The Last Resort

Sino-Dutch Marital Relations Before the Chinese Council
in early 19th Century Batavia


Yuan Bingling

Fuzhou University


         The Chinese community in Batavia occupied a pivotal economic position. At least until the beginning of the twentieth century, it also enjoyed a considerable autonomy and was to a certain extent self-ruled. Its Council (“Kong Koan”) had far reaching powers and, although mainly restricted to Jakarta, often also extended its influence to Chinese living in other parts of Indonesia as well. It was not only entrusted with administrative matters, but had a certain judicial capacity as well. The Kong Koan Archives, the magnificent collection of documents engendered by this Chinese Council for the period between 1775 and 1950, have recently entered the holdings of the Sinological Institute at Leiden University.

Within the Archives, the records that deal with the juridical functions of the Council, the Case Records or gong'an bu, are especially important. They contain the minutes of the court sessions in which the Council and its members exerted their far reaching juridical powers, hearing cases related to all aspects of the life of the community such as criminal acts, property disputes, legacies, marital affairs, commercial enterprises, etc. The vast majority of these minutes are in Chinese. The earliest records are from the year 1787 and they are virtually complete until the year 1909. After this, the records are in Malay and in Dutch.

          In this paper, I want to examine a number of cases which involve interracial relationships. In the multi-racial society of the capital of the Dutch East Indies, these were by no means seldom. Let us recall here that Chinese immigrants (xinke) were almost exclusively male, and would take indigenous wives or concubines when their financial position enabled them to do so. They often acquired Balinese women inasmuch their religious background did not prevent them to cook and eat pork meat, as was the case for local Islamic women. Children from mixed marriages were brought up as Chinese and entered into the lineage system, whereas most of the time the indigenous women remained outside of it.

We do not know how many truly Chinese (totok) women lived in Batavia, as, according to my experience, the marriage records of the Kong Koan never mention the origin of the spouses. In a general way, we may say that previous to the availability of the Kong Koan archives, information on the Jakarta Chinese was not abundant, and such in spite of their importance for the Dutch East Indies. This paucity of records is reflected in the lack of studies on the subject. Among the few texts, mention should be made however of the Kaiba lidai shiji (Records of the Pioneers of Batavia through the Ages) edited by Xu Yunjiao.[1] The records were the work of several unknown authors, probably of the Qianlong period, as the Record goes until 1795. There exist several manuscript copies of this text, one being preserved at the library of the Sinological Institute in Leiden which was made in the Jiaqing period. Xu edited the work and identified many place names and titles, which make his work an invaluable source for understanding the archive materials we deal with in the present article.

       Also on the position of women in the capital, the chronicle allows for interesting insights. Thus, for the year 1648, we read that after the demise of a Chinese Kapitan called Yan Er, the Dutch Governor General and the members of the Council of Dutch Indies proposed his wife the Lady Kapitan Maoli shi 貓厘氏 as his successor [2]. Maoli is the Chinese transcription for Bali, so this lady has no other identity than that of being of Balinese origin. She was duly appointed and kept the position for seven years. This must have been the first, if not the only, female Kapitan in the history of the Chinese community in Batavia. Her appointment by the Dutch authorities came one year later, in 1649, and henceforward, at the head of several lieutenants, as Kapitan Toea, she had her seat at the Chinese Council of deliberations (bitjara) and she acted just like a man. Her judgments were always very clear and fair. She certainly was an outstanding barbarian woman![3]

       Native women, as spouses of Chinese, could therefore enjoy a certain emancipation. The position of the very few Chinese born ladies in Batavia could be even higher. In 1699, a certain Wang Jie arrived in Batavia with his wife, nee Zheng. This caused such a sensation that the whole town went out to see them disembark. The lady was most beautiful and elegant. Even the Dutch Governor wanted to have a look at her, and invited both spouses to his residence. When the ship that had brought them returned to China, the news of this event became known there, and the Chinese authorities arrested the person responsible for bringing the lady out of the country. He and several accomplices were put to death. [4]

       A third instance of the influence of women occurs in 1689. The wife of a certain Lin Sen was known by the Dutch for her abilities as a healer, and thus was often summoned by the Governor. At one of these occasions, she told the Governor that there were so many Chinese in Batavia now that there was a need for two more persons to administrate them. The Governor agreed to this. Thereupon this lady's husband and also certain Cai Wei applied for these positions, and they were appointed as Lieutenants. Henceforward the Chinese council at Batavia had therefore four Lieutenants.[5]

       If all these examples have something in common, it is that women could exert influence and even obtain high positions for themselves or their husbands. This may be ascribed to the fact that Batavia, in spite of its colonial institutions, was still the scene of a dynamic multi-racial society where, especially in the early days, gender and race divisions may have been less rigid than either in China or in Holland. Yet in the cases we have quoted also carried clearly, at least for two of them, the stigma of transgression. Kapitan Maoli was compared to Wu Zetian, and the Chinese spouse of Wang Jie caused the death of several of her countrymen.

