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Description of Batavia


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Description of Batavia (continued)

The houses in the city are mostly built of brick, and plaistered over; many of them are very spacious, and furnished very sumptuously, especially on the ground-floor, the bed-chambers, in general, having but little furniture in them. There are five gates to the city, with draw-bridges to each, which are shut at night. The suburbs, which surround the town, cover a large piece of ground, but are meanly built. The Campan China, which is largest, is on the south side.

The public buildings, in this city, are the castle, a town-hall, and several churches. The castle is square, surrounded by a ditch, and consists of several square courts, in one of which is deposited a great number of warlike instruments, especially of guns and balls.

The town-hall and the great church are handsome edifices. The church is of an octagon figure, having a dome and lanthorn of the same form, and has a very fine organ. Ruyters kirk, belonging to the Lutherans, is small, but a very neat building. The Portuguese church is of an oblong square; and the priests, belonging to it, preach in the Malay as well as the Portuguese language.

The streets of Batavia are paved on both sides, are very regular and straight, and a canal runs through the middle of most of them, both sides of which are planted with trees, which have a very agreeable effect; and, as all kinds of goods are conveyed by water, the streets are in good repair. The bazar, or market-place, is large and square, intersected by rows of stalls, and abounds with different fruits and garden herbage, also with poultry, pork, dried fish, and a variety of other com-modities. Near it is another square bazar, for fish, shell-fish, and meat; but the chief market for vegetables is held at a place, called Tannabank, a little distance from the town, on every Saturday morning, where they may be had very cheap.

This city is the seat of the Dutch governor-general and council of the Indies, and is, with several neighbouring settlements of that nation, immediately under their direction; and to them all the other governments, belonging to their East-India company, are subject. They meet, for the dispatch of business, several times in a week. There are also two sabanders, who, amongst other things, transact the business of foreigners with the council; a mayor of the city; and a land and water fischal for criminal affairs.

The Dutch, by their industry, have done more here than any other power in Europe has done in India; and, by means of their policy, have rendered it one of the most flourishing cities in this part of the world, where most European, as well as Indian, commodities may be purchased; but it is not a good market for Indian goods; for you meet with but few of them, and those few are very dear. This city is the chief rendezvous of the Dutch trade for the East-Indies, and from this port the ships for Europe take their departure. Here is a large house, appointed by the company, as a hotel for the accommodation of all European strangers, where they are obliged to reside, and pay two rix-dollars a day for a maintenance, while the Dutch may live for twenty-five rix-dollars a month. There is not, perhaps, any city in the world that contains a greater variety of people. One would imagine there were assembled, of different human beings, from every nation under heaven, who, for the most part, retain their several peculiar dresses, and are allowed to live after the manner of their respective countries. Of whites, there are Dutch, who are masters; but the greater part of the companys servants, and of the inhabitants, are Germans, Danes, Swedes, and Hungarians; with a few English, French, and Italians; of these the foreign merchants are chiefly composed; and most of them keep their chariots, and live in great luxury and elegance. A great number of slaves precede and follow their chariots; and, when the women go abroad, the female slaves sit on the steps of the chariot. The men are dressed excessively gay, having silk and velvet garments, richly laced and embroidered, with laced hats, and finely-dressed wigs. Their waistcoats have sleeves; and, when they sit in a house, they always take off their coats. Amongst the middle class of people, a pair of drawers, which have two gold buttons and reach above their breeches, is reckoned a great piece of finery. The women dress mostly in chintzes, made generally in the European, though sometimes in the Malay, fashion: they are seldom seen walk-ing in the streets, usually riding in carriages. Both men and women have a sickly complexion, without any colour in their cheeks; but paleness, it seems, is reckoned one mark of beauty among the ladies. Besides chariots, which are open and richly ornamented, they have sedans, with wooden lattices, carved and gilt, and short spokes, which make an aukward appearance to a stranger: and, for their children they have a sort of oblong square box, with a lattice at the sides, and a roof fashioned like the eaves of a house; this has a spoke at each end, and is carried by two men on their shoulders, and the child within sits all along on the bottom of it.

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© Derived from the London 1773 edition printed for Stanfield Parkinson, pages 174 - 176, 2004
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