still is an annually ceremony for appeasing the guardian spirits conducted by the natural park guides.
The second translation relates the name to “Cina Balu” meaning “The Chinese widow”. This has the origins in one of the most tender and sensitive local legends involving a Chinese prince, stranded to Borneo after a shipwreck, rescued by the natives, falling in love with a local woman, marrying her and returning home to China feeling homesick. He made a promise to his newly wife that he would subsequently come back to Borneo. He was forced not to ever return and she waited for him back in Borneo for the rest of her life. Every day she would climb to the top of Gunung Kinabalu, the highest mountain of the island, to scan the horizon for her husband’s ship, until one day she died on the mountain’s peak.
Being observed all these years by the spirits of the mountain, she impressed him and he turned her into a stone facing the South China Sea to see her husband’s home coming through the future centuries, stone which people use to say it is the St. John’s Peak. This made them name the mountain in her honor and over the centuries, it became a symbol of eternal love.
Gunung Kinabalu is a natural world wonder, with breathtaking views at every step, with an amazing wild life to discover but also full of myths and legends and loved by the locals with a strange mixture of love, awe and fear. And the truth is that when you climb it and reach its peaks, you start to understand them.