Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Semang are a group of nomadic people who live in temporary camps scattered in the forests of Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. They live mostly by hunting animals and gathering wild foods and trading forest products for cultivated foods and manufactured goods.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Southeast Asia




OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The AN07 Semang collection consists of 6 documents, including this culture summary, covering information on four main time periods: mid-1920s to late 1930s, mid-1950s, early 1970s, and 1993-1996. The earliest of these documents is an English translation of a two volume book by Paul Schebesta, a German anthropologist who conducted fieldwork among the Semang, Aeta and Andamanese peoples in 1924-1925 and 1938-1939. Volume one of this book deals with Semang economy and society while the second volume focuses on religion, mythology and art (Schebesta 1954, no. 1, and 1957, no. 2). The themes discussed by Schebesta were further discussed in the remaining three studies. Williams-Hunt (1954, no. 3) focus on funeral ceremonies. Kirk Endicott (1979, no. 4) focuses on the religious beliefs by which the Semang make sense of the world around them and their own place in it. Tuck-Po Lye (2004, no. 5) examines the substances of change that occurred in the environmental perceptions and livelihood strategies of the Semang. Together, the collection documents the Semang’s continuous engagement with state and market forces and increasing apprehension over the continuous degradation of the forests from which they take their identity and modes of life.

This culture summary is from the article "Semang" by Kirk Endicott, in The Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol 5, East and Southeast Asia, Paul Hockings, ed., Boston, Mass: G. K. Hall and Co., 1993. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by Teferi Abate Adem in March 2006.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

ASAL (literally, original soul) – use ANIMISM (774) or COSMOLOGY (772)

BALAWA (blowpipe) – use WEAPONS (411)

DENA (literally, "everything in the world") – use ETHNOGEORGAPHY (823) or ETHNOSOCIOLOGY (829)

DEN (house) – use DWELLINGS (342)

GUBAR (the thunder-god – use SPRITS AND GODS (776)

HALA (Shaman or Superhuman Beings) – use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756) or ANIMISM (774)

HAYA (camp) – use SETTLMENT PATTERN (361)

LAWAC (prohibitions associated with the thunder-god) – use AVOIDANCE AND TABOOS (784)

TOHAN (one of the creator beings) – use SPIRITS AND GODS (776) or COSMOLOGY (772)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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