2019 is officially the bicentennial year of Singapore. Continuing from part one of "The First Teochews in Singapore", this week we look into the evidences proving a Teochew oral tradition (published in Teo-chews in Malaya [馬來亞潮僑通鑑 - click here to download book]) that identifies a group of Chinese settled in Singapore before British establishment, as Teochew sojourners from Siam (Thailand), and how an old map of Singapore rediscovered in Scotland pinpoints where they lived by the Singapore River.
Ascertaining if the first Chinese in Singapore were Teochew
Although Raffles alluded to being responsible for the early Chinese influx into Singapore on more than one occasion, a review of his surviving writings reveals that he never wrote about them again after his initial communications with Calcutta. In fact, he displayed scarce interest in the Chinese who were in Singapore before him; it was only on his third visit in October 1822 that his secretary, Lieutenant L.N. Hull, enquired of Farquhar on their background.
Through Farquhar’s replies, we learn that these men were among “various Malays and Chinese” whom Temenggong Abdul Rahman had granted leave to clear ground for plantations, of which about 20 had commenced prior to British establishment. The resident also observed the location of a Chinese gambier plantation on the western side of Selegie Hill, and another on the northeast portion of a range to the westward of Fort Canning Hill (see Map 2).
Map 2 - Map of Singapore dated 18 June 1825 with locations of Chinese gambier plantations indicated by red arrows. British Library accession number: IOR:X/3346/ Public domain
In addition, Farquhar identified the Chinese gambier planters as followers of a “Captain China” (sometimes reported as “China Captain”) and reported that they were settled before the British came on grounds by the Singapore River’s north bank that later became a cantonment site. In 1823, the Captain China was ordered to remove a “Chinese moveable Temple” and “lights from the Great Tree” from a site reserved for a church, which the “Jackson Plan” of 1822 shows to be before Hill Street, at the foot of Fort Canning Hill (see Map 3).
Map 3: Partial view of the 1822 Plan of the Town of Singapore ("Jackson Plan") with proposed church site indicated by red arrow. Fort Canning Hill is labelled here as "Singapore Hill". National Archives of Singapore reference number A2Ma0018/ Public domain.
These revelations match the Teochew oral account’s report concerning a Teochew base around Sung Heng gambier plantation at Fort Canning Hill. Though Farquhar stopped short of calling these gambier planters Teochew, he left an important clue with regards to their leader.
According to Farquhar, the first Captain China of Singapore was a “Canton Chinese”, as opposed to “Amoy Chinese”, whose “great increase” in number later necessitated the appointment of a second captain. The historical status of Amoy (now Xiamen) as the principal port of southern Fujian makes certain that the “Amoy Chinese” were the Hokkiens. Intuitively one might suppose the “Canton Chinese” to be Cantonese natives from around Canton (now Guangzhou). However this is precluded by Seah Eu Chin’s revelation that of all the gambier and pepper planters in Singapore in 1848, 10,000 were Teochews and another 400 were “Macao”. This spells out that Cantonese people were not labelled then as they are today, but in accordance to the main port wherefrom they left China before the Opium War. At the same time, it exhibits a Teochew monopoly over the gambier industry.
In demand across Southeast Asia as an ingredient for the habitual chewing of betel nut, gambier was significant as the primary export product of nearby Riau before the mid-19th century. As told in the Johor historical chronicles Tuhfat al-Nafis, its commercial cultivation was introduced around 1740 to attract trade from Java and elsewhere, and “Chinese from China” were brought in as labourers in holdings opened by Malays and Bugis. After these natives were driven out by war in the 1780s, the Dutch, who thereafter occupied Riau, reported the takeover of the plantations by two Chinese communities, whom they referred as “Kantongers” and “Emooijers”. Divided by bitter rivalry, they each had a Kapitein (or Captain) residing on opposing river banks at Senggarang and Tanjung Pinang respectively.
