Semarang/Chinatown

Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Java Central Java Semarang Semarang/Chinatown

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Introduction

Gate to Chinatown

Gate to Chinatown

© theo1006

Semarang’s Pecinan covers roughly one square kilometre of mostly narrow streets (named Gang, which is Dutch for corridor). So it is best to explore it walking. While doing so notice the lesser temples, there are nine of them. They are located at the centres of T-crossings, ‘securing’ the streets ending there.

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Sights and Activities

  • Market and shops - A round walk starting at the gate may lead one south through Gang Baru (the market, which closes at noon), east and north through Jalan Wotgandul and Gang Pinggir to Tai Kak Sie temple, and back west through Gang Lombok. Almost every other house is a food shops or a restaurant, others sell hardware, textiles and more. Whereas beer and wine are hard to get in Java nowadays, several shops sell the Chinese variants of these.
Cheng He statue

Cheng He statue

© theo1006

  • Tay Kak Sie temple - Tay Kak Sie temple ins the heart of Semarang's Chinese quarter is a must-see. It is located at Gang Lombok facing Semarang river. The temple dates from 1771, when it was built in a chili garden, hence the name of the street: Gang Lombok. It is always open to visitors. Burn an incense stick or two at one of the altars, who knows what luck it will bring you. One can also admire the artwork of an adjacent building used for funeral rituals. The square in front of the temple is the centre of Chinese New Year and Cheng He Commemoration festivities. Since 2005 a mock-up of Cheng He’s ship sits there in Semarang river, and a statue of the admiral adorns the square. At a corner of the square is a food court for welcome refreshments in the heat of day.
  • Gang Besen #52 - The most authentic, recently restored, Chinese house is the one at Gang Besen #52. It features an inner court with tiled bath-house and own well.
  • Jalan Wot Gandul #12 - An architectural gem, more of colonial than of Chinese style, one finds at Jalan Wot Gandul #12. It dates from 1850 and has made it into the book ̈Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia” by Ronald G. Knapp. The proud owner is happy to show truly interested visitors around.
  • Rasa Dharma Association - The Rasa Dharma Association, Chinese name Boen Hian Tong, organizes the social and cultural events in the Chines quarter. The association was founded in 1876 and has used the building at Gang Pinggir #31 ever since. One may walk freely into the meeting and exhibition room on the ground floor, which features a shrine dedicated to the founders. Upstairs is an altar for the Chinese deities Long Kun Ta, Kuan Yin, and others.

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Events and Festivals

  • Chinese New Year - Semarang is home to a vibrant Chinese community, 15% of the population. During the dictatorship of president Soeharto the Chinese were not allowed to express their culture, use Chinese characters or celebrate public festvities. But early in 2001 president Abdurrahman Wahid restored their civil rights. The Chinese New Year (or Imlek) celebration that year was the grandest ever. Since 2003 Imlek is a national holiday and non-ethnic Chinese also take part in the festivities. The day coincides with new moon between 21 January and 20 February. In 2018 the date will be 16 February, in 2019 it will be 5 February.
  • Zheng He Commemoration - The Chinese community in Semarang venerates Admiral Zheng He almost as a saint under the name Sam Poo. They celebrate the memory of his first arrival in Semarang annually on the 29th and 30th of the sixth month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which usually falls in June. The celebration in 2005 was special because of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's first expedition. A mock-up of his ship was constructed in front of Tai Kak Sie temple in Gang Lombok, and has been on display there since.

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Getting There

One can of course approach the Chinese quarter from several directions. An ‘official’ entrance gate is located the eastern end of Jalan KH. Wahid Hasyim (formerly named Jalan Kranggan). This is the street with the gold shops, which strictly lie outside the Chinese quarter.

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Getting Around

Best by foot, or failing these hire a becak.

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Sleep

  • Semesta Heritage Hotel - This hotel is located conveniently close to Semarang’s China Town. It was established by a group of Muslim businessmen. They renovated two ancient buildings that now serve as meeting hall and ball room, and had a five storey hotel block built behind those. The buffet breakfast is exceptional because of the great variety of food to choose from. The owners being Muslims, alcohol is taboo. However, there is a counter where they serve traditional herbal drinks (jamu) free of charge all day. There is no swimming pool. If you want this, try glass-and-chrome-facade Quest Hotel around the corner on Jalan Plampitan.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 9:46 on Dec 20, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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