Cash coins of the Gongsis on Borneo and Banka

Sep, 23, 1998
San - Three
Tiao - be extending branches, extend, long; branch
Gou - ditch (between fields) [L.Zhou]
San Tiao Gou means 3 channels that has been digged for washing the gold

Gong - clan head, Gong; palace, court
Si - to be in charge, manage
Gong Si means Union

Zheng - to be straight, correct; govern; determine
Li - to stand, stand up; to set up, establish
Zheng Li means Correctly established

During the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries Chinese immigrants, especially Hakkas from the southern part of China, were involved in the exploitation of tin mines on the island of Banka and gold mines on the western coast of Borneo (Banka and Borneo are former Dutch East Indies). They settled in separate villages, maintained their own customs and in due time organized themselves into a number of political unions, known as gongsi. Especially, the Borneo gongsis became more and more independent , had their own jurisdiction, maintained their own armed forces and issued their own coinage based upon the traditional Chinese cash piece.
The history of the gongsis remained hidden for a long time, not the least since it conflicted with the traditional picture of a firmly established Dutch government in the Indies.
Only after several wars finally the gongsi independency ended with the surrender of the Da gang gongsi to the Dutch on july 1854. After the surrender the majority of the gongsi cash was melted down.
Nowadays they are extremely scarce.
Data on the cash pieces from the various Chinese gongsis in the former Dutch East-Indies are scarce and their illustrations are mainly restricted to the antiquarian books of Netscher/van der Chijs (1864) and Millies (1871).
The majority of the still existing Borneo gongsi pieces are from the Da Gang gongsi, the leading gongsi of the He shun federation. A number of the pieces bear corrupted Manchu legends on the reverse similar to Ching cash. Illustrated is a piece of the San tiao gou gongsi.
The Borneo gongsi pieces consist of a mixture of tin and lead, whereas the Banka pieces have mainly tin as major metallic component.
A paper has been published in the Numismatic Chronicle 1993, pp.171-196 and a hitherto unknown piece has been described in the Newsletter no. 143, p. 15-16, 1995 of the Oriental Numismatic Society.
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