Asian and African studies blog

News from our curators and colleagues


Our Asian and African Studies blog promotes the work of our curators, recent acquisitions, digitisation projects, and collaborative projects outside the Library. Our starting point was the British Library’s exhibition ‘Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire’, which ran 9 Nov 2012 to 2 Apr 2013. Read more

05 December 2022

A book of Malay pantuns from Portugal

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail around the southern tip of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to reach India and then Southeast Asia. In 1511 Portuguese forces captured Melaka, the greatest Malay kingdom in Southeast Asia, and held it until 1641. Throughout the 16th century armed Portuguese envoys-cum-merchants roamed across the Malay archipelago in search of spices, without competition from northern European traders, who only arrived on the scene at the turn of the 17th century. It is thus a source of consternation that almost no Malay or other vernacular Southeast Asian manuscripts can be found today in Portugal, compared with the many hundreds held in Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Admittedly, the oldest surviving paper manuscript in Arabic script from Southeast Asia – a letter in Arabic of 1516 from the ruler of Pasai in Sumatra to the Portuguese governor of Goa in India – is held in the Torre do Tombo Archives in Lisbon, as are the two earliest known Malay manuscript letters, from Ternate in 1521 and 1522. But not a single Malay manuscript volume or ‘book’ is known to be held in Portugal.

Livro de Pantuns: um Manuscrito Asiático do Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, LisboaIvo Castro, Hugo C. Cardoso, Alan Baxter, Alexander Adelaar, and Gijs Koster (eds), Livro de Pantuns: um Manuscrito Asiático do Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Lisboa / Book of Pantuns: an Asian Manuscript of the National Museum of Archeology, Lisbon (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 2022).  British Library (shelfmark forthcoming). 

Therefore, the news of the recent publication this year of Livro de Pantuns / Book of Pantuns, presenting a manuscript containing Malay pantun or quatrains, from the collection of the National Museum of Archaeology, Lisbon, was greeted with much interest all over the world. The manuscript was said to date probably to the late 17th/early 18th century, and contained a number of sequences of poems written in both Portuguese creole and Malay in romanised script, created and circulated in the mixed Mardijker communities of Tugu and Batavia around present-day Jakarta in Java. Would this discovery perhaps lead to the unearthing of other Malay manuscripts long hidden in repositories in Portugal?

We are most grateful to the publishers for kindly sending a copy to the British Library, and as soon as it arrived on my desk, I eagerly unwrapped the package to browse the volume. To my surprise, it transpired that the manuscript had not, as I had assumed, been resting undisturbed for several centuries in Portugal since making its way to Europe from Java (p. 97). Instead, it had first surfaced in London in around 1865, in the hands of the now venerable but then newly-established antiquarian bookseller, Bernard Quaritch (whose firm has just celebrated its 175th birthday). The purchaser, Ernst Reinhold Rost (1822-1896), was a polymath linguist who had close connections both with the British Library and Malay scholarship: from 1869 to 1893 he served as Librarian of the India Office, and he also contributed the articles on ‘Malay Language and Literature’, amongst others, to the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Rost was in contact with Hugo Schuchardt (1842-1927), a professor at Graz in Austria who had a lifelong interest in creoles or dialectal variants formed through contact between European and other languages. The Pantuns manuscript was of enormous interest to Schuchardt, to whom Rost sent the manuscript in 1885, initially on loan before formally gifting it in August 1895 (pp. 98-99). On his own death in 1927, Schuchardt in turn bequeathed the manuscript to a Portuguese scholar, José Leite de Vasconcelos (1858-1941), who had visited Graz especially to study the book. Leite was the founder of the National Museum of Archaeology in Lisbon, and on his death his papers and collections were all willed to the Museum. However, as Leite never mentioned that the Malay manuscript was in his possession, it was only ‘rediscovered’ in a box in the Museum in 2018 (p. 96) – which happy event led to the publication of the present book.

