Chapter 1


(1750 – 1777)

       After New Guinea and Greenland, Borneo is the third largest island on earth.[1] Even nowadays the bulk of it is still covered by tropical rain forests. Some of the larger rivers are navigable for hundreds of miles upstream, but outside of these communication arteries, urban settlements are non-existent.  It is said that the island has not yet been entirely explored. In the eighteenth century it was, of course, even less known.

      During the three or four hundred years before the arrival of the  Europeans, Borneo received, sometimes at different stages and sometimes simultaneously, influxes of colonists from the Malay Peninsula and from other islands of the Archipelago.[2] The earliest written sources to mention Borneo are Chinese. They can be traced back to the Tang dynasty ( 618 - 907), but the first official contacts may actually date from the Song period (960-1279). Zhao Rugua 赵汝括 , a customs officer in Quanzhou during the thirteenth century, mentions “Boni” ²³ 渤泥 in his Zhufan Zhi 诸蕃志 (Chronicle of the Barbarian Peoples ). He adds that the Chinese traders who visited Borneo always brought some good cooks with them, because the king of that place very much liked Chinese food.  Therefore Borneo must have been part of the area of  Chinese maritime expansion along the sea routes between China and India, following the development of the magnetic compass and sophisticated sea-going vessels.

      In the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), a Fujian trader named Wang Dayuan 汪大渊 (1311-? ) is known to have visited Borneo [3], while during the Ming dynasty, in 1408, the Yongle emperor received at his court the visit of a “king of Borneo” (Boni wang ²³渤泥王) called “Manarejiananai 麻那惹加那乃”, identified as Maharaja Karna. According to the Ming shilu (The Veritable Records of the Ming Dynasty), the purpose of the visit was to put Borneo under the protection of the Chinese souvereign and more specifically to ask him to “invest” (feng ) one the mountains of the island with the divine function of “stabilizing mountain for lasting peace” (changning zhenguo zhi shan ³长宁镇国之山) in the same way as the Five Sacred Peaks of China had been canonized. Thus, said the Borneo monarch, “his entire land would become part of the Chinese imperial administration”. The Yongle Emperor wrote a stele inscription for him, had it engraved and sent the monarch back to Borneo with it, probably with the idea that it would be placed on the Borneo equivalent of the Taishan, which may well have been the North Borneo holy mountain Kinabalu.[4]

      After that, there seems to be no other new record in Chinese referring to Borneo before the eighteenth century. The History of Ming Dynasty (Mingshi 明史) does repeatedly mention important tributaries in Borneo, but, no doubt owing to the ban on maritime trading during that period, no other Chinese travellers reported their findings with regard to the island.

      The beginning of Malay rule on the island commences with the establishment of the Brunei sultanate, founded by traders from Malacca probably at the end of the fifteenth century. In the first half of the sixteenth century, Brunei already had important commercial relationships with the Spaniards and Portuguese.

      It was the Malays, it seems, who gave the island the name “Kalimantan” which is explained as having been derived from “kalamantan”, a kind of pear, in allusion to its shape. Veth expresses his doubts about this etymology, but does not question the fact that the name was given by the Malays. Another etymology which is widely used today is that of “river of jewels” (from the Javanese “kali” river and  “mantan” diamond).

      The west-coast sultanates of Sambas, Sukadana 吻律述, and Landak 万那 were established during the latter half of the sixteenth century. In the beginning, these sultanates were tributaries to and had family ties with mightier and more ancient Muslim kingdoms outside Borneo. Sambas was an offshoot of Johore, whereas Sukadana was related to Surabaya in Java and Landak was part of the sultanate of Demak in north-eastern Java.

      Generally speaking Malay rule was restricted to the coastal areas and navigable waterways, but it did open up the land for trade and colonization. In the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Chinese began to enter this region on a large scale, the area was divided into more than twenty Malay, Javanese, and Arab political entities.[5] The largest of these polities, Sambas, Pontianak and Mampawa 南吧哇, were situated on the west coast.[6] They also had the largest population of Chinese settlers. The sultanates were no more than economic and political superstructures, engaged in taxing transport routes (especially the harbours and rivers), in trading, and when it suited them in piracy. Their grip on the native population of the island was but tenuous.

      At this time most of the island was only sparsely inhabited. West Borneo’s original population was composed of many different tribes. The vast majority of these are currently called “Dayak”, a general name given to a wide array of peoples with different though related cultures. Dayak economic life was generally based on agriculture of the slash-and-burn type, but purely nomadic forest-dwellers, living from fishing or hunting with blow-pipes and poisoned darts, were also very numerous. Ritual head-hunting appears to have been a universal feature among them. The native population inhabited the lowland parts and hillsides of the primeval forests, where they tilled the so-called “ladang” dry rice fields, reclaimed through the fertilizing of a piece of forest soil with the ashes of the burnt vegetation. A village was composed of a score to one hundred or so individuals, living together in one or two so-called “long houses” built on posts. The village would remain at one place until all the cultivated land within walking distance had been exhausted, usually after five to ten years. It would then move on to a new location within its own larger territory. This means that the Dayak population was never fixed and settled in one place. At any time they could move away somewhat, not only for economic reasons, but also to avoid aggressive newcomers such as Malays or Chinese.

      The sedentarization of the coastal Dayaks had already started by the time the Chinese miners came to Borneo. Those responsible for this evolution were the Malays. By the seventeenth century, Malays involved in trade and piracy had established themselves in the river estuaries along the West Borneo coast setting up a great number of trade posts and maritime bases. Among these, the sultanates of Sambas and Sukadana had achieved a sizable dimension. From there, the network of trading, taxing, and piracy expanded, especially towards the inland, where Malay chiefs married the daughters of Dayak headmen and later established themselves in their father-in-laws’ place. In this fashion a great number of Malay and Javanese polities were established throughout West Borneo. At these centres, in addition to the Malay population of orang merdeka or “free men” (including other traders such as Arabs, Bugis, and the like) lived the orang butak , slaves or bond servants of Dayak descent. Dayaks would be forced into slavery after having been captured in raids, but more commonly through enticing them into accumulating debts which only their labour could repay. As these servants or slaves were then converted to Islam, they became sedentary and intermingled with the Malays. Coastal Borneo had only rather recently come under the influence of Malay sultans, while the hinterland remained the territory of the Dayaks.


West Borneo in the Eighteenth Century

      In the eighteenth century West Borneo was, as far as European visitors were concerned, still virtually unexplored territory. The first general description was not made until 1822. [7] The second half of the eighteenth century witnessed two major developments: (1) the progressive establishment of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) at Sukadana, Landak and Pontianak, and (2) the arrival of the Chinese miners.

      The first known diplomatic contact between the Dutch and the people in West Borneo took place in 1698. When the ruler of Landak was engaged in a war with Sukadana, he asked the sultan of Bantam who was a vassal of the VOC for help. The Dutch authorities decided to come to the latter’s aid and Sukadana was destroyed. From then on, during the entire first half of the eighteenth century, the VOC had regular contacts with the different polities of West Borneo, but without making any binding contracts or undertaking military occupation. Most of the negotiations concerned the buying of diamonds, of which at that time Borneo was an important supplier.

      A milestone in the history of West Borneo is the foundation of  Pontianak, its present capital city. Its founder was Sjarif Abdoel Rachman Alkadri, a trader of Arab origin. His father, Hussein bin Achmat Alkadri, settled at Matan in the interior of Borneo in 1735 as a Koran scholar. Here he obtained a Dayak spouse who, when the couple had later moved to Mampawa, bore him Abdoel Rachman, in 1742. The boy was betrothed to a girl from the Mampawa ruling family. This family was of Bugis origin. After an adventurous career as trader and pirate, he found himself at the head of a small fleet of trading vessels, including a Chinese sea junk and a French ship. He returned to Mampawa upon the death of his father, in order to succeed him. Instead of establishing himself there, he rallied around him a number of followers and in 1772 with fifteen vessels moved to up the Kapuas River, to a small island situated at the  junction of the Kapuas with the Landak River, a place said to be haunted by ghosts.[8] Having first subjected it to intensive gun fire for a couple of days,  the aspirant settlers went ashore and built a settlement. This very strategic point soon developed into an important trading junction. By 1778 Abdoel Rachman already found himself sufficiently powerful to try to extend his authority to trading places upstream on the Kapuas River which fell under the authority of the sultans of Landak and Sanggau ÉϺî. Landak being an offspring of Bantam, the ruler of Bantam sent a complaint to the Governor-General and the Council of the Indies in Batavia. That same year, the Dutch sent an official, named Nicolaas Kloek, with two men of war to Pontianak to see what was the matter. Here he was very well received and given many presents, among them a large diamond. Abdoel Rachman suggested to Kloek that the Dutch East Indian Company should take Pontianak under its own protection. Kloek did not  believe that the Dutch East Indian Company would willingly shoulder such a task. He made it clear that the Dutch authorities did not intend to expand their territory.[9]

      In the same year, however, the sultan of Bantam also seized upon the idea of placing Sukadana and Landak under Dutch administration, because he no longer considered those two areas to be of any profit to himself. Kloek received orders to take over these states from Bantam and to establish Dutch rule over them. In a decree of 6 November 1778, the VOC gave Abdoel Rachman the fiefs of Pontianak and Sanggau, as the Company claimed the sultan of Bantam had renounced his territorial rights.[10] The Resident of Rembang, Willem Adriaan Palm, was sent to West Borneo as Commissioner to make the necessary arrangements. He found Abdoel Rachman quite willing to accept Dutch supremacy. In a contract sealed on July 5, 1779, the VOC obtained preferential treatment in all commercial transactions at Pontianak. The harbour would be closed to all vessels which did not have a Dutch permit. All foreigners, especially the Chinese, would fall under the direct authority of the Company.

