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The Kadazans are an ethnic group indigenous to the state of Sabahmarker in Malaysiamarker,early they came from Mongolia and mixed with Tiong-kok. They are found mainly on the west coast of Sabah, the surrounding locales, and various locations in the interior. Due to similarities in culture and language (similar with mongolia language, Achimet Tori) with the Dusun ethnic group, and also because of other political initiatives, a new unified term called "Kadazan-dusun" was created. Collectively, they form largest ethnic group Sabah.


While Kadazan was an official designation for this ethnic group, it is widely believed that the term itself was a political derivative that came into existence in the late 1950s to early 1960s. No proper historical record exists pertaining to the origins of the term or its originator. However, an article written by Richard Tunggolou on this matter may shed some light. According to Mr. Tunggolou, most of the explanations of the meanings and origins of the word ‘Kadazan’ assumed that the word was of recent origin, specifically in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He says that some people have theorized that the term originates from the word ‘kakadazan’ (towns) or ‘kedai’ (shops), and from the claim that Kadazan politicians such as the late Datuk Peter J. Mojuntin coined the term. In fact, the word ‘Kadazan’ is not of recent origin. There was evidence that the term has been used long before the 1950s. Owen Rutter, in his book, “The Pagans Of North Borneo”, published in 1929, wrote: “The Dusun usually describes himself generically as a tulun tindal (landsman) or, on the West Coast, particularly at Papar, as a Kadazan.” (page 31). Owen Rutter worked in Sabah for five years as District Officer in all five residencies and left Sabah with the onset of the First World War. This means that he started working in Sabah from 1910 and left Sabah in 1914. We can therefore safely say that the word ‘Kadazan’ was already in existence before any towns or shops were built in the Penampangmarker district and that Kadazan politicians did not invent the word in the late fifties and early sixties.

KADAZAN( native people, indigenous people of Sabah) and LAHU ( native people, indigenous people of Yunnan, China). They are related. The Chinese arrived the shore of Sabah 1,000 years ago. Sunken junk can lure some tourists, Daily Express Published on: Sunday, October 3, 2004 Kota Kinabalu: A sunken Chinese junk containing ceramics from the Sung Dynasty off the coast of Kudat can attract special interest tourists to the State. Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Karim Bujang, said the ship, which sank about 1,000 years ago, would be of particular interest to antique lovers and those who are into shipwreck diving. I know an expert who did it with the full knowledge of the Sabah Museum and I was told that they managed to retrieve some of the old porcelain that dates back to a few hundred years and they found out that the ship had actually come from China. The location, just north of Kudat, has to do with the long trade ties between China and this part of the world. Im sure that there are a couple of ships which sank and have not been found yet, Karim said to reporters after officiating at the Sabah International Jewelex exhibition opening, here, Saturday. He said both the national and state museums had control over artifacts from shipwrecks found in Malaysian waters. On Oct 1, Museum and Antiquity Department Deputy Director-General Md Redzuan Tumin said in Taiping, Perak that local fishermen discovered the wreck about two months ago. According to Md Redzuan, it was about 20m deep and located between Kudat and Pulau Banggi. We have retrieved some ceramics from the wreck, which appeared to have been tampered with, he said. Md Redzuan said the Sabah Museum, local universities and the Museum and Antiquity Department would work together to excavate the Chinese junk early next year.


Kadazan culture is heavily influenced by the farming of rice, culminating in various delicacies and alcoholic drinks prepared through differing home-brewed fermentation processes. Tapai and lihing are the main rice wine variants served and consumed in Kadazan populated areas, and are a staple of Kadazan social gatherings and ceremonies.

The most important festival of the Kadazans is the Kaamatan or harvest festival, where the spirit of the paddy is honoured after a year's harvest. This takes place in May, and the two last days of the month are public holidays throughout Sabah. During the celebration, the most celebrated event is the crowning of the 'unduk ngadau' or harvest queen, where native Kadazandusuns girls throughout the state compete for the coveted crown. The beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of 'Huminodon', a mythological character of unparalleled beauty said to have given her life in exchange for a bountiful harvest for her community.

In marriages, dowries are paid to the bride's family and an elaborate negotiation is arranged between the groom and bride's families. As a traditional gesture of politeness and civility, the dowry is metaphorically laid out with match sticks on a flat surface, with a representative from each side pushing and pulling the sticks across a boundary to denote the bargaining of the dowry. Dowries traditionally consisted of water buffaloes, pigs, sacks of rice and even urns of tapai. Modern dowry negotiations also include cash and land ownership deeds. Kadazan women from the Penampangmarker and Dusun women from Tambunanmarker and Tuaranmarker areas are widely regarded to have the most expensive dowries.