       The temptation for women to change their position, possibly for the better, in society by crossing certain borders was of course forever present, and it seems that interracial marriages, apart form those routinely contracted by Chinese men with native women, were by no means infrequent. The Gong'an bu contains several cases concerning Chinese women and Dutchmen in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We will now first list the instances which have come to our attention, and then attempt to draw certain conclusions from them.


Case no. 1

19th day of the 6th (lunar) month of the Gengxu year, that is Wednesday July 30, 1790 of the Dutch calendar, Kapitan Tang and Kapitan Chen being on duty. The council (bitjara) convened in the residence of Kapitan Toea of Angkee (Hongxi 洪溪) on the case concerning Li Yanniang [6], sister in law of Mr. Gu Ri, living within the walls of the city.

       It has been found by the investigating officer that Mr. Gu Ri's wife younger sister whose name is Li Yanniang, has been seduced and kept in hiding by a Dutch pork butcher living in Michalao chukou (Ruma Bichara). All other methods having failed (to retrieve the girl), they now have directly deposited a complaint. Luckily, the Waidan[7] having the right to investigate matters that occur within the city walls, we therefore prayed the [Wai]dan to investigate the matter. Thanks to him, the whereabouts of the lady in question were discovered, she was arrested and subsequently brought to this court to be interrogated. We have summoned Gu Ri and his wife to appear here, in order to transfer Li Yanniang to them, so that they may take her back home. We have recommended that they find a husband for her as soon as possible, in order to prevent this lady Li to commit again the same error. Mr. and Mrs. Li Ri have thanked us and left the court.



20th day of the month of the Gengxu year, that is Wednesday, October 27, 1790 of the Dutch calendar. Lieutenant Lin Chun being on duty.

Xie Daozhong has come with Li Yanniang to the council.

Xie Daozhong reports: My spouse Li Yanniang, on the 23rd day of the 8th month, was seduced and eloped with a flower-selling native. She also took a number of (valuable) objects with her. Having been captured, she was brought back. I respectfully ask the court to investigate the matter, and also to allow me to divorce her.

       The council remarks that this spouse formerly already was seduced and then kept in hiding by a Dutch pork butcher, and that luckily through our endeavours she was found out and retrieved by the Waidan. Afterwards she was given as spouse to this [Xie] Daozhong. She however did not amend her sinful ways, but now again eloped with a native. Nothing is more offensive and harmful to our hallowed customs. We will deal with this case by requesting the authorisation of having her wear a gangue, and then order a soldier to take her along the streets and publicise her crime, in order to prevent future (bad conduct) of the same kind, and then return her to her relatives.

On this very day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the secretary submitted a request for the authorisation to put on the gangue. This luckily was authorised. Thus, in three days from now, on next Friday, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the Kapitan Toea will invite all the Lieutenants to gather at Angkee. And soldiers will be ordered to take this (Li) Yanniang by force to the Chinese kampong (tangren jianguan 唐人監光), parading her through the streets and beating her with a rattan whip, as a deterrent example for all.


Case no. 2

June 28, 1824 of the Dutch calendar, Lin Yiji being Kapitan since June 2.

The members of the council having gathered at the residence of the Kapitan Toea, [being present] this month's officials on duty Kapitan Zheng Jia and Kapitan Ye Xuan. A message emanating from the Vice-Piskal[8], concerning the case of the unwed ladies Shen Guiniang, Zhu Xiuniang and Lin Chunniang, who had run away from home.

       The judges heard the disposition of Shen Guiniang, who stated that her parents being very poor, and having no means for subsistence. She had to do embroidery work from morning to evening, and whenever she earned a little money, it was taken away by her parents for their own use. Also, she was constantly abused and beaten, without any reason. Being unable to suffer any longer this treatment, she had fled from her home. The judges said: “When your parents beat or scold you, it is always because you committed a wrongdoing. Moreover, such treatment is quite normal in human relations. How is that for such minor matters, you dare to escape from your home and thus bring disaster over your good name and chastity? In this case there is certainly some other cause, and someone has induced you to do this. You should make a full confession based on the truth.”

