It is only fitting that this little jewel hidden in the middle of the busy Tangerang Old Market is nicknamed the Pearl of Tangerang.
Finding your way to the museum in the morning is part of the experience. It requires a lot of navigating through the snaking alleys of the traditional market. You will be greeted by the sounds of bargaining vendors, the vibrant colours of exotic spices and of course, the smell of fresh fish mingled with incenses from a nearby temple. Suddenly on your right, you will see this building - regally restored to its former glory - and it is as if you have just somehow travelled back in time
The Benteng Heritage Museum was born from a vision. After years of living in Australia, Mr. Udaya Halim came and visited his old hometown. He saw what was once the most beautiful building from his childhood in bad disrepair. Believing that the building was a cultural site with historical value, he bought it in 2009 and restored it to its former glory. He did not stop there. With his own extensive researches and added item donations from the community in the area, he built the first and only Chinese heritage museum in Indonesia.
It is said that the first Benteng Chinese were part of Ming Dynasty’s Admiral Zheng He’s fleets. They landed at Tangerang’s Teluk Naga (Dragon Cove) in 1407, and those who chose to settle around the Cisadane River intermarried and culturally assimilated with the locals.
Examples of this assimilation was evident throughout the museum, from the beautiful Kebaya Encim that combined local Javanese women’s wear with a touch of Chinese style, to the stylish red moon gate that had been added to the dining area. The gate’s design combined Chinese phoenix symbols with Cirebon Batik Mega Mendung patterns. The collections of very tiny ‘lotus’ shoes, made for women’s bounded feet, as well as the very cleverly designed mahjong table with hidden compartments that open up for holding drinks and snacks, allow some glimpses to the colorful past of the Chinese ethnic groups in Indonesia.
The museum’s pièce de résistance, however, is the gorgeous relief decoration of its central courtyard, an original element of the building. The reliefs, decorated with coloured ceramics, depicted the story of General Guan Yu, part of the classic Three Kingdoms lore. Chinese houses do not usually contain such intricately carved designs, especially with this character, usually associated with the law. Due to its proximity to the Boen Tek Bio Temple from the same era, it is assumed that in the 17th century, this building was originally used as a residents meeting hall.
The building itself had been divided into three small separate units by the previous owner for each of his children. Mr. Udaya had been able to purchase and combined two of them to house the museum, while still hoping to get a hold of the third one soon. Culture and history must continue to be maintained and preserved for the future generation, and this museum managed to preserve a very important part of the Indonesian history, in a lovingly (and painstakingly) restored building. A definite must-see!
BENTENG HERITAGE MUSEUM
Jalan Cilame No. 18&20, Pasar Lama,
Kelurahan Sukasari, Kec. Tangerang
T : +62-21 55791139
W : www.bentengheritage.com
Tuesday to Sunday 10:00AM – 5:00PM
Closed on Mondays
Ticket price: IDR 20,000
The Indonesian Heritage Society Jakarta is a non-profit organisation offering the opportunity to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia. The varied activities of the society, including tours, lectures and study groups, provide a stepping stone to discovering the culture, life, history & art of this vast archipelago.
Indonesian Heritage Society offers activities in different languages: French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese. Please contact the different language sections for their specific activities.