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Revenue Farming and Chinese Enterprise in Colonial Indonesia 1860-1910 by James R. Rush

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Opium to Java

Revenue Farming and Chinese Enterprise in Colonial Indonesia 1860-1910 by James R. Rush

Keywords: Opium to Java,James R. Rush,Opium,Java,Chinese Enterprise,Colonial,Indonesia



jAMEs R. RusH

Revrou~ Farming and Chin~u Enurpris~
in Coloniallndonesia 1860-1910



No 3. Shenton Way

#10-05 Shenton House
Singapore 068805

Opium To Java :
Revenue Fanning and Chinese Enterprise

in Colonial Indonesia 1860-1910
byJames R. Rush

First Equinox Edition 2007

Copyright © 1990 by Cornell University

This is a reprint edition authorized hy
the original publisher, Cornell University Press.

Printed in Indonesia on IOOo/o postconsumer waste recycled paper.

No trees were destroyed to produce this book.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Llbrary of Congress Cauloging-in-Publication Data
Rush, James R. Games Robert), 1944-
0piurn to Java : revenue farming and Chinese enterprise in colonial Indonesia,

1860-1910 I James R. Rush.

1st Equinox ed.
Jakarta : Equinox Pub., 2007.

p.; em.

ISBN 9793780495
Includes bibliographical references and index.
I. Opium trade--Indonesia-Java- History--19th century.

All rights reserved. No ~ of this publication may be reproduced, stored in

a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, dccrronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission

ofEquinox Publishing.


Acknowledgments vu
Introduction IX
1. The Finest Tropical Island in the World
2. Opium, Sinister Friend 1
3· Opium Farms
4· Smuggling and the Black Market g
5· Opium Farm Chinese: The Cabang Atas
6. Channeling Influence: Chinese, Pryayi, and Dutch 26

7· The Quest for the Perfect Vice Tax 43
8. Opium Czar Charles TeMechelen 83
g. Crisis 108
10. Relentless War! Against the Opium Farm
1 1. The Opium Regie and Ethical Java 136
12. Epilogue: Waning Kings and Customs
Glossary and Opium Weights 179
Bibliography 198
2 17
• 242





Central and East java . XII
J ava: Residencies, with concemrations of opium use
and profits
lliustratl.ons 16

"A modem civilization ... is spreading" 29
Residency house 53
Javanese opium smokers go
O pium farmer
Chinese men in Java 131
Before the auction 161
Charles TeMechelen 191
A. C. Uljec 207
The opium Cmse, magazine cover 221
Opium factory


& search for this book began at Yale University, and 1owe

my first debt of gratitude to my mentors there. Harry .J. Benda led

me to examine Indonesia and provided inspiration for a study like
this one. Unfortunately he died before the work really began. Subse-
quently Bernhard Dahm suggested "opium" and helped me to for-
mulate the research; Anthony Reid launched me into the archives;
Milton Osborne was on hand as I began writing; and Robin Winks
saw the project through to its concl usion-providi ng crucial sup-
port and sound counsel (as always) and contributing to my under-
standing of th ings in J ava his own rich insights into the larger
colonial world. Each one helped to shape this work, and its good
qualities owe much to their knowledge and advice.

Others at Yale who aided me then and later include the Southeast
Asia cu rator at Sterling Memorial Library, Charles Bryant; the
geographer Karlj. Pelzer; linguist j oseph Erri ngton; and historians
C. S. Gray and Onghokham. In fact, as a friend and colleague in the
study of nineteenth-<entury Java, Onghokham has contributed
enormously to the evolution of my work over the years. It was he
who introduced me to a key figure in my search, when, one rainy day
in the Netherlands-I hadjust arrived-he asked me, "By the way,
have you ever heard of Charles TeMechelen?"

