Saturday, September 14, 2019

A recently-discovered translation from Dutch to Siraya

It's not often in one's career that one comes across a book or manuscript that has lain 'hidden' for several hundred years, but by chance this happened to me recently. In Amsterdam in 1661, the Dutch missionary Daniël Gravius published a volume comprising his translations of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John in the Formosan language, Siraya, a member of the broader Austronesian family of languages. Until recently, it was thought that only the translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew had survived. However, I recently identified a copy of the 1661 publication which contains both Gospel translations. The Gospel of St. John differs from that of St. Matthew in several respects and will therefore allow scholars in this field to increase their knowledge of this language, which became extinct in the nineteenth century. Hopefully, it will also add to our knowledge of the history of Austronesian or Formosan languages in Taiwan and Austronesian languages more generally.
The translation is based on the Dutch States Bible (Statenbijbel), first published in 1637. This includes several Latin and Greek words, which have been carried over into Siraya. Gravius's publication consists of 70 folios of Dutch and Siraya parallel texts. It is a good example of the Bible translations that Dutch missionaries made in the seventeenth century into languages in East Asia and also illustrates how they mastered new languages such as Siraya in order to translate the Bible and other Christian literature into these languages. It is also a good example of the role that serendipity plays in scholarship!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Dutch loanwords in Taiwanese Hokkien

The fort at Baimiwong, near Keelung, established by the Spanish and the Dutch on Taiwan

Some loanwords travel from one language to another and then to another and so on. As for Dutch loanwords, cookie is a good example. It started out as koekje, which was taken to the New World by the Dutch, jumped ship to American English as cookie and is now used in a host of other languages such as Korean. I have previously written in this blog about Dutch loanwords in Japanese. Estimates vary, but there are well over 150 such loanwords still in common use in Japanese. Japanese exported some of these loanwords to other languages during the expansion of the Japanese Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1895, in the wake of the Japanese victory over Qing China in the first Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan became a dependency of Japan and remained so until 1945. During this period, the dominant form of Chinese spoken in Taiwan was Taiwanese Hokkien. This variety evolved in southern China, in particular the province of Fujian. During the Qing period many people from this region migrated to Taiwan (Mandarin would only gradually become the dominant form of Chinese on Taiwan after the arrival of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang regime in 1949-1950). As a result of contact between Japanese and Taiwanese Hokkien during the Japanese period. Hokkien adopted many Japanese loanwords. In 2011, the Taiwanese government made a list of 172 commonly-used Japanese words in Taiwanese Hokkien. Several of these are loanwords from Dutch. These include ‘beer’ (Modern Taiwanese Language (MLT) transcription bielux/bieluq) from the Dutch bier, ‘gas’ (gafsuq) (Dutch gas), ‘bag’ (khabarng) from the old Dutch word kabas, and ‘cup’ (khokpuq) (Dutch kop). The Dutch words had typically been modified to conform to Japanese pronunciation. Today in Taiwan it is typically the older generation which still speaks Hokkien (and some can still speak Japanese), but talking to younger people they are still familiar with these words, although they are usually unaware that they had made the journey across the world from Netherlands to East Asia.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Dutch graffiti in Taiwan

The Dutch East India Company had a trading post in southern Taiwan near modern-day Tainan from 1624 to 1662. They were eventually forced to leave the island after a siege by the Chinese warlord-cum-merchant Zheng Chenggong (國姓爺) (Koxinga) (1624-1662). However, a couple of years later, in 1664, they returned to the island, this time to Quelang (now Keelung City), in the north of Taiwan, where first the Spanish and then the Dutch had previously built fortifications. The Dutch had hoped to build a ‘New Taiwan Factory’ to resume their former trade. However, this proved difficult and so in 1668 the Dutch decided to abandon Taiwan for good. Nevertheless, they left their mark on the island in several ways. As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of these ways was in Taiwanese placenames. Another way was in Dutch graffiti. Some of the Dutch fortifications at Quelang were on the island now known as Heping Island (和平島 Hépíng Dǎo). Nineteenth-century visitors to Heping, such as the French-American diplomat Charles le Gendre, recorded the names of Dutchmen, possibly soldiers, that had been carved into the walls of a cave there. Two such names were Marcus Eeckman and Jacob Bosch. Were they bored soldiers using the cave as a place of resort? Currently, we do not know, but the possibility is there. The cave still exists, known locally as the ‘Dutch cave’. Sadly, the waves of the Pacific Ocean have now washed the names away. But for over two hundred years these graffiti were silent reminders of the Dutch presence on this beautiful tropical island.

The Dutch cave on Heping Island

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Toponyms in Taiwan

In the early seventeenth century the Dutch East India Company was keen to establish a trading post in China. Together with the English it attempted to eject the Portuguese from Macau, but was defeated and withdrew to the Penghu islands near Taiwan. The Ming authorities did not allow the Dutch to remain there, but it was agreed that they could establish a base on Taiwan, which lay outside Ming jurisdiction. In 1624, the Dutch set up a trading post, initially called Fort Oranje, but later Fort Zeelandia in Southern Taiwan, close to modern-day Tainan. The Dutch presence in Taiwan caused another European power, the Spanish, some concerns. They had been established in the nearby Philippines since the previous century, and were concerned the Dutch might try to gain a foothold there. As a pre-emptive measure, the Spanish sent a fleet to northern Taiwan, where they established a colony in 1626. Both the Spanish and the Dutch combined trade with trying to convert local people to Christianity, Catholic in the case of the Spanish, Calvinist in that of the Dutch. Both European powers also took to naming local places in the European manner. The Spanish called one of the settlements in their territory Santiago - i.e. St. James. The Dutch ejected the Spanish from Taiwan in 1642. However, they kept the names of some of the Spanish settlements. Santiago, which is on the north-east coast of Taiwan, became simply St. Jago. The Dutch in turn were ejected by the Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong or Koxinga in 1662. However, some of the European names survived, albeit in an altered form. Santiago or St. Jago is now Sāndiāojiǎo (三貂角). There is a lighthouse on a cliff at Sāndiāojiǎo, which was built by another colonial power in Taiwan, the Japanese. However, despite these various colonial powers occupying Taiwan, the name of St. James lives on there, in small part thanks to the Dutch.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Western coin collecting in Tokugawa Japan

