This article borrows Juno Salazar Parreñas's concept of the “semi-wild” as an entry point into an analysis of Malaysian Chinese author Zhang Guixing's novels Elephant Herd (1998) and Monkey Cup (2000). Set in Sarawak, both works feature a relatively simple plotline interwoven with an intricate web of flashbacks. More specifically, each work's primary plotline features an ethnically Chinese protagonist searching for a relative who has disappeared into the rainforest, while also becoming romantically interested in a young Indigenous woman whom he meets during his quest. In each case, a fascination with the relationship between humans and Sarawak's various “semi-wild” flora and fauna is paralleled by an attention to the relationship between the region's ethnic Chinese and its various Indigenous peoples—and particularly two subgroups of Sarawak's Dayak ethnicity, the “Sea Dayaks” (also known as the Iban) and the “Land Dayaks” (who are often simply called “Dayaks”). Each work uses a set of quasi-anthropomorphized plants and animals (including silk-cotton trees, Nepenthes pitcher plants, elephants, crocodiles, rhinoceroses, and orangutans) to reflect on humans' relationship to the local ecosystem, while simultaneously using Indigenous peoples to reflect on the way in which overlapping colonial legacies have shaped the region's sociopolitical structures.

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