Archive for Indonesia

Yogyakarta / Java

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2015 by Thim Kwai

Yogyakarta is the second most visited tourist destination in Indonesia, after Bali. It’s widely seen as Java’s cultural capital. Indeed, Yogyakarta has a long history, particularly when one includes the medieval civilizations of Borobodur and Prambanan and the empire of Mataram. Generally spoken, Yogyakarta is nicer than the verymost other Javanese cities and towns because it still has what of it’s past preserved, mostly from the Dutch times and from the Javanese court of the local sultan, namely the kraton (sultan’s palace). More than the crowded consumer paradies of Yogyakarta itself are the surroundings worth to spend some time – that is above all Prambanan, Parangtritis, Imogiri and Kaliurang, a mountain village close to the famous Javanese volcano Mount Merapi.

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Gunung Merapi – The Fire Mountain of Java

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2015 by Thim Kwai

Mount Merapi on Java is one of the most active volcanos in the world. His outbreaks appear every few years, and sometimes they are huge. With every outbreak Merapi is changing it’s shape.

Pay a visit to the whole article on ‘Mount Merapi‘…


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Bukit Lawang / Indonesia

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Bukit Lawang is an absolutely unique village with it’s head in the tropical rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park and it’s feet in palmoil and rubber plantations. Bukit Lawang is famous for it’s orangutan rehabilitation center, where orangs who were hold in captivity get a chance to readapt to the wilderness. Bukit Lawang is a place for jungle trekking as well, with or without guides. Nearby majestic bat cave, already in the jungle, can easily be visited without a guide. It’s one of the really impressing caves with hundreds or thousands of bats inside.

Pay a visit to the whole article with a larger map on ‘Bukit Lawang‘…

Map of Bukit Lawang

Map of Bukit Lawang

Map of Bukit Lawang


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Lake Toba

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Magnificent Lake Toba and it’s landscapes are one of the very natural treasures of Southeast Asia. It’s as phantastic as many fantasy landscapes in computer games with great graphics and similar to legendary landscapes shown in movies like ‘Noah’ (2014) or the American serial ‘Lost’. Also the local people of the Batak tribe are unique and are still living a half-way traditional life. Lake Toba’s surroundings are magnificent and rural, and therefore a great destination for hikers.

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Tropical Rainforest and Jungle in Southeast Asia

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In the early 1960s, global rainforests spread over 11% of earth’s land mass, nowadays the remaining rainforests alltogether cover some 6 to 7 percent of it. That is a thin belt along the equator, mostly below the 10th degree of latitude. A hundred years or more ago the size of the old forests was much larger. Nevertheless, between 50% to 70% of the known species are living in these richest biotopes. That’s a total amount of estimated 30 million plants and animals. And there are many more who are yet undiscovered.

The last remaining tropical rainforests are located in the Amazon catchment area in South America, the Congo basin in Africa and in parts of Southeast Asia. Since the rainforests of south America (the world’s largest) and the ones in Africa are based on mainland, most of the Southeast Asian rainforests are spread over ten thousands of islands in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

It is the year-round warm temperatures, the not much changing climate conditions and the plenty of rain and humidity who keep a stable environment and grant so many different animals and plants a habitate. Evolution had one of it’s best playgrounds in areas like the Malayan rainforest, which is counted as the oldest forest on earth. The Malay peninsula and the great Sunda islands are uninterruptedly forested since more than a hundred million of years already. That’s why so many species could evolve particularly here. Not on chance got Alfred Russel Wallace his igniting idea concerning the theory of evolution, driven by natural selection, in the rich rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

What’s actually the difference between rainforest and jungle? Well, jungle is a more common expression for all wild vegetation which is growing in the tropes and subtropes, including bushes and dense vegetation of all kind. Fast growing green wilderness, so to say. Rainforest means real forest, old trees and it’s a vegetation form which needs ages to develop.


This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Tropical Rainforest and Jungle in Southeast Asia’. Read here the whole article on Tropical Rainforest and Jungle in Southeast Asia.

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Raden Saleh, a Javanese Painter

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, People with tags , , , on September 19, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The Javanese painter Raden Saleh (Syarif Bustaman, 1811-1880) is considered to be the ‘father’ of modern Indonesian painting. He was born into a very prominent Javanese noble family and came in early years in contact with the world of the Europeans.

