The Senoi (also spelled Sengoi and Sng'oi) are a group of Malaysian peoples classified among the Orang Asli, the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia. They are the most numerous of the Orang Asli and widely distributed across the peninsula. The Senois speak various branches of Aslian languages which in turn a branch of Austroasiatic languages, many of them are also bilingual in the national language, Malaysian language (Bahasa Malaysia). Their main means of subsistence is swidden agriculture, which may be supplemented with hunting, fishing, gathering, and the processing and sale of forest products.

Sengoi / Sng'oi / Sakai
Sakai of southern Perak showing face-paint and nose-quill, 1906.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Peninsular Malaysia60,000[1]
Senoic languages (Lanoh, Semai, Temiar), Jah Hut, Semaq Beri, Mah Meri, Che Wong, Temoq, Malay
Related ethnic groups
Lanoh people, Semai people, Temiar people

The Senoi people are also known as Sakai people among the locals.[2] For the Malay people, the term sakai is a derogatory term in Malay language and its derivative word menyakaikan means "to treat with arrogance and contempt". However, for the Senoi people mensakai means "to work together".[3] During the colonial British administration, Orang Asli living in the northern Malay Peninsula were classified as Sakai and to a point later it was also a term to refer to all Orang Asli.[4] It is often misunderstood that Senoi people who have abandoned their own language for the Malay language are called the Blandas, Biduanda or Mantra people.[5] The Blandas people are of the Senoi race from Melaka.[6] The Blandas language or Bahasa Blandas, which is a mixture of Malay language and Sakai language;[7] is probably used predating the first arrivals of the Malay people in Melaka.[5]


The Senoi tribes live in the central part of the Malay Peninsula,[8] and consist of six different groups, the Semai, Temiar, Mah Meri, Jah Hut, Semaq Beri and the Cheq Wong and have a total population of about 60,000.[1] An example of a typical Senoi (Central Sakai) people, the purest of the Sakai are found in Jeram Kawan, Batang Padang District, Perak.[9]


The Senois speak various sub-branches of Aslian languages. The Aslian languages are divided into several branches namely Jahaic, Semelaic, Senoic and Jah Hut. Most Senois speak a branch of Semelaic, Senoic and Jah Hut branches. Almost all Senoic and Semelaic branches are spoken by Senoi peoples (with the exception of the Lanoh people (also known as Sakai Jeram people)[10] which is classified as Semang but speak a branch of Senoic languages[11] and Semelai which is classified as Proto-Malay but speak a branch of Semelaic languages. Jah Hut language is an isolate within Aslian languages.


Their ancestors are believed to have arrived from southern Thailand about 4,500 years ago.[12]

During the Malayan Emergency, the guerrilla war fought from 1948 to 1960 a small fighting force, the Senoi Praaq was created, which is now part of the General Operations Force of the Royal Malaysia Police.[13]

Lucid dreaming

Kilton Stewart, who had travelled among the Senoi before the Second World War wrote about the Senoi in his 1948 doctoral thesis[14] and his 1954 popular book Pygmies and Dream Giants. This work was publicised by parapsychologist Charles Tart and pedagogue George Leonard in books and at the Esalen Institute retreat center, and in the 1970s Patricia Garfield describes use of dreams among Senoi, based on her contact with some Senoi at the aborigine hospital in Gombak, Malaysia in 1972.[15]

Later researchers were unable to substantiate Stewart's account and in 1985 G. William Domhoff argued[16][17] that the anthropologists who have worked with the Temiar people report that although they are familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, it is not of great importance to them, but others have argued that Domhoff's criticism is exaggerated.[18][19] Domhoff does not dispute the evidence that dream control is possible, and that dream-control techniques can be beneficial in specific conditions such as the treatment of nightmares: he cites the work of the psychiatrists Bernard Kraków[20][21] and Isaac Marks[22] in this regard. He does, however, dispute some of the claims of the DreamWorks movement, and also the evidence that dream discussion groups, as opposed to individual motivation and ability, make a significant difference in being able to dream lucidly, and to be able to do so consistently.

See also


  2. Ivor Hugh Norman Evans (1968). The Negritos of Malaya. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-07-146-2006-0.
  3. Salma Nasution Khoo & Abdur-Razzaq Lubis (2005). Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development. Areca Books. p. 355. ISBN 978-98-342-1130-1.
  4. Ooi Keat Gin (2009). Historical Dictionary of Malaysia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6305-7.
  5. Sandra Khor Manickam (2015). Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya. NUS Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-99-716-9832-4.
  6. Walter William Skeat & Charles Otto Blagden (1906). Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula: Preface. Introduction. pt. 1. Race. pt. 2. Manners and customs. Appendix. Place and personal names. Macmillan and Company, Limited. p. 60. OCLC 574352578.
  7. The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present, Volume 3. 1895. p. 226.
  8. Map Archived 18 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Keen State College
  9. Ivor Hugh Norman Evans (1915). "Notes on the Sakai of the Ulu Sungkai in the Batang Padang District of Perak". Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums. 6: 86. |contribution= ignored (help)
  10. Hamid Mohd Isa (2015). The Last Descendants of The Lanoh Hunter and Gatherers in Malaysia. Penerbit USM. ISBN 978-98-386-1948-6.
  11. "Linguistic Circle of Canberra. Publications. Series C: Books, Linguistic Circle of Canberra, Australian National University, Australian National University. Research School of Pacific Studies. Dept. of Linguistics". Pacific Linguistics, Issue 42. Australian National University. 1976. p. 78.
  12. "ECONOMIC PATTERNS OF NEOLITHIC LIFE" Archived 15 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Encyclopedia of Malaysia
  13. Chang Yi (24 February 2013). "Small town with many LINKS". The Borneo Post. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  14. "Magico-Religious Beliefs and Practices in Primitive Society - a Sociological Interpretation of their Therapeutic Aspects", LSE
  15. Creative Dreaming, Patricia Garfield, Ph.D.
  16. In The Mystique of Dreams: A Search for Utopia Through Senoi Dream Theory
  17. G. William Domhoff (March 2003). "Senoi Dream Theory: Myth, Scientific Method, and the Dreamwork Movement". University of California Santa Cruz. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  18. Revisiting the Senoi Dream Theory:The Bad Logic of Sir G. William Domhoff, Strephon Kaplan-Williams
  19. Do Senoi practice "Senoi dream theory"?", G. William Domhoff
  20. B. Krakow, R. Kellner, D. Pathk, and L. Lambert, "Imagery rehearsal treatment for chronic nightmares," Behaviour Research & Therapy 33 (1995):837-843
  21. B. Krakow et al., "Imagery rehearsal therapy for chronic nightmares in sexual assault survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled trial," JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 286 (2001):537-545
  22. Isaac Marks, "Rehearsal relief of a nightmare," British Journal of Psychiatry 133 (1978):461-465.

Further reading

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