Several months ago, I got a trip with my classmate, Adiningrum, to Semarang. As you know, Semarang is the capital city of Central Java Province that well-known with its acculturation of Javanese and Chinese in most aspects of life. I think that’s true, you’ll find many things which become Semarang’s icons related to blend of these big two of cultures. From the culinary, like lumpia; till many buildings that fill all corners of the city… And, one of them is the biggest Chinese temple located at Jalan Simongan in Western Semarang, named Sam Po Kong temple.
The things you must know about Sam Po Kong temple, here they are:
- The other name of the place is Gedung Batu temple. It’s so named because of the location near to a rocky hill, so that’s why Indonesian (formerly Javanese-Chinese descent) assumed that the building a great rock cave — (Batu means rock).
- The foundations of Sam Poo Kong were set when Chinese Muslim explorer Admiral Zheng He arrived in the western part of Semarang via the Garang River (Kali Garang). After disembarking from his ships, Zheng found a cave in a rocky hillside and used it for prayer. He established a small temple before leaving Java island. A statuette of Zheng was installed in the cave.
- The name Sam Po Kong itself is a name which is given to Zheng He after Zheng had been arrested and turned into kasim (eunuch — the person who have been castrated). Zheng He came from Yunnan Province with forename Ma He. He became a Ming Dynasty’s hero after beating Zhu Yunwen emperor in a war. Then, he lead the voyage throughout the world to show the superiority of the Ming Dynasty. The voyage was able to reach the region of Southeast Asia (Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Java), India, Sri Lanka, Aden, Persian Gulf, and Mogadishu. The last voyage was held in 1431-1433 which was able to reach The Red Sea. Zheng He becomes one of the greatest voyager of the world history.
- Although Zheng is a moslem, the place now is used by Indonesian Chinese descent as a memorial and a place of worship for those who profess Confucianism (or termed as Konghucu in Indonesia). The building is also used as memorial a place for pilgrimage. For this purpose, in the cave was placed a stone altar and statues of Sam Po Tay Djien (the degree of royal of the Ming Dynasty for the Great Zheng He). As I know, Confucianism or Tau considers people who have died can provide relief to the believer.
- It becomes ‘must-to-be-visited’ place for traveler in Semarang. Not only a nice place to visit and taking photograph, the temple also organizes the annual celebration of the landing memorial of Zheng He. It becomes the main agenda in Semarang.
- The celebrations begin with a religious ceremony at the Tay Kak Sie temple, in Gang Lombok. Then, it was followed by a procession statue in Sam Po Kong temple to the Tay Kak Sie Gedong Batu temple. The statue is then placed side by side with the original statue of Sam Po Kong in Gedung Batu. Usually, it is held at 29th or 30th every six months according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Or… the closest date of the event is August 6, 2013. So… get it.
I think it becomes perfect place to visit when you come to Semarang. The temple has good architecture and fully Chinese ornaments that can be great objects to photograph. I did it, even though I’m still learning a lot, especially for amateur like me.
Come and visit Sam Po Kong while you’re in Semarang.