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Modern Reseach on Chinese Temple in Jakarta

on Sat, 12/13/2014 - 08:43
Jin De Yuan The Oldest Chinese Tempel in Batavia

The first research on the chinese temple in modern era was done by Denis Lombart and Claudine Salmon (Lombart and Salmon, 1985). They study around 70 temples in Jakarta from the side of Chinese social life. However, among 70 temples only less than 10 could be included old temples with unique architecture. Most of them are new temples built less than a century. They published their research in French with a summary in English. The summary was translated into Indonesian by Yayasan Cipta Loka caraka.   Although the research is in Jakarta, it represents almost all temple in Java. Since the work was concentrated in the social science, it lack of architectural analysis that was not the purpose of the book. Lombart and Salmon systematically divided the temple of Jakarta into historical periodization from17th century to after 1945. They describe a glance of the architecture. Most of the discussion is focusing on the iconographic that is part of the architecture. From the historical analysis, the study faced difficulty to define the temple built in the 17th century or previously. Many Chinese temple of Jakarta built in that era had gone because of the political turbulence that burn the whole building and left no trace. Hence to define the temple in 17th century we have to see the area along the northern coast Java where Chinese has settled before 17th century. This research cannot depend on the manuscript that normally not as old as 17th century, but it should be studied through comparative architecture. The oldest temple of Jakarta is located at the end of Gang Petak Sembilan in Glodok area. The temple was built in 1650 outside of the city wall and gradually became very important temple (Lombart and Salmon , 1985: 16). 

Besides explaining the general spatial hierarchy of the temple in Jakarta as the front yard, main room where the main god or goddess located, side rooms and other additional rooms, Lombart and Salmon mentioned architectural form of temple. However, they explained the form without meaning behind it that is important in architecture. Although it is clear that the Chinese Jakarta are several dialect groups, their temple can not be classified into their dialect group. Only the family temple would probably have specific gods such as the Chen temple where god Chen Yuan Guang is venerated. Temple of the Lin family is Tian Hou who is the family patron. Both are included the oldest family temples in Java (Lombart and Salmon, 1985: 22). From the historical periodization the writers explained that each period temples were built under influence of political situation. In the beginning of 20th century when the Qing dynasty was declined followed by Chinese nationalist under Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese of Jakarta, and also in other part of Java prefered to build school rather than temple. There are more-and more people having western education and avoid any superstitious veneration. Instead of the superstitious veneration the Chinese tended to embrace Buddhism rather than Taoism (Lombard and Salmon, 1985: 30). In the independent Indonesia, the Chinese face very difficult political problem. However there were 20 temples were built since 1950 (Lombard and Salmon, 1985: 37). From their analysis, the writers classified kelenteng into public temples, temples for group of people, private temple, ancestral temple, and temple of the market and trading. The last description is interesting to be compare to other temples in Java that are located at the market or the end of market such as Kelenteng Kanoman of Cirebon, Kelenteng Kranggan of Yogyakarta, and many other temples.

Lombart and Salmon interestingly explain the influence of god and goddess from Fujian and Guang Dong to gods and goddess venerated in Jakarta. At the iconographic section they explained the history of gods and goddesses in the temples of Jakarta related to their origin in China. There are also local gods such as Sampo, Kwe Lak Kwa and Mbah Jugo. The writers referred that there are different gods and goddesses between the Hakka and the Hokkien. Will there be difference form in their temple?

Salmon’s writing in 2001 is on the relation between Indonesian Chinese temple and social history (Salmon 2001). Her analysis by comparing between temples in Java and Bali is really an important work in constructing the history of the Chinese. She use the temple to uncover the history. The historical material such as epigraphic in the temple is the research object to assemble the history. She placed the architecture of the temple as object of the history. Salmon’s work is trying to uncover local history of the Chinese in Indonesia, she relates people, as historical subject, with the place where they live. It is an important writing on the social history of the Chinese but not the Chinese temples themselves as source of incription she used.