The First Chinese Officers of Deli and Medan

Budiman BM
13 min readFeb 7, 2021


Before Tjong A Fie ruled Medan, Hokkien merchants dominated trades in Deli and were the first officers of the Dutch Indies.

The East Coast of Sumatra only started being developed in the 1860s, much later than in Java. With the increasing Chinese population, the Assistant Resident started to nominate Chinese officers in the mid-1870s. Before Tjong A Fie, the Hokkien Chinese merchants dominated the trade and were the first officers of the Dutch Indies in Deli.

The Hokkiens of Deli

The Penang merchants already established trades in the East Coast of Sumatra in the late 1850s before the Dutch settled. Particularly in Asahan (Tanjung Balai), where there was a large number of Chinese population. The first Lieutenant of Chinese was Koe Tjin Tjan, installed in Tandjong Balei on 12 April 1874.

In Tanjung Balai, opium and gambling monopolies were run by Ong Boon Keng, a Penang merchant and close associate of the Big Five Hokkien families (Khoo, Lim, Cheah, Yeoh, Tan). The merchants in Deli had close relationships with the Penang families. Some of them were related to the Ho Seng secret society. In Deli, the two Chinese triad societies always fought for dominance, Ho Seng and Ghee Hin. Chinese coolies often joined one of the societies as an allegiance of brotherhood and patriotism.

The first Chinese officers in Deli were: Tjioe Tjoe Jen (Captain of Medan and Labuhan Deli), Oen Ghan The (Lieutenant of Medan) , Lim Tek Swee (Labuhan Deli), Koh Tjai Toan (Tanjung Pura), Kie Sang (Binjai), Lie Tjie Pai (Rantau Panjang).

The Chinese officers were appointed for life. They were men of wealth and influence, held revenue farms and were active merchants. But they died relatively young (in their 40s) and their wealth usually did not pass through the second generation. The primitive healthcare made them live not that long. These wealthy Chinese usually had more than one wife with many children. More often, they were busy with their businesses and did not train their children in trades or their children were still young.

Appointment of Chinese Officers in Deli. De Locomotief 04–03–1881.

Tjioe Tjoe Jen

Tjioe Tjoe Jen was the first Chinese Captain of Labuhan Deli appointed on 31 July 1874. As Medan was being developed, he was appointed as Captain of Medan in 1881.

Tjioe passed away on July 1885 and he was related to the Ho Seng (Hosing Kongsie) secret society.

Deli courant reported

The funeral of the Captain of the Chinese Tjioe Tjoe Jen took place Thursday morning with great pomp and splendor, and with a crowd of Chinese at Titi Papan near the Chinese temple. All the dignitaries of the Chinese congregation were present, although the Hosing kongsie had somehow put themselves to the fore at the ceremony. According to our information, it seemed to be shown that the deceased belonged to that society. The Civil Administration was not present.

Bataviaasch handelsblad reported

Captain of the Chinese Tjioe Tjoe Jen passed away. He was sick and struggling for months, and his end was foreseeable. Since 1881 he fulfilled the position of the Captain in this country, and although having the reputation of maintaining some relations with the Hosing Kongsie from his early days, he was highly regarded by the majority of the Chinese for the so-called impartiality.

He does not leave a great fortune, but he was known for his selflessness. In addition to a share in the opium lease, he is the owner of some houses at Laboean and the estate amounted to more than $25 thousand.

After his death, the captain position remained vacant as the Dutch cannot find a suitable person to replace him with a commanding influence that can maintain peace and order. As a result, feuds between society and tribes sprang up and gave trouble to the Dutch authorities.

As a solution, the assistant resident appointed each tribe, a headman titled lieutenant. In 1884, Tjong Yong Hian was appointed as Chinese Lieutenant titulair of Deli. In 1888 Tjong A Fie was appointed as the head of the Hakka in Labuhan, while Tjong Yong Hian became Chinese Lieutenant of Medan.

This approach appeared to calm down the situation and eventually, stopped the hostility. Eventually, Tjong Yong Hian took up the Captain position in March 1893.

Oen Ghan The

Oen Ghan The, the first Chinese Lieutenant of Medan.