That the “Canton Chinese” and “Amoy Chinese” tags Farquhar used were copied from the Dutch can be derived from Raffles’ disclosure that Singapore’s early inhabitants were “from Malacca and Rhio”. The subsequent Teochew dominance of the Singapore gambier industry, coupled with an assertion by the late local Teochew leader Yeo Chan Boon that Teochew cultivators were established in Riau before the opening of Singapore’s port, strongly suggests that the “Canton Chinese” in Singapore could only be Teochews who moved over from Riau. 
This is supported by a 1976 study on the Chinese in Riau, which found that Senggarang was colloquially known as Teo Bo (潮坡), the “Teochew bank”, and Tanjung Pinang was known as Hok Bo (福坡), the “Hokkien bank”.
Immediate Origin of Settlers from Siam
That the first Chinese settlers in Singapore were Teochews from Riau would back the Teochew oral account’s authenticity. But why did it portray the same group of people to be from Siam?
Even though British and Malay sources do not refer to a Siamese representation in early 1819 Singapore, a hidden connection is given away by the kingdom’s “first importance” when the onset of the northeast monsoon at the end of the year brought from various “Eastern ports” the first waves of cargo-laden native trading vessels. At the end of Singapore’s maiden trading season of the modern era four months later, its harbour was noted to have “upwards of twenty junks, three of which [were] from China, and two from Cochin China, the rest from Siam and other quarters”. The level of trade astonished Farquhar for the British had done nothing to induce it.
Only in January 1820 did a combination of Dutch hostility towards the British occupation of Singapore and the EIC’s financial constraints, culminate in instructions from the company leadership to Farquhar to consider Singapore “rather as a military post than as a fixed settlement”.
The junks from Siam were, in fact, operated by Chinese traders. As reported by John Crawfurd, who headed a British embassy to Siam in 1821, it was a hub to “about two hundred” Chinese junks that carried out different branches of trade to ports in China and Southeast Asia. Encouraged by the Siamese government, they also brought thousands of migrant Chinese workers to commence large-scale sugarcane cultivation in plantations after 1809. Importantly, among the Chinese in Bangkok, the Teochew were “the most numerous” and “in the forefront of those holding state power and ennoblement”. In this context, the Teochew oral account’s intimation of Singapore Teochew leaders Heng Kim (王欽) and Heng Hong Sun (王豐順) as family relations of Tsap Poih Buan Seng (十八萬勝) — “a forerunner of the junk trade, and in his day leader of the Teochew sojourners” — becomes telling.
Tsap Poih Buan Seng, according to online and news reports from China, was the moniker of a Teochew named Tan Buan Seng (陳萬勝), also known as Tan Seng Lai (陳勝來), who had left his village Tai Mui (岱美) to seek a livelihood in Siam during the reign of Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736–1796). He eventually became a wealthy junk trader and owned 18 vessels — hence his Teochew nickname of “Eighteen Buan Seng”. Beyond this, Tan Buan Seng was recorded in Qing imperial records as the letter-bearer of Siamese monarch King Taksin in a diplomatic mission to Canton to seek a military alliance against Burma in 1775. While Tan Buan Seng was probably no longer alive in 1819, his legacy would sufficiently explain the Siamese role in Singapore’s revival as a trading entrepôt.
The reign of King Taksin, who became ruler after the Ayutthaya dynasty was destroyed by Burmese invaders in 1767, was highly significant for the fact that he was the son of a Teochew immigrant. Viewed as a usurper by the country’s old establishment, he built his kingship upon an army served by no small number of his paternal kinsmen and relied on a cohort of trusted Teochew merchants in Bangkok to raise revenue through active overseas trade. Of relevance is that Siam was a key trading partner of Riau in the 1770s when Bugis chief Raja Haji was Yam Tuan Muda (or viceroy) of the settlement. Many of Chinese merchants from Siam came totrade vast quantities of tableware, textile, silk and rice. A deity tablet dedicated to the Chinese junk traders’ titular deity Mazu (媽祖) in 1779 by Chua Iou Kho (蔡耀可) discovered in Senggarang proves a leading Teochew role in this development.
