Overview stories

01- The grave findings of my ancestor Kan Keng Tiong and the phenomenon of Mandarins in Dutch East Indies

02- The mass grave

03- Djakarta, Jalan Teuku Umar 15, the last house of H.H. Kan

04- The number on the yellow Universitas Indonesia jacket

05- The Amateur Orchestra of Djakarta

06- General Destruction Corps

07- The Chinese Tea Lords

08- The ancestoral altars of the Kan-Han-Tan clan

09- The coffin of great grandmother Thung Leng Nio as an example of a traditional Chinese coffin

10- Tan Goan Piauw and Thung Leng Nio

11- Villa Mei Ling is an historic building for Dutch India

12- Tan Tjoen Lee and Han Tek Nio-

13- Kan Keng Tjong overview

14- Desiree Tan (Hoei Nio)

15- Bommeltje

16- H.L.L.Kan and the opium and salt regie in Dutch India

17- Music in my family

18- Gedong Dalam a Paladio villa in Dutch East Indies

19- Ferry Tan's death and the failed cover-up of the s.s. Insulinde

20-The disappeared Compagnie Seepers of the City Guard of Batavia

21- Han Oen Lee en Kan Oe Nio

22- Ganti Nama,the compulsory name change imposed on Chinese Indonesian citizens and other racial laws in Indonesia




03. H.H. Kan’s last home: Djalan Teuku Umar 15, Djakarta

Partly translated by Linawati Sidarto


The idea for this story came during an interview in the context of the Oral History Project of the CIHC. The interviewer asked me about my earliest memories that I can recall. To my own surprise I could remember vividly the violent usurpation and occupation of my grandfather’s house by the Pakistani. I even can see the whole event as a 3D movie in clear details. Another reason to write this story is to kill the myth of the wealth of my grandfather at the moment he died.

Djakarta, Djalan Teuku Umar 15 the last home of H.H.Kan

laatste huis HHKan From the multi-lingual description under the house number ‘15’ in this photo, it is clear that this house is used as the Pakistani Embassy. My grandfather H.H. Kan, a former Volksraadlid, lived in this house after World War II until his death in 1951. It was also the last house that he could call his own.
When he died, his body was laid out in an open coffin in the house’s front porch. This front porch is an open space seen on the photo as the protruding part of the house on the right.
Through that porch, one can enter the house through the front door.

The ancestral altar stands in the first room behind the front door. On the day of my grandfather’s death, incense was lit during the burial and coffin preparation ceremonies. The door connecting the front porch and the room where the ancestral altar stands was left open in order to connect the coffin to the altar. The coffin was placed as close as possible to the altar, and thus right near the door.

Apparently the word had spread that the front door was open, because without warning a group of Pakistani forcefully entered the house and occupied it. In the process, the Pakistani had to walk past the coffin with their luggage: suitcases and boxes. This disturbed my father, who was busy with preparations for the burial ceremony at the coffin.
I specifically remember an incident where my father, just as he was placing  a pearl in his father’s mouth (part of the death ritual), was pushed aside by a Pakistani intruder, such that he fell against the coffin. I could feel my father’s restrained anger as the Pakistani did not even apologize.
My mother later said that the police had refused to interfere as it involved a “friendly Moslem state.” From that day on, the Pakistani embassy personnel never left this house.

  The Pakistani even tried to occupy the pavilion in which my aunt Lucy, my grandfather’s eldest daughter, lived. This did not work, thanks to the fact that she was married to a German national. Later on, they had put a sign in front of the pavilion saying “Property of the West German Republic.” This plate was later supplemented with translations in German and English: “Bundesrepublik Deutsland” and “West Germany”
The few pieces of furniture and belongings of my grandfather’s, which had been retrieved from his confiscated house in ‘Parapatan’, were dumped by the Pakistani in the front garden and on the street. Thus, many objects were lost such as photographs, important documents, family data and other personal things
.Before World War II, my grandfather owned three villas: the house on Parapatan, a country house for his wife in Tjitjoeroeg, and Villa Mei Ling in Bandung. The latter was meant to be a museum of the Kan-Han family. The villa was filled with art and antiques.

