The Jalan Roa Malaka of Kota Tua. Part II: Its Chinese inhabitants and the Chinese Massacre of 1740

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Bird's eye view of part of the city of Batavia during the Chinese Massacre of 1740 by Adriaan van der Laan. To the right in the foreground several men are busy priming cannon aimed at the biggest house in the row, the home of the Kapitan Cina Nie Hoe Kong on the Jalan Roa Malaka. Photo credit: Bartele Gallery, Hotel Mandarin, Jakarta https://bartelegallery .com/shop/chinese-massacre/

IO – The Jalan Roa Malaka derived its name from the many Indo-Portuguese people that the VOC brought to Batavia after the conquest of Malacca and other Portuguese possessions on the Coast of Coromandel in India and in Sri Langka. They were brought to Batavia as prisoners and slaves. The so called brown Portuguese settled outside the city walls in the Tugu area whereas the so called white Portuguese settled on the Jonkersgrachtstraat. Many came from Malacca including the last governor general of Malacca thereby causing the street’s name to change to Roea Malakka. The brown Portuguese were later known as the Mardijkers but it was not only the Mardijkers who settled on the Roea Malakka.

Besides the Europeans and Mardijkers, in the 17th and 18th centuries many Chinese people also lived on the western side of the city along the choicest roads, one of which was the Roea Malakka. During the Chinese Massacre of 1740 however all the Chinese houses on the Roea Malakka were burnt down and the Chinese inhabitants were forced to move outside the city walls mostly to the southern suburbs (now the Glodok area) as well as to the western suburbs of the city. Part of the area where the Chinese had settled most densely was then turned into a pasar or market. Nevertheless, by 1768 there were already some Chinese living within the city walls again albeit their houses were in very poor condition. 

One of the people who had a house on the west side of the Roea Malakka in the early 18th century was the Kapitan Cina or Captain of the Chinese (community), Ni Hoe Kong who was the Kapitan Cina during the troubles in 1740. He was born in 1710 as the eldest son of Luitenant der Chinezen or Lieutenant of the Chinese (community) Nie Locko and married the daughter of Luitenant der Chinezen Lim Tsoenko.  Like most of the men appointed Kapitan Cina in the 18th century Nie Hoe Kong was very wealthy with numerous estates in the Ommelanden or Suburbs where he owned about thirteen or fourteen sugar mills. In 1733 he was appointed Kapitan Cina of Batavia.

Sketch of Chinese Massacre by Simon Fokke. House with pole and snake in front was Nie Hoe’s house on Roa Malaka by the Jonkersgracht. Photo credit: https://commons. wikimedia .org/w /index.php?curid=86004191

The inner court of Ni Hoe Kong’s house had many buildings both related to his work as well as for family and leisure activities. According to reports from that period these were very beautifully built and laid out.

Like most Kapitan Cinas his house reflected his wealth and power. It was furnished with furniture, especially chests and wardrobes of the most precious and best woods. There were chairs, beds, mirrors and paintings as well as lacquered screens and drapes of silk and gold cloth and rare porcelains and ceramics from China and Japan; in a galley behind the main building hung a lamp of solid gold. During the Chinese Massacre of 1740 three cannons each measuring five to six feet long were placed opposite the house and fired against the sturdy doors at the entrance of his compound. One of the only Chinese houses that was not burnt down on the Roea Malakkka during the Chinese Massacre of 1740 was that of Kapitan Ni Hoe Kong. Even after 1740 when the Chinese had been expelled from the walled city the Kapitan Cina’s house continued to remain intramuros.  By 1768 the Kapiten Cina’s house was located in Kampong Tiang Bendera.

On the Jalan Roa Malaka Utara no 2A, D and E is a Chinese house. Could it be Nie Hoe Kong’s house, the only Chinese house not destroyed? Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana

At present, there is still one Chinese house remaining on Jalan Roa Malaka Nord. It is in very bad condition and is partly being used as a bengkel or motor workshop. It would be interesting to establish if it had anything to do with Kapitan Ni Hoe Kong’s original house.

Kapitan Ni Hoe Kong, himself was however, arrested by the VOC and put on trial but during the trial no evidence was found showing that he was guilty of anything or that he was personally involved in the rebellion in the Ommelanden sugar plantations. Before the massacre there had been many new arrivals from China who had moved outside the city walls so he could not be held responsible for them as he had no control over them.   Nevertheless, this poor man was not allowed to return home but spent the rest of his life in exile in Ambon in the Moluccas, although a portion of his wealth was returned to him, leaving him therefore not entirely destitute.

Chinese officials at Cheng Bing temple ceremony by Jan Brandes 1779. Photo credit: by Rijksmuseum – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84906059

The old Chinese chronicle, Kai-ba li-dai shi ji or the Chinese Annals of Batavia (also known as the Babad Betawi in Indonesian) was written by an anonymous source (thought by some to be the secretary of the Chinese Council or Kong Kuan) at the end of the 18th century.

Governor General Adriaan Valckenier by Theodorus Justinus Rheen. Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia .org/w/index.php?curid=8729454

It is of the opinion that Nie Hoe Kong was self-indulgent and not a very good leader of the Chinese community in Batavia. Besides Nie Hoe Kong’s lack of leadership the writer also blames the Chinese Massacre of 1740 on the rivalry between Governor General Valckenier and member of the Raad van Indie, Baron van Imhoff. Interestingly, he also holds that Heaven was displeased by the appointment of a woman as Kapitan Cina some years previously as this broke the natural order of things in the world. In 1666 after the death of Kapitan Gan Djie Ko, Governor General Joan Maetsuycker allowed Gan Djie Ko’s widow, a Balinese woman to occupy his position as Kapitan Cina of Batavia for twelve years until 1678. Many male members of Chinese society at the time were very displeased with such a turn of events. 

