Kanowit is a town and the capital of a district of the same name, located within the Sibu Division
Sibu Division
Sibu Division is one of the eleven administrative divisions of Sarawak, east Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It has a total area of 8,278.3 square kilometers, and is the third largest division after Kuching Division and Miri Division....

, Sarawak
Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Known as Bumi Kenyalang , Sarawak is situated on the north-west of the island. It is the largest state in Malaysia followed by Sabah, the second largest state located to the North- East.The administrative capital is Kuching, which...

, east Malaysia, comprising 2,253.5 square kilometers. As of 2002, Kanowit's population is 28,600. It is built on the mouth of Kanowit River at the bank of Rajang River
Rajang River
The Rajang River is a river in Sarawak, Malaysia. The river is located in northwest of Borneo and it originates in the Iran Mountains. The river flows approximately 563 km to the South China Sea, making it the longest river in Malaysia....

, approximately 174 kilometers from the coast of South China Sea
South China Sea
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around...

. It takes 45 minutes to reach the town by land transport and an hour by boat from Sibu
Sibu may refer to:*Sibu, Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia*Sibu Division*Sibu , an impact crater on Mars*Pulau Sibu, an island off the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia*Sibu , name of a goddess in the Bribri tribe, in Costa Rica...

. The main ethnic groups are Iban
Iban people
The Ibans are a branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo. In Malaysia, most Ibans are located in Sarawak, a small portion in Sabah and some in west Malaysia. They were formerly known during the colonial period by the British as Sea Dayaks. Ibans were renowned for practising headhunting and...

, Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

, Malay
Malay people
Malays are an ethnic group of Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula, including the southernmost parts of Thailand, the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and the smaller islands which lie between these locations...

, and Melanau
The Melanau are a people who live on the island of Borneo, primarily in Sarawak, Malaysia, but also in Kalimantan, Indonesia. They are among the earliest settlers of Sarawak, and speak a Northwest Malayo-Polynesian language .-Origins:...


The town takes its name from the Kanowit, a Melanau ethnic group called Rajang by the Ibans. (ISO 639-3
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-3:2007, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages, is an international standard for language codes in the ISO 639 series. The standard describes three‐letter codes for identifying languages. It extends the ISO 639-2...

: kxn) . The language is still spoken. There still are some Kanowit people living in the Kanowit area. However, the language is doomed to extinction.

The village where Kanowit people live is called Kampung Bedil, a short trip by boat up the Rajang River from Kanowit town.
As of 2008 there are talks of relocating the village to another site as severe erosion of the banks of the Rajang River will soon wash away the remaining houses there.

Fort Emma

Fort Emma is a fort built in 1859 by Rajah James Brooke
James Brooke
James, Rajah of Sarawak, KCB was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. His father, Thomas Brooke, was an English Judge Court of Appeal at Bareilly, British India; his mother, Anna Maria, born in Hertfordshire, was the illegitimate daughter of Scottish peer Colonel William Stuart, 9th Lord Blantyre,...

, out of timber and bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

. It was named after Emma Brooke, sister of Rajah Charles Brooke
Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke
Charles, Rajah of Sarawak, GCMG , born Charles Anthony Johnson, ruled as the head of state of Sarawak from 3 August 1868 until his death...

. The fort remains impressive, despite years of neglect. It is now open to the public as a museum.

Fort Emma was also the site of the last serious challenge to Brooke rule in Sarawak. In 1859, a number of Malay chiefs, led by Syarif Masahor
Syarif Masahor
Sayyid Mashhur bin Muhammad Al-Shahab was a famous Malay warrior of Hadhrami descent in Sarikei, Sarawak state, Malaysia during the Brooke White Rajahs era in that state.- Background :Before the arrival of James Brooke, he was a powerful member who ruled and, in the past,...

 of Mukah
Mukah, Sarawak, Malaysia, is a coastal town which serves as the administrative center of the Mukah District in Mukah Division, Sarawak. It is located by the South China Sea, about 2.5 hours by road from the town of Sibu. Mukah is also accessible by air by MASwings from Kuching and Miri. The...

 and supported by the Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 of Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

 planned a series of attacks to kill all the Europeans in Sarawak and Dutch Borneo. In June 1859, Brooke government officials Charles Fox and Henry Steele were murdered at Kanowit as the first step of this plan. The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke led a force of Iban from Saribas
Saribas is an area made up of the three main rivers in the Betong Division of Sarawak, Malaysia. The three rivers are Batang Layar, Batang Paku, and Batang Rimbas....

 to revenge the attack and to recover the heads of the unfortunate victims. As a result, Mukah was annexed to Sarawak, Sharif Masahor fled to Johore and the "Malay Plot" was the last time the Malays and the Iban joined forces against the White Rajah. sss


The town center consists of three streets of 1930s vintage Chinese shophouses, near the waterfront. A few new shophouses have been built. Kanowit have a dry and wet market, offering local vegetables, meats and handicrafts. The market opens everyday from 7am till 12 noon. The biggest supermarket is Hock Tong Seng.

The best sight seeing can be had by walking along the riverside from town or up the Telecom Hill or Bukit Memaluh Hill.

The town has two primary schools:
  • Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan St. Francis Xavier (the earliest primary school in Sarawak, founded in 1883,
  • Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Yee Ting, a Chinese-run government school

and three secondary schools:
  • Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Kanowit,
  • Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Dipertua Haji Abdul Rahman Yaakub,
  • SMK Nanga Dap.

External links

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