Interestingly, the Bustaman family supported the Javanese prince Diponegoro in the Java War of 1825-30, when a great part of the Javanese fought against the increasingly demanding Dutch rule.

Raden Saleh travelled to the Netherlands in 1830 where he studied art. He was the first Asian and generally non-European who got an European education and developed a self-conception as a modern artist. He spoke five languages fluently, among them Dutch and German.

In 1839 he travelled to Germany and spent years at the court of the duke of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha (the German sideline of the Victorian English royal family, who renamed themselves later to the ‘Windsors’). Raden Saleh was introduced into the highest circles of nobility in Europe, what certainly contributed to his fame and the fact that his paintings still nowadays are dealt in millions of US$ on the international art markets. Some of his paintings are presented in Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

He spent altogether 22 years in Germany and was a co-founder of the German branche of Orientalism in paintings and partially also active in architecture. Remarkable that he had a white servant, inverting the common pattern of the time that usually ‘white’, western people never served to any of the colonialized people. For some Westerners of the time it was seen as a scandal.

Raden Saleh’s palace in Jakarta is designed after palais Callenberg near Coburg and is nowadays a tourist attraction; it is designed to be turned into a new ‘Prince-Raden-Saleh Museum’.


This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Raden Saleh’. Read the whole article on Raden Saleh.

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Chikungunya Fever

Posted in Health/Diseases, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Chikungunya fever is another tropical, mosquito-born disease. It’s endemic in Southeast Asia, India and great parts of Africa.

Chikungunya is a virus which was discovered in 1953, first documented in Thailand in 1958. Most of the population in Indochina is probably immune against the disease. Though, tourists and travellers from other world regions are usually not immune. The disease is spreading out to the southern parts of Southeast Asia. In the last years there were considerable numbers of cases of chikungunya in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, certainly also in Singapore. Between 2001 and 2003 there was a chikungunya epidemy on Java. In May 2009 there was an outbreak in Trang / Thailand, in 2012 in parts of Cambodia with 1,500 reported cases. Chikungunya appeared the first time in Cambodia in 1961.

Chikungunya is transfered by various kinds of mosquitoes, including the aggressive Asian tiger mosquito (Stegomyia albopicta, or aedes albopictus), which transferes dengue fever and a number of other diseases as well. Other vectors of the chikungunya virus are primates and rodents.

Recently a virus mutation happened, which is particularly well transfered by the Asian tiger mosquito. It’s pathogenicity is higher than those of the other, older variations.

The outspread of the Asian tiger mosquito in the last years, also into south Europe, is supposed to be responsible for the chikungunya epidemy in summer 2007 in Ravenna, Italy. Possibly the disease will spread out into more regions in Europe and north America in the next years.


Course of Disease






This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Chikungunya’. Read the whole article on Chikungunya Fever by Asienreisender.

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Review ‘Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern Javas’ by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn

Posted in Books, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Die Einführung des Christenthums auf Java

Based on the edition:

Licht- und Schattenbilder,


Erzählungen und Gespräche

über die

Einführung des Christenthums auf Java,


Über den Charakter, den Bildungsgrad, die Sitten und Gebräuche der Javanen

Full title:

‘Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern von Java. Über den Charakter, den Bildungsgrad, die Sitten und Gebräuche der Javanen; über die Einführung des Christenthums auf Java, die Freigebung der Arbeit und andere Fragen der Zeit. Erzählungen und Gespräche, gesammelt auf Reisen durch Berge und Wälder, durch die Wohnungen der Armen und Reichen, zwischen den Gebrüdern TAG und NACHT, mitgetheilt von Dr. F. Junghuhn.’

Amsterdam, 1858

The first edition was published 1854 in Amsterdam.

A Philosophical Dispute

In his 1854 written book Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn depicts a hike of two Westerners in the Javanese countryside. Arriving in Gnurag, a Javanese village at dusk, sitting outside in the nature there he is telling a conversation between the two whom he calls ‘Day’ and ‘Night’, who stands for two different philosophical positions. Day is a natural scientist (representing Junghuhn’s position following widely the concept of the European Enlightenment), while Night is a religious Christian. Their discussion is about the ‘truth’; Night starts it with a couple of conventional Christian theses.

