Bau District covers an area of 884.4 square km and shares a common boundary with Kalimantan Indonesia as shown below. Its geographical features are composed of rugged terrain and dotted with sporadic limestone hills.
In the early 1800’s, Bau district was known as ‘Upper Sarawak’. The settlement known as ‘Mau San’ or ‘Bukit Mau’ was established in between 1820 and 1830 by the Chinese Miners from Sambas, Indonesia when gold and antimony were discovered. Bau district has a very rich history of establishment of Sarawak as a country under the Brooke’s rule.
After the abortive Chinese Rebellion in 1857 against the Brooke rule, it was believed that the place was referred to as being ‘bau’ being reeked of odour after the many deaths that the place had witnessed from the conflict. Bau means ‘smelly’ in Malay language.
According to the Bidayuh version of the name, the new settlement established by the Bidayuh who started to barter trade with the Chinese was called ‘Kupuo Baauh’ or New Village. As the non-Bidayuh could not pronoun ‘baauh’ and the name was corrupted to ‘Bau’.
The Hakka Chinese name for Bau is ‘Shak Lo Moun’ meaning ‘rock entrance’ or ‘cave door’ because of the many limestone caves found in the district.
The big flood in 1963 that occurred is related to the belief of the captive of a red-headed tortoise by the Sarawak Museum. According to an old woman who went into a trance at Lim Hua San Temple at Tabuan Road, Kuching on 10 March, 1963, revealed that the tortoise was ‘The Daughter of Sea Dragon King.’ If she was not released, the flood would one day rise as high as the Museum building to enable the tortoise to escape from the wooden tub where it was kept for public exhibition.
Upon the request of Tan Sri Datuk Ong Kee Hui, Mr Tom Harrison, the then Curator of Sarawak Museum released the tortoise at Muara Tebas on 14 March 1963 during a religious ceremony.
Coincidentally, after the release of the tortoise, the flood subsided and until today floods still occurred at a minor scale.