For almost 350 years, the Hok Lay Kiong temple has stood in the middle of Bekasi, West Java. It was the first temple built by the Chinese who escaped from Batavia, the old name for Jakarta. They were pursued by Dutch colonial soldiers after a demonstration demanding a pay rise led to a revolt.
In the 1700s, Bekasi was still a forested area and was considered a safe place for the runaways. Most of the Chinese who worked as laborers built a village as their residence.
Afterward, houses were built and a temple followed suit. It was named Hok Lay Kiong, which means the palace of fortune.
The temple is said to be the biggest in Bekasi. A renovation left the building with only three original doors from the 18 th century. A door marking the altar’s area is made of teak wood and bears a carving of the god Hok Lay Kiong, believed to have the ability to smooth one’s way into fortune.
The temple is also home to traditional Chinese celebrations, such as a Chinese drum festival and Chinese New Year. Situated in the middle of a busy village with diverse residents, the temple is closely guarded by the people in the area. It has survived several riots thanks to the help of Bekasi’s own residents. (wng)