Day is objecting and claiming that the whole religious doctrine of Christianity is an invention to keep certain people and the church in power, while they commited huge crimes and atrocities in the name of their religion.

Night proposes that the reason for European domination over the world and the fact that European civilization is the most advanced in the world (at the time) is based on the Christian religion, while Day points out that Christianity delayed science and progress in European societies, trying to keep the people under oppression and superstition, threatening and killing freethinkers and scientists like Galileo Galilei.

It’s very interesting to read that Junghuhn is arguing in a racist way when it comes to the question of European domination over the world. He let’s Day say that the Caucasian race has a better developed brain (a bigger head, according to the 19th century skull measurements) and that other races like ‘Negros’ and other Aborigines have more limited mental capacities. Lowest in world’s rank are for him the Australian Aborigines. In a later part of the book he elaborates these ideas.

He also explains the European, moderate climate with it’s four seasons as inspirational for humans (he doesn’t mention the idea that a sophisticated planning and organizing of provisions is a very condition for northern people to come over the long winters and that this promotes the capability of anticipation what the People of Southeast Asia lack so much). Besides, he says, Europe’s geography with it’s long coastlines, rivers and lakes were a reason to favour traders and explorers.

A Tiger’s Attack

Late at night the village is in alarm. A tiger, who a few days ago killed a villager, approaches again and killes a goat. Day and Night go together with the villagers and kill the tiger with guns and spears. After the animal is dead, the widow of the killed villager beats the corpse and bites it. Other village women and children follow her example and sting the dead body with knifes and machetes until it’s almost torn into peaces.

Junghuhn writes at this point, that the Javanese forests would swarm with tigers. That’s in contrast to what Friedrich Gerstäcker wrote in his book ‘Java‘ (1851); Gerstäcker mentioned that the Javanese tigers were already seldom and mostly hidden deep into the jungle. Maybe that’s because Gerstäcker travelled only the part between Batavia (Jakarta) and Bandung, what was the core of the Dutch colony, connected with the best road of the time, while Junghuhn travelled deep into Java, where things were probably different. The Javanese tiger is meanwhile extinct (since 2003).

An Unchristian Dream

This night Day dreams of a congregation of clergymen anywhere in a European country. They fear a loss of influence and make up a certain plot respectively conspiracy to deceive the people and to keep themselves in power. The ages old politics of the Christian churches, particularly the Catholic church, is revealed here as mere fraud.

In the second part of the dream Day has a talk to the ‘real’ Jesus of Nazareth (as he sees him). In this dream Jesus appears as a real human with the best intentions and is complaining about all the distortions and abuses which the Christian elities and clergymen made of his live story later on. Particularly the wonders like resurrection didn’t happen, as Jesus tells.


On the next day the both don’t find locals to carry their baggage. They have an official paper from the Dutch authorities with them which allows them to order the Javanese village headmen to grant them carriers for free, but they don’t want to use this mean. They always try to get servants whom they pay for their service. In any village they reach, the servants will go back to their home village and they have to find new ones from the village where they are now. In Gnurag now they fail and have to send a messenger to another, bigger village to ask for help. They have to stay at the place for an uncertain time until help arrives and use it to climb surrounding mountains.

On Gunung Amlong

While climbing Mount (Gunung) Amlong Day alias Junghuhn explains the nature and the different appearances of wildlife and vegetation on different altitudes on Java Island. On the mountainous island the altitudes grant life many different niches.

Animals who appear on their way get hunted and killed by the accompaning locals, regardless if they can eat them, use them for anything else – or not. It’s a habit. One of the Javanese shoots a deer with Day’s rifle. They mark the place to pick it up on their way back.

The Eternal Soul

Reaching the top of the mountain in about 4,000 feet altitude, they find a Javanese grave and come into a heavy thunderstorm. One of their Javanese accompanists got almost struck by lightning. After the thunderstorm they stay for another hour or two on the peak and watch the clouds wandering to the east. They have another discussion and Day says he would believe in the ‘eternal soul’. When explaining it he also says that the soul sticks to the material body, particularly the brain. What the eternal soul is remains unclear, but the great picture is that, after all the observations in the nature, Junghuhn’s conclusion is that all the natural laws make sense and that they come together in a harmony which is necessary because without the exact tuning the whole cosmos wouldn’t work. Further he says that the fact of human consciousness can only be explained by the conclusion that behind it there must be a bigger consciousness in the nature respectively universe, of what the human one is just a distant echo.