      After this agreement, Palm returned to Batavia. The Governor-General now appointed a permanent Resident in the person of Wolter Markus Stuart. A redoubt was built for a garrison of twenty-five soldiers, and a schooner with a European crew was stationed on the river, so that the entire military force amounted to sixty men.  They were soon to see action. Abdoel Rachman proved to be a master of intrigue and strategy, so that the newly installed Resident had to cope with a number of difficult problems in order to maintain the peace. Since 1772, Mampawa and Sambas had been at loggerheads with each other about the question to whom the territory of Montrado where the Chinese miners were active belonged. Both tried to squeeze as much as they could from the Chinese settlements, while fighting among themselves. Mampawa went so far as to destroy the Chinese settlement of Selakau, whereupon Sambas attacked Mampawa. Abdoel Rachman, with the support of the Dutch, acted as intermediary and a covenant was drawn up. Mampawa did not keep its promises, and this gave Abdoel Rachman the opportunity to lodge a complaint against the Panambahan with the VOC. But there were other reasons why the Dutch had an axe to grind with Mampawa and its close ally, Raja Ali, formerly a prince of Riau who had participated in a revolt against the VOC and who had now established himself at Sukadana. In collaboration with its ruler, Sultan Ahmed Kamaluddin, Raja Ali transformed the place into the most prosperous trading centre on Borneo’s West Coast. This, of course, ran counter to the Dutch expectations for Pontianak. Consequently, the sultan of Pontianak and Resident Stuart decided, in 1786, to launch an expedition against Sukadana. Because its kampong and palace had not yet been reinforced, Sukadana could offer only paltry resistance. Raja Ali and Sultan Ahmed fled, and the allies entered the place without any difficulty and subsequently destroyed it completely.[11]

      Sukadana having been dealt with, an expedition against Mampawa was planned thereupon, but here things went less smoothly. As this town was better defended, an additional seaforce under Commander Silvester was sent over. Hampered by bad weather, it took the vessels about a month to sail from Batavia to Borneo. On April 28, 1787,  the ships anchored in the roadstead of Mampawa. In the meantime, however, the Malay allies of the Dutch from Pontianak and Sambas had left the theatre of war as they had grown tired of waiting. Silvester therefore decided to return, but to his surprise, the Panambahan sent a delegation with white flags to offer submission. Not long after the negotiations had begun, the warships from Pontianak and Sambas suddenly returned. These were light war-prahus which could negotiate the sandbanks that closed of the estuary to Mampawa. It so happened that the fighting force from Sambas was on the side of the Panambahan of Mampawa, and the latter, by offering submission, had in fact only hoped to win time before these additional forces arrived! The Dutch managed to beat the Sambas force, and then turned their attention to Mampawa. Now hoist with his own petard, the Panambahan was more serious in his wish to submit himself to the Dutch. The latter ordered all the fortifications which defended the waterfront and the entry to the town to be demolished. When that had been completed, the Dutch army, assisted by the Pontianak navy, entered Mampawa, only to find the place entirely deserted, as the court and all the inhabitants had fled inland. The latter returned a few days later, but the Panambahan refused to come back and face the Dutch. As a result he was declared deposed from his throne, and the son of Abdoel Rachman, Sjarif Kasim, was installed in his place. This is how Mampawa finally became subjected to the authority of  Pontianak. In June 1787, Silvester imposed on the new Panambahan a similar covenant to the one concluded with his father. As before, all Chinese residing on the territory of the sultanate were placed under the direct administration of the VOC.

      As a result of these circumstances, the entire coast of West Borneo, from Sukadana to Mampawa, now fell under the authority of the ruler of Pontianak. The latter had the region of Mandor, where the Lanfang kongsi was to develop, under his sway. This being the case, the VOC never saw one ounce of the gold that it had been promised under the covenant concluded with Abdoel Rachman. In the years that followed Pontianak continued to rule supreme and both Sukadana and Mampawa went into a lasting decline. Abdoel Rachman, who died in 1808, engaged in open trade with the English from Singapore, thereby making the Dutch efforts to profit from the Borneo trade even less fruitful. On October 8, 1791, the VOC therefore decided to quit West Borneo altogether as it had become “a costly and insufferable nuisance”. Soon the Napoleonic wars would cause the total disappearance of Dutch authority in the region. Almost thirty years passed before the Dutch came back with the intention to establish their authority at Pontianak again in 1818.


The Arrival of the Chinese Miners

       As J.C. Jackson notes, the initial influx of Chinese miners, which is generally considered to have started around 1750, occurred within the Malay framework.[12] Tobias as well as Francis report that these miners were called in by the Panambahan of Mampawa, but they do not elaborate on this.[13] Jackson states that the Chinese miners were recruited because Chinese exploitation of the tin deposits of Banka had greatly augmented the income of the sultan of Palembang. It is therefore reasonable to infer that news of his success spread along the junk routes and persuaded the West Borneo rulers to invite Chinese to work their gold deposits. [14] Jackson also supposes, with Veth [15], that at first the Chinese miners did not come directly from China, but from Brunei instead. It is also a possible that they may  have come from Bangka, where Hakka miners had established tin-mines as early as the 1720.[16] 

      The mining at Mampawa proved to be a success and more Chinese were recruited to work there. Taking note of this, other Malay rulers also saw an opportunity to expand their wealth, so they too started to recruit Chinese workers to mine their lands. The first to do this was Omar Akamaddin, the sultan of Sambas. [17]

      The success of the mining soon began to influence the relations among the Malay rulers themselves. Striving to make greater profits, they vied with each other in inducing as many Chinese as possible to come to their lands. The sultans would supply the miners with tools, rice, fish and other provisions, in return for which the Chinese were required to pay tribute in gold.  The sultan of Sambas extracted 500 taël (almost 32,000 guilders) a year from the miners in his domain. [18] Shrewdly ensuring their lucrative monopoly of provisions, the Malay rulers forbade the Chinese to engage in either agriculture or trade, nor were they to import weapons, gunpowder, or table salt.[19]

      It was not long before disputes emerged over the territorial rights in areas rich in resources. As we have seen above, in 1772 Mampawa and Sambas were at war with each other. In the process, the region of  Selakau, which was situated between the two sultanates and which was considered to be rich in gold deposits, became the theatre of great destruction in terms of human lives and of natural resources. The territorial conflicts and political strife between the different sultanates coincided with a dramatic increase of the Chinese population. In a situation exacerbated by the feuds between the Malays, there was a growing concern about how to deal with the Chinese. In the last decade of the century, the total Chinese population may have risen to well over 40,000, [20] thus outnumbering the Malay population. This numerical increase also resulted in a growing degree of independence from their hosts, which again was considerably helped by the incessant strife among the sultans themselves. By this time many immigrants were coming directly from the Chinese mainland.

      As most of the miners were of Hakka and Hoklo origin, the message about great prospects of wealth spread first among their kin in their home districts in China. This explains why, as early as 1772, Luo Fangbo could write in his poem “You Jinshan Fu 游金山赋³ (Rhapsody on My Travels to Gold Mountain):[21]

Ever since I heard about the beauty of Gold Mountain,

My heart has yearned for this place.

Although it belongs to the regions of the Southern Barbarians,

Its confines are yet within the lands of the Southern Seas.

The year when the cycle attained renchen [1772],

It was in the tenth month, [22]

I boarded a ship and departed at the harbour of Humen [in Guangzhou],

The direction of those traveling South turned due East.

Hand in hand, assembled together,

Friends and relatives, we were a hundred in number.

All in the same ship, we assisted each other,

As the entire visible world had vanished from sight.


      The fame of the Borneo goldfields in China is confirmed by the Haidao Yizhi 海岛逸志 (A Desultory Account of the Maritime Archipelago)[23], published in 1806, containing a map on which Mandor is indicated as Jinshan 金山 (Gold Mountain).

      All kinds of rumours proliferated about the fortunes to be made on “the gold mountain” of Borneo. For instance, Schaank tells us one story about “Gold Mountain” current on the Chinese mainland: half a golden guilder could be gotten just by washing the road-dirt from one’s socks. [24] The reputation of Borneo as a land of Eldorado must have spread along the junk routes, stimulating a growing influx of Chinese in the 1760s and 1770s, which brought about a mushrooming of mining settlements.[25] Many farmers now sailed to Borneo from Chaozhou, Jiayingzhou, and Huizhou in eastern Guangdong and from southern Fujian. Each year in the second and third month (of the lunar year), some 1,500 to 2,000 arrived. In the sixth and seventh months many hundreds, who had made their fortune, returned to their homeland. [26]


The Mining System and Technology

      The strength of Chinese mining lay in its superior technology, which neither the Malay sultans nor Dayak tribesmen could emulate. As Jackson remarks, gold was traditionally mined on a small scale by the Dayaks. That a strip mining culture was therefore already present, is indisputably shown by the fact that some vocabulary was taken over by the Chinese. For instance, a water reservoir was called a “pagong”, a term which the Chinese translated as potou 坡头, and a mine “parit”, which the Chinese transcribed as bali 把坜.

      On their arrival the Chinese introduced three important innovations in the local gold-mining industry. First of all, the Hakka miners, arriving with their long experience of mining in China, were acquainted with various methods by which to extract the ore and make it yield the precious mineral. In Borneo, they tended to use a specific and very wasteful technology which yielded maximum results for a minimum of physical effort. Once a deposit was discovered, the gold-bearing soil or sand was extracted and panned so as to sift out the gold particles. To help in this time-consuming chore, the miners harnessed Chinese hydraulic skills. One frequently used method was to dam off a small stream and let the water run through a small gutter. The ore was then thrown into this gutter, where the swift current carried off the lighter soil or sand, leaving the heavier gold particles behind. When there was no stream, a pool was dug and water pumped up by means of a tread-wheel – the same as that used in Chinese irrigation for wet rice-fields. The same water mill was used to drain deeper mines which tended to flood. These “waterworks” are the most important Chinese contribution to the mining industry.[27]

      The second important aspect is of course cooperation. Each labourer had a personal interest in the success of the group undertaking, and at the same time was capable of showing enough discipline to collaborate with others and doing his share of the work. It was this element, even more than the technological skills, that made the Chinese miners so different from contemporary gold-seekers in California or Australia. At a later stage, the larger kongsis could mobilize nearly one thousand workers at one site, in an integrated and highly efficient workforce.

      The third important aspect which prompted Chinese success was their motivation to make money. When the Chinese immigrants entered the inhospitable environment of West Borneo, they distinguished themselves by their willingness to put their shoulders to the wheel and their capability for doing hard work, both qualities strengthened by the motivation to make money to take home, notwithstanding the extortion by the Malay rulers or the murderous attacks by the Dayaks. They lived as economically as possible, in order to enable them to collect as speedily as possible enough riches to permit them to retire to their own country. [28] As De Groot remarks, even the Dayaks could not endure the arduous task of mining under tropical conditions in the same way Chinese were able to. For several generations the mobile Chinese miners continued toiling, with all their efforts bent on their eventual return home.

      When starting a new mine, the first step was to select a suitable site. Although the Chinese were not experts in formal geological knowledge,  they acted with an acute appreciation both of the composition of the gold-bearing deposits and of the economics of mining. As the geologists have pointed out, [29] the original gold deposits are to be found in the formation of tertiary quartz deposits in the Bajang Mountains and Bawang-Belakang hill ranges, inland from the coastal plain of West Borneo. Through eons of erosion, the bulk of this gold has moved down the mountain sides and upper hill slopes on to the lower slopes, the plains and the river valleys, and into the river beds themselves. This alluvial gold forms the so-called “placer deposits” and generally speaking they have a far richer gold content than the original gold veins in the mountains themselves. Some gold can be found scattered everywhere in the coastal plain stretching from Sambas to Pontianak, but the richer placer deposits tend to be not too far from the foothills, around the Kapuas and in the basins of the short streams that run from the hills into the larger rivers. It was in these rivulets that the Dayaks first panned gold for their Malay rulers. Men would dig in the gravel of the stream beds (especially in the dry season) and women would take it in baskets and wash it in nearby pools. The Chinese were one step ahead of them possessing hydraulic techniques that could speed up this process a thousand times more efficiently, and in consequence.

     They do not find gold-washing in the river beds very remunerative, and to work the gold in the parent rock is too laborious for them, and very unsatisfactory with their deficient technical knowledge: consequently, they devote themselves chiefly to working the drifts, for which their knowledge suffices, and where they obtain the greatest result with proportionally least expenditure of labour. [30]

      The most important feature of strip-mining shallower deposits, whether on the plains or on hillsides, is the planning and the installation of  the water supply. At the site which Earl witnessed at Montrado, there was a artificial lake formed by a dam thrown across a valley through which ran a small stream. The water thus collected was enough give the subsequent stream the necessary strength to wash the soil from the gold-ore. He describes the mine working in the following way: [31]

       The soil which contains the metal is here found in small veins from eight to fifteen feet below the surface. If the depth of the vein be less than ten feet, a trench is dug, the whole of  the upper stratum being removed, but if deeper , a shaft of three feet square is sunk perpendicularly into the vein, and the miner works into it about ten feet in both directions, sending the ore up in baskets. When it is all removed, another shaft is sunk into the vein twenty feet beyond the first, and the miner works back into the old excavation, extending his labours ten feet in the opposite direction.