During World War II, my family offered this villa for the use to the military retreating Governor General Tjarda van Starkenborg. Then the house was taken over by the Japanese occupiers, followed by the British liberators. When the last British left, they took everything from the house (the art and antiques) in 35 lorries as war loot. The Dutch East Indies government said it could not do anything because the Supreme Command was in the hand of the British – and they were the liberators. After the British left, General Spoor arrived and finally handed the building over to the Indonesian state. Thus, the loss of the house was definitive.

The country house in Tjitjoeroeg was robbed and destroyed during the Bersiap period. The Gurkhas rescued those living in the house just in time. The house on Parapatan, meanwhile, was used by the navy corps of the Japanese, followed by the British, the Dutch East Indies, and ultimately the Indonesians. This villa, with everything in it, was also lost. Luckily, his construction company Parapatan still owned a house on Van Heutsz Boulevard, which was later renamed Jalan Teuku Umar 15 (house on the photograph). My grandfather was able to live in that house. Next door, his sister Han Tek Nio lived on number 13 while on number 11, his brother Han Khing Bie.
By the time of his death in 1951 he – and our family – also lost this last house to the Pakistani.




This story demonstrates some aspects of the community in Indonesia:

1. My grandfather H.H. Kan had during the Dutch East Indies government as a member of the Volksraad some (political) influence. During the Republik Indonesia time of president Soekarno this influence was reduced to zero. The fact that the police refused to chase away the Pakistani from the home of H.H. Kan demonstrated the lawless condition of the Chinese in Indonesia. This was clearly visible during the “bersiap time” but also during the pogroms in the years thereafter such as in 1960 and 1963, but more explicitly during the genocides of 1965-1967 and in 1998.

2.My grandfather had called over the hate of the nationalistic Indonesians by voting against the Soetardjo petition.

krantenbericht over Djakarta

This resulted in several bullying events after the sovereignty transfer in 1949. The last one just before he died, namely he was put in jail due to owning a gun illegally.


3.He had an official gun permit issued by the Dutch East Indies government but not one by the Indonesian government. According to my father, my grandfather came out of jail in a bad condition and ill and as a direct result he died shortly after. This incident was even reported in the Dutch newspapers, resulting in several letters of concern. So my father received a letter from his former cello teacher Charles van Isterdael.

Only recently my niece Tan Bie Giok told me the most precious property of H.H. Kan in his villa of Parapatan was a lacquer screen inlayed with pieces of Jade.

On the wedding photo of aunt Hilda, daughter of H.H. Kan (far right) and Lie Tien Nio (in dark dress) with Jesse Sung, the son of the Chinese consul in the Dutch East Indies in 1934, one can see the immense proportion of this screen.

jade scherm op bruiloft

During the night in which my grandfather was arrested by the Japanese, my grandmother had a dream that this screen tumbled down. This night can be exactly traced due to a diary of the journalist Nio Joe Lan (Dalam Tawanan Djepang, 2nd print 2008, page 20) namely the night between April the 26 and 27 1942. After WO II the screen disappeared.

The Pakistani never payed any rent. Even worse: during my father’s stay in the Netherlands between 1954 and 1957 they even managed to receive a cadaster paper stating them as the main resident of Dj. Teuku Umar 15. With this paper they tried to remove my aunt Lucy from the pavilion. So the German embassy put a plate “Milik Djerman Barat” (property of the republic West Germany) in front of the building.

During my school time I still suffered from the anger about the vote against the Soetadjo petition by my grandfather. The history teacher told my class “His grandfather was a traitor of the country where he was born just to please the Dutch occupier”. Due to this infame of my grandfather our family was called Blandist and suffered additional discrimination. This was especially dangerous during the New Guinea crises at its summit.



Sioe Yao Kan.

Berkel, last updated May 2018

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