This fully bilingual book is a rich collaboration between a large number of scholars, with detailed contextual studies on the history of the manuscript by Ivo Castro and Hugo C. Cardoso; on the ‘Portuguese-lexified Creole’ verses by Alan Baxter and Cardoso; on the Malay poems by Gijs Koster; and on the spelling and language of the Malay used by Alexander Adelaar. As shown below, the manuscript itself is presented generously and impeccably, with a beautifully printed full facsimile accompanied on each page with a diplomatic transcription of the text. This is followed by the edition proper in which the Malay pantuns appear in turn in diplomatic transcription, modernised spelling, modern Malay rendering, Portuguese translation and English translation, with full bilingual annotations at the foot of each page for easy reference.

Facsimile of the manuscript
Facsimile of the manuscript, with the diplomatic transcription of the text in the margins of each page. Livro de Pantuns, pp. 224-225

Text edition of the manuscript, presented in five columns
Text edition of the manuscript, presented in five columns, with on the left hand page first the diplomatic transcription of the Malay, followed by the modernised spelling in the centre and then the modern Malay rendering. On the right hand page are the Portuguese and English translations of the Malay. Livro de Pantuns, pp. 332-333.

I chose the pages above because they contain the section entitled Panton Dari Sitie Lela maijan, ‘The poem about Siti Lela Mayang’, which, as Gijs Koster explains (p. 138), bears strong similarities in parts to a well-known narrative poem called Syair Sinyor Kosta, ‘Poem on Sinyor Kosta’. This poem is also known as Syair Silambari, and is found in the Malay manuscript shown below (MSS Malay B 3), from the collection of the India Office Library and now held in the British Library, copied in Penang in 1806 by the scribe Ibrahim.  The Penang version begins with this verse:

Penang, 1806:
Ada satu silam bari / bunga kembang dini hari
pari bijak si Peringgi / kita karang satu nyanyi

In a tale from long ago / A flower blossomed in the early morning
About the wisdom of that Portuguese / I have composed a song

While the Batavia 'Panton', written down perhaps a century and a quarter earlier, begins:
Ayo silam konon bari  / kembang bunga dini hari
kita karang satu nyanyi / akan bijak si Peranggi

Long ago, they say, in the distant past / A flower blossomed in the early morning
I have composed a song / About the wisdom of that Portuguese

And indeed, the next quatrain in the Penang manuscript - introducing Siti Lela Mayang - occurs on the following page of the Batavia manuscript too. Hearing exactly the same phrases and words in the Batavia panton and the opening of the Penang syair, even with the lines transposed, hints at just how familiar this repertory of verses would have been to the audiences of port cities throughout the Malay world in the 17th and 18th centuries. It furthermore illustrates the crucial importance of the Lisbon manuscript as an early chronological marker for the circulation of these poems.

It is tempting to wonder whether Reinhold Rost ever considered presenting his Malay manuscript of pantuns to the India Office Library, to join its 'sibling' Syair Silambari MSS Malay B.3.  However, if this had happened, it is unlikely that the Livro de Pantuns / Book of Pantuns would have benefitted from the combined attentions of such an impressive array of experts as has been assembled in Lisbon, resulting in this wonderful new publication.

Syair Silambari, copied by Ibrahim, Penang, 1806-MSS Malay B.3  ff.22v-23r
Syair Silambari, Malay narrative poem, copied by Ibrahim, Penang, 1806. MSS Malay B 3, ff. 22v-23r   

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia


28 November 2022

Batik designs in a Javanese manuscript: Serat Damar Wulan

Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) is probably the earliest surviving fully illustrated Javanese manuscript, and is full of lively and humorous scenes of everyday life in late 18th-century Java. In this guest blog Dr Fiona Kerlogue examines the clothes and textiles depicted in Serat Damar Wulan, extracted from her new book on the history of batik, Batik: Traces through time (2021), which is illustrated by collections in the National Museum of the Czech Republic.

The earliest compelling evidence indicating how batik was once worn is a copiously illustrated manuscript entitled Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) presented to the library of the East India Company (and now in the British Library) by Lieutenant-Colonel Raban, the former Resident of Cirebon, in January 1815. Although the manuscript was said to be 200 years old, watermarks in the paper indicate that it more likely dates from the late 18th century. Whether the manuscript was written and illustrated in Cirebon or elsewhere is another question. The absence in the clothing depicted of three batik patterns generally regarded by modern commentators as quintessential and historic Cirebon designs – megamendung (clouds); taman arum (perfumed garden); and peksinagaliman (a mythical composite animal) – suggests that a Cirebon origin is unlikely.

