Kelenteng, Religion and Culture Identity of Chinese Community

Title : Kelenteng, Agama, dan Identitas Budaya Masyarakat Cina: Studi Kasus pada Kelenteng Tay Kak Sie, Semarang
Author : Fahmi Prihantoro (CRCS, 2006)
Keywords : identity, history, Chinese people, kelenteng
Kelenteng is known as a praying place for Chinese-Indonesians, especially whose religion is Tri Dharma (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism). As such Kelenteng is considered to be important in the study of Chinese culture in Indonesia. It is generally assumed that Tri Dharma is one of primary cultural identities for Chinese-Indonesians.This research is aimed at revealing the relationship between kelenteng and Chinese cultural identity, with a case study in Kelenteng Tay Kak Sie, Semarang. The research questions are (1) were there any changes in religious orientation of Kelenteng Tay Kak Sie? and (2) does Kelenteng Tay Kak Sie, with its religious activities and particular cultural materials, still express Chinese cultural identity? In order to answer these questions, this research tries to examine Indonesian political dynamics in relation to Chinese-Indonesians. Using historical approach, three major stages in the political history of Chinese people in the modern Indonesia may be identified. These are [1] the period before 1967 when Chinese-Indonesians were free to carry out their cultural and religious activities, [2] the period between 1967 – 2000 when the New Order Government banned Chinese cultural and religious activities through Keppres No. 14/1967), and [3] the period after 2000, when the Government put Inpres No 6 Tahun 2000 in place and Chinese Indonesians are allowed to practice their cultural and religious activities again.

The research in Kelenteng Tay Kak Sie shows that to some extent this temple has become “the last resort” in preserving the cultural and religious identities of Chinese Indonesians in Semarang. This is evident at least in three aspects: (1) its persistent in the religious orientation (ideas), (2) slightly changes in religious activities, and (3) the least changes in the cultural materials as demonstrated by the building. This is indeed interesting, since during the period of oppression (1967-2000) many other kelentengs had been changed to become Buddhist temples. In such a latter temple, the Confucianism and Taoism aspects of the Tri Dharma were reduced and hardly presented. There are several factors that may explain why Tay Kak Sie has become the last resort to preserve the cultural and religious identities of Chinese-Indonesians in Semarang : its location, political will, temple characteristics, the strong Chinese community around the temple, and the religious teaching.

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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