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Friday March 31st 2017

Looking for Junghuhn

Land of Sunda | Wednesday, 15 June 2011 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawé Setiawan


OVER the past two years I have been undertaking a research into the visualization of natural landscapes of nineteenth-century Priangan, which were made by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn (1809-1864). Priangan—a Sundanese toponym of what colonial time European called Preanger—is a mountainous area of West Java, where Junghuhn lived and worked as a naturalist in the second half of nineteenth-century. Several interesting pictures of the region, including maps, lithographic prints, sketches, and drawings, were created by Junghuhn based on his geological, volcanic, botanical, and climatical observations of the island of Java. They were published as illustrations of his books, and there was even a particular publication of his maps and ‘picturesque scenes’. These visual works are worth noting yet assertions of the life and works of Junghuhn generally tend to emphasize their concerns on what he wrote instead of on what he drew.

Needless to say that among the Europeans that came to Dutch East Indies (present time Indonesia), there were people, either artists or scientists, who made visual works that depicted natural landscapes and socio-cultural life of the country. To mention just a few of them, mainly those who depicted Priangan, there were Abraham Salm, Charles Theodore Deeleman, F.M.J. Stuyver, G.S. Fernhout, J. Bik, J.H.W. le Clercq, P. Van Oort, and Tony Rafty. In the catalog Pictures of The Tropics (1967) by J.H. Maronier, which compiles the rich collection of Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde ‘Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology’, Leiden, or in the pictorial book Reizend door Oost-Indie: Prenten en Verhalen uit de 19e Eeuw ‘Travel to East Indies: Pictures and Stories from 19th Century’, among others, one can realize the large number of pictures, including drawings, aquarelles, lithographs, etchings, and woodcuts European made out of their encounters with the land and people of Dutch East Indies. Compared to the works of other Europeans in general that depicted Priangan, Junghuhn’s visual works on the subject seemed to occupy a particular place due to the context of their making: they were probably made as part of his scientific exploration of the land he lived in. In his works (natural) science and (visual) art seemed to have been integrated within an intellectual concern to nature. The naturalist undertook his observation not only for narrating the nature but also for visualizing it as well.

As will be taken into account in more details below, one of the most interesting points of Junghuhn’s pictures about Priangan and other regions of Java is that they consisted of not only the ones that presented scientific concerns in studying the land or plants, but also of the ones that expressed aesthetic inclinations in recognizing the enchantment of nature. This seemed to make a sort of parallelism with his writings: based on his experiences as a naturalist in Java, he wrote a detailed observation of geological and botanical aspects of the island of Java as well as a beautiful travelogue that expressed, among others, his critical thoughts on the matter of (Christian) religion in modern (European) society.

Hence, my concern is on the complexity of visualization of Priangan within the historical context of European encounter with East Indies in nineteenth century.  In the following subsections I shall successively describe my own search of Junghuhn’s life and times, his writings, and his plates.

A Romantic Naturalist

Portrait of F.W. Junghuhn (‘Java’s onuitputtelijke natuur’)

Up until recently many have been said and written about Junghuhn, and even there are several websites that provide articles—in Indonesian, English, Germany, Swedish, Dutch, etc.—on his life, time, and works.  I myself posted a couple of short articles in English about him on my own blog at http://sundanesecorner.org, as well as presented a short paper on the subject in a seminar organised this year by my university in collaboration with our Malaysian counterparts. A couple of months ago Indonesian edition of the well-known National Geographic magazine also issued an article about Junghuhn by a young Jakarta-based historian. Commemoration to Junghuhn was also organized in some Indonesian campuses two years ago. From 2009 to 2010 some Indonesian circles commemorated the 200 years of Junghuhn’s birthday. Exhibition and symposiums on the life, time, and works of ‘the explorer of the island of Java’ were organized in Jakarta, Bandung, and Semarang in collaboration between German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Erasmus Huis, KITLV and Indonesian academic societies. At Campus Centre, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), exposition was organized from 19 to 31 October 2009 whereas symposium was held from 19 to 20 October 2009. At Erasmus Huis, Jakarta, exhibition was organized from 18 November 2009 to 9 January 2010. At Albertus Building, Soegijapranata Catholic University, Semarang, the same events were also held in May 2010. Local media reported the events as well.

Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn was born in Mansfeld, Prussian, on Mansfeld on 26 October 1809 and died in Lembang, Indonesia, on 24 April 1864. He was a prominent figure, mainly well known since the beginning of 20th century, as a naturalist and a vrijdenker ‘free thinker’. During his life he undertook geological, botanical, and volcanological observation in Sumatra and, mainly, in Java in 19th century. In West Java he undertook his research mainly in mountainous regions of Priangan. He climbed Mount Patuha, Tangkubanparahu, Tampomas, Guntur, Papandayan, Galunggung, Ciremai, and Krakatau. He lived and worked in Cianjur, Garut, Pangalengan, and finally in Lembang, near Bandung. Out of his expedition several books had been published, mainly the one entitled Java, seine Gestalt, Pflanzendecke und innere Bauart ‘Java, Its Shape, Plants and Inner Structure’ (1850). In the district of Pangalengan, Regency of Bandung, local people still know Pasir Junghuhn ‘Junghuhn Hill’, an area where Junghuhn pioneered quinine plantation. In the village of Jayagiri, Lembang, Regency of West Bandung, his name is still remembered as the name of a natural park, that is Cagar Alam Junghuhn ‘Junghuhn Natural Park’ or Taman Junghuhn ‘Junghuhn Park’.

This natural park has been officially preserved since 21 February 1919 with its area of 2,5 hectares. The preservation of this natural park is under the authority of Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Jawa Barat ‘Natural Resources Conservation Agency of West Java’ I. The agency is part of Direktorat Jendral Perlindungan Hutan dan Konservasi Alam, Departemen Kehutanan RI ‘Directorate General of Forest and Natural Resources Conservation, Forestry Department of the Republic of Indonesia’. Surrounded by local resident houses that has been rapidly grown, and polluted by household garbage that are … on one of its corners, this natural park is the place where Junghuhn’s tomb is located under the shades of tall trees. There is also a monument of about three metres high with Junghuhn’s name on its front side.

As a scientist and explorer, Junghuhn occupied a special place due to his works. In Rob Nieuwenhuys’ Mirror of Indies (1982), an English version of a Dutch book on the history of Dutch colonial literature, there is a chapter that discussed the life, thought and works of Junghuhn. So interesting the case that even though Junghuhn himself had never published either fiction or poems, he was viewed as ‘an important writer’ in the history of Dutch colonial literature, as well as Valentijn, Rumphius, Van Hoëvell, Van der Tuuk, and Walraven. Nieuwenhuys, among ather, puts as follow:

“From 1852 until 1854, four volumes appeared of his standard work, which was immediately followed by a revised, second edition entitled Java’s Shape, Flora and Internal Structure (Java, deszelfs gedaante, bekleeding en inwendige structuur). The work was “embellished” with maps and drawings, outlines of mountains and landscapes, all masterfully executed. Minister of Colonies Pahud also commissioned him to draw a Map of the Island of Java (Kaart van het eiland Java, 1855), and his book about Java has a companion volume of colored lithographs done after Junghuhn’s own drawings called Atlas of Views, containing Eleven Picturesque Scenes (Atlas van platen, bevattende elf pittoreske gezichten). To Junghuhn, an artistically appealing landscape meant “a question of fantasy, subject to a number of interpretations.” “My landscapes,” he wrote, “are essentially lifelike.” They show cloud formations that look like “clenched fists,” side views of geological strata, the shape of branches, and the structures of leaves. They have been drawn exactly as he observed them either with a magnifying glass or with a powerful telescope, Junghuhn’s landscapes are meant to illustrate his scientific purpose of natural observation, and his introductions to the plates clearly reveal his working method. For example, a lithograph showing the mountain Gunung Gedeh is accompanied by the instruction that the spectator should imagine himself in the same forest as described in volume one of Java’s Shape. However, in order to get any view at all, the dense jungle has been omitted and only the flowering leptospermum floribundum has been allowed to remain, he tells us. Although Junghuhn himself considered his drawings “lifelike,” they do strike us as decidedly unreal because their details are not integrated with the whole. They resemble landscapes of an alien world, and that may well explain why they are so fascinating. The only extensive commentary written by Junghuhn on the lithographs is to be found in the German edition of 1853, entitled Landschafts-Ansichten von Java.” (Nieuwenhuys, 1982: 74-75)

