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PROCEEDING

PROCEEDING

The 2nd International Conference on


Chinese Indonesian Studies 2015
Theme:
Chinese Diaspora Tradition in Indonesia Nation Building:
Challenges and Opportunities

Bandung, 5-6th February 2015

MUP
MARANATHA UNIVERSITY PRESS
PROCEEDING
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies 2015.
Theme: Chinese Diaspora Tradition in Indonesia Nation Building: Challenges and Opportunities.

Editor: Dr. Teresa Liliana Wargasetia, S.Si., M.Kes., PA(K).


Desain Cover & Layout : Roy Anthonius Susanto., S.Sn., M.Ds.

Penerbit:
Maranatha University Press (MUP)
Jl. Prof. Drg. Suria Sumantri, MPH No. 65
Bandung 40164

Cetakan pertama, 2015.


Hak cipta dilindungi undang-undang.

Perpustakaan Nasional: Katalog Dalam Terbitan (KDT).


Proceeding the 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies 2015.
Theme: Chinese Diaspora Tradition in Indonesia Nation Building: Challenges and Opportunities/
editor Dr. Teresa Liliana Wargasetia, S.Si., M.Kes., PA(K).
Bandung, MUP, 2015, 315 hlm, 21 × 29,7 cm.
ISBN 978-602-72127-0-1.
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

BOARD OF COMMITTEE

Prof. Dr. Ir. Benjamin Soenarko, MSME


(Maranatha Christian University)

Dr. Ir. Sugiri Kustedja, MT.


(Maranatha Christian University)

Prof. Esther H. Kuntjara.


(Petra Christian University)

Dr. Setefanus Suprajitno.


(Petra Christian University)

B. Danang Setianto, SH., LL.M, MIL


(Soegijapranata Catholic University)

Dr. Tyas Susanti


(Soegijapranata Catholic University)

Prof. Nie De Ning


(Xiamen University)

Prof. Shi Xueqin


(Xiamen University)
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

Advisor Ir. Yusak Gunadi Santoso, MM (Rektor UKM)


Ir. Hanny Juliani Dani, MT (Pembantu Rektor III UKM)
Prof. Dr. dr. Susy Tjahjani, M.Kes. (Ketua LPPM UKM)
Chairman Dr. Krismanto Kusbiantoro, S.T., M.T.
1st Secretary Elizabeth Wianto, S.Sos., S.Sn., M.Ds.
2nd Secretary Citra Amelia, S.Sn., MFA
Administration Gun Gun
1st Treasurer Dr. dr Hana Ratnawati, M.Kes, PA(K)
2nd Treasurer Dr. Teresa L. Wargasetia, S.Si., M.Kes, PA(K)
Proceeding Coordinator Dr. Teresa L. Wargasetia, S.Si., M.Kes, PA(K)
Reviewer Coordinator Dr. Ir. Sugiri Kustedja, M.T.
Design & Publication Roy Anthonius Susanto, S.Sn., M.Ds.
Hospitality & Accomodation Prasastri Tria Danarti, BA
Documentation Coordinator Iwan Santosa, S.T.
Venue Coordinator Drs. Alexandrey Mangundjojo
Event Organizer Irena V.G Fajarto, S.T., M.Comm.
Session Coordinator Liem Boen Hong, M.T.
Moderator Coordinator Pauw Budianto, M. Lit.
Workshop Coordinator Isabella Isthipraya Andreas, M.Ds.
Field Trip Coordinator Erwin Ardianto Halim, S.Sn., MFA
Cathering Dr. Dra. Seriwati Ginting, M.Pd.
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Prolog
Chinese Diaspora
Tradition in Indonesia Nation Building
Challenges & Opportunities
The existence of Chinese Indonesian can nation building.
never be removed from the whole Indone- This conference aims to recognize Chinese
sia nation building. Since the reformation Indonesian local tradition, to identify
era, the existence of Chinese Indonesian challenges and search opportunities in
ethnicity with all its cultural attribute are order to blend those valuable tradition as
clearly expressed after a long hibernation inseparable part of Chinese Indonesian
during the former governance. This is a ethnicity as part of the whole nation build-
good opportunity for scholars, leaders, ing. This living tradition of Chinese Indone-
engineers, physicists, economist, artist, sian gathers many living aspect tradition
lawyers, even politicians to develop studies including thinking, ritual, sociological,
about Chinese Indonesian’s ethnicity and language, architecture, law, business, politi-
all their aspects, including their local cal and many more.
tradition.
More than thirty years of hibernation had The conference will be followed by an
caused discontinuity of tradition. Many optional filed trip to Cirebon area. This field
Chinese Indonesian local tradition vanished trip be conducted after the conference as an
because optional program. It is a 3-days and 2-night
program, travel by train to Cirebon and bus
Many Chinese Indonesian local for city tour in Cirebon area. Cirebon is an
tradition vanished because it was no old city at the seashore with many Chinese
longer passed to the younger dwelling artifacts, historical Chinese
generation temples, Old Sultanate Kraton (palace),
Markets. Where part of city old area demol-
The inevitable pressure of modernity and ished by the current economic develop-
globalization is a great challenge for the ment, quickly pushed out the existing
late Chinese Indonesian local tradition to cultural heritages. A suburb of depleted
bloom. Yet this condition initiate the China town Jamblang will be visited with
opportunity of revitalization and redevelop- their old houses, together with Trusmi
ment of Chinese Indonesian local tradition. nearby batik village.
The issue is that how do we have to respond
such condition? The response might be to
rejuvenate and enliven the old local tradi-
tion, or to create a new culture that still
adopt the past tradition but facilitate current
context. Moreover, the issue grows to the
position of such contribution in Indonesia
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Chairman’s Message
Dear honored guest, welcome to Maranatha Christian University for the 2nd International
Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies.

