Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Two Kronik Tionghua of Semarang and Cirebon: A Note on Provenance and Reliability

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Two Kronik Tionghua of Semarang and Cirebon: A Note on Provenance and Reliability

Article excerpt

This article is the first comprehensive evaluation of the provenance and reliability of the two enigmatic Kronik Tionghua texts of Semarang and Cirebon (the 'Malay Annals of Semarang and Cerbon'). Initially published by M.O. Parlindungan in 1964, historians have increasingly begun to use these documents when reconstructing Java's early Islamic history. This article is a long overdue attempt to positively identify the Dutch colonial official (Cornelis Poortman) whom Parlindungan claims to have received the texts from. Although the article establishes that Parlindungan almost certainly knew this individual, discrepancies between his version of Poortman's career and official Dutch records raise questions about whether Poortman could have found the two Kronik Tionghua, at least in the manner described. The article then ends with a close textual analysis of both Kronik Tionghua which demonstrates the possibility that both texts were written by a modern, Dutch-educated author. The article therefore concludes that both texts are probable fabrications, albeit ones based on authentic texts. 

In 1964, the Indonesian Batak historian, Mangaradja Onggang Parlindungan, published a book entitled Tuanku Rao. This text, designed to glorify a nineteenth-century Minangkabau teacher of the same name (and who had been active in the Batak lands), included as an appendix an edited version of two reputedly peranakan (Sino-Malay) Javanese manuscripts. Parlindungan collectively called these texts Peranan orang2 Tionghwa/Islam/Hanafi didalam perkembangan agama Islam di pulau Djawa, 1411-1564 (The role of Chinese Hanafi Muslims in the spread of Islam in Java, 1411-1564). (1) Actually covering the period 1403-1585, Parlindungan claimed that the original manuscripts his edited versions were based on had been found in 1928, in two Indonesian Chinese temples, one in Semarang and the other in Cirebon. Supposedly found by a Dutch colonial official called 'Resident Poortman', (2) Parlindungan claimed that Poortman had subsequently taken both texts back to the Netherlands. (3) There Parlindungan encountered them in 1937, after befriending Poortman while still a student. (4) After obtaining copies of both texts, Parlindungan finally published them in 1964.

The potential significance of these Parlindungan texts--henceforth termed the Kronik Tionghua Semarang (The Chinese Chronicle of Semarang) and Kronik Tionghua Cirebon (The Chinese Chronicle of Cirebon)--rests in their claim that Zheng He, during his seven famous voyages between 1402 and 1433, established a network of Hanafi Chinese Muslim trading communities on Java that, collectively, instigated that island's conversion to Islam. (5) Although this possibility has quite deservedly gained considerable attention over recent years (below), it runs contrary to the prevailing academic consensus: that Indian and/or Middle Eastern missionaries were primarily responsible for instigating Maritime Southeast Asia's conversion. (6)

Indeed, it is perhaps because of their potentially revolutionary claims that the popular Indonesian historian, Slamet Muljana, took up both texts soon after their publication, making them the central feature of his 1968 Runtuhnya kerajaan Hindu-Jawa dan timbulnya negara-negara Islam di Nusantara (The fall of Java's Hindu Kingdom and the rise of the Nusantara's Islamic states). In this text, Muljana reconstructed early Javanese Islamic history according to the claims of each text, quoting them extensively and reinterpreting more established sources (like the Babad Tanah Jawi) in light of them. (7) Later, in his English-language work, A story of Majapahit (1976), Muljana expanded the discussion still further by speaking of traditional Javanese mosque architecture as a possible derivation from the Chinese pavilion. (8)

In addition to Muljana, the texts also attracted the influential Dutch scholars, H.J. de Graaf and Th.G.Th. Pigeaud. (9) Working together, both scholars gave the texts their tentative support for two reasons: firstly, the Kronik Tionghua Semarang dates Majapahit's fall to 1527, a date de Graaf and Pigeaud both reached independently, (10) while secondly, in 1976 de Graaf and Pigeaud (and again independently of the Parlindungan texts) published their own work arguing for Chinese influence over Maritime Southeast Asia's Islamisation, especially in Central and Eastern Java. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.