Batu Bersurat: Tiger legend gets debunked

Batu Bersurat Pangkor Island is a large rock at Kampung Teluk Gedung inscribed with graffiti made by Dutch soldiers in the 1700s.

These soldiers were based in the Dutch Fort just 100 metres away during the years 1743-1748, and the date 1743 is carved on the rock five times.

Dutch Fort.

The rock is regarded as a historical monument and a modern roof has been built over the top to protect it from the weather.

A rock with a roof.

In English the rock is sometimes called Sacred Rock, Inscribed Rock or Tiger Rock because of the widely held belief that the main drawing depicts a tiger mauling a boy.

This has spawned various theories and legends about a tiger which killed the son of a senior Dutch official based in the nearby Dutch Fort just 100 metres away. Well, all these apocryphal stories are wrong.

It’s not a tiger, it’s a lion!

I have only just visited this rock (January 2019) but to me it is clear that this image is not a tiger at all but is in fact the Dutch coat-of-arms that was in use at the time the graffiti was made.

Dutch coat-of-arms.

The artist may not have been too skilled but the animal is a lion (see the tail – tiger’s tails do not end in a hairy tuft) and it is carrying a quiver of arrows and a sword, not a young boy.

Even the line around the drawing is the same shape as that on the coat-of-arms’ red shield.

The VOC symbol is that of the Dutch East India Company.

The VOC symbol to the right of the lion carving is the symbol of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) and the letter A probably represents the Amsterdam Chamber of that company.

No one knows what the other initials and symbols mean – perhaps the initials of the soldiers or of their sweethearts back home.

An extract from an Article in the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society called ‘Outline of the History of the Dindings from the 17th Century to the Present Time’ by E M Merewether published in 1891 confirms the argument above.

Now that we know, the name of the rock in English should change to “Dutch Lion Rock”.

This article first appeared in malaysia-traveller.com