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Bone, Sopeng and Wajo
Lost Bugis kingdoms

The capitals of the three former Bugis kingdoms in the central and eastern parts of the peninsula can be reached from Makassar in a few hours by bus. Watansopeng (Sopeng) is in the middle of low hills, Watampone (Bone) has old Dutch houses and spaceous squares, Singkang (Wajo) is a crowded market place with a view over Danau Tempe.

From Makassar the road to Bone and Sopeng first goes north to turn right near Maros, after which the ascend over the limestond mountains starts. High rocks, hung with tropical fauna, are mixed with dense forest. The area is rich of prehistoric remains. Camba, 67 km from Makassar, is located in a pass in the southern mountain range, which is dominated by Bulu Saraung (1360m).

The road runs through a grassy plain and splits near Lepangun (123km). Towards the right you go to Bone, left goes to Sopeng. A little on the road to Sopeng is Ujunglamuru, a strategically important mountain kingdom at the pass between Bone and Sopeng. The grave tombs of the raja's of Ujunglamuru, Kompleks Makam Kuno, are about 10 km ahead along the road. The guard on the left side has a key and there is an information center inside on the left side.

The mighty Bone kingdom

Bone (pronounced as 'boné') the most densely populated kabupaten in South-Sulawesi, used to be the most strong of all Bugis states. The well-kept list of former rulers dates back to the 14th century, when the original tomunurung descended from the sky, married with a human and founded a dynasty. Towards the 16th century, Bone dominated the area; the kingdom merged with Wajo and Sopeng with the Treaty of Tallumpoco in 1582 to resist against the growing power of Makassar.

After a defeat on the battlefield in 1610-1611, Bone accepted islam and the loose hegemony of Makassar (Gowa). Renewed resistance brought much more bitter defeats in 1640 and 1644, after which Bone was ruled as an occupied province. This lead to the revolt under Aru Palakka in the 1660's, and the alliance with the Dutch, that finally destroyed Makassar in 1669.

Aru Palakka ruled Bone from 1672 until his death in 1696. His winning treaty with the Dutch added Bantaeng, Lamuru and parts of Bulukumba and Sopeng to his kingdom. In 1670 he ruled over the essential Sungai Walane (Cenrana), the way out from Wajo to the sea. During the 18th century Bone stayed the most important Bugis power, with help of the Dutch, until Makassar itself started threaths.

Sangkilang, the messian rebel of Gowa, possessed the most holy part of the regalia of Gowa - the Sudanga sword, during his rebellion in the mountains, but gave it up in the 1790's when he died and passed it on to the ruler of Bone. This strengthened the claims from Bone on Gowa itself; after 1794 Bone attached the area of Maros, north of Makassar and dominated it. This forces the soldiers of Fort Rotterdam to action against Bone; first the English (1816) and later the returned Dutch, which occupied Watampone for a short time in 1824 and destroyed it afterwards.

Still Bone stayed an important power. James Brooke remarked that he couldn't do much without the ruler of Bone in 1840. When he got an audience in 1840, the scene was very impressive: 'Inside and outside the court was a military power of 3 to 4,000 men, completely identically dressed. They kept an absolute silence when we walked there.

The entrance was guarded by eight or ten guards with spears. That was the only show of power we saw. Behind the ruler were six pretty boys, his own relatives; and two rows or young raja's were on the right of him, As well as the men outside they were nude until their waste, only wearing sarongs, and kept a silence.'

After repeated problems the Dutch send an expeditionary armny to Bone in February 1859. The courageous female ruler retreated in the hills; the Dutch army had to retreat after their marshall was killed. In November 1859 a bigger power arrived much more carefull in Sinjai. In December Watampone was occupied, and in January Pampanua was taken. In 1931, after a long interregnum, Andi Mappanyuki was throned; he became the most influencial ruler of South-Sulawesi until the monarcy was abandoned in 1955.


The numerous invasions of Bone's capital, Watampone, didn't leave much of it's historical importance, accept a colorfull wall in the office of the kabupaten. This was part of the 19th-century palace of Bone. Here you can also find the rumah adat where the hadad (council of the kingdom) met.

The regional museum on the corner of the big square is lead by the enthousiast Andi Mappassissi. Between the holy objects is the Javanese keris, La MakawaLa Teariduni. The golden chain of the ruler, a gift of the Dutch, also is part of the vrown jewels. The museum has a collection of ceremonial pajongs (rainscreens), traditional clothes and the ritual gear, which is used by bissu during royal ceremonies.

The royal grave complext, with 17th century grabe tombs in about the same style as that of Gowa, is located in Bukaka along the road towards the north, towards Singkang.