It is a privilege to welcome you to this event.

After the succesfull 1st conference in Semarang almost 2 years ago, many researches and
discourses about the life of the Chinese Indonesian emerged as a trending
- - topics among scholars in
Indonesia and many other countries. This particular subject has raised a wide spectrum of issues that
requires comprehensive studies and involves multidisciplinary approaches.

The 2nd international conference on Chinese Indonesian will focus of the issue of the
- -
Chinese Diaspora tradition in the context of the Indonesia’s nation building. It is undeniable that
Chinese Diaspora tradition has become part of the hybrid Indonesian culture. It has become a
significant ingredient of the whole Indonesia’s nation building that covers so many living aspect.
The purpose of the conference is to identify and explore the Chinese Diaspora tradition in Indonesia in
order to understand the particular position in the the process of the nation building, and also to
conserve and nurture the traditions for the young generations.
- -
- -
To all supporting institution and board of committee from Xiamen University, Petra Christian
University, Soegijapranata Catholic University and Tarumanagara University, we would like to send you
our great gratitude for such a support and commitment. To all the presenters and participant, thank you
very much for participating in this event. Thank you for sharing your ideas and hopefully you can enjoy
the whole conference.

On behalf of all the organizing committee, I would like to apologize for all inconvenience that may
occurs before, during and after the conference.

Have a nice stay in Bandung and enjoy the conference.

Dr. Krismanto Kusbiantoro., S.T, M.T.


Chairman of Organizing Committee
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Rector’s Message
Our gratitude to our loving God for His grace that enable us to gather in this special event:
International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies 2nd held on 5-6 February 2015.

We welcome you to our campus, Universitas Kristen Maranatha, with hope that all participants are
in good condition. First of all we would like to thank those who have supported this event so that
the seminar could be held properly. We do appreciate it.
-
As we know that many Indonesian Chinese local traditions disappear because they are no longer
passed on from generation to generation. This process also occurs due to the challenges of globali-
zation as well as ongoing modernization.
-
This is a challenge for us, how to respond back the existed local tradition or creating a new tradition
that still adopt a long-standing tradition in which we also have to focus on to the whole process of
nation and state in Indonesia.

We wish this seminar would give beneficial to all participants.


-
-
Ir. Yusak Gunadi Santoso, MM.
Rector
Universitas Kristen Maranatha
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

TABLE OF CONTENT

Board of Committee i
Organizing Committee ii
Prolog iii
Chairman’s Messages iv
Rector’s Messages v
Table of Content vi

The Way to Integration: Comment of Minggu Chiao Hsing on Chinese Indonesian Issues
Shi Xueqin 1

Adakah “Republik” Lan Fang Kongsi di Kalimantan Barat?