The ore thus produced is removed to the nearest washing place, where a stream has been dammed up like a mill-pool, and a strong body of water being turned through a large wooden trough into which the ore has been placed, the bulk of the dirt is thus removed: the metal being afterwards washed by hand in small bowls until perfectly cleaned.


        Some small mines were dry pits where the water supply depended on the rain, [32] and the technique used in some small-scale mines was far more simple. These small mines were usually opened at a place in the immediate vicinity of a stream, so that its waters could be diverted by digging a ditch and leading the stream directly through the mine. Into this artificial channel, the earth which contained the ore was thrown and the current was allowed to carry off all the useless matter, leaving behind the gold particles which could then be collected after some time. [33]

      It goes without saying that this type of strip mining caused havoc to the local ecology and left the once lushly forested hills totally devoid of vegetation. Scars like these still today mar the landscape in the vicinity of Mandor.


Immigration and Temple Cults

A. The Origin of the Settlers

     Having described the working conditions of the miners, our investigation now turns to the problem of who they were. On certain important issues such as the exact origin of the miners, the only data we have are of a later date, such as  the 1858 census on the places of origin of the Chinese population quoted by Schaank. This does not invalidate these data for our purpose here, inasmuch as we can be sure that the composition of the Chinese population, as far as its origins are concerned, did not undergo important changes once the immigration pattern had established itself.

      The Chinese settlers in West Borneo were mainly of  Hakka, Hoklo, Bendi (the original people of Guangdong province ) , and Hokkien origin. The Hakka came from Jiayingzhou and Dapuxian in Chaozhou; Hoklo refers to Chaozhou. Another kind of Hakka,  the so-called “Banshanke” ( half Hakka, half Hoklo), refers to people from Fengshun, Hepo, Haifeng, and Lufeng, who spoke a Hakka dialect which differed slightly from the Hakka dialect spoken by the people from Jiayingzhou. These settlers organized themselves on the basis of the locality from which they hailed. In 1777, for example, after the Lanfang kongsi had been established, the major concentrations of settlers from Jiayingzhou and Dapu Hakka could be found in the markets of Mandor, at Mao’en 茅恩, Shanzhu daya 山猪打崖, Kunri 坤日, Longgang 龙冈, and Senaman 沙喇蛮.  Before the establishment of the Lanfang kongsi, mainly Hoklo from Chaoyang and Jieyang had settled in these areas. Banshanke lived at Singkawang, Montrado, Lara 唠唠, and Sepang 昔邦; all these places are in the Sambas region. Banshanke from Hepo mainly lived at Budok 乌乐. In the second half of the nineteenth century, when Schaank worked in Montrado, he still found localities bearing names like Hoklo-nan 福佬  (Hoklo-mine), Hoklo-jie福佬街(Hoklo-street), and Hoklo-po 福佬坡 (Hoklo-hill). This shows that there must have been quite a number of Hoklo who had lived in the area in the preceding period. The majority of the Hoklo living in Montrado were farmers, traders, artisans, and sailors. Those Hoklo living in the mining areas were engaged in trade. At Kulor 骨律 in the region of Montrado and Sungai Duri at Mampawa, a number of Bendi resided who were also engaged in trade. Quite a few Bendi who had been called up by the Malay rulers to open up and farm the land also lived at Sukadana; when their numbers increased, the Malay felt threatened, and incited the Dayaks to kill them, which they did. The largest number of Hokkien people lived at Pontianak. They were also found in the other, larger towns, where they were mainly engaged in trade.

      The census which was held in 1858 in Lara and Lumar 炉末 reveals the origins of the Chinese population of these districts. Most settlers came from Jieyang, Huilai, Lufeng, Jiayingzhou, and Zhenping. More than 46 percent of the Chinese population in Lara and  Lumar were Huizhou people.

Table 1: The origins of the Chinese settlers in Lara and Lumar districts



district      prefecture


nr of

people    proportion 


nr of

people     proportion   

Jieyang       揭阳

Huilai           惠来      

Puning        普宁      

Fengshun   丰顺       

Dapu           大埔

Chaozhou  潮州

 39               5.3

 95             12.9

  2                0.3

  1                0.1

 16               2.2

 21               2.9

 20                9.4          

 35              16.45        


  1                 0.5          

 10                4.7          


Totals for Chaozhou

174            23.7

 66              30.9          

Lufeng        陆丰

Haifeng       海丰

Guishan      归善      

Heyuan       河源      

Longzhuan 龙川      

Wengyuan  翁源

272            37.0

  4                0.5

 42               5.7

  3                0.4

  1                0.1

 20               2.7

 88              41.3          

  3                 1.4            

  6                 2.8            

  1                 0.5            


  2                 0.9             

Totals for Huizhou

342            46.5         

 100            46.9           

Jiaying        嘉应

Zhenping    镇平      

Changle      长乐      

Pingyuan    平远      

131            17.8        

 43               5.9          

 17               2.3          

  1                0.1           

  24             11.3             

  11               5.2               

  11               5.2                


Totals for Jiayingzhou

192            26.1         

  46             21.6               

Guangzhou 广州

Xinning       新宁       广

Panyu          番禺      

Conghua     从化

 14              1.9           

  2               0.3            

  9               1.2            

  1               0.1            


   1                0.5        



Totals for Guangzhou

 26              3.5           

   1                0.5                

Fujian          福建

  1               0.1            


Hakka          客家

 688          93.6          

 212            99.5      

Others         其它

  47             6.4          

   1                0.5       




Source : Schaank De Kongsis van Montrado, pp. 19-20.


       The development of the Chinese settlements in Borneo can be assessed through the study of the place-names. As Veth has pointed out, there were more than five hundred places (hoofdplaatsen) inhabited by the Chinese settlers in the region of Sambas. [34] Many local names, such as Mandor or Montrado were readily transposed into Chinese. But at an early stage other names were given by the Chinese themselves, such as Jinshan to Lara, Gaoping 高坪 to Mandor, and Lanfanghuidong 兰芳会岽, Kengweishan 坑尾山, Jieliandong 结连岽 in the region of Montrado. It is significant that most of these Chinese place-names are concentrated in Mampawa, Pontianak, and Sambas. There are hundreds places names in Chinese in West Borneo, and many of them are originally in Hakka dialect. [35] This indicates that these villages had only been established after the arrival of the Chinese inhabitants.

      Because there were no overland roads in eighteenth century in West Borneo, rivers served as the principal highways for the movement of immigrants, provisions, and produce. The original route to Mandor, for instance, followed the Sungai Peniti Besar 勿黎里港 and vessels with cargoes for Montrado went up the Sungai Raya 双沟劳也 to Pangkalan Batu ¼ÀÃæ. Through sheer necessity these early settlements were closely tied to the river arteries. [36]

      As mining operations began in the upper reaches of the Mandor River, then under the Panambahan’s authority, the first Chinese settlements may have appeared along the southern bank tributaries of the Mampawa River around Minghuang and Senaman. [37] Afterwards the Chinese miners moved into Sambas territory. Schaank indicates that the first Chinese settlement in Sambas must have been the one established at Seminis 西宜宜. From there the miners moved farther inland, and they are known to have started mining in Lara around 1760. The first settlers at Montrado came from Mampawa and later directly from the Chinese mainland. [38] They moved east along the rivers of Sungai Duri 百演武,  Sungai Raya, Sebangkau 乌乐港 or Singkawang 山口洋 and landed at Weizha 尾栅 and Pangkalan Batu, Selakau 坟肚泥 or Pakucing 百万突 where they established the first Chinese temple in the region. Shortly after this, settlements were founded on the banks of the Sambas River and the Sambas Canal: Bakuwan 木官, Sepang, Lumar, Lara, Pamangkat 邦戛, Sebawi 沙泊, Ledo 义罗, and Sebalau 哇哩. [39]

B. Temples and Cults

      There are two conditions that obviously played a role in the immigration process of the Chinese mining population. The first of these was the general fact that most of the miners were Hakka or Banshanke. Although from different places in South China, theirs was a community of great linguistic and cultural unity. Mining was a traditional speciality of the Hakkas. The second was a development of settlement groups according to family ties, which prolonged the corporate family patterns that characterize migration in China in general. To this we must add a third most important feature: affiliation to local cults and temple networks.   

        The mining organizations were also religious communities. Viewed through the lens of the historical data, these religious aspects are not at all prominent. Yet, if we look attentively at all the details related to cults, temples, festivals, spirit mediums, rituals, and the like, it appears that religion was more important than the sources suggest. And only if we take these aspects fully into account can the institutions of Chinese society be understood. Let us therefore review some of the more important elements related to the religious life of the Chinese mining communities.

      Local cults were founded by affiliation as regional subsidiaries of larger cult organizations. This affiliation was symbolized by the fenxiang (“division of incense”), that is: the newly affiliated community filled its incense-burner with the ashes from that of the mother temple (zumiao 祖庙). This affiliation expressed reciprocal recognition and trust, and could be implemented through co-operation and mutual support.[40] By bringing ashes from his home temple to the incense-burner of the kongsi temple, the newcomer reiterated this affiliation and won himself acceptance as a trustworthy member. Adherence to a cult community also entailed a sharing in its financial holdings, which, as we have seen, is the original meaning of “kongsi”. The small sum of money, the so-called chalujin 插炉金, that the newcomer brought along with him did not, of course, constitute a real share in the kongsi mining enterprise, but symbolically expressed the xinke’s qualification as a shareholder.

      The main cult of the immigrants was that devoted to the worship of Tudi 土地, the Earth God, or, according to his Taoist canonical title: the Correct Spirit of Blessed Power, Fude Zhengshen 福德正神. His colloquial name in Hakka was “Great Paternal Uncle”, Dabogong, a title so pregnant with meaning that the pioneer leaders such as Luo Fangbo also received the honorific epithet of “bo” . The ubiquity of this cult and its temples was such that for outsiders all saints and gods of the West Borneo Chinese became “Dabogong”.  The worship of the Earth God is also absolutely fundamental in China, where every village in the countryside has one or more shrines. Every ward and alley in the cities has its Tudigong association and in some parts of China, such as Guangzhou, even every home and shop has an altar dedicated to this patron saint.[41] This notwithstanding, larger temples dedicated principally to his worship are fairly seldom seen although of course every temple has a secondary shrine for his worship. By contrast in Borneo such temples are more prominent. The reason for this may well be that most of the immigrants brought their fenxiang from their village shrine, and this was in most cases a Tudigong temple. Because the xianghuo 香火 of Borneo came mainly from these rural communities, it was principally to Tudi that the main incense-burner was dedicated when the immigrants were finally wealthy enough to build temples. Apart from the question of social background however, we may also assume that the Earth God might have had a special significance for miners and for those who prospected the soil in order to find gold deposits. But Tudi was never considered, as far as is known, to be a special patron saint of the miners.    