In the Netherlands I received generous assistance from the staff
members at various archives, including the Ministerie van Binnen-
landse Zaken and the AJgemeen Rijksarchief in The Hague; the
H ulpdepot ofthe Algemcen Rijksarchiefin Schaarsbergen; and the
Gemeente Archief in Leiden. At the Koninklijk Instituutvoor Taal-,



Land- en Volkenkunde in Leiden, whose facilities I used e_xten-

sively, F.G.P. Jacquet unraveled for me the mysteries of the colonial

archive system. Go Gien Tjwan, J. Soegiarto, P. Creutzberg, Sudib-

byo Sastrowardhoyo, Soemarsaid .Mocrtono, Anthony Day, and

Heather Sutherland were among the others in Holland who helped

the work along at various stages. William O'Malley, Barbara Watson

Andaya, Akira Oki, and jean Taylor Gelman were there at the same

time; we shared our discoveries in libraries and archives, and I

turned to them for practical advice and good company. Mevrouw

Koolemans Beijnen-Uljee, whose father was the.Dutch resident of

Rembang, java, from 1888 to t8g2, talked about her childhood with

me. She was ninety-three years old when 1 met her, my only eye-

witness. •

My research in the Netherlands was funded by a Fulbright-Hays

Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. Also, much of it could not have

been accomplished without the he.lp and support ofJane Wiseman.

The work has also benefited from critical reading by many others.

Chief among these are Carl Trocki and J ohn Butcher, historians

and fellow students of revenue farming in Southeast Asia. Also of

immense value w"as a critique by Will Gerritsen ("james Robert

Rush' histoire inligrale van de prive exploitatie van een negentiende

eeuws koloniale gouvernementsmonopolie"), which he presented to

the Catholic University of Nijmegen as his Doctoraalscriptie in 1982.

This book also profited from colloquia at Monash University, Aus-

trali!l National University, and Griffith University in 1982. l am

grateful to Glenn May for helping lO arrange these meetings and to

the Australian-American Educational Foundation for funding my

visit to Australia. Special thanks go to Benedict O'Gorman Ander-

son for his encouraging supporf.

Among those who typed versions ofthe manuscript at one time or

another, and Rawlessly, were Julie Lavorgna and Gwenda Smith.

Portions of the book draw on three articles of mine, previously ·

published: "Opium in Java: A Sinister Friend," jouTTUJl of Asian

Studies, 44 (May tg8s), 54g-6o; "Social Control and lnHuence in

Nineteenth Century Indonesia: Opium Farms and the Chinese of

Java," buumesia, no. 35 (April 1983), 53-64; and "Opium Farms in

Colonial Java, an Introduction," proceedings, Conference on Modern

Indonesian History, July r8-19, 1975, Center for Southeast Asian

Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


New Havl!1t, Connecticut


BKI Bijdragen·tot de Taal-, LAnd- en Volkenkunde. journal of the

DBB Royal Institute of Anthropology (Netherlands), Konink-

DF lijk lnstituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde

DJ Directeur van Binnenlandsch Bestuur, director of internal

DMD administration, head of Colonial Service

EN/ Directeur van Financien, directo.r of Finance Department,
EN/ (2d)
Directeur van J ustitie, director of justice Department.
GG Batavia
Directeur van Middelen en Domeinen, d irector of Means
and Estates, Batavia
IT EflC)-clopaedie Loan Nederlandsche-lndit, first edition. 1905

JWR Encyclopatdie van Ntdtrlaruische-lndit, second edition, 1917f.,
KITLV with supplements

KVvNI Exhibilum, one ofseveral classifications for files ofdocuments
in the Dutch Colonial Archives

A Dutch guilder or gulden, circa tgoo worth U.S. $o.40

Governor general

Hoog Gerecht~hofvan Nederlandsch-Indic, Supreme Court

of Netherlands India

Hoofd inspecteur van het Opium Regie, chief inspector of ·

the Opium Regie

lndische Gids, Indies Digest

De lndische To/Jr. van het Nieuws van den Dag, T he Indies

Interpreter of the Daily News

lndisch Weeltblad van het Rtchl. Indies Law Weekly

jO'UTtUJI ofAsian Studies .

Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde,

Royal Institute of Anthropology (Netherlands)

Koloniale Verslagen, annual colonial reports

Mailrappon, bundle of documents mailed from Batavia to

the minister of colonies in Holland; one of several classi-



fications for files of docunic:nts in the Dutch Colonial Ar-


MvK Minister van kolonien, minister of colonies, The Hague
Memorie van overgave, a colonial official's transfer report,
wriu en for the be nefit of his successor
Nederlandse Handei-Maatschappij. Dutch Tr.uling Com-
RvN I Nitruw Nederwndsch Biografisch Woortknboeh, New Nether-
SvN I lands Biographical Dictionary

TBB Regeerings Almanak van Nederlandsch-lndie, Government

THHK Gazette for Netherlands India, annual

TM Raad van Justitie, Council ofJustice
TN/ Raad van lndie, Indies Council, Batavia