Sugiri Kustedja 12

Prospect of Chinese Indonesian Studies


Esther Kuntjara 22

Budaya Tionghoa di Dalam Budaya Indonesia: Kasus Sekolah Terpadu Pahoa


Dali Santun Naga 27

Perbandingan Gaya Visual Batik Trusmi Cirebon dengan Batik Pekalongan yang Didasari
oleh Perbedaan Citarasa
Ariesa Pandanwangi, Christine Claudia Lukman, Yasraf Amir Piliang 31

The Resistance of Female Characters in “Gelang Giok Naga”


Resti Nurfaidah 42

Komunitas “Tionghoa-Gorontalo”: Satu Negeri–Dua Generasi–Dua Wajah


Hendri Gunawan 52

Perkembangan Agama Tao di Indonesia


Ardian Cangianto 61

Becoming Indonesia: Hindrances and Opportunities of Social and Cultural Interaction


of the Chinese - Javanese in Semarang’s Chinatown
Adrianus L.G. Waworuntu, Fuad Gani 75

Kehidupan Kelompok Etnis Tionghoa Bekasi


Dewi Hartati 89

“Ketika Naga dan Singa Menari dengan Banteng” Pelestarian Tarian Barongsai dan Liong
di Bantengan Malang
Hanifati A. Radhia, Rizki Pradestiyan Putra, Ary Budiyanto 95
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Antara Agama ‘Baru’ dan Tradisi ‘Kuno’


Refleksi Dua Keluarga Tionghoa dari Jawa Timur
Studi Autoetnografi
Kemuning L. Pharamasantati, Yessica C. Hidayat, Ary Budiyanto 105

Babah dalam Birokrasi: Jaringan Opsir Tionghoa di Jawa Abad XIX


Priyanto Wibowo 115

Karya Sastra Pengarang Tionghoa-Indonesia: Masa Soeharto dan Reformasi


Nurni W. Wuryandari 125

Pengaruh Interaksi Citarasa dan Gaya Hidup pada Desain Kartu Undangan Pernikahan
Tionghoa di Bandung Tahun 2013
Christine Claudia Lukman, Priyanto Sunarto, Yasraf Amir Piliang 133

Mengkaji Kehidupan Sosial Budaya Masyarakat Turunan China Di Indonesia


(Suatu Tinjauan dari Sosiologi)
Seriwati Ginting 144

Fashion Carnaval Isu Revitalisasi Lokalitas Budaya Tionghoa Indonesia di Jember


Lois Denissa, Pribadi Widodo, Nuning Yanti Damayanti Adisasmito, Yasraf Amir Piliang
151

The Taman Budaya Tionghoa at the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah


Myra Sidharta 162

Contribution of the Chinese Indonesians to the Indonesian Culture in the Context of


Regional Diversity
Dobrochna Olszewska
168

Beliefs and Religions Practices of Chinese Families in Java


Aji ‘Chen’ Bromokusumo 178

The Flux of Chinese Architectural Diaspora in 19th Century through


an Architectural Comparative Study of the Oldest Teochew Temple in Senggarang,
Tanjung Pinang,Indonesia and Singapore
Yeo Kang Shua 188

“Pelangi Budaya” an Opportunity in Education to Develop an Inclusive Nation Building


Mosaic
Christine Edith Pheeney 202

Jakarta’s Chinese Temples until 1949: Socio-Cultural Sites


Greysia Susilo Junus 211

Documents on the Life of Ko Ho Sing (1825-1900)


Willem Van Der Molen 224
The 2nd International Conference on Chinese Indonesian Studies
CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Watching Chinese Indonesians through the Lens of Camera


Setefanus Suprajitno
234
Ca Bau Kan: The Problematic Centralizing of the Marginalized
Anton Sutandio 243

Legacy of Zheng He’s Voyages:


