First of all, allow me to say Happy Lunar New Year to you who celebrate the event. May the year of the snake brings you health, happiness, and prosperity.
Below are pictures that show the festive atmosphere in some of the old Chinese temples in Tangerang a day before the Lunar New Year. Nowadays, the temples conditions are not old anymore, since they underwent major renovations and also are painted beautifully. According to the historians, however, the temples existence has already been more than 300 years.
Before I continue with the Chinese Temples things, let me give you a brief description about Tangerang, so at least you know the condition of the city. Well, Tangerang is a small city located at the west of Jakarta. As one of Jakarta’s satellite city, many of Tangerang’s residents commute to Jakarta for work. The city is also known to be inhabited by many descendants of the first Chinese that entered Indonesia in the 15th century. These people, now known as the Chinese Indonesian community, like that in other parts of the country.
In Tangerang, many community members assimilated with the locals through marriage, so their appearance are no longer like other Chinese, but they are still maintaining their ancestor’s cultural practices, including their habit to pray to the God in Chinese Temples and also celebrating the Lunar New Year.
A day before the Lunar New Year, I visited three Chinese Temples that are considered as the oldest Chinese Temples in Tangerang. Among the three, Boen Tek Bio is considered to be the main temple, although it is not the oldest. As the main temple, Boen Tek Bio should stand on the best place, which usually face the ocean and be backed by a mountain. Boen Tek Bio, however, was not erected close to the beach or to the mountain. In this case, there is a temple that can be considered as the ocean while another can be considered as the mountain for Boen Tek Bio. The one that can be considered as the ocean is called Boen Hay Bio (the word “hay” can be translated as ocean) and the other temple called Boen San Bio reflects the mountain (the word “san” can be translated as mountain).
Boen Tek Bio, or now better known as Vihara Padumuttara, has been existed since 1771. It is said that the temple was built by workers who came directly from China, so the architecture of the temple reflects the architecture of China at that time. At the top of the temple, there are statues depicting water dragons.
Vihara Padumuttara is located in the middle of a traditional market known as Pasar Lama Tangerang, and close to Cisadane River. In the past, Pasar Lama was the centre of activities of the area.
Boen San Bio, which is also known as Vihara Nimmala, has been existed since 1689. The building, however, is a new one. The original temple is no longer existed. It has been renovated totally after its main altar was burned in the year 2000. At the backyard of the beautiful temple lays an old tomb which is known as Pasarean Mbah Raden Suryakencana, a Chinese style pavilion called Pendopo Pehcun, and the Dhammasala Room. At the top of the building, people cannot find the usual dragon statues, but phoenix statues instead.
Vihara Nimmala is located not too far from Vihara Padumuttara. It is the biggest temple among the three. Aside of that, the unique but pretty architecture of the temple make the temple as one of Tangerang’s places of interest.
Boen Hay Bio or Vihara Karunayala is located quite far from Vihara Nimmala and vihara Padumuttara. The smallest temple among the three has been existed for more than 300 years. It is said that at the first time, there was only a simple wooden house which was used to pray to the gods by the Chinese community in the area. Now, the wooden house has transformed into a temple. At the top of the building, there are dragon statues as also in other usual Chinese Temples. In addition of the dragons, there is a giant crab statue at the top of the main gate to the temple.