      The Sanshan guowang (Three Mountain Kings) played a very important role in the kongsi societies. As Schaank reports, the Three Kings were called Jin , Ming , and Du , and their respective mountain abodes were those that contained iron, tin, and lead. [42] These three mountains are situated in the vicinity of the founding temple of the cult, the Lintian zumiao 霖田祖庙 at Hepo. Understandably, this cult was also of paramount importance in Borneo. Around 1780 a temple was founded at Budok, between Singkawang and Sambas, and this became the centre of all activities in the region. A kongsi was founded which was given the name of Lintian kongsi 霖田公司 so as to express the link with the zumiao back home. On the festival day of the Three Kings, on the twenty-fourth day of the second lunar month, a large festival was held in and around the temple, with performances of Chinese theatre. The festival in their honour was also held at  Montrado, where there was another temple, but there it was held eight days earlier, on the sixteenth day of the month. This may be seen as an indication that the Montrado temple was a subsidiary (fenmiao 分庙) of the one at Budok. [43]

      As the immigrants came by ship, embarking at the major port cities of Fujian and Guangdong, they brought with them as a matter of course the cult of Tianhou 天后 or Mazu 妈祖, the great protectress of seamen. Her cult stemmed from Meizhou, an island off the coast of Fujian. Important temples dedicated to Tianhou were to be found at the Old Port (Lao putou 老埔头) of Pontianak and at Singkawang, and most temples on the coast had secondary shrines dedicated to her.[44]

      Yet another important cult was that of Guansheng dijun 关圣帝君, His Imperial Majesty the Holy Guan. Guangong 关公 as he is familiarly known, is the embodiment of trust and valour, and as such is venerated by China’s merchant class. As the representative of the martial spirit, the Manchu government made him the divine protector of the dynasty, and his cult was therefore mandatory for all the Three Religions. Guangong therefore had his place in all the kongsi houses, and was especially prominent in Mandor.[45]

      Finally, among the most important gods who made the voyage from China to Borneo was the Most Merciful Bodhisattva Guanyin ¹观音, “She Who Perceives the Sounds” of the prayers and complaints of the world. Her cult is so prominent among the Indonesian Chinese that the name of her temple, Guanyinting 观音亭 has become, transformed as “klenteng”, the generic word in Indonesian for a Chinese temple.

      Although they rarely devote much attention to the subject, almost all sources do mention the Chinese temples. Putting together the scraps of information, I have succeeded in locating seventeen shrines in all for the period around 1850. As I have been able to verify, some of these still exist, like, for example, the Dabogong temple (called, like most Earth God Temples, Fude ci 福德祠 ) at Sepang. This temple does not differ, in any respect, from the great many other temples I saw on my short visit to West Kalimantan in 1997. Each village where Chinese live has at least one temple, and most townships two or more. Thus, one could postulate that one hundred fifty years ago, there must have been many more than those mentioned in the historical records. This is a matter to which shall return shortly.

      Turning now to the seventeen shrines mentioned in the historical records: the list below shows that, besides the deities we just mentioned, there were temples dedicated to the Heavenly Master, Tianshi 天师 (in Montrado), and probably to Yuhuang 玉皇(Tieya must stand for Tianye 天爷). But most of them were consecrated to Tudi (four), Guanyin (three), Guangong (two), and Sanshan guowang (two). Three temples are mentioned without identifying either their name or their tutelary deity. Finally a Xianfeng miao 先锋庙, literally “Temple of the Vanguard” is mentioned, but not even De Groot knew who the resident deity might be.

      Invariably, in speaking of these temples and cults, the Dutch sources not only for the most part mention the principal deity worshipped therein, but also the priests as well. These were, as far as we know, Taoist masters, presumably of popular fashi 法师(“Master of Rites”) type, and spirit mediums. The latter went by the name of tongshen 童神, “Infant Gods” (as a reversal of the term shentong 神童)  [46], whereas today they are universally called  luotong 落童, or literally “fall children”. “Fall” here refers to the ritual of “luo diyu 落地狱,  during which the fashi or his medium “falls” – that is, descends into the infernal regions in order to question the spirits of the dead or to settle the litigation which may have risen between them and the living. “Child” of course is the generic name of spirit mediums, shown by their appellation of tongji 童乩 (“divination child”) in Southern Fujian and in Taiwan, and tiaotong 跳童 in other parts of China.[47]

      Montrado, as the centre, had at least five temples, dedicated to the Sanshan guowang (at Shangwu 上屋), to Guangong (called Zhongchen miao, situated in the township), to Guanyin (at Xiawu 下屋), to Dabogong (at the zongting) and to the Heavenly Master (in the township of Montrado itself). Each of these temples had it specific function and its own priests. The gods were important not only as protectors and as representatives of the Heavenly Bureaucracy of China, but also as givers of advice to the community through their oracles. Von Dewall speaks of Guanyin and Sanshan guowang as oracles (“orakels”) and of their priests as magicians (“ tovenaars”). Schaank calls the latter diviners (“ wichelaars”). For all important events and undertakings, the community and its chiefs consulted the gods through their fashi and spirit mediums. The most important temple in Montrado for this purpose was the Sanwangye temple at Shangwu. Around 1850 its priest was called Yan Zhuang and Von Dewall gives him the title of  tongshen, which means that he was a medium. In April 1853, When the Dutch government troops occupied Sepang and removed the shrubs and bamboo trees around it, the Montrado kongsis hesitated about what attitude to adopt, as this occupation was seen as a threat to them. First they turned to the luotong of the Sanshan guowang temple, but the gods did not reply as the spirit medium failed to be inspired. Thereupon the spirit mediums of other shrines were consulted. The one of the Tianshi temple at Lumar declared that the Dutch should not be allowed to install themselves at Sepang and fortify the place, as it would not take long before they would then move on from that place and march on Montrado. The gods (the “oracles”) of the Sanshan guowang temple at Shangwu then manifested themselves and said the same thing. The military expedition to dislodge the Dutch from Sepang was thus decided upon and the gods even indicated a suitable day to start the hostilities. These few examples may suffice to show the important place these religious institutions occupied within the society of the West Kalimantan Chinese.

      This can still be seen today. During the short fieldtrip I made in the summer of 1997, I saw that even today the landscape of West Borneo is dotted with Chinese temples of various sizes, varying from modest wayside shrines to imposing temple complexes. During those few days I visited and photographed the twenty-three temples listed in the Appendix 6, but saw many more. If all the temples in West Borneo could be counted, they would probably amount to several hundreds[48].


Table 2: Temples and priests in West Borneo mentioned in historical records



place or kongsi






Shangwu (Montrado)

Yan Zhu,

Wu Yingzu,

Cai Wei,

Huang Shuimei,

Yan Zhuang,

Luo Guangnian,

Cai Wuxiu

Sanshan guowang

Dewall, p. 5

Schaank, pp. 60,82.






Xianshi gushi, p. 46

Schaank, p. 74




Zhang tianshi

Dewall, p.13


Kengwei kongsi (Lara)



Xianshi gushi,p. 24


Xiawu (Montrado)

Wu Sheng


Dewall, p. 16





Dewall, p. 17



Deng Tang

Yuhuang dadi

Dewall, p. 17



Zhao Mei


Dewall, p. 17



Peng Qingxiang


Schaank, p. 81


Baluoming (Pangliwan)

Ni Zhang


Schaank, p. 81





Schaank, p. 80




Sanshan guowang

Schaank, p. 59





Schaank, p. 83





Schaank, p. 82





Lanfang niance





Lanfang niance





Luo Fangbo

Lin Fengchao, see Luo Xianglin, p. 158


From Hui to Kongsi

      As we have seen in the Introduction, the institution of the kongsi is in fact part of the traditional hui cult associations of mainland China, which are similar to those which were established in Borneo when the first immigrants arrived.

      The first mining organizations of Chinese were known as shansha 山沙 (hill-sand), bali (mine), hui (association),  fen (share ),  jiawei 家围 (family circle),  jinhu 金湖 (gold-lake). These organizations which all were some kind of hui were initiated by members of the same clan or village. Their members varied from any small number up to several hundred people. Generally speaking, the shansha and bali were small-scale mining units which included anything from several individuals up to several scores of people. They were usually formed by members of the same family or village, on the basis of mutually invested funds. In contrast, the nan and the fen were somewhat larger in scale. They not only included people from the same village, but were formed more often on the basis of a shared dialect.[49]  Work and rank within these associations were allotted on the basis of order of arrival and the amount of capital invested. The organization of these associations was based on the purchase of shares by its members. The profits were distributed according to the shares each member held. Older people without capital also held high positions. They took part in the sharing out of the profits from the mines, and were involved in the election of administrators.

      It is hard to determine how many hui associations existed in West Borneo during the quarter century between 1750 and 1776. Veth and Schaank have given us different views on this. We do know that there were at least fourteen mining organizations and two agricultural associations in the region of Montrado before the establishment of the Heshun zongting in 1776. Apart from these, the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi also mentions the Shanxin jinhu 山心金湖, Jusheng kongsi 聚胜公司, Sida jiawei 四大家围, and the Lanheying 兰和营 and Liuqianxiang clan-based organizations of Hakka in Dapu district. As Schaank notes, there were seven more mining associations at Lara. Thus it may be assumed that there were at least thirty to forty associations of this kind.

      The various factors which triggered off the evolution of this traditional framework into the mighty kongsis, and then into the even more powerful kongsi alliances have been addressed by various scholars. Schaank proposes that the earlier, smaller hui were in principle, if not in fact, based on the lineage principle (tongxing 同姓). As the mining groups showed a tendency to pool their resources and consequently expanded in size, it was inevitable that people with many different surnames, backgrounds, and even ethnicity’s entered into one and the same hui, which essentially amounted to making them members of the same family. In order to increase their commitment and their integration into the group, the hui soon began [50] to demand that new members (xinke) swear an oath of allegiance to the Dabogong of the association and also contribute a sum of money to the treasury. The entrance ceremony took place once a year, on the festival of Guangong, the thirteenth day of the eighth month. [51]

      Quite apart from the growth in members and wealth of the original cult associations, other, more painful necessities must have played an important role. In a long report to the Governor-General dated 18 December 1851, [52] Major Andresen[53] retraces in detail the evolution which saw the “insignificant partnerships” of the Chinese transformed into the powerful kongsis against which he was to fight such a bitter war. Andresen was at first quite sympathetic to the Chinese and maintained a cordial relationship with a number of them, especially at Singkawang. He was certainly well informed and hence his account of the development of the kongsis is worthy of attention.

      Andresen recalls that the first miners acquired the right of delving for gold by purchasing a licence from the Malay rulers, and in addition to buying this initial lease, they also had to cede a large part of the gold they obtained from the alluvial sands. Later the sultans attempted to impose a capital tax on the Chinese. The sultans paid little heed to the Chinese associations as these did not yet wield much power and, in their opinion, only served the purpose of keeping the ties with the motherland intact. Like Schaank, Andresen also notes the rise of the associations and their mounting importance from the moment that the number of immigrants began to increase. In view of an ever stiffer competition between the goldseekers, some form of common policy and mutual check mechanism became indispensable.

      The Chinese communities needed laws and discipline, authority and protection. The prime necessity was for the larger associations to elect officers who would be in charge of the accounts, so as to ensure that the yields were distributed equally. These accountants were elected for a brief period of four months. A number of stringent measures and punishments were adopted in order to curb any form of theft or undue advantages from the common profit (see Chapter Two).

