Creolised Confucianism: Syncretism and Confucian revivalism at the turn of the twentieth century in Java

Oiyan Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Confucian revivalism swept over China, the Straits Settlements and the Netherlands East Indies in the late nineteenth century. Rather than perceiving China as the single foundational centre for Confucian ideas, this article argues that pioneering Confucian revivalists who undertook to translate, interpret and spread Confucian knowledge in Java did not simply follow mainstream ideas that prevailed in China, or the lead of the Straits Settlements. Considered as the first Malay language translation of the ‘Great Learning’ and the ‘Doctrine of the Mean’, with accompanying commentaries, Yoe Tjai Siang and Tan Ging Tiong's Kitab Tai Hak–Tiong Iong (1900), contained an eclectic blend of Hokkien/Chinese, Malay, Javanese, Dutch/Christian and Arabic/Islamic concepts and vocabulary. Analysis of the translators’ aims and the work itself, shows that Java's peranakan Chinese initially developed a unique, creolised interpretation of Confucianism, while being connected to other reformers and revivalists in China and the Straits Settlements. As these connections and formal educational exchanges intensified, this creolised interpretation of Confucianism in Java would give way to a more orthodox version.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-174
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Southeast Asian Studies
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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