Junghuhn clearly points out that he is a theist, but not a conventional Christian or follower of one of the main religions or another, smaller, animist or whatever one. It’s rather a pantheism he has in mind.

He respects Jesus, Moses, Buddha and other meaningful religious people of the past, particularly, as he says, as longer ago they created their ideas. That’s because it was much more fundamentally a step forward to do so from a simpler level of human development.

Day’s (Junghuhn’s) Gospels

He points out 25 basic ideas of his understanding of the universe and religion. It’s basically scientifically, but it goes further beyond. One of the basic ideas is that the fact, that man is conscious about himself, can think and does exist without having made himself is an evidence for the existence of a greater mind or spirit in the universe, which he calls god. That’s an interesting idea, no more based on scientific positivism.

On Thoughts

He is also convinced that the human soul would survive death, because it’s not based on matter as thoughts aren’t represented by matter as well.

What are thoughts? Energy? They haven’t been measured yet. As Hoimar von Ditfurth (1921 – 1989) wrote, if one could shrink very small and enter a human brain and walk around in it like in a windmill or a factory, he wouldn’t suppose that this is a place where thoughts are created (Wir sind nicht nur von dieser Welt, 1970, Ditfurth is in his ideas and writings comparable with Carl Sagan).

Well, that’s another interesting idea. Nevertheless all thoughts are based on matter in the form of chemistry, in combination with electric impulses, evolving in the human brain. So, are ther thoughts without brain in the universe? Is there a greater, intelligent spirit inside the cosmos as a whole which created meaningfully the natural laws and the universe?

The Universe in Harmony

Junghuhn now becomes very optimistic and swarms much about the great harmony in god’s creation, that every part is so well done and fits so much to everything else. This part sounds very euphoric and represents typical 19th century thinking. Negative considerations are neglected in this view, for example the ‘social question’ of the time, the poverty, social injustice, deprivation, the political economy, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism. Junghuhn, by the way, was a clear proponent of colonialism, although he opposed the idea of converting the Javanese to Christianity.

He advocates very much a good education system for everybody, particularly in natural sciences, supported by the state.

That’s clearly a great idea, but how unrealistic that was shows us history. None of the ruling classes on Java and Indonesia wanted their people educated, until today, for then they would maybe question the social order itself. Particularly on Java we see how bad it run, that the whole system was all the time based on oppression and exploitation of the people, coming with a great deal of violence with the result of great poverty and, particularly in the newest time, a growing religious extremism which is very hostile against natural sciences and ideas as Junghuhn proposed. (See also the article on ‘Science and Religion in Indonesia‘)

On Morals

For Junghuhn a sane spirit can not live in an unhealthy body. He proposes very much physical education in various ways to empower particularly the youth physically and mentally.

He also argues very much in a moral way which does not seem so much different from the religious roots it’s coming from. For Junghuhn it’s all about the personal moral of the individual what decides everything. A wrongdoer in his view is punished very much and mainly by a bad consciousness which follows a bad deed. Rich and influencial people are mostly beyond critics and one shouldn’t be envious. In Junghuhn’s opinion they just should share some of their wealth with the poor, in a kind of direct way, when being in direct contact with needy people more or less.

A rich man is not more happy than a poor one, rather less, because the rich can generally not enjoy what they have because of the abundance of everything they are used to. Enjoyment comes only when one knows suffering absense of abundance.

Joy, by the way, plays an important role in Junghuhn’s ideas as the motivation for action.

In this view society is not mentioned. Neither is deprivation mentioned, as a result of severe poverty.

In this very liberal view people are completely self-responsible of their well-being. Living with a wrong moral leads to suffering. A sinner can change, when he really regrets his failure. Then he is forgiven and his life will (automatically?) change to the better. Victims are not mentioned here.

This concept and it’s implications is exactly one of the reasons why the European Enlightenment failed. The educated class of the 19th and 20th century ignored the ‘social question’ and didn’t care for the destructive forces in the capitalist system. They perfectly adapted to it and were integrated part of it. Junghuhn wasn’t any different in this point than the mainstream of the establishment of his time.