TNLNI Staat van dienst, service record of colonial official

v Staatsbladen van Nederlandsch-lndie, statutes and procla-

VBG mations for Netherlands India, bound annually

VI C Tijdschrift voor lut Binnenlat!dsch Bt,fluur, Colonial Service

VKG Magazine

VOC Tiong Hoa Hwe Koan [Chung-hua hui-kuan), Chinese cul-

VR tural and reform association, founded •goo

vs Charles TeMechelen

Charles TeMechelen Collection, KIT LV

Tijdschrift voor Ntderwndsch-l ndit, Netherlands India Maga-


Tijdschrift tiOOr Nijverlteid m Lmulbvuw ;,. Nrtkrwndsch-,

Magau ne for Industry and Agriculture in Netherlands

Ind ia

Verbaal, commonest classification for files of documents in

Dutch Colonial Archives

Verhandelingm Batauiaasch Genootschap, Proceedings of the

Batavia Society of Arts and Sciences

Verharldtlingm lndische -Gttwotschap, Proceedings of the In-

dies Society, Netherlands ··

Verbaal KabineL~ Geheim, a secret Verbaal

Vercenigde Oost lndische Compagnie, Dutch East India


Verslag Opium Regie, monthly reports of Dutch Opium


Verslag Sluikhandel, monthly reports on government anti-

smuggling efforts during Regie period

Opium to Java

':'f; r~) ~-.~<==
"""--=--=-- ~
1\;>)Kan-nd.J"IL" y-

- h/no.U ;;: ; (\),.
aft! ~~

Central and East java


~ opium farm was a monopoly concession for selling

opium. Ordinarily such a monopoly was granted by a state to a
concessionaire, or "farmer," for a limited period of time, and it
applied to a strictly delineated territory- a city, a district, a prov-
ince. On J ava during the nineteenth century, Chinese merchants
paid dearly for this privilege and thereby yielded great sums of
revenue to the island's Dutch administration. For this and other
reasons to be explored'in this book the opium farm became a power-
fu l institution there. Indeed, it was one of the distinctive institutions
of colonial Java.

But in n ineteenth-century Southeast Asia, opium farms were
hardly unique toJ ava. Java was only one of many Dutch possessions
in the Indonesian Archipelago where opium was sold under a gov-
ernment monopoly. Opium was imported into every other Euro-
pean colony in the region besides, and sold to the Asian subjects of
Britain, France, and Spain through one sort of arrangement or
another, commonly a revenue farm run by local Chinese like those
onJ ava. Opiu.m also provided an important source of income for the
region's waning native states- in 1849. for instance, the sultan of
Lingga, already under Dutch "protection," raised more than half his
direct income through an opium farm-as well as for the one indig-
enous state that did not succumb eventually to advancing Euro-
peans, the kingdom ofThailand. •

t. Sec Hong Lysa,'71Jailand in tlu Ninttttnlh Ctntury: Ewlu!Um oftlu Eco'fWflr'} and
Society (Singapore, •91!4); and "De toestand der residentie Rio in 1849·" TN/, 15, 1
(1853). 4'5·



Opium aside, revenue farming generally was among the com-
monest forms of taxation in the region. In one place or another,
Buddhist kings, Malay sultans, and colonial proconsuls leased to
Chinese revenue farmers the exclusive rights to buy up areca nuts
and jungle gums and vines; to collect taxes on land and on certain
animals and plants; to impose du ties on goods in transit along
roadways and in seaports; to run markets, pawnshops, gambling
dens, and brothels; and to sell salt and spirits.2 Dutch java's lux-
uriant array of tax farms, which included many of these and then
some-for example, the right to harvest from limestone caves the
swallows' nests precious to Chinese traders and cooks-fit within a
regionwide pattern.

As European governance superseded native rule everywhere but
Thailand, Europe's men-on-the-spot were quick to assume control
over existing revenue farms and to set up new ones. Tax farms thus
helped to undetwrite empire building and in some places paid a
huge proportion of the cost of CQionial administration, as in British
Malaya and the Straits Settlements.' Similarly, in Thailand revenue
farms facilitated the concentration of royal power in Bangkok in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the same pe-
riod opium revenues, collected partly from farms, made it possible
for the Dutch to pay (or their massively expanding presence in the
Indonesian Archipelago without incurring an equally massive defi-

As the states of the region took on ever more definitive shapes,
however, the convenience of tapping Chinese-run revenue farms
for ready cash was eventually overtaken by a larger consideration.
This was the need to make the authority of central governments
thorough and comprehensive. Aided by new roads, railways,
bridges, and telegraph lines, and by steamships and modernized

• · John G. Butcher, "Revenue Fa.rming and the Changing Stat.e in Southca.•t Asia:
A Preliminary Discussion," paper presented to the Conference on Revenue Farming
and Southeast Asian Transitions, i\unralian National University, tg88, pp. 4-5.