DW f.10r
Figure 1. Damar Wulan kneels before Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, all three wearing jarit, or kain panjang. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library MSS Jav. 89, f. 10r Noc

The legend of Damar Wulan is associated with East Java, centring as it does on the Majapahit kingdom and especially its vassal state Blambangan (now Banyuwangi), which was located in the easternmost part of Java between the 13th and 18th centuries. The story seems to be based on events which took place in the early 15th century, when war broke out between Majapahit and Blambangan, ending in the defeat of Blambangan.

The story is particularly significant in relation to costume, partly because of the changes in status which the characters undergo and how these are reflected in the clothes they wear. The cast includes noblemen and their henchmen, an aristocratic lady, servants, both male and female, soldiers, stallholders and a blacksmith. The central character, Damar Wulan, is a nobleman but is appointed as stable boy to the ruler of Majapahit, and then imprisoned; eventually he himself becomes king of Majapahit. His changes in status are reflected in the clothes he wears; the clothing worn by other actors in the story also indicates their status (Coster-Wijsman 1953).

It seems likely that the clothing in the illustrations, which corresponds quite closely with the descriptions of clothing in Raffles’ slightly later History of Java, published in 1817, reflects quite accurately the type of clothing worn at the time the drawings were made. Had they been drawn to reflect clothing of the age in which the story is set, there would not be the European-influenced styles of buttoned long jackets, trews and hats which characterise the clothing of Damar Wulan’s opponents especially. Some of the batik designs depicted can be identified today.

The main characters in the story are Damar Wulan, the hero; Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, the sons of Patih (regent or chief minister) Logender of the Majapahit empire; and Damar Wulan and his servants (panakawan) Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong. Menak Jingga, Damar Wulan’s rival, who threatens the empire and is eventually slain by Damar Wulan at the request of the queen, plays a key role. When he first appears (Figure 1), Damar Wulan is kneeling before Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, wearing a batik jarit decorated in bands of different motifs, the bands drawn bent to follow his kneeling posture. Layang Setra and Layang Kumir also wear batik jarit, one (on the left) with a parang or ‘knife’ design, the other with a semen pattern. The parang design marks the wearer as a man of high status, an aristocrat, and Damar Wulan’s attitude is appropriately respectful. All three skirt cloths have a dotted or striped border along the lower edge. The elaborately wrapped headcloths worn by the two nobles have pengada borders. The two servants wear skirt cloths with simple triangular and check patterns, probably representing simple country-style batik.

DW f.05r
Figure 2. A woman of high status waxing a batik headcloth. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library MSS Jav. 89, f. 5r   Noc

Figure 2, showing a woman of high status waxing a batik headcloth, occurs early in the manuscript. She is the daughter of Ki Buyut Paluhomba, the wife of the minister Patih Udara, who was the brother of Patih Logender and his predecessor as chief minister of Majapahit. The cloth hangs over a wooden or bamboo rack, gawangan, which supports it while the wax is applied. It has a plain white tengahan in the centre, a main field where motifs are set against a ground filled with parallel lines as the filling motif, or isen, and a pengada with short stripes arranged in pairs, separated from the main field by a white border with uneven or wavy edges. Her father’s skirt cloth has a pattern of circular or floral motifs arranged at the intersections of the squares into which the field is divided.

DW f.136r
Figure 3. Four captive princesses wearing symmetrical designs arranged in squares on their skirt cloths. Serat Damar Wulan.  British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 136r  Noc

Symmetrical designs arranged in squares repeating across the field feature frequently in skirt cloths in the manuscript, as shown in Figure 3. This type of pattern is known as ceplokan, and was one of the most common design types in the 19th century, at least in Central Java. This type of design persisted into the 20th century.

In the manuscript there are frequent depictions of women’s breast cloths, or kemben, with patterned or plain lozenges. These are worn by nearly all the women, including stall holders and court ladies. In one scene Kencanawungu, the maiden queen of Majapahit, on a raised platform on the right, receives the widow of the ruler of Tuban, who is fainting on the left (Figure 4). She is accompanied by her daughter and other women, who wear a variety of designs on their kemben. The queen herself is wearing an exotic upper garment, probably intending to represent a richly embroidered cloth rather than batik. The tall woman at the centre is the bereaved mother. Her kemben is decorated with cemukiran around the tengahan, befitting her status. Elsewhere in the manuscript the most common kemben has a red central lozenge.