Guiniang replied: “There is no other reason. No one has induced me.”

The judges asked: “Then where did you want to go?”

Guiniang replied: “Xiuniang invited me to go to Tanah Abang[9].”

The judges asked: “Why did you go there?”

Reply: “Because Xiuniang asked me to go with her; there is no other reason.”

The judges: “This morning in the Kantoor[10] you stated that you wanted to go to Kuningan [11], how do you dare to make a different statement here? ” Guiniang stood silent and did not reply.

The judges then heard Lin Chunniang, and asked her: “With whom did you stay?” She replied: “As my parents are very poor, they accepted money from [Shen] Six[12], the madam of a girls-boat [13], and I was taken to this person to be brought up.”

The judges asked: “Why did you run away this morning?”

Reply: “Elder sister Guiniang invited me to come with her to Gambir[14] where her elder sister lives. She said her sister’s husband was a Dutchman, and she talked highly of his great fortune and status. She said: ‘instead of you and I slaving and suffering here, we better go and marry a Dutchman.’ The slave-girl of Guiniang, Bilian, was acting as go-between. Yesterday evening, a Dutch horse carriage came to fetch us. But because we were changing our clothes and gathering our belongings, we were late, and when we came out of the door, the carriage had left already. As we did not succeed in getting away then, we decided to go ourselves this morning.”

The judges then asked Zhu Xiuniang: “Why did you agree to run away with the others?”

Xiuniang replied: “When Guiniang convinced me to come with her, and marry a Dutchman. Yesterday evening a horse carriage came already to fetch us, but as we tarried too long, we did not get away then. Therefore we decided to run away this morning. For the rest I do not know.”

The judges said: “How did you dare to run away if you did not know the circumstances? You must tell the truth!”

Xiuniang replied: “All this was arranged by the slave girl Bilian, who said that we could go and marry Dutchmen in Junlin an. She said there was also a lady Lanming[15] who was in on the scheme. ”

The judges again questioned Shen Guiniang, saying: “You just said there was no reason. But now Chunniang and Xiuniang both said it was you with your slave-girl Bilian together with a lady Lanming who plotted together to go and marry Dutchmen. You better tell everything connected with this case in a truthful way.”

Guiniang said: “The truth is that Bilian told me: ‘Lady, if you want to marry a Dutchman, why not ask this Lady Lanming to introduce you to one? Nothing is more simple than that.’ But in fact I never met this lady. Only yesterday evening, I was told that a Dutchman in his carriage was coming to fetch us, but I did not see him. ”

The judges said: “Then who told you yesterday that a carriage came to fetch you?”

Guiniang relied: “It was Bilian, together with Wang’a[16] who told me this.”

The judges: “This Wang’a, whose slave-girl is this?”

Guiniang: “I don’t know.”

The judges: “Then who told this Wang’a”

Guiniang: “She herself had a relationship with the Dutch.”

The judges then questioned the slave-girl Bilian: “Your mistress told us that you and Wang’a together established a relationship with some Dutchmen. You should tell us the whole truth about all this.”

Bilian replied: “In fact it was my mistress who told me to go and call upon this lady Lanming, but I never met her. As to the Dutchman in his horse carriage that came to fetch her yesterday evening, in fact this was arranged by Wang’a with the Dutchman, and I do no nothing else about the matter.”

The judges: “ This Wang’a is the slave-girl of which family?”

Reply: “I heard she lives in a lamp shop at Bachaguan (Patekoean), but I ignore the name of her owner.”

The judges turned again to Shen Guiniang, and asked: “Bilian says that it was you yourself who arranged all this with this Wang’a. Is this true?”

Guiniang: “This Wang’a first entered into contact with Chunniang, in order to induce her to marry a Dutchman. Afterwards she asked me whether I would like this too. Just for a joke, I said yes. Thereupon, Wang’a  contacted the Dutch, and in the night from Saturday to Sunday, a horse-carriage was going to come and fetch us. As to Bilian saying that she knows nothing about what happened yesterday evening, and that we were too late for the carriage, well, Bilian had gone out to buy some watermelon, and when she came back and saw that we had not left, she said to us: why did you ladies not execute your plan? That is enough to prove that she knew all about it.”

The judges asked again: “How did you ever get all these bad ideas?”

