Indonesia: It’s Chinese New Year for all in Semarang

People celebrate Chinese New Year at Sam Poo Kong Temple in Semarang, Central Java, on Monday. Children waited excitedly to give ang pao (envelopes containing money) to barongsai (lion dance) performers. (

Thousands of people have descended upon a temple in Semarang, Central Java, to witness Chinese Imlek traditions this year, Chinese New Year 2567.

Starting early on Monday morning, people of various ethnicity and religious leaning flocked to Sam Poo Kong, Semarang’s oldest Chinese temple.

Many did not come to pray, but arrived in hope of witnessing Imlek traditions and showed equal interest in sampling the special cuisine available during the celebrations.

The temple congregation and the throng of temple visitors was an unusual blend that served to illustrate a harmonious sense of tolerance.

The visitors happily watched the barongsai (lion dance) along with a series of Chinese traditional performances and some even danced to a song performed in Mandarin at the temple.

“We came here to see what the Imlek celebration looks like. We heard that there is a barongsai performance. We also watched the Reog Ponorogo performance that showed a cultural update to Imlek celebrations,” said a visitor from Kendal.

Juwita, a Semarang resident, also came with her friends to watch the various arts performed at Sam Poo Kong.

“It is very crowded. There was a 1 kilometer traffic jam just to get here,” said a girl wearing hijab.

Inside the temple, children excitedly handed angpao (a red envelope containing money) to the dancing barongsai.

Sam Poo Kong Temple was built by Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho in 1405 after he arrived in Semarang. Cheng Ho was an admiral during the Ming Dynasty. He travelled, under orders from Ming Emperor Yung Lo, from South China to Southeast Asia and onwards to Africa. His travels reportedly ended in 1425.

The temple underwent a significant renovation from 2003 to 2005, costing Rp 20 billion ($1,466,814). The renovation saw the temple expand from 16×16 meters squared to 34×34 meters squared. Details of Cheng Ho’s journey are displayed in a relief on the back wall of the temple. (rin)


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