“Where’s the gate? The gate, where’s it?”
Jalan Kemenangan III No. 13. January 31. About 1:30 pm.
The street was busy: it was narrow, stuffed by public transports and people. Bargainers took care of their stands, pedestrians passed by, and pedicab drivers took their passengers. Some stalls offered foods, some offered raw veggies, and some offered religious tools: incense (hio), red candles, altar, statues, amulets, and so forth. I was busy with my ‘teeny MCRmy gang’ looking for the gate—there were about two or three and we had no clue which gate we had to enter—of a temple we were heading to while thinking of getting some aromatic incense for my bedroom before leaving Petak Sembilan. I’d take it as a keepsake.
We eventually got into the main gate in the south. Vihara Dharma Bakti, it said, or Jin De Yuan Temple, one of the oldest temples in Jakarta. At first, I thought it was just one temple, but it was not. Jin De Yuan or Kim Tek Ie (金德院) was the main temple in the main yard. In its left side were secondary temples. It was interesting indeed since this ‘temple block’ was not just built for one particular denomination but for all the three: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
I got into the first one which was nearest by the gate: Hui Tek Bio Temple or Hui Ze Miao (惠泽庙). Despite the fact there were more than one temple, I’m just gonna write more about this small, modest temple as this was the one that I ‘actually’ got in.
I was glad there was a kind man—quite possibly the caretaker of the temple—who welcomed us warmly: Koh Ahin. He invited us to come in while friendly saying something like, “Look around. You can learn a thing or two about deities. You may also take pictures. Do not hesitate”. And I was even getting more pumped!
Everything was red, hio-scented, and quiet—there was just one devotee praying in the temple right when we were here. Koh Ahin said there was no observance schedule. “Unless for certain celebrations. They can choose to come to the temple at anytime or not to come at all”, he said.
Every temple is like a home; it has its own householder. Hui Tek Bio was ‘owned’ by a deity named Kong Tek Tjun Ong (廣澤尊王); a Taoist god, the protector of Nan An people. There was no statue of him displayed, though, but I saw something picturesque in the face of the altar. When I asked Koh Ahin what that was, he said that it was a ‘present’ for Kong Tek Tjun Ong as the temple had just celebrated his birthday days ago—I can’t really recall the date, it was 27 or 29, anyway, happy birthday to the god!
Tjiam si: we had been waiting for it! Whassat? An annual ritual—part of Chinese culture—done to ask a god or spirit (Shen) about this year’s fortune, also as the life ‘guidance’ for better luck. Since Imlek is just about in weeks, it was indeed quite right for some tjiam si, heheh… How to do tjiam si, anyway? I’ll tell y’all.
First of all, Koh Ahin gave us a red bamboo tube with some numbered bamboo sticks in it. One of the numbers would be the number of our fortune this year. To get the numbered stick of ours, we had to pray firstly to the Shen, Kong Tek Tjun Ong, while mentioning our name and the thing we wanted to ask about. Then, we were allowed to shake the tube to get one stick fallen. We had to shake it in a proper way, or more than one stick might fall, and we had to shake it ’til only one stick fall.
Koh Ahin then placed the numbered stick we got into the incense burner for Kong Tek Tjun Ong. He then asked us to pray once again, this time in a more devout way. After the second prayer, we had to strike down two half-round—it was like the entity of Yin and Yang—woods, called poa pwe in order to find out whether the god had allowed us to see the tjiam si. Each of the poa pwe had two colours in its sides, red and yellow. The clue was like this: both yellow-coloured poa pwe dropped meant that Kong Tek Tjun Ong was laughing at us, both red-coloured poa pwe dropped meant that he was yelling at us, and red and yellow-coloured poa pwe dropped meant that he had allowed us to see the tjiam si by checking out a piece of paper based on the number written on the stick we had got.
It all depended on what we really meant to know from the tjiam si ritual we were doing and how solemn the prayer we said. “I advice you to ask about your studies or future. Girls are not allowed to ask about her romance,” Koh Ahin said. As if I was about to ask about it… Well, maybe a little. 😦
“And you? What did you get?”
I got both red-coloured woods, I had to strike them down again (I think I know why Kong Tek Tjun Ong yelled at me)!
And by that, when I get to visit another temple, I can’t do any more tjiam si, as I have to wait for the next year. Koh Ahin gave us some nice advice based on our tjiam si. I think the things he talked were pretty much relevant to my current fettle, and yes, Kong Tek Tjun Ong did answer the question my way.
After doing a short talk (I questioned a little thing about Buddhism and Confucianism), we then thanked Koh Ahin for being super kind, allowing us to get in and get to know some things. We left for the next-door temple. I didn’t get to observe a thing here, unfortunately. I didn’t even find out the name. Some caretakers were seen in the temple, but they apparently were busy taking care of stuff and we knew we just couldn’t interrupt them. It looked like the temple was being renovated. Fortunately we still could get in the temple. It looked more majestic and larger than Hui Tek Bio, even I felt as if the atmosphere was more sacred here. If I saw the statues placed in the altars that had a sort of ‘gruesome’ look, it seemed that this temple was devoted for god of underworld or god of karma as Koh Ahin had said to us that one of the other temples was ‘owned’ by that deity—about the temple devoted for Kwan Im, pretty sure it was Jin De Yuan.
Jin De Yuan was like it was being renovated as well—we got in here for only a while. I remembered Koh Ahin said that the temple was drowned by the flood last year. Despite it being fixed, some devotees were in the temple praying. It was crowded compared to the other two. I could also hear a religious song being played. The distinct difference was we were not allowed to take pictures here.
It was very nice; only I wish I could do more ‘sighting’ in Jin De Yuan and that one temple. But Hui Tek Bio was absolutely unforgettable, thanks to Koh Ahin. I think I may be planning on having a return to Petak Sembilan sometime for more experiences!
P.S. I ended up not dropping by to get some hio. Why, me, why? Sigh. But I got my tjiam si paper as the keepsake instead. Kamsia, Koh!