BY AUDREY EDWARDS AND ZUHRIN AZAM AHMAD
KOTA TINGGI: Villagers and orang asli in this part of Johor have grown up with stories about a mysterious lost city made of black stone.
Some say they may have actually seen the city and others say they have seen artefacts from that city, which independent researcher Raimy Che-Ross claims could be the ancient lost city of Kota Gelanggi, reputed to be made of black stone.
Kampung Sri Jaya village head Hussin Md Noor, 64, said he once saw what he believed was an artefact from the city.
“It was made out of jade and was 25cm long. It looked like a part of a stand for a decorative table. I kept it with me for about two days. That was a few years ago.
HISTORY BUFF: Hussin showing several artefacts, which he said were of Chinese origin, that he had found along the Johor River.
“It belonged to a friend of mine who was a forest ranger. He said he had obtained it during one of the trips when he brought loggers into the area,” said Hussin, who scours the area for artefacts and is known around here as a history buff.
Hussin said he once met someone who had found a cak lempong (musical instrument) but had to take it back.
“He had a dream that night and a voice told him to return the instrument or replace it with his life. So he returned it,” Hussin added.
Despite his lack of formal education, his wealth of local knowledge had prompted Johor Heritage Foundation to publish an article by Hussin about Kampung Sungai Telor, Kampung Semanggar and Kampung Rantau Panjang.
He is also a committee member of the Malaysian Historical Association (Kota Tinggi branch) and has traded stories about the lost city with other villagers in the area.
“They talked about unusual incidents that took place at this city, which they called Kota Batu Hitam (Black Stone Fort),'' he said.
He also said that the former village head, Ahmad Budin, had told him of a villager who believed he had stumbled into the city while looking for wood.
“Dia jadi tetamu rakyat kota itu dan dia kata rakyatnya ramai. (He became a guest of the ‘residents’ of that city and he said there were many of them).
“After three days, they asked him to go back and he made markings on the pillars so that he could find his way back there. But when he returned, he found his markings on trees,” he added.
Such local folklore reiterates the elusiveness of the city’s location.
Historians and archaeologists have been trying to locate this city for decades as it has been mentioned in a number of historical documents.
Researching these documents and studying aerial surveys, Raimy believes he has found the location of the city.
A ground expedition, to be mounted by the national museum and state authorities, is in the pipeline.
Kampung Pasir Intan orang asli head Tok Batin Abdul Rahman Abdullah, 85, claims to have seen the place more than five decades ago.
FROM THE PAST: This is a picture showing a collection of keris that Husin had found along the Johor River.
“There was a fort-like structure made of stones. It was quite big and I remember seeing holes on the walls like windows,” he said.
He remembers a lot of banana plants in the area.
“The bananas were red but I didn’t try to taste it.
“A light drizzle of rain always fell whenever my friends and I were there,” he said, adding that they rarely spent more than an hour there.
“The place was quiet but we often heard people, a lot of them, talking, like in a marketplace.
“At the same time, there were many animal marks, especially those of tigers, suggesting their regular presence there,” he said.
Abdul Rahman said that more than 50 orang asli families lived near the area until 1950s when they were relocated by the British Army following the communist insurgency.
The head of Kampung Kempas Menang, Tok Batin Daud, also remembers the city and the fruit trees there.
Yet, each time he went to the site, he noticed that the position of some of the stones had changed.
“Once, when I fell asleep in the area, I heard voices telling me not to do sinful things or act arrogant,” he said.