A Skip to Present Java

I would wonder what Junghuhn would say nowadays, exhumated and having a look on contemporary Java, with 140 million people living on the small island, verymost of them pauperized, living in dirty slums, being totally uneducated but therefore filled up with absurd religious doctrins.

I would wonder what Junghuhn would say about Indonesias history after colonialism, particularly the massacres of the early Suharto dictatorship and the following decades. Suhartos killers were never persecuted and they never showed any regret for their wrongdoing. On the contrary, many of them who killed ruthlessly are filled with content of what they have done and merely enjoyed it. Those people have absolutely no sense for moral implications. And they were promoted by the state, in cooperation with the western powers behind General Suharto. Until now the massacres of the Suharto time are still unatoned. None of the criminals has been persecuted. On the contrary, the same insider networks are still ruling the country.

I would also wonder what Junghuhn would say if he could see how the so much beloved nature turned under the socioeconomic system which is not worth being mentioned in his view of live. Wildlife and botany of Java are practically completely destroyed. One can nowadays only guess how it looked in the 1840s and 1850s, when Junghuhn explored the then still phantastic island and created the first really excellent map of whole Java.

Seen so, Junghuhn was very much a child of his time, but the destruction was already implemented in the exploitative colonial system with it’s social injustice and brutality. It was clearly to see and it was possible to predict (in general) how it would go on. Friedrich Gerstäcker mentioned in his 1851 book ‘Java‘ the abuse of Javanese labour for the road between Batavia and Bandung, where many of the local workers died for the ambition of the Governors project and the sake of the industries. No word about that in Junghuhn’s book – here it’s all about the individuals moral; structural violence doesn’t appear. The central destructive forces of a modern state and the socioeconomic system which sacrifices men, nature and all virtues and values for the only main purpose to acculumate abstract riches in the form of money, to make two Gulden out of one, is of no concern for Junghuhn.

I would also be curious to see Junghuhn’s reaction if he could see the contemporary kind of pleasure the Javanese (together with all the other Southeast Asian People) enjoy. Karaoke, for example. The crazy noise level everywhere and the low quality of the music. It’s no more the melodic Gamelan music, as Junghuhn enjoys it in Gnurag. Not to mention the immense traffic, all the noisy, dirty and stinking cars, busses, trucks and motorbikes. And the extremely low manners of the Javanese People. The mindless consumerism of the middle class. Nothing of what he writes in his personell gospel came true, instead there grew violence, poverty, deception, oppression, tyranny, wars and people were left in a state of ignorance and ideological blindness.

More Morals

Two other ideas of him stand remarkably in contrast to his own biography. First he dams suicide (denoted as ‘self-murder’) as a major sin. As a young man he tried to commit suicide himself, shooting a bullet into his head, but survived. That was because of a severe conflict with his father, who tried to force him into a way of live which would have made him, by all probability, completely unhappy.

Despite this conflict with his parents, particularly his father, he also claims that children are obliged to obey and to honour their parents by all means a life long, according to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Hiking towards Java’s South Coast

After the two hikers get finally their carriers (they need ten locals to carry all their baggage, Junghuhn always had a lot of technical equipment with him), Day and Night continue their hike over Java, approaching the southern coast. First they have to come over a mountain pass, where they see from upwards the next village. In the mid 19th century the villages on Java were about a half day-trip placed from each other. The slopes who are covered with Alang-Alang grass are burning. Junghuhn writes about the Javanese habit of burning the surrounding grasslands and forests as it happens still today in Southeast Asia. Here he writes it would serve the purpose to drive the tigers away. There are several fires and they have to be careful not to get burned.

Rural Java by Asienreisender

A painting from Java’s past. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

At the end of the day, short before they reach their destination, the village which they saw from the distance already, they have first to cross a smaller river. While they do that at a part where are several sandbanks and shallow water levels, they witness a huge landslide coming noisily down the river and have to withdraw quickly. Trees, bushes, big rocks and plenty of water are pouring down the slopes, devastating the surroundings with mud, soil, wood and rocks, queuing the water in the valley where a new lake occures. A lot of animals get killed, including some biggers ones. So, they have to camp there for a night, waiting for the next day and to see how they can come over it.

