This is my article about Tangerang, the city I am dwelling right now. It’s part of Banten Province, western of Jakarta. This is place where Jakarta International Airport located, so that’s why when you come to Indonesia or Jakarta, actually you land in Tangerang at first, then you can continue your way wherever you want. It is also famous of Cina Benteng heritage where the earliest Chinatown was developed in Java Island in the 16th century, and nowadays it’s located in Jl Ki Samaun, Tangerang Downtown. Cina Benteng is colloquial name for Chinese descendants who live in Tangerang and its surroundings and they have already been here for more than 5 centuries since Zheng He commanded one of his followers (Chen Chi Lung) to land and settle in Teluk Naga, Tangerang. By years the left Zheng He’s soldiers intermarried to locals and descended what we call nowadays Cina Benteng (Fortress Chinese) or sometimes abbreviated into Ciben.
This morning I had an appointment with my friend and her family to visit Tangerang Chinatown. It’s very crowded as it is one of Tangerang’s economic centres. Initially I wanted to enjoy Tangerang’s culinary items in an event held there, but the destination then extended into visiting Benteng Heritage Museum. We cannot recognize the museum, as it’s inside the Pasar Lama (Old Market), among the various smelly stuffs sold in the market from the fish until pork, frog’s legs and rare fruits I used to know when I was still child. At first, I and my friend were lost as we didn’t know the exact location of the museum, after seeking information in Boen Tek Bio temple, we just realized that the museum was very close…just hidden by market stalls.
We came there at 10.30 am, under the heating weather and no rain at all for months. Well, because of El Nino effect, we have no rainy season for longer time. When we came, the tour was about to start. There was a girl who became our tour guide as the museum is only three stored 3 centuried house. She started to tell about the museum history, where it’s opened for the first time in 11-11-2011 and initiated by an education consultants Mr. Udaya Halim who’s also Pasar Lama native resident. The museum is expected to maintain most of Cina Benteng’s heritage among the development which converted much of the Chinese styled houses around the museum into stores and smelly market. The house is restored and still retain its original architectures, though many parts of the building are relatively new.
The tour guide didn’t allow us to take pictures inside the museum, so that I took picture in the front part only. Her descriptions about the museum and the artifacts inside it was awesome. I could follow her explanations, from the first floor to the second floor. Most of the artifacts are donations from the locals and there are also some Chinese epic comics from 1950s-1970s which are not published anymore and donated by the writer’s grandchild who live in front of Boen Tek Bio temple as trader. We are not also allowed to touch the artifacts and may not separate from the group as the guide run only 45 minutes. We also see the traditional Benteng Chinese wedding dress whose influence is from Qing dynasty and Betawian styles with its kembang goyang.
She also told about the lotus feet shoes which made me think about how difficult the women walked and ran when the war exploded. We’re directly jumped into the past when we saw many antique artifacts, but the most touching one was when I read a 1940s article sticked on the wall about 1942’s great robbery (Tahun Penggedoran) and 1946 Massacres. All victims were Cina Benteng. The first one was by Japanese troops who ransacked and robbed all Benteng Chinese belongings include family trees notes, praying altar and many more. The worst one was in 1946, when Cina Benteng was accused as pro-Dutch and all were slanders. Robbery, massacres, mass rape happened during the time till around 10,000 Benteng Chinese fled to Jakarta at the time. 1998 was also worst time riot and some of them fled anywhere but then returned.
Mr. Udaya Halim himself used to live in Australia for years since 1998, but then he returned and saw his hometown developed by changing traditional Chinese house into stores. He didn’t want and bought the house which becomes the museum nowadays in 2009. He is education consultants and has several English courses as well as one school in Tangerang. The museum is relatively small, but it has got enormously rich informations about Benteng Chinese (Cina Benteng) and their heritage in Tangerang. The ticket is IDR 20,000 for adults and IDR 10,000 for kids. We have to slip off our footwear during the tour and be nice there. I also watched how to open ‘magic’ traditional door and its secrets, but I won’t tell you how. Hahahaha…
After the visitation, I am so happy as it’s my wishlist for a long time. The Benteng Heritage Museum is closed every Monday and opened from 10 am to 5 pm. It’s can also be used as other events like seminar, cultural events as far as related to the heritage.
Wow, I have to learn much more about it and one day I think the museum will become the best destination in Tangerang and for those who want to know deeply about this city.
Cina Benteng is unseparable part of Tangerang from then, now and forever.
The taglines are : tangerang and cina benteng
Tangerang, 25 October 2015