About four kilometers east of Watampone is the seaport of Bajowe, which got it's name from the Bajau, the 'seanomads' which once inhabited most of the waterways in the archipelago. Many of them now live in the seaport, in houses on the water. A legend related the origin of the Bajau with Luwu', where the Bugis hero Sawerigading chopped a huge tree, which formed an island. This caused a flood, which floated the Bajau to the sea.

The eggs that fell out of the tree gave the Bajau their yellow-ish hair (however lack of vitamines is more likely). Because of this legend, eggs are taboo among the Bajau. From Bajowe a boat to Kolaka, on the southern peninsula, leaves every night and arrives in the morning. Between Kolaka and Kendari is a good road.

The most spectacular series of limestone caves in South-Sulawesi, Gua Mampu, is located 34 km north of Watampone. They consist of two upper caves in which light shines through the collapsed parts, and two lower caves which need artificial light. Go towards Singkang and turn left at Ulowe village. Guides and flashlights are widely available. This cave is known for centuries for it's natural shapes, but also because of the legends which connect her with the lost kingdom of Mampu.

It is said that the members of the royal court changed into stones, following a curse by a princess, Apung Mangenre, when she dropped something and asked her dog to pick it up for her. James Brooke was so exited by the stories about Mampu that he visited the caves in 1840, in the hope to find a lost civilisation. However this didn't happen, he named the beauty of it.


Watansopeng, capital of kabupaten Sopeng, is one of the most beautiful cities in the province. What is most intriguing are the huge number of bats in the high trees around the mosque and the office of the bupati According to local mythology Watansopeng would collapse if the bats would leave the city. Since they only seem to eat the fruit of people which are not from Sopeng, they are left alone, so they can scream together.

800 meters from the center, left of the road to Omop is the graveyard, Taman Purbakala Kompleks Makam Kuna Jena Lomoe. Remarkable is the unique house-like construction of these stone tombs of the raja's.
Turn right at Ompo for the falls and swimmingpool (pemandian). Many villagers visit the sources behind the swimmingpool, but the swimmingpool itself is filled with fresh source water every Friday. Nearby is another natural source, in Lawo. Here are also many megalyths, some of them probably very old, which were used to support the houses of the villagers.

On the eastern hills, sugarcane, kerimi, peanuts and tobacco are grown. Cacao grows good in the powder-like soil; the beans are drying on the streets. Watansopeng is known for the factories which produce rough silk for the weavers in Enrekang, Rapang and Singkang. Nowadays the silk is cultivated as small industry. In the little shops in town, silk is also fabricated. The biggest area of silk production is north of Watansopeng along the road to Pangkajene.

Disappearing lake

The road towards the north, towards Singkang, runs over a plain with sawah's and tobacco. The leaves are dried and cut in stretches, after which they are put in bamboo for drying. Cabenge is the market center for tobacco producing district; it's especially busy on market days (Monday and Friday), when the villagers arrive in their brightly colored horsecarts.

The road crosses the Walanae, the only way out for the Wajo. The river mouths in Danau Tempe, which gradually dries up because of heavy sedimentation, caused by erosion. Because of this, a slow natural process which dates back to the Pleistocene in which big pieces of land rose from the sea, has been sped up. Danau Tempe is the biggest remaining part of a big closed sea which, as it is assumed, broke the peninsula in two parts.

Nowadays the lake is about two meters deep, and in the dry season massive pieces are completely dry. In 1972 you could cross it by horse from Tempe to the other side. Sometimes the lake floods. People then arrange transport by boat and there are even floating shops. The area is very rich of bird. Boat races, which used to have a ritual meaning, are re-introduced for celebrating Independence Day on 17 August.


Singkang, the capital of kabupaten Wajo, has kept it's traditional character as well as Tempe. It's a pleasurable, average-sized city at the foot of the mountains which oversees Danau Tempe. A city for the early birds: calls for prayer are made five times a day, the first time at 4:20 AM.

On the hilltop across the mosque is the 'government stay' (Baruga We cudai or government resthouse), a governmental stay which is primarily meant for travelling civil servants but is also accessible for tourists. From this point you have a nice view over the two cities, which each have a mosque in Middle East-style.

Singkang is famous for it's silk weaving. An energetic Wajo princess, Andi Bau Muddaria, started a workshop to Thai example near to the mosque. In other towns her example is followed. She also started some old traditions again, like the traditional Bugis wedding, which was restored in 1981. There is a very nice dancing group, consisting of local aristocratic women and a traditional orchestra. They represent the old aristocratic Bugis traditions.

Last revised on February 19, 2013
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