chapter  3
30 Pages

Batavia and the Peranakan Chinese 1619-1870

When in May 1619 the Dutch entered into occupation of the town in West Java they called Batavia they found that the local population, with the exception of a small Chinese community, had fled. The port had its origin in the twelfth century and it owed its rise as a colonial city to the Dutch East India Company's need for an administrative headquarters in the Indonesian archipelago where ships could be built and repaired, goods could be stored, provisions acquired and local intelligence obtained. 1 To keep the settlement functioning in every respect the Dutch were required to follow Manila's example and attract Chinese residents. The first Dutch GovernorGeneral, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, returned often in his letters to the success of Manila and the way in which that city was able to profit from its Chinese inhabitants.2 Coen used every means possible to persuade the Chinese to leave neighbouring Banten, where they were active in pepper-growing and in the pepper trade; he highly prized their usefulness to the Company as artisans for building the new town and he wanted to ensure that Chinese junks coming to Java from the north used Batavia as their terminus.3