Guiniang said: “As my elder sister Yueniang married a Dutchman, she became very wealthy and esteemed. The other day she came back to our home, and she told Bilian that if I, her mistress, became fed up with all this misery and if I would marry a Dutchman, she would be happy to arrange it. Also because Wang’a  day after day teased me and provoked me, we got all these wrong ideas. As to our running away this morning, this was because we were afraid that when our parents would learn about all that happened, they would punish us, and so we agreed together that we would run away.”

The judges now questioned Wang’a: “You are a slave-girl, how do you dare to induce young ladies of honest families to run away?”

Wang’a replied: “I never did such thing.”

The Judges: If the Dutchman who came with his horse-carriage yesterday evening had not been brought there by you, how would he have ventured to come on his own?”

Wang’a: “I did in truth mediate for the Dutchmen Xinraogaomi and Reluo, but ladies Guiniang and Chunniang did not like them, because they were poor, so that matter came to nothing. Regarding the horse-carriage that came yesterday evening, I for sure did not come together with it, and I do not know who did.”

The judges said: “All these bad things are done by creatures like you, how dare you to speak all this nonsense to disguise your guilt?”

Wang’a let her head hang and did not reply.

The judges then heard old lady[17] Shen Liu and certain Su Lainiang, asking: “Since when did these three girls live with you?”  Lainiang answered: “Guiniang and her father are staying with us since one month, whereas Chunniang is with us since already two years. As the parents of Chunniang are very poor, I did lend them fifty-five Song pieces of silver[18], and the girl was given to me to raise. Xiuniang came last Wednesday from Dananwang.”

The judges asked: “Do you know the reason why these three girls ran away?”

Lainiang answered: “I do not know. It was only this morning, when I got up, that I found the great door wide open, and when I called the three girls, no one answered. I thought they went to the river to bath, and looked for them everywhere. Only after I failed to find them, I realised that they had run away.”

The judges then questioned the mother of Guiniang, named Nai Yazui[19]: “Do you know the reason why your daughter ran away?”

Nai Yazui said: “This morning the Six of the girls-boat came to knock at my door, and told me my daughter, together with Chunniang and Xiuniang, had run away. I became very afraid, and started looking everywhere for them, but to no avail. I had no idea of what might have happened.”

The judges then asked the three girls: “At what time did you run away this morning?” They answered: “We left through the gate at about four o'clock, and when we came in the proximity of Reyamaochi[20], the sun had already risen. Then we met a group of Dutch soldiers, and very much afraid we ran away, and entered into a house of a native. Thereupon the master of that house got up, and told us he was a Moshi [21]. He took us to the Kantoor to be heard.”

The assembled judges gave the following verdict: “After heaving heard the case of the three unwed girls Shen Guiniang, Zhu Xiuniang and Lin Chunniang who schemed together to run away, on the evidence of all the dispositions, we have come to the conclusion that Guiniang and Xiuniang have reached already the nubile age (litt: have taken the hairpin), but were not yet betrothed, and that they had conceived they idea to find a husband by themselves. [22] As to Chunniang, she is only fifteen and still has hanging hair[23]. Moreover, 'without a needle one cannot tread a thread', and therefore luckily 'the white jade as yet remained undefiled'. Regarding Bilian and Wang’a, they are slave girls. And they should be dealt with according to the law, as they have dared to disregard the good manners in order to do wrong, and entice unwed girls of good family to scheme to run away. In these they have committed a grave offence against the law of the land, and according to the law there are no ways to excuse them for what they have done. We officers will report this case to the Dutch Assistant[24], so that they may be dealt with according to their crimes, as an example for the future.”

Thereupon the two slave-girls were handed over to the Police for custody, and the three girls were handed over to their parents to be taken home. They should remain at the disposal of the court for eventual further questioning. Lainiang and the others expressed thanks and retired.

This report was written on July 4 1824.


Case no. 3

February 9, 1826, (corresponding to) the 3rd day of the first lunar month of the Bingxu year, an auspicious day according to the Chinese calendar.

The Council (bitjara) convened in the residence of the Kapitan Toea, the officials in charge of the present month, Kapitan Yang Han and Kapitan Ye Tianfu, being both absent.