3· J ohn G. Butcher, "The Demise of the Revenue Fann System in the Federated
Malay States," Modnn Asian Studies, 17, 3 (1!}83). j88; and Carl A. Trocki. "Paying for
Free Trade: The Opium Fanns of Singapore, t820-1920," paper P"""nted at the
Conference on t.he Historical Context of Opium Use. University of Pennsylvania,

4· See F. W. Diehl, "The Opium-Tax Farms inj ava, t813-1914." paperp~nted
to the Confc...,ncc on Indonesian Economic H istory in the Dutch Colonial Period,
Au.ur.tlian National University, 1!}83. pp. 8-g. As Diehl shows, however, opium
"'venues d id not eliminate the defidt altogether.

FinestTropical Island In the World .

was not established until 1809 by Marshal Daendels, Chinese mer-
chants had been manufacturing and selling opium in Java for much
ofthe two preceding centuries under various arrangements with the
East India Company and native rulers.37

In Daendel's system of 18og, merchan ts competed at a public
auction for opium farm leases that gave them a monopoly for man-
ufacturing and selling opium in a territory defined by the govern-
ment. The government collected fees from the farmers and also
profited by selling them opium, the importation of which the gov-
ernment monopolized. All further changes in opium farm structure
were essentially improvements or variations on this simple plan.38
As Dutch hegemony in Java became more pronounced during the
nineteenth century, especially after the addition of large territories
in central and east J ava to the government lands at the end of the
Java War- the new residencies of Banyumas, Bagclen, Madiun,
and Kediri-the territory opened to government opium farmers.
also expanded. With the exception of regions chosen by the Dutch
to be opium free (the Forbidden Areas, Verbodm Kringen), all .Java
hosted Dutch-appointed opium farmers by 1832.

By the 186os the opium farm had emerged as a key institution in
the colonial state, interlocking with others such as the Chinese Of-
ficer System, the P~ngreh Praja, and the Colonial Service. In the
years of economic expansion following the end of the Cultivation
System it achieved its maturest form and widest influence. Under
Holland 's stewardship opium had pervaded the finest tropical island
in the world.

37· Jean Chretien Baud, "Proeve van eene geschiedenis van den handel en het
vcrbruik van opium in Nedcrland.chc lndic," BK/, 1 (1853), 95· 100.

g8. The first Dutch-established opium fann in Java, for the city of Batavia, was
le-.!Sed to Chinese captain Lim Becng Kang in •747· Three months later it was
abolished, apparent!)· because Lim's opium dens had become gathering spou for
criminals. S<:e ibid., pp. 125, ' 44·


Opium, Sinister Friend

gene~llyAab traders are credited with introducing opium

to Asia. It reached J ava centuries ago, exactly when and borne by

whom it is not known. When Hollanders first appeared off the coast

ofJava in the late sixteenth century, opium was already an impor-

tant article ofregional commerce.• In their attempt to dominate the

local trade during the ensuing century, Dutch merchants competed
with Engli~h, Dane, and Arab. Finally in 1677 the DutCh East India

Company secured a treaty from King Amangkurat II ofJava guar-

anteeing the VOC a monopoly over the importation of opium into

his kingdom , Mataram, as well as over its distribution internally.

Another smal!er kingdom, Ceribon, agreed to similar terms the

following year.2 "fhis was the beginning ofthe Dutch opium monop-

oly in Java. Holland expanded it eventually to embrace all the

Indies, and guarded it jealously until the colony itself was .lost.