The first Chinese Lieutenant of Medan, Oen Gan The (Mandarin: Wen Yanzheng 溫颜鄭), was appointed on 28 February 1881 together with Tjioe Tjoe Jen. Very little is known about him. He had businesses with an interest in petroleum. He also contributed fund for the first European school in Medan.

In 1884, Tjong Yong Hian (called Tjong A Yong) held the position of Chinese Lieutenant titulair of Deli, while Oen held the Lieutenant position until 1887. Oen probably passed away in 1888.

Lim Tek Swee

Lim Tek Swee

Lim Tek Swee or Lim Tik Soei (Mandarin Lin DeShui 林德水) was the first Lieutenant of Chinese of Laboehan Deli appointed in 1881. He was from Fujian province and had several businesses and revenue farms. He was also involved in shipping and had a 280-ton ship called “S.S. Lim Yek Swee”.

Lim was engaged in the recruitment of coolies from China. In 1888, he returned from China accompanying coolies from Swatow to Belawan.

In 1886, Lim was overloaded with work, so he handed the position to his business partner Khoo Ting Ko, as the unpaid leader and representative of the Hokkien of Labuhan. Then in 1887, Khoo was appointed as the title Lieutenant titulair (in name only) of the Chinese.

Lim and Khoo had a kongsi or company called Kong Hok Ho in Laboehan. Their enemy was Tjia Djoe Djin, a trader at Tandjoeng Poera, who was a Luitenant of Chinese titulair.

Lim Tek Swee regularly went to Penang and was a top donor for the reconstruction of Lim Kongsi of Penang in 1893. From 1866 to 1891, he donated a substantial amount to public cemeteries and temples managed by the members of the Big Five families in Penang. Lim and Khoo Teng Ko were the main donor of Shoushan Gong temple in Labuhan Deli.

Lim passed away in 1901, and not long after his estate was auctioned.

Khoo Teng Ko (1849–1893)

Khoo Teng Ko (Mandarin: Qiu Dengguo 邱登果) came from Har Yiap village in Haicheng (Hai Teng) district of Zhangzhou county in Fujian Province. He left China when he was still a young boy and went to Penang. He moved to Labuhan Deli in late 1870s. Khoo became Lieutenant titulair of the Chinese of Labuhan Deli on 17 June 1887.

Khoo had an opium revenue farm for Deli, Batu Bara & Asahan for 1889–1891. Khoo also maintained businesses in Penang. He had a partnership with Khoo Soo Ghee and Eow Chaw of Penang big merchants to establish a general trading store Chop Ee Seng, on Beach Street in Penang. Khoo also frequently donated to the temples and public cemeteries in Penang. Khoo Teng Ko died in 1893 at the age of 44 years.

His son Khoo Cheng Tek (Qiu Qingde, 丘清德) who was 17 years old at the time, managed to continue his father’s business in timber trading with Penang. In 1921, young Khoo became the Chinese mayor of Medan.

According to Malaysia’s historian Wong Yee Tuan, Khoo Teng Ko and Lim Tek Swee were related to the Ho Seng secret society and closely connected to the Big Five families in Penang. They cooperated in opium farms and gambling houses in Deli.

At the end of 1884, the revenue farms in Deli were opened for tenders. Wong suggested Khoo and Lim were leaders of Ho Seng in Deli, and played a part in organising coolies riots and fights between Ho Seng and Ghee Hin in 1884. The aim was to disrupt their rival for the bid of the revenue farms.

Khoh Tjai Toan

Kho Tsai Toan by H. Ernst & Co. (Medan)

Afdeeling Langkat was divided into Beneden (lower, centered at Tanjung Pura) and Boven (upper, at Binjai) regions. Тjia Djoe Djin was first appointed as Lieutenant titulair of Tanjung Pura in 1880. Due to his financial dispute with Lim Tek Swee, Tjia was honorably discharged in 1881 and replaced by Khoh.

Khoh Tjai Toan (mandarin Xu Caichuan), a Hokkien, was appointed as Lieutenant of Chinese of Tanjung Pura on 28 February 1881 together with Lim Tek Swee.

Khoh was the main donor of Fengtian Gong temple in Tanjung Pura built in 1894.

The following are some other officers contemporary of Tjong A Fie.

