An Independent State In Borneo, under English control, extending about 300 m. along the N. W. coast from Cape Datu to Kidorong point, between lat. 0° 30' and 3° 20' N., and lon. 109° 40' and 111° 40' E., and inland at the furthest point about 100 m. The interior boundary, bordered by the Krimbang mountains, forms a curve which terminates in the capes mentioned. The surface varies from the lofty mountains scattered throughout the interior, some of which are at least 6,000 ft. high, to the low, forest-covered, and fertile plains in the valleys of the numerous rivers, separated from each other by mountainous ridges. A few isolated mountains occur near the coast. The largest and deepest river is the Rejang, which flows into the sea N. E. of the capital, over a bar having five fathoms of water at high tide. The Sarawak river has a depth of 3 1/2 fathoms at its principal entrance, at low water. Between it and the Rejang is the Batang-Lupar, a third long river, which enters the sea with a width of 4 m. Of the secondary rivers the more important are the Samarahan, Sadong, Seribas, and Kalaka, in W. Sarawak; the Egan, a branch of the Rejang; and the Bintulu, near the E. frontier, on which stands a settlement of the same name. In the mountains nearest the coast limestone is the prevailing formation.
The soil along the rivers is a rich alluvium, but clayey in the higher districts. Gold washing is carried on by the Chinese on many of the streams, and yields some profit. The chief metal product, however, is antimony, which occurs of the best quality,' in exceeding abundance, and in many localities. Excellent coal deposits have been discovered, but as yet are only partially developed. Iron was formerly manufactured by the inhabitants from native ores, and arsenic and manganese are found, and small quantities of silver; but none of these metals are now worked. Forests overspread the greater part of the country, yielding valuable timber, ebony, ironwood, sandal wood, gutta percha, caoutchouc, camphor, rattan, and bamboo. Agriculture is in a comparatively primitive state. Rice is cultivated in the lowlands, and cotton, pepper, tapioca, and tobacco in the more elevated districts. Maize, sugar cane, arrowroot, and nearly all the insular products of the archipelago are also raised. The climate is hot, with much rain from September to March, but not unhealthy. - The population of Sarawak is estimated at 300,000, composed of about 40,000 Malays, the Land and Sea Dyaks, a tribe in the east known as the Milanaus, some tattooed tribes of the interior, and about 3,000 Chinese. There are settlements on all the larger rivers.
The founder of the present government was Sir James Brooke (see Brooke), to whom in 1841 the sultan of Borneo proper ceded the town of Kuching, with the title of rajah. An additional cession was subsequently made, enlarging Sarawak to its present boundaries. Under his enlightened rule the country steadily advanced, from the complete anarchy in which he found it, toward peace and prosperity, notwithstanding a formidable Chinese insurrection in 1857, which was successfully suppressed after the slaughter or expulsion of about 2,000 Chinamen. When Sir James Brooke died in 1868, he was succeeded as rajah by his nephew Charles Brooke, under whom Sarawak has continued to prosper. A system of associating the native chiefs with Europeans in the government was adopted at the outset, and has been maintained. Justice is simply and effectively administered through native local courts, where the Mohammedan code is applied under European supervision, and through the supreme court of the rajah at the capital. Complete religious toleration prevails; the English bishop of Labuan exercises spiritual jurisdiction in Sarawak, and there are several Protestant missionary stations in the country. A few regular troops are maintained.
The revenue is derived through the sale of antimony, duties on opium, tobacco, and spirits, and a family tax of four shillings sterling. The total value of the foreign trade is over £300,000 annually, the principal exports being gutta percha, antimony, sago meal, camphor, wax, edible birds' nests, and rattans.
A Town, capital of the state, on the Sarawak river, 17 m. from the sea, in lat. 1° 28' N., lon. 110° 8' E.; pop. about 25,000, mostly Malays and Chinese, with a few English officials. It was formerly known as Kuching. The buildings extend along the bank, none of them at any very great distance from the river, and include the government house, an English Protestant church and mission house, and a mosque. Large vessels can enter the river, but cannot ascend to the town, the approach to which is commanded by a small fort. Sarawak is a free port, and carries on a large trade, chiefly with Singapore.