Dutch traffic in opium to J ava rose considerably following the

treaty of 1677, and J . C. Baud has calculated that from 1619 to 1799

the VOC introduced an average of 56,000 kilograms of raw opium

t. Jean Chretien Baud. "Proe,•c van eene geschiedenis van den handel en het

verbruilr. van opium in Nederlandschc Jodie." BKI, 1 (1853), go.
•· On the subjert o f early rompetition among Europeans and Arabs for the Java

trade, see the letter from Governor General Rijklof van Goens to Heeren XVII,

February ' 3• tS,g, inJ. K.J. deJ onge, ed., ~ op4tmul van ltt.t Ntdnlmld.!di GtuJgOWT

JIJV(J; Vtnmlll!ling oon <11IUilgegnJtn stu.Uen uit ltt.t otullwloniool ArchUf (The Hague.

•87!1), 4:9. The VOC-Mawam treaty is in .J. E. Heercs, ed., Corf>w ~

Nmlandb-lndi€um (The Hague, •907-38), 3:74-79·


Opium, Slnlster Friend

into J ava every year-officially.s Given the vulnerability of Java's
coaslline and the relatively ineffective poliCing apparatus of the
company, we may assume that the true amount was much higher.
Contemporary accounts reveal that opium was widely available in
Java at the outset of the nineteenth century, especially in the north·
ern coastal regions with their harbor towns, and in the d ensely
populated principalities of ·Sura.karta and Yogyakarta. Revenues
from the official opium monopoly grew dramatically in the first
quarter century, and Peter Carey writes that by 1820 there were 372
separate places licensed to sell opium in Yogyakarta, "namely nearly
every major tollgate, sub-tollgate and market in the Sultanate."•
(Princely opium addicts were observed among Diponegoro's reti-
nue, and during the Java War many of his troops fell sick when the
opium supply was disrupted.)S With the expansion of the admin-
istrative apparatus ofthe colonial state in the 183os, especially as the
Cultivation System grew and as the Dutch established official opium
farms in much of inner Java, opium became even more widely
available and its consumption spread rapidly.

Opium's penetration of Java was not even, however. The Ban-
tanese of west Java and their Sundanese neighbors in the adjacent
Priangan regencies were evidently little attracted to it. Dutch ob-
servers attributed this to cultural and religious values, especially to
the stricter observance of Islam in these areas. They reinforced the
local disinclination with an official ban. The Priangan and most of
Bamam (Banten) were closed for opium sales early in the nine-
teenth century, and neither hosted a n official opium farm.6 Even
though both regions contained a black market of variable liveliness,
it didn't remotely compare with the volume elsewhere. When in the
early twentieth century the Dutch legalized opium sales in Bamen
and the highlands, less opium was sold there than anywhere else in

3· Baud, "Proeve," pp. 92, 101- 2, 158-sg.
4· Peter Carey, "Changing Perceptions of the Chinese Communities in Central
Java, 1755- 18•s,''/ndtmaia (April1g84), 33·
5· Ibid., p. 35·
6. SvNI 1824, no. 44; Baud, "Procvc," p. 162. Bantam contained four opium
depots, which were usually run by the Batavia fanner. See SvNI 1874. no. 229.
7· On smuggling in the Priangan,><:c Resident Prcangcr-Regenuchappen toGG,
April 23, tgoo, no. 4213/28 in V 23/1!Jgo.1/2t. The Java-wide panem of opium

consumption as or 1909 is summatized in "Ovcnichukaan van het opiumverbruik

op Java en Madoera onder Chincczen en Inlanders," October 27, 1gog, in V
11 1111911 130-


Opium to Java

The richest opium markets were in east and central java.s The ·

opium farms ofSurakarta and the residencies of Kediri, Semarang,

and Madiun nearly always yielded the highest revenues. During the

nineteenth century this is where the most powerful o pium farmers

held sway. Figures gathered in the early twentieth century confirm

that opium consumption per person was consistently highest here.

The neighboring coastal residencies o f Japara, Rem bang, and Sur-

abaya, along with Kedu and Yogyakarta in south-central java, al~o

contained large opium-smoking populations. These territories were

predominantly Javanese, indeed collectively they formed the Jav-

anese heartland. The same area also entertained a lively Chinese

commerce. It penetrated south from the mercantile towns of the

notth coast deep into the village world of the interior. Growing

steadily throughout the century, this commerce was intimately con-

nected with the competition for J ava's opium market. It was here

that opium farms reached their most mature form.