Lim Tjing Keh (1856–1909)

Lim Tjing Keh.

Lim Tjing Keh (mandarin: Lin Qingxi 林清溪) was the Lieutenant of the Chinese of Binjai in Langkat, appointed 24 March 1893. He was born in Penang in 1856 to a Hokkien family. He had several properties in Binjai, and Kuala Kedah and Penang in Malaysia.

Lim’s mansion in Binjai.

Lim donated to the construction of the Guanyin Hall in Zhenyuan gong temple in Binjai in 1901.

Lim died in Binjai on 15 Oct. 1909, age 53 years. His son was Lim Soon Poh. In 1910, the family declared bankruptcy.

Lim’s house in Binjai.

Tjoeng Njan Khin

Tjoeng Njan Khin in 1930.

Tjoeng Njan Khin (mandarin 鐘元欽, Zhong Yuanqin) was born in 1871, and became the Luitenant of Chinese of Binjai on 30 January 1914. He was educted in Dutch and had been active in the service for the Dutch government since the early 1900s as a Chinese interpreter.

In 1917, he was appointed as a Binjai Municipality council member as the only non-Dutch foreign representative. He was one of the longest service members and fulfilled this position until his death in 1934.

He was a distinguished figure in the community and the givernment and received the Great Silver Star for his Loyalty and Merit by the residence of Langkat in 1929:

..the position of lieutenant of the Chinese is not exactly a well-paid job, but rather an honorary position where great confidence is required. The position is in good hands with Mr Tjoeng Njan Khin and he has always provided clear and useful advice.

Tjoeng Njan Khin was promoted to Captain titulair of Binjai on 22 August 1930.

The council of Binjai municiplaity. The council included: W.Ph. Coolhaas, chairman; Tjoeng Njan Khin, captain-titular of the Chinese of Upper Langkat; Djalaloedin, Langkat landscape doctor; Tengkoe Mohamad Jasin, pangeran of Boven Langkat and acting vice-chairman of the Karapatan in Langkat; mr JB Kan, chairman of the Landraden in Bindjai and Langsa; Baharoeddin, tax clerk of the Land Tribunal in Bindjai; WF Enrijk, Superintendent of the Road and Works Department of the Deli Railroad Company; ir PM Visser, inspector of the Langkat companies of the Deli Maatschappij; J. Louwerier, chief physician of the Bangkattan Hospital of the Deli Company; HJ Lever, acting administrator of the company Timbang Langkat of the Deli-Batavia Maatschappij.

He was sick since early 1934 and passed away 1 July 1934, age 63 years old.

He was buried in a Christian ceremony. His funeral was attended by the assistant resident, controleur, Pangeran Moh. Jasin on behalf of the Sultan of Langkat, representatives from the Chinese consul and the major and captain of the Chinese from Medan, the secretary of the Deli Ba mij, the inspector of the Deli Mij, the administrator of Timbang Langkat, and many municipal council members of Bindjai.

At his funeral, there were many flower arrangements, including those of the Governor of the East Coast, the Sultan of Langkat, assistant resident Dr. Reys, the municipal council of Bindjai and the municipal staff.

The house of Tjoeng Njan Khin in Binjai in 1930, a reminiscent of Lim Tjing Keh’s mansion (see above).

Tio Tjin Seng

1. The family of Tio Tjin Seng (1. Tio Tjing Hoen, 2. Tio Tjing Hoe, 3. Tio Tjing Lau).
2. The late Mrs. So Gioh Goe, wife of Tio.
3. Tio Tjin Seng.

Tio was the Chinese Lieutenant at Tebing Tinggi in 1908. His late father was Tio Hoet Sioe (Zhang Foqing), who also held Lieutenant position in 1898.

Previously, Tio Tjin Seng served as an interpreter at the Magistrates’ Court at Tebing Tinggi. In 1904 was promoted as a district warden in the Chinese quarter at Bandar Chalipa. Tio Tjin Seng was a wealthy merchant and had a substantial knowledge of public affairs in the Dutch Indies.

Tio only held the Lieutenant position for 2 years, he was sick in November 1910 and relieved from his duty.

The residence of Tio in Tebing Tinggi.

Lim Sam Hap (1858–1906)

Lim Sam Hap.