Although much of the contact between the Dutch and Japanese between 1609 and 1860 involved trade, several people on each side engaged in cultural and intellectual exchange. On the Dutch side, the head of the trading post in the late eighteenth century, Isaac Titsingh, was a well-educated, cultured man who helped Japanese learn Dutch and told them about cultural and scientific developments in the West. He struck up friendships with several Japanese including the daimyō of Tamba and rangakusha Kutsuki Masatsuna (1750-1802). Titsingh and Masatsuna corresponded with each other after Titsingh left Japan, first for Chinsura in Bengal and then Europe. Rather touchingly Masatsuna would ask Titsingh to correct his written Dutch. Masatsuna, who like all Japanese, could not leave the country, would ask Titsingh to supply him with Dutch books and in return he would send Titsingh rare Japanese and Chinese coins. Masatsuna was an avid collector of Dutch and other European coins and he wrote a book on Western coins, Seiyō senpu (西洋銭譜, 1787), many of which Titsingh had supplied to him. In the wood-block printed book Masatsuna presented images of the coins and used these as a motivation for discussing their countries of origin. One coin is a Dutch East India Company duit. It has ‘DUYT IAVAS 1783’ on one side and a transliteration of this in Arabic script with the Arabic numerals for 1783 on the other side. Some coins have the VOC insignia, but perhaps the most interesting example of a Dutch coin is one dated 1779 on page 30. On one side it has the French motto of the House of Orange, JE MAINTIENDRAI. On the other side is an extensive Dutch inscription, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Union of Utrecht (1579). In the accompanying description Masatsuna renders Utrecht in katakana as ヲイトレキトwoitorekito. This is but one of the many ways in which Japanese engaged with the Dutch language during the Tokugawa period.

p. 30 of Kutsuki Masatsuna's Seiyō senpu  The keen-eyed readers of Dutch will note a couple of mistakes but it is no mean achievement to reproduce this in wood cut.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Snowy view of Holland

Although the primary reason for the Dutch going to Japan from around 1600 onwards was to trade, they often brought gifts with them in order to endear themselves to local rulers including the shogun. Among the gifts they presented to Japanese were telescopes, clocks and peep-boxes. Peep-boxes were devices into which the viewer could peer and see different views that were on cards inserted in the box. Of particular interest is the fact that the pictures on the cards often gave the viewer a sense of the depth of a scene. This was a result of the use of single-point perspective, to which the Japanese were introduced in works of art imported by the Dutch (although earlier arrivals such as the Portuguese probably also brought such paintings to Japan). 
In the late eighteenth century, there was a particular craze for all things Dutch including these peep-boxes. The above picture was used in such a device. In the Japanese inscription in the right-hand margin one can read Oranda yukimi no zu in kanji with a katakana gloss. Oranda, in fact derived from the Portuguese word for the country came to stand not just for Holland, but for things foreign in general. The text means ‘Snowy View of Holland’. One can perhaps see a little snow in the picture, but it seems to owe more to somewhere in East or South-East Asia rather than the Low Countries.

Further reading: Yasumasa OKA, ‘Hollandisme in Japanese Craftwork’.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Dutch drainage workers on the Upper Spree

                                                The Hollaenderwindmuehle in Straupitz

As the recently-established project, Vertrokken Nederlands/Emigrant Dutch is demonstrating, people have been emigrating from the Low Countries to elsewhere in Europe and indeed in the world for hundreds of years. There are many reasons for this including difficult economic conditions, religious persecution and the search for 'a better life'. In some cases, it is the skills that migrants from the Low Countries have that allow them to emigrate. In previous posts on this blog, I have discussed the contribution textile workers from the Low Countries made to revitalizing the economies of English towns such as Norwich and Colchester. Another skill that the Dutch in particular have in abundance is drainage engineering.
In England, the Dutch drainage engineer, Sir Cornelis Vermuyden, led teams from the Low Countries and England to drain land in Essex, the Fens and the Lincolnshire/Yorkshire border. The Dutch River in Lincolnshire is one toponym that bears testimony to Vermuyden's work. In Poland, too, many workers moved from the Low Countries to assist with draining land around Gdansk and marshy land along the River Vistula. Settlements with 'holender' or variants thereof in their names are testimony to the Dutch presence there.
Another suggestion is that drainage workers from the Low Countries moved to the Upper Spree region in Brandenburg in Germany in order to assist with draining this marshy area. One physical, although by no means, conclusive, piece of evidence for the Dutch presence is of a 'Holland' wind mill at Straupitz (Tšupc) neat Cottbus. This was built in the early nineteenth century, replacing an earlier mill from the seventeenth century. Further work would need to be done before the presence of Dutch drainage workers could be confirmed, but it is certainly a suggestion that deserves attention. If it were found that Dutch were in this area, the question would arise whether any traces of the language remain. One challenge would be to distinguish between the influence of varieties of German and varieties of Dutch. The other main language spoken in the area is Lower Sorbian, a West Slavic language, still spoken in some villages around Cottbus. It would be interesting to explore whether any traces of Dutch can be found in this language.