Temple: Vihara vs Klenteng
At first, it is crucial to understand the meaning of the English word “temple” could be either “vihara” or “klenteng” in Indonesian. So, what are the differences?
Simply said, “vihara” is the place of worship for Buddhist. There are not many statues inside the “vihara”, except the statue of Buddha or Goddess Kwan Yin. On the other hand, “klenteng” is the place of worship for Konghucu. The amount of statues representing each god or goddess to worship are many, even can be over 100 pieces.
New Order Regime and the Sentiment of Chinese Elements
In 1967, The New Order regime forbid all Chinese elements exposure in public. That included the alteration of Chinese language-based temple names. Many of them ended up into Indonesian with Sanskrit influence. Also, all “klentengs” needed to be registered into “viharas” to continue their operation.
Chinese ethnics finally regained their freedom to perform rituals and expose all Chinese elements as it should be in year 2000 after Abdurrahman Wahid, the 4th president of Indonesia, abolished the President’s Instruction (Inpres) No. 14 / 1967.
Some temples either return into their original Chinese name, maintain the Indonesian one or combine both names.
Nonetheless, confusion between “vihara” and “klenteng” remains until today, as many people still consider that they both are just synonyms.
5 Oldest Temples You Need to Visit in Jakarta, that Originally are “Klenteng”
Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio
The 265-year temple is situated in Petak Sembilan area, Glodok, the biggest China Town in Jakarta. The word “toasebio” derives from 2 words, “toase” means message, “bio” means temple (klenteng). Before being inherited to Dharma Jaya Foundation, the “klenteng” was owned by the Tan clan until its 4th generation. There are 18 altars inside the temple to worship gods for different purposes.
The foundation name is finally used to alter the original Chinese name during New Order regime, which is Vihara Dharma Jaya.
When the genocide of Chinese ethnics in 1740, VOC (The Dutch East India Company) did the search and burned down residential areas, shops, including temples like Toasebio. After the riot, the temple was rebuilt in 1754.
There are original parts remain there, such as red ornaments outside the temple and the green dragon statue wrapping around the pillar.
Vihara Dharma Bhakti
Still situated in Petak Sembilan, not far from Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio, the oldest temple in Jakarta was initially called Guan Yin Ting, built in 1650 by Lieutenant Go Xun-Guan.
Just like Toasebio, Vihara Dharma Bhakti was burned down by The Dutch East India Company in 1740. Later, Captain Oey Tjie reconstructed the temple and changed its name into Kim Tek Ie. Due to the prohibition of “klenteng” during New Order regime, it was renamed into Vihara Dharma Bhakti and never experienced any changes ever since.
In 2015, the fire struck again because of electrical short circuit and burned down the main altar and houses nearby.
Every Chinese New Year celebration, beggars from Jakarta and other cities queue up in the outdoor area of the temple to get “angpau”, the red envelope with donation money inside.
Klenteng Sin Tek Bio (Vihara Dharma Jaya)
Passing the narrow alleys and sandwiched between tall buildings, Klenteng Sin Tek Bio is a hidden gem in Pasar Baru (literally mean New Market) area, yet pretty well-known overseas because of its historical value.
Sin Tek Bio was built in 1698, probably by Chinese farmers living on the riverbanks around Pasar Baru, on Jalan Belakang Kongsie no. 16. In 1812, it moved to its present site on Jalan Pasar Baru Dalam Pasar no. 146. In reaction to the sentiment of Chinese names at that time, it changed into Vihara Dharma Jaya on May 12, 1982.
The temple consists of 2 buildings. The main building’s god is Hok-Tek Cheng-Sin, the god of earth and fortune, whereas the other one is goddess Kuan Im, who is believed to help people in difficulties. Inside the temple, you will find hundreds of statues from different ages, from 17th century to 20th century.
Vihara Bahtera Bhakti
Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is situated in an exclusive residential area, Perumahan Pasir Putih in Ancol, North Jakarta.
Its long history began when Admiral Cheng Ho landed on a riverbank in Ancol called Kota Paris (though it literally means The City of Paris, we’re not talking about Paris in France, just to remind you). Sampo Soei Soe, the chef who worked for Admiral Cheng Ho, married Siti Wati, a traditional dancer and the daughter of a famous Moslem scholar, Embah Said Areli Dato Kembang and his wife Ibu Enneng, and finally resided in Ancol.
Since the news about Sampo Soei Soe was spread widely in Mainland China, people from the country sailed away to Jakarta to meet him in person. Unfortunately, he was found dead. Therefore, the temple was build to honour Sampo Soei Soe. Like many other “klentengs”, it underwent name changes for 3 times, from Klenteng Da Bo Gong, Klenteng Ancol until Vihara Bahtera Bhakti.
Inside the temple, there’s a secluded room to pray for Sampo Soei Soe and Siti Wati on the right side of the main altar and Siti Wati parents’ grave behind the altar.
What’s so special about Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is that the pilgrims are not limited to Buddhist and Kong Hu Cu, but also Christian and Moslem.
The gazebo with golden stupa, just like that in Borobudur Temple, and the only one pagoda (and the oldest, too) in Jakarta are distinctive characteristics of Vihara Lalitavistara, that other temples in the city don’t have.
The early name of the temple was Sam Kuan Tai Tie back in the 16th century, discovered by sailors on the beach close to Cilincing. The history began from the stranded black board on the coast of Cilincing, saying “Sam Kuan Tai Tie”, the name of an old temple in China. The black board was widely believed to grant wishes and prayers, urging seekers to search the magic board.
Nonetheless it was once lost for years, until someone found a dead body, that happened to be a burglar, not far from the famous Sam Kuan Tai Tie black board.
In 1957, Vihara Lalitavistara was built on the site where the board was discovered. It was restored and inaugurated on October 7, 1989 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The chosen name “Lalitavistara” is referred to a Buddhist bible, telling the story of the birth and death of Siddharta Gautama.
Apart from the place of worship, there’s a dormitory for the monks, columbarium and Buddhist school.
Helpful and Friendly Staffs
Generally speaking, the staffs who take care of these old temples are friendly to serve curious visitors with bunch of questions, as long as there’re not too busy, from the temple history, gods until Buddhist teachings.
Make sure you don’t miss these temples on your visit to Jakarta!