Lim Sam Hap was the first Lieutenant of the Chinese in Pangkalan Berandan in 1900, a booming petroleum town. Previously, Lim Sam Hap was the head tandil (Chinese coolies overseer) of Kwala Mentjirim tobacco plantation in Langkat owned by Deli Maatschappij.

He was the only head tandil (and Hailok Hong) that was appointed as a Chinese officer. The reason being, he is the father of Lim Koei Yap (Lin Shude), Tjong A Fie’s wife. This decision raised some eyebrows. But Tjong A Fie reasoned that Pangkalan Berandan had many Hailok Hong people who were rogues and very difficult to manage. Only Lim Sam Hap, a Hailok Hong, could control them.

Queeny Chang described his grandfather as:

Grandfather Lim was over six feet five with well-developed muscles, enormous arms and legs.. Lim was an expert in martial arts. Every coolie who came to work under him knew that Lim Sam Hap was not to be trifled with. He could overpower a dozen men with his bare fists and often, in his youth, when coolies were still unruly, stopped riots singlehandedly while his Dutch superiors remained in their houses. He earned his job as overseer through years of hardship, bravery, and integrity.

Lim died of a heart attack on Valentine’s day, 14 February 1906 at the age of 49. Tjong A Fie paid further respect by having a road in Pangkalan Berandan named after him: Djalan Lim Sam Hap.

Tjong A Fie also took care of the Lim family. His wife’s elder brother Lim Koei Seng worked for his plantation company Tjong A Fie Landen, established in 1919. Lim Koei Seng was listed as manager of the company. The company has several estates. The one administered by Koei Seng was: Seroewai (cocos), Paya Mabar (rubber) and Soengei Boeloe (rubber and sugar). His Brother Lim Tjoe Lay administered the Bandar Baroe estate (tea).

List of officers

Below are a list of Chinese officers in the East Coast of Sumatra. They are not complete (yet). The names are followed by the date of their conferral. Source: Regerings-almanak voor Nederlandsch-Indië (1882–1938).


Ondorafdeling Medan

Luitenant der Chinezen te Medan.

  • Oen Ghan The, 28 February 1881
  • Tjong Yong Hian, 22 June 1884 (titulair)
  • Tjong Yong Hian, 29 March 1888
  • Tjong A Fie, 24 March 1893
  • So Po Tjoan, 22 Sept 1896
  • Lioe En Kon, 23 April 1905
  • Liong Soei Tim, 26 January 1912
  • Hsu Hua Chang, 18 February 1931
  • Oei Han Tiong, 28 February 1931

Kapitein der Chinezen te Medan

  • Tjioe Tjoe Jen, 28 February 1881
  • Tjong Yong Hian, 24 March 1893
  • Tjong A Fie, 1898 (Titulair)
  • Tjong A Fie, 23 April 1905
  • Lioe En Kon, 26 January 1912.

Majoor der Chineezen te Medan.

  • Tjong Yong Hian, 23 April 1905
  • Tjong A Fie, 22 November 1911
  • Khoe Tjin Tek, 10 November 1922.

Ondorafdoeling Laboean Deli
Kapitein der Chinezen te Laboean Deli

  • Tjioe Tjoe Jen, 31 July 1874

Luitenants der Chineezen te Laboean Deli

  • Lim Tik Soei, 28 Feb 1881
  • Khoe Teng Ko, 17 June 1887 (titulair)
  • Lo Loe Pioe, 24 March 1893 (titulair 22 June 1884)
  • Chew Biaw Tie, 2 July 1899
  • Khoe Ke Kak, 9 January 1901

Ondorafdoeling Belawan

Luitenant der Chineezen te Belawan

· Liong Soei Tim, 1905

· Yap Wi Seng, 23 April 1912.

· Oey Chin Kiat, 1 Juni 1934

Onderafdeeling Serdang (Loeboek Pakam)

Luitenant der Chineezen te Loeboek Pakam

· Tan Kwi Yoe, 5 Dec. 1878

· Lie Tjie Pai, 28 Feb 1881

· Lau Ki Djoe, 1 Aug. 1890.

· Liau Djoen Khian, 28 April 1908.

· Lim Eng Hoei, 28 Sept. 1931.