At night there sneak many predators, including tigers and panthers around the camp. They search for the cadavers of the by the mudflood killed animals. The campers keep them away by keeping campfires burning.

Next day the queued lake is mostly disappeared and they can continue their way to the south coast of Java. First they approach the coast on a steep cliff, some 400 feet above the sea and watch the heavy waves smashing at the coast, so hefty that they can feel the vibrations in the mountain under their feet.

They watch swallows who quickly enter and leave caves at the short moments when the waves are back. In times when the sea is less rough, Junghuhn explains, skilled villagers climb into the caves to take the swallows nests – a delicacy for wealthy Chinese. Nowadays, by the way, this has grown to become a big industry and swallows are bred in big concrete buildings for only the purpose to harvest their nests.

To reach the beaches of the southern coast they hike further west until the cliffs lower and they come down. There they find a ‘battlefield’ of dead giant turtles. It’s a place where five and more feet big turtles come seasonally to lay their eggs into the sand, where these are bred out by the warmth of the sun. Birds of prey are circling in the sky on the search for what other predators leave. Those are packs of wild dogs, panthers, tigers and even crocodiles who live still at any mouth of a river or creek and are, because of their armour, more dangerous than tigers. This evening they make up their sleeping places in some trees near the beach, building platforms on the branches. At dusk they watch the activities of the carnivores.

In a Javanese Village

Next day they reach another village. There Junghuhn describes a Javanese wedding party, the ceremonies, the dresses, the music, but does not go too much into details. He says that the customs on Java are different in the different parts of the island, in the Sundanese part, the Javanese or the Madeirean part of the islands and even more in local districts.

Remarkably, Junghuhn is annoyed by the noise level the partying Javanese produce. It’s the (Gamelan-) music, it’s the singing, the fireworks and the barking dogs. That’s the situation in 1854, when human noise pollution was rather exceptable and still ‘home-made’, so to say. Nowadays in urban spaces there is a non-stop heavy noise level of traffic, tools, machinery and entertainment electronics that one doesn’t get a break anymore. Additionally there are frequently announcements from loudspeakers promoting state propaganda, religious indoctrination or advertisments.

Anyway, Junghuhn wants to escape the noise and activity in the small place, but, as always, has difficulties to get carriers (coolies) for his extensive baggade (what contained, as already mentioned, of a lot of different instruments for scientific purposes and kitchen stuff they would need when camping in the wilderness). They try to urge the village headman to provide carriers, but he replies he couldn’t, because no one would leave the party now and they would have to wait until it ends, what would be in two more days (two days in the Orient can easily stretch out to a week). Not content with that they go through the village and ask men who hang idly around, but, as the headman predicted, none of them is willing to go with them. They offer them five Dutch Gulden, much more than they would get normally, but the locals are not interested in money.

That was so similar in other villages they visited before. Money meaned little for the Javanese of the time, for there was no developed market economy and not much to buy for money. Getting what in exchange for money they would have to go to one of the big cities like Surabaya, Semarang, Bandung or Batavia. Far away, not attractive and for what? What to buy there when they get anything they need and know in the surroundings of their villages, in exchange for other goods?

Javanese People and Development

Luckily they get support from another headman whom they sent a message days before. Some horsemen find them and now they continue their way riding on horses. On the way to the next destination there is another conversation between Day and Night, on the Javanese People this time. Night utters how unwilling to work and to organise the Javanese are, and that it were a pity that they are only used to obey to authorities (instead to follow reason). Junghuhn explains that with the climate and the riches of the country. In such a hot climate, where one can survive with little preparations for having enough food and shelter, it’s clearly natural to spend a great deal of time resting or just enjoying life. Besides, Junghuhn adds, he would prefer the mentality in the tropes to that in Europe, where people only would work for money, and would do more for other people than for themselves if they only get money for that. He doesn’t appreciate the western attitude to put a bag of money higher than loyalty to a certain ruler. He also says that people, as lower they are in their development and education, as more they are living with the nature, in an easy and basic state.

Then he praises the development colonialism brought to Java and that it would be an advancement for the Javanese that they got their local tyrants exchanged for the more advanced European rule. Partially, at least, because the Dutch followed the principle of ‘rule and share’ – means, they left local nobles in place but put themselves over them. He even claims that the personal rights of the locals were protected now under European law. Infrastructure, trade, communication, wealth and so on would have made great progress due to the colonial rule.

