No overview of the history of non-puppet xiqu in the Dutch East Indies and in Indonesia is presently available in any language. This article draws on colonial sources, contemporary Indonesian newspapers, the incidental mentions of xiqu in the works of Indonesianists and Chinese-language theatre scholars as well as fieldwork to produce a sketch of its history and present practice. The results of this line of inquiry suggest that xiqu was a common practice on Java from the seventeenth century, and by the late colonial period in all areas of the Indies where a substantial Chinese community existed. The reintroduction of xiqu into Indonesian performance historiography points the way to discovering historical connections between xiqu and non-Chinese strains of performance in the archipelago. Considering xiqu as a maritime good in circulation during the late colonial period will generate an improved understanding of cultural ties between Southeast Asia and China, and among Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, while allowing an informed examination of the (re)development of such ties in the present era.


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pp. 170-197
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