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Kuching is located in the province of Sarawak, which is located on the island of Borneo and makes up the eastern half of Malaysia. Its prime location in the South China Sea drew many people from across Asia, including Malays, Chinese, Indians and Indonesians. Europeans also came to the city after it established its importance as a trading port in South Asia.
The territory was originally a Malay principality and belonged to Brunei, but was ceded some 200 years ago to Englishman James Brooke, who installed himself as rajah of the kingdom. His family ruled it until the end of World War II, when Charles Vyner Brooke ceded the land to the British Crown. Sukarno attempted to annex this land as part of Indonesia, but faced stiff military opposition from the British in an undeclared war.
In 1963, Sarawak was given its independence by the British Empire and joined North Borneo to form the Federation of Malaysia. Though the city’s name does mean ‘cat’ in Malay, it is doubtful that this was the original intention of the name. Most of the cat statues currently in the city are quite modern, dating from after Kuching became a tourist destination and nicknamed ‘Cat City.’