DW f.59r
Figure 4. The maiden queen of Majapahit receives the widow of the ruler of Tuban. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89 f. 59r Noc

All of the male characters of high status appear in dodot, in a variety of designs. In one scene, the villain Menak Jingga wears a dodot with a striking cemukiran (Figure 5). His dodot is lifted high, revealing a good length of trouser and reflecting his high status. Menak Jingga tends to wear ostentatious clothing, always with a huge parang design on his dodot as opposed to that worn by the ruler of the smaller polity, Tuban, whose lesser status is revealed in the smaller size of his motifs, and by Patih Logender.

DW f.106v
Figure 5. Menak Jingga wearing a dodot with a very large pattern. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 106v  Noc

Once his noble birth is revealed Damar Wulan wears a plain red dodot, perhaps symbolic of his courage, and towards the end of the story, when his status is elevated further, cemukiran appear. When Damar Wulan is visited in the stables by Patih Logender’s daughter, Anjasmara, he is wearing a humble lurik skirt cloth (Figure 6); later in the story, as king of Majapahit he wears a dodot (Figure 7).

DW f.18r
Figure 6. Damar Wulan (left) wears a simple lurik skirt cloth, while Anjasmara wears batik. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 18r  Noc

DW f.179r
Figure 7. Damar Wulan, now king, wears a red dodot. Serat Damar Wulan.  British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 179r  Noc

His two servants, Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong, begin the story in short trousers made of lurik (Figure 8) but by the end one of them, too, is wearing a dodot (Figure 9). There is humour in this pretentious adoption of the clothing of a man of power, but through his loyalty to his master he has earned the right to wear it.

DW f.116v
Figure 8. Damar Wulan’s servants in short trousers of striped lurik early in the story. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 116v  Noc

DW f.206r
Figure 9. Now ennobled, Damar Wulan’s servants have adopted superior garments, and have servants of their own wearing lurik. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 206r  Noc

The patterns drawn in these illustrations reveal the way in which clothing, and in particular batik clothing, was worn to express both status and character in Java at the end of the 18th century. In the century which followed, great changes took place, with the introduction of new ideas and techniques that led to the development of both commercially-produced, low-quality batik for the masses and batik of exceptionally high quality, workmanship and beauty.

Further reading

This blog has been extracted from: Fiona Kerlogue, Batik. Traces through time. Batik Collections in the National Museum – Náprstek Museum. Vydání první. (Prague: National Museum, 2021. ISBN 978-80-7036-673-8), pp. 56-63.

All the pictorial scenes in the Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) are described in: Coster-Wijsman, L. ‘Illustrations in a Javanese manuscript’. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1953, 109 (2): 153-163.

Fiona Kerlogue Ccownwork

Fiona Kerlogue was formerly Assistant Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum.

21 November 2022

Three northern Thai manuscripts from Carl Bock’s collection

A currently ongoing initiative to add provenance details to catalogue records of manuscripts in the British Library’s Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections  has brought to light that three palm leaf manuscripts were previously part of Carl Bock’s collection of Southeast Asian artefacts. Carl Alfred Bock (1849-1932) was a Norwegian natural scientist and explorer, who travelled in Southeast Asia between 1878 to 1882. A zoological collecting trip took him first to Sumatra, followed by an expedition to gather information on the peoples of Borneo for Johan Willem van Lansberge, governor-general of the Dutch East Indies. In 1881 Bock travelled to Siam (Thailand) for fourteen months on a mission to collect botanical and zoological specimens, with the backing of the Zoological Society in London and the financial support of the Scottish Marquis of Tweddale, William M. Haye, an enthusiastic botanist. What Bock brought back from his expedition was much more than natural specimens though.

mpression of Carl Bock and his team during the expedition to Borneo
Impression of Carl Bock and his team during the expedition to Borneo. Lithograph by C. F. Kell of Castle St, Holborn, London, published in The head-hunters of Borneo by Carl Bock (London, 1881).  British Library, V10009, plate 29. Noc