Hostilities between the Bugis and the Dutch government in Melaka in the mid-1780s ultimately compelled Sultan Mahmud to shift the Johor sultanate seat of power to Lingga. However Teochew traders from Siam returned to Riau after the old sovereign passed away in 1811 and Raja Jaafar, son of Raja Haji, made himself the sultanate’s strongman by installing Tengku Long’s younger brother as a puppet ruler. A wooden plaque was presented in the same year to the Mazu temple in Senggarang by Kapitan (Captain) Tan Ngueng Pang (陳源放), whose Teochew background is revealed by the discovery of the Dutch, upon their return to Riau in 1818, that all the local Chinese were now under a single captain office held by the “Kantonner Chinezen”.
Despite Raffles’ claim of Singapore as “my new colony”, the concession he obtained from his agreements with the Malays in 1819 had been merely a lease to set up a factory, without the transfer of Singapore’s sovereignty. This state of affairs was clearly reflected in Hailu (海錄), the travelogue of Hakka seafarer Hsieh Ch’ing Kao (謝清高) published in 1820. While acknowledging the formation of a trading centre by the English in Singapore, it depicted the place unambiguously as a part of Old Johor (i.e. mainland Johor) and further recorded its reference by natives as Selat, meaning the “straits” in Malay — apparently in relation to Temenggong Abdul Rahman’s fiefdom over the Singapore Straits; and by the Chinese from Fujian and Guangdong as the “new prefectural seat” (新州府), which apparently stemmed from Tengku Long’s new status as sultan.
Conceivably, the Teochew oral account is silent about the movement of Teochews from Riau to Singapore because its originators perceived Riau and Singapore to be within the boundaries of a common dominion, which is the Johor Sultanate.
Settlement at Sua Kia Deng
Following British administration of the harbour at the mouth of Singapore River, the followers of Captain China were settled near Fort Canning Hill, which was subsequently designated for cantonment use — this obliged the settlers to relocate. Thereafter, based on the Arrangement Made for the Singapore Government signed between Malay and British leaders on 26 June 1819, these Chinese were instructed to “move to the other side of the river, forming a campong [“town”] from the site of the large bridge down the river, towards the mouth”.
An update by Farquhar at the start of September 1819 informed Raffles that the new precinct was “becoming extensive” and “new streets [had] been laid out to meet the steadily increasing population”. Significantly, the Bute Map, drawn around this time and believed to be the earliest-known landward map of modern Singapore (see Map 4), illustrates the limits of this Chinese town and adjoining cleared grounds to encompass both the premises of Wak Hai Cheng Bio and what is now Boat Quay — exactly as told in the Teochew oral account.
Map 4: Partial view of the Bute Map showing the Chinese Town and adjoined cleared grounds. The red arrow points out the hill from which the name Sua Kia Deng was derived. (Source: The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Scotland)
Following the arrival of the first junks from Siam and China, Farquhar reported in March 1820 that “the swampy ground on the opposite side of the river is now almost covered with Chinese houses”. However, the distinguished Malay language scribe Munshi Abdullah, who moved from Melaka to settle in Singapore in mid-1819, observed that this side of the Singapore River originally had “no good piece of ground even as much as sixty yards wide, the whole place being covered in deep mud, except only on the hills where the soil was clay”. This sheds light that the resident’s statement was probably less of excitement, and more of surprise that there had been any construction at all.
Owing to conditions “where the tide rose ten feet and extended to some distance”, the Boat Quay riverside was, as late as 1822, occupied only by “a few native traders” (a term inclusive of the Chinese) living in rumah rakit, or "raft houses", erected over swamp. Most of the settlers here would have imaginably built their houses on drier land and the recollection in the Teochew oral account of the place-name “Sua Kia Deng” (山仔頂), or “top of the little hill”, invariably compels attention to a promontory in the locality that Munshi Abdullah remarked somewhat favourably as “a large rise, of moderate elevation”.