The court met specially in order to receive the report of Kapitan Gao, because on this very day a Dutchman, together with a [Chinese] lady Qiu Niangna had addressed a request to the tang[25] for a [travel] permit to Long’ai. This lady was the wife of He Yasan, the younger brother of He Shuisheng. Because formerly this lady had had an improper relationship with this He Shuisheng, the Council has pronounced a judgement that Qiu Yaliu[26] had to take her back to his house for the time being, until the time that He Yasan would had recovered from his illness and would be able to take care of his affairs again. At that time, she should again become the wife of He Yasan. Today, the reason why this lady was about to marry a Dutchman should be examined in detail.

       The Council called on Qiu Yaliu to question him. According to his account: “This happened because a few days ago, He Shuisheng charged a certain mason called Old Xie Yun to tell me that he wanted that I return to him one hundred reals, expressing thereby the wish that his sister in law Qiu Niangna would be married off by me to another man. I replied that I did not dare to do so on my own account. Later, in the evening of that day, He Shuisheng took me to the residence of Kapitan Dai Mingji, and there repeated his request that the money be returned. The Kapitan said that he also did not dare to take a decision on this matter. But he said that both of us could now leave and arrange the matter privately among ourselves. Then, after I had discussed the matter with He Shuisheng, we both called the mason Old Xie Yun to take out 193 guilders and twenty cash, and give these to He Shuisheng and his brother He Yasheng in the presence of Kapitan Dai Mingji. In this way, the matter was agreed upon and settled according to the satisfaction of both brothers. “

The judges asked: “The Council ordered you to take this lady back to your home. Who sold her off to a Dutchman? “ Qiu replied: “It was Xie Yun who introduced the Dutchman for this transaction. “ The judges: “Have you got any money?”

“After I returned the money to the two brothers He, Old Xie Yun gave me sixty guilders. “ The judges: “Where did you deliver this lady to the Dutchman?” Qiu answered: “It was Xie Yun and his wife who came to my house to take the lady away.” The judges: “When they took this lady away, did they tell you that they had sold her to a Dutchman?” Qiu: “ In the beginning they told me they were just taking her for a walk. But when later he gave me sixty guilders, he then explained that the lady had been wed to a Dutchman, and that the money was given by her to me. So then I knew it.”

The judges then called upon Xie Yun, and asked him: “ This Lady Qiu Niangna was decided by the Council to be established in the house of Qiu Yaliu. How is it that she stayed in your house?”  

­­­       “Because the wife of Qiu Yaliu served as wet nurse for Black Devils (Malay), and could not take care of her household. Thus the lady was sent over to my house.”

“Then who sold the lady to the Dutchman?”

­       “At first He Shuisheng asked a certain Li Shuanglian to ask me to tell Qiu Yaliu that he wanted his money back and that the lady could then be sold to another husband. When I transmitted all this to Qiu Yaliu, the latter immediately asked me to act as a broker, and also that whoever wanted to buy her, whether a Chinese or a barbarian, it would be agreed.”

The judges: “And who agreed to set this price?”

Xie Yun: “A certain old lady Li Fa acted as a go-between and obtained the price of three hundred guilders.” The judges then asked: “And how much [He] Shuisheng got?”

“One hundred and ninety three guilders and a half. And Qiu Yaliu got sixty, the old lady Li Fa got ten, and thirty guilders were spent on candles (and other items for the wedding service), and one hundred and five guilders for shoes, and sixty guilders for the sarongs. As to [Li] Shuanglian and I, we both got two guilders. My own wife got five guilders, and another five guilders were for taxes and for renting a horse-carriage.”

The judges then questioned old lady Li Fa, who said: “Two days ago a mason came to me and said: ‘There is a lady who agrees to marry a Dutchman. If you have someone who is willing, please introduce him.’ I told him I did not know anyone, but later, by chance, a certain Toean Ya’er came to my house and told me about a Dutchman who would be a suitable person, and who wanted to marry a lady. Immediately I introduced him to them. However, I did ask this mason whether her relatives agreed to this. The mason told me they did, and moreover that they had already the permission of the Kapitan.”

The judges then asked: “When you sold this lady, was Qiu Yaliu also present?”

“Only the mason was present, and Dutchman gave the money to the mason.”

Lieutenant Dai Mingji said: “Formerly Qiu Yaliu did indeed come to my office and told me all about the improper behaviour of He Shuisheng, and that now this lady did not want to be married any longer to He Yasan. She also agreed that the wedding money be returned, and that she be married to someone else. [He] Shuisheng and his brother also agreed to take the money back. But Qiu Yaliu did not tell me that he was selling this lady to a Dutchman.”