The Inclusive Nature of Chinese-Indonesian Muslims Since 2003
Yu Hao Wen 250

印度尼西亚东爪哇华人企业家积极和坚韧不拔
之奋斗精神表现
Ong Mia Farao Karsono, Widjojo Suprapto 257

荷印时期巴达维亚华人的“大好日”
—以吧城华人公馆(吧国公堂)档案资料为中心
Nie De Ning 261

华校万隆中华中小学华语文教育发展趋势
Chang Jemima 273

印尼爪哇岛三大城市华人的文化认同现状研究------
基于《印度尼西亚华人文化认同情况》的结果分析
Zhang Xiao Qian 282

泗水华人取名与身份认同
Budi Kurniawan

Khasanah Sastra Jawa-Cina


Dwi Woro Retno Mastuti

Hubungan Pembelajaran Bahasa Mandarin dengan Identitas Mahasiswa Keturunan


Tionghoa di Surabaya
Lu Li Qian Qian
Watching Chinese Indonesians
through the Lens of Camera
SETEFANUS SUPRAJITNO
Center for Chinese Indonesian Studies, Petra Christian University
Siwalankerto 121-131, Surabaya, 60236, Indonesia
Email: steph@petra.ac.id

ABSTRACT

Life narratives have been the object of anthropological studies for decades, as they are used for
understanding societies and cultures. While the common method for studying them has been
ethnographic research techniques, some scholars have proposed that photography and pictures can be
used as a tool in doing the life narratives. This idea finds support in the field of visual anthropology, in
which photo-elicitation techniques are mostly used in data collection. In this paper, I use a collection of
photographs taken from 1972 to 2001 by Paul Piollet – an enthusiast photographer who has travelled
extensively in Indonesia – as as a cultural inventory of the lives of Chinese Indonesians. Drawing from the
disciplines of anthropology, I discuss how the lives of Chinese Indonesians are far from the stereotypical
portrayal of the Chinese, which was prevalent during the New Order era and to certain extent still exists
today. I show how these photographs expose the “unseen colors” of the lives of the Chinese in Indonesia,
that is, the lives that the Indonesian society may not relate to the Chinese because they are the everyday
life of ordinary people in Indonesia.

KEY WORDS

Chinese Indonesian, photography, life narrative, prejudice, stereotypes

ABSTRAK

Selama puluhan tahun, kisah kehidupan telah menjadi objek kajian antropologi. Hal ini terjadi
karena kisah kehidupan itu dapat digunakan untuk memahami masyarakat dan budaya. Selama ini,
metode yang umumnya digunakan adalah metode penelitian etnografis. Namun demikian beberapa pakar
berpendapat bahwa foto juga dapat digunakan sebagai alat untuk mengkaji kisah kehidupan tersebut.
Pendapat ini didukung oleh kajian dalam bidang antropologi visual, yang menggunakan tehnik photo-
elicitation dalam proses pengumpulan data. Dalam makalah ini, penulis menggunakan koleksi foto yang
dibuat oleh Paul Piollet – seorang fotografer yang antusias yang melakukan perjalanan ke banyak tempat
di Indonesia – sebagai suatu inventaris budaya dari kehidupan orang Indonesia Tionghoa. Dengan
menggunakan teori dari bidang antropologi, penulis mendiskusikan bagaimana kehidupan orang Tionghoa
Indonesia itu berbeda jauh dari stereotip orang Tionghoa yang ada di masyarakat pada masa Orde Baru
dan yang sampai batas tertentu masih tetap ada di masyarakat. Penulis menunjukkan bagaimana foto-
foto ini mendedahkan warna kehidupan orang Tionghoa di Indonesia yang tak terlihat, yaitu kehidupan
yang tidak pernah dibayangkan oleh masyarakat Indonesia pada umumnya karena kehidupan orang
Indonesia Tionghoa itu sama saja dengan kehidupan orang Indonesia pada umumnya.
Watching Chinese Indonesians through the Lens of Camera 235

INTRODUCTION

For decades, anthropologists have been studying life narratives as a means of understanding
cultures and societies. The making of life narratives as the object of anthropological studies is based on
an assumption that “the life story of an individual who was somehow „representative‟ of his or her culture
would be illustrative of the way in which a „typical‟ member of that group passed through the life cycle”
(Angrosino, 1976:133). This assumption makes life narratives a tool for uncovering the ways people
“struggle to constitute themselves as particular kinds of actors and persons vis-à-vis others within and
against powerful sociopolitical and cultural worlds” (Skinner et all, 1998:5), and for understanding on how
people shape the cultural worlds where they live.
Life narrative has also become a research interest in other fields of studies, especially within the
social sciences, but the common method many fields of studies used for studying it has been
ethnographic research technique. However, some scholars have proposed that photography and pictures
can also be used as tools in doing the life narratives. This idea finds support in the field of visual
anthropology, in which photo-elicitation techniques are mostly used in data collection.
At first, photographs were used for documentary purpose, that is, for documenting place, people,
and events. This kind of photographs is usually “found” documents and quite common as forms of data in
qualitative research (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982). The problem with photographs as “found” documents is
that they are lack of context. Thus, they function as forms of evidence because they are “stand alone”
sources and just seen as records. As forms of evidence, photographs are seen to have objectivity, that is,
the situation depicted by the images in them is an accurate representation of the events. Underlining the
camera‟s ability to record events eccurately, Collier and Collier in their book, Visual Anthropology:
Photography as Research Method (1986), write that