With the permission and support of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), Bock travelled on a steamer up the Chao Phraya river, then continued on smaller boats on the Ping river to Chiang Mai, and finally by boat and elephant further north to Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen on the Mekong. He had to promise the king to refrain from any political allusions and was accompanied by Siamese soldiers. In the northern regions he passed through Tak, Lamphun, Lakhon, and Fang. Bock met Lao- and Shan-speaking people in the larger settlements along the rivers and was closely observed, and sometimes delayed, by local rulers. He noted that from Tak northwards it became increasingly difficult to move around and to purchase objects because Siamese money was not recognised, nor were the visa and letters issued by the Siamese government and the king. He concluded that the border between Siam and the polities of Lao-speaking people was running near Tak by the River Ping.

Bock’s travel route from Bangkok to Chiang Saen and back
Bock’s travel route from Bangkok to Chiang Saen and back, published in Temples and Elephants: The Narrative of a Journey of Exploration Through Upper Siam and Lao by Carl Bock (London, 1884). British Library, T 38901, p. [xv] Noc

During the expedition Bock acquired – normally by way of negotiations and purchase using Siamese Baht and Rupees of British Burma - objects of everyday use like textiles, hats, baskets, Bencharong porcelain, silverware, lacquerware, amulets, jewellery, small Buddha and Bodhisatta images, musical instruments, knives, daggers, opium weights, traditional medicines, an ivory seal, palm leaf manuscripts etc. Nearly 400 objects from Bock’s collection – including objects from Indonesia - are kept in the British Museum.

Text passage in Northern Thai Dhamma script from a text on Buddhist psychology, Mahawibak, incised on palm leaf, dated 1856
Text passage in Northern Thai Dhamma script from a text on Buddhist psychology, Mahawibak, incised on palm leaf, dated 1856. From the collection of Carl Bock. British Library, Or 2629, first bundle Noc

Three palm leaf manuscripts that were originally part of Bock’s collection at the British Museum were transferred to the British Library in or shortly after 1973. All three are incised in Dhamma (or Tham) script, seen in the image above, which was used in the historical kingdoms of Lanna (northern Thailand) and Lan Sang (Laos and north-eastern Thailand). They are not by the same scribe since the writing styles differ, and there are also some physical differences. Or 2629 consists of eleven palm leaf bundles with gilt and red lacquered edges. They contain a variety of Buddhists texts, mainly in Pali language, including one chapter from the Vessantara Jataka.

Nine palm leaf bundles containing the Mahosadha Jataka in Northern Thai Dhamma script, held together with wooden sticks to form one large manuscript, dated 1842
Nine palm leaf bundles containing the Mahosadha Jataka in Northern Thai Dhamma script, held together with wooden sticks to form one large manuscript, dated 1842. From the collection of Carl Bock. British Library, Or 2630 Noc

One manuscript that stands out in terms of binding methods is a palm leaf manuscript (Or 2630) consisting of nine bundles that are not bound with a cord, which is usually the case with palm leaf manuscripts in the Thai and Lao traditions, but stacked together using two wooden sticks (shown above). This method is well known in the Burmese manuscript tradition. However, the bundles probably were originally bound with a white-and-red cotton cord with human hair woven in, which was removed and is now kept alongside the manuscript. The edges of the palm leaves are covered with gold and black lacquer. Each bundle contains a chapter from the Mahosadha Jataka in Dhamma script, together with a colophon mentioning 1842 as the year of its creation.

The third manuscript (Or 2631, shown below) consists of palm leaves with gilt and red lacquered edges and wooden covers. The content, six chapters of the Vidhura Jataka (partially fragmented), is written neatly in Dhamma script, in a cursive calligraphy-like style. The leaves are held together with a black cord, however, this cord was inserted later as it is of a more recent make. Originally, the six chapters may have been bound in six separate bundles. Three of the six chapters mention 1860 as the year of creation.

