Saturday, January 31, 2009

City should preserve Chinatown: Experts

The Jakarta Administration should strictly control development in Glodok, West Jakarta to preserve what is left of the city's Chinatown, an expert in Chinese historical buildings said.

Indonesia Architecture Documentation Center head Djauhari Sumintadihardja said Thursday that the city's Chinatown, the commercial area of Glodok which was developed before the Dutch colonial era of the 17th and 18th centuries, has lost most of the houses with Chinese architecture and is losing the charm of old Chinatown.

"The city administration does not list all the buildings in the area as protected heritage buildings, causing modern buildings to be built side by side to the old buildings with Chinese architecture," Djauhari said.

"Who would believe that the current Jakarta Chinatown is a heritage site from the 17th and 18th centuries when they see conditions now?" he asked.

He said that development in Chinatown should be strictly controlled, like in the posh residential area of Menteng, Central Jakarta.

"Some areas in Glodok can still be rescued and conserved. The Pintu Kecil area in Glodok still has old Chinese houses," he said.

Historian Mona Lohanda from the University of Indonesia said that the Chinese settlers contributed a lot during the construction of Old Batavia in the Dutch colonial era.

"A lot of Chinese people were hired to construct the Dutch office buildings which are now the Fatahillah Museum and the Archive building, giving a Chinese touch to them," she said.

The Fatahillah Museum was the former Batavia town hall and the Archive Building was the house of former Governor General Reinier de Klerk. Both are located in Glodok.

"The color of the Reinier de Klerk building was red and gold because of the Chinese influence," she added.

W.P Zhong, an expert on Chinese Architecture from Tarumanegara University, said that the transformation of the city's Chinatown was in part because some of the Peranakan Indonesian community have lost their appreciation for their Chinese heritage.

Mona disagreed, and said: "Chinese-Indonesians are very proud people and are proud of their culture. The problem is that their culture was oppressed for more than 30 years during the Suharto era. Now, they are reclaiming their identity as Chinese-Indonesians."

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