Klenteng Kim Tek Ie, Jakarta; Sprawling Complex of Worship

Petak Sembilan is the area where Gereja Santa Maria de Fatima and Klenteng Toasebio is located, it’s a largely residential area with streets barely wide enough to accommodate two lanes. The neighbourhood is peaceful, and typical of Jakarta’s less crowded backroads where residents can walk on the roads without worry, only sidling closer to walls when vehicles go past, and children roam freely with their bikes.

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Photo by: Leonhard Dengah

The local residents also seemed largely unfazed with the steady stream of visitors to the houses of worship, helpfully pointing the way. We parked somewhere in between the church and klenteng, and were reassured that our car wouldn’t be towed away for illegal parking – though really… This is Jakarta, and we’re not sure the term ‘illegal parking’ is even a thing here.

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Photo by: Leonhard Dengah

Depending on who you ask, people refer to this klenteng as Klenteng Kim Tek Ie, or Vihara Dharma Bhakti. Head on over; here, for a more detailed explanation of why klentengs as also referred to as Vihara in Indonesia. Previously known as Kwan Im Teng, dedicated to the Goddess Kwan Im (or Guanyin, Chinese character; 觀音), and was built roughly 100 years before Klenteng Toasebio.

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Interestingly, some claim that the word klenteng itself is the result of people misunderstanding/mishearing ‘Ke Kuan Im Teng’ (trans; ‘to Kwan Im Teng’) as ‘Ke len teng’. We’re not sure of the authenticity of this, as we’ve yet to find concrete proof, but it’s an interesting tidbit nonetheless. Unlike Klenteng Toasebio, there were areas in this complex where photography wasn’t allowed – and unfortunately, the area where the klenteng’s namesake was housed was one of them.

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Like Klenteng Toasebio, Klenteng Kim Tek Ie also suffered under the massacre of the Chinese ethnic group in Jakarta of 1740, and the temple was finally restored in 1755. That was when the name change from Kwan Im Teng to Klenteng Kim Tek Ie happened.

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Klenteng Kim Tek Ie also suffered another tragedy in 2015, when a hanging tarp in the main building caught on fire and destroyed the ornamented roof frame as well as 40 historic sculptures. Amazingly enough, much of the structure survived, though charred black. If you go in the main building today, the inside of the windows as well the wooden beams on top are charred black from the fire, but from the front, the ornate details of the windows remain undisturbed, and its colours remains vivid and beautiful.

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The sprawling complex allowed us to roam freely, and while we took pictures of the area we noticed at least two other groups taking pictures. Maybe the klenteng was used to curious visitors. Roaming around undisturbed unfortunately also meant we had no one to direct our questions to, and although in our experience people are usually more than happy to point us in the right direction for chats, we were reluctant to disturb the pilgrims.

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Unlike Klenteng Toasebio where the air was thick with the heat and smoke from candles and incense sticks, Klenteng Kim Tek Ie was easier on our untrained bodies. Maybe it was the courtyards, and the way the temples were separated that allowed air to move more freely. It’s definitely worth visiting the two klentengs to fully grasp the minute differences in atmosphere.

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