VOC flag Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812) Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812)
Historical Fiction

Isaac Titsingh

written by
his American


Based on
Mary Camper-Titsingh with granddaughter at Isaac Titsingh's grave in Paris

      Isaac Titsingh (10 January 1745 - 12 February 1812) was a Dutch surgeon, merchant-trader, ambassador, and scholar. Setting aside his classical education and medical training, Titsingh became a career merchant with the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the Dutch East Indies Company. He was a member of many varied organizations, such as the Asiatick Society of Bengal in Calcutta, the Maatschappij der Wetenschappen in Haarlem, the China Hunt Club and a Fellow of the Royal Society, both in London. His liberal, open intellect made him a pioneer in the area of international understanding and allowed him to achieve a mutual exchange of European and Asian culture.
     In 1765 Titsingh sailed from the Netherlands to Java in the East Indies. From 1766 until 1779, he was responsible for administrative activities at the VOC Asian headquarters in Batavia (today Jakarta, Indonesia). During his 34-year VOC career, Isaac Titsingh held various positions. He was the first European to meet with all three rulers of Japan, India, and China.

     In Japan Titsingh was the commercial Opperhoofd (Chief Factor) three times: 1779-1780, 1781-1783, and 1784. Due to earlier religious proselytizing, no European or Japanese could enter or leave the Japanese archipelago on penalty of death. The sole exception was the VOC trading post on the island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Titsingh's informal contact with Rangaku (Dutch Studies) had a great impact in Japan.

Tokugawa I, Shogun of Japan
Lord Charles Cornwallis

     In Bengal, India, Titsingh served as VOC Governor General from 1785 to 1792 in Chinsura, up-river from Calcutta on the Hooghly River, an arm of the sacred Ganges River. Titsingh worked with Lord Charles Cornwallis, the Governor General of the English East India Company.

      In China Titsingh represented Dutch and VOC interests in 1795. He made every effort to conform to the demands of the complex imperial etiquette, including kow-towing, defined as kneeling and touching the forehead to the ground, indicating great respect.
      After he died, some of Titsingh's library and artifacts entered the collections of the Collège de France, Bibliothèque Nationale, British Museum, Kyoto University Library, and the University of Leiden, Holland.

Qianlong Emperor of China

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