Here’s a fascinating insight into one of the ways Chinese immigrants made a home in Indonesia way back when. From what we’ve researched kelenteng or klenteng is an Indonesian thing, though it does pop up in other countries with different names. Not sure what it is in other Chinese dialects, but the one we managed to glean from Wikipedia (I know, we’re sorry), klenteng is 廟, or bio in Hokkien. It can basically be translated as ‘temple’, but it’s a lot more complicated than that, not only are klentengs a place of worship, it also serves social and political functions.
Within a klenteng, The Three Teachings are taught – Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The three stand separate but have a long history together, with mutual influences and at times complementary teachings. This is where Indonesia’s complicated political influences come in. Indonesia recognizes only five religions, so in order to protect klentengs from being dismantled, they were declared as viharas, places of worship that are unique to Buddhism.
While Tari has some idea of klenteng and the history of Chinese migrants in Indonesia, neither of us are the most knowledgeable on this matter and we welcome any information you guys can share!
We visited Klenteng Toasebio right after our visit to the Toasebio Church (read more on that, and our stance on visiting active places of worship; here), located just a short 5 minutes walk from the church, Klenteng Toasebio is also known as Vihara Dharma Jaya and it’s one of the oldest in Jakarta, boasting a history that dates back to the 1700’s.
We honestly didn’t know its historic significance when we went there, only learning about it through our chats with one of the custodians of the klenteng (who we are deeply apologetic to, as we didn’t catch his name during the tour and our subsequent chat).
Witness to the bloody mass slaughter of 1740, in which thousands of people with Chinese ancestry were slaughtered (read more on that; here), Klenteng Toasebio was set on fire and severely damaged. One of the few surviving artefacts from the time is a wooden hiolo where people place incense sticks during prayer, and the statue of the deity Cheng Guan Cheng Kun or Che Kung (Chinese character; 車公)
We walked through the klenteng guided by the caretaker, and he kindly explained the significance of each altar and what the deities were responsible for. One of our favourites was Hua Tho Sien Su or Hua Tuo (Chinese character; 華佗) the deity for treatment of both physical and spiritual ailments. We definitely feel like we should keep him in mind during our adventures, considering how prone we are to accidents and getting sick!
A week before the Chinese New Year, the deities are called back to the heavens, and this is when the klenteng go through a series of rituals to cleanse the place. Usually klentengs are busy and packed during the Chinese New Year, so we suggest you visit the klenteng right before the new year!