The Sam Poo Kong Temple, also known as Gedung Batu (the Stone Building) is the oldest Chinese temple in Semarang, capital of the province of Central Java. Unlike most temples, the building does not belong to any specific religion, but rather functions as a place of worship for people of various ethnicities and religious groups including Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims. The temple is located on Jalan Simongan, West Semarang.
Sam Poo Kong is the oldest of 5 temples included in the Sam Poo Kong complex which spans across 3.2 hectares. The building covers an area of 1,020 square meters and is influenced by both Chinese and Javanese 14th century architectural styles. The temple is painted with a magnificent red color and crowned with a triple-layered pagoda-style roof, typical of East Asian culture. The surrounding area is thick with incense smoke, giving the feel of being in China itself.
The temple foundations were first built by Admiral Cheng Ho, elsewhere better known as Admiral Zheng He – a Muslim explorer from Mainland China. He arrived in Java sometime between the years 1400 and 1416, although the exact year is disputed. Finding a small cave in a rocky hillside, Cheng Ho used the site for prayer and later built a small temple in its place. While in Java, Cheng Ho taught the residents of the area how to farm and cultivate the land.
After some time, Cheng Ho left Java, but many of his crew decided to stay behind and settle in the area. They married with the locals, and till now, Simongan is inhabited by descendants of China. In 1704, the original temple and cave collapsed in a landslide. The local community rebuilt it 20 years later in a different location, closer to the city center and further from areas prone to decay by natural elements. It functions both as a place of worship, and a shrine honoring Cheng Ho for his services to the community.
The first and second restorations took place in 1879, financed by the wealthy Oei Tjie Sien, who took over possession from Yam Hoo Loo, and made the complex open to the public.
The temple underwent further restorations in 1937 and new additions were added to the structure such as the gate, the sacred garden and the main lobby.
In March 2011, a bronze statue of Admiral Cheng Ho was erected within the temple. The statue stands over 10 meters high and weighs nearly 4 tons, and is an icon of Semarang Tourism.
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