While it is traditionally customary for Kadazans to marry within a village or a neighbouring village, a change of xenophobic attitudes over the past few decades has eased the difficulty once associated with inter-racial marriage. The Kadazans have a particularly good affinity with the local Chinese and this has resulted in the coinage of the term Sino-Kadazan, which is a phrase used to describe the half Kadazan, half Chinese offspring of such unions. Due to the overwhelming Christian influence, marriage to Muslim spouses, which results in a mandatory conversion to Islam, still induces outrage and rejection, and is known to divide fiercely traditional Kadazans. Of late, Islam has been embraced by a growing minority as a means to political ends considering the fact that the local Malay minority has gained political ascendance in recent years. Ruling Malay political parties have also openly been giving political and economical privileges to Kadazans who agree to convert to Islam as well as to Kadazans with other religions such as Buddhist and Pagan.

The Nunuk Raaggang legend


The majority of the Kadazans are Christians, mainly Roman Catholics and some Protestants. Islam is also practiced by a growing minority.

Before the influence of the British missionaries in the mid 19th century that resulted in Christianity rising to prominence amongst Kadazans, animism was the predominant religion. The Kadazan belief system centers around the spirit or entity called Kinoingan. It revolved around the belief that spirits ruled over the planting and harvesting of rice, a profession that had been practiced for generations. Special rituals would be performed before and after each harvest by a tribal priestess known as a bobohizan.

Music and dance

The Kadazans have also developed their own unique dance and music. Sumazau is the name of the dance between a male and female, performed by couples as well as groups of couples, which is usually accompanied by a symphony of handcrafted bronze gongs that are individually called 'tagung'. The sompoton is another musical instrument. A ceremonial ring of cloth sash is worn by both male and female. The Sumazau and gong accompaniment is typically performed during joyous ceremonies and occasions, the most common of which being wedding feasts.

The Kadazan have a musical heritage consisting of various types of tagung ensembles - ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument. They also use kulintangan ensembles - ensembles with an horizontal-type melodic instrument.


Contemporary Kadazan food is influenced by Chinese and native cuisine, with unique modifications and nuances as well as particular usage of locally available foodstuffs, particularly bamboo shoots, sago and fresh water fish. The 'pinasakan' is one of the most popular kadazan dish, which is basically a form of pickled freshwater fish. Another popular dish is 'hinava', which is a form of salad with pieces of raw fish, bitter gourd, as well as other ingredients. Hinava is similar to ceviche ie fish marinated in citrus fruit. The 'bambangan' fruit is normally eaten with meals as an appetiser. Another popular appetiser commonly eaten is the unripe mango, normally mixed with soy sauce and chili.


Presently, the Kadazans are associated together with another similar indigenous tribe, the Dusuns and various other indigenous peoples, under the blanket term Kadazan-Dusun. This is officially recognised as the result of political machinations, specifically, a resolution of the supposedly non-political 5th KCA (Kadazan Cultural Association, which was then renamed to Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA)) Delegates Conference held between November 4 and November 5, 1989. It was decided as the best alternative approach to resolve the "Kadazan" or "Dusun" identity crisis that had crippled and impeded the growth and development of the Kadazan-dusun multi-ethnic community socio-culturally, economically and politically - ever since Kadazanism versus Dusunism sentiments were politicized in the early 1960s.

Kadazans and Dusuns share the same language and culture, albeit with differences in dialect. Many consider the major difference between the two ethnic groups to be their traditional geographical influences. Kadazans are mainly inhabitants of the flat valley delta, conducive to paddy field farming, while Dusuns are traditionally inhabitants of the hilly and mountainous regions common to the interior of Sabah.

Indigenous status

Being indigenous to Sabah, a part of Malaysia, the Kadazans are conferred the same political, educational and economic rights as the predominant Malay population of Malaysia. The term ascribed to this is Bumiputra (from Sanskrit Bhumiputra), a Malay word, which is translated to 'Sons of the Land'.


  1. Tunggolou, Richard. "The origins and meanings of the terms "Kadazan" and "Dusun".", KDCA Publications. December 2, 2004.
  2. Assessment for Kadazans in Malaysia
  3. Dr Elizabeth Koepping, Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh
  4. Voices of the Earth
  5. More Foreigners In Brunei Embrace Islam
  6. Malay ultras diluted Borneo autonomy
  7. Matusky, Patricia. "An Introduction to the Major Instruments and Forms of Traditional Malay Music." Asian Music Vol 16. No. 2. (Spring-Summer 1985), pp. 121-182.

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