Nieuwenhuys, along with Frits Jaquet, also wrote a book about Junghuhn entitled Java’s Onuitpuittelijke Natuur: Reisverhalen, tekeningen en fotografieën van Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn ‘Java’s Unrestrained Nature: Travel story, picture and photographs of Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn’ (1980) in which the authors depicted Junghuhn as ‘een man van allure met een hang naar het absolute, het alwetende, het alomvattende, een volbloed romanticus: bewogen, hartsochtelijk, pathetisch, met tegelijkertijd een verlangen naar inkeer en contemplatie’ (Nieuwenhuys and Jaquet,1980:7). Other writer, E.M. Beekman, in his Fugitive Dreams (2000), stated that Junghuhn ‘was one of those nineteenth-century romantic spirits who combined a passionate thirst for knowledge with a profound feeling for nature’ (Beekman, 2000:96). For a romantic European like Junghuhn, Java seemed to have provided rich natural and cultural settings for reinventing the self.

Junghuhn’s Writings

Those who do not speak either Germany or Dutch like myself must face difficulties in reading Junghuhn’s works. He first wrote book on East Indies in Germany, and then in Dutch. His major work concerning geological and botanical aspects of the island of Java, which was originally written in Germany, had been translated into Dutch: Java, zijn gedaante, zijn plantentooi en inwendige bouw (1853). This work was published in four volumes. He also wrote a contentious book, Licht- en schaduwbeelden uit de binnenlanden van Java ‘Light and shade pictures from the inland countries of Java’ (6th ed., 1867), a kind of travel literature based on his exploration in Java that basically contains also a criticism of religion. This book was first published anonymously, and only after his death it was republished with his name as its author. Google has nowadays digitized these two books for free download. However, no English translation of Junghuhn’s works is available so far, except a partial one of Licht en Schaduwbeelden selected in Beekman’s book, Fugitive Dream. Hence, for better or for worse, Dutch has been so far the major pathway toward Junghuhn’s works.

As I am trying hard to master Dutch for the benefit of this research, here we can discuss one of the books in question: Licht- en Schaduwbeelden. Thanks to Google’s digitalization project, what is available here is the sixth edition of the book, which was published by F. Gunst in Amsterdam in 1867, that was about three years after the author’s death. It seemed that the edition had been enriched with appendices along with a levenschets ‘life sketch’ of Junghuhn prepared by the publisher. The sketch, which was written by F. Gunst in September 1866, described in details the life, time and works of the man. In order to glance at what this very book tells about, one can take a notice at the subtitle: verhalen en gesprekken der gebroeders Dag en Nacht; verzameld op reizen door gebergten en bosschen, in de woningen van armen en rijken ‘stories and conversations of brothers Day and Night, based on the travel to mountain and forests, in the residencies of the poor and the rich.’ As its publisher wrote down on the same cover, this book tells about the characteristics of ‘Javanese’ people, the infusion of Christianity to Java, and the discourses on contemporary undertakings and other matters.

About this interesting book, Beekman puts as follows:

“Licht- en Schaduwbeelden presents a narrative of various travels in Java, most of them the same one he had described more objectively in four volumes of Java. The prose is vivid and lyrical and presents a fine example of a kind of travel literature that is not devoid scientific aspirations. This was not, however, the reason the book became a cause celebre. Interspersed with the descriptive narrations are romantic discussions on the nature of religion by four brothers called ‘Day,’ ‘Night,’ ‘Dawn,’ and ‘Dusk.’ The tone is sharply critical of Christianity while it pleads at the same time for a pantheistic deism to be primarily presented by ‘Nature.'”(Beekman, 2000:98)

The partial translation Beekman provides in his work is only a small portion of Licht- en Schaduwbeelden, which is selected from page 277 to 304, and from page 360 to 366 as its final pages—in reference to our 1867 edition. The dialogues between ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ are not translated. For those who do not speak Dutch, however, this translation is very helpful. As the translator said, this selection helps ‘readers unacquainted with the tropics’ in reading ‘a firsthand account of a diurnal round in those regions’ (Beekman, 2000:105). Beekman also translates the final pages of the book for ‘it evokes Junghuhn’s profound rapport with tropical nature and shows that there need be no conflict between facts and feeling’ (Beekman, 2000:119).