Chinese house at Jalan Roa Malaka no 2A, D and E. The house is in a neglected condition and should be in the Kota Tua heritage zone. Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana

During the period of the Chinese Massacre of 1740 one of the leaders to emerge from amongst the Chinese was a man known as Oei Pan Kho who was later also known as Khe Pandjang. He led the Chinese to fight against the VOC in the Ommelanden. After VOC troops overpowered the Chinese in Pulo Gadung and Bekasi, Khe Panjang led over 400 other ethnic Chinese to Central Java where they attacked Dutch trading posts. Later they were joined by troops of the Sultan of Mataram, Paku Buwono II. However, the uprising against the VOC was largely quashed in 1773 although the Chinese and the Javanese valiantly continued to hold further small uprisings for the next 17 years.

The Gie Yong Kong Bio or temple in the town of Lasem commemorates the Chinese Javanese Wars that resulted from the Chinese Massacre in Batavia and is thought to have been built around 1780. The temple is dedicated to two hero scholars of the Ming dynasty, whose last names were Tan and Oei. The local people in Lasem identified these two figures with the two founding fathers of Lasem and nearby settlements and also with two Chinese heroes Tan Khe Oei (according to Mary Sommers Heidhuis in 1740 and the Chinese Massacre in Batavia: Some German Eye Witness Accounts, the Indonesian writer Sylado identifies him as Tan Pan Ciang or Khe Panjang) and Oei Ing Kiat who fought together with the Javanese against the VOC after 1740.  The Cerita Lasem or “Tale of Lasem” which was written in the 19th century tells their story. They fought together with a Javanese nobleman by the name of Raden Panji Margono and died during the Perang Kuning or Yellow War. They are all three worshipped at the temple making Raden Panji Margono one of the few Indonesian figures worshipped in a Chinese temple.

The Chinese quarters in Batavia between 1900 and 1940. Photo credit: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8605167

After the Chinese Massacre there were about 3000 Chinese inhabitants still remaining in Batavia and its surroundings. At first they were forbidden to live within the walled city or Kota Tua. A new area or Pecinan was marked out for them known as the Chinesche Kamp or Chinese Camp in the area that is now Glodok. However, the Dutch very soon realized how much they needed the Chinese, not only for the junk trade bringing the ceramics and textiles that the VOC needed to trade for spices as Indonesians were not interested in Dutch goods but also because the Chinese were the main contractors who built most of the houses and buildings as well as many of the canals and city walls in Batavia. They were also skilled carpenters who not only did the decorative wood work for buildings but were also involved in the furniture industry. Beside this, they were also the ones who opened the Ommelandan around Batavia by growing vegetables and rice which provided food for the inhabitants of the town and later it was they who opened the land for planting sugar cane. They owned and operated most of the sugar mills and sugar plantations around Batavia. The Chinese also paid the most taxes in Batavia. This is why the Dutch historian, Leonard Blusse referred to Batavia as being in fact a Chinese town. So, by 1773 the Dutch who had realized how difficult it was for Batavia to survive without its Chinese inhabitants had begun to allow a few of the Chinese to move back into the city. The Chinese at the time apparently did not blame the VOC as an institution for the terrible events that had taken place but rather the bad leadership of men that were in government positions in Batavia, at the time.

There were many events leading to the terrible occurrences in 1740 but the underlying reason seems to have been the collapse of the sugar industry in the Ommelanden and the almost desperate economic hardships that this collapse brought upon the Chinese who worked there and who also owned most of the sugar plantations and sugar mills in the Ommelanden. This very bad economic situation could have been alleviated and improved by sound and capable policies from the VOC government in Batavia. Instead it was made worse by the harsh and unwise policies of the VOC which finally culminated in the cruel events of 1740 – the blackest page in the history of Batavia.

Masjid Angke from De Haan’s Oud Batavia.
Photo credit: De Haan

The Chinese Massacre of 1740 was a terrible event but it led to the establishment of a very special mosque known as the Angke Mosque (In the past it used to be called the Kampong Bali Mosque in Angke). During the time of the Chinese Massacre some Chinese inhabitants fled Batavia to seek shelter in the Angke area. They were given shelter by a small Bantanese community in Angke which claims to have historical links with Prince Jayawikarta and Prince Tubagus Angke from the Kingdom of Banten. Perhaps the Chinese who fled there already knew the people of the Bantanese community in Angke because many Chinese in Jakarta had originally come from Banten during the time of Jan Pieterszoon Coen and his successors. Perhaps, these Chinese were already Muslim or perhaps they converted to Islam after they fled to Angke – we have found no written records about this. Oral history however, tells us how together with the head of the Bantanese community the Chinese built the beautiful mosque at Angke for the Balinese VOC soldiers living in the surrounding Kampong Bali area. These soldiers had slowly through the years converted to Islam. The mosque with its tombstones and kramats of people of many different ethnic groups reflects unity in diversity and is evidence of how after terrible events healing can slowly take place. Today, the Masjid Angke is the one of the oldest (established in 1740) mosques with one of the most ethnically diverse histories in Jakarta.  (Tamalia Alisjahbana)

If you enjoyed this article you may like to read:

Part I: https://observerid.com/the-jalan-roa-malaka-of-kota-tua-part-i-a-name-related-to-the-portuguese/

Part III: https://observerid.com/the-jalan-roa-malaka-of-kota-tua-part-iii-the-europeans/

Part IV: https://observerid.com/the-jalan-roa-malaka-of-kota-tua-part-iv-f-j-l-ghijzels-and-modernism-in-indonesian-architecture/