Bali is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Mads Lange – a Danish businessman who left an indelible mark on the island of Bali during an affiliation with the island that spanned the years 1834 until his death in 1856.
Leaving his native Denmark at the age of 17, he spent ten years trading throughout the Far East before landing in Bali's near neighbor of Lombok in 1834. Forging an alliance with the Balinese King of Karangasem who was at war with the Lombok ruler of Mataram, Lange eventually relocated to Bali where he established a residence and trading center on Kuta beach.
An astute businessman who maintained active social and business relations with a number of Balinese rulers, Lange established a diversified portfolio of business interests encompassing a trade in keping coins from China, arms, gold, rice, silk, opium, slaves and the operation of a local casino.
Record of the time relate how the Danish businessman, accompanied by his two wives presented to him by the King of Kesiman, would regularly hold dinner parties for both European guests and Balinese royalty at his Kuta home. Defying colonial tradition by including the local population on his guest list, these programs also included food, drink, billiard tournaments and the proud display of a Lange's much-loved kennel of Dalmatian dogs. Reportedly disliked by Dutch colonial officials for his fraternization with local elements, Lange's skills as a negotiator were nonetheless frequently called upon to help maintain the peace among the contentious nine kingdoms of Bali. With the Dutch eventually forced to concede surrender to the "charm offensive" of "Tuan Lange," officials in Jakarta reluctantly appointed the businessman as their official representative in Bali for the Dutch Indies Government.
A Special Reunion to Mark 200 Years
This year, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Lange's birth, over 180 relatives from 15 countries – including members of Malaysia's and Brunei's Royal households, gathered in Bali for three days coinciding the Mads Lange's birth date. The celebrants were joined by Denmark's Minister of Education, Brian Mikkelsen, who traveled to Bali to commemorate one of his nation's famous Sons and uncredentialed diplomats.
Two books are soon scheduled to be published retelling the story of "Tuan Lange" - "Mads Lange- The Bali Trader & Peace Maker" and "Mads Lange- A Man of His Time." A current show at Ubud's Arma Museum displays photos and historical artifacts dating from Mads Lange's time on the island of Bali.
During this year's Bali gathering simultaneous celebrations were also held on the namesake island of Langeland in Denmark.
Mads Lange: 1807-1856
On the eve of a planned return to Europe, Mads Lange died in somewhat uncertain circumstances in Bali on May 13, 1856, at the age of 47. His grave can be still be found on a side street - Jalan Tuan Lange - just off Bali's busy Bypass in Kuta, not far from his former homestead. Visitors may be surprised to find flowers and traditional Balinese offerings are regularly placed on Lange's gravesite. Careful observers will also occasionally encounter Bali street dogs whose pelts bear the black-spotted imprint of their distant Dalmatian ancestors; maintaining a macabre vigil for a long-departed master.
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