Semarang deserves to thank to Helmsman Ong Keng Hong for gotting a serious illness. Because of his illness, he had to anchor and chose to be left by expedition group at Simongan Hill. Admiral Zheng He was still generous in sending several soldiers to accompany and care for his Helmsman in Semarang. Then at one time, around the XV century, Ong Keng Hong was the figure who spread Islam and founded Gedung Batu Cave which was the forerunner to establishment of Sam Poo Kong Temple in the modern era….Oh yes, it was said that Ong Keng Hong controlled a giant ship along 130 m in wide and 55 m in wide with 9 masts. Accompanied by 299 other ships on a grand expedition.
That afternoon, clock showed 3:30 p.m., a sign that my duty to guard the training was complete. After packing every essential equipment for re-used on second day training tomorrow, I didn’t directly go to hotel, but intended to explore Bongsari area.
Because tonight I had to entertain important colleagues for dinner together, the training host was kind enough to take Mr. Muchlis and me to the destination which I meant. Soon, I arrived at Sam Poo Kong Temple. Sitting for a moment in parking lot at temple north gate, my heart kept pounding, what history was inside?
Redeemed a ticket of USD 2, I started to enter it.
It seemed that this pagoda was indeed very ready to become a tourist attraction, various directional signs were very complete and placed in several strategic positions, some of the best points for taking photos had also been marked in detail.
“Donny, I’m sitting here, yes. I want to drink ice and smoked. I’m very tired. You can go around by yourself, yes!”, Said Mr. Muchlis, grimacing while massaging his calf. He was more interested in orange juice and sitting in rest area.
I combed from north side, past a joglo (typical roof shape is Central Java) pavilion where its space part was used by traders to trade souvenirs, while right in front of it is a health post with a yellow wall. Meanwhile, in very large temple courtyard, there were two statues of a golden lion which carrying a globe and a lion cub as well as two white statues of Yin and Yang guardians.
I started to walking into temple parts one by one. I entered a temple with thirty-six pillars and two stacks of roof. At its front was guarded by two golden lions and eight deities. This is worship temple of Thao Tee Kong (God of Earth) to asking for blessings and life safety.
Next to the south side, lied the Helmsman Temple. Of course, this temple was dedicated to Ong Keng Hong, the helmsman who spread Islam in Semarang. Smaller in size, this temple was built with sixteen pillars, two of which were brown, with dragon carve and located right at the entrance. Guarded by a green lion statue and two gods in the courtyard.
I arrived at the main building in a prayer complex for the Tridharma (Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism). It was Sam Poo Kong Temple which firmly stood with ninety pillars and had a three-tiered roof.
I managed to enter this temple. But I made a big mistake by photographing worship area which was forbidden. Temple staff scolded me. I was sorry, Sir, I didn’t see a camera image with red cross near the center pole.
Behind this main temple were ten reliefs which tell important events during Admiral Zheng He’s expedition, or we was more familiar to called him as Admiral Cheng Ho. Some people call him as San Poo Tay Djien.
Among the stories, Admiral Zheng He was rewarded with several giraffes by King Hulumosi from Iran, crushing Iskandar’s rebellion in Samudra Pasai Kingdom, one hundred and seventy of his soldiers died in overcoming a civil war between Wikramawardhana (King of West Java) and Wirabumi (King of East Java), crushing five thousands of pirates who led by Chen Zhu Yi in Palembang, overcoming the conflict between Malacca (Malaysia) and Siam (Thailand), early departure story of expedition which he led from Liu Jia Gang, escorting Princess Han Li Bao to be married to Malaysia King (Sultan Mansyur Syah), until save the missing China ambassador in Indonesia… Wow, those were cool of this Admiral’s story.
It was getting darker, colorful lights began to be lit. I have arrived at the end of this temple exploration. I took the time to sit in a building which served as a performance venue, where in rows of steps stood soldier statues who Admiral Zheng He brought.
For visitors who wanted to take pictures with wearing costumes which using in Admiral Zheng He era, they could rent it at costume photo rental shop.
That was my visit story at Sam Poo Kong Temple, a full of history temple and telling about entire crew under Admiral Zheng He command.