Palm leaf manuscript with wooden covers, containing six chapters of the Vidhura Jataka in northern Thai Dhamma script, dated 1860
Palm leaf manuscript with wooden covers, containing six chapters of the Vidhura Jataka in northern Thai Dhamma script, dated 1860. From the collection of Carl Bock. British Library, Or 2631 Noc

From the shelfmarks with the prefix “Or” of these three manuscripts it was known that they were previously among a large number of manuscripts transferred from the British Museum’s library when it was absorbed into the British Library according to the British Library Act of 1972. To find out more details about the provenance of these manuscripts, the original records from the British Museum, now held in the corporate archive of the British Library, had to be consulted. With the help of Records and Archives Assistant Victoria Ogunsanya it was possible to establish that the three manuscripts were purchased from Carl Bock himself and accessioned into the British Museum collections on 22 November 1882, shortly after his return from mainland Southeast Asia.

We have no certainty as to where and how Bock acquired the manuscripts, but he reported that in Lakhon he was shown the temple library on stilts at Wat Luang: “Passing through a trap-door in this upper floor – the door is always religiously bolted against intruders – we enter a room containing a number of large chests, coloured red or black and decorated with figures or scroll-work in gold-leaf, in which the sacred palm leaf MSS are kept. Each volume is carefully wrapped in a gay-coloured cloth, and the chests are kept closely locked.” (Bock, 1884, p. 167)

Acquisition records for Or 2629 and Or 2630
Acquisition records for Or 2629 and Or 2630 in BLCA/S81/01 (DH40/1): British Museum, Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts: Registers of Oriental Manuscripts, Or.1 - Or.3480 (1867-1886)

Bock published his observations and experiences in a book with the title Temples and Elephants: The Narrative of a Journey of Exploration Through Upper Siam and Lao (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1884), which was translated into various languages (Norwegian 1884, German 1885, French 1889, Thai 1962) and re-published several times (Bangkok 1985, Singapore 1986, Geneva 2013, Nonthaburi 2019).
Other works by Bock include academic articles in Proceedings from the Scientific Meetings of the Zoological Society of London (1878, 1879, and 1881) and the book The Head-Hunters of Borneo: a narrative of Travel up the Mahakkam and down the Barito; also, Journeyings in Sumatra (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1881).

Bang Pa-In Palace on the Chao Phraya river near Ayutthaya
Lithograph depicting the Bang Pa-In Palace on the Chao Phraya river near Ayutthaya, published in Temples and Elephants: The Narrative of a Journey of Exploration Through Upper Siam and Lao by Carl Bock (London, 1884). British Library, T 38901, p. [70] Noc

Apart from natural specimens, cultural artefacts and information about the peoples of northern Thailand, Bock reportedly brought back a young girl named Krao who was born with hypertrichosis. Although there is no mention in Bock’s publications of Krao or of one Professor George G. Shelly who had apparently accompanied Bock on his expedition, newspaper articles and numerous advertisements featuring Krao were published upon their return to Europe. They believed that in Krao they had found Darwin’s “missing link between man and ape”, and she was exhibited in Farini’s “wonder shows” in London and New York. It soon became very clear that Krao, who after only a few months had learned to speak some English and German, had acquired basic reading and writing skills, and was able to entertain large crowds of people with wit and humour, was more human than those who had taken her from her family and her world. Later she had a successful career in the show business and toured the US and Europe until her death from influenza in 1926.

Advertisement for “Krao, the ‘missing link’” shows in London in January 1883
Advertisement for “Krao, the ‘missing link’” shows in London in January 1883. British Library, Evan.2474 Noc

After his expeditions in Southeast Asia, Bock joined the diplomatic service and became Norwegian-Swedish vice-consul in Shanghai in 1886, then consul-general in Shanghai in 1893, consul in Antwerp in 1899, and consul-general in Lisbon from 1900 to 1903. He travelled in Sichuan and Tibet in 1893. From 1906 until his death in 1932 he lived in Brussels.

Further reading
Men living in trees. Timaru Herald, vol. XL, issue 3198, 26 December 1884, p. 3.
Nielsen, Flemming Winther: Carl Bock: a scientist among ghosts and white elephants. Scandasia, 10 December 2011.
Nielsen, Flemming Winther: Carl Bock (2): the wilderness and the power. Scandasia, 28 February 2012.
Explorers of South-East Asia: Six Lives, ed. Victor T King, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Jana Igunma, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian Collections Ccownwork