      The mines were generally situated inland, in Dayak country. The Dayaks themselves panned gold in the river beds, but initially there appears to have been little strife between the two peoples. Problems arose when the Chinese started making mines on the mountain slopes, where the Dayaks reclaimed their ladang fields. Conflicts became unavoidable. In principle, the ruler who had sold the licence to the Chinese miners was also responsible for their safety. Should conflict arise over mining sites, the Chinese would appeal to the sultan for protection. When this happened, the latter found the best solution was to play the two communities off against each other and obtain as many advantages as possible from the situation. Any request for help from the Chinese had, it was understood, to be accompanied by gifts. Andresen shows that the Malay sultans often willingly promoted conflicts between Dayaks and Chinese, not in order to protect the Dayaks – about whom they could care less – nor because the Chinese did not pay capital taxes – which they generally did very punctually – but because the losers of these conflicts could only turn to the ruler for help, and of course, they could never approach him empty-handed!

      The Chinese’s situation soon became unbearable and before long they began to see through the strategy of the local rulers. If the Chinese had to ensure the benefit of their hard and lawful labours for themselves, they also had to learn to defend themselves. Small associations and partnerships had proved powerless. Only organizations with some kind of political and military structure could help them to liberate themselves from the unrelenting exactions and maltreatments. With the emergence of these organizations, the Dayak problem was resolved fairly quickly without the help of the armies of the Malay sultans. From this period (1770) comes a gruesome story, reported by T.A.C. van Kervel, about Dayaks who, enticed into an alliance with the Chinese of Montrado and invited to large banquet to celebrate the union, were trapped and murdered to a man. [54] In consequence, the associations began to form territories in the regions in which they mined and in which they had subjugated the Dayak tribes. It was not long before conflicting territorial claims surfaced between the different associations, which in turn led to armed conflicts between them. In this way the inland of West Borneo was divided into several large entities, each dominated by a single organization or by an alliance of several smaller ones. Andresen, and many others, compared these entities to separate small states. These states soon grew so powerful that they could keep the Dayaks in check and also maintain an independent stance towards the Malay sultans, although they normally continued to pay the poll tax.

      The name of kongsi was given to these new political and military powers. As we have seen, this title of “common management group” was originally a subsidiary function of a religious association. Now the roles appeared reversed: the economic partnership of the “kongsi” emerged as the leading organizational principle and the religious group appeared as a subsidiary subgroup inside it.

      With this in mind, we must again mention the possibility of some influence from the Tiandihui or Triad societies. It is impossible to overlook the fact that the establishment of the more powerful and cohesive organizational structures of the zongting alliances came about in the wake of the fighting against the Tiandihui communities. The latter appear to have been  Chinese farming communities which had established themselves on the plains of Mandor and Sambas.

     The first matter to be tackled is the question of recruitment. Formerly, the associations were organized, for the most part, by people who shared one or several particulars: family, surname, village, region, worship, and the like. During this period, the recruitment into the kongsis appears to have been more open. Whoever was free and willing to work could enter, take the oath of allegiance, pay the initial contribution, and thus become a partner of the common enterprise. The recruits had to be willing to serve in the militia of the kongsi, and to defend the “republic” with their lives. Here again, a similar service had formerly existed at the village level in the framework of the homestead and extended family. Under the new circumstances the “small republic” became the rallying point for civil service and allegiance.

      Secondly, the kongsis progressed beyond being mining organizations, and branched out into many other activities: manufacturing, agriculture, trade, and the like. In order to escape the economic monopoly of the Malays, the Chinese settlers first developed salt making, fisheries, and fish drying workshops along the coast. From Java and other places they imported rice, cloth and weapons. In the interior they brought land under cultivation and grew food crops, including rice and vegetables, and raised pigs. [55] To support these enterprises the Chinese settlements developed markets, butcheries, breweries, and workshops for the manufacturing of utensils and whatever else they might need.

      All this required an ever more sophisticated administration, which was ordinarily elected by all the members. In Chapter Two there is a table (no. 5) showing all the different offices in the kongsi administration.

Table 3: Distribution, native places, and surnames of the kongsi populations





 native place



west and south-west of Montrado

Wu , Huang, Zheng

Huilai, Lufeng



Pangkalan-Batu, Luxiaheng, Kulor, Kengweishan




Xinwu, i.e. Xin Shisifen






Pangkalan-Batu, Sungai Duri Ulu




Shierfen, i.e. Dayi kongsi






north-east of the mines of Dagang

Liu , Chen




east of Montrado, Banyaoya, Baimangtou, Sibale, Serukan

Wen , Zhu

Huilai, Lufeng



north-west of Montrado





north-west from Montrado





between Wanglidong and Qiaotou





vicinity of Sanbasha





Pangkalan-Batu, Tjapkala, Sungai Duri, Danyuan, Banliwan
















Zhang , Cai , Liu , Huang


i.e. Hepo



The region of Mandor

Luo , Liu , Song , Chen

Jiayingzhou, Dapu

       The economic aspects were of overwhelming importance. The federated kongsis levied taxes on all kinds of activities and goods, from the mining, from trade, imports, poll tax, and so forth. All of this, at least in the initial stages, made them quite affluent. Many kongsis even minted their own money. [56]

      One last important feature was ­­­­­­the rule of law. In addition to jurisdiction over economic crimes, which had been one of the preoccupations of the associations and partnerships from the beginning, the kongsis now wielded power over all aspects of life, from marriage and death to property rights, feuds, commercial rights, and a wide range of other areas. A small police force was established under the authority of the local headmen. Schaank as well as De Groot have sung the praises to the rule of law in the Borneo kongsis, comparing it favourably with the general state of affairs, even among the Dutch communities.


The Founding of the Heshun Zongting

        In 1776, fourteen kongsis in the Sambas and Montrado regions united themselves and established an official alliance. These were Dagang 大港 (Big Harbour), Lao Bafen 老八分 (Old Eight Shares), Jiu Fentou 九分头 (Nine Shares ), Shisanfen 十三分 (Thirteen Shares), Jielian 结连 (Confederation) , Xin Bafen 新八分 (New Eight Shares), Santiaogou 三条沟 (Three Gullies), Manhe 满和 (Full Harmony), Xinwu 新屋 (New House), Kengwei 坑尾 (End of the Ravine), Shiwufen 十五分 (Fifteen Shares), Taihe 泰和 (Great Harmony), Lao Shisifen 老十四分 (Old Fourteen Shares), and Shi’erfen 十二分 (Twelve Shares). Together they established the Heshun zongting. Its headquarters building was situated at the bazaar at Montrado and its leader was chosen from among its members. From this time on, the fourteen associations were no longer designated hui, but were called kongsi.[57]

One of the reasons which could have prompted the establishment of larger and more powerful organizations might have been – in the cases of Montrado and Mandor at least – the problem of the existence of the Tiandihui sectarian movement, called the “Heaven and Earth Society”, which was also known as the Sanhehui 三合会 or Sandianhui 三点会, or again as the “Triads”, or the Hongmen 洪门 (“Hung League”). Veth says that West Borneo harboured many adherents to this secret society which advocated the renaissance of the Ming dynasty and the downfall of the Manchu rulers.[58]

The origin and spread of this religious organization continues to be a subject of  much debate. According to the original documents published by Schlegel, the movement itself claimed to have been founded in Zhangzhou (Fujian) in 1734, with the avowed aim of restoring the Ming dynasty.[59] The historical data available from official sources do not contradict this, as the first well-known occasion when this movement, which originated in Fujian and Guangdong, made its debut in history is the Lin Shuangwen revolt in Taiwan in 1788. [60] The rules of the Tiandihui leave no doubt that the movement was principally composed of merchants. Overseas travel is repeatedly mentioned in the rules, [61] one of which explicitly mentions the fact that members engaged in overseas expeditions to far-away countries should not be reported to the authorities. This shows how important this kind of activity must have been for the adherents to the Tiandihui.

In Borneo, according to Schaank, the Tiandihui members seem to have specialized in agriculture. They settled in the region of Montrado, to be more precise at Kulor, which is a township not far from the coast at the entrance of the valley of Montrado. When the miners established themselves deeper inland at Montrado, they became the customers of the Tiandihui farmers, a situation which gave rise to conflicts. The Tiandihui’s monopoly in rice and sugar had long since aroused the anger of the miners. It is said that members of the Tiandihui behaved in a very domineering way, and in the end even abducted the wives of  Chinese who were not members of their association. [62] These sorts of injustices eventually led to the destruction of the Tiandihui. The fourteen miner’s associations at Montrado joined forces in an attack on the Tiandihui at Wanglidong in 1775 in which the latter was defeated. Liu Sanbo 刘三伯, the leader of Tiandihui, and his five hundred members were killed. Those who had been fortunate enough to escape with their lives were divided up among the miner’s organizations. From this time on the miner’s organizations employed their own farmers.

The situation just described raises many questions. To judge from its own rules and institutions, the Tiandihui appears to have been mainly a society of city-dwelling merchants and artisans. Founded in Zhangzhou and Huizhou, although later introduced into many other parts of China, it may well have been a Hokkien and Hoklo dominated organization. It certainly was not a Hakka movement. The conflict with the Tiandihui may have been, therefore, a fight between Hakka and Hokkien. Still, in the light of these events, how sure can we be that the “Tiandihui” of the farmers at Kulor was in fact the same secret society as the one we know of from the Chinese mainland? Could it not simply be that the farmers’ association adopted this name by chance, without there being any relationship to the anti-dynastic movement? Bearing this possibility in mind, we must also take into account that apart from this agricultural Tiandihui there was another similar association called Lanfanghui (Sweet Orchid Society) also present in the Montrado region. Was this second association, which fought the former in 1774, also related to the Tiandihui movement?

      Although evidence is scant and scholars such as De Groot have argued against the “secret society” hypothesis, I believe that there are valid reasons to assume that the Tiandihui did exist as a Chinese political society and exerted its influence in West Borneo at the time, and continued to do so during the whole period during which the kongsis flourished. As we shall see, in 1822 Tobias emphatically mentions influence of the Triads inside the Montrado kongsis, and he endeavoures to take measures against them. Again later, the presence of the “Triad” Tiandihui secret society comes up regularly and explicitly in the discussions between the Chinese leaders and the Dutch. The existence of this organization among the West Borneo Chinese is therefore beyond doubt. It would be far fetched to assume that a farmers’ association at Kulor carried the same name only by chance. Turning to the “Lanfanghui”, it seems possible that a connection existed between this very name (“orchid fragrance”) and the Heaven and Earth Society. As Schlegel has noted, the lodges of the society were built as military camps, and that the flags which flew over every gate carried the inscription “golden orchid” (jinlan 金兰). This is a reference to a passage in the Book of Changes (Yijing 易经) which reads “words from united hearts are fragrant as orchids” (同心之言其臭如兰).[63] Thus “orchid” and even more “golden orchid” came to stand for the idea of “fraternal friendship”. [64] In the historical context we have here, it could well be that the flowery name of “lanfang” is indeed a literary allusion to the Triad brotherhood.[65] We also should note that Luo Fangbo, the founder of the Lanfang kongsi (which was to succeed the Lanfanghui), is considered to have been a Triad member.[66] Other important leaders, such as Huang Jin’ao, the last headman of the Heshun zongting, were also leaders of the secret society.[67] The presence of the Tiandihui among the West Borneo Chinese seems therefore to be ineluctable, especially since we have seen that this organization – which originated at Zhangzhou but spread out during the 1760s to north and east Guangzhou as well as the region of Huizhou from which many Banshanke originated – recruited its members among the overseas merchants and emigrants.