Residencies on the periphery ofthis core region-from Batavia to

Pekalongan on the west, and to the east, Pasuruan, Probolinggo,

and Besuki, as well as the island of Madura-contained enough

opium users to support profitable opium farms throughout the

nineteenth century. Al though consumption per person was less

here than in the core region, the use of opium was still relatively

widespread. In addi tion, opium farms in these residencies were

often held by the same individuals who dominated the more lucra-

tive farms. with the result that they. too. were drawn into the arena

of major opium farm competition. ·

Opium smoking was, then, a common feature of urban and rural

life in nineteenth-century J ava. Among the Dutch, who preferred

gin, it was a vice associated only with the weaker "half-bloods," and

"the bad ones" who "disappeared into the kampungs and the slums."!l

8. On the subject of opium consumption in Java in the late nineteenth century,
the three best sources arc "Resume van de door de Hoofden van Gewestelijk Bestuur
op Java en Madura ingezonden amwoorden op de hun gestelde vragen betrelTende
hct opiumverbruik," in VKG 3/2/t88s/Kt, hereafter cited as Opium Resume. t885:
Charles TeMechden: Rapport uitgebrdcht in \'oldoening aan 's Gouvernemems
lk!<luit dd gjuly t 88s, no. 9 in V 22i8/ t888/6. hereafter cited as TM: Rapport 1888;
and a series of imerviews conducted in central and eastJava in t8go with seventy·nine
acknowledged opium smokers, which may be found among the Charles Te Mcchden
papers, TMC 422c; hereafter referred to as Opium Interviews, tBgo.

9· Qu~tion from P. A. IY•um, Ufu nnd Downs of lift i11 1M lruJit1 (•Sg•J.trans.
Elsje Qualm Sturtevant and Donald W. Stuncvant (Amherst, Mass., •987), p. '95· In
lliddm Ftmt, Louis Coupen•s depicted such a person in Si-Oudijck, the un-
acknowledged son by a native mistress of a Dutch official: Si·Oudijc.k's dilapidated
dwel.ling in the village is "pem1eated with the acrid odor of opium" (p. 1t9).

Opium, Slnlstcr Friend

Javanese opium smokers. Courtesy Koninklijk lnstituut voor de Tropcn.
Among the Chinese, however, it was popular. In the coastal cities
and inland towns where they settled, wealth y Chinese men enjoyed
the opium pipe in their homes and in private smoking dubs, while
their poorer countrymen shared public dens and clandestine smok-
ing places with the locals. liem Thian Joe, the chronide,r of the
Chinese community of Semarang, writes that few wealthy Chinese
were free from it, and tl)at it was "a great honor" (loa-lee) for guests
in a Chinese household to be offered opium.l11 Although individu-
ally the Chinese consumed considerably more opium than the indig-
enous population- indeed, most of the severest addicts then and
later appear to have been Chinese-they made up only a minor part
of the mass market. By far the larger quantit y ofJava's opium was

consumed by the .Javanese.

10. LicmThianjoc. Riwajat Smwrang IDari Pi<•mannja Sam Poo Samp. r.,Joapo.snja
Km•gkaan) (Semarang. 193~), p. 140.

Opium to Java

By the 187os opium was ubiquitous in the Javanese lands. Every
village had its quotient ofregular smokers as well as a larger number
of people who used opium only on special occasions. Opium seems
to have been especially attractive to Java's "floating" population:
vagabonds, musicians, and theater folk, peddlers and anisans, and
the swelling contingent of laborers who worked for wages-laying
rails, plucking coffee, cutting cane, hauling produce and supplies-
in the expanding private enterprise economy of the late nineteenth
century. Among the pryayi, opium had long been a feature of
hospitality and social life. Male guests in centralJava were roULinely
entenained with opium at aristocratic festivities. In the humbler
society ofvillage and plantation, celebrations marking the end ofthe
rice harvest or the beginning of the coffee-plucking season often
included the sharing of opium among the men. "At a pany in the
village it is generally the custom," said a villager from Bojonegoro
interviewed in 18go, "for the host to provide opium for those who ·
enjoy smoking. The village leaders who may be present are regaled
in this manner."••

TheJ avanese used opium in a variety of ways depending on their
means and tastes. The essential product was candu, purified raw
opium mixed with taste enhancers and adulterants. Wealthier indi-
viduals smoked fancy-grade candu in finely crafted pipes (baduda11);
commoners smoked a cruder blend using simple pipes and enjoyed
cheaper preparations such as tiM, finely cut awar-awar leaves (ficus
septica) laced with candu and sugar. Simple throwaway pipes were
fashioned from papaya stems or otherwise homemade.12 Many peo-
ple also smoked tike and opium-soaked tobacco rolled up in a maize
leaf or made into a cigar or cigarette another way. Smoking was
preferred, but opium could also be "eaten." Some Javanese spiked
their c~ffee with it, others mixed it with their betel quid. 13

