Chapter 3


(1818 – 1825)



“It is difficult to deny that the Chinese of Borneo’s West Coast owed everything to themselves, to their own industry, and nothing to our government, and that the times which had preceded the restoration of our authority on Borneo’s West Coast had clearly taught them they did not need our protection, which we wanted to sell  them so dearly.” 

     (Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 59.) [1]

      In the present chapter we will examine the question of the return of the Dutch to West Borneo and its consequences. We are convinced that there are several reasons that make it desirable to set this new development in the history of the Chinese “republics” apart. First of all, the Chinese communities had gone through a era of relative autonomy and had grown dramatically almost without outside interference. As we can see from Chinese records themselves like the Xianshi gushi, the Dutch are not given the role in the events that they describe in such great detail. We may therefore argue that the Chinese perceived themselves, at least until the Kongsi War of 1850, as virtually independent from the Dutch, which is reflected in their sources. The Dutch sources, on the other hand, while noting this phenomena, approach the Chinese “republics” as illegal, and therefore deal with them from an entirely different standpoint. Two such diametrically opposed viewpoints are difficult to reconcile, which is true for the sources as well. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the historical developments are extremely confused, inasmuch we have to deal with four groups of people: the Chinese, the Dutch, the Malays and the Dayaks. To add to the confusion, these groups were by no means united in themselves. Different approaches to the Chinese problem were adopted by the representatives of the Dutch colonial government. The Malay sultanates were at logger heads with each other. There were different groups of Dayaks, some under the sway of the sultans and hostile to the Chinese, some allied with the latter. Finally, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, the Chinese were very much divided among themselves. All this makes it quite difficult to give an accurate reconstruction of the historical developments dealing with all actors at the same time. In order to try to gain some clarity about the way the situation evolved, I have thought it most effective to devote this chapter to the Dutch activities, after having given a sketch of the Chinese situation in Chapter Two. From the next chapter (4) on, we will study both groups in unison and their continuous interaction.

Indubitably 1818 was an eventful year. A new page was unfolding in the history of West Borneo. Veth devotes a whole separate section (“boek”) of 215 pages of his Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling  to the “Restoration and the Organization of the Dutch Authority” during this period. His work is a summing-up of all the events which came to his attention. He describes everything in great detail but without any system other than a loosely connected chronological sequence, invariably presented from a Dutch colonial perspective. Many of these events are related directly or indirectly to the Chinese. Needless to say, it is not our intention here to rehash Veth’s work, but to sift out the essential facts and show their relevance to and their consequences for the Chinese, from the viewpoint of the life of the latter and their democratic institutions.


Hoisting the Dutch Flag

       During the period of their interregnum of the Indonesian archipelago (1811-1816), the English did not in fact occupy West Borneo at all. Only once they did send an expedition to Sambas in order to retaliate for acts of piracy. For a short time, a small post was established at Pontianak. Only during the closing years, did an Englishman, by the name of Hare, venture into the vicinity of Banjermasin and begin to develop the region.[2] So when the Dutch came back into their former satellites, the only thing which had to be done with respect to the English presence was to take over the regional governance of Mr. Hare. For this role the High Government in Batavia charged J. van Boekholtz with this task, who went to Banjermasin in 1816. 

     Having fulfilled this mission, the same Van Boekholtz was then called upon to reinstate Dutch authority in West Borneo. Appointed Commissioner by decree of 9 June, 1818, his first duty was “to hoist the Dutch flag in the lands of the princes” and other more general instructions. There is not a single mention of the Chinese.[3]  In fact, very little knowledge about the state of affairs in West Borneo still seems to have been alive after the twenty-seven years of absence. Van Boekholtz appears to have been unable to locate any written sources about the former involvement of the Dutch in the place. Even the agreement concluded with Sultan Abdoel Rachman of Pontianak in 1779 had been lost and its contents forgotten (at least by the Dutch), a lacuna that was to have serious consequences. [4] To support Van Boekholtz, the Dutch also sent six hundred soldiers – partly European, partly Ambonese – under the command of Major Muntinghe. He was not well prepared, as he had been unable to find even one single map of Borneo in Batavia.[5]

Van Boekholtz arrived at Pontianak on July 21, 1818, and immediately paid a visit to the sultan, the son of Abdoel Rahman, named Kasim. The discussions went smoothly and, on 10 August, the Dutch flag could be hoisted again at Pontianak after a twenty-seven year absence.[6] The first thing the sultan did was to request Dutch assistance to subjugate the sultan of Tayan, under the pretence that, according to the earlier contract of 1779, this territory had formerly been entrusted to him by the Dutch. Van Boekholtz, having no way of verifying this completely spurious claim but very eager to show how powerful the Dutch military could be, hastened to organize an expedition inland. Both Muntinghe and the sultan himself took command of the troops who were transported by boat up the Kapuas River to their destination. After a brief exchange of fire, the Dutch were victorious and those of Tayan disarmed and made subject to the sovereignty of Pontianak. [7]

Van Boekholtz and Muntinghe thereupon went to Sambas (28 August, 1818) , leaving C.L. Hartmann, a former military man, as Resident of Pontianak. They arrived at Sambas on September 2. The sultan of Sambas was highly delighted, we are told, to welcome him and promised that henceforward not only would he abjure piracy, he would even punish those who persisted in this pursuit. As we shall see, that was easier said than done. For the moment at least, everything ran very smoothly and four days later the Dutch flag also flew in Sambas. To ensure they witnessed this great event, Van Boekholtz had sent a letter to Montrado asking the Chinese to be present. The Heshun zongting, however, replied saying that their people could not possibly leave Montrado at that time. They were very happy to invite Van Boekholtz to come to Montrado himself, and that was it. On leaving, Van Boekholtz appointed yet another former military officer in his retinue,  G. Muller, as Assistant-Resident of Sambas. Muller was of Austrian origin and had served in Napoleon’s army. After the defeat of the French emperor he had taken service in the Dutch colonial army. Extremely hot tempered and overly zealous, Muller began his job by making a great deal of noise about “the insufferable insult” of the Chinese of Montrado in failing to show up.[8] 

After Sambas, Van Boekholtz went to Mampawa to meet the Panambahan. At first the latter showed himself to be very afraid of the Dutch, no doubt recalling that they had supported the sultan of Pontianak against him. Times had changed however, and this time the Dutch displayed a generous and friendly attitude and managed to appease him with many promises about the great wealth that would come his way if only he agreed to co-operate. Here also, Van Boekholtz left an Assistant-Resident in the person of C.J. Prediger, supported by a small garrison under the command of Lieutenant Von Kielbeg.[9]

In this initial flag-hoisting mission, Van Boekholtz even managed to reach Landak, but did not make any overtures to the sultan there. The sultan of Pontianak had told him that the Dutch had placed this region under his jurisdiction, [10] a claim just as unjustified as that to Tayan. On the horns of a dilemma, Van Boekholtz had no way to either prove or disprove these assertions. After all of his efforts, the Commissioner promptly fell ill and obtained permission to be recalled to Batavia on 10 November, 1818. Having arranged this, he just waited for his replacement to arrive. This was to be Major Nahuys, Resident of Yogyakarta, who, due to mitigating circumstances, did not get to Pontianak before December 26. In the meantime, a number of remarkable events were about to unfold.

Van Boekholtz had been to Sambas and received many promises, but nothing had been truly settled. Neither the troops nor the officials had any decent shelter, and the place was so damp that all the ammunition promptly became unusable. No money or victuals had been left. The only possible source of income open to the Dutch was either tolls and duties on vessels and their cargo, or a poll tax,  to be shared, of course, with the sultan. Under these circumstances, the first thing to be done was to conclude some kind of contract with the latter, something Van Boekholtz had neglected to do. Muller, rather understandably, therefore considered it to be his duty to have such a contract drawn up as soon as possible.[11]

Since the entire population devoted its attention to piracy, there was no legitimate trade in Sambas. Van Boekholtz had established a salt tax, but this proved to be unworkable. Opium farming was still in the hands of the sultan, so the possibility of getting any income from trade or distribution was nil. That left the poll tax. The Malay sultan and his nobility being, of course, exempt and the Dayaks being too poor, only the Chinese provided a likely prey for the starving Dutch garrison.

Muller set to work on the only option open to him. According to his calculations, the sultanate of Sambas had at least forty thousand Chinese who could and should pay a poll tax of two and a half rupia [12]. The fly in the ointment was that it would take time to register them all. He planned to accomplish the “organization” of the Chinese territories in 1819, and then the tax could be gradually imposed. In the first year he figured that half of the Chinese population would pay. The sultan of Sambas would receive ten thousand rupias as his share of that income. The next year it would be twelve thousand, and then, in 1823, no less than nineteen thousand. He would, however, never get more, at least not from the Chinese. And woe to him if the Chinese paid less or failed to pay! In that case the sultan would be personally liable for the difference, not only for his own part of the tax income, but also for the Dutch part. Unstoppable in such a fruitful pursuit, Muller then planned to submit the Malays of Sambas who lived outside the city to a poll tax as well, which would bring in an additional twelve thousand rupias for the sultan (and a equivalent to the Dutch). The liability clause did not apply there, however. The same was planned for the Dayaks who, in some distant future, would be made to pay forty thousand rupias, also to be split between the two parties. If all went according to plan, and if Muller would have accomplished all this, the sultan would have had an income amounting to the round sum of fifty-six thousand rupias a year (Van Boekholtz had promised only twelve thousand to the sultan of Pontianak in exchange for his sovereignty over his territory!). In addition, Muller established a contract with the sultan of Sambas wherein he promised that he, Muller, would build him a vast and comfortable palace, alongside his own equally grandiose residence, complete with a Malay church (sic!). He intended to furnish this dwelling with tables, tablecloths, knives, forks and spoons, a complete table service, candlesticks, lamps, snoffers, glass-domes, mirrors, tea cups with saucers and tea spoons, all of which he would manage to do, he wrote to the government, for the modest sum of two thousand five hundred rupias.[13]

The sultan must have been truly delighted at such marvelous prospects for the improvement of his personal wealth and comfort, whatever his liabilities might be. No time was lost in signing this important contract between the Dutch government and His Highness the Sultan of Sambas, and everything was signed and sealed on November 10, 1818, just six weeks after Muller had taken office (on September 23). Muller did not bother to ask Commissioner Van Boekholtz, who was in Pontianak at that time, for his consent, but sent the contract directly to Batavia, saying that whatever the rules might be, the circumstances in this case had forced him to take these steps and necessity knew its own laws.

As Veth observes, Muller had at least understood that the recognition of Dutch authority by the Chinese of Montrado was an absolute condition for the future prosperity of the sultanate and that of the Dutch establishment at Sambas. Therefore, the whole affair of the “contract” was aimed at giving him the right to meddle in Chinese affairs and bring them to heel. [14] The morning of the day after the signing, Muller wrote to Batavia and set out in that very afternoon to Montrado, accompanied by a clerk, a sergeant, and six Ambonese soldiers. Having seen a Chinese “smuggling vessel” loaded with all kinds of wares on his way, he ordered it stopped and made the crew pay a hefty sum as import tax. This self-imposed delay meant Muller arrived at Montrado only on November 24.

Here no time was lost in telling the Chinese that they were now Dutch subjects, that Dutch laws applied here like in Java, and that they too had to pay poll tax.  On the 28th, a great meeting was held at which the tingzhus of Santiaogou, Dagang, Kengwei, Xinwu, Taihe, and Manhe were present. They readily agreed to obey the Dutch law (whatever that might have meant to them!). Muller then told them that in that case he pardoned them for not having shown up at Sambas and that he would, this time, spare their lives. Then the Dutch flag was duly hoisted. When Muller left, he appeared convinced that his hosts had agreed to paying a poll tax of at least twelve to fourteen thousand rupias before the end of the year, although he regretted that there were no civil servants to take charge of collecting them. [15]

     Prediger had been left at Mampawa under very much the same circumstances as those confronting Muller in Sambas. He also had no money to pay himself or his soldiers, and had no rations of liquor and tobacco to distribute to the men. In order to get some income, he set out to confiscate all the toll gates of Mampawa, leaving the Panambahan, who had been so afraid of the Dutch to begin with, without any income. But once again the resourceful Dutch official succeeded in convincing him that by imposing a poll tax on the Chinese, he would soon become him rich. Thereupon, the shrewd sovereign told Prediger that in former times the land of Montrado had belonged to Mampawa, and that some certain rights to tax the Chinese could be construed from that. [16]

On 23 October, 1818, a Chinese merchant of Mampawa wrote a letter to his friends in Montrado saying that the Dutch had arrived and that it would perhaps be a good idea to find out what they wanted. Taking due precautions, several delegates of the Heshun zongting came to see Prediger at the beginning of November and assured him of their good intentions. When the latter then mentioned the poll tax, the delegates told him that there should be no problem in parting with such a small sum, but that of course only the allied kongsis could decide in the zongting. Why did Prediger not come to Montrado himself and strike the deal with them as they suggested? [17] More conscientious than Muller and certainly unaware of the latter’s initiatives, Prediger wrote to Van Boekholtz in Pontianak informing him of his plan. He also suggested that Von Kielbeg might take up residence in Montrado to supervise the collection of the taxes. Having made his arrangements, on November 25 Prediger left Mampawa for Montrado. He was accompanied by some members of the family of the Panambahan, thirteen military men, and a clerk. Arriving in Montrado he was very well received with music and gun salutes. On December 3, a few days after his arrival, a contract was signed by the captain of the Heshun zongting, Hu Yalu. The latter even set the great seal of the zongting on the document. Again the Dutch flag was hoisted. Prediger gave a speech explaining how practical it would be for everybody to use Dutch money, presumably because one of the impediments to the poll tax was the fact that very little common currency was in circulation at Montrado, payments being made in all kinds of pieces of silver or in gold-dust.[18]

     It is not certain if Prediger was aware of the fact that only a few days before his arrival in Montrado, Muller had already been there for a similar purpose. What is sure, however, is that in spite of the cordial welcome and the signing of a contract, there was by no means overwhelming unanimity in Montrado about the way the affairs had been arranged. In the days that followed, during which Prediger apparently tried to wheedle some poll tax money out of the leaders, the tingzhus proposed that they should go to Sambas first to talk things over with the sultan there. Prediger would not hear of it and pretended it was entirely unnecessary. When the Chinese insisted, he proposed he accompany them, providing they lent him six or seven taëls of gold so that he could proceed to Sambas in a manner suited to his rank and position! (later, when Nahuys investigated the whole matter, the Chinese told him that Prediger had first asked for no less than five hundred taëls; when this was refused he had lowered his demands to five!) [19] The Chinese told Prediger that they would prefer to go to Sambas on their own and asked him to await their return in Montrado, in a week or so. After fortnight had passed and still they had not returned, Prediger, for reasons we do not know but certainly not because he felt very comfortable in Montrado, left the place by stealth on December 20 at three o’clock in dead of night, leaving behind all his soldiers with his clerk, a certain Van Elsen, in charge of the situation. His flight was soon discovered. A few miles from Montrado, at a village named Balik Batu, Prediger was stopped by a large crowd of Chinese who asked him to hand over the contract he had signed with Hu Yalu, explaining that it was illegal as it had not been approved by all the kongsis of the Heshun alliance, but signed only by the captain. Prediger had no choice but to hand the document over, after which he was given a small boat and an escort to continue his journey. On arrival at Sungai Raya, however, he was stopped again by another group of Chinese who wanted to check whether he still had the contract or not. They finally let him through and on December 22, he reached Mampawa safely.