Onderafdeeling Boven Langkat (Bindjei)

Luitenant der Chineezen te Bindjei

  • Tjia Djoe Djin, 5 April 1880 (titulair)
  • Tjia Kie Siang, 28 February 1881
  • Lim Tjing Keh, 24 March 1893
  • Thio Tian Kin, 21 January 1910
  • Tjoeng Njan Khin, 30 January 1914
  • Tan Lam San (alias Lang Fu Chen), 4 March 1935

Kapitein Tituler

  • Tjoeng Njan Khin, 22 Aug. 1930–1934 (Passed away 1 July 1934)

Onderafdeeling Beneden Langkat (Tanjung Pura)

Luitenant der Chinezen te Tandjoeng Poera.

· Тjia Djoe Djin, 5 April 1880 (Titulair)

· Khoh Tjai Toan, 28 February 1881.

· Kie Sang, 28 February 1881 (Tandjong Djati Bindgai)

· Tjioe Biauw Leng, 16 Oct 1897

· Lie Sie Tiong, 23 May 1906

· Toh Boon Piak 1940–1942

Kapitein Titulair

· Tjioe Biauw Leng, 17 November 1927

Onderafdeeling Beneden Langkat — Pangkalan Berandan

Luitenant der Chinezen te Pangkalan Berandan

· Lim Sam Hap, 26 Mei 1900

· Tjong Kim Fang, 1909

· Jap Soen Hiang, 15 February 1913.

Kapitein titulair der Chineezen te Pangkalan Brandan.

· Jap Soen Hiang, 24 Aug. 1931.

AFDEELING Asahan (Tandjoeng Balai)

Luitenant der Chineezen te Tandjoeng Balai

  • Koe Tjin Tjan, 12 April 1874
  • Khoe Tjan Tiong, 20 Sept 1885
  • Khoe Hok Seng, 5 Sept. 1900
  • Khoe Tjaw Tiong, 23 Juli 1900 (titulair)
  • Lim Kok Tie, 8 May 1911
  • Khoe Hok Tjo, 19 Jan 1927
  • Goh Kong Chiong, 1 January 1940

Kapitein titulair der Chineezen

  • Tjioe Biauw Leng, 16 November 1897.

Onderafdeeling Padang en Bedagei (Tebing Tinggi)

Luitenant der Chineezen te Tebing Tinggi

  • Jap Soei Tjong, 10 July 1896
  • Tio Hoet Sioe, 2 Dec 1898
  • Joe Kim Seng, 3 September 1904
  • Tio Tjin Seng, 28 April 1908
  • Tho Seong Swee, 13 January 1911
  • Goh Tong, 29 October 1912
  • Tio Foek Seng, 28 October 1924, until 1941

Onderafdeeling Batoe Bahra (Laboean Roekoe)
Luitenant der Chineezen te Laboean Roekoe

· Foe Chin Sin , 16 February 1901 .

· Thi Lam Thong, 15 May 1911

· Sim Siong Chong, 7 Aug. 1935 (Tandjoeng tiram)

Onderafdeeling Laboeanbatoe (Rantau Prapat)
Luitenant der Chineezen te Rantau Prapat

· Lim I Pin, 12 Maart 1915.

· Lim Gek Ho, 27 Maart 1931.


Onderafdeeling Simeloengoen (Pematang Siantar)

Luitenant der Chineezen te Pematang Siantar

  • Tan Soen Tan, 26 Match 1909
  • Ang Cheng, 28 November 1933


Buiskool, D.A., 2019. Prominent Chinese During the Rise of a Colonial City: Medan 1890–1942 (Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University).

De Bruin, A.G., 1918. De Chineezen ter Oostkust van Sumatra. Nederlands, VIII, 127 p, Oostkust van Sumatra-Instituut, Leiden.

Wolfgang Franke. 1988. Chinese epigraphic materials in Indonesia. Vol. 1. South Seas Society, Singapore.

Wright, A. and Breakspear, O.T. eds., 1909. Twentieth Century Impressions of Netherlands India: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries and Resources. Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing Company.

Regerings-almanak voor Nederlandsch-Indië 1880–1930.



Budiman BM

Soil Scientist, interest in Colonial history.