Well, that’s not covering the historical truth here. It’s widely known that the colonial rulers used the local people for forced labour on big infrastructure projects as well as in the new industries who were designed to supply the European markets. Friedrich Gerstäcker gives a few examples of how much the Javanese are exploited by forced labour (see: ‘Java‘ by Friedrich Gerstäcker).

Junghuhn himself witnessed the abuse of forced labour by Dutch authorities on Sumatra, and he mentioned and criticized it in detail in his book “Die Battaländer auf Sumatra”. For that reason the book was not allowed to be published in the Netherlands and the Dutch colonies; it was only published in Germany at the time.

It’s also so that western rule ‘developed’ the colonies in their way, means the invention of the capitalist system in which money is at the highest level of the social pyramid as an abstract purpose. To promote this system stands, by the way, in clear contradiction to what Junghuhn claimed before, criticising the western mentality of putting money over everything.

As brilliant as he was as a natural scientist, he didn’t realize (or didn’t want to realize) the destructive potentials of the capitalist system and the implications of the ‘social question’ of the time. He has that in common with a overwhelming number of other scientists of his time and until today, who mainly concern for their professions and careers, neglecting or ignoring the devastating nature of the socioeconomic system they pay service with their work.

The Materialist Approach

Day and Night now reach a mountain lake with a village on the other side of the lake. There they meet two more of their friends, Dawn and Dusk (Morgenroth and Abendroth). They continue to talk about philosophy, and both of the friends have their own concept.

Dusk tells his in an elaborate way. He sees all appearances as the expressions of natural laws. So, god is for him in every piece of matter and in every living being. God is in the tiger who kills a lamb, and god is in the lamb which is getting killed by the tiger. Dusk denies the free will of man. Man does what he has to do, driven by his nature, the idea of a ‘free will’ is for him just an illusion. He argues in a way which reminds to Laplace’s demon.

Pierre-Simon (Marquis de) Laplace (1749 – 1827) was a mathematician who claimed that everything in the universe is triggered by clear reasons of natural laws. If there were a counting machine (we would call it a megacomputer nowadays) and we could feed it with completely all data of the universe, this computer could tell us the future in all details until the end of times, if there is an end of times. For Laplace everything was determined; free will of man didn’t exist for him. The universe is explained as an all-embracing mechanical clockwork. There is no space in it for a soul and a free will, for the ability of decision-making. Dusk sees things similar, and illustrates it in detail with the reactions of atoms and molecules and their manyfold attributes.

A Practical Approach

Dawn therefore puts his ideas in short words. He starts with a short myth and comes to the conclusion that all these philosophic canvassings are futile and lead at the end to nothing. In fact it would be the task for mankind to learn natural laws and make more and more perfect use of them, to create at the end a perfect world. A perfect world is for Dawn a world in which man is independent from the struggle for survival but can produce anything what he needs by using chemistry. Then mankind would be maximal free to think, to reflect what he is. By making maximal use of the natural laws man would at the end be god. All other talking about god is useless.

A Visit of the Governor

At the end even the Dutch resident appears (no name is mentioned, Junghuhn calls him ‘Praktischman’. Maybe he referres to Pieter Merkus, the Dutch General Governour of the East Indian colonies of the Netherlands, whom Junghuhn knew personally and who sent him on his first great mission into the Batak countries on Sumatra 1840-42). They all are very welcoming to him and the discussion turns immediately into politics. They all agree that Dutch rule over Java is the best thing what could happen for all the involved parties as the Dutch themselves and the Javanese, because the locals would need somebody to push them somehow to work. Otherwise they would do nothing and learn nothing, and no development would happen. And without the Dutch the English or Americans would come for sure to colonize the ‘East Indies’ (Indonesian Islands). The resident even claims that he would run a school for Javanese in east Java. Nobody could tell the Dutch wouldn’t do what for the Javanese‘ education…

It’s the resident’s opinion as well that the Javanese don’t need to be converted to Christianity, and he utters a rather negative opinion about the Christian priests and vicars (Junghuhn calls them repeatedly ‘parsons’, what comes in German with a strong disparaging connotation). The Javanese wouldn’t need a convertion to the ten commitments, because they anyway respect them. It’s rather comon sense to do so everywhere in the world, no need for Christianity.

