Batavia, the capital of the former Netherlands Indies, was home to a popular Chinese-run printing industry that published works in the Malay vernacular. Two 1920s Sino-Malay poems reveal firsthand accounts of the city's vibrant sociocultural landscape. Sair park (The Poem of the Park) narrates everyday life at the parks of the colonial metropole, including the opportunities these urban spaces provide for illicit encounters between men and women. Pantoen tjapgome (The Quatrain of the Lantern Festival) describes the festivities of an important holiday that increasingly drifted away from its religious origins and became a public spectacle attended by people from different ethnicities. Together, these poems provide intricate and otherwise unavailable details of everyday life in late-colonial Java. They also reveal some of the anxieties faced by its Chinese-descended population, including the specter of cultural loss and unwarranted interaction between young people from different genders and racial backgrounds. Yet despite this apparent rejection of an Indies-style hybrid modernity, an examination of the language of these poems—Batavia Malay with a substantial influence from Hokkien, the Sinitic variety historically spoken by many Chinese-Indonesian families—demonstrates that they are best approached as examples of Chinese-Indonesian acculturation.

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