      This narrows the question down to the problem of the agricultural aspect of the Tiandihui and Lanfanghui organizations of West Borneo. Here I think we have to be more circumspect. It may well be that the Montrado valley and Kulor were important Chinese agricultural regions in Schaank’s time, since even now, notwithstanding the anti-Chinese measures of the Indonesia government in 1957, there are many Chinese farmers in the region. There is nothing to suggest, however, that this was already the case in 1770. As Schaank points out, Kulor was an important bazaar. It must therefore have played a  role in the supply of rice and other vital necessities for the fast-growing mining communities. This supply trade may well have been in the hands of Hokkien or Hoklo merchants from cities such as Pontianak, Mampawa, and Sambas, and they, in turn, may have been organized into Tiandihui lodges. That they also might have invested in the early clearing and irrigation of the agricultural land in order to practice rice cultivation with their half-Chinese half-Dayak offspring is also a possibility. Given the circumstances, the conflict of the Montrado kongsis with the “Tiandihui” at Kulor and that of Luo Fangbo and his men with the “Lanfanghui” at Mampawa might, therefore, be seen as a move to gain control of the market in essential supplies for the mining communities.

      The kongsis that joined the Heshun zongting still retained their economic independence. Most kongsis operated a number of gold-mines, and oversaw the civil administration of the miners, farmers, traders, and artisans within their territory. Private mines were (in name) also associated with the zongting. By paying taxes, they received the protection of the zongting. Only the fourteen kongsis had the privilege of recruiting new members, establishing new villages, and opening a temple dedicated to Dabogong. They were therefore also called “kaixiang kongsi” 开香公司.[68]

      According to Schaank’s estimates, pertaining to the period before the establishment of  the Heshun zongting, two mines of the Dagang kongsi (the Shangwu and the Xiawu) both had about 250 to 300 members; the other larger kongsis – Jielian, Santiaogou, Xin Bafen, and Xinwu kongsi – all had about 800 members. [69] At the time at which the Heshun zongting was established, the total number of members of the fourteen kongsis must have been close to ten thousand.

The first leader of the zongting was Xie Jiebo 谢结伯 [70] . It is no longer possible to establish of which kongsi he was a member, or if he – like Luo Fangbo – was a founder of  the zongting, or whether he was later elected leader by the people.

      At the time when the zongting was established, all kongsis were of equal importance. Although Dagang later became very powerful, even to such an extent that its name was used to represent the entire zongting, in the early period its influence was about equal to that of the Santiaogou and Jielian kongsis. Ritter reports that decisions concerning the zongting – especially major issues concerning its policies, like the election of new leaders, decisions to go to war, and so forth – were taken in public assemblies.[71]

      The Heshun zongting established its office, ting or hall, in Montrado. Montrado was located on high ground in the middle of a valley, and was skirted all around by a range of low mountains creating a scenery which is both variegated and beautiful. The central part of the valley had been selected for the chief settlement. The whole region was thickly populated in that period. After the zongting had been established, gold-mining activities could be worked out more constructively under more peaceful and co-operative conditions. A number of privately owned mines were opened at Montrado. Some of the larger mines among these were also called “kongsi”.

      Private mines known by name were: 1. Jinhe kongsi 金和; 2. Dasheng kongsi 大盛公司; 3. Guanghe kongsi 广和公司(an old kongsi, established by Macao Chinese); 4. Liufentou kongsi 六分头公司 (also a very old kongsi, from which Siwufen branched off); 5. Bafentou kongsi八分头公司; and 6. Zanhe kongsi 赞和公司.[72] These privately owned kongsis were under the protection of the zongting. The miners in these kongsis, as well as the farmers, traders at the bazaar, and craftsmen, all had to pay taxes to Heshun zongting. In time of war they had the duty to join the kongsi’s army.

      The seven kongsis of Lara all strove to find a protector among the fourteen original kongsis of the Heshun zongting. We shall discuss the circumstances of Lara kongsi in detail in the next chapter, but first we shall make a comparison between the establishment and institutions of Lanfang kongsi and those of the Heshun zongting.

      Schaank gives a fairly precise description of the distribution and the relative importance of  these fourteen kongsis of Montrado in the early period of the Heshun zongting: [73]

      1. The Dagang kongsi operated the Shangwu and Xiawu [74] mines, situated west and south-west of Montrado. The oldest kongsi house of the Dagang kongsi had been established at Xiawu. Later, around 1807, the Dagang had built a more solid kongsi house to the south of the former. This was subsequently called Shangwu. It gradually overshadowed the older building in importance, and became the most important institution of the Dagang kongsi. Despite this ceding of rank, Xiawu did retain various privileges. At the festivals it maintained the right to bring the offerings and hold the theatrical performances. [75] The majority of its members were Banshanke from the Lufeng district in Huizhou prefecture and Huilai district from Chaozhou prefecture. Its major clans were Wu, Huang, and Zheng. At first the Dagang kongsi did not hold a position of any significance in the zongting. Its members were even called, with some disdain, “the dogs from Dagang ”. Over the years the importance of this kongsi steadily grew until it was ranked the first among the members of the zongting. With it the name of its members completely transformed into the courteous “ elder brother from Dagang”.

      2. The Lao Bafen kongsi mined north-west of  Montrado, along the road leading from Montrado to Singkawang. In Schaank’s time a pond called Lao Bafenpo 老八分坡 was all that remained of a reservoir that had been used by the kongsi for its water supplies.

      3. The Jiufentou kongsi operated at a location north-west of Montrado. Eighty years later Schaank established that part of the bazaar at Montrado was still called by the name of this kongsi.

      4. The Shisanfen kongsi mined somewhere between Wanglidong and Qiaotou.

      5. The Jielian kongsi was located in the vicinity of Sanbasha 三把沙. This kongsi was fairly influential in the period shortly after the establishment of the Heshun zongting. It had about 800 members, mostly bearing the surname Peng, who were known, according to Schaank, as the “Tigers of Jielian”.

      6. The Xin Bafen kongsi was situated at Pangkalan Batu, Capkala 夹下滹, Sungai Duri, Danyuan 丹员, and Pangliwan. It had approximately 800 members when the zongting was established. The majority of its members hailed from Haifeng district.

      7. The Santiaogou kongsi mined east of Montrado, at Banyaoya 半要鸦, Baimangtou, Sibale 西哇黎, and Serukam 凹下. It had about 800 members. The majority hailed from Lufeng and Huilai, and bore the surnames of Zhu and Wen. Although the members from both the Santiaogou and the Dagang came from Lufeng and Huilai, relations between these kongsis later deteriorated until they had become like oil and water.

      8. The Manhe kongsi began its mining activities at Pangkalan Batu. It had the largest pagong of Montrado. Later this kongsi moved to Sungai Duri Ulu.

      9. The Kengwei kongsi operated mines at Pangkalan Batu, Luxiaheng, Kulor, and the Kengweishan 坑尾山. Most of its members had their roots in Guishan in Huizhou. The kongsi protected two smaller, privately operated mines, i.e. the Jinhe kongsi and the Guanghe, a very old kongsi of people from Macao.

      10. The Shiwufen kongsi mined north-east of Dagang. Its reservoir was called Shiwufen po 十五分坡. It was situated along the road leading from Montrado to Capkala. It developed from a smaller, privately operated mine, known as Liufentou 六分头. Later Liufentou became one of the mines under protection of the kongsi. The most prevalent surnames of its members were Liu and Chen.

      11. The Taihe kongsi, also known as the Shiliufen 十六分, mined at Gouwangyou 狗王油, south of Jielian kongsi, on the southern borders of Montrado. At Schaank’s time there still was a Taihe bali 泰和把坜.

      12. The Lao Shisifen kongsi mined at Qiaotou 桥头.

      13. The Xinwu kongsi, also known as the Xin Shisifen, had branched off from the Lao Shisifen kongsi. It also mined at Qiaotou.

      14. The Shi’erfen kongsi, also known as Dayi 大义, operated at Qiaotou. Schaank founded a village and a mine which still bore the kongsi’s name.

       This list is more or less all of the general information we have about the location and activities of the kongsis, apart from what may be gleaned from the occasional travel account, or that can be distilled from the different accounts concerning the conflicts between them, which we will deal with in the next chapter.


Luo Fangbo and the Establishment of the Lanfang Kongsi

       The Lanfang kongsi zongting was established one year after the Heshun zongting in 1777. It was founded on a similar basis, but there are notable differences in the regulations of its institutions. This can be traced to the personal influence which its first leader, Luo Fangbo, exercised over the development of this kongsi.

      The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi offers detailed information about the establishment of the Lanfang kongsi and its leader. It allows us to reconstruct the growth of the kongsi in the early period of its development.

      Luo Fangbo was born at Shishanbao 石扇堡 in Jiayingzhou in 1738 .[76] According to the clan chronicle of Luo family, [77] his ancestors had lived in the southern parts of Jiangxi江西 province. From there they moved to Baidubao 白渡堡 in Jiayingzhou in Guangdong. After five generations they moved on to Shishanbao. Luo Fangbo’s  father, Luo Qilong, was married to Lady Yang. They had three sons: Fangbo 芳柏 , Kuibo 葵柏, and Taibo 台柏. Fangbo was married to a daughter of the Li family. According to geomancers ( fengshui xiansheng 风水先生), Shishanbao was splendidly situated, because “at the mouth of the river there is an altar to the spirits, plane trees and elms protect and embrace it, mulberries and catalpas form a protective screen”. [78] They were convinced that this locality would produce a person of unusual talents. Luo’s appearance is described as follows: [79]

      His head was like that of a tiger, his jaw like that of a swallow, his chin was like that of a dragon and his whiskers likewise. Long were his ears, and square his mouth. Although his height was less than five feet, yet he liked to study. Always did he cherish great ambitions. He was broad-minded and tolerant.

        He must have seen his ambitions frustrated, because in 1772 he set out, with a group of some hundred relatives and friends, to the “Gold Mountain” of Borneo. After his arrival, he earned his livelihood as a teacher at Pontianak. This did, however, not satisfy him: [80]

I am a man of only few talents,

The fierceness of my willpower carries me far.

My work is hard, as I live by my tongue,

to toil at the ink-slab, that is the field I till.

I am ashamed of not having the capital to engage in trade,

Regret not to be a renowned scholar or a lofty master.

Employed as a teacher in this foreign land, 

The years and months go by without any meaning.

      At this period the different groups of Chinese migrants in West Borneo – like Hakkas, Hoklo, and Hokkien – were frequently embroiled in armed conflicts. Each side was in need of good advice. This was an opportunity for Luo Fangbo, who as a scholar had earned the respect of his people, the Hakka. His wisdom was acknowledged by the nickname Luo Fangkou [81].

      There was a large concentration of Hoklo at the bazaar of Pontianak. The Hakkas of Jiayingzhou were in the minority. They were frequently locked in battle; a battle which the Hakkas usually lost. This stimulated them to organize themselves so that they would be better prepared to deal with threats from others. This also offered Luo Fangbo an opportunity to fulfill his ambition of becoming a leader.

      While Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi does not offer very concrete information on this point, it tells us that Luo Fangbo started by organizing one hundred and eight Hakkas, and with them occupied a mine known as Shanxin Jinhu several miles south of Mandor. They forced Zhang Acai 张阿才, the supervisor of the mine, to acknowledge their authority, and appeased the miners. This was their base. They built palisades and defence posts, and slowly started to expand: [82]

      From this day on his fame echoed far and wide. With great prowess he maintained his quarters. A multitude came to him from all directions. He established the zongting of the Lanfang kongsi at Mandor.