The verdict was that this case shall be reported to the Kantoor, and await its decision. Qiu Yaliu and the others were ordered to return home for the moment.

The present report was presented to the Assistant on February 10, 1826. 


Case no. 4

On May 9, 1834, of the Dutch calendar, the Council (bitjara) was held at the kantoor of Kapitan Toea, the officials in charge for the month being Kapitan Yang Han and Kapitan Chen Binlang.

Lieutenant Chen Binlang brought out a detailed report concerning the case of Pangwu, a Balinese woman, who, together with her daughter Rao Yueniang had appeared before the him, saying: “Formerly my daughter Yueniang ran away, and because of this I was detained at the police station for one day. Today I happened to meet my daughter on the road, just when she was crossing the Little South Gate (Xiao nanmen小南門), sitting in a carriage. I asked her what she was up to, and she told me she wanted to go and see Rao Yaqin, and ask her, whether she could get the legacy her father had left behind. I went with her, and afterwards I took her to the Kong Koan to report to you.”

Chen thereupon had questioned Yueniang, who said: When my father returned to China, he made a contract with Zhong Xinshu to act as his representative, and also promising me to him as his wife. Who would have thought that one month ago, at noon, he started to take liberties with me while we were in the kitchen, and wanted to force me to have intercourse with him. I did not agree to this, and therefore, when the evening fell, I pretended to go to the harbour to wash my feet, and then I went off with the Red Hair (Dutchman) Toean Gelin in his carriage. “ Chen then had asked: “Did you have some understanding with this Red Hair?” She answered: “Half a month before (my departure) this Red Hair said to me: ‘if you want to marry me, then you can have as much money as you want.’ On the morning of that day (of my departure), this Red Head came to me again, to talk with me. Zhong Xinshu knew about it, and proffered injuries towards the Red Hair, and the latter, much ashamed, went away. Because of all this, on that very day at noon, Zhong Xinshu mocked me and tried to have intercourse with me, but I refused. And then, when dusk came, I went away with this Red Hair.”

Chen thereupon asked: “And now, have you been soiled by him?” She answered: “yes.”  “Your father had betrothed you to Zhong Xinshu. Even if you had been soiled by him before, you still could be married as man and wife, and both would be of the same origin. If you did not want this, then why did you not ask any help from your relatives, or of the local Moshi (warden). But instead you ended up by marrying this Red Hair who is of another race. How could this not be a smear on your father’s good name?” On these words, Yueniang had remained silent, and Chen had diligently brought the case and the persons involved before the court.

The Tribunal then questioned Yueniang. Her deposition was: “It was [Zhong] Xinshu who tried to dally with me, and therefore I ran away.” The judges asked: “At what time did he dally with you?” She answered: “Three days before the day of our betrothal.” The judges: “If he did behave improperly, why did you not report this matter to the Tribunal?” She said: “I did not know [I could do that].” The judges: “Then why did you not go to your relatives?” She said: “I met the Toean Gelin, who promised me that I could live with him in his house, and I agreed. Therefore, in that evening, he hired a carriage to fetch me. I secretly took with me a golden box, a silver bowl and a shawl, and again a golden bowl, as well as two pairs of earrings, a pair of ear hooks, a pair of rings, and a silver tobacco box.” The judges asked: “Where did you put these things?” She answered: “In Toean Gelin’s house.”

The Tribunal then checked the report no. 60 that had been send by the Kapitan Toea on March 26, 1834 to the Dutch Assistant. These it said that: “Because Rao Yueniang ran away, taking with her many valuables, after having investigated and consulted, it was decided that Rao Yueniang was guilty of having offended the Chinese law, she did not obey her father’s orders, she did not inform her father’s representative, nor the warden. Moreover, before being married she has unveiled and abandoned her body (to debauchery), without regards for the rules, she has to be beaten in front of the Kong Koan, as a warning for the future. As to Toean Gelin, his case should be dealt with by his superiors. This was the report.”

In answer to the Tribunal, the Dutch Assistant sent on May 16, 1834, two letters (nos. 1053 and 1547). These said: “Having received your letters and reports (etc., etc.) and seen the police reports, we have decided that Rao Yueniang did not commit any offence or disobeyed any orders. It has been decided that this case should be dealt with according to the [Dutch] law. This is a final decision. Moreover, at the time of the audience, there was no jury present, After due consideration, this case of Rao Yueniang is hereby definitely settled.”[27]


Case no. 5

Friday, August 11, 1848.