The clerk Van Elsen, who remained at Montrado with a small force of six soldiers did not fare so well. He had been entrusted with a copy of the relevant contract, which he in turn was asked to hand over. When he refused to do so, he was beaten. In the meantime, the date of the Midwinter (dongzhi) festival had arrived and thousands of miners had come into the township for the theatricals and all manner of festivities. [20] A huge crowd assembled before the ting where the theatre stage has been erected, along with the flag staff with the Dutch flag. When the people saw Van Elsen they jeered and flung insults at him, implying by their behaviour that Prediger had left, furtively and at dead of night because he certainly had been up to no good. They also threatened to take down the Dutch flag, in fact some even tried to do so. It was pulled down several times and several times poor Van Elsen had to hoist it again, personally standing guard over it. 

While this was going on, the delegation of the Montrado zongting had arrived at Sambas. When Muller learned that Prediger had already been in Montrado and had even hoisted the flag and declared that Montrado belonged to Mampawa, he was blazing with anger. Immediately, with an escort of nineteen soldiers, he set out to Montrado where he arrived on the 21st, in the middle of the above-mentioned festival. His first demand was that poor Van Elsen and his little band of soldiers capitulate to him, as if they had been insurgents! He also arrested Hu Yalu, only to release him a few hours later. Then he ordered his soldiers to take Prediger’s flag down from the flag-staff and in its place hoist the one he had brought with him. [21]

After this flag ceremony and performing other grand deeds that could not have failed to impress the Chinese with the greatness of the Dutch nation, Muller took charge. First he had a placard put up explaining what he had come to do. Then he installed himself in the ting with the intention of writing. But, being hindered in this important task by curious Chinese, accustomed to walking in and out their parliament building without any form of constraint except that of taking the hats off and folding their umbrellas, the mighty representative had a cord stretched halfway across the room and posted a soldier to keep the gaping populace at the other side of it. If he had wanted to find a way to anger the staunch republicans of Montrado, he could have found no better one.

While these scenes were enacted inside, the festival continued outside. In the milling crowd, the soldier who stood guard by the flag was pushed away. Then, at a given moment, the flag was gone, taken away by some practical joker. Furious, Muller, not having another flag to replace it, took his soldiers’ military banner and hoisted it. Then he posted himself at the foot of the pole in order to stand guard over this holy national symbol, valiantly withstanding thousands of pushy Chinese. After many hours, exhausted and finding his commanding officer De Raet unwilling to take over, Muller abandoned his heroic defence. In less time than it takes to tell, the military banner also disappeared. Back in the parliament building, Muller summoned the tingzhus to come, but because of the festival, only two of them eventually arrived. They immediately said that they were very sorry and that a reward of twenty Spanish reals [22] had already been posted for any person bringing the flags back. [23]

Only the following day could a full meeting be held. Here the elders of the ting attempted to pacify the temperamental Assistant-Resident of Sambas by declaring that some drunken miners had probably taken the flags just for the fun of it, and that he should not take the theft too seriously. They even went so far as too propose that they would give back two flags to the Dutch nation for each flag that had been lost! When an apparently unappeased Muller proposed that a special army barrack be constructed for a Dutch garrison, the tingzhus assured him that that was not at all necessary.

Soon, thanks to the diligence of the Kapitein Chinees Sing Sang Zhu Fenghua new flags had been made (how many of them we are not told) and Muller organized a solemn public ceremony in which Sing Sang humbly handed them over to the great representative. Having received them he gave a speech, in which he roundly berated the assembled leaders, but also said that he would do his best to convince the government not to punish the population of Montrado too severely, obtaining a pardon for them instead. Then the new flag was hoisted, and in yet another speech Muller confided its guardianship to Zhu Fenghua.

Having but nineteen soldiers at his service, and discretion being the better part of valour, Muller found it better for his safety to return to Sambas as soon as possible. But not wishing to give the impression that he was actually fleeing, on the first day his did not go any further than Bajiaoting. Here, according to Lieutenant De Raet, Muller requested a few porters from the local zhazhu. When these were not immediately forthcoming, Muller unsheathed his sabre and placed the point on the zhazhu’s chest, threatening that he himself would be forced to carry the luggage if he did not execute the command immediately. [24]

In Veth’s opinion there must have been, at the outset, a real willingness on the part of the Chinese leaders to come to an understanding with the Dutch and to co-operate with their demands, but that the provocative, not to say pathetical, way by which Muller tried to re-establish Dutch authority showed how unfit he was for dealing with the local population, Muller’s behavior made the Chinese lose every shred of confidence in those who pretended to be their masters.


The Chinese Poll Tax

     As we have seen, Van Boekholtz was replaced towards the end of 1818 by Major Nahuys, Resident of Yogyakarta. The idea was that Nahuys was going to put some highly needed order into the kingdom’s affairs in West Borneo, after which he was to return to his job in the Javanese sultanate. If anything was to be achieved, one of the first steps to be taken was to draw up a proper covenant with the sultan of Pontianak. As the original contract of 1779 had not yet been found, a number of misunderstandings initiated by Van Boekholtz were perpetuated, such as the claim of Pontianak to Landak. Without further ado, Nahuys gave permission to the Lanfang kongsi against the payment to the government of fifty “bongkals” [25] of gold to open a mine in Bencukei [26]. The Dutch flag would be hoisted over this new mine, and it would be protected by two Ambonese soldiers of His Majesty’s Colonial Army. However, in the absence of any legal grounds for this initiative, it never materialized.

Another important matter was the quarrel between Muller and Prediger on the subject of the flag at Montrado. Both were summoned to Pontianak to explain themselves, but it seems that on this occasion, Muller flew into such a terrible rage that the meeting had to be adjourned, and all further discussions on the subject seemed a forlorn hope. In order to get to the bottom of the matter, Nahuys asked his own Chinese interpreter to write a courteous letter to Zhu Fenghua inviting him to come over to Pontianak and explain the whole thing. Zhu, however, equally politely declined the invitation, claiming he was too busy with the New Year accounts.

The new contract with Pontianak was signed on January 12, 1819. One of the most important stipulations was that the Dutch would retain jurisdiction for themselves over the Chinese, leaving that over the Malays and the Dayaks to the sultan. In exchange for this preferential treatment, the Chinese were again invited to pay a poll tax, this time to the tune of two rupias per person annually, to be paid in four installments. The Commissioner added the characteristic clause that those Chinese leaders who collected this precious income for the Dutch state might keep five percent of the money for themselves! Indeed, as we have already seen earlier in the case of Muller and Prediger, much was made of the income to be derived from the Chinese who, somewhat in the same way as in Indonesia today, were all considered (1) well-off, if not very wealthy, (2) having earned their money by seizing the riches of the land illegally, (3) wanting to take away all this wealth and transport it to China. Having found the goose which laid the golden egg, the Dutch not only raised a poll tax, but various forms of import duties on the predominantly Chinese merchandise, as well as hefty payments for travel permits for those who wanted to leave the country. [27] Again, the income of the sultan of Pontianak was to be paid out of his share of the Chinese poll tax and again, just like Muller, promising estimates were made of the big sums of money Sultan Kasim would be able to spend once the Chinese were going to be squeezed. The only difference was that Nahuys did not threaten the sultan that, if the Chinese did not pay up, he would have to indemnify the Dutch government. So important was the Chinese income to the Dutch authorities that Nahuys, again just like Muller, the very next day after having signed the contract with the sultan of Pontianak, departed for Mandor. Having left early in the morning, he arrived in the evening of the same day, January 13.

 The headman (bo) of the Lanfang kongsi whom Nahuys met was Song Chabo (“Panglima Tjap”). Nahuys and his company were deeply impressed by the discipline Song maintained, as well as by the beauty of the cultivated land, the peaceful and smiling population, the large, ornate Chinese houses of the Mandor township, and the rousing welcome the Commissioner and his party received. He wrote:

     When they were half an hour distant from the stockade entrance to Mandor, the dark trail through the woods made way for a large, well-surfaced sand road which was illuminated by the paper lanterns that were lit at the front of every Chinese house. The entire population of the town came out to greet the “white people”, whose like had not been seen there for many years and to show them, not only by gun salutes but also by their friendly expressions, how welcome they were. After having been settled in the kongsi house, they were given delicious tea and their friendly hosts supplied Chinese vestments as a temporary exchange for the drenched clothes (they had on them). This also relieved them a little of the all too strong pressure to which they were subjected by curious onlookers. On a walk undertaken through the township the travellers greatly enjoyed the throngs of people who until deep into the night passed their time at the wayang (i.e. theatre) play, the gambling table or at other entertainments, or, just sitting at tables, helped themselves with the famous chopsticks to tasty dishes.

     The next day the travellers went on a trip to visit the gold mines. On the way hither, they were delighted with the ever changing and beautiful sights which offered themselves to view whichever way their eyes turned and which seemed to them to display great similarities the smiling landscapes on the outskirts of the Veluwe (a forested area in the Netherlands). The path guided them past vegetable gardens and orchards, where diligent farmers were busy sprinkling their shrubbery. Many Chinese houses were scattered among these fields, like farmhouses in the Netherlands, and healthy, happy children played at the doorsteps (...) [28]

Although well meant, the promised legal protection and the friendly visits paid by the Dutch colonial authorities to this idyllic society failed to make the necessary impression. Nahuys left on February 8, 1819, and soon after his departure it became clear that the Chinese of Mandor had no intention of paying any poll tax, nor, for that matter, did those of Montrado. They argued that they had never been properly consulted on the matter and they were already paying the Dutch substantial sums on the import duties on salt and opium. They also considered whole proposal impractical because the Malay currency was not in use in the mining districts.[29]

They were not the only ones who were unhappy. The Malays, and especially the sultan of Sambas, also found that they had been seriously deprived, not only of their independence but also of their income, since they had had to give up piracy. Trade was a negligible quantity at Sambas, and whenever a trading vessel showed up, there were problems. In March 1819 an English ship named the “Isabella” called at Sambas with a cargo of opium. Muller imposed an import duty of four thousand rupias. The captain paid this before delivering the cargo, an expenditure which caused the price of opium in Sambas to rise steeply. The Chinese were furious and attacked the English captain who was forced to flee for his life. Tension heightened when Muller imprisoned two Chinese whom he had accused of having tried to smuggle opium. When riots were started with the aim of liberating the prisoners, Muller asked the English captain to help him by bringing back military reinforcements from Pontianak. The latter returned a few weeks later with forty soldiers, and supported by this force, Muller went to Singkawang and succeeded in imposing calm on the merchants of Montrado who had come there to buy opium. [30]

     At the same time (mid- April 1819) a number of prahus suddenly arrived at Mampawa carrying armed men from Montrado. When stopped at the entrance to the township, they declared that they had come for the celebration of a Chinese religious festival. They were allowed inside, only to be followed by other ships, pushing up the number of Montrado soldiers to six hundred. On April 16, when Lieutenant Von Kielbeg entered the Chinese quarter of Mampawa, an attempt was made to capture him. Fleeing to the palace, he tried to convince the Panambahan to fight them, something the old man did not want to do. In fact, he had been contacted by the Chinese who had told him that their attack was aimed solely at ridding West Borneo of the Dutch, and that they fostered no hostile intentions towards him or the other Muslims. It was not long before the Chinese attacked the Dutch, killing one clerk and wounding Prediger. Following the attack, all the Dutch sought refuge in the palace. The Chinese demanded that the Panambahan hand them over, but this was refused. Finally the Chinese went away, but not without having destroyed the Dutch toll-house and the boom that closed off the river. This was the first military action undertaken by the Chinese in their fight against the Dutch and their taxation.

     A month later, Montrado made a second attempt to occupy Mampawa. This time, it is said, the number of Chinese soldiers had swelled to four thousand. The solid defence of Pontianak and the stern warnings issued by the Dutch commander, Zimmerman made them hesitate, and the offensive never materialized.

     Again the colonial government named a Commissioner, a certain E.J. Roesler, Resident of Madura and Sumanep, who arrived at Pontianak in the beginning of July. This time his instructions of the high government directly concerned the Chinese. His first duty was indeed to put the relations with the Chinese on a solid basis and to find out the reasons why they refused to pay the poll tax. He was also duty-bound to avoid fresh violence,  and to impress upon the Chinese the authority of the Dutch government. He arrived with more reinforcements to the Dutch detachment, an extra one hundred soldiers. Weighing their chances against this new force, Montrado withdrew its troops from the Mampawa region.[31]

     One of the first actions of the new representative was to dismiss Muller, who returned to Batavia. The following year Muller was appointed inspector of the nutmeg trees on Banda. The traffic to the Moluccas being halted because of the east monsoon, the intrepid warrior had to wait before he could take up his new assignment. Impatient as ever to show his great devotion to His Majesty, the King of the Netherlands and his nutmeg trees, Muller spent his whole fortune in buying himself a schooner, which he manned with sailors. Braving contrary winds and adverse currents, he sailed to Banda where he arrived after six weeks at sea! [32]

     In the meantime things remained very much the same in West Borneo. Following his instructions, Roesler’s second move was to make a trip to Mandor to ask about the poll tax. There, Song Chabo surprised him by explaining that Lanfang did not have between fifteen and sixteen thousand adult men as was rumoured, but scarcely four thousand, and that in consequence he would have to revise his estimates, calculating a serious reduction. It seems that this time some money, which may have amounted to some seven thousand rupias, was in fact paid.

     The next visit was to Sambas, where he summoned the leaders of Montrado. Zhu Fenghua and his men did indeed come and readily promised everything Roesler asked. Cannily, the latter was not optimistic about the effectiveness of these promises, and afterwards reported to his government that nothing could be expected of the Chinese as long as they were allowed to organize themselves in alliances like the Heshun zongting. Only when this organization had been disbanded and the kongsis could be dealt with on an individual basis could they be managed. Quite apart from the obstacle of their unity, more coercion was needed to make them obey. The measure Roesler proposed to achieve this was henceforward to bar all newcomers from China from entering West Borneo if they did not have a Dutch government visa, or, if this was not effective, to return to the old VOC contract of 1779 with Pontianak (it had been found al last!) stipulating that the sultan would bar “all Chinese arriving on the junks from China” from his shores. These suggestions were never implemented, and upon leaving West Borneo in the middle of November 1819, the Commissioner could look back on having accomplished nothing much, except having replaced Muller as Assistant-Resident of Sambas with a certain J.C. Reynst. The poll tax promised by the leaders of Montrado was never paid.

     During the next two years, no new Commissioner was to come to West Borneo, and the Dutch officials were left to their own devices. Let us recall here who they were: in Pontianak, Hartmann as Resident and Zimmerman as garrison commander; in Mampawa: Vos as Assistant-Resident and Lieutenant Von Kielbeg as garrison commander; in Sambas: Reynst as Assistant-Resident and Captain Van de Polder as garrison commander. They had not long to wait before new events began to happen. In December 1819, after Hartmann had arrested a man from Mandor and jailed him for a few days, the Lanfang people attacked Pontianak. Because they had paid some poll tax, this had given the Dutch the impression that the Chinese had been brought under control; thus their offensive came as a complete surprise.

     The army barracks at Pontianak were attacked during the night of December 14, 1819, by an army estimated at between five hundred and one thousand men. The Dutch authorities had been warned beforehand through information contained in some Chinese letters which had been intercepted, and through a report of the clandestine arrival of armed men in the Chinese quarter. Hartmann ordered all Dutch men, including those of the civil service, to join the garrison, which brought the number of defenders up to seventy. The hostilities were started with the Chinese throwing coconuts shells filled with sulphur and saltpetre on to the roofs of the Dutch stronghold so as to set fire to the buildings. The Dutch aimed their seven cannon at the attackers, rapidly dispersing them, leaving no less then sixty dead, including seven leaders. They had fetters and manacles with them, avowedly in order to arrest the Dutch and bring them to Mandor for judgment. [33]

     During the hostilities, the sultan of Pontianak had prudently abstained from any interference. Now that the Chinese had been beaten, he ordered his men to pursue them and they came back with some forty prisoners. These were released after three days, because Mandor adamantly demanded that they be liberated. Neither the Dutch nor the sultan of Pontianak had the means to restrain them, because in this case Mandor had received the support of all the sultans of the inner regions. Indeed, many of them depended on the Chinese for their livelihood, and therefore were not happy to see them brought to their knees. Originally Captain Zimmerman had planned to burn the entire Chinese quarter of Pontianak by way of retaliation, but this idea was also given up.

In Lanfang, Song Chabo soon went to the sultan to restate his unwavering friendship to him, and on that occasion reiterated his resolution that henceforward he would not rest until all the Dutch had been driven out of West Borneo. A big prize was offered for the killing of Hartmann, and a taël of gold for each of the other Dutchmen. The only thing that Zimmerman could do was to reinforce his camp as best possible. Meanwhile in Mandor, in preparation of a larger offensive, they busted themselves making two roads: one leading to the defences of the sultan, the other to the Dutch stronghold. [34]

Despite the hustle and bustle, for the time being no new hostilities erupted. Perhaps the Chinese communities were all involved to some degree in the conflicts that had erupted at Montrado between Santiaogou, represented by Zhu Fenghua, and the other kongsis led by Dagang. Zhu fled to Sambas sometime in 1820, we do not know exactly when. No other important developments apparently took place during that year but this did not stop the Dutch from asking themselves what the future of their occupation of Borneo might be. That year, the Governor General asked the Raad van Indië and the former advisor of Nahuys, Major H.W. Muntinghe, to write a report on the situation and the outlook for this part of the colonial empire. In the meantime, part of the formerly mislaid archives concerning West Borneo had been rediscovered; thus his study could be built upon a broader historical basis. Muntinghe’s report, submitted on August 31, 1821 in Batavia, is remarkable in its sober appraisal of the facts and the overall pessimism of his views concerning the future. The foundation of the recent colonial policy, that is the contracts made with the Malay sultans of West Borneo, he saw as devoid of any value. No lasting and true alliance could ever be expected  from those who deny “the duty of reciprocity of good actions with regard to the infidels.” He was also pessimistic about the commercial potential of West Borneo, because the markets of the island were not connected with Java, but with Singapore. Moreover they were almost exclusively in the hands of Chinese merchants. Muntinghe deemed the levying of high import duties as counterproductive, as it encouraged smuggling, something which the sea coast lent itself to entirely. Only through exceptional efforts, on the basis of far-sighted marketing procedures and government subsidies, could he West Borneo market one day be regained and integrated within the colonial economy.

More specifically concerning the Chinese population, Muntinghe noted the difference between the workers of the mining kongsis and the traders of the sea-ports. He notes that the latter had now been drawn into the conflict between the Dutch and the miners, to whom they gave their support. In the light of the recent history, he could readily understand the resistance of the Chinese to the establishment of Dutch authority. He judged the poll tax unreasonable, unfair, and difficult to impose. A better way of  taxing the Chinese would be to initiate a levy on the profits of  the mines. It was important that a thorough investigation into the present situation of the mines, the number of miners, and so forth, precede any measure of this kind. [35]

     Muntinghe’s memorandum became the line of action for the further fact finding missions sent to West Borneo. The Raad van Indië decided to appoint a new Commissioner to gather the additional information. On October 13, 1821 the choice fell on Mr. J.H. Tobias, former Resident of Bantam. Six weeks later, after having visited Pontianak, Tobias arrived at Sambas. He was accompanied by a high ranking military officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Meynhardt – whose task was to conduct an investigation into military problems – as well as by a civilian official, M. van Grave, who was to replace Reynst as Resident of Sambas. Among the duties with which he had been entrusted, the question of the Chinese poll tax ranked highest on the list. He had been expressly asked to investigate the reasons why the Chinese thus far had been unwilling to acquiesce to it, and what could be done about it. [36]

     Tobias found that although the conflicts between Dagang and Santiaogou had become far more serious, he refused to be involved in these struggles, preferring to deal with them once the overall policy of his government regarding the Chinese had been decided upon. Thus his time in Sambas was spent on investigating such matters as the unremitting piracy and the sultan’s oppressive relationship with the Dayaks. Once in Pontianak, which he reached on January 25, 1822, he did not take any measures either. A delegation from Mandor, which had come with the intention of explaining to him what had happened in 1819, was sent away because Tobias claimed they were not invested with sufficient powers to negotiate.[37] His first preoccupation was to renegotiate the contract with the sultan of Pontianak. The intricacies of the political foundations of this contract, which sought to strengthen Dutch domination in the sultanate, replacing the former kind of equality between the partners, does not need to concern us here. The crucial point here is that Tobias, who had been ordered to curtail the sultan’s powers vis à vis Landak and his right to install toll gates in the inland, realized that the salary given to the sultan by the Dutch amounted only to twelve thousand guilders, which was insufficient to take care of his three hundred households. He therefore proposed to raise this paltry sum to a fixed income of fifty-two thousand guilders, as soon as the Chinese had been forced to be more assiduous in their payment of the poll tax. [38] He probably forgot about the old adage that one should not count one’s chickens before they are hatched.

     Having declared Landak independent of Pontianak, Tobias then went inland to visit this place. Not surprisingly he was well received, even more so since he came with gifts of velvet, chintz, green baize, gold and silver thread, silken cords and tassels, and other nice presents, intended for the development of goodwill.[39]  The next visit was to Sanggau where the ruler refused to welcome him, whereas those of Sekadau and Sintang let him through but treated him with a strong dose of suspicion. These three places had long since been nodes of Chinese trade routes, as well as mining centres and the local rulers depended entirely on the Chinese for their income.

     Back in Pontianak, Tobias began to ponder the lessons he had learned. Trade there was, but all the gold went to China or was traded in Singapore for opium, textiles, and iron. Diamonds went to Java, traded by the Bugis, but next to nothing was imported from Java. Levying of taxes on salt, opium, and textiles was inefficient because of the wide-spread practice of smuggling. Again, the only solution was the Chinese poll tax. Tobias estimated that a tax of two guilders per person for the right to toil the soil was “perfectly reasonable”. To that date, the poll tax had never been paid by more than seven thousand Chinese (probably the majority of these from the coastal towns, and a few thousand from Mandor). The inequality of the tax had raised many protests. In order to improve the system, Tobias devised a new scheme: “The Chinese would henceforward be divided up into and administered by a number of different districts, each governed by independent persons of their own race and nominated by the Dutch. If need be, these Chinese district heads would be assisted by trustworthy indigenous chiefs. They would be encouraged to take the interest of the government to heart by the fact that they themselves were to receive a reasonable percentage of the taxes they would collect in their district. The imposition would no longer be made individually, but now each district would have a certain amount imposed on it, depending on the number of the population and the richness of the soil. These sums would be left to the above-named heads to extract in whatever way they saw fit from their subjects. In order to give them the means to do so, the heads would also be entrusted with the policing of their district. In order to make all this (and much more along the same lines) more palatable to the Chinese, a certain limited amount of  influence as to the choice of these heads would conceded to them.” [40] It is clear from these proposal that he intended to introduce the captaining system which was then in use on Java.

     These proposals, of course, only concerned the Chinese republics of Mandor and Montrado. For the Chinese elsewhere in the hinterland, such as, for instance, in Sintang and Sanggau, Malay polities which he considered to be extremely wealthy, he had other fine plans. These Chinese would be brought directly under Dutch authority. Their mines would be leased to them by the Dutch (but this would not relieve them of having to pay a small poll tax). In this way they would be protected against the arbitrary exactions of the Malay rulers. This would hopefully become so successful that no doubt many Chinese who now lived in the coastal regions would emigrate to the hinterland. This again would have the beneficial effect of diminishing the power of the coastal regions, and unquestionably step up the development of the riches of the land. The diamond mines of Landak and Sanggau could be put in good working order in this way, but here, the Commissioner thought, joint ventures between the princes and the Dutch government might be preferable to leasing the mines to the Chinese.

According to Tobias, all these beautiful plans would come to naught if the Chinese were not first taught a lesson which would give them a more realistic impression of Dutch power and thought a small military expedition might do the trick. The troops and material available in West Borneo were, in the Commissioner’s estimation, woefully inadequate for such a show of power. With these and similar schemes in mind, Tobias left Pontianak on March 22, 1822, officially in order to report about his findings in Batavia, but in reality with the purpose of obtaining increased military support against the Chinese.


Table 8: The population of main regions of West Borneo, 1825

















































































































Source: Francis, “Westkust van Borneo in 1832”, pp. 3-5.









Fig. 5. Portraits of Liu Zhengbao and Liu Tai'er




Good Chinese, Bad Chinese

       Tobias was to remain absent from West Borneo until the end of July 1822, that is for a period of four months. As soon as he had left, the rift between the feuding kongsis of Montrado resurfaced. As we have seen in the preceding chapter, the Santiaogou leader, “Sing Sang” Zhu Fenghua, had made an attempt, no doubt with external support, to become leader of Heshun for life. Various people opposed this ambition and in the end he had to flee to Sambas in 1820. There he accused the other kongsis, particularly Dagang, of scheming to annex the rich mining country of Sepang. Zhu made the sultan of Sambas and his brothers all kinds of promises of large shares in the profits of these mines if these were given in exploitation, “after the war”, to Santiaogou. The remaining kongsis of Montrado invited the former dage Liu Zhengbao to come back from China to preside over this republic.

     Liu was originally from Dagang. He must have been a fairly wealthy man. As we have seen, he returned  in 1821, with a following of  Chinese braves and was elected dage at the following Chinese New Year in the beginning of 1822, just at the time that Tobias was in Batavia. Rumours about an impending settling of accounts between the kongsis of Montrado and Zhu Fenghua began to circulate. Zhu maintained that having conquered Lumar and Seminis, a host of thirty thousand Dagang miners would swiftly return to attack Sambas. Later investigations by Tobias were to show that this rumour was not based on any real evidence whatsoever. Be that as it may, the sultan took it all very much to heart and trembled with fright. In his fear, he succeeded in convincing the new Resident, Van Grave, that everything should be done in order to stop Dagang’s “aggression” by launching a military expedition. In response to this and against the orders left by Tobias, who had shunned involvement in this inter-Chinese conflict, Van Grave sent a small detachment of Dutch troops, fifty-four men strong, under Lieutenant Von Kielbeg, to the inland in May 1822 as a vanguard for the army of Santiaogou. Contrary to the rumours, they did not find any Dagang army between Sambas and Montrado, but at the insistence of Santiaogou they then went farther south-east to Lara, where Dagang had supposedly seized mining territory belonging to Santiaogou (in fact this kongsi never had had any mines there), thereby harming the interests of this kongsi as well as those of the sultan’s brothers whose apanages were situated in that region. When at last Von Kielbeg and his men did arrive in Bengkayang, the main township of Lara, they ventured ahead of the Santiaogou people and attacked a benteng of Dagang. Von Kielbeg was promptly wounded and died, his soldiers capitulated, and the Santiaogou troops fled in disarray. Dagang spared the Dutch soldiers, and escorted them to Sambas where they arrived unharmed on the 31st May. [41]  What was left of the Santiaogou departed from Montrado at the dead of night, during the festival of Duanwujie, which in 1822 fell on June 23. 

     Tobias returned to Pontianak on July 22. His visit to Java had been fruitful, as the Raad van Indië had given him an expeditionary force of  three hundred and twenty-nine soldiers (including a squadron of artillery), thirteen officers, and a number of ships under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel H. de Stuers, to be deployed  “in order to obtain the surrender of the Chinese.”

     With respect to Mandor, his scheme went flawlessly. As soon as his return was known, a delegation from Lanfang hastened to Pontianak, headed by Liu Tai’er, surnamed “Captain Demang”[42] by the Dutch, to beg for mercy. Liu had been, it seems, among those wealthy bazaar merchants who had opposed the attack on Pontianak. So as to scare them and at the same time make any agreement impossible – the Commissioner wanted above all to make a show of force at Mandor with his troops – Tobias put forward such extravagant terms he was sure they would not be able to meet them. The delegation returned to Mandor to deliberate, and after ten days came back but without being able to offer satisfaction on all the demands. Tobias immediately ordered his troops to march, although it was altogether clear that the Chinese would not offer resistance. The detailed description of the glorious invasion takes up a full three pages of Veth’s monograph. [43] In order to impress the population of West Borneo even more, Tobias chose to have his troops march by way of Mampawa. On reaching that township, Liu Tai’er again presented himself to him with a gift of one hundred taëls of gold in order make peace and prevent the continuation of the march, but Tobias refused. Even when Liu himself and his delegations of Lanfang leaders offered themselves as hostages so that Tobias could proceed with a small company, the answer remained negative.

     Needless to say, the Dutch troops did not encounter any resistance on their way to Mandor. Instead, in every village they were welcomed with gifts of food and wine. As he neared the township, the leaders brought Tobias a magnificently caparisoned but decrepit horse. It turned out to be the same animal that Batavia had given to the Sultan of Pontianak in 1790! It was believed to be the only horse in West Borneo, buy it was much too old to ride. Outside of the township, tables bedecked with sweets and tea with comfortable chairs around them were placed every twenty paces. Tobias could not resist the temptation to take a rest and give himself a chance to catch his breath. Arriving at last at the ting, he was welcomed by the leaders to the sound of a big orchestra of drums and cymbals. He was then ushered into the main hall where a ceremony of thanksgiving was held to show gratitude to the deities (including Luo Fangbo) for the safe arrival of the Dutch friends. Meanwhile the troops were wined and dined. In  his welcome speech, Liu Tai’er again stressed his contrition for the past events, but also maintained that not all, and only a part of the population was to blame.[44]

Tobias knew that Mandor had prepared itself for war, but not a single weapon in sight and there was no sign of resistance. Although he had come with a mighty force, no townsman seemed the slightest bit alarmed: shopkeepers and artisans remained at their work, children were happily playing in the streets, women were busy cooking and serving the hungry soldiers. This meant that order and peace reigned at Mandor. This placid state could, of course, be reversed in a single moment, and turn into a trap from which he and his men would have great difficulty to escape unscathed.

When, two days after his arrival at Mandor, on August 24 (the birthday of the king of Holland), Tobias granted an “audience” to the leaders of Lanfang (in their own ting!), his demands for the subjection of Mandor were far less exorbitant than his earlier demands had been in Pontianak. It all boiled down to a fine of 140 taëls of gold (one hundred had already been offered, the rest could wait), the replacement of Song Chabo, already old and decrepit, by the wealthy Liu Tai’er, a promise of allegiance to the Dutch colonial government, and the payment of a poll tax of two rupias for each man over twenty. [45]

Not surprisingly, the Chinese were overjoyed. The leaders immediately changed into their official costumes and prepared offerings at the temple. The new covenant, duly written out, was presented to the tutelary deities and ancestors and then ceremoniously burned. That night, big banquets were held in honour of the Dutch and there was much fraternizing. The next day Tobias and his troops set out to return to Pontianak, and this time helped by the people of Mandor, they were able to reach the city in twenty-four hours. On the way back they could not help noticing that the way between Mandor and Pontianak was very well provided with bentengs and other defensive structures, and that, if they had had to fight their way there, the outcome would have been by no means a foregone conclusion. In Pontianak, Liu and his fellow chiefs were given their official appointments. Then the feasting in Pontianak began, which lasted for a full eight days. From this point onward, there would be no more conflicts between Lanfang and the Dutch.

Next on the agenda was the question of Montrado. When Tobias returned from Mandor on August 26, he found a delegation of Heshun waiting for him. They expressed their apologies for what had happened. They insisted that negotiations could bring a speedy end to the problems. Tobias indeed thought that there would be far fewer problems with the Heshun zongting than with Mandor, and repaired, on September 1,  to Sambas with a force of only one hundred men. Arriving in Sambas he found utter chaos. Furious, he lodged a written complaint against Resident Van Grave. The leaders of Montrado, whom he again found waiting for him at Sambas, argued that they were not to blame for the death of Von Kielbeg, as the opposing party had opened fire. They added that they would submit to the decisions of the Commissioner, whatever these might be.[46]

Arbitrating between the different parties was by no means an easy ask, especially since the sultan had bound himself to Santiaogou, the “good Chinese” through all kinds of mutual engagements [47]. In order to try to unravel the knot of problems and manoevre the Chinese to where he wanted to have them, Tobias organized several series’ of “conferences” at which the different actors where allowed to say their piece and be interrogated. [48] Tobias has left us the minutes of these meetings, which give a clear idea of the proceedings as well as his own state of mind.

For several days the commissioner had tried to get a picture about “the true state of affairs” before he assembled everybody in the town-hall of Sambas on September 13, 1822. Gathered there were the sultan of Sambas, other Malay princes, Resident Van Grave, several army officers, the Kapitein Chinees Sing Sang Zhu Fenghua, and the chiefs of the different kongsis of Montrado, headed by Liu Zhengbao. Tobias opened the first meeting by stating his intention to settle the conflict that had arisen among the Chinese and to lay down fixed laws by which they were to abide in the future. Then he started his inquiries by asking the representatives of Santiaogou “what had been the reason for them take the initiative in engaging in hostile activities directed against the Dagang.” They answered: “that the Chinese of Dagang, relying on their greater power, had not only continuously vexed and abused them, but had also killed several of them.” To this Dagang retorted that it did not rule out the possibility that there had been quarrels among the common people, but that these were in no way related to the kongsi, and that these should not give rise to conflicts. Referring to the murders they added that they knew that a murder had been committed some three years ago, and another some five years ago, but that in both cases the offenders had been punished; to confirm this they called Sing Sang as a witness, who at the time had dealt with these matters as head of the [allied] kongsis. Indeed Zhu Fenghua then confessed before Tobias that all this was perfectly correct. [49]

Next it was the turn of Dagang to state whether there would have been any grounds giving rise to mutual displeasure. In the discussion which ensued, Tobias notes that: “The side of Santiaogou was not able to bring forth anything but utterly idiotic accusations, [50] of which the only one which seemed to make any sense was that of Taihe [accusing Dag­ang] of having breached their dam at the gold-mines, which had caused them considerable losses.” [51] This accusation was again refuted by Liu Zhengbao, who explained that up to five times Taihe had been urged to release some of the water from their reservoir, since when it was too full, it caused the mines of Dagang to be flooded too, but the request had fallen on deaf ears. The breaching of the dam had thus become an urgent necessity, and Dagang had been forced to take this step, much against its own will. After more exchanges of this kind, Tobias concluded that all these trifles did not justify the loss of even one human being, so he  asked what was really the problem? Then Liu Zhengbao spoke up and, in the rendering of Tobias himself, said the following: [52]

     That Santiaogou had left their last kongsi house at Montrado at the dead of night, without giving any warning; that he, Liu Zhengbao, had protected their goods,  especially their rice, salt, and tools, with the greatest care, and had notified Sing Sang (Zhu Fenghua) about this; that far from repenting, in their hatred and bitterness, the members of Santiaogou had gone as far as to accuse Dagang before the sultan and the Resident [of Sambas] of destroying and burning their property. He swore before God that Dagang was not guilty, and that Santiaogou would never be able to prove this. He, Liu Zhengbao, requested that the Commissioner would take account of the fact that when he had come and stayed at Montrado nobody had lodged any complaints (about Santiaogou), but that three days after his departure Taihe too had in the dead of night borne away their Dabogong and left  furtively; once again Dagang had ordered their property to be protected. Liu Zhengbao also declared that his party had been greatly offended. He challenged all those of Santiaogou to contribute even one single argument in their own defence, whereas Dagang had many arguments to contribute: that they had chased Santiaogou away from Lara, because Lara belonged to Dagang; that they had occupied Lumar, because the kongsi had fled from there; that they had not destroyed or pillaged anything there; and that they, after they had secured their position at Lara, had simply kept it and had not engaged in anything else (in the way of hostile actions), notwithstanding the accusations (Santiaogou had made)  of attacks which they had allegedly planned on Seminis and even Sambas; the foundations of this accusation he left to the judgment of the Commissioner himself. Finally Liu Zhengbao declared that he could not have known that the Dutch had taken sides against him, since they (Dagang) had not only written to Sambas, but each time had also requested the mediation of both the sultan and the Resident, yes, even of the Resident of Pontianak.

      Tobias knew this last statement to be true. Dagang had indeed requested the help and mediation of the Dutch authorities several times, but their letters had been obfuscated, intercepted (at Pamangkat by Santiaogou), and even destroyed so that not one of them had reached its destination. Evaluating what he had learned, Tobias came to the conclusion that the Resident had been seriously led astray by false rumours and that he had stupidly believed Santiaogou’s accusations to be true. It was obvious that those in Sambas had acted to promote their own narrow interests, something that became crystal clear when Tobias afterwards paid a visit to the sultan: [53]

       In order to confirm my certainties yet again I conferred in secret with the sultan. On this occasion I was able to play upon his mood in such a way that he had to make the confession that those of Santiaogou had promised him and his two brothers, Tommogong en Bindahara one-twentieth part of the yields of the mine of Dagang each, which they would be allowed to keep after the war. In the course of this conference I learned that in this matter the sultan had acted with his usual, lack of circumspection albeit not deliberately, and that he did not consider it to be a matter of any consequence to accept part of the gold, as long as his objectives were attained, to know: the downfall of the all-too-mighty Chinese of Dagang, and that owing to a lack of discernment and self-confidence he had let himself be persuaded to believe in the treacherous accusation of Santiaogou, [and that he had] made it even worse by passing it (i.e. the accusation) on to the Resident; unfortunately all this had degraded the sultan in the eyes of Dagang to such an extent that not even a semblance of confidence in his person remained.

       Little by little, it must be said to Tobias’ credit, he built up an idea about the true situation in West Borneo. Not Santiaogou (“the good Chinese”), but Dagang had been wronged. They also had been the first and only ones to address themselves to the Dutch government for help and protection, but their letters had been waylaid and he himself had been absent, leaving the road to Sambas wide open for the warmongering Zhu Fenghua and his party. The sultan only wanted to have money, whether it was acquired legally or not; Zhu Fenghua had been thwarted in his bid for absolute power at Montrado and now tried to get the Malays and Dutch to help him regain power for him and his kongsi. The Dutch officials at Sambas, unacquainted with all this and, in Grave’s case, initially even incapable of understanding Malay, had been manipulated and frightened by all kinds of unfounded rumours and lies. So what should now be done? This is what Tobias decided: [54]

      After having thus obtained sufficient certainty about the true causes of what had happened, all that remained for me was to consider what was in my power to do and what should be done.

I considered that in my speech I should not openly reveal any disagreement with the sultan, and that I should even try – if possible – to restore some degree of respect and esteem for his person among the Chinese. In my eyes the strongest party, Dagang, was more than in the right, owing to the fact that justice was on their side and they had taken recourse to the government as soon as the disagreements had started; yet necessity obliged [me] not to drop the party of Santiaogou and to keep the quarrels among the parties of the many headed Chinese population as concealed as possible.

       Having reached this decision, Tobias tried to compromise. He thought, as he writes in his own minutes of the meeting, that the Chinese had “a complete lack of knowledge about making arrangements”, but were always tempted by short-term profits. It had also already become clear to him that it would be difficult, “to bring both parties to terms by peaceful means.” In this state of mind he called a second meeting with the same participants for September 16, three days after the previous one. On this Tobias wrote: [55]

      At this meeting I proclaimed that after an ample amount of effort spent listening and investigating, it had become clear to me and that I wanted to announce this publicly that the side of Santiaogou had been in the wrong and was considered by me to be the source of all that had occurred, and that I had to add to this that those of Dagang had also acted most inappropriately, that they should never have defended themselves in the first place and that, after having notified the government, they should have waited for the arrival [of its representatives]; instead of this they had taken up their arms against the soldiers of the government and that their excuse that they did not know [why the government  army attacked them, supposing as they did that their letters had been received] did not apply.


That I wished that everything – if possible – be forgotten, since their conflict was due mainly to misconceptious about their rights to the land. That I stated before them that the state of Sambas belonged to the sultan of Sambas, and that the Chinese inhabitants were subjects of the Dutch governor, and that by special order the rights over them had been handed over by the ruler to the government, that furthermore I had called this meeting in order to investigate the rights to the use of the land only because they had advanced their capital for this use.

       Tobias then set forth to settle once and for all the rights of exploitation in the mining regions. None of what he did was truly controversial except at Sepang. Sepang had always been worked on by Dagang, and its gold deposits had proven to be not only very rich but of the highest quality. Now Zhu Fenghua and his kongsi had obtained the promise of the sultan that it would be theirs and in return had promised to the Malay ruler and his brothers a big share in the yields “once the war was over”. Of course, Dagang could not accept this. Lara was another, less important but equally contested point. This region had been exploited by all the Montrado kongsis, and Santiaogou had had a sister kongsi, the Xiawu kongsi, also called “Little Santiaogou”, near Bengkayang. However, this was just one of the many mining claims in the region that had always been under Montrado and certainly could not now be claimed in its entirety by Santiaogou. This also was true for Santiaogou’s specific claims to two mines at Lara: Sanxi (Sansak, Sansik or Sansiak) and Jialaosuo (Kerasauw, Karassie). Hoping to protect his interests, the sultan of Sambas strongly supported Santiaogou’s claim to these territories.

     Tobias’ strategy was to appear even-handed in his apportionment of praise and blame among the feuding kongsis, but in fact give all satisfaction to the sultan and Santiaogou. To achieve this, he had to proceed in steps and call multiple “conferences”. Therefore he concluded only by rebuking Dagang: [56]     

     After some disputations [...] the only thing that remained for me to do was to answer Dagang’s request for indemnification for the robberies and murders not committed during the war. I answered them to the effect that they had been the party on the defence and that, if they intended to pursue this matter, I might possibly proceed to call them to account for the death of Lieutenant Kielbeg and two Dutch soldiers. Hereupon the Chinese were summoned to take their leave and the Commissioner committed his final decision to paper so that he might summarize it with the assistance of the sultan and the Resident and lay down [the decision thus reached] as a law before the Chinese, together with the notification that the least transgression would be considered an offence.

      A following meeting was called for September 22. In the meantime, a draft of  the decisions imposed by Tobias had been translated into Malay and Chinese. Tobias urged that it be adopted there and then, but of course Liu Zhengbao and the heads of the Heshun zongting “immediately requested a postponement of nineteen days in order to be able to report the matter to their kongsis, arguing that although they themselves agreed in all respects with the stipulations of the Government, they could not do so with certainty for the other headmen before they had consulted them at Montrado.” So a postponement was allowed, but only for ten days. Tobias did put a clerk of Santiaogou by the name of Atjon (A Chang?) [57] under arrest. He was accused of having been responsible for a theft of gold from the mines (of Dagang?) which had been one of the main causes for the outbreak of the conflict. In fact, he was a hostage for Santiaogou: if they settled their dispute with Dagang, the man would be released, if not, he would be put on trial.

     Tobias then went to Mampawa, where he had also asked the leaders of Montrado to come and see him after the ten-day period for consultation had elapsed. These new meetings took place on October 5 and 6. Liu Zhengbao declared that the Heshun zongting submitted itself fully to the order issued by the Commissioner, with the exception of the cession of Sepang, to which they considered to have a right of twenty  years’ standing. They reminded the Commissioner that he himself had recognized this fact. Turning to the problems related to Lumar, Liu admitted that the zongting was in no position to settle all the problems between the different small kongsis there and therefore could not guarantee that there would be no friction. Tobias concluded that Liu appeared to be sincere. He therefore warmly assured him that the Dutch government “only wished to act fairly and did not make any distinction between the Chinese.” The Commissioner reminded the leaders of the Heshun republic that : “in accordance with Article 21 of the publication issued the 20th they had to proceed to Sambas to confirm their obedience by oath.” The headmen also agreed to this, and Tobias then put two vessels belonging to Raja Akil of the sultanate at their disposal to take them as far as Singkawang. [58]

     Tobias himself went straight back to Sambas in order to confer with the sultan. The latter did all he could to shake the Commissioner’s confidence in Dagang and to persuade him to send his troops to Lumar so as to teach them a lesson. Tobias was not hoodwinked into this scheme but did ask himself to what extent honest men like Liu Zhengbao could be truly sure of the support of their subjects. The Heshun delegation was due to arrive in Sambas on October 13, but on that day no one appeared. Rumours once again began circulate, about Malay dignitaries who had been arrested by people from Dagang and about all kinds of troubles on the coast at Sungai Raya, and a host of other speculations. After having waited a week, Tobias grew so impatient that he boarded a boat to take him downstream on the Sambas River to see for himself what was happening. Having gone as far as Kampong Baru, he did meet the ships of Raja Akil from Mampawa with the Montrado delegation on board. They explained the delay in completely reasonable terms: the delegation had found itself in financial straights and it had taken time to assemble the necessary founds. This explanation fully satisfied Tobias, who writes that “the confirmation of this explanation by the headmen of Raja Akil’s flotilla, who had gone ashore several times at Singkawang, convinced the Commissioner, if necessary even more that at Sambas, all measures had been taken to prejudice him against those of Dagang”. [59]

     Tobias returned with the Heshun delegation to Sambas, where he arranged a meeting between the delegation and the sultan on October 22. There the delegation of Heshun explained once more that indubitably Santiaogou had been the first to develop the land of Sepang, but that they had left it soon after that, i. e. more than twenty years ago. After this the land had always been worked upon by people belonging to under Dagang. They also admitted that Santiaogou had initially offered the sultan the normal gift of a golden bowl, and that they (Dagang) had not, but that they were perfectly prepared to pay for the use of this land with as much as was asked of them. They were also ready to agree with the decision of the Commissioner, “who had ordered that this land should be handed over to Santiaogou, but that in that case the decision did not provide in any compensation for them.” Tobias’ account continues as follows: [60]

     After those of Dagang had left the venue of the conference the Commissioner gave the sultan to understand that His Highness had acted imprudently by having neglected to disclose the actual state of affairs concerning Sepang, since on every occasion it had been said that this land had been captured from Santiaogou while it appeared that those of Dagang had as much right to this land as those of Santiaogou, so that the Commissioner now was obliged – and this was a matter equally disagreeable to the sultan – to change or to delate upon a previous decision.

After a protracted conversation, during which the sultan took no pains to disguise his hate of Dagang, although the Commissioner was never able to find any well-founded reason for this, it was decided to try to make the Chinese come to terms in this matter by peaceful means at a public meeting which was to be held the next day, and that if this were to fail they themselves would take a decision which would have the force of law.

      This meeting, which took place the next day, on October 23, passed without incident. Dagang accepted the handing over of Sepang to Santiaogou, on the condition that the latter would pay an indemnity of five hundred taël of gold. Tobias was unwilling to accept this, and put forward, in his own words, “ all possible arguments to make clear to the Chinese that all their mutual conflicts were harmful to themselves.” He made no bones in his demand that they should come to terms on Sepang. But he did not convince the delegation of Heshun, and after having conferred privately with the sultan – “ concerning which the Commissioner has to add with regret that the sultan had made several unreasonable propositions” – he reached the following decision: [61]

     Sepang shall be given back to Santiaogou on payment of 180 taël of gold and an indemnity for all expenses. The Santiaogou party would have six months to consider this, but if [by then] they had failed to be satisfied with this decision, Sepang would remain with Dagang; which would in that case be obliged to come up to Sambas [to visit the sultan] in order to request this land in forma and be liable to payment by way of gift as is the time-honored custom.

       This decision was then translated into Chinese. It was embellished with the seals of the Commissioner and the sultan. When Tobias handed the Chinese the copies, he intimated that the next day they should return with this text copied on red paper, so that it could be used at the religious ceremony which was to crown all these meetings. This took place on October 27 at 10 a.m. in the Chinese quarter of Sambas, in the presence of  Commissioner Tobias, His Highness the Sultan, the Resident, Lieutenant-Colonel De Stuers, the officers and civil servants, as well as most of the members of the royal family:[62]

     After the usual prayers and lighting of candles, the common publication was read out twice, once by the headman of Santiaogou and once by the headman of Dagang. These then burned their copies in the usual fashion. When this was done,  the ceremony was over, concerning which the Commissioner added the remark that the two most important clerks of Santiaogou had not been present, nor anyone of Taihe. The latter were certainly only ashamed, since – owing to the direst  poverty – so many of the people of Sinlong had gone away in the last few days, that the kongsi has so to speak ceased to exist, and may only be re-established with the help of others. The four taël of gold was handed over by those of Santiaogou, as indicated in Article 2 of the publication. The Commissioner handed back three of these immediately, while the fourth was given to Kapitein Chinees Sing Sang, on behalf of the Chinese temple.

       This indicates that Sing Sang Zhu Fenghua  was the head of the main temple in Sambas, and that therefore this temple fell under the aegis of Santiaogou. The ceremony therefore was conducted before the Dabogong of Santiaogou. All this must have made the entire proceedings completely worthless in the eyes of the members of the Heshun zongting.

     To return now to the decisions made by Tobias and imposed on the Chinese, it must be noted here that this was not a “contract” like those concluded with the different Malay rulers. Rather, it was just a list of stipulations they were supposed to obey as subjects of the sultans governed, through their intermediary, the Dutch colonial government. The Chinese republics as such were not recognized as separate polities, and Tobias’ document specified (Art. 14) that henceforward the Dutch would no longer take into consideration the relationships, such as alliances, federations, zongting and the like of the different kongsis, but would deal with each of them separately. The different kongsis had to hand over to the Dutch an annual register of the population of the villages under their control, for the benefit of the poll tax. This poll tax, of two rupias per adult male, would be collected by the kongsis, and a receipt would be given to each payee. This poll tax could be paid in quarterly installments of half a rupia. On top of the tax, each taxable individual would have to pay twenty cents to the kongsi as an administration fee. Those who did not pay up would be punished. Only Dutch money was legal tender. This, and the fact that the kongsis no longer harboured any hatred or animosity towards each other, would be solemnly promised under oath at the above-mentioned ceremony. And, of course, the well-known refrain that: [63]

    If the kongsis follow these stipulations to the letter, then they will enjoy the paternal protection of the [Dutch] Government, whereas the slightest opposition will be punished by a ban on Chinese vessels (wangkangs), the closure of the rivers, and the destruction of all Chinese establishments (Article 29).

      Some six weeks later, Tobias was informed that his stipulations had been rejected in Montrado by at least some of the miners and that there had been trouble in Lumar, where Dagang had to evacuate the place in order to allow Shiwufen, the Santiaogou ally, install itself. Tobias, to judge from his own notes, did not take the incident very seriously , but nevertheless asked De Stuers to send an expeditionary force under the command of a subaltern officer to Lumar to find out what was the matter. Should the Dagang miners refuse to leave, he might have to force them to do so (report of 7 December 1822). [64] Tobias himself waited until the end of the month to go Sambas to confer again with Liu Zhengbao and the leaders of Santiaogou, among them Zhu Fenghua. Arriving there on January 2, 1823, he heard all kinds of rumours to the effect that: “first a thousand men from Montrado had come to occupy Lumar and resisted all orders which had been sent there; then Sabo had again been threatened by them and Sepang had been fortified; and many similar unlikely rumours.” In fact, on January 5 a letter from Heshun zongting, drawn up in Malay arrived, in which they let the sultan know that they had left Lumar, and in which they requested “not to take any decisions concerning Lara and Lumar before they themselves had met with His Highness.” All this was again confirmed when messages arrived from the expeditionary force. The troops had reached Lumar at the beginning of January but had found the place deserted and they had not met any resistance on the way or at their destination. All those of  Manhe and Dagang had gone and Shiwufen had not yet arrived. [65]

     Things therefore seemed to be going more or less according to schedule and after having conferred again with Liu Zhengbao, who had arrived at Sambas on January 7, 1823. Tobias heard assurances that the evacuation of Lara by Dagang and its transfer to Santiaogou would also pose no problems. Yet while still in Sambas Tobias suddenly decided to dispatch a punitive expedition to Lara, commanded by De Stuers himself. He sent Resident Van Grave and the pangerans of Sambas with him, and also, as we shall learn from the context, a large armed group of men of Santiaogou under the command of Zhu Fenghua! In his report, Tobias is very vague and brief about the reasons for this step. After having stated that all went well, he simply writes that “Owing to these anxieties it was decided that the Lieutenant-Colonel [De Stuers]  would set out for the inland with a still larger force, reinforced by an additional hundred men, and that the Resident and the Pangerans Bindahara and Tommogong would follow in suit. And the ruler promised to make several vessels ready immediately.” Tobias then gave the commander a letter with secret instructions, the contents of which we do not know. To Liu Zhengbao, who had come to Sambas at his request, Tobias only gave a letter, which the headman was not to open before he had arrived at Montrado and had assembled all the headmen. In this document Tobias set out the following points: (1) the reasons why he had decided to punish those of Lara; (2) his wish that Sepang should forthwith be cleared; (3) rents on opium would be levied; (4) Singkawang should be handed over to the Chinese Sing Sang (Zhu Fenghua). [66]

     These were the kind of fundamentally unacceptable demands and procedures that Tobias knew would make the people of Montrado furious and belligerent. What else could he have had in mind when he entrusted a letter to the old and respected leader, Liu Zhengbao, to be opened only in the general assembly of the heads of the united kongsis, in which it was stated that the Dutch overlord had decided to give their own port city to the enemy? What could have been more humiliating than that? We can only guess the reasons why Tobias wanted to “punish” Montrado, by stipulating the cession of Sepang, a rich mining district to which Dagang had a twenty-year old claim, to Santiaogou.

     In spite of the great injustice of this measure, an injustice of which Tobias was perfectly well aware, the people of Montrado gave in for the sake of peace. They evacuated Sepang, and Lumar, and Sanxi and all the rest. But the question of Lara had not been clearly decided upon. In Lara there was “Xiawu”, alias “Little Santiaogou” that occupied one major site, and a number of allied kongsis of Dagang that occupied another. After the “conferences”, Dagang had broken through the defensive fortresses that Santiaogou had constructed on the border between Montrado and Lara, and re-opened the communication, so that at least its own mining concessions in Lara could be safeguarded. There was nothing illegal about this. Montrado wanted everything to be settled in the hope that at last Dutch authority could prove to be the “fatherly protection” it had promised. This was what Liu Zhengbao had asked of Tobias in Sambas on his last visit. But Tobias must have made up his mind, or his allies the sultan and Zhu Fenghua of Santiaogou, must have convinced him, that this was now the best time to catch the Heshun republic off guard and to deal it a final deathblow. After having pretended to be even-handed and even tending to favour Montrado and be anti-Santiaogou, Tobias did nothing short of launching an all-out effort to bring the Heshun republic on its knees and install the “good Chinese” in their place. He allowed Liu return to Montrado, because he was sure that this rich chief would do his best to further his plans and thus, as he writes himself, “contribute to preventing the total annihilation of so many Chinese”, and also “because there could be no doubt that the matters concerning Lara would be decided before his arrival at Montrado.” [67] Tobias was sure that De Stuers would be victorious at Lara. But there he was mistaken. Dagang was not caught off guard.

     De Stuers went first to Lumar where the former kongsi house had been converted, on the previous expedition, into a Dutch army camp. From there, on January 19, 1823, he took the road to Lara. Zhu Fenghua, who had followed him there with some hundred men from Santiaogou, assisted him in the transporting of supplies and ammunition. The second day, at noon, De Stuers and his troops reached the first small fortification, at a place called Jinshan (half way along the road between Lumar and Bengkayang, the township of Lara), and immediately attacked this single bastion with all his troops. The men in the benteng defended themselves valiantly, and while the battle was in full swing, other Dagang troops moved up to and outflanked the Dutch army. After a prolonged fight, the Dutch took the stronghold, but at the price of an unspecified number of dead and eighty wounded. De Stuers himself was severely wounded in his feet and later suffered serious burns from exploding powder kegs. Later in the day, the Dutch troops reached the Santiaogou kongsi house of Lara, where the troops found a resting place. [68]

     The Dutch claimed a total victory, but this is very questionable. On January 23, the Heshun zongting sent a letter to De Stuers at Lara to ask him when and where he wished to negotiate. The commander answered that only Tobias had the power to do this, and thus Liu Zhengbao and his leader repaired to Sambas, where they arrived on February 6. In the meantime, De Stuers who was still suffering from his wounds was also taken back to Sambas with some of his troops. Tobias demanded that Montrado hand over one hundred men of its vanguard troops, two hundred guns, and two hundred kegs of powder, as well as paying a fine of four hundred taël of gold. Liu refused the first two demands, but was ready to help the Dutch with some forty kegs of powder and was also ready to give some money, if absolutely necessary.

     Evidently, and whatever may have been Tobias’ ideas or hopes about the results of his military campaign, the people of Montrado did not consider themselves defeated. [69] Again Tobias did not state clearly in his report that he had now decided to launch a punitive expedition on Montrado. The fly in the ointment was that some of the troops had been repatriated to Java, and the losses suffered in the costly raid on Lara were of such a magnitude that the military might available was considered insufficient by Tobias and De Stuers alike. Therefore, writes De Stuers, a few days later, on February 9, Tobias went secretly to Batavia in order to lobby for more troops. The outside world was informed that Tobias had gone to Pontianak and from there would visit the Karimata Islands. An eye was kept on the Chinese chiefs in Sambas.

     Chinese New Year in 1823 fell on February 11. De Stuers reports that he had already heard on the 16th that the people of Montrado had prepared an attack on Lara. [70] The same event is also described in the Chinese text “History of the Land of Montrado”, which gives the following account: [71]

     On the eighth day of the first month of  the year guiwei ¹癸未(February 18, 1823), the Dagang kongsi ordered each of its four confederates to assemble at the zongting and report to the captain in order to discuss the levy of troops and the offensive on Lara. All the kongsis approved the proposal unanimously. On the sixteenth day (February 26), the four large kongsis assembled their soldiers. In addition, the three small kongsis of Zanhe, Yuanhe, and Yinghe [72] also sent along their soldiers. The great army set out for Lara, and all along the road they built stockades to fall back on in case of defeat. They went straight to Sebalau, where they set up a large main camp. There they took council together on how to attack the stockade on top of Gunung Penaring. After the stockade at Penaring had been destroyed, the soldiers of the allied kongsis proceeded to Lara and established a camp there. The Large and Little Santiaogou kongsis, the Shiliufen and the Shiwufen kongsis, were then routed and fled to Lumar, Sepang, Sambas, and Pamangkat.

     Dagang kongsi and its allies promptly split the soldiers up [into groups]. At the Jinshan reservoir on the road to Lumar they built a large stockade to guard this strategic line of communication in case of trouble. Then the troops of the allied kongsis returned to Montrado, each to its original location.

     After they had chosen an auspicious day, the allies came together at the zongting. They staged theatre plays to thank the gods. Banquets were held to reward the soldiers. Thanking Heaven and Earth, they enjoyed peace together.

       The Chinese manuscript then gives a long account of the division of the land of Lara among the three kongsis of  Heshun. A similar account is given by Schaank. [73] We shall come back to this presently.

     The version by De Stuers, as reported by Veth, is different: he states that the news that Montrado planning to attack Lara did not especially worry him, as he had left Captain Trip in command and that he had given him a timely warning, but that “those Chinese who are devoted to us, and who had partly resettled in their former possessions, were greatly alarmed”, these “devoted Chinese” being of course Zhu Fenghua and his group. [74] On the 28th February, that is two days later than the departure from Montrado according to the Chinese text, Trip was warned that the Montrado army was advancing in great numbers from Bengkayang, the Dagang base in Lara, to the kongsi house of “Little Santiaogou” which he occupied with a hundred soldiers. The  Montrado attackers were seven to eight hundred strong. They stormed the fortified kongsi house with loud cries, accompanied by a tremendous clamour of cymbals and gongs. The attack was unsuccessful and the Chinese retreated to set up their heavy artillery. At that moment Captain Trip launched a sortie and took the Chinese by surprise. They fled, leaving behind thirteen heavy guns (“lillas”). Some kegs of powder also exploded, which killed a number of the assailants. The total losses on the Montrado side were around eighty dead, thirty-four guns, a hundred and sixty spears, and fourteen banners. This, according to the Dutch, was a terrible defeat for the Chinese, arousing such widespread despair at Montrado that several headmen chose to take flight. The inhabitants of Montrado are even said to have sent a letter to the Commissioner and the Resident (of Sambas) in which they asked to be forgiven and offered to hand over twenty-four guns and forty kegs of powder, that being all that was left, the letter said, of their armaments. As to the one hundred men of the vanguard, whom Tobias had asked earlier to be handed over to him, they were all dead or had fled.[75] It is obvious that this letter had nothing to do with the armed reconquest of Lara, but was a sequel to Tobias’ demands to Liu Zhengbao in Sambas in early February (see above).

     This leaves us with the question of who was right? The Chinese manuscript text the “History of the Land of Montrado” does not mention the Dutch at all and claims that the recapture of Lara by the Montrado troops was a total victory. The mining grounds of Lara were thereupon redivided among the Montrado kongsis, something that is confirmed by Schaank. Conversely De Stuers claims that this was a resounding defeat for Montrado. Comparing the two accounts, it may seem that they are not altogether incompatible. De Stuers talks about the kongsi house of Little Santiaogou and the attack of what must have been only a part of the Montrado army, which was repulsed and in which the assailants suffered a number of casualties, mostly caused by exploding powder kegs, and lost some guns, spears and banners. It is obvious that, painful as these losses may have been, they affected only a small part of the entire Montrado force of eight hundred assailants, and that these again were but a part of the entire army. 

     In support of the Dutch version, we must note that not only the region (“landschap”) of Lara continued to be occupied by the Dutch, but that measures were taken to develop it. The soil being considered fit for the cultivation of coffee, the Dutch wished to establish plantations for this purpose and “educate” the Dayaks to work there.[76] Zhu Fenghua had been found willing to co-operate in this scheme and although we do not know exactly in which way he was related to it, it is clear that he had a major role in setting these plantations up. The plantations were only established later. [77] About this time all was peaceful in Lara under the control of a Dutch garrison, installed in May 1823 at Sebalau (from where Sambas could be reached by prahu in thirty-six hours). It was manned with some forty soldiers.[78] The Assistant-Residentship was occupied by Mr. Lunel, and the Chinese community was headed by Zhu Fenghua. At the beginning of 1824,  Van Grave wrote about the situation in Lara: [79]

      In Lara, through his administration the Assistant-Resident, Mr. Lunel, ensures that the [Dutch] government is respected and beloved. The different kongsis, which formerly created havoc in this beautiful region, no longer have any say, and thus everything goes well. If a conflict arises, the inhabitants turn to the Assistant-Resident, choosing not to recognize any other authority. The Kapitein Chinees Sing Sang, who now spends part of the year in Lara, helps him in an excellent way. Wherever this man dwells, trust is established. In the last war, the bazaar of Lara-Dagang (i.e. Bengkayang) was completely abandoned. Sing Sang settled there, and within fourteen days all the inhabitants had returned.

      This seems to confirm fairly conclusively that Montrado indeed lost completely when it attacked Lara at the beginning of 1823, and that even its own base, at “Lara-Dagang”, went to Santiaogou. However, this situation changed drastically, as we shall see presently, in the autumn 1825 when, seizing upon the fact that the garrison having left Lara, Montrado came back again and this time took over the entire place. At that time, according to a document reproduced by Schaank, the territory was distributed among the Montrado kongsis and the three small kongsis of Lara, and this document tallies exactly with the Chinese text. [80] It would seem that both accounts are right, but the Chinese narrative does not adhere to the same concept of time as the Dutch chronicles. In the “History of the Land of Montrado”, a story that took in fact two and a half years to run its course, is condensed into a few simple sentences!

    To return now to the events at hand: De Stuers continued his plans for an attack on Montrado, but was hampered by the fact that Tobias did not return from Batavia before March 30, 1823. The latter came to Sambas with a new force of six officers, ninety-seven non-commissioned officers and soldiers, and forty soldiers whom he had picked up on his way from the garrison at Pontianak. A number of the wounded from the previous expedition were now restored to health, so that all in all a sizable force could be put into the field. De Stuers was very happy about this and thought that the moment had come to make an end to all wars in West Borneo through this new punitive expedition to Montrado. Tobias agreed, but nevertheless gave De Stuers a number of directives which allow us to form a better understanding of how Tobias considered the situation. For instance, Tobias stressed, “that the Chinese of Dagang had  already suffered greatly because of the successive losses of dead and wounded as well as by the loss of goods, and even more by the large-scale unemployment which they had experienced for such a long span of time on account of their mines.” And again: “that it is no less needful to requite the innocent, including those who by use of violence had been forced into complicity with the uprising and the fighting.” Despite these reservations, he does approve of the punitive expedition, and writes: “It is necessary to give the good people one more good berating, so that they will not be so ready to heed future misplaced summonses, which in their aftermath cause them such great misfortune: this shaking up is best applied by a military expedition like that to Mandor against the levy of a contribution according to circumstances, for which a handover of weapons, especially at Montrado, will be compulsory.” [81]

    The Dutch army, which departed from Sambas on April 6, 1823, comprised 30 officers and 347 men. Santiaogou contributed two hundred armed men, also to function as bearers. Raja Akil was also there, with his flotilla of prahus and another two hundred men. There was also a small contingent of 26 Dutch marines and their officer, manning one gun-boat, all in all more than eight hundred warriors to conquer the township of Montrado. While it was still in Sambas, a delegation from Montrado presented itself to the Dutch authorities with the offer of providing a few hundred bearers to help this whole army to get safely and comfortably to their place of destination! This was of course refused, “for reasons of security,” writes De Stuers.[82]

     The way to Montrado passed through Singkawang. The army found the township undefended. Women and children had been evacuated, and only six or seven hundred able bodied Chinese men occupied the place. As soon as the Dutch arrived, a headman of the latter came to offer their submission. For two days the troops rested in Singkawang, while Sing Sang Zhu Fenghua with his men and part of the Dutch armed forces worked on the improvement of the roads and bridges. In spite of their efforts, the journey to Montrado was difficult, as they were encumbered by the heavy artillery that had been brought along. Indeed, two Dutch officers died from exhaustion on the way.

     The troops arrived at Montrado the 15th at eight in the morning. Here a delegation clad in official robes welcomed them in the traditional manner, with music and food. None of these, according to De Stuers, were the headmen of the Heshun zongting. The commander thereupon repaired to the parliament, where he found only a few scribes, and none of the Dagang leaders. The place was searched, and various weapons, including eighty sharp sabres, were found. Some of the “guilty Chinese” had committed suicide, De Stuers reports. Some of the traders, and the majority of the women and children had disappeared from sight, but they did come back after a couple of days. [83]

     The next day, the 16 April, the headmen of the zongting, or at least twenty-nine of them, came to see De Stuers at the zongting. Among them was “As-sam” (阿三) [84],  who, says De Stuers “had been the very soul of the resistance against the Dutch, who had opposed the evacuation of Lumar, led the attack on Lara, and had inspired the “peaceloveing [Chinese] with great fear”.

     De Stuers does not seem to have had a very clear grasp of the situation. The fact that the leaders had not shown up to welcome him, but now arrived on the second day and with this Chen Sanbo in their midst demonstrated, not that they were afraid of the Dutch but quite the contrary, that they sought to give expression to their displeasure. Immediately De Stuers forbade them to leave the place and held them inside of the zongting, allowing only a few of the most trustworthy ones to go outside.[85] He then told them that as proof of their submission they had to deliver a vast amount of weapons and gunpowder, and if this demand could not been satisfied, a large sum of money. But nothing remotely resembling this was produced. After two days of waiting in vain, De Stuers, having heard that the weapons were kept at the Shangwu and Xiawu buildings, had these places searched and indeed not only a great number of heavy lilas, one hundred and twenty kegs of gunpowder, but even a heavy twelve-pound cannon (the Dutch themselves had brought a single three-pounder with a great deal of effort!) and other large artillery pieces came to light. Thus De Stuers decided to confine ten of the “most guilty” headmen. After this discovery, nothing much of importance was found. Unhappy with this result, De Stuers now demanded six-hundred and fifty taëls of gold. He only got seventy-one taël and a few hundred guilders. The rest, he was told, would perhaps come later. From the bazaar merchants, who by and large had not co-operated with the miners, he asked the arrears in the poll tax, amounting to six hundred guilders in total, which they paid, protesting that they had previously had paid already. [86]

     At the end of his stay, De Stuers announced a number of important new regulations:[87]

– The fortifications around the different kongsi  houses were to be dismantled, never to be rebuilt.

– Each kongsi house had to fly the Dutch flag.

– Henceforward Lara and Singkawang would become, by a special arrangement with the sultan of Sambas, “government districts” (gouvernements-landen), which meant that they fell under direct Dutch administration. Any Chinese, of whatever origin or affiliation, could settle there freely. 

– The opium farming from now on was to be solely in the hands of the Dutch government.

– New heads would be appointed to all kongsis by the Dutch authorities.

       And there were more of these kinds of measures – as well as a host of admonitions – concerning the disbanding of Heshun, the future of Singkawang, the installation of new headmen approved by the Dutch government, and so forth.  The ten arrested headmen were sent over to Tobias who waited aboard a ship at the mouth of the Singkawang River. Finally, the army left Montrado on April 28. At the moment of their departure, De Stuers ordered that the zongting be burned down. This destruction was about the only material thing he accomplished. [88]

     Back in Sambas, on May 1, 1823, Tobias again conferred with all the parties. Liu Zhengbao was there with the heads of the officially declared defunct Heshun zongting. The discussions could now only return to the eternal question of the poll tax. The members of the delegation reported that a sum of 10,465 rupias had been collected, a far cry from the initial estimates. Tobias then gave up. He asked them to give him six thousand rupias which he could distribute to the troops as a recompense for their expedition to Montrado. The rest of the arrears in poll tax were expunged. After having chosen, with the help of Tobias, a number of “captains” among themselves, these were then solemnly installed. All the kongsis were given new seals, which they had to use henceforward.

     A most interesting document relating to this episode has been preserved. Tobias had an imprint of all these seals (tjap) made on a single sheet of paper, to which he added, in his own handwriting the note: “Kongsis permitted by the government” (“Congsies door het gouvernement gepermitteerd”) and his signature: “J.H. Tobias, commissaris”. The document also carries the following text in Chinese (“Chineesch bijschrift”):

“The Dutch government informs the Chinese: from now no all the kongsis fall under the administration of the government. Therefore seals have been issued to serve as means of authentication. Those who do not have these seals are not people of the government. This is hereby declared. Issued in the year 1823 of the Dutch and the third year of Daoguang, the first day of the fifth month”[89]

       The seals printed on the sheet of paper were the following: Dagang (Montrado), Santiaogou (Sepang), Lintian, Santiaogou (Lara), Taihe (Lara), Shiwufen (Lumar), Xinwu (Sungai Raja), Kengwei (Luxiaheng), and Manhe (Sungai Duri).[90]

     After having received their documents and seals,  the leaders of Montrado went to the Sanshanguowang temple in Sambas and there once more solemnly promised never to resist the Dutch government again, never to create any more hui alliances among themselves, to report the number of inhabitants every year to the Dutch and to pay each year a poll tax of two guilder per adult man. Veth even found that they must have said something  like: “If we do not keep this oath, that the Three Kings will make us unhappy, that we may die without a grave and never see our wives and children again”. Tobias then declared a general amnesty. Only four Montrado leaders, among them Chen Sanbo, Luo Pai and, and others whom we know only by their Dutch designation as Gu Lixing and Gu Chen, were exiled to Batavia. A fortnight later Tobias left West Borneo for good.[91] For the sake of clarity we provide a table of the original fourteen kongsis of the Montrado zongting and the changes which occurred over time.

Table 9: List of the fourteen kongsis of the Heshun zongting and their changes*


14  kongsis


7  kongsis


4 kongsis


3  kongsis




3 kongsis



Lao Bafen




























Xin Bafen







Lao Shisifen
























moved to Tayan

















moved to Landak









moved to Lumar





join  zongting in 1850  


Shiliufen (Taihe)


moved to Taman











moved to Sepang







* Before 1850, the Lintian kongsi of Budok never was a member of the Heshun zongting

        Most of Tobias work in relation to the Chinese kongsis was to be undone in the years which followed. Before he left, he had stationed small garrisons all over West Borneo, in Singkawang, in Lara, in Sintang, Sanggau, Tayan, Landak and so on, whose major duty was to assist the Dutch officials in supervising the collection of the poll tax and the opium tax, as well as the other monetary contributions required. Only Montrado was not occupied by the Dutch. For half a year, Borneo’s Wild West remained quiet. The tax revenue did in fact increase considerably. The combined yields of Sambas, Pontianak, Mampawa, Tayan, Landak, and Mandor were: [92]

     1822 – 14874 (guilder)

     1823 – 24624

     1824 – 54497

     1825 – 68970 

       This increase in the yields fell short of expectations and was insufficient to pay for the expenses, especially for those occasioned by the maintenance of the military units. Those of Santiaogou paid their poll tax and mining tax, but asked for reductions because of the meagre yield of the mines.[93] In December, the Heshun alliance of Montrado reported that they had not been able to collect the poll tax. On December 31, 1824, Liu Zhengbao arrived in Sambas and told Van Grave that he could give him only twenty-five percent of the poll tax for the past year, and not even that. He then handed to the Resident the sum of 1041 rupias. When Van Grave asked for the rest, Liu answered that he did not have the money, confessing that his authority was not longer recognized in Montrado. He said that he wanted to be freed from his duties as captain, and retire to enjoy a quiet life in Sambas or Mampawa. Van Grave was, of course, very angry, his ire heightened by the fact that two of the leaders who were exiled in May, one of whom was Luo Pai (who later was to become dage!), had already returned to Montrado and had become secretary of the zongting. Van Grave had put out a reward of one hundred guilders for the capture, dead or alive, of each of the former exiles, so far with no result.

     Very much discouraged, Van Grave came to the conclusion that as long as the mining  kongsis remained all-powerful in their vast domains, no measure taken by the Dutch government would ever be obeyed without endless problems. He therefore conceived the plan of having the four kongsis of the Heshun alliance united with Singkawang in a single vast “government district”. He reckoned that the sultan of Sambas would have no objection, as his authority over that territory amounted to next to nothing, and that only a small military force would suffice to make Montrado obey. The colonial government did go along with the idea of making Montrado a “Dutch province”, but ordered that a garrison of some fifty men be installed there. Here its plans foundered on what appears  instead to have been a successful move in Mandor. Lanfang had yielded the opium and other leases to the Dutch government on the condition it would get half of the yield, which was agreed. In order to enforce this new deal, twelve Dutch soldiers were stationed in Mandor, and this had proved sufficient. The poll tax for 1823 had yielded eight thousand guilders, and it was anticipated that the next year would show a thirty percent increase.

     What was true of Mandor proved the opposite in Montrado where reactions were prompt and violent. The leaders, among them Chen Sanbo recently back from his exile in Batavia, immediately wrote protesting that this was a complete break with the former agreement, and that they refused to have any permanent occupation of their land and would fight to defend it. [94] Unperturbed, Van Grave persisted and a military force of one hundred men, under the command of Captain Trip, formerly stationed in Lara and now at Sambas, reinforced by some troops from the garrisons of Singkawang and Sebalau, amounting to more than two hundred was dispatched. Following the previous scenario, the troops from Sambas landed first at Singkawang, on August 31, 1824.

     Singkawang was completely empty of people, but rumours about an impending attack circulated everywhere. Trip decided to defend Singkawang and started building a benteng, which was ready in a few days. The fighting started on September 19th, and this time the Chinese were victorious. After a further two days of unsuccessful battles, the Dutch found themselves besieged in their benteng by an army of over three thousand Chinese. On the night of September 26, during heavy rainfall, the surviving soldiers of the Dutch troop stealthily slipped out of the benteng, and crawling over the ground finally made it, in the early morning, to the seashore where they could board ship and flee to Sambas. [95] Now Van Grave and Trip became concerned for the garrisons which were stationed all over the country, and especially for that at Sebalau in Lara, lest these would be overrun by the Chinese might and annihilated. Trip ordered the troops back to Sambas. As soon as they had left, the army of Montrado arrived, burned the Dutch stronghold and barracks, and started to turn those of Santiaogou out. Zhu Fenghua attempted to mount an armed resistance, especially in order to save his coffee plantations, but with no success. The Montrado kongsis were back in Lara.

     Again, in a repetition of earlier events, Van Grave went to Batavia to propose hard measures “in order to teach those Chinese a lesson they would remember” and to ask for more troops. He wanted a regular Dutch fortress to be built in Montrado, a prohibition of all Chinese kongsis and a large road between Montrado and Sambas, and many similar measures. Finally he wanted a ban of all Chinese vessels bringing new workers from China. Only the last measure was allowed, but as soon as it was implemented, not only the kongsis of Montrado, but now also those of Mandor were furious.

     The year 1825 began on this troubled note. An all out offensive to liberate West Borneo from the Dutch began to take shape. The Heshun zongting tried to convince the sultan of Sambas to change sides and collaborate with them, but he preferred to remain neutral. Montrado attacked Mampawa, but was repulsed. Then it was the turn of Mandor to try. First they mustered an army of five thousand men to drive the Dutch out of their fortress. Then Mandor attempted to blockade the Kapuas River using a large chain 246 feet in length specially made for that purpose.

     During the summer months, the military activity was scaled down, since the rice had to harvested and the fields prepared anew. Towards the middle of August, Dutch troops from Celebes arrived for the long-awaited Dutch offensive. But hardly had they disembarked, when they were summoned to Java in order to join the war against Diponegoro. In that period of crisis, the policy of non-interference “stelsel van onthouding” gradually took shape. This meant that henceforward the Dutch colonial regime would no longer interfere directly in the administration and peacekeeping of the states with whom it had established contracts. The sultans of West Borneo were now supposed to fend for themselves and co-exist with the Chinese to the best of their ability. In fact, this corresponded exactly to what the Chinese kongsis had always hoped for. The arms were laid down, a status quo was expected, at least for the moment, now that Santiaogou had Sepang and Dagang had Lara. A long period of relative peace and economic expansion of another twenty-five years had begun thanks to the Period of Neglect ( “periode van verwaarlozing”) as Veth and Kielstra call it.


The “Period of Neglect”

        We can be brief about the years that followed. Van Grave, who had died in August 1825 from a gunshot fired from a pirate vessel outside Singkawang, was replaced by Van den Dungen Gronovius. The place of the latter, as Assistant-Resident of  the inner districts, was assigned to W.L. Ritter, who was to play a major role in West Borneo during the coming years. A new Commissioner was sent in the person of P. Diard. One of his first decisions was to give up the attempt to collect the poll taxes from the Chinese, and to replace them by a duty of 12 percent on all goods imported to the Chinese settlements and a token of respect (“huldebewijs”), which was to be paid on a yearly basis.[96] New mines had to pay recognitions (recognitie-gelden) before they could start the exploitation. Santiaogou had to pay 10 taëls of gold every year to exploit their mine at Sepang. The monopolies on opium and salt were continued as before. Each Chinese who wished to return to his motherland had to obtain a passport (zeepas) for the amount of 64 Dutch guilders. [97] In an agreement with the headmen of Montrado, it was decided that foreign boats were not allowed to enter Chinese harbours such as Singkawang, in order to avoid the loss of duties on commodities that were transported inland. [98]  These measures would perhaps have been effective had they been introduced at an earlier date. Now they were well nigh unenforceable.

     It was therefore decided to change the financial policy towards West Borneo. As of 1826, expenditure was reduced. Batavia no longer sent any Dutch officials to the interior to visit the Chinese communities. The Assistant-Resident at both Mampawa and Landak were withdrawn.[99] These measures were not confined to West Borneo, but were more generally applied throughout the Archipelago, because at the time the Dutch administration in the East Indies was running at a deficit due to the costly Java War. In order to be able exploit and defend Java, Sumatra, Banka, and Banda, the expenses on the government in all other localities was kept at a minimum. In 1828 the yield from the taxes, that is the total revenue, was approximately 224,000 guilders, while the Dutch expenses amounted to 254,000 guilders. The deficit amounted to 30,000 guilders. [100] Another reason for changing the Dutch government policies in West Borneo was related to the increase in importance of the British Straights Settlements, resulting in a growing trade between Sambas and Singapore. This was due to the fact that commodities such as opium, salt, and textiles had become very expensive for the Chinese after the Dutch had taken over the monopolies on their trade from the Malay rulers. Secondly, the Dutch did not posses sufficient military might to enforce this monopoly to their own advantage. The sampans from Singapore could very easily avoid the inspection from the soldiers at Sambas and Pontianak by transporting the “forbidden goods” to the Chinese harbours of Singkawang and Pamangkat. A good arrangement by which the Chinese obtained their commodities at a fair price, while the traders from Singapore received their payment in gold. [101]

     The growing importance of the traders from Singapore was not just a problem for the Dutch authorities, it also damaged the interests of the Malay merchants who had been allowed to monopolize the trade in opium. It was therefore at the insistence of the sultan of  Sambas that the Resident and the Assistant-Resident of Sambas decided to thwart Chinese smuggling in 1831. Six fast patrol boats (kruisprauwen) were sent to Singkawang to intercept the boats of the smugglers, but the Chinese chased them away. The sultan now joined the Dutch with ninety prahus and 2200 men to be sent to Singkawang. The Chinese were ordered to surrender their smuggling boats or to pay a fine of 70,000 guilders. If they refused, the Dutch threatened they would attack Singkawang. As a result of this action, the Chinese resistance caved in, and the sultan was asked to mediate in this case. [102]

In 1832, a new Commissioner, E. Francis was appointed armed with a policy of removing all obstacles to free trade, putting an end to the tax system inaugurated by Diard. Considering the fact that the number of ships which visited Borneo each year had dropped considerably [103], while the government still needed to raise funds to pay for the maintenance of its military forces, Francis, following the instructions of his superiors in Batavia, stopped levying any duties, and declared Sambas and Pontianak free ports (vrijhavens).[104] In order to safeguard the monopolies on opium and salt, he ordered that all ships coming from abroad should enter one of these two harbours. In this way he hoped to put an end to the direct trading of merchants from Singapore in the Chinese harbours of Singkawang and Pamangkat. In practice this policy proved to be unworkable. The Chinese were not so easily dissuaded from their smuggling, and English traders from Singapore were also happy to engage in the profitable trade.

G.W. Earl is a good example of these traders. In 1834, carrying a large load of opium from Singapore and ignoring the orders of the Dutch Resident, Earl landed in the Chinese harbour of Singkawang. He also went to Montrado to meet the headmen of Dagang kongsi to negotiate trade between Singapore and Montrado. Eventually he sold all of his opium to opium-smokers from Dagang. His actions greatly angered the Dutch authorities and, true to his earlier threats, the Resident of Sambas led his entire fleet to Singkawang.[105] As we have mentioned, in his travel account Earl noted that the Chinese territory having been a free state and he did not think it necessary to ask Dutch Resident’s permission.

In 1833 the authorities in Batavia ordered that the administration in West Borneo should not intervene in the affairs of the local rulers and the indigenous people in any way. [106] In the period 1838-1847, the authorities in Java even gave orders that no Dutch official should venture into the interior of West Borneo. The reasons for this laisser-faire policy are voiced in a letter from the Dutch Minister of Colonies J.C. Baud, to the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, J.J. Rochussen. The letter is dated October 28, 1845, and deals with all kinds of items concerning the economics, the society, and the development of the region. The section on West Borneo and more specifically the region of Sambas, expresses a number of ideas about how the place could be developed economically without having to invest any Dutch money. His idea was that West Borneo should become a free trade zone where no more taxes of any kind should be levied. First and foremost, such a free trading zone would attract immigration from China, Thailand, and Vietnam. More importantly, it would be in line with the reality that it was simply impossible to levy any taxes without massive government involvement. In Sarawak there was already a free trading zone where goods could be imported without paying any duties. Through the port of Singkawang, the Chinese miners in West Borneo could smuggle anything they wanted, and to prevent them from doing so would entail endless costs and trouble. Then Minister Baud turned to the Chinese themselves. According to his insights, from the point of view of their “moral” character, the Chinese emigrants fall into two categories: [107]

       of which one consists of those who look for bread and order, and the other of those who look for bread and independence. Those who long for an orderly existence go to Java and to other places where discipline and submission reign. Those whose aim it is to form their own independent government, in other words, the firebrands [108]of the Celestial Empire, go for Borneo, Singapore, and Banka; in this last location their democratic principles have been kept in check by the energetic measures taken by Mr. Le Roux.[109] To entice these unruly characters to Borneo must be the aim of the new measures now to be taken. Once they have been settled and their townships have been established, the need for protection will make itself felt spontaneously, and when this can be provided, without harming the free trade, by the government, they will gladly put themselves under the Dutch flag. 

        These fine plans never seem to have been put into practice. During the “period of Neglect”, the Dutch seem to have been incapable of accepting the true nature of the situation and their inability to alter it. In any case the Chinese were more or less left alone and in peace, which gave them every opportunity to continue their former expansion, after it had been so rudely checked by Dutch interference. In Montrado, after the death of old Liu Zhengbao, the leadership had devolved to none other than Luo Pai, the former exile. He was to remain in that position for a decade, until 1836, when he was replaced by Li Debo, another strong character, which allowed Montrado to develop itself once more into an independent republic. The only important event during this period is the final rift in Montrado between Dagang and Kengwei. This again was simply due to the exhaustion of mining sites in the region, but once more expressed itself in dramatic, internecine combat, perfectly fitting the age-old Chinese model. The story of this conflict, which was to make Dagang the sole survivor of the original fourteen kongsis of the Heshun zongting, is described in typical Chinese narrative style in the Xianshi gushi, a translation of which is appended to this study.


[1] “Moeilijk is het te ontkennen dat de Chinezen op Borneo’s Westkust alles aan zichzelven,  aan hunne eigene industrie, en niets aan het gouvernement verschuldigd waren, en dat de tijden die aan het herstel van ons gezag op Borneo’s Westkust waren voorafgegaan, duidelijk geleerd hadden dat zij onze bescherming niet behoefden, die wij hun zo duur verkopen wilden.”

[2] See Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, Inleiding p. XVII sq.

[3] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 4.

[4] When F.W. Stapel edited vol. 6 of the Corpus Diplomaticum Neerlando-Indiuum ( ‘s Gravehage, 1955) he was also unable to locate this agreement. See p. 13.

[5] “Verwikkelingen”, p. 293.

[6] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 8.

[7] Ibidem, p. 11.

[8] Ibidem, p. 13. Muller, who was first dismissed from his job in Sambas in 1819, would later be appointed to plant the Dutch flag in Central Borneo. He was killed by the Bahau Dayaks in November 1825.

[9] Ibidem, pp. 14-15.

[10] Ibidem, p. 15.

[11] Ibidem, p. 18.

[12] One rupia was equal to one guilder.

[13] Veth, Borneo’s  Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 19.

[14] Ibidem, pp. 19-20, “ waar de noodzakelijkheid haar vordert... schijnt mij willekeur geoorloofd”.

[15] Ibidem, p. 21.

[16] Ibidem, p. 22.

[17] Ibidem, p. 23.

[18] Ibidem, p. 24.

[19] Ibidem, p. 25.

[20] Veth says this is Chinese New Year but this is impossible because of the date. Schaank has corrected the error. See Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 27; and Schaank, De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 39, note 1.

[21] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II , p. 27.

[22] One Spanish real was equal to two guilders.

[23] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II,  p. 28.

[24] Ibidem, pp. 28-29.

[25] According to Schaank, one bongkal is about 0.051468 kilogram.

[26] A place near Mandor.

[27] Thirty rupia for a man, fifteen rupia for a woman and seven rupia for a young girl. Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 38-45.

[28] Ibidem, pp. 47-48, based on the description by Nahuys himself.

[29] Ibidem, p. 58.

[30] Ibidem, p,65.

[31] D.W.C. Lijnden, “De verhouding in welke het gouvernement staat tot de Chinezen en de Dajaks op de Westkust van Borneo en voornamelijk op Sambas”, TNI 15 (1853)1, p. 174.

[32] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 145-146.

[33] Ibidem, p. 79.

[34] Ibidem, p. 80.

[35] Ibidem, pp. 88-96.

[36] Van Lijnden, “De verhouding in welke het gouvernement staat tot de Chinezen en de Dajaks op de Westkust van Borneo en voornamelijk op Sambas”, p. 175.

[37] Veth , Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 102.

[38] Ibidem, p. 104.

[39] Ibidem, p. 107.

[40] Ibidem, p. 111.

[41] Ibidem, p. 124.

[42] Malay  for “District head”.

[43] Veth , Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 117-119.

[44] Ibidem, p. 120.

[45] Ibidem, p. 121.

[46] Ibidem, p. 126.

[47] Ibidem, vol. I, p. 98.

[48] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, 1823. ARA, 1814-1849, dossier Borneo, 3081: 259-270.

[49] Ibidem, p. 1.

[50] Italics mine.

[51] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, pp. 1-2.

[52] Ibidem, pp. 2-3.

[53] Ibidem, pp. 3-4.

[54] Ibidem, p. 4.

[55] Ibidem, pp. 4-5.

[56] Ibidem, p. 5.

[57]  We have not been able to identify this person.

[58] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, pp. 7-8.

[59] Ibidem, p. 8.

[60] Ibidem, p. 9.

[61] Ibidem, p. 10.

[62] Ibidem, p. 11.

[63] Van Lijnden, “De verhouding tot de Chinezen en de Dajaks”, p. 180.

[64] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 138.

[65] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, p. 12.

[66] Ibidem, pp. 12-13.

[67] Ibidem, p. 13.

[68] The story is told in detail in Veth’s Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 168-172.

[69] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, p. 14.

[70] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 173.

[71] See L. Blussé and Ank Merens “Nuggets from the gold mines”, pp. 294-301.

[72] These three kongsis were located at Lara.

[73] De Kongsis van Montrado, pp. 45-46.

[74] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 173. Italics mine.

[75] Ibidem, pp. 174-175.

[76] Ibidem, sq. 209.

[77] See the detailed description by Veth Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 403-405.

[78] Ibidem, pp. 209-210.

[79] Quoted in Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 405-406.

[80] Compare Schaank pp. 45-46; and L. Blussé “Nuggets from the gold mines”, pp. 298-299.

[81] Tobias, “Verbaal van het gedane onderzoek en de verrigtingen van den kommissaris van Borneo betrekkelijk de Chinezen van Sambas”, p. 16.

[82] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 176.

[83] Ibidem, p. 177.

[84] According to Schaank this person was Chen Sanbo 陳三伯 (De Kongsis van Montrado, p. 48).

[85] How De Stuers knew who were the most trustworthy ones he does not tell us, but he must have relied on the information of Zhu Fenghua.

[86] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 178-179.

[87] Ibidem, p. 179.

[88] Ibidem, p. 180.


[90] This document was discovered by Schaank. The sheet with Tobias’ handwriting and the Chinese text were preserved, whereas the single sheet with the original imprint has been lost. In his time Schaank collected all the seals he could find and wrote an detailed note on them. The document was recently acquired by the KITLV, and is now in the manuscript collection, no. H1314.

[91] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling,  vol. II, p. 182.

[92] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 431.

[93] Ibidem, p. 407.

[94] Ibidem, pp. 411-412.

[95] The entire story is described in detail in Veth Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 413-415.

[96] Ibidem, p. 439.

[97] Ibidem, p. 439.

[98] Ibidem, p. 500.

[99] Resolutie van 22 juni 1827, no.1. Quoted from Graham Irwin, Nineteenth-Century Borneo, p. 68.

[100] Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, pp. 440-441.

[101] Ibidem, p. 501.

[102] Ibidem, pp. 501-502.

[103] Formerly there were 20 Chinese ships arriving on West Borneo every year, but the number dropped to six later. See Veth, Borneo’s Wester-afdeeling, vol. II, p. 513. 

[104] Ibidem, p. 508.

[105] Earl, Eastern Seas, p. 304.

[106] Resolutie van 28 october 1833, no.5; quoted from Graham Irwin, Nineteenth-Century Borneo, p. 68.

[107] J.C. Baud and J.J. Rochussen, De semi-officiële en particuliere briefwisseling tussen J.C. Baud en J.J. Rochussen: 1845-1851, Vol. III, p. 6. Van Gorcum:Assen 1983.

[108] The text has locofoco’s, which means self igniting devices, things that burn easily, hence firebrands, and especially democrats.

[109] During a revolt of the Chinese miners at Banka in September 1842, Le Roux had hanged a number of their leaders without any form of process, something which earned him a dismissal. He was reinstalled soon thereafter, however.