      It goes without saying that this account is greatly simplified. It also has the characteristics of an hagiographic legend; for  instance the number of the “one hundred and eight” comrades is also found in novels such as the Shuihu zhuan, an important element we will discuss at length at a later stage. As we have already indicated, Schaank offers a different view about the establishment of the Lanfang kongsi. He claims that in 1774 Luo Fangbo began by becoming the leader of an association called the Lanfanghui. This appears not to have been a miners’ community but an association of “farmers”. As this is all rather complicated, I give a translation of what Schaank reports below: [83]

       1760. When the Chinese had made themselves more independent  of the Malay rulers, it was not surprising that as an agricultural people they soon also set themselves up in Borneo in the farming sector. The lucrative returns from the mining activities made agriculture very worthwhile and people who were disposed to engage in it could be found. Thus in the years after 1770, there were two great farming associations in the region of Montrado, to wit: the Tiandihui and the Lanfanghui, alongside the many small mining associations which were also called hui, or, if they were very small, were called shansha or palit. [...] The head of the Tiandihui was Liu Sanbo who carried an eighteen-pound sword, whereas the Lanfang association was under the authority of Luo Taibo 罗太伯.

      The first of these associations were settled near Rantauw (in Chinese: Landuo 烂哆), Bageting, Wanglidong and Kulor and were desirous of making this last place, where it had already a bazaar, its capital. The Lanfang association had its territory in the Lanfanghuidong (the “hills of  the Lanfang Association”) and near Dashushan during the years 1772 to 1774 approximately. Prompted by jealousy,  these associations soon began to quarrel. The situation became so serious that finally, after a violent fight, the Lanfanghui was completely defeated. After having kept himself hidden for an entire day at the bazaar of Montrado, Luo Taibo narrowly escaped over the Kengweishan to Mampawa. Later he succeeded in rallying new comrades and with them he founded the Lanfang kongsi at Mandor.

        Schaank does not indicate his sources for this narrative, which were most likely based on oral tradition. He notes himself that this version of the facts is at variance with the one given in the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi. This source not only does not mention anything related to a conflict with a “Tiandihui”, but even goes so far as to say that Luo Fangbo never set foot in Montrado prior to the time he launched his attack on that place. This happened only after he had founded the Lanfang kongsi in Mandor. What the Chronicle does however mention is the “Lanfanghuidong”, but explains that the hills received this name in commemoration of Luo’s expedition. This seems unlikely as, also according to the same Chronicle, Luo withdrew his troops before ever actually attacking the Heshun zongting! This is all rather contradictory, and I suppose therefore that in spite of its rather vague character, the oral tradition noted by Schaank is substantially more trustworthy than the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi. Naturally the latter source, which was compiled for De Groot by Liu Asheng, wanted to preserve an unstained image of the founding leader of the organization.

      How should the assertion that there were two “peasant associations” called Tiandihui and Lanfanghui be interpreted? Here we have to return to the question of the “Tiandihui” which we looked at earlier in the case of the Montrado kongsis that were to become the Heshun zongting alliance. If we acknowledge that for “Tiandihui” we may read the merchant organization at the different bazaars, especially that of Kulor which controlled the supplies of the mining communities, we have to acquiesce in that there may have been a “Lanfanghui” that was established in the hills north of the township of Montrado (see map by Schaank), and which, by the very nature of its geographical setting can only have been a mining community. With this in place we may surmise that this Lanfang mining community attempted to conquer the bazaar of Kulor so as to secure its own supply lines. This ties in well with the continuation of Schaank’s narrative, which runs as follows:[84]

       When the Lanfanghui was defeated, the power of the Tiandihui increased considerably and it was the source of much harassment to the miners. These miners, formerly dispersed over many associations, gradually became more and more closely connected and concentrated themselves in a ever smaller number of alliances which took the name of “kongsi”. Thus the tradition still mentions “the seventeen kongsis”, whereas Veth speaks of twenty-four. By the time the Lanfanghui was defeated, the number of associations at Montrado had been reduced to fourteen. [...]

      1775. Around 1775 when the Tiandihui, proud of its victory and in possession of the rice monopoly, adopted a brazen attitude and wanted to sell the rice only against high prices, and from time to time even refused to sell the sugar-cane (especially from the gardens of Landuo), while moreover its members indulged in all kinds of liberties with the wives of the other kongsis and even raped them, the above-mentioned fourteen kongsis united themselves. The united associations declared war on the Tiandihui and finally succeeded in defeating this organization at Wanglidong. Liu Sanbo died with five hundred of his men and it is said that the many bones that are found in these hills are these of the men who died in that battle.

     In other words: first a major Montrado mining community, with the name of Lanfang and which was situated fairly close to Kulor, tried to gain dominance over the bazaar and its Hoklo merchants. Having suffered a defeat, they moved to Mandor. But a year later an alliance of the remaining communities succeeded in defeating the “Tiandihui” Hoklo of Kulor and this made the beginning of the Heshun alliance.

We will never know whether Luo Fangbo was then already with the miners of the Lanfanghui at Montrado, but is it very probable that he was not. As we have seen he arrived at Pontianak in 1772 and lived there first as a teacher. It may well be that after what remained of the Lanfanghui settled at Mandor under the protection of the Panambahan of Mampawa, the newly immigrated schoolmaster joined the settlement. Chosen as a leader, he then began to secure its base.

      According to the Chronicle, his first target was Mao’en, a flourishing trading town some ten miles north of Mandor. It had an old and a new bazaar, of which the old bazaar was the larger. It housed  over 200 shops of different kinds of goods. The majority of its residents originated  from Chaoyang, Xieyang, Haifeng, and Lufeng. Huang Guibo 黄桂伯, its headman, was honoured as “zong dage 总大哥 [85]. The new bazaar provided room for some twenty shops, mostly operated by Hakkas from Jiayingzhou. They were organized into what was called the Lanheying 兰和营. Jiang Wubo was its leader. He was called “gongye 功爷 [86]. He was assisted by four men, who were called “laoman 老满 [87]. Luo Fangbo’s first move was to send some of his people to make contact with Lanheying. By co-ordinating his actions with Jiang Wubo, Huang Guibo was defeated. He also captured the regions of Kunri, Longgang, and Senaman.

      He then set his sights on Minghuang 明黄, which was located in the vicinity of Mao’en. Here Liu Qianxiang刘乾相, [88] a Hakka from Dapu, operated a gold mine in conjunction with over 500 members of his clan. Its organization was the most powerful at the time. Liu Qianxiang had established himself as dage. Minghuang was the Lanfang kongsi’s most powerful rival. Liu Qianxiang adamantly refused to come to terms with the Lanfang kongsi and he frequently raided its territory . He also built stockades from Minghuang to Liufentou, quite close to the zongting of the Lanfang kongsi, and vowed to  “swallow up the whole” of Mandor. Luo Fangbo organized all the men of Lanfang kongsi to mount an attack. He personally supervised the maneuvers and “beat the drum to signal the attack”. Six large defensive works were overrun. Liu Qianxiang and his men were defeated and fled. Liu committed suicide by jumping into the river at Ayermati. Lanfang kongsi incorporated the gold-mines of Minghuang. Its power increased accordingly.

      After the Chinese mines and settlements in the vicinity of Mandor had been incorporated, Luo Fangbo made preparations for his second move: the attack on his old opponent, the Heshun zongting.[89] When he led his forces to a mountain in the vicinity of the bazaar of Montrado, he discovered that the town was built in the shape of a cauldron. He did not consider it prudent to attack hastily, and so withdrew his forces. Tradition has it, that a hill in the vicinity of Montrado was called Lanfanghuidong[90] to commemorate this event. We have seen above what may have been the true course of the events that led to his retreat.

      Luo Fangbo’s third move was to mend relations with the Malays and Dayaks. The road from Mandor to Pontianak passed through the Dayak villages of Laoxingang 老新港, Peniti 勿黎, and Gaoping and Kwala Sepata 沙坝达 lay downriver of it. At the mouth of the Kuala Sepata “Pangeran Seta”,  a man from Mampawa, had built a dalam[91], after which the Chinese no longer dared to travel along this road. Luo Fangbo therefore ordered Zhang Acai, a bookkeeper from Shanxin, to attack Gaoping and the localities lying below it. The sultan of Pontianak, Abdoel Rachman, sent troops to help him. The dalam was destroyed in the first battle. After the defeat of the Dayaks, Pangeran Seta fled to Landak, and established a bond with its ruler. Here he stirred the Dayak up against the Chinese. Luo Fangbo also roused his forces and built fortifications. For nine months he besieged the fortifications of Pangeran Seta, and finally dug a tunnel to penetrate them, and thus defeated the Dayaks. He pursued them to Sambas. The rulers of Landak and Kuala Sepata were afraid of what would happen to them, and requested the sultan of Pontianak to act as a mediator in suing for peace. A peace settlement was concluded. Sambas was to be the boundary. As a demarcation fences of bamboo were planted along the borderline.

In 1780, when the Lanfang kongsi was well established, Luo expressed his feelings in a “standard poem” (lüshi), which said:[92]

When the hero, down and out, arrived at these far away shores,

Truly numerous were the knaves who boisterously laughed at him.

Swallows and sparrows,  how  can  they  understand  the  mind  of wild  geese and swans?

Reeds and worthless  chu trees, how can they compare with  wood  for  beams  and    rafters?[93]

In pacifying barbarians and routing bandits, three years were spent.

Twice new regions were opened up and frontiers established.

Do not say that this old man has no good points:

his lips are like halberts, his tongue a sword and his voice yet can thunder!

       Luo Fangbo could indeed be proud of himself. For eighteen years, from 1777 to 1795, he held the position of zongting dage 总厅大哥 (Elder Brother of the zongting) of the Lanfang kongsi. Profiting from battles like the ones described above, the domain of the kongsi expanded continuously. Along its borders fortifications were built. At the time of Luo, the fortress at the mouth of the Landak River, and the forts at Sepata and Gaoping guarded the waterway leading from Pontianak to Kampong Baru 新埠头. They were supported by additional strong point at Bao’en on the Sepata River. The fortress of Ayermati was situated at the upper reaches of the Mampawa River.

      In the history of the Lanfang kongsi Luo Fangbo is represented as a leader with supernatural powers. The Mandor River being infested by crocodiles, Luo imitated the great Confucian scholar Han Yu (768-824) by offering them a propitiatory sacrifice and then address to them a written prayer bidding them to leave the place. According to the Chronicle this was most efficient because the crocodiles were never seen again.  “After he had thus shown himself to have power over the crocodiles”, it said, “the local rulers regarded him as being endowed with special powers and they all submitted to him, heaving sighs of admiration and being imbued with a deep sense of fear.”

Luo had great ambitions for the Lanfang kongsi. In his eyes it was to be more than a place to live. It was to become one of the “Outer Countries” (waifan 外藩), like Annam and Siam, that would bring tribute to the Qing emperor every year.[94] Paradoxically one of the reasons that he failed to realize this dream lies in the fact that the emperors of  the Qing did not allow Chinese who had migrated to return to their motherland. This means that although some miners did in fact return home, they could never do so ostentatiously, lest they would be persecuted.












