Nanjing, Bandar Seri Begawan's Twin City

[Brunei Times asked me to write an article about Nanjing becoming Bandar Seri Begawan's twin city and it was supposed to be published on 21st November 2011. I could not meet that deadline as I was coming back from Bali together with His Majesty's entourage after attending the ASEAN Summit. The article was published a week later on 28th November 2011.]


Nanjing, Bandar Seri Begawan's Twin City

What do these cities have in common with Bandar Seri Begawan? Alsace in France, Barranquilla in Colombia, Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Bloemfontein in South Africa, Daejeon in South Korea, Dallas in the Unites States, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Florence in Italy, Hauts-de-Seine in France, Leipzig in Germany, Limassol in Cyprus, London in Ontario, Canada, Malacca in Malaysia, Mexicali in Mexico, Nagoya in Japan, Perth in Australia, St Louis in the United States and finally Sunderland in United Kingdom.
Nanjing Waterfront photo from

These cities and Bandar Seri Begawan belong to a special club. They are all twin or sister cities of Nanjing, China.

The establishment of Bandar Seri Begawan as a sister city of Nanjing was signed by Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Ji Jianye, Mayor of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province on 21 November 2011 on the occasion of the visit of Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam. Nanjing is Bandar Seri Begawan’s first ever twin city.

Mayor Ji noted that both Bandar Seri Begawan and Nanjing “…have a historical link of more than 600 years, with the Poni King (Brunei was historically known as Poni) visiting Nanjing, the China capital back then (during the Ming Dynasty in 1408) …”

Indeed, it was about 53 years ago that on 12 May 1958 that villagers at the Village of Yinxi at Yu Hua Tai District, a few kilometres away from the city of Nanjing in China discovered a relic in a nearby forest near a hill.

It was a giant tortoise with a giant tablet on its back. When experts read the texts carved on the tablet, they were amazed to discover that the tablet was describing the tomb of a king from a foreign country, who died while visiting China in 1408. The tablet told a fascinating tale of a visit by a King called Ma Je Ka Na from the Kingdom of Poli. It seemed that in August of the sixth year of the Reign of Yongjie of the Ming Dynasty (1408), that King visited China with a delegation of 150 people including his wife, brothers, sons and entourage.

When the delegation arrived in China’s Fujian Province, the then Chinese Emperor Chengzu (1403 to 1424 AD) immediately sent officials to greet them and ordered that wherever the delegation arrived a banquet should be hosted. After a long journey of friendship and feasts, the delegation finally arrived in Nanjing, capital of the Ming Dynasty, and was warmly welcomed by Emperor Chengzu.

According to Ming Tai Zu Shi Lu – the veritable records of Ming Emperor Taizu, Volume 83: “On the Bingwu Day of the 9th month of the 6th year of the Yongjie Reign (September 20, 1408), the Ministry of Rites said there should be some set rituals for the Boni king to observe when he met the princes. The emperor said, “… Boni is a vassal state of ours. So let him follow the etiquettes of the high officials when they visited the princess.” The regalia and official chair were presented to the Boni king, and water pots and basins were all made of silver. He was also granted with umbrellas and fans made of white gauze, two horses with gold decorated saddles, gold-thread-woven brocades, and ten suits of silk clothes. The king’s wife, brothers, sisters and attendants were all bestowed gifts according to their ranks. Male members of the Boni delegation wore Chinese-style clothes whereas the females were dressed in their own style …”

Unfortunately, the King fell ill in Nanjing, where the Emperor ordered his imperial doctors to treat and take good care of him. The King was buried on Shizi Hill outside the Andemen with the burial rites normally offered to kings. According to history, Poli was one of the ancient names of Brunei. As far back as the 14th century, the King and his envoys had been visiting China. That visit in 1408 comes after a series of other visits.
Who was that King of Brunei who died in Nanjing? According to the Brunei History Centre, even though the King was not mentioned in the Brunei Salasilah, that King called Ma Je Ka Na and described as Maharaja Karna by the Chinese was in fact Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan. He reigned in Brunei from 1402 to 1408. In the genealogical table produced by the Brunei History Centre, Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was placed in between the first Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad and the second Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Ahmad.

Nanjing is indeed an old settlement. Human activities in Nanjing have been traced to more than 6,000 years ago. The villages of primitive race were said to begin here. It was more than 2,400 years ago when the original settlers began to build a city.

Nanjing was established as the capital city for the six dynasties of Dongwu, Dongjin, Song, Qi, Liang and Chen from the third to the early period of the fifth century as well as the later dynasties of Nantang and the Ming.

The name Nanjing was established in 1368 when Zu Yuanzhang become emperor. Nanjing became China’s first political centre. It was also estimated that that from the mid 14th to the 15th century, Nanjing was probably the largest city in the world with a population of almost half a million people.

In 1421, Emperor Zhu Di relocated the capital to Beijing. Nanjing did become the capital a few times after the move to Beijing. However after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Nanjing became the provincial capital of Jiangsu.

The modern Nanjing city has made tremendous improvement to the lives of its inhabitants. In 2008, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) awarded the ‘2008 Habitat Scroll of Honour Special Citation’ to Nanjing Municipal Government for its bold, distinct, exemplary and comprehensive redevelopment, revitalization and improvement along the Qinhuai River which runs through Nanjing.

The city backed a comprehensive improvement and redevelopment program to overcome health dangers posed by industrial and human pollution of the river. The city also delivered affordable housing, put in place flood prevention measures, relocate business and industries and implement a new waste management system keeping all effluents away from the river.

Both Bandar Seri Begawan and Nanjing will hopefully benefit from being sister cities and will enable both to expand their economic potential in Southeast Asia and strengthen relationship between the two cities via frequent exchanges in cultural and tourism activities.



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