In reference to 1867 edition, Licht- en Schaduwbeelden consists of three main parts. The first part, consists of two chapters, presents a lyrical description of the author’s journey into the inlands of Java, in which ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ discuss the matter of Christianity. The second part is called ‘Het Evangelie van Nacht’ ‘The Gospel of Night’, and presents a short overview of Christelijke leer ‘Christian teachings’. The third part is called ‘Het Evangelie van Dag’ ‘The Gospel of Day’, and presents a broad overview of natuurlijken Godsdienst en zedeleer ‘the religion and moral values of nature’. All of these accounts are integrated to the whole experiences the author has gained during his travels into the inlands of Java.

In the final pages of Licht- en Schaduwbeelden, as being translated by Beekman, Junghuhn states as follow:

“The sun of science will illuminate her depths, but she will never be fathomed. Yet from this impenetrable depth we are met by a soft and comforting glimmer. From the infinite variety which seems to drown us, emerges One fundamental principle, One general truth: each animal delights according to his nature, and it has therefore been appointed in such a way that it is capable of delight—one in the light of day, the other in the depth of night, one in sunlight, the other in shadow. All this thousands of forms gifted with life rejoice in the delight of their lives; they enjoy, and the fundamental cause of nature which is revealed in such laws must therefore be a kind, benevolent, and loving one, and one completely aware of the destiny it strives for…” (Beekman, 2000:114)  

Junghuhn’s Plates

Visualization is an important aspect of Junghuhn’s study into natural landscapes. What he has provided for readers is not only verbal description of Java’s natural landscapes he travelled into for thirteen years but also visual representation of the scenes he saw in the region. Images of Java resulted out of his journeys, including the ones depicted the landscapes of Priangan, are of significant value for they present not only additional elements to his naturalist research but also represents scientific as well as aesthetic concerns to natural landscapes themselves.

Here one can identify at least two kinds of pictures made by Junghuhn out of his exploration: scientific pictures and aesthetic pictures—if one could employ such kind of terms. The first category consists of pictures that illustrate Junghuhn’s detailed accounts of geological and botanical aspects of the natural landscape, whereas the second one consists of pictures that express his passionate appreciation towards the natural landscape. These two forms of picture are different one from the other mainly due to the motivation of their making, and therefore they represent different kinds of image as well as generate different effects. The first form is generally drawing that emphasizes detailed feature of the objects in question, whereas the second form is generally lithograph that emphasizes the colourful ‘lifelike’ yet also ‘imaginative’ depiction of the landscapes. The pictures below could perhaps show what this passage means in more clear manner.

Images of mountain in general and of volcanoes in particular seem to have been central in Junghuhn’s pictorial works. In his Java Junghuhn describes in details the neptunische gebergten of the island of Java: their formation along with other unique characteristics. Several journeys into the mountain regions of Java are of significant value for his travel literature presented in Licht- en Schaduwbeelden. It is understandable that the scenes of mountain areas form one of the remarkable visual elements of his pictorial works. Below, for example, one can see how he visually represents the crater of Mount Patuha, near Bandung, West Java. On the one hand, he expresses his romantic aesthetical inclination towards mountain by depicting the beautiful scene around the crater along with people standing on its side. On the other hand, he illustrates his study into the crater by depicting its map and geological structure.

The crater of Patuha, near Bandung, West Java (‘Java’s onuitputtelijke natuur’)

Map of Patuha (‘Java’s onuitputtelijke natuur’)

Patuha (‘Java’s onuitputtelijke natuur’)

By taking into account the subject described above, this research shall contribute to the study of visual aspects of the history of nineteen-century Priangan. European encounter with Priangan seems to be of significant value within this context in the sense that it reveals a particular way in looking at the region, depicting its landscapes, and considering its inhabitants. Looking for Junghuhn may give readers some fresh looks into several aspects of this history.***

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