Fig. 2. The West Borneo goldfields c. 1775 ( after Jackson)
















Fig. 3. Tomb of Luo Fangbo at Mandor



[1] About the detailed geographical description of West Borneo, see J.J.K. Enthoven, Bijdragen tot de geographie van Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, 2 vols. Leiden 1903; and J.C. Jackson, Chinese in the West Borneo Goldfields. A Study in Cultural Geography. Hull 1970.

[2] G. Irwin, Nineteenth-Century Borneo. A Study in Diplomatic Rivalry. ’s Gravenhage 1955, p. 5.

[3] See his Daoyi zhilue 岛夷志略 (The Synoptical Accounting of the Islands and Their Barbarians) published in 1349.

[4] Ming shilu, 6th year of the Yongle reign.

[5] The Dutch called them Vorstenlanden or Principalities, and their rulers Vorsten, Sultans or Panambahan.

[6] See Enthoven, Bijdragen tot de geographie van Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling.

[7] See J.H. Tobias,  “Rapport omtrent Borneo’s Westkust van 8 mei 1822”, ARA, 1814-1849, dossier Borneo, 3081. Tobias was the fourth Commissioner sent by the Dutch colonial government in its attempt to re-establish its power in the region. Having arrived in 1821, he set out to reconnoitre the territory of West Borneo and evaluate the different problems it presented. His report is the first general description from the physical as well as the political points of view, and subsequent writers, above all P.J. Veth, have made ample use of it.

[8] Hence the name of Pontianak, i.e.: “Ghost City”.

[9] J.van Goor, “Seapower, Trade and State- Formation: Pontianak and the Dutch”, in Van Goor (ed.) Trading Companies in Asia, Utrecht 1986, p. 86.

[10] P.J. Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, geographisch, statistisch, historish, voorafgegaan door eene algemeene schets des ganschen eilands. Zaltbommel: Noman 1854-1856, vol. I, p. 260. There is no proof that the VOC actually bought the right to dispose of this territory.

[11] Ibidem, p. 274.

[12] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 23.

[13] Tobias, “De Westkust van Borneo” in “Macassar”, De Nederlandsche Hermes, III, (1828) n.12, p. 13; E. Francis “Westkust van Borneo in 1832”, p. 19.

[14] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 20.

[15] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol.I, p. 297.

[16] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p.  20.

[17] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol.I, pp. 297-298.

[18] Ritter, Indische herinneringen, Amsterdam, 1843, p. 118.

[19] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. I, p. 300.

[20] According to Veth’s Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling (vol.I, pp. 314-315, note 6), the Chinese population was 30,000 in total in this period, but The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi says that there were more than 20,000 people in the region of Mandor in Luo Fangbo’s time. As we know, the population of the Heshun fourteen kongsis could not be less than that of Lanfang. Even in 1838,  there were still 20,000 inhabitants under the sway of Dagang kongsi, after many kongsis moved to other regions. (Doty and Pohlman, “Tour in Borneo”, p. 305.)

[21] See Appendix 4, and the Chinese text see Luo Xianglin’s A Historical Survey of the Lan-Fang Presidential System in Western Borneo, p. 147.

[22] This corresponds to November 1772.

[23] The author, Wang Dahai, had first visited Java in 1783 and lived in Indonesia for many years.

[24]  Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 65.

[25] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 22.

[26] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol. I, p. 313.

[27] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 36.

[28] G.W. Earl, The Eastern Sea or Voyages and Adventures in the Indian Archipelago, London 1837, p. 245.

[29] We rely here on the clear explanation by Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, pp. 12-14.

[30] Posewitz, Borneo: Its Geology and Mineral Resources, London 1892, pp. 345, 356; Quoted from Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 31.

[31] Earl, Eastern Seas, pp.285-286.

[32] Francis, “Westkust van Borneo in 1832”, p. 23.

[33] Doty and Pohlman, “Tour in Borneo”, p. 289.

[34] Veth, Borneo’s Westafdeeing, vol. I, p. 312.

[35] See Appendix 9.

[36] De Groot, Het Kongsiwezen van Borneo, p. 9; Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 22.

[37] Jackson, Chinese Goldfields, p. 20; De Groot, Het Kongsiwezen van Borneo, pp. 8-10.

[38] Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, pp.  9-10.

[39]Ibidem, p. 10.

[40] The fenxiang institution has been studied by Schipper (1990).

[41] See Schipper, “Neighborhood Cult Associations in Traditional Tainan”, in G. W. Skinner (ed.) The City in Late Imperial China, pp. 651-678. Stanford University Press 1977.

[42] Ibidem, pp. 58-63.

[43] According to our information , the temple at Budok still exists, but the main cult has been transferred to Singkawang, since now only a few Chinese still live in the interior.

[44] On Mazu’s cult, see De Groot, Jaarlijkse feesten en gebruiken, pp. 207-212. The temple of Tianhou   天后宫) at Pontianak is still the one of the largest temples in West Borneo.

[45] See De Groot, Het Kongsiwezen van Borneo, pp. 124-125.

[46] H. von Dewall, “Opstand der Chinezen van Mentrado, Westkust Borneo 1853-1854”; 1854, 34 pages, KITLV, manuscript collection, no. H83.

[47] K. M. Schipper, Tao, De levende religie van China, Amsterdam 1988, pp. 66-77.

[48] Wolfgang Franke has written a short article on the temples of West Borneo entitled, “Notes on Chinese Temples and Deities in Northwestern Borneo”  in Gert Naundorf  (ed.) Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien, Königshausen 1985, pp. 267-290.

[49] See Schaank De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 86.

[50] Schaank says “weldra” but without specifying any precise date, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 87.

[51] For a detailed description and discussion of the ritual, see Ibidem, pp. 87-90.

[52] Reproduced in E.B. Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, part 4, in  IG, 1889, pp. 951-991.

[53] This important military commander will be discussed below in Chapters 5 and 6.

[54] T.A.C. van Kervel,  “De hervorming van de maatschappelijke toestand ter Westkust van Borneo”, in TNI, 1853, I, p. 188.

[55] Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 70; Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. I, p. 98.

[56]  See Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 26.

[57]Ibidem, p. 72. I have given an earlier discussion about the origins and the institution of the kongsi in the Introduction.

[58] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol.I, pp. 306-307.

[59] A recent study by Hao Zhiqing considers the founding of the Tiandihui to have taken place in 1674. See Hao’s Tiandihui Qiyuan Yanjiu 天地会起源研究 (The Origin of the Tiandihui), Beijing 1996. See also B. ter Haar's The Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads, Brill 1998.

[60] Tiandihui Qiyuan Yanjiu, p. 7.

[61] Ten rules out of the total of seventy-two deal explicitly with overseas  travel. In contrast, agriculture is mentioned only sporadically.

[62]  Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 23.

[63]  Yinjing, appendix  Xici, 1.

[64]  Schlegel, The Hung League, page 20.

[65]  Lin Fengchao has a different interpretation of the term “lanfang” which he considers to be derived from the two personal names of Luo Fangbo and his elder brother Luo Lanbo. But the name of “Lanbo” is not mentioned in the jiapu of Luo Fangbo, and his brothers are called  “Kuibo” and “Taibo”. Lin’s hypothesis seems therefore untenable.  See Lin’s the History of Pontianak, p. 1.

[66] The inscription in the Memorial Hall of Luo Fangbo at the Meibei Middle School of Meizhou mentions specifically the fact that he was a member of the Tiandihui.

[67] Huang calls himself “Brother of Hui” in the invitation letter to his inaugural ceremony in 1853. See Inventaris Arsip Nasional of Indonesia, West Borneo no. 79.

[68] Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 29.

[69] Ibidem, p. 23

[70] Schaank states that Xie Jiebo is also called Xie Jiejia 结甲, and that jia is short for jiabidan 甲必丹 (captain). This does, however, seem to be a misrepresentation by the informants of Schaank. His real name ust have been Xie Jie. Bo (“uncle) was added as a term of respect. This is in agreement with the fact that the early leaders of the Lanfang kongsi were called “elder brother (dage 大哥). The term Jiatai was not used until the 1820’s as a designation for the sixth leader of Lanfang kongsi, Liu Taier, and the term captain as a designation for the headmen of the bazaar at Mandor was introduced at about the same time. The Dutch had not much interfered with the affairs of the Dagang kongsi before 1850, when they deprived it of  its independent administration. It is therefore impossible that the leader of the zongting was called captain as early as 1776.

[71] Ritter, Indische herinneringen, p. 125.

[72] Schaank, DeKongsis van Montrado, p. 29.

[73] Ibidem, pp. 27-29. This description is based on the written materials Schaank had at his disposal, and also on the interviews he conducted.

[74] During the same period there was another kongsi at Lara, which was also called Xiawu, but this fell under the authority of Santiaogou kongsi, and was also known as Little Santiaogou kongsi.

[75] Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 74, note 1.

[76] The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi says that Luo Fangbo died at the age of 57 in 1795, therefore he was born in 1738.

[77] See Luo Xianglin, A Historical Survey of the Lan-Fang Presidential System in Western Borneo, p. 65.

[78] The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi.

[79] Ibidem.

[80] See Luo Fangbo’You Jinshan Fu” in Appendix 4.

[81] Fangkou , “square mouth, indicating that he was able to give good advice.

[82] The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi.

[83] Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, pp. 21-22.

[84] Ibidem, pp. 22-24.

[85] The general elder brother.

[86] The characters are those used in the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi, but their meaning is not clear.

[87] Like the earlier term, we reproduce the writing of it here as it is given in the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi, without being able to identify its meaning.

[88] The legend about Liu Sanbo, the leader of Tiandihui, mentioned by Schaank is similar to the story of  Liu Qianxiang told here. The Chronicle of Lanfang Kongsi states, of course, it was its founder Luo Fangbo who had defeated Liu and his people, not the fourteen kongsis of Heshun zongting.

[89] At this point the author of the Chronicle of Lanfang Kongsi clearly made a mistake. He states: “At the time there were seven kongsis that had opened the mines at Montrado. The most powerful was the Dagang kongsi. The Santiaogou kongsi came next, then the Xinwu kongsi, the Kengwei kongsi, the Shiwufen kongsi, the Shiliufen kongsi, the Manhe kongsi. Apart from these there were other kongsis, like the Heshun zongting, Jiufentou, Xin Bafen, Lao Bafen, Xin Shisifen, and Lao Shisifen.” It considers the Heshun zongting to be a kongsi, and in his list of kongsis mentions both the Xinwu and the Xin Shisifen kongsi, which are actually two different names for the same kongsi. It also does not mention the Jielian kongsi, the Shisanfen kongsi, and the Shierfen kongsi. This shows, that even at that time notions about the early history of the kongsis was very vague and unclear.

[90] Schaank mentions that it would be illogical for the name given to this hill to refer to the Lanfang kongsi as the Lanfanghui after the establishment of the Lanfang kongsi.

[91] A Javanese word for the residence of a ruler or an important person.

[92] See Lin Fengchao’s A History of Pontianak, in Luo Xianglin’s A Historical Survey of the Lan-Fang Presidential System in Western Borneo, p. 148.

[93] These two sentences contain allusions to the Zhuangzi. The first chapter “Xiaoyaoyou” contains a passage where small birds laugh at a great peng bird that soars through the sky. In the same chapter there is the philosopher Hui Zi who tells Zhuang Zi about a tree, called chu which produces completely worthless and useless timber.

[94] See The Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi.