Chapter 6


(1853 – 1884)


Montrado’s Last Stand

       During the month of May 1853, the embargo was finally imposed. The Dutch military command posted bills at all bazaars, not just Sambas, Mampawa and Pontianak, but also in all the smaller places under its control. It stated that whoever who helped the “rebels” to salt, opium, rice or other foodstuffs would be punished as an accessory before the fact. [1]

     In the same period, Heshun held a great meeting in Montrado to discuss the situation. The news of the impending blockade was known, and the Chinese said that it was better to die fighting than to perish of hunger. It was decided to organize a new army of 1700 men in order to attack Seminis and Sambas. This time each soldier would receive wages to the amount of one quarter of a taël of gold (about twenty guilders).[2] 

     When it became known that Montrado was now planning to attack Seminis, Major W.E. Kroesen dispatched Captain Van Houten to Seminis with 100 men and heavy artillery. He quickly built some defence works there. On May 16, this fortification was attacked by 400 men. A sortie of soldiers armed with bayonets dispersed the attackers. The next day the latter came back with 700 men, and tried to build a fortification on higher ground. Again they were dispersed, and this time a group of 150 Santiaogou Chinese went after them. This damped the enthusiasm of the Dagang soldiers, who left Seminis and did not return for about one month.[3]

    The hostilities resumed around the middle of June. When news came that the enemy was again on the offensive, Kroesen went by boat to Sebawi with two companies and some artillery. The Dagang army was estimated at 1200 men divided into three detachments in order to attack respectively the fortification at Seminis, the kongsi house there, and Sungai Biru, which was occupied by Pauwels with forty men. Stealthily, and with the help of a guide from Santiaogou, Kroesen approached Sungai Biru, which was already surrounded by 900 Dagang soldiers. But as soon as the Dutch attacked some of the benteng and chased the Chinese away, the latter regrouped on another front, this time around Seminis. After the Dutch attacked with their entire force of some 300 soldiers, they retreated through the fields and hills, burning the vegetation as they passed, so that at the end of the day, the Dutch had strayed far from their base. Seizing the moment, the Chinese then attacked, inflicting many casualties, but as they were no match for the precision of the Dutch fire, they had to retreat again as night fell. The Dutch troops returned to Seminis. A few days later, as the Dutch troops were utterly exhausted and demoralized, Kroesen went back to Sambas with his men, leaving Van Houten at Seminis. Dagang, in the meantime, assembled its forces at Kedondong, Lumar, and Sepang.[4]

     Andresen tried with all his might to regain the initiative and, as he writes, to show the Dagang people that he would not let them live undisturbed in their own territory. He chose therefore to conquer a benteng at the mouth of the Selakau River, where some time before Dutch marines from the Celebes had been beaten off by Dagang. This small-scale expedition was very thoroughly prepared, and was executed on July 7. The benteng as well as the kongsi house at Selakau were stormed and taken. When they were examined they proved to contain traditional Chinese weapons and ammunition, and also fourteen cannon, including one of European manufacture. The Dutch thereupon burned everything. All houses and boats were destroyed, so that nothing remained of the settlements of Bentunai and Sungai Ngiri. [5]

     The description of the above events is based on the Dutch sources collected by Kielstra. Fortunately, H. Von Dewall, who had come to Borneo to assist A. Prins and had remained as Assistant-Resident of Sambas after the latter’s departure [6] also has documented the conflict by drawing upon Chinese informants, whose words are preserved in his report, albeit interspersed with his own comments.[7] This report tells us the way things were handled and what was experienced in Montrado. Here follow some of the main passages related to these events:

          The troops who marched to Seminis in May and June consisted of the same bodies as those who marched upon Sepang, with the exception of some minor changes among the commanders of the banners.

          The forces had also been augmented by a banner of fifty men from Guanyin niang, the female oracle of the Shangwu and Xiawu, which was placed under the command of Luo Guangnian.

          During the first attack Wen Fang and Yang Dianbo commanded the large banners of Shangwu and Xiawu respectively; the other commanders were the same, as were the magicians.

          The commanders of the second banner were: Wen Yan, of the large banner of the Shangwu; Yang Hanzhang, of the second banner of Shangwu; Huang Chenzhong, of the large banner of the Xiawu; Huang Zhongda, of the second banner of the Xiawu.       The rest of the personnel consisted of the same people.

     Von Dewall himself: The losses at Montrado in the first attack amounted to one hundred dead, in the second fifty.

        Liao Erlong and his party, in agreement with them, that is the oracles – after the second attack on Seminis had failed – proclaimed that, although it was true that no new expedition should be undertaken, the Company [i.e.: the Dutch] would not dare to take the offensive against the kongsi, and that the entire population could therefore resume their usual occupations.

          Work on the goldwashers was resumed, the fields were tilled again, and the whole country was at peace, as though no enemy was to be feared. Only the emplacements along the beach were still manned.

          Fang Sen, of Montrado, was made commander of the fortification at the mouth of the Singkawang – which was manned by forty troops, who were relieved every fourth day – and prevented our blockading ships from landing.

       Von Dewall himself: Notwithstanding repeated defeats; notwithstanding the blockade, which had already been maintained for several months; notwithstanding the softly worded written invitation from the Major in charge of the political affairs of 1853, in which the rebels once again were given one month to come to Sambas to hear the conditions on which their surrender could be accepted; notwithstanding all these circumstances that would have made a lesser people contrite, the rebels persisted in their resistance.

         Such was the situation prevailing in the land, when the afore-mentioned warrant from the Major arrived. The letter from the Major was received in the Shangwu. The senior members of the bazaar were summoned and the consultations began.

          The administration of the kongsi and the entire party of Liao Erlong were strongly opposed to submission. Against their obduracy, the proposals of the seniors members of the bazaar had little effect. It was not only decided not to accept the concessions offered by the Major, but also to send a reply to the said letter written in a derisve tone. Liao Erlong, Lin San’an, and Yang Qi drafted this answer. The last-mentioned was also the scrivener. 

          As was mentioned above, an attack by the government was not feared but the blockade was viewed as a bother, especially, because this made the supply of opium very difficult and dangerous to maintain. This resulted in a scarcity of this commodity which was such an indispensable article in the rebellious districts.

     The cruiser which guarded the coast off Singkawang was therefore frequently shot at, both from the shore and from vessels, in the hope that it would desert its post and would thereby allow vessels to be sent from Sarawak to Singapore.

      Apparently Andresen had thought that, after the installation of the blockade and the fighting at Seminis and other places, Montrado might rapidly capitulate. He also may have thought that the bazaar party would now be ready to enter into some kind of negotiations, hence his letter asking Montrado to capitulate in the autumn of 1853. It is remarkable that nothing is mentioned in the Dutch sources about this letter and even less about the derisive answer of the Montrado leaders. The second half of 1853 passed in this kind of stalemate. The blockade was felt and opium especially must have been at a premium. How the blockade was put into effect and what exactly it achieved is difficult to assess. It raises the following questions:

– How could a blockade be enforced along this entire part of the coast of West Borneo, consisting as it did at that time of a wide-open estuary which was navigable almost everywhere by light crafts crossing over from any island in the vicinity and perhaps even from Singapore? In all probability the Dutch could only block the entrances to the main river mouths and control the traffic on the main arteries and ports.

– Did the blockade aim at putting a stop to all imports of opium, salt, and rice in West Borneo? If so, the entire population, including the Malays, Dayaks and also the Chinese merchant communities of the port cities and those of Mandor were punished along with the people of Montrado. This does not seem to have been the case. Imports must have continued to arrive at Pontianak and only their distribution further inland (by river) must have been controlled.

– The opium rights had been sold in January of that very year, 1853, to a consortium in Pontianak in which Montrado also had a share. What were the effects of the embargo on opium? Assuming that the rich merchants of the Montrado bazaar, such as Wu Changgui, stood to lose from the fact that no opium was to be sold to “the rebels”, what could be the efficacy of the measure, besides making opium more expensive, on account of the increased transportation and distribution costs? 

– The embargo seems to have been carried out only along the coast. What about West Borneo’s extensive frontier with Sarawak? Was that guarded too?

       In the light of all this, it would seem that the blockade might well have hurt the economic situation, especially that of the Chinese traders and the bazaar of Montrado even more so, which was often perceived as an agent for peace with the Dutch at all costs. But apart from this, it is highly doubtful that the embargo could effectively curb the inflow of basic foodstuffs or even opium into the “rebel” quarters. In general, life seems to have gone on as usual, including mining activities. With the arrival of the monsoon, the embargo could no longer be maintained. Von Dewall reports that:

          When, at the time of the western monsoon of 1853-54, the blockading vessels could no longer hold their position on the lee shore and were obliged to find a shelter from the tempestuous weather, the rebels imagined that our cruisers had fled before their guns, and they sent vessels to Sarawak and Singapore to purchase opium and salt.

         Their venture did succeed, and they saw three vessels from Singapore – sailed by Peng Shengyang, Qin Caikeng, and Zhu Gengsui, and carrying 30 1/8 cases of opium – safely make the harbour at Sungai Duri, not to mention several vessels carrying small quantities of opium and salt from Sarawak at Singkawang. It is only natural that this should have swelled Dagang pride.

      It was only at the end of 1853 that things slowly came to a head. It seems that at the  beginning December 1853 Montrado asked Liu Asheng, the Jiatai of Mandor, to act as an intermediary with the government in order to begin negotiations. This may well have been an initiative prompted by the Montrado bazaar, preoccupied with the renewal of the opium concession. But according to the Dutch sources quoted by Kielstra, [8] Liu refused as long as the Dutch government “had not accepted their (i.e. Montrado’s) submission” and even declined to have anything to do with them. In retaliation, Montrado is reported to have wished to punish him by sending a force of 400 men against him, but as the oracles pronounced themselves against this, the expedition was abandoned. Given the precarious situation, “more people were sent to the seashore and the frontiers”, probably to ensure the safety of the convoys of food and opium.

     Chinese New Year fell on January 29, 1854. During the following days, the parties for peace and war quarrelled bitterly and on February 10, 1854, Wu Changgui and his followers succeeded in having Liao Erlong and Huang Du dismissed as heads of the kongsi. Now the road was open for negotiations with and eventual submission to the Dutch.[9] The financial situation of the Heshun zongting was assessed, and the result was disastrous. The net credit on balance amounted to no more than four and a half taël of gold dust. This is corroborated by Von Dewall’s report:

         Financially too the kongsi was in dire financial straits: at the closing of the accounts on the 27th day of the 1st month of the year jiayin (February 26, 1854), the balance of credit amounted to nothing more than four and a half taël of gold dust.

          In addition to this, the following objects of value, which could not be used as money, were found in the kongsi: two golden flowers, gifts to the kongsi, 1/4 taël each; eight ingots of gold, fines exacted by the kongsi, weighing half to one taël; six ingots of silver, fines equally, weighing from eight to twenty-five guilders; three pieces of pure gold of 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4 taël.

          The kongsi also owned a gold-mounted pike weighing one taël, a gift to the kongsi from Yang di pertuan Omar Akham Ouddin of Sambas.

       Losing patience, Andresen had not waited that long to assess his situation. At the end of 1853, he recognized that his strategy of isolating Montrado had not worked, which caused him immense disappointment. He saw no other way to achieve his purpose than to launch a full-scale military expedition against Montrado and occupy the place. This was a very hazardous and difficult undertaking, for which in the first place he needed far more troops than he had at his disposal. He should have launched this offensive before the rainy season set in. He had tried to intimidate the Dagang leaders into surrender, setting deadline after deadline, but with no result.[10] He therefore wrote to Batavia, proposing to prepare a large force, to be accompanied by seven hundred coolies especially brought over from Java, and to start the operation in February 1854. He reckoned that even if the Montrado people had surrendered by that time, a military occupation of the place was absolutely necessary. Governor-General Duymaer van Twist replied on November 28, 1853, that the government agreed in principle, but that Andresen had to come to Batavia to talk things over.

     Andresen arrived in Batavia just before New Year’s day and presented a lengthy “Note on an Expedition to be Undertaken into the Chinese (sic!) Heartlands”. [11] In it, he advocates the eradication of Dagang. First all the other kongsis such as Lumar, Budok, and Lara should be dissociated from it, and be put under separate governments. Then Dagang, reduced to its own territory at Montrado and its immediate environs, could be subdued. The name of Dagang should be expunged, as the issue of “that renunciation has become the true cause of the rebellion”.[12] He expressed his conviction that this could be obtained by a militarily occupation of Montrado: “Once Montrado has fallen, then even partial resistance is rendered unthinkable.”

     Here, as the events would prove, he was entirely mistaken. But on another question he judged more correctly: the key to Montrado was Singkawang. “More evil emanates from Singkawang than from Montrado itself.” Andresen even said that Liao Erlong was originally from Singkawang and was the instigator of all the trouble, acting without the consent of the traders of the Montrado bazaar. Also, the best road to Montrado began at Singkawang.

     The remainder of his long note dealt only with matters of strategy, personnel, and armaments. In short, Andresen asked for the addition of three companies fully accoutered, plus an additional force of gunners and other technicians. His proposal fell on willing ears. The colonial army command by General-Major Bakker considered Andresen’s requests too modest and proposed even larger numbers of troops. He stated that is was altogether remarkable that the “rebellious Chinese” had already been able to withstand the Dutch army for a three full years which implied that “the means they have at their disposal are larger than that of any nation we have ever fought in the Archipelago.” Other commanders chimed in, as each corps apparently wanted to share in the glorious annihilation of the abominable Chinese.[13]

     Andresen returned to Borneo on March 4, 1854, ready to start his offensive. All the troops were concentrated in Sambas, and their transportation and preparation took more that one month. On May 10, 1854, everything was ready. Seeing such a great armed force assembled, the sultans of Sambas and Pontianak also rallied to the Dutch cause and all of the sudden proposed supplying plenty of coolies and vessels for transportation. All in all, the main force for the attack on Singkawang amounted to no less than 1700 soldiers. As a point of disembarkation, Andresen had chosen Selakau, where he had battled with wooden logs deposited at the river mouth and had chased away the occupants of a single benteng at the beginning of July 1853. Not impressed by these feats, Dagang had ceased to take him seriously.  As Von Dewall reports:

          Under these circumstances, at the beginning, the kongsi quite unconcernedly received the news that preparations were being made at Sambas for an expedition against Singkawang and Montrado. It must, however, have grown clearer that this expedition was to be a serious matter. The reports grew more and more alarming.

          However much the kongsi was convinced that it was about to undergo a fierce attack, it could not bring itself to believe that – as rumour had it – our troops would march from Bentunow overland to Singkawang.

          This was considered entirely impracticable and the spreading of these rumours was thought to be a stratagem of the Dutch, who were using it to divert attention, in order to be able to bring off an easy landing at Singkawang.

       By now, as we have seen, the bazaar party had the upper hand in Montrado, and several overtures were made preparatory to entering into negotiations. Von Dewall reports that a letter was written to this effect, when the financial situation had been found to have degenerated alarmingly:

          In these dire straits they wrote, in April 1854, a letter to the government, in which the chiefs at Pontianak and the regent, Zheng Hong, were accused of being the instigators of the rebellion and begged to be forgiven.

          However, in this case the Chinese authorities did not repudiate their vainglorious character: while they begged for mercy with tears in their eyes, they declared that “the tiger (i. e. the kongsi) in the fullness of its might should not let itself be humiliated by the dragon in its palace at Batavia (the Governor-General)”. ...

          The letter was sent to be delivered to Sjarif-Abdoel Rahman bin Mohammed [14] at Pontianak. He, however, handed it over to the authorities. The signers of the letter were Lin San’an, Liao Erlong, Huang Jin’ao, Huang Du, Yang Qi, Wu Sheng, Zhong Sheng, Lai Zhunfen, and Guan Hui 官輝; Yang Qi was the scrivener.

         The Dutch did not bother to reply, as preparations for the offensive were already in full swing. Finally Montrado decided to react. Here again we only have Von Dewall’s report:

           Not until the 8th day of the fourth month of the year jiayin (May 4, 1854) did Liao Erlong, Huang Du, Lin San’an, and the supervisors of the Shangwu and the Xiawu with three banners (324 men) proceed  under the command of Gu Xin, Zhong Bing, and Fang Yang, and some 300 coolies, to Singkawang, in order to make some preparations.

          These armed men of Montrado were joined by two banners of Singkawang, under the command of Liu Jin and Huang Sen, and the supreme command over the five united banners was entrusted to Lin San’an.

          The kongsi tried to buoy its soldiers’ spirits with placards boasting their feats of war.

          After the occupation of Singkawang two placards were found in the kongsi house there. The first – dated the 13th day of the 4th month (May 11, 1854 [15]) – was brought to Singkawang by Huang Du; the second – dated the 21st day of the 4th month (May 19 [16], 1854), which had apparently not yet been pasted up – had been brought from the Shangwu to Singkawang by miners.

       The texts of these placards have survived, albeit in Dutch translation by Kielstra. Here follows their translation. It is of course very hazardous to translate into English from the Dutch what was certainly an imperfect translation from the Chinese. However, considering the scarcity of original Chinese source materials, the present documents should not go unheeded.

       Proclamation by the Heshun Dagang kongsi for the annihilation of the enemy:

      Our capital we obtain from our land; when our land is strong, then our capital is great.

     Our inhabitants gain their sustenance from food; when food is abundant, then all undertakings are easy.

     Today the Dutch have come with a large army, in order to attack the harbour. They look like tigers, and because of these tigers, the population is afraid. Therefore we must be on our guard and the army commanders under our authority must be united to defend the place and also fight as one man against the enemy.

     Should unity prevail, then we think there will be no danger. While we remain united to the end, we can assure you that this place will be preserved for thousands and tens of thousands of years. Therefore we, the kongsi, have issued this proclamation to exhort all our army leaders, that they fight in unity and kill all the enemies and completely annihilate them.

     If you help your land in this way, your merits will be great and you will be lavishly rewarded. Should you fight these Dutch dogs and be wounded, then we, the kongsi, will see that you are healed; if you die from your wounds, then we will pay the funeral expenses sixfold and moreover send four amas of gold to [your family in] China.

     Those of you who are wounded and then die at Montrado will be given a coffin and will be buried in the ordinary fashion.

     This we have put on paper, so that all may know it. Written on May 9, 1854. [this is the 13th day of the forth moon]

The second proclamation read:

The Heshun Dagang kongsi makes known the following:

     Fight the enemy as one; defend yourself vigorously; do not retreat.

     Our land is the source of our life. When our land is strong, then we can easily provide for our livelihood; when food is abundant, then all undertakings are easy. Therefore you, the thousands and tens of thousands under our command: if you are strong and have enough to eat, what do you have to worry about from the enemy? We pray you: stand by each other in unity; think about the well-being of our people and of our land; if we stand united, then these enemy dogs will surely be afraid of us.

We also proclaim that henceforward no one, old or young, male or female, may spread false rumours or may absent him or herself under the pretence of visiting relatives. All those who dare to go away under such a subterfuge, even if they have a wife and children, will be arrested and severely punished. Their possessions will be confiscated and they will be placed in a yoke and punished as is customary.

     Follow what has been written here and do not stray from these commands. Whosoever has the temerity to do so shall be punished as written here above.

     Posted at Singkawang on May 17, 1854. [17]

       The disembarkation at Bentunai finally went ahead on May 13. The place was deserted, the landing pier was no longer there and in heavy rain the soldiers had to wade waist-deep through the mud before reaching dry ground. The whole process took a full four days, and the march to Singkawang another three. On May 17, the troops came to a big benteng near Sungai Ui Besar. This place was defended, but after heavy fighting, the Chinese fled. Von Dewall, based on the archives of Montrado, reports that:

Gu Xin personally commanded the vanguard and died in battle. The fortifications at Sungai Ui Besar, seized by our troops on May 17 were defended by the banner of Fang Gan, who that day received a “bullet through the chest, which caused his death”.

       When the exhausted soldiers finally reached the benteng on May 18, they found it undefended, and all houses, including the bazaar, completely empty of people. The only objects of value that were found were fishing nets. These were collected and sent to Sambas to be sold. Von Dewall reports that Liao Erlong, Huang Jin’ao, and Lin San’an remained at Singkawang until May 19; Huang Du and both the zhazhu of Shangwu and Xiawu had taken flight at an earlier date. The general population had fled to Kulor.

     Andresen’s next step was to entreat them to return. The farmers were especially important to him, as the settlement of Singkawang and the surrounding country was the rice granary of Borneo. He immediately sent a proclamation to Kulor stating that all those who wished to submit themselves to Dutch rule could return to their homesteads. The next day, May 19, he received a letter sealed with the small seal of Dagang begging him to show leniency and asking him to reconfirm in writing his intention to take no punitive actions. As Andresen had foreseen, the conquest of Singkawang would precipitate the disintegration of the Heshun zongting, and force the different kongsis to fend for themselves in establishing relationships with the Dutch. As Von Dewall reports  “After the occupation of Singkawang on May 18, the deputies of the kongsis of Budok, Lumar, and Lara came to offer their submission. Only the kongsi Dagang did not appear.”

     Indeed, the more than 2000 refugees at Kulor were protected by the troops of Liao Erlong, under the leadership of the great commander himself. He had given orders to burn everything on the approach of the Dutch troops. This prompted Andresen to issue a second proclamation to all inhabitants, not only at Kulor but also those of Montrado. Andresen began by retracing the events of the last year. He argued that it was at the request of the leaders of the Heshun zongting and in order to put an end to the conflict between them and Santiaogou that Sepang was occupied, but that they then attacked the government troops. They were defeated and had to retreat but, in spite of that lesson, they had still attacked Seminis twice. In order to punish them and teach them a new lesson, Andresen had then destroyed Bentunai. Because he was convinced that these hostile actions were inspired by a minority of warmongers, he had given them a month to send a delegation to Sambas to be instructed about the conditions for their submission and to be able to make these known to the population. [18]

       However, continues Andresen, instead of following up on this token of favour offered by the government, Montrado had replied with scornful letters, boasting of its prowess. Instead of submission, the government’s vessels had been fired upon at Singkawang and Sungai Duri. In retaliation for these actions Singkawang had now been taken and its population was forced to wander in the wilderness. All those who wished to return and submit themselves, would be given back their homes.

     In a few days, Andresen wrote, he would be arriving at Montrado with  his troops. The Dutch government wanted only peace and prosperity. If the population of Montrado now wished to capitulate, they had to send a person carrying a white flag to meet the advancing troops. All arms and powder should be assembled at a given place and be handed over to the troops before their arrival at Montrado. Those people still found in possession of weapons would be hanged without further process of law. Women and children could remain safely at home, they would come to no harm. This was the very last message. No others were to follow.

      A reply to this proclamation came on May 23. It read:

          Reply by the kongsis Heshun Dagang, Lintian, and Shiwufen, presented with respect before the Hon. Lieutenant-Colonel

         We have read your letter and are most grateful for your compassion and for the mercy shown by God towards mankind. We recognize that, although this part of the territory of Sambas belongs to our kongsis, it was initially opened up by the Dutch. Since that time we have both enjoyed peace in this place.

          Because of the burning of our seal, the whole land has grown angry. We have always wished to write a letter to sue for peace, but we could not find an experienced person who could counsel us about the way it should be worded. Also, we never found a suitable person who could deliver such a letter. We have considered coming to Sambas ourselves, but we were afraid to be confronted there with those who defame us, and therefore we did not go. In this way, we have not become acquainted with each other and we have suffered a state of confusion. It is written: if the lord and the servant each follows his own opinion, then there will be uncertainty.

          We are very well aware that we entertain false opinions about each other, and therefore we have refrained from making war on Penibungan (Fort Sorg) and Sambas. Also we have never dared not to pay the taxes.

          Now so much distress and destruction has assailed us that is better for us to die, although we can still live, and better to leave although we could persevere. Should it come to a battle, we cannot win, so the only option for us is to flee to another land, and here we will not leave a single footprint, a single leaf of grass.

          As long as the old customs can be preserved, we shall submit to your command.

          With tears of blood we appear before you with this letter, in the hope that you will accept our request. Please advise us soundly.

          We hope that whoever reads this letter will peruse it attentively and not misunderstand it, but will translate its true meaning.

          Written in Montrado in the Shangwu, the 22 May, 1854 (seals of each of the three Montrado kongsis).[19]

       This letter makes it crystal clear that Dagang demanded that all the former arrangements be maintained or re-established, which was tantamount to a refusal of Andresen’s conditions. Some Chinese returning to Singkawang exacerbated the situation by reporting that Dagang was offering rewards of up to twelve taëls of gold to whoever would set fire to the bazaars of Singkawang or of Djintan, and that at least six people had come forward volunteering to do so.[20] Andresen retaliated by issuing a proclamation offering a reward of ten Spanish reals to those who would give information leading to the arrest of the arsonists.

     The die was cast and everything was being prepared for the march on Montrado. There was no longer any true organized resistance, but time and again Dagang tried to regroup their defence and attack or harass the colonial army. Around May 26, Dagang succeeded in re-inforcing its defence of Kulor and establishing a number of strategically located, well-armed fortresses. When the colonial army under the leadership of Nauta and De Brauw attacked them, the Dagang soldiers fled, but not without setting fire to the bazaar and the kongsi house, which burned down completely. The event is also reported by Von Dewall:

      Liao Erlong, Huang Jin’ao, and Lin San’an proceeded from Singkawang to Kulor, from where they were chased away after they had set fire to the bazaar. After having spent one night at Montrado, they and their entire following fled to the side of Mandor and Lara.     

     Their scheme of setting fire to both the bazaar of Montrado and the bazaar of Kulor was frustrated by the alertness of the population of the bazaar.

          On May 28, a deputation from the bazaar party of Montrado came to Singkawang to see Andresen. They besought mercy and brought a letter with the seals of all the three kongsis of the Heshun zongting, which asked that Montrado be spared. The delegates said that all the warmongers had fled, and that the latter no longer had supplies of firearms or powder. Their attempts to set fire to the bazaar of Montrado had been thwarted. Andresen sent them back with the message that all had been said in his proclamation of May 20 (see above). He let it be known that further measures would be taken upon his arrival at Montrado but that he demanded that the entire population should be out kneeling in the streets of Montrado the moment the troops entered the place. It was only by doing this would their lives and property be spared. Two of the delegates were kept in Singkawang as hostages.

                   The march on Montrado began on May 30 and four days later, on June 2, the Dutch troops reached the township. As they approached the bazaar, some thirty rich merchants clad in white robes and carrying a white flag, went out to meet the troops. They knelt and prayed for forgiveness. They were sent back with the message that all the inhabitants had to leave their houses and kneel in the streets until the last soldier had passed. The two regiments entered Montrado in total silence, and the entire population was found kneeling before their houses. The army took up quarters in the ting, the Shangwu, and the Xiawu. The victory seemed complete. Andresen exulted and in his report of two days later extolled the success of his army:  the troops had endured and overcome the most incredible hardships; to a man they had shown magnificent discipline and great courage against the deafening salvoes and horrible war-cries of the Chinese.[21] The government of the Dutch Indies hastened to transmit these wonderful tidings to Holland and to His Majesty King William III. The latter was exceedingly pleased and as soon as the news had reached him wrote to the Governor-General on the 15th of August 1854: [22]

       With heartfelt joy I have received the tidings of the glorious events accomplished in West Borneo, in which both the naval and land forces have shown what they have always been: excellent, courageous, and good.


     Please convey to my valorous brothers-in-arms the warmest feelings I have for their well-being and glory, especially for these brave souls who participated in the glorious submission of Montrado. To them I wish to communicate my greatest satisfaction. Especially tell Lieutenant-Colonel Andresen of my highest appreciation. ... It pleases me to extend to him a token of my exceptional satisfaction by promoting him to Knight of the Order of William (Willemsorde) of the Third Class and to appoint him as my aide-de-camp in special service.


          Overnight Andresen became the great conqueror of the rebellious Chinese, the mighty victor of the terrible Dagang kongsi. On July 12 he issued a long decree (bevelschrift) from the ting at Montrado concerning the measures that he, as conqueror and ruler, had decided to take against the seditious and mutinous Chinese.[23] It begins, once more, by reiterating how lenient, humane, tolerant, and the like, the Dutch colonial government had been. Now, however, the day of reckoning had come. Andresen decreed that:

– The federation of the three Heshun kongsis was dissolved.

– Montrado, Budok, Lumar, and Lara would be administered by government-appointed officers.

– The Dagang kongsi and the associations of miners united under the names of Shangwu and Xiawu have been destroyed, their possessions, and houses as well as mines, will be confiscated. As they have burned Kulor and offered prizes for the destruction of the bazaars of Singkawang and Djintan, they must be punished in a way which would set an exempla.

– The heads of these associations will be arrested and handed over to the authorities wherever they be found. It is forbidden on penalty of death to keep them in hiding. [24]

– A premium of fifty Spanish reals per person arrested is offered for the six first persons on  this list.

–The heads of the armies that attacked Sepang, Kedondong and Seminis must also be handed over. [25]

– Although the rebellion was incited by the above-named and kept going through the armies of the Shangwu and Xiawu, all Chinese did participate in some way or another. As punishment, they therefore have to pay the following collective fines:

(1) The costs of the war.

(2) The value of the goods stolen and destroyed at Kedongdong.[26]

(3) The value of the prahu burned at Sungai Duri.

How and by whom all this will be paid is to be decided later. The inhabitants of Singkawang, Djintan, Sedau, and Kulor who have lost everything are exempt.

– Singkawang, Djintan, Sungai Raya, and Sungai Duri will be occupied, and, for the time being, Montrado and Kulor as well. Roads will be built, and the people of the places through which these roads pass will have to furnish the labour.

– Taxes will be levied on all Chinese.

– No taxes are to be levied by the Chinese themselves.

– No labour can be exacted from the Dayaks any longer. Those who disobey this order will face the death penalty. All debts owed by the Dayaks to Chinese are herewith declared void. No Chinese is allowed to ask a Dayak for the return of any loan or interest. No new debts are to be contracted. The Dayak tribes that have fled may now return to their old homesteads.

– No new mines are to be opened.

– All fortifications have to be destroyed and levelled within the space of one month.

– All miners of Budok, Lumar, Lara, and Montrado in the territory of Sepang are to leave this place immediately. Those who are still found there in a fortnight’s time will be condemned to exile and forced labor.

      Andresen was now sure there would be no more resistance and considered Montrado disarmed. Some twenty people asked for permission to leave in order to look for the rebels who had to be arrested but only five of the minor leaders were actually caught and imprisoned in the ting. Later Huang Du was also handed over to the Dutch. It was thought that all the others had fled to Mandor. [27] Liu Asheng from Mandor had written a very polite letter on May 29 offering to mediate between the Montrado Chinese and the Dutch.[28] Andresen now answered him stating that the government did not negotiate with rebels and also asked that the miners from the Shangwu and Xiawu who had fled to Mandor be handed over. Liu complied with this, and at a later stage he did the same with Lin San’an, Huang Jin’ao, and Zheng Lin. But he gave sanctuary to Liao Erlong and later helped him escape to Sarawak.

     All this shows that, in spite of Andresen’s self-assurance and all the glory heaped on him, from the very beginning, things were not progressing as well as he had hoped. There was far worse to come.  As Van Rees, who arrived in Montrado a few days after Andresen’s troops, writes, the ‘conquest’ had been too easy to be true, and all the leaders were still out in the woods. Preening themselves for the moment, the Dutch were more than sanguine, and even Commissioner A. Prins, who had prudently retired from the Borneo scene after the battle of Sepang, now returned “in order to progress in the accomplishment of his missions”. He arrived in Pontianak on July 10.[29]

     In the meantime, the more than two thousand troops stationed in Montrado were beginning to be quelled by the heat, the boredom, and the lack of provisions. Most food had to be brought in by coolies from Singkawang or even from as far away as Sambas. The Malay coolies contributed by the sultan had either run away during their first days at Montrado or were entirely useless. There were some sixty or seventy Javanese convicts (kettinggangers) who could be used, but there was not enough of them. Chinese were also drafted to do the work but, as Andresen remarks, this solution could not be continued forever, as it was now imperative that the Chinese should return to their occupations if the local economy was to be restored to its former healthy condition. It was also not long before an epidemic of cholera broke out among the troops at Montrado, sapping their morale even further.

     Andresen went to Pontianak to greet Commissioner Prins, and after having rested, undertook an inspection tour of the now pacified regions of West Borneo. He and his party left Pontianak by boat on July 18. On the evening of the next day, when they arrived at the roadstead of Singkawang, news reached them that Montrado had been attacked by a large Chinese army. Disembarking at Singkawang, Andresen found the town and its environs almost deserted.


The Jiulong Kongsi

       Firm in their resolve, the Chinese had taken the opportunity to reorganize their resistance during the preceding weeks, with Liao Erlong as their most important leader. Liao had previously headed the anti-Dutch party inside the Heshun alliance at the time of the first kongsi war of 1850. Since that time, the two groups had constantly been at loggerheads within the Montrado community. Yet, when a decision was reached, always after first consulting the “oracles” (that is the patron gods or saints of the different sanctuaries), the members of the alliance would loyally follow. So, when Andresen and Prins endeavoured to occupy Sepang in a move to implement Dutch rule over the lands formerly held by Santiaogou and Dagang, the representatives of the regentschap, whose members by and large represented the wealthy bazaar merchants interested in the opium concession and peaceful relations with the Dutch, went immediately to Sepang to present their homage. But, when the assembly at Montrado then consulted the gods and agreed that Sepang should not be abandoned to the Dutch as this would be a first step to the conquest of Montrado, the people elected Liao Erlong as the zongshuai and put him at the head of the armies that would liberate the place.

     Kielstra, quoting a report by Andresen dated 19 August 1854, says that Liao Erlong belonged to the Tiandihui. He had been initiated into the brotherhood when he was still living in China. It was said that he had tried to found a similar fraternity when he arrived in Borneo. His plans were thwarted by the kongsi leaders (we have seen that the proscription of the Tiandihui was part of the first agreement between Willer and the Montrado delegation in 1850). The ban could not be absolute and, Liao was be no means the only member of the sect. He and his fellow brethren met in secret. [30]

     As we have seen, the Tiandihui was also a powerful paramilitary organization whose members were trained in all kinds of martial arts and provided instructors in these arts for temple communities such as the Guanyin army of the Xiawu. It therefore stands to reason to presume that Liao Erlong must have been a prominent teacher of martial arts in the Montrado community, hence his election as zongshuai. The fact that the troops were organized into regiments of one hundred and eight braves, in keeping with the sacred number of baleful stars which incarnated themselves as the heroes of the popular Chinese novel Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳 (Water Margin) [31] reinforces the argument that we are dealing here with traditional temple militia under the command of their martial arts (wushu 武術) teachers.

     Again according to Andresen’s report, the Dutch occupation of Montrado was marred by a plethora of complaints lodged by the Chinese about pilfering, maltreatment, and even murder. Andresen, as well as Van Rees considered the importance of these incidents exaggerated, but did not deny that they occurred. Liao Erlong and his fellow Tiandihui members set about organizing the resistance. One of their first acts was to import new arms and gunpowder from Singapore in the course of the month of July. We know of only one ship that eluded the coast guards and landed inland from Sungai Duri, but there may have been many more. Thanks to these arrivals, the Chinese could now rearm. Prudently the resistance movement no longer used the name of Heshun or that of Dagang, but called itself the Jiulong, or “Nine Dragons”, kongsi.

     It was this organization that began to harass the Dutch and later waged battles with them from its stronghold at Banyaoya, before setting fire to the bazaar of Montrado on July 25. On the night of July 18, the Dutch troops who were stationed in the three kongsi houses – the ting, the Shangwu, and the Xiawu – were surrounded by Chinese soldiers and Dayaks who fired shots at them. The Dutch made a sortie and the Chinese, little used to hand-to-hand combat, retreated along the road to Lara. There, about half an hour’s distance from the ting, they established a stronghold. The next day, the Dutch tried to rout them there. They discovered that all the surrounding hills were occupied by hundreds of Chinese soldiers with firearms. At Banyaoya the two armies fought the whole day. Among the Dutch casualties was Lieutenant A. Chambray. There are no details of the losses suffered by the Chinese troops. After Banyaoya had been taken by the Dutch, the attackers simply retreated into the forest.

     When the news of these events reached Andresen, he reacted coolly, and wrote to Prins, who had not wished to set foot ashore: “ What happened at Montrado is, in my opinion, a desperate action taken by vagrants who have nowhere to stay, and not a rebellion by a whole population. In a few days the land will be cleansed of this rabble, and even if this does not go very smoothly, it is not a reason to punish those who are well intended. ” To show that he was right, Andresen went to Montrado himself, where he arrived on July 25, without having met a single enemy. But at the very moment that he and his column of bearers with provisions entered the place, the entire bazaar of Montrado went up in flames. All attempts to put the blaze out were fruitless because as soon as Dutch soldiers approached the fire, they were shot at. Only the part of the bazaar where the rich Wu Changgui had his shops was spared by the fire.

     A few days before the bazaar was set alight, a proclamation had been published by the Jiulong kongsi. It was written on slab of wood which was erected near the pond where the inhabitants of Montrado were wont to come and bathe in the evenings. It said:

We, the Jiulong kongsi, proclaim by this means to all the inhabitants of the bazaar and our brethren that we shall kill all those who have not left this place within two days and still remain in the bazaar where we will not leave a single blade of grass standing. Those who come to our fortress will suffer no harm.[32]


        This was a general warning to the population to get out of the centre of Montrado before it was too late. Van Rees describes how, in the days preceding the fire, the people of the bazaar had prepared for the onslaught. Women and children were sent off to the mountain fortresses, houses were barricaded, and all openings hermetically closed. Gradually, during the days before the disaster, the streets grew empty. Only Wu Changgui remained home. Van Rees writes:

One had only to see the fat city father Captain Changgui or Wu Changgui pitifully pulling at his thin mustache while appearing the very embodiment of fear, subject as he was to the most painful anguish. Changgui was extremely afraid of the Dagang people as well as of the Dutch. During the kongsi government he had already been Captain of Montrado and after the conquest he had retained his position because of the influence which, through his wealth, he exerted on the citizens. As long as there was a shade of doubt about our permanent occupation and the possibility that Dagang would return, he succeeded in satisfying both parties without exposing himself. Bowing only to his own interests he betrayed the one or the other, and on each of these occasions money flew from his chests. Now however, his position was imperiled... His inventive spirit was powerless; displaying a pained smile he tried to hide his deadly fear; constantly moving his arms and his legs, now pulling at his sleeves, then again twisting his little pigtail, he finally avowed what we all had long since guessed: that the townspeople could not be trusted and that, were there to be any incident, they might choose the side of Dagang.[33]


Major De Brabant was informed by an emissary that the Chinese troops under Liao had already advanced to Baimangtou, two hours distance from Montrado. A force of three hundred men was sent out to fight them, but no enemy was sighted. Not duped by this apparent invisibility, some precautions were taken. Other posters and pamphlets appeared which left no doubt about the resolve of the Chinese resistance. One of them, dated July 22, is addressed to all the soldiers, and reads:

Proclamation by the Jiulong kongsi, to our army

Whosoever does not obey his superiors will be severely punished.

Whosoever takes flight during battle or retreats in fear and does not dare to fight the Dutch will be punished by death. In these difficult circumstances we have to remain united as brothers as we have sworn to do and we must retake our land. We expect this order to be obeyed. You will not be, as you have been in the past,

negligent. Therefore we have drawn up this proclamation, that all may know. For those who do not obey these orders there will be no more pardons. We trust your courage in battle. The names of all those who return home without leave will be noted down by the commander and will be published later in our city hall.[34]

       Another proclamation of the same date expresses more clearly the state of mind and the motivations of the resistance movement:

[...] Nowadays the whites are all too barabrious! They have even snatched our land, because they are so fearless in battle. What can we do? Let us unite and choose someone who has enough power to fight them. If we vanquish them, if we retake possession of our land, our land will flourish and become rich again. Then the benefits will be eternal for those who fought, and the army will govern the land forever. All those who fight now in the future will have authority.

     We also expect that all the inhabitants, old or young, male or female, to be fearless. Remember that we are all fellow countrymen! We must all think of our land and we therefore must fight all together and with force, as otherwise our country cannot maintain its resistance against the enemy.

     We expect that you will be all united in your hearts, so that we can win back our land, because we are very sorrowful that now our people have dispersed into the forest. We bear no responsibility for the distress of our people.

It is better to die than to live in this way!

     Let us all fight with the utmost courage! [...] [35]

       Other proclamations were issued from the great fortification at Banyaoya in the days which followed the burning of the bazaar. They again concern questions of cohesion and discipline but also imposed restrictions on the slaughter of pigs and the distillation of liquor (from grain), as these resources were now needed for the war effort. People were encouraged to concentrate on resistance and not on business. The people of Shiwufen were called upon to help to cut off the supply lines of the Dutch. But in the end these exhortations were not followed up.[36]

     Anyhow, from these manifestations of discontent, Andresen learned that his idea about “some vagrants ” who might sporadically harass the Dutch troops was entirely mistaken. Many men from Montrado itself had participated in the fighting on the night of July 18 and the day after. The harassment of the Dutch in the three kongsi houses also continued unabated during the next day. Now Andresen considered that he had been “ too lenient ” and that the new upheaval was the upshot of his undue kindness. Prins could not be more in agreement with this viewpoint. Safe in his residence at Pontianak he wrote to Andresen: “ in each country which is in state of war, even in our civilized Europe, armed rebels who fall into the hands of the army are immediately executed. Why then should one spare these Chinese, who belong to the most immoral of the most immoral of nations? ” What seems to have been forgotten was that in order to execute these “armed rebels “, he first had to catch them, and that was easier said than done.

     In the meantime, the greatest victims of the whole expedition had been the Malay coolies: in one month more that four hundred of them had died of cholera and other ailments. The situation of the Dutch, with their lines of supplies stretched to the extreme limit and a dwindling number of coolies, began to look very serious, exacerbated even more because the number of cholera victims among the soldiers had increased to almost forty by the beginning of August. Andresen’s next step was therefore to enact a “great slaughter ” (grote slachting) among the Chinese. For this, he planned to battle it out with them at Banyaoya, where they had again reoccupied the fortress. An expedition launched at the beginning of August utterly failed to recapture it. Instead, the Dutch were harassed by mines – barrels of powder – which had been buried under the surface of road that they had to cross.[37]

     The troops of Liao Erlong had retreated to Lara, whither Andresen decided to pursue them, but he had to wait for essential supplies. Finally, on August 14, Major De Brabant was sent off to Lara with no less than three companies infantry. Some days later the pangeran of Mampawa joined the expedition with two hundred Dayaks. De Brabant’s troops advanced without encountering much resistance, the population of a place fleeing each time he approached a settlement. When a place was occupied, De Brabant issued a proclamation ordering the inhabitants to return. If they failed to do so, he set fire to the settlement. In Bengkayang, the township of Lara, the resistance movement had already burned the township itself. De Brabant pushed as far as Bencukei a settlement belonging to the Lanfang kongsi, where several thousand Lara refugees had found shelter. Instead of attacking the place, Andresen ordered De Brabant to retreat to Montrado and ordered Liu Asheng to go the Bencukei instead, sending the population back to their homesteads. He also had orders to arrest the leaders of the resistance movements, Huang Jin’ao and Zheng Lin. Liu did the former but not the latter, at least not for the moment. Despite this oversight the “eminent services” to the Dutch by the Jiatai of Mandor were “highly praised” by Prins. He also was happy that Lara had been almost entirely destroyed: at last the Chinese had been taught “a lesson that they would not easily forget”. Turning to the problem of how to get the people of Lara back to their homes, Andresen, thanks to his great experience from the situation in West Borneo, had a ready answer. He let it be known that if they did not speedily return, the Dayaks would be mobilized against them in their hiding places. This well-known trick, copied from the Malay sultans, apparently booked results.[38]

     The organized resistance of the Jiulong kongsi was finally broken in the following manner. Later Huang Jin’ao and Zheng Lin were extradited by Liu Asheng. Liao Erlong, on the other hand, spent a long period in Mandor. Apparently his position as a Tiandihui leader made him invulnerable, in spite of the sum of two thousand Spanish reals which the Dutch offered as reward for his arrest or execution. Later he settled in Sarawak. No more important leaders were arrested, so that in October Andresen decided to go ahead with yet another “lesson which the Chinese would not easily forget”: the execution of those that had been arrested. On October 24, with the entire fully armed garrison of Montrado standing guard, and with the Chinese crowd at a safe distance, ten of the Montrado leaders were first hanged on the gallows and than beheaded. Their heads were put on stakes, in the Chinese fashion, where they remained exposed for two weeks.[39] Thirty lesser actors in the resistance movement were exiled to Java.

     Van Rees notes that the Chinese feared decapitation because “they believed that after their death, Confucius  pulled them up to heaven by their pigtails”. He continues:

When the culprits had courageously undergone their punishment, their friends and relatives did not hesitate to make themselves known by recovering the headless bodies. Deeply moved by the sad prospect of them having to roam forever outside the gates of heaven, they made false heads out of wood and paper with beautiful silk pigtails and fastened these to the rump, so as to deceive the gods and thus smuggle their friends into heaven! [40]

       When the executions were over, Andresen had his troops parade through the entire township, to the sound of music and beat of drums. The executions were made known publicly by posters in which the population was (once more) told to be obedient lest they be dealt with in the same way. The population appeared much subdued but justice had to have its day, notes Van Rees.[41]


The Secret Society of the Sandianhui

       1855 was expected to be the first year of law and order. On the Chinese New Year on February 17, the Chinese citizens of Montrado went to the ting in their Mandarin gowns to present their respects to His Majesty’s representative, the Assistant-Resident, the newly appointed Captain Verspeyk. On that occasion it was announced that the poll tax for Chinese was now fixed at three guilders a year for each individual. The receipt of the poll tax had to be carried at all times.[42]

     This happy event for the Dutch treasury and police came in the wake of renewed signs of resistance against the Dutch authorities, and attacks on those who co-operated with them. For instance, in December 1854, one of those who had been instrumental in the arrest and hand over of Huang Du to the Dutch authorities was murdered. At the same time, a poster was found at the reconstructed bazaar of Montrado dated  December 29,1854, which “in the name of the poor” the merchants were warned and threatened with reprisals. [43] It said:

       Formerly a premium of 200 dollars was offered for the arrest of certain named rebels. In all likelihood my people will seize those of you who have betrayed any of these (rebels).

     You big guys who now receive money from the government, you are proud and happy like cocks that flap their wings crowing on a dunghill, but you will not enjoy this sense of happiness for long. The small people have banded together and have united themselves in order to get rid of you. In the previous years we went to battle and you also joined the ranks and carried flags, tjontjos and guns. Now you are proud but beware! Probably you will not live long. The lives of eight or ten of you are in my hands.

     What has pained me is the tax-farming of the slaughtering of pigs and the distilling of jiu (arrack). The rich can buy ten or eight catties of pork meat, but the poor and the coolies cannot get a single piece, even if they pay for it. And this is not all: the poor are rejected! [...]

      The organization responsible for the killing of the man who delivered Huang Du to the Dutch and which posted the warning in the name of “the poor” was readily identified as a resistance movement operating under the name of  Sandianhui, a term which the Dutch translated as “Three Finger Society”. This was a secret society which did not attempt any armed resistance against the Dutch army but aimed instead at civil disobedience and the elimination of those Chinese who had co-operated with the Dutch. Zheng Hong was among these earmarked as one of their first victims. According to Van Rees it was he who first warned Verspeyk of the danger.

     The members of the Sandianhui were supposed to be in possession of a document which allowed them to be identified as initiates of this secret society, but also linked them to the Lanfang kongsi at Mandor. Zheng Hong claimed this was in order to hoodwink the authorities, [44] but this is by no means certain. As we shall see there are reasons to suppose that there may have been a link between Liu Asheng and the Sandianhui. In any case since the beginning of its activities the society had already spread to Sambas, Mampawa, and Mandor. [45]

     Van Rees mentions that the name “Three Finger Society” was derived from the fact that its members either showed three fingers or took things with three fingers as a means of identifying each other.[46] This is one of the well-established characteristics of the earlier mentioned Tiandihui.[47] The little we know about the Sandianhui, its aims, and methods does correspond better to the nature of the “Triads” of the nineteenth century than that of the earlier “Jiulong kongsi”, which seems to have been closer to a renewed Dagang kongsi than a religious society like the Tiandihui. We will return to this question in the next chapter.

     Shortly after New Year, on March 12, 1855, Prins appointed Zheng Hong Jiatai of Montrado. On this occasion Prins wrote that he by no means considered Zheng the person of knowledge and influence he would have wished for the job (formerly he had written that Zheng did not know how to write), but he had suffered so much for the sake of the Dutch that he must be seen as loyal to them. Not only had his uncle been killed by the kongsi heads, his possessions had been confiscated, but worst of all his wife had been sold to the highest bidder at a public auction. Therefore, Prins thought that is was now right and just to make him the first of the Chinese headmen. [48] He had also perhaps not foreseen that the hapless Zheng Hong would now again become the prime target of the Sandianhui.

     On April 3, when Zheng Hong was in Singkawang on an official mission, he was attacked at the bazaar in the evening. He was accompanied by a bodyguard who was severely wounded, but he himself managed to escape to the fortress. Immediate investigations identified the aggressors as people who had formerly belonged to the Jiulong kongsi and had now come down from the Kulor mountains. This is where the Tiandihui had always had its headquarters. The activities of the Sandianhui were also first located there. One of the heads of the secret society was named as Wu Fan.

     The Qingming festival in 1855 fell on April 5, or the 19th of the 2nd lunar month. A few days later, the 25th of the 2nd lunar month (April 11) the great festival of Sanwangye, the patron god of the miners, took place at the Xiawu of Montrado. A theatre performance took place in the middle of the bazaar. A Dutch officer, De Mol van Otterloo, went to look at the performance, accompanied by Niu Yang, the “spy” who had earlier warned the Dutch about the imminent burning of the bazaar of Montrado.[49] While the two men were looking at the theatre performance, someone stabbed Niu fatally and disappeared into the crowd. The celebration stopped immediately, and all the inhabitants prudently retired inside their houses. Nobody seemed to mourn the demise of the victim, notes Van Rees.

