Baijini

Baijini are a race of people, mythical or historical, mentioned in the Djanggawul song cycle of the Yolngu people, an Aboriginal Australian people of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

. . . Baijini . . .

According to one view, the word “Baijini” itself is said to have been derived from a Makassarese root with the meaning “women”,[1] which would fit with the fact that the Baijini of the myths have women among them, unlike the historical Makassan trepang fishermen.[2]Joseph Needham wondered if the word Baijini itself might not have been derived from Chinese bái rén (白人, “white people” (i.e., those with lighter skin than the Australian natives), běirén (北人, “northern people”), or even běijīngrén (北京人, “people from Beijing“).[3]

In the Djanggawul song-cycles, it is told how, in the legendary land of Bu’ralgu somewhere beyond Groote Eylandt, there once lived three eternal beings called the Djanggawul: a brother, and his elder and younger sisters, together with a fourth man, Bralbral. Bu’ralgu itself had been a stepping stone in their journey south from an even more distant land. The four, after a series of ceremonies, rowed out from the island and, after several days, came to Arnhem Land, and followed the coast to Yalangbara (Jelaŋbara, aka Port Bradshaw).[4] They then travelled overland until they came to Wabilinga Island and it was there that they came across the Baijini folk, cooking trepang at a site still marked by a tamarind grove. The Djanggawu claimed this place as their own, asking the Baijini to move off, which they did, either to the other side of the island or to the mainland.[5]

The dreamtime landing site at Jelaŋbara was, according to the song cycle, also, later, a Baijini settlement.[4]

It has been argued that the account of the Baijini in the Aboriginal folklore are in fact a mythological reflection of the experiences of some Aboriginals who have traveled to Sulawesi with the Macassans and came back.[2] If there was indeed an historical reality behind the Baijini mentioned in Yolŋu myth, While, the origin and timing of those Asians who would have served as the prototype for this mythological people remains lost in the past.[6] It has been suggested that they may be identified with the Sama-Bajau,[7] or Sea Gypsies, the fishing folk of South East Asia who traveled with their families.[8]

The Australian anthropologist Ronald Berndt, an authority on the mythology of the indigenous people of Arnhem Land, undertook intensive work in Yirrkala and Milingimbi Island in the late 1940s. In his work on their mythic traditions, published in 1952 he wrote:-

‘the Baijini, although partially mythological are, rather, historical; for they are said to have been pre-Macassans, primarily traders and aliens to the coast, and not in any way creative as were the Djanggawul. They are, however, treated in the myth as if contemporary with these Ancestral Beings’.[9]

Berndt added that similar to the Makassan trepang fishermen in Australia known to the historians, the Baijini of the Djanggawul myth are said to be “cooking trepang, where the tamarind trees stand to-day”.[10]Tamarind trees are thought to have been introduced to Australia by the Makassans. According to interpretations of the legends, the Baijini not only built stone houses (balapathu)[11] but also cultivated rice paddies.[12][13]

The following year. the sinologistC.P. FitzGerald mentioned the possibility of pre-European Chinese visits to Australia in an article, which conjecture a possible early Chinese presence in northern Australia, by mentioning a Chinese statue which had been dug up in 1879 near Darwin.

. . . Baijini . . .

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