Sumatra
19th century weights and measures

Units of length

Fort Marlborough
                 

tung

       

(gocheoh or pointung) or depoh

2

             

hailoh

2

4

           

etto

2

4

8

         

cheoh

5

10

       

junkal

2

4

8

16

     

tempo

2

4

8

16

32

   

choon

25

50

100

 

hoon

125

250

500

1000

inches

   

9

 

18

36

72

144

centimeters

   

7

14

 

45.7

61.4

182.9

365.8 

This interesting situation shows the collision of three different systems of length: Chinese (the tung is the Chinese zhang, the choon is the cun, etc., and the decimal divisions are Chinese), English (the units are defined in inches), and all else Sumatran. The English records apparently pay no attention to the Chinese units, but traders probably did.

Browne; Doursther.

sources

They estimate the quantity of most species of merchandize by what we call dry measure, the use of weights being apparently introduced among them by foreigners; for the pecul and cattee are used only on the sea coast, and places which the Malays frequent.* The coolah or bamboo, containing very nearly a gallon, is the general standard of measure among the Rejangs: of these eight hundred make a coyan: the choopa is one quarter of a bamboo. By the bamboo almost all articles, even elephants teeth, are bought and sold; but by a bamboo of ivory they mean so much as is equal in weight to a bamboo of rice. This still includes the idea of weight, but is not attended with their principal objection to that mode of ascertaining quantity, which arises, as they say, from the impossibility of judging by the eye of the justness of artificial weights, owing to the various materials of which they may be composed, and which measurement is not liable to. The measures of length here, as perhaps originally among every people upon earth, are taken from the dimensions of the human body. The deppo, or fathom, is the extent of the arms from each extremity, of the fingers: the etto, or cubit, is the fore-arm and hand: cakee is the foot: janca is the span; and jarree, which signifies a finger, is the inch. These are estimated from the general proportions of middle sized men, others making an allowance in measuring, and not regulated by any exact standard.

* The pecul is 133 1/3 lb: 100 cattees are one pecul, each being estmated at a pound and a third.

William Marsden.
The History of Sumatra…. 2nd edition.
London: Printed for the author, and sold by Thomas Payne, etc., 1784.
Page 155.

Units of mass

Please see the discussion above and in the entry on the tael.

In Acheen
           

bahar

         

catty

200

       

buncal

20

4000

     

tael

5

100

20,000

   

pagoda

2

10

200

40,000

 

mace

8

16

80

1600

320,000

copang

4

32

64

320

6400

1,280,000

150
mg

600
mg

4.80
g

9.60
g

48.02
g

960.32
g

192.063
kg

In Bencoolen, 1 bahar = 560 pounds avoir., about 254 kilograms, and 1 tael was about 41.21 grams.

Sources: Grund, Doursther (but contra),

In Palimbang
       

coyang

     

baly

80

   

gantang

10

800

 

catty

6

60

4800

Dutch troy pond

75

 

3.7 kg

Units of capacity

A major difficult in estimating the sizes of the Sumatran measures of capacity is that the sources almost always give them as weights.

In Acheen
           

coyang

         

guncha

10

       

nelly

10

100

     

bamboo

8

80

800

   

quarter

2

16

160

1600

chopa or caul

2

4*

32

320

3200

as a weight of rice

1.662 kg

Doursther's conversion, based on 75 kg/100 L

2.18
L

*With the king's chop (seal); otherwise 5.

According to Grund, in Bencoolen the bamboo (again, 800 in a coyang) equalled an English wine gallon, that is, 3.79 liters.

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