     A few days later Zheng Hong received a letter which reproached him for having neglected his religious duties as head of the community and announced his imminent execution:

        In the year that the war at Pamangkat took place (1850), you were appointed here as head. Each year New Year a procession was held with our Dabogong. This has not been done this year, although many people, not least because of the war, have been killed. Because of this the Dabogong is not satisfied. Dayaks and their families have their houses, but the Dabogong has no home. The Chinese who agree with the government smile at the Dutch as if they were their own parents. Every seventh day we must work on the roads. Should a person not present himself, he has to work for four days as punishment. [...] The headmen are no good. At each small transgression they complain to the Dutch and the culprits are beaten. The population weeps, whereas those who went over to the Dutch side laugh! But you should not laugh, because before long I shall come for your head, as I have already killed three of those who were loaded down with money and goods. [...]

          During the following months and years, many others, such as Huang Jinhua, were attacked and killed [50] by the Sandianhui. A letter which warned Huang of his imminent execution stated that he was no longer considered to be a Chinese, but had become a Dutchman! All efforts made by the Assistant-Resident of Montrado to put an end to the activities of the Sandianhui came to naught, whereas its influence and membership – the Dutch maintained that people were forced to join up – continued to grow. This development effectively put an end to the great projects Andresen had nurtured for West Borneo. The fear of reprisals by the secret society, of which by and large all leaders of the Chinese community had become members, completely paralyzed all effective co-operation between the victors and the defeated. After 1855, the Chinese communities of West Borneo steadily declined in number of inhabitants. The era of the democratic kongsis was definitely over. It had been replaced by a repressive colonial system, lording over a profoundly hostile population.


Liu Asheng and the End of the Lanfang Kongsi

         After the submission of the kongsis of Sambas, the Lanfang kongsi at Mandor continued to survive for another thirty years. In 1884, when Liu Asheng, the Jiatai of the Lanfang kongsi, died, the Dutch colonial authorities immediately sent troops to occupy Mandor. With this occupation the last of the Chinese kongsis lost its independence. Prominent scholars - like De Groot and Luo Xianglin – have published studies about the downfall of the Lanfang kongsi. De Groot’s study being very thorough, I have little new to add to it at this stage of our research. Yet in this section I would like to discuss briefly the importance of the Lanfang kongsi’s last leader, Liu Asheng, if only in order to temper somewhat the many compliments which De Groot showered on the last Lanfang Jiatai.

     Liu Asheng was no doubt of the greatest importance to the history of the Lanfang kongsi. This is not only because he held the position of headman for such a long period – i. e. for thirty-two years (from 1848, when he replaced Liu Qianxing, until 1884, with an interruption between 1876 – 1880 when he ceded his position to his eldest son, Liu Liangguan). [51] His importance also lies in the fact that during the period of his leadership the character and the institutions of the kongsi underwent great changes. As mentioned before, the influence of the Dutch colonial authorities on the kongsi steadily increased. Liu Asheng was not only the last great leader of the independent kongsis, he was also the largest investor in the gold-mines of Mandor. He also did change the system of appointment by popular election by appointing his eldest son to be his successor, and he even gave his wife an important position within the kongsi administration. [52] Because of this, the kongsi institution lost its original form.[53]

     Liu was also different from the leaders of the Montrado zongting in that he had succeeded in gaining the full confidence of the Dutch. Because of this, a far larger amount of materials concerning his person have been preserved than on anyone else, written by Dutch as well as by Chinese. What is interesting, however, is that there are great divergences in the opinions about his person, especially in the Chinese materials. The main difference concerns his role in the kongsi war and his relationship with the Dutch.

     In the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi Liu Asheng is portrayed as a great leader who revived the kongsi at a time when it was already in decline. The chronicle provides information on Liu’s actions up to 1856. Its author wants to show how Liu Asheng succeeded Gu Liubo and Liu Qianxing, under whose rule the kongsi had sunk into a state of turpitude, and how he was able to lift the kongsi out of it. The story has the following sections:

     1. The omens that appeared when Liu took his position as headman, the water in the otherwise turbid river cleared up for three days in a row, even the side canals around the bazaar became so clear that the bottom could be seen. The fact that the waters of Pontianak, which had become red due to the many leaves that had fallen into them, suddenly became clear was explained as a consequence of his good fortune. This kind of fanciful exaggerations in the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi is no doubt related to the fact that the authors wanted to represent Liu as a second Luo Fangbo. According to them, after the misrule of the preceding headmen, the people had lost all hope. Conforming to what the people expected, Liu introduced a number of new regulations immediately after his appointment. He also repaired the kongsi house, rebuilt the fortifications along the kongsi’s borders, and repaired temples like the Xianfeng miao and the Fude ci.

     2. Liu developed new mines at Bonan in Landak. Owing to the fact that Gu Liubo and Liu Qianxing had suffered great losses in the war with the ruler of Landak, the population of the Lanfang kongsi was greatly reduced. The income of the kongsi fell behind previous figures. In order to change this, Liu Asheng went to Landak twice to negotiate with the local ruler about the opening of new mines. He himself led 500 people to Bonan to develop a new gold and diamond mine. It later grew into the richest mine in all West Borneo. Ngabang, the main township of this region, was transformed from being a poor, one-family settlement into a major centre of trade.

     3. He helped the Dutch to defeat the Dagang kongsi of Montrado. In the period between 1850 and 1854, when the kongsis of Montrado, Lumar, and Budok were engaged in armed conflicts with the Dutch, Liu opposed his compatriots by helping the Dutch to bring down Dagang. In the chronicle this is described as follows:

Jiatai Sheng [=Liu Asheng] obeyed orders from Resident Willer to help the Company against Dagang. Hereupon he ordered his people to build fortifications everywhere in the hills, to manufacture guns and gunpowder, and to store provisions and all kinds of implements in order to resist Dagang.

     In 1854, shortly before Dagang was defeated, many people of Dagang left Montrado, setting fire to the bazaar. Six to seven thousand men fled to Prigi, which lay within the territory of the Lanfang kongsi. Liu made arrangements for the refugees. He handed their leaders over to the Dutch, and made the others return to Montrado.

     Although at the time there was a quite large number of people who were disposed to support the Dagang kongsi, according to the chronicle Liu and his men won the day. It is, however, quite unclear what Liu’s role in the Kongsi War has been, since the sources contradict each other on this point. An example of this is found in Lin Fengchao’s History of Pontianak, which points out that “Liu Sheng [Liu Asheng] led his troops to aid the Dutch in subduing their compatriot, the Dagang kongsi. He captured its leaders and handed them over to the Dutch. He acted as a traitor.” De Groot, who was in favour of Liu Asheng, explained the fact that Liu – under pressure from the Dutch – had organized his people to raise arms against their compatriots by the fact that Liu realized that this was the only way to survive, and that to oppose the powerful Dutch would mean annihilation. It was therefore in the interest of the Lanfang kongsi that he should seek co-operation with the Dutch.

     All this now seems to be refuted by a newly discovered source, which was written by a Chinese who apparently had good connections with the Dutch.[54] In his text the author labels the military leaders of Dagang “ruffians” and enumerates a number of “crimes” allegedly committed by Liu Asheng. The main accusations this text formulates with regard to Liu Asheng are the following:

     In 1853, when the Dutch occupied Sepang and blockaded Dagang, “The ruffians of Dagang, in conjunction with Liu Asheng, the Jiatai of Lanfang kongsi of Mandor, conspired against [Dutch rule] in many invidious ways. The Company thereupon forbade it to sell goods to Dagang, and isolated their territory. But Liu Asheng helped Dagang. He delivered all kinds of goods, which he carried along secret routes. Because of this the Company suffered heavy expenditures, while Dagang was able to stand firm without any fear.”

     This description appears to be quite realistic. The more so because he says that letters exchanged between the Dagang kongsi and Liu Asheng were stolen by Zheng Yongzong and Wei Chen 魏陳, and delivered to the Dutch. It is difficult to believe that the author invented all this.

      In 1854 when the Dutch finally occupied Montrado, “The people showed great respect [towards the Dutch], except for those villains, Liao Erlong, Lin San’an, Huang Jinyao, and Huang Du. They, with their following, all fled to Mandor, where they were given refuge by Liu Asheng. They immediately established the Jiulong kongsi. They sent the villains to Montrado to oppose [the Dutch].”   And there is more. Our source maintains that Liu Asheng also appointed the captain of Prigi, Chen Li 陳立, to be the strategist for the troops. They were to act as auxiliaries to the members of the Dagang kongsi who opposed Dutch rule in Montrado. He also dispatched 1000 troops in the dead of night to return to Montrado and oppose the Dutch. They attacked the Dutch troops at the Shangwu and Xiawu, but did not succeed in defeating them. In the end they set fire to the bazaar at Montrado. All shops and the living quarters of the people burned down in next to no time. Nothing remained of the money, provisions, and commodities. Because of this the people of Dagang took flight to Lara.

