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The Sam Poo Kong temple is not only a shrine, but also opened as a tourism spot in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. It’s easy to locate the temple on Jalan Gedung Batu, Simongan, since it’s situated in the city.

Entering the main temple, you will notice a dragon coiling on top of the gateway. Two sculptures of knights wearing leather headdress with a javelin in hand greet the visitors. Their faces express toughness and determined air of soldiers of the 15th century.

As excerpted from the history wall, Sam Poo was a messenger from China in the sovereignty of the Ming Emperor (1368-1643). He visited Java two times in 1406 and 1416. In the later year he landed at Simongan which was then lying by the sea. The inhabitants of Semarang regarded his mission as a great national event and in honor thereof built the temple.

Several deities are worshipped and sent prayers by the pilgrims. Every table placed in each temple is destined for a holy being. There are The God of the Earth, the guardian of the anchor, the admiral of the ship, The Hoo Ping spirits, The Kong Hu Cu prophet, and another numbers of room for different spirits.

According to the guardian, General Cheng Ho used to be a Moslem. He had traveled to Java, Sumatra, Bengal, Ceylon, Malaya and Arab, and established commercial relationships within those continents. Even so, he did not exactly traveled for a religious mission, but the journey went on as food shortage struck his homeland.

After centuries, the temple is still enlivened by its strong magical atmosphere. Moslem worship does not take place here and people have been using the temple for Buddhism and Kong Hu Cu ceremonies.

Pilgrims come as an exclusive phenomenon. Even though not many arriving every day, the number of the pilgrims increases as some extraordinary ceremonies take place, such as Sam Poo’s Anniversary at the end of July or in the beginning of August; or the Chinese New Year festivity. They come not only from Semarang, but also from Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, and other cities in Indonesia.

To various kinds of fortune wishes and foretelling, such as suggestions for one’s business, finding a soulmate, or just praying for one’s luck, three temples in the area serve the visitors in the buildings. All are dressed in red. At the main temple, another brass pot stood on the porch. On the biggest table behind the front pot, some praying utensils such as flags, candles and incense were arrayed. The highest candles were two or two and a half meters high. They were worth two or three million rupiahs; as donation from the pilgrims who gratified for the splendid life Buddha gives them throughout the year.

Some ascetic guardians are so helpful for wishes. In their place where the altars were positioned, people approach with fruits and cakes heaped on a tray. They set them on the table along with flowers and an oil lamp in a bowl, representing the fuel of life. They light incense and send prayers to the other side. The guardians help them praise for the offerings.

Especially on the anniversary celebration of the temple, the amount and kinds of food increase twice as much as before. More carnation buns and ‘wajik’ (sweet cake made of sticky rice) are displayed. More money paper is burnt. More oil and candles are sold.

As the sun sets, sounds of tambourines thumping into the open air on a field across the temple magnetize people who live around. After the pilgrims finish their rituals, the committee will set a stage and place extra lights. The dance and barongsai show will be staging overnight.

Visitors crowd around the showground, and by 8.00 pm. the show starts. A 20-meter-long dragon comes into view, leaps and swirls in motion on the top of 10-meter-high standing pipes, while a number of lads are flapping golden flags below. More than twenty dance shows are performed within two days, in glittering wears and headdresses. The merry environment brings back the affluence of the Chinese art from the past. So don’t let your eyes go heavy, since the show will go on till comes the next break of day.