Traces of the Dutch moat in Malacca (Source: Queenie Lin, 2019).
(Re)visiting and (Re)valuing the Vanishing Water Heritage in VOC Asia: Dutch Malacca and Ceylon


  • Queenie Lin Delft University of Technology




Dutch engineers are well-known for their skillful water management, best exemplified in the meticulously designed canals, irrigation and drainage systems, reservoirs, wells and moats that characterize both the Netherlands and places abroad where they have been active. Many of these structures that exist outside the Netherlands and were created by the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC, between 1602-1795) in Asia remain understudied. This article identifies and revisits these forgotten and often vanishing water structures through both archival and field research in Dutch Malacca and Ceylon. It explores the ways in which water management interventions during the VOC period recognized and made use of built-upon local wisdom, systematically adapting environmental knowledge into Dutch technology and governance to improve living in the tropics for both the Dutch and the local hybrid communities. Dutch water structures from the VOC period in Malacca in contemporary Malaysia and present-day Sri Lanka are examples of VOC approaches to tackling challenges in tropical environments. These historic sites – including heritage sites, some of which are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage properties – can be informative about how to adapt to current climate situations, both in terms of spatial structures and in terms of intangible practices, including cultural wisdom derived from strategies developed by the Dutch and from interactions between Dutch and local hybrid communities.

How to Cite

Lin, Q. (2023). (Re)visiting and (Re)valuing the Vanishing Water Heritage in VOC Asia: Dutch Malacca and Ceylon . Blue Papers, 2(2).





methodologies and case studies

Author Biography

Queenie Lin, Delft University of Technology

Queenie Lin is a PhD Candidate in the History of Architecture and Urban Planning at Delft University of Technology, with a research focus on the sustainable preservation of climate-challenged Dutch overseas settlements in Dutch East India Company (VOC) Asia. She is currently working under the UNESCO Chair in Water, Ports and Historic Cities and in the PortCityFutures research group, and is an editor of the journal Blue Papers: Water & Heritage for Sustainable Development. She was also a PhD candidate of Cultural Heritage and Arts Innovation Studies, Taipei National University of the Arts, and that and her previous MA training in art and architectural history (University of Virginia, USA), conservation of fine art (Northumbria University, UK), and underwater cultural heritage (UNESCO Foundation Course certification), equip her for professional employment in academia, museums, research institutes and think tanks in Asia, America and Europe. With her multicultural background, she offers insight about Euro-American-centric alternatives, and builds paradigm-shifting local perspectives on a global scale.


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