Marked on the Bute Map as between the Chinese town and the sea, this hill stood at what is presently Raffles Place. Though it was nameless, the traditional settlement of Sua Kia Deng was verified by a letter submitted by the Chinese inhabitants to Raffles in December 1822, confirming that there were 130 houses built on its top.
Ironically, this letter was a petition against a second eviction notice served to the Teochews after Raffles had planned to level the hill to make way for a new commercial square and use its earth to reclaim what would become Boat Quay. This was fulfilled in 1823 and as a result the feature behind the name Sua Kia Deng was not seen on any subsequent maps of Singapore, until the Bute Map resurfaced and was publicly exhibited in the country in 2012. If anything, the memory of Sua Kia Deng is a tell-tale sign of the age of the oral traditions underlying the Teochew oral account.
[To be continued...]
 Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L. N. Hull dated 28 December 1822; and Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L. N. Hull, Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor dated 23 December 1822, as cited in Bartley, W. (1933, December). Population of Singapore in 1819. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 11 (2), 177.
 Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L. W. Hull dated 5 November 1822, Straits Settlements Records, L11: Letters to and from Raffles, p.111. The Captain China post was created on Raffles’ instructions to place foreign settlers “under the immediate superintendence of chiefs of their own tribes” for the purpose of maintaining order. See Buckley, C.E. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) (pp. 56-57). Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
 Letter from to Lt. L. N. Hull to Lieut Colonel Farquhar, Resident dated 4 February 1823, Straits Settlements Records, L17: Letters to Singapore (Farquhar), no.60.; and Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L. W. Hull dated 4 February 1823, Straits Settlements Records, L13: Raffles: Letters from Singapore, no.72.
 Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L. N. Hull dated 21 January 1823, Straits Settlements Records, L13: Raffles: Letters from Singapore, no.30.
 Siah. U.C (1848). General Sketch of the Numbers, Tribes and Avocations of the Chinese in Singapore. The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, 2, 283-290.
Raja Ali Haji Ahmad., Hooker, V. M., & Andaya, B. W. (1982). The Precious Gift (Tuhfat al-Nafis): An annotated translation (pp.125-126). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
 Also spelt “Kantonners” and “Emoeijers. Netscher, E. (1870). De Nederlanders in Djohor en Siak (p.200).Batavia: Bruining & Wijt.
 Netscher, E. (1854). Beschrijving van Een Gedeelte Der Residentie Riouw. In Bleeker, P., Munnich, E., & Netscher. E. (Eds.). Tijdschrift voor Indische taal-, land-, en volkenkunde, II, 160. Batavia: Lange & Co.
 許武榮. [Xu, W. R.] (1951). 馬來亞潮僑印象記 [The Impression of Teo-chews In Malaya] (p.28). 新加坡: 南洋书局.
 Ng, C. K. (1976). The Chinese in Riau: a community on an unstable and restrictive frontier. (Research Project Series) (p.14). Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Graduate Studies, Nanyang University, Singapore. Senggarang and Tanjung Pinang were reported to be otherwise known as “big bank” (大坡) and “small bank” (小坡).
 Letter from The Resident, Singapore to the Lieutenant Governor, Fort Marlbro’ dated 3 November 1819, Straits Settlements Records, L10: Singapore: Letters to Bencoolen, pp.195-196.
 Letter from W, Farquhar to T.S. Raffles, dated 21 March 1820, as cited in Raffles, S. (1830). Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (pp. 443-445).London: J. Murray. Based on a report that the first Amoy junk only anchored at Singapore in February 1821, the three junks from China had to be red head junks and most probably Teochew. See Buckley, C.E. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) (p. 67). Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
 Letter from Supreme Governor to Farquhar, dated 11 January 1820, as cited in Notices of Singapore. (January, February, March 1855).The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, 9, 444
 Crawfurd, J. (1830). Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-general of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin China (Vol.2) (2nd Ed.). (pp.160-166, p.177). London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley
 Viraphol, S., & Moolsilpa, M. (Ed.). (2014). Tribute and profit: Sino-Siamese trade, 1652-1853 (p.176). Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books. (Original work published 1977).
