Established in 1741, Jakarta Chinatown is largest Chinatown in Indonesia and one of the oldest in the region.
Located in the Glodok neighbourhood, it has a typical urban landscape and is a busy shopping and business district. However, with a little observation, visitors can move beyond the urban landscape to appreciate its long history and a culture that managed to survive despite its turbulent past.
Geger Pacinan and birth of Jakarta Chinatown
Jakarta Chinatown came into being in 1741 after thousands of Chinese was massacred by the Dutch colonialists and the remaining Chinese population expelled from the walled city. They settled outside of the city and this area evolved into the Chinatown of Jakarta.
If Jakarta Chinatown was born of a bloodbath, it was neither the first nor the last. As recent as 1998, riots that broke out during the Asian financial Crisis spread to Jakarta Chinatown causing much destruction.
Inside Jakarta Chinatown
Like Oakland Chinatown, Jakarta Chinatown is a functional Chinatown and the residential area of ethnic Chinese. It is not a tourist centric area and may not even look Chinese initially.
However, along the winding streets, the more observant visitors can detect various signs of Chinese presence like shops selling joss paper, Mandarin schools and religious symbols at door entrance as well as private shrines in shops and homes.
One of the most well-known Chinese institution in Jakarta Chinatown is the Jin De Yuan and the various temples in its compound. Although founded earlier, it was destroyed during the Chinese massacre and rebuilt around the time Jakarta Chinatown was founded.
There visitors can see devotees worshipping to the various Taoist and Buddhist deities. Because of Indonesia’s previous national policies, all Chinese temples are still known as Vihara or Buddhist sites.
The accidental archway
Jakarta Chinatown also has an archway albeit a coincident one. Most districts in Jakarta has an archway and the archway in Glodok has some Chinese characteristics making it somewhat of a Jakarta Chinatown archway.
Future of Jakarta Chinatown
Jakarta Chinatown has survived waves of Chinese discrimination including the ban on Chinese characters and requiring Chinese to have Indonesian sounding names among others.
Many discriminatory laws including the ban on Chinese characters have since been lifted and Chinese New Year is now an official public holiday in Indonesia.
All these changes mean a revival of Chinese culture so let’s see how it may shape the landscape of Jakarta Chinatown.