At the end it’s late at night and they all go to sleep, except Day. He strolls around the nightly village with the few, small fires around to keep the wild animals away. He walks to the lakeside, listens to the nightly voices of the jungle and reflects again the thoughts of his friends and his own. He is still fulfilled with the confession that there is a higher consciousness in nature and the universe and that man represents only a distant echo of it.


It’s remarkable that Junghuhn is focusing so much on Christianity. Of course, the Christian churches did a lot of harm to humanity. Lying, cheating, killing. Amen!

Nevertheless, their influence was alredyin decline in this time, particularly after the publication of Charles Darwins ‘The Origin of Species’ (1859). What is rather flashy is that the central and upcoming ideology of modernity isn’t mentioned a single time: Liberalism. That’s the doctrine which was already central and which led to the destruction of all the nature, (and still does, now under the newest edition as globalized ‘neoliberalism’) which Junghuhn loved so much. All the aspects on colonialism, a concept he supported without further explanation, clearly based on the exploitation of people, here above all the Javanese, and the nature for the mere purpose of profit. That is all silently granted by Junghuhn, no critics at all, no word about it. That’s strange. It’s thoroughly contradictory.

I again would wonder what he would say if he could see Java nowadays; the total destruction of it’s nature and the deprivation of the masses of Javanese People. While Junghuhn is raving about education and developing civilization the Javanese nowadays are dull beyond imagination and live mostly in dirt and slums. Radical Islam is on the rise, Christians are persecuted by Islamist radicals as well as other Muslims, who are not radical enough in the view of the fanatics. And the Christians on Java are still as dogmatic as they were in the 19th century, despite all scientific development.

Junghuhn was in a way a typical representant of the European Enlightenment, who didn’t realize that the developing sciences were not in the service for humanity but for profit. And that means exploitation, destruction and, again and again, war. In a socioeconomic system which is based on the blind forces of supply and demand on free markets there is no historical learning possible. There is another, secularly god ruling: The invisible hand.


The publication in the Netherlands triggered hefty indignations. The outcry was, of course, loudest from the clergy. After the first few outgoes the publisher stopped issuing the work. Junghuhn had to find another editor. Nevertheless, on the other hand a lot of people followed his ideas with sympathy and great interest. Until 1883 seven editions were published. In Germany the book was abolished in several states as in Austria and Saxony, for it’s ‘detraction’ of Christianity. Nevertheless, the newest edition in Germany dates back to 2008.

Junghuhn’s ‘Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern Java’s’ is still a book worth to be read. It’s lively depiction of Java’s nature, the Javanese People of the time and the philosophical disputes who are still widely interesting and by no way outdated makes it a balanced and thrilling work reaching over it’s time.


This is part of the illustrated article ‘Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern Java’s’ by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn’. Read the whole article on ‘Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern Java’s’ by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn.

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Tropical Rainforest and Jungle

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Jungle and primary rainforest was in the past the most widespread vegetation form in Southeast Asia. In 1960 for example Thailand was covered by 80 % with primary forest. Due to slash and burn, logging, urbanization and agricultural monocultures (palm oil trees, rubber trees and other cash crops) primary forest is rare nowadays. The last remains are to find in the mountains, particularly in the higher parts, on steep slopes where it is extremely difficult to cut the big, not seldom several centuries old trees. In the plains there is no primary forest left, it’s almost all cut and replaced by agriculture or urbanized.

Indonesia is covered with the second biggest tropical rainforests on earth, following the south American area around the Amazon River. There is a drama going on since decades, in the long run since the 19th century, which led to the destruction of already a great amount of it. Annually fires eat it up piece for piece. That’s so mostly on Sumatra and Borneo (Kalimantan), but also on all the other islands of Indonesia. Java‘s rainforest is almost completely gone, only very small islands remain under official protection, but the protection means in fact very little. Poachers enter the National Parks and hunt out what they want to sell the animals on the animal markets in the big cities. Jakarta is said would have the biggest ‘black animal market’ in Southeast Asia. Check therefore the example of Pangandaran at Java‘s south coast.

Read the whole article on Tropical Rainforest and Jungle