Opium dens dotted the landscape, although they were only one of
many venues where opium was'consumed. From M.T.H. Perelaer's
antiopium novel of the t88os, Babot Dalima , comes a description of
one such den located in a Javanese town, the seat ofa pryayi official.
It stood just behind the mosque on the alun-alun, an insubstantial
bamboo structure with low ceilings and dirt floors. Having paid the
storekeeper, a customer received a slip of paper inscribed with

1 1. Opium lm~rvicws. 18go, no. 5·
12. Ibid., no. 66.
•3· TM: Rappor1 1888.

Opium, Slnlstcr Friend

Chinese characters indicating the amount of his purchase. This he
presented to a female .attendant in one of the den's twenty-four
cubicles, eaclt of which was furnished with one long, low bench, a
baleh-baleh, and lighted dimly by a small oil lamp. "There on the
baleh-baleh," Perelaer tells us, "lay a Javanese ... stretched out full
length, and half reclining on his side. He had taken off his head
cloth, and his long black hair floated over the ... pillow on the
bench." The attendant then "advanced to the baleh-baleh, took
some candu out of a small box, warmed it at the flame of the lamp,
and then mixed it with a little very finely cut tobacco. Then she
rolled it in her fingers into a little ball about the size of a large pea,
put this into the bowl of the opium pipe, and handed it to the . ..

smoker." 1 ~

Java's opium smokers seem to have been choosy about their
candu. They distinguished between that which was pungent or
bland, cool or hot, and sweet or bitter on the basis of taste and smell.
Opium was imported to java in its raw form and was processed into
consumable products locally. An opium farmer's "chemist" could
produce candu of varying tastes by altering the proportions of
Bengal and Turkish opium being used, and by skillfully blending ·in
additives such as burnt sugar, lemon extract, and jicing (the ash
remains of already smoked candu).l5 Formulas for good candu
evid~ntly varied from region to region, depending on what was
popular locally, and a clever opium farmer did his best to satisfy
local tastes. In Surakarta, for example, many customers insisted on
raw opium, and opium farmers obliged.16

To meet the local .demand, opium farmers routinely manufac-
tured a variety of products. One farmer in Pasuruan, for example,
was observed in 189 1 making four grades ofcandu ofvarying tastes
and declining potencies. The lowest of these he used to mix with
awar-awar leaves to make tiny balls (geln1gs) of tike that he sold for
pennies apiece.l7

The Javanese purchased opium with their earnings as plantation

14. M.T.H. Perdaer, &00. Da/ima, trans. E. J. Venning (london, t888). pp. 189-

92. Perelaer was trying to arouse his I'C'dders' indignation; therefore, in his text the

pillow w.u "disgustingly filthy," the smoker "wretched." the den ii$Cif "a squalid,

filthy lillie bamboo building." .
15. TM toDF,Scptember •6. t887,no. ••7• /4 Gehdm in TM: Rapport t888;and

J. Haak, opiumrtgi• rru:t1U11'1111J(J/ tjaruJM (Semarang, r88g), p. ' 3·

t6. TM: Rapport t888.
17. Bijlage Ft to TM to DF, February t6, t8gt , no. r6glt• in TMC H4ud.

Opium to Java

coolies and petty traders and workers, from selling the products of
their fields, and after 1870 from their share in the rent money for
leased agricultural lands. Some with special skills (such as pup-
peteers), or with a talent for business or a high position, made more,

but most people had very limited money incomes. In 1885 an un-
skilled laborer in J ava earned, on the average, 115 cents a day (more
in some areas), and a skilled craftsperson could cam anywhere from

6o to 1100 cents depending on the local economy.IS It is not surpris-
ing that village opium-den holders in the 188os reported that it was
a ro~re person who had more than 110 cents a day to spend on
opium.19 Among seventy-nine opium smokers interviewed in 1890
in Bojonegoro, Rembang, Malang, and Jember, the range in daily
spending for op ium was striking--up to 100 cents in one or two
cases-but the commonest daily expenditure wa..~ 5 cents, and only a
few said they spent more than 10 to 20 cent~ daily on opium.20 Five
cents was sufficient to buy, on the average, a small wad of tiki!, or

some similarly adulterated preparation: 20 cents bought three more
of the same. These are very modest amounts of opium. Other
observational evidence from the farm years and official statistics
collected later show that the vast majority ofJava's opium smokers
fell into this range. InJava, large numbers of individuals consumed
very small amounts of opium.21