     Still according to the manuscript, when the Dutch troops reached Lara, Liu Asheng sent his subordinate, Yang Axian 楊阿現, to set fire to the bazaar at Lara. All shops, rice and other commodities went up in flames. Liu Asheng summoned the inhabitants of that region to settle at Mandor. By these means he ensured that the areas occupied by the Dutch, such as Montrado, and Lara became nothing but deserted settlements. The Dutch summoned the people back to Montrado and Zheng Hong ordered Zeng Gan 曾甘, Fang Bing 房丙, and Liu Xie 劉解 to go to Mandor and call the people back. Liu Asheng, however, while outwardly submitting to Dutch rule, opposed them in secret. He ordered people to go and rob the possessions of those who crossed the mountains to go back to Montrado and Lara. In this way he prevented them from coming back. Only later on, when the Dutch had reasserted their authority, did he no longer dared to block their path.

     According to the MS text, Liu Asheng hid the leader of Dagang. Because of this he was upbraided by Andresen. When Andresen actually discovered what Liu was doing, he dispatched a ship to go to Mandor by night and capture Lin San’an, Huang Jin’ao, and Xiang Ba 相八. Only Liao Erlong remained in hiding. In 1855 Liao Erlong established Yixing Lanfang Sandian Kongsi 義興蘭芳三點公司. Zheng Hong, Jiatai of Montrado, dispatched troops to capture him. His followers were caught, but Liao himself escaped and returned to Mandor in secret. The following year Liu Asheng and Liu Cong 劉聰 plotted against the Dutch with the Sandian kongsi of Sarawak and the Shiwufen kongsi of Lumar. The plot was not executed because of the death of Liu Cong.

     The author of the text assumes that the reason Liu Asheng opposed the Dutch, allying himself secretly with the other kongsis, lies in the fact that he was afraid that Montrado would make huge strides forward when it came under direct control of the Dutch, and that the Dutch would then try to occupy Mandor and its vicinity. It was therefore in order to preserve the Lanfang kongsi that he supported the resistance against the Dutch at Montrado.

     This statement in some ways agrees with the conclusions reached by De Groot. It is therefore hard to make out whether Liu acted as he did in order to help the Dutch defeat Dagang, or to help Dagang to oppose the Dutch. In the conclusion of  the Chronicle there is a strange statement which says that Liu Asheng obeyed Dutch orders without fail throughout the six years of the troubles at Montrado. He was constantly busy carrying out their commands and making himself useful to them. He did not dare to neglect them, “lest the Company might clearly see his intentions!” This curious sentence was perhaps added by Liu Asheng himself when he had the Chronicle of the Lanfang Kongsi edited before giving it to De Groot in about 1883.

     At the moment, we do not have any Dutch sources which can shed more light on the true attitude of the Dutch towards Liu Asheng. What is sure is that as soon as Liu Asheng died in 1884, the Dutch sent a military expedition to the Lanfang kongsi to take over command of the district of Mandor. Liu’s widow assisted the Dutch in the takeover. As De Groot says, the dismantling of the Lanfang kongsi on the death of Liu Asheng had been a decision reached many years in advance. What really were the reasons behind all this, future research must show.


Fig. 9. Ruins of the Lanfang kongsi hall at Mandor


[1] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 7, p. 1723.

[2] Ibidem, p. 1721.

[3]Ibidem, p. 1722.

[4] Ibidem, pp. 1723-1727.

[5] Ibidem, pp. 1727-1729.

[6] Ibidem part 6, p. 1377. R.C. Van Prehn, who had been until then the Assistant-Resident of Sambas, was put in charge of the civil administration of the residency of West Borneo.

[7] See H. von Dewall: “Opstand der Chinezen van Montrado”.

[8] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 8, p. 1930.

[9] Ibidem, pp. 1930-1931.

[10] Ibidem, pp. 1918-1919.

[11] “Nota betrekkelijk de te ondernemen expeditie in de Chinese binnenlanden “ Quoted in Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 8, pp. 1920-27.

[12] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 8, p. 1921. Kielstra states in a footnote that the veracity of this statement appears highly controversial!

[13] Ibidem, pp. 1927-1930.

[14] This must be Sjarif Osman bin Abdoel Rachman Alkadri of Pontianak who reigned from 1819 to 1860.

[15] Here Von Dewall mistakenly believes that the 13th day of the 4th month is May 9.

[16] The correct day is May 17.

[17] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 9, pp. 2124-2125.

[18] This must be the letter alluded to in Von Dewall’s report quoted above.

[19] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 9, pp. 2128-2129.

[20] Ibidem, p. 2129.

[21] Ibidem, p. 2134.

[22] Ibidem, pp. 2136-2137.

[23] The complete text is given in Kielstra’s “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1889, part 9, pp. 2138-2141. Kielstra does not give the date of the decree, but this can be found in Von Dewall’s report as 12 July, 1854.

[24] For the list of the headmen of the Heshun zongting arrested by the Dutch colonial army in 1854, see Appendix 7. In Von Dewall’s report, the same list is given, albeit in a slightly different version and with variant transcriptions of the names, but with particulars about the functions of the persons in question and the charges against them.

[25] Apparently Andresen did not know their names.

[26]  Where Prins was surprised with his pants down.

[27] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”,1889, part 9, p. 2142.

[28] Ibidem, p. 2145.

[29] Ibidem,1890, part 10, p. 450.

[30] Ibidem, p. 450, Kielstra writes ‘Tian-si-hoei’.

[31] This novel, traditionally attributed to the authors Shi Nai’an and Luo Guanzhong, should date from the Ming dynasty. As there are several different versions, the exact date is difficult to establish. There exist several translations in English, the most complete being that of Sidney Shapiro, Outlaws of the Marsh, Peking and Bloomington, 1981.  For this study, I have reread the seventy-one chapter version published by the Renmin wenxue chuban she, Peking 1959.

[32] Ibidem, 1890, part 10, p. 465 as well as in Van Rees, Montrado, pp. 121-122. The proclamation is undated but should be July 23, as the bazaar was burned on the 25th. Kielstra remarks that this and other similar proclamations were translated from the Chinese into Malay, and from this into Dutch.

[33] Van Rees, Montrado, pp. 95-96.

[34] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 10, p. 465, and also Van Rees, Montrado, p. 116.

[35] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 10, p. 466.

[36] For these proclamations see Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 10, pp. 467-468, and Van Rees, Montrado,  p. 128.

[37] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 10, pp. 461-463.

[38] Ibidem, pp. 469-472.

[39] Van Rees,  Montrado, p. 170: One wonders with respect to these proceedings why the Dutch always insisted that they were so very civilized...

[40] Van Rees,  Montrado, p. 171.

[41] Ibidem, p. 171.

[42] Ibidem, p. 215, who speaks of a “national festival” that the Chinese had not forgotten, but which was “equally celebrated by us.” He gives as the date of the visit to the ting February 19.

[43] Quoted in Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 13, pp. 1086-1087, where the date is given as the “tenth day of the good, i.e. auspicious month, this month corresponding to the December of the Western calendar.

[44] Van Rees, Montrado, p. 218.

[45] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 13, p. 1087.

[46] Van Rees, Montrado, p. 223.

[47] See chapter 1.

[48] Kielstra, “Bijdragen tot Borneo’s Westerafdeeling”, 1890, part 12, p. 877. The other captains were also well known collaborators, such as Wu Changgui, Captain of Montrado; Zheng Shuang, Captain of Lara; Zhang Chen, Captain of Lumar; Zhang  Hong, Captain of Budok; Zeng An, Captain of Sjokrok.

[49] The story of Niu Yang is told by Van Rees ( Montrado) on pages 93 and 94. His murder at the festival on page 224.

[50] Van Rees, Montrado,  p. 242.

[51] According to Lin Fengchao’s History of Pontianak, Liu Liangguan held a leadership of the Lanfang kongsi between 1873-1878.

[52] See J.C. Young “Then Sioe Kim Njong in de Westerafdeeling van Borneo bekend als Njonja Kaptai”, pp. 149-153.

[53] See L. Blussé,  “Nuggets from the gold mines”, pp. 284-321.

[54] Chinese manuscript 1149c, kept by the library of Sinological Institute of Leiden University.  See also Blussé,  “Nuggets from the gold mines”, pp. 313-315.