Overseas Chinese - early settlements - Semarang
- Overseas Chinese - early settlements
(source: Admiral Zheng He and Pre-Colonial Coastal Urban
Development in Southeast Asia. by WIDODO, J,)
Semarang in central Java is believed to have been established by one
of Zheng He's commanders, Wang Jinghong. He died at the age of 78,
and was buried there according to Islamic rites. A shrine to worship
Zheng He was erected inside the cave where Wang Jinghong and his
men lived. However, this original temple was destroyed in 1704 when
the cave collapsed. The temple was reconstructed several times.
Within the temple compound there is an Islamic tomb of Wang
Jinghong, Zheng He's master pilot (Kiai Juru Mudi, Dampu Awang,
Duogong).The fusion between Islamic and Chinese elements is evident
in physical, functional, and even ritual layers of the temple.
The place was called Bergota, but after the Chinese began to settle
there, it was called Sanbaolong -- or Semarang. Before Zheng He left
China on his fifth voyage, his fleet made a stop in Quanzhou (or Zaitun),
and recruited pilots and navigators from a small Muslim hamlet, Baiqi,
on a peninsula just north of the city. According to the village legend,
when one of Zheng He's ships got stuck in shallow waters off Java (it
could be Semarang), men from Baiqi had to pole furiously to release it.
After the boat was freed, one pole remained stuck in the sand to mark
the spot. According to local belief, Zheng He first landed in Mangkang,
an old village harbor westward of Semarang, where a small Chinese
community had already established, before he went to Simongan (on
the slope of Penggiling hills, Semarang. The name "Mangkang"
probably originated from the word "Wangkang" the Chinese junk.
The Hanafite Chinese Muslim communities had already established in
Semarang around 1411-1416. It is believed that in 1413 the Ming's
fleet was put in for a month at Semarang for ship repairs, and during
this period Admiral Zheng He and his officers came very often to the
Hanafite Chinese mosque in Semarang, which was probably built in
1411. The harbor had been acted as the main seaport for the Hindu
-Mataram kingdom in the south.
Around the end of the fifteenth century, a mix populated Muslim and
non-Muslim Chinese settlement was developed in Semarang, with
the temple and the mosque right on its center. According to native
tradition, the first native settlement in Semarang was opened by Ki
Ageng Pandan Arang, an Arab Muslim preacher, in Bergota (known
as Pulau Tirang area) in 1476.
In 1477 the Demak forces attacked Semarang, to re-convert the
renegade Chinese Muslim community. Although the settlement was
destroyed, the old mosque or temple of Semarang was preserved,
and the former Chinese Muslim was not massacred. Their technical
skill in shipbuilding was still needed by the rising Demak's maritime
The Demak great mosque was the center of the first Muslim kingdom
in Java, and was recognized as the primary center for the spread of
Islam throughout Java. It was completed in 1481 with the help of non-
Muslim Chinese community of Semarang, using the wooden
construction method of the shipbuilding techniques, an inherited
knowledge for ten centuries.
A major Chinese shipyard was built around 1541-1546 in Semarang.
The shipyard built war ships for the Demak armada, to support the
expansion of this Muslim Kingdom. In 1546 a dynastic quarrel has
destroyed Demak. The whole town and the court of Demak, except
the great mosque, were ruined. The Demak army, defeated by the
rebels, escaped to Semarang and tried to defend themselves in the
shipyard. But the rebel forces besieged them, and with the exception
of the temple and the mosque, the whole Semarang settlement
including the shipyard, was set on fire. Then a loyal prince to Demak
defeated the rebels, and another Muslim kingdom was established
deep in the hinterland. It was the rise of Muslim Mataram kingdom
in central Java. The shipyard in Semarang had never been rebuilt any