"Among the remedies which it has pleased Almighty God to give
man to relieve his sufferings," wrote English physician Thomas
Sydenham in 168o, "none is so universal and so efficacious as
opium."22 Today morphine continues to be clinically superior to

18. KVvNI 1885. p. 218. In 1888the average daily wage for workers on indepcn·
dent coffee plantations in eaot j ava was 37 cents; on go,·ernment-run plantations in
centralJava it was 10 cents or less. See "Het loon van de Koffu:plantende be•-ollting
op Jav-d in vcrbond met an. 56 van het Regeerings-reglcmcnt." JG, 2 (1888), 1818-
33· C.oppcr pennies (duiten) were the usual medium or cash exchange in the rural
economy. Djoko Suryo, "Social and Economic Life in Rural Scrnarang under Colonial
Rule in the L.ater Nineleenth C-entury" (Ph.D. dis-•.. Monash University, tgllll), p.
209, shows wages marginally higher, especially around Scmarang itself.

•9· TM : Rapport 1888.
20. Opium Interviews, 18go.
21 . Oirecteur van Middelen en Domeinenlo GG, August 16, 1866, no. 3238 in V
16/2/1867/t; TM: Rappon 1888; and Versklg OpiuonfabricA, 1913, which shows that
the Regie, from 1903 to 1912, consistently manufactured and sold more one-half
mata (193.milligrams) tubes of candu (its smalleot) than any other size, along with
millions of gelengs of tike. Sec the charts. p. ' 3·
••· Quoted in Jerome H. Jaffe and William R. Manin, "Opioid Analgesia and
Antagonists," in 1M l'haT'fii(ICo/ogiUJl Basis of TluTapeutics, ed. Alfred Goodman Gil-
man, l.ouis S. Goodman, and Alfred Gilman, p . 494 (New York, 1!}8o).

Opium, Slnlster Friend

newer drugs in relieving pain. One ofits important characteristics as
an analgesic is its universality; most types of pain respond equally
well to morphine. Another is the relatively low level of mental
clouding and behavior modification that results from therapeutic
doses: "Morphine and related drugs rarely produce the garrulous,
silly,.and emotionally labile behavior frequently seen in alcohol and
barbiturate intoxication."2~ .Furthermore, morphine depresses the
cough reflex and provides unparalieled relief for diarrhea and dys-

The medicinal properties of morphine, borne in smoked candu,
go a long way in explaining the appeal of opium to the Javanese.
This is especially true in light of prevailing public health conditions
inJ ava during the last century.2$ Given the physical environment in
which they lived, and the absence of hygienic habits and medical
facilities, nineteenth-centuryJ avanese were extremely vulnerable to
d isease. Their insubstantial houses made of bamboo and grasses
were small, cramped, and damp and harbored pests such as rats and
.cockroaches. Villages were usually built along rivers and swamps,
around fish ponds and arable fields, all of which, writes Djoko
Suryo, offered "a favorable environment for living disease agents
and intermediate disease hosts, such as mosquitoes, flies, and other
insects."26 Water was almost always unclean and never boiled. Dis-
ease was constantly present. The people suffered chronically from
fevers, and from malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid,chicken pox,
and measles. In Semarang and central Java cholera epidemics oc-
curred at the rate ofone a decade, sometimes more frequently, and
during these times the death rate soared. Improvement~ in com-
munication and transportation during the late nineteenth .century
may have actually increased the incidence of disease, as epidemics
spread swiftly along rpads and rails. In addition, during the last
quarter ofthe century the region experienced a succession ofcalam-
ities which also increased the incidence and severity of illness-
Hoods and d rough ts, followed by crop failures, food shortages, and
fam ines.

Dutch provisions for public health were totally inadequate against

23. Ibid., p. 499·
24. Ibid., pp. 5 13, 503.
25. See Djoko Suryo, "Social and Economic Ufc in Rural &marang," csp. chap. 5,
"The Constant Problem of Health," u pon which this par~graph is based.
26. Ibid., p. 246.

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