The council began its deliberations (bitjara), in the absence of the Kapitans Huang Liaoguang and Chen Qihuai, Chen Rongqiao, Su Tianbi.

A request was made by Lin Tianyi of Shengwanggang, to the effect that, because during more than one year he suffered of a sore foot, his wife Chen Fengniang had run away from home. He did not know where she had gone. Only a few days ago, he saw his wife in town. Thereupon he went to ask help from the Majoor, and the Majoor told him to go to the Council. He now hoped that his wife would be punished.

The judges berated him, saying: “When your wife ran away and you did not know where she was, why did you not come to the Council?” [Lin] Tianyi said: “Because I suffered from my sore foot, so I could not walk, and also I was ignorant of the regulations.”

The judges then called upon Chen Fengniang and questioned her. She stated that her husband very often beat her, and also did not provide any food, clothes or living allowance for her. Last year, she was once more beaten all over without any reason. She really could not endure this any longer, and of her own wish decided to live with a Red Hair, and have a free marriage with him.

The judges berated her, saying: “If your husband beat you all over, why did you not come to the Council for help?” She said: “Because I did not want to make a lot of trouble.” The judges then asked her again: “Where do you live now?” She answered: “As this Red Hair returned to his homeland, I now live within the city walls in the place of Lady Majili [28].” The judges asked again: “Do you want to return to your husband?” She replied: “I am now ashamed to live with my husband. I ask you to allow me to divorce.” Next they asked Lin Tianyi, and he also agreed to the divorce.



Looking at the five cases presented here, we can see that during the period in question, marital relationships between Chinese women and Dutchmen were by no means uncommon. Not only the elder sister of Shen Guiniang was regularly married to a Dutchman and proposed to her sister to arrange a similar marriage for her, but in the case of Qiu Niangna (case 3) we see that there was a go-between, old lady Li Fa, who apparently was specialised in arranging these kind of alliances.

It follows from the cases here that the Kong Koan could not interfere in these alliances as long as the families agreed to them. Moreover, as soon as a regular kind of cohabitation was established, the couple enjoyed the protection of the Dutch law, as we can see from the example of case 4 (Rao Yueniang) who was condemned by the Kong Koan judges. The Dutch Assistant Resident decided however that her union was legal.

What we do see however in all these cases is that Dutch-Chinese marriages were viewed as highly improper by the leaders of the Chinese community. In this regard, the reproach made to Rao Yueniang, to the effect that she had better endure the abuse of the Chinese man she was promised to than to defile her body through a marriage with a Red Hair!

What all the cases have in common is the fact that the women in question choose to go with a Dutchman in order to escape from their situation inside the Chinese community. In the first case, the cohabitation of Li Yanniang with a Dutch pig butcher was certainly of her own wish. Having been forcefully taken back and married to a Chinese man, she chooses to elope with a native flower seller. The case (no.2) of the three unwed girls is more complex. Although this does not appear clearly in the report of the Kong Koan, they were all in fact living at a “flower-boat” in order to become, in due time, courtesans. The minutes of the hearing note that Chunniang, at fifteen sui was a yet “undefiled”, implying that the two older girls were no longer virgins. The girls clearly aspired at a better life and looked for a reasonably wealthy Dutchman to take them away from their life as prostitutes. In the other cases also, the ladies in question look for the Dutch solution as they have no other way out from abuse, rape, poverty, exploitation and violence. However, once the race barrier is crossed, there is no way back, as can be seen from the last case of Chen Fengniang.

On the Dutch side, we can infer that Chinese ladies were in demand. As soon as the three girls tried to get into contact with Dutchmen, several candidates presented themselves. Qiu Niangna, who had been already married and then raped by her brother in law, still commanded the hefty sum of three hundred guilders for her sale to a Dutchman.

After the date of 1848, the Kong Koan Gong'an bu do not contain any more records about marital affairs between Dutch and Chinese. The reason for this remains to be established. It is possible that after 1850, the Chinese lost some of their autonomy, and that these cases were no longer under the jurisdiction of the Council. Dutch and Chinese marriages became by no means rare after that date. As the assimilation of Chinese in the Dutch East Indies progressed, and more and more Chinese embraced the Christian persuasions, the barrier between the Dutch and Chinese communities became less of an obstacle, and marriages between them ever more common.





Gong'an bu 公案簿, vols. 1-9, from 1775 to 1848. The Archives  kept by the

Library of the Sinological Institute at Leiden University.