 潮州：泰國船王陳萬勝宅第 [Chaozhou: Mansion of Thailand Shipping King Tan Buan Seng]. (2013, November 16). Retrieved January 8, 2017, from 潮州熱線 [CZOnline] website: http://cztour.czonline.net/chaozhoulvyou/chaozhoufengjing/2013-11-16/57542.html; 陳孝徹 [Chen, X.C.] (2014, September 21). 淡水缸：為紅頭船精神添佐證 [A Freshwater Vat: A Testament to the Red Head Junk Spirit]. 汕頭特區晚報 [Shantou Tequ Wanbao], p. 5. Retrieved from http://www.dahuawang.com/stwb/html/2014-09/21/content_561735.htm
 大清歴朝實錄 [The Veritable Records of Qing Dynasty], 卷 990 [scroll number 990]: 乾隆四十年九月乙卯[Qianlong 40.9.10.]
 Viraphol, S., & Moolsilpa, M. (Ed.). (2014). Tribute and profit: Sino-Siamese trade, 1652-1853 (p.163). Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books. (Original work published 1977).
 Raja Ali Haji Ahmad., Hooker, V. M., & Andaya, B. W. (1982). The Precious Gift (Tuhfat al-Nafis): An annotated translation (pp. 239-240 and p.252). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
 Franke, W. (Ed.) (1988). Chinese epigraphic materials in Indonesia (Vol. 1) (p.354). Singapore: South Seas Society.
 Raja Ali Haji Ahmad., Hooker, V. M., & Andaya, B. W. (1982). The Precious Gift (Tuhfat al-Nafis): An annotated translation (p.332). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
 Franke, W. (Ed.) (1988). Chinese epigraphic materials in Indonesia (Vol. 1) (p.355). Singapore: South Seas Society.
 Netscher, E. (1854). Beschrijving van Een Gedeelte Der Residentie Riouw. In Bleeker, P., Munnich, E., & Netscher. E. (Eds.). Tijdschrift voor Indische taal-, land-, en volkenkunde, II (p.159). Batavia: Lange & Co.
.楊炳南. [Yang, B. N.] (1936). 海錄及其他三種 [Records of the Sea and three other writings] (p.7). 上海 : 商務印書館. (Original work published circa 1820). Interestingly Singapore was popularly referred by its local Chinese until the mid-1900s as Sig Lag (石叻), which is the Teochew/Hokkien transliteration of Selat,.
 Letter from W. Farquhar, Resident, to Lt. L.W. Hull dated 5 November 1822, Straits Settlements Records, L11: Letters to and from Raffles, p.111.
 For articles of this agreement, see Buckley, C.B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) (pp. 58-59). Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
 Letter from W. Farquhar to T.S. Raffles dated 2 September 1819, as cited in Wurtzburg, C.E. (1954). Raffles of the Eastern Isles (p.541). London: Hodder and Stoughton.
 For an introduction of the Bute Map, see Lim, C.S., (2012). The Earliest Landward Map of Singapore Preserved in the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Scotland. In Bastin, J., The Founding of Singapore 1819 (pp.199-219). Singapore: National Library Board.
 Letter from W. Farquhar to T.S. Raffles dated 31 March 1820, as cited in Raffles, S. (1830). Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (pp. 433-434).London: J. Murray.
 Abdullah Abdul Kadir, & Hill, A.H. (1985). The Hikayat Abdullah: the autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797-1854: An annotated translation. (p.145). Singapore: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1969).
 Buckley, C.E. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) (p. 75). Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
 Petition of Chinese Inhabitants residing in China Town to William Farquhar dated 4 December 1822, Straits Settlements Records, L6: Singapore: Letters to Bencoolen, p.26.
 Buckley, C.E. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) (p. 75). Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
Article is adapted from "An Old Teochew Oral Account Sheds New Light on the 1819 Founding of Singapore", a research paper originally commissioned by the National Library Board, Singapore during the Author's tenure as a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow attached to the National Library, Singapore during 2016-2017.
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