Huaren meisegan tiaoli 華人美色甘條例 (The Regulations of the Chinese

Weeskamers), the manuscript kept by the Sinological Institute of Leiden University.

Blussé, L., (1) Strange Company: Chinese Settlers, Mestizo Women and the Dutch

in VOC Batavia, Leiden 1988.

(2) Badaweiya huaren yu zhonghe maoyi 巴達維亞華人与中荷貿易, Guangxi 1997.

Purcell, V.W.W.S., The Chinese in Southeast Asia, London 1951.

Salmon, Claudine and Denys Lombard, The Chinese of Jakarta: Temples and

Communal Life, Paris 1980.

Wen Guangyi and others, Yindonixiya huaqiao shi 印度尼西亞華僑史 (A History

of Overseas Chinese in Indonesia), Beijing 1985.

Wu Shihuang,       Yinni shihua 印尼史話 (Historical Tales about Indonesia), Jakarta


Xu Yunjiao (ed.), Kaiba lidai shiji 開吧歷代史記 (Records of the Pioneers of

Batavia through the Ages), in Nanyang xuebao, no.9, Singapore 1953.




* A draft version of the present article was presented as a paper for “The international conference of the archives of the Over-seas Chinese communities” in Leiden in December 1999.


[1] See Nanyang xuebao no. 9, Singapore 1953.

[2]  According to Xu Yunjiao (page 15a), however, Kapitan Yan Er occupied his position in 1663. There is therefore a problem in the date of the Kaiba lidai shiji. This question has to await further study.

[3] The commentary of the Kaiba lidai shiji adds here that: “When women lead the country, the roles of yin and yang are reversed. This spells the ruin of the nation. Just look at the examples of Wu Zetian of the Tang and Empress Lü of the Han. But all this was nothing compared to the present case. This Maoli was a barbarian woman (fanfu 番婦), without any learning nor intelligence, and she did not belong to our kind, and here she was appointed as the leader of all the Chinese. From this we can infer that no Chinese of quality were present [in Batavia] at those times.”

[4] Kaiba lidai shiji, p.35.

[5] Kaiba lidai shiji, p.34.

[6]  Names carrying the suffix -niang indicate that the lady in question is native-born Chinese.

[7]  Dan is the abbreviation of danmenggong 淡孟公, a transcription of the Malay term temengung, which is an honorific title for a high government official. The gong'an bu  distinguish between a “outer” danmenggong called “waidan”外淡 and an “inner” danmenggong called “neidan”內淡. According to the “Record of Kalapa” by Jie, quoted in the Appendix of the translation of the Kaiba lidai shiji by Xu Yunjiao. Javanese officers in charge of the order inside and outside the city were called “danbangong” for “temengang”. Each stood at the head of a number of underlings.  

[8] I have found the equivalent of “piskal” for meisege as the title of a customs officer (see “Record of Kalapa”, appendix to Kaiba lidai shiji page 9).

[9] A place in the center of Batavia. Its Chinese name is Danlanwang 丹藍望.

[10] The police court where criminals and trespassers were first brought on arrest. Chinese: “gandao”干刀.

[11]  A place in Batavia. Its Chinese name is Junling’an 君領安.

[12]  The owner of the flower-boat is questioned later in this audience.

[13]  A “flower-boat” or brothel.

[14]  A place in the center of Batavia. Its Chinese name is Ganmi 甘密.

[15]  According to the name Lanming 覽冥, this person cannot be a Chinese.

[16]  “Wang”, in Hokkien “bong”,  probably for a Malay name. The suffix is pronounced ‘a’ in Hokkien.

[17]  The character    , pronounced “Nai” is a prefix used by Chinese in Indonesia for an old lady.

[18]  Perhaps Manilla Reals.

[19] She must be a non-Chinese.

[20] A place in the neighbourhood of Batavia.

[21] A Chinese title for the local warden.

[22] The Chinese expression is “biaomei 標梅”.

[23] The Chinese expression is “susi 素絲”.

[24] The Chinese term is Aishilian 挨實連.

[25]  That is: the Kong Koan.

[26]  This person apparently was Lady Qiu Niangna’s close relative.

[27]  This last paragraph is a summary of the Chinese text.

[28]  Probably a European lady, Margery?


   “The Last Resort:Sino-Dutch Marital Relations Appearing before the Chinese Councl in Early 19th Century Batavia”,发表于The Archives of the Kong Koan of Batavia, Brill:Leiden,2003年。