The camera‟s machinery allows us to see without fatigue; the last exposure is just as detailed as
the first. The memory of the film replaces the notebook and ensures complete quotation under the
most trying circumstances. The reliably repetitive operation of the camera allows for comparable
observations of an event as many times as the needs of research demand. (1986:9)

In the development of the study of anthropology, the ability of camera to record things accurately is used
for establishing cultural inventories. Photographic cultural inventories give people a great amount of
detailed information for analysis. Combined with other elements such as context and commentaries,
photographic cultural inventories are able to make factual narrative of their subjects.
In this paper, I use a collection of photographs taken from 1972 to 2001 by Paul Piollet – an
enthusiast photographer who has travelled extensively in Indonesia – as a cultural inventory of the lives of
Chinese Indonesians. This collection was published in 2014 as a book, entitled The Unseen colors:
Photographic Journeys into the Lives of Chinese Indonesians from 1972 to 2001, by Center for Chinese
Indonesian Studies, Petra Christian University, Surabaya, Indonesia. Drawing from the disciplines of
anthropology, I discuss how the lives of Chinese Indonesians are far from the stereotypical portrayal of the
Chinese, which was prevalent during the New Order era and to certain extent still exists today. I show how
these photographs expose the “unseen colors” of the lives of the Chinese in Indonesia, that is, the lives
that the Indonesian society may not relate to the Chinese because they are the everyday life of ordinary
people in Indonesia.

PHOTOGRAPHS AS CULTURAL INVENTORIES

When they go to the field, anthropologists hardly forget to bring camera, which serves as a
“toolkit” in their fieldwork. The pictures they take provide information on the cultures and societies they
studied. However, it has been in recent years that approaches to photographs and pictures are thought to
enrich the anthropological understanding of societies and cultures. Before, photography was seen for
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CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

documentary purposes only. Shifts in paradigms of seeing photographs are due to changes concerning
the value of photographs.
At first photographs were seen as essential works of art and documentation, namely, photographs
were used for accurately describing places which are difficult to access, unknown people or events.
However, in their development, people start to as “what next?”. This question is also propelled by the
possibilities interpretative strategies offer in relation to photography as an ethnographic method. This
happens because photographs carry signifying properties which could lead to different meaning in the
connotative level, especially when photographs are placed in social space, which renders them in a state
of flux. Images in photograph are fixed. However, the meaning they convey may change, dependent upon
the cultural and historical locations of viewers, as well as the social and political contexts in which the
subject of the photographs is situated. Seen from this perspective, photographs function as a form of
visual communication laden with social, political, and cultural aspects. Factoring these aspects when they
view photographs, people can grasp better what the photographs represent. In this way, they may
comprehend the experiences the photographs tell, as well as the memories and emotions they evoke.
Hence, photographs have dynamics in their social use (Strassler, 2010) and provide a productive way of
thinking about the lives they picture (Pinney, 1998). Thus, photographs can give the subjects a voice to
articulate their position, rather than providing an illustrative history. These contribute to the increasing
recognition of photographs as ethnographic resources.
As ethnographic resources, photographs should not be separated from their contexts. They
cannot be seen as images printed on paper. When photographers choose certain subjects, they must
have intention or reason why those subjects are chosen. Surely there is meaning attached to the
photographers‟ choices of their subjects. But that does not mean that the meaning of photographs is fixed.
Photographs travel across time and space. In this process, the meaning behind them changes as they
move from one context to another. Describing how photographs change the meaning attached to them,
Elizabeth Edwards succinctly said that photographs are “a metaphor of power, having the ability to
appropriate and decontextualize time and space and those who exist within it” (1992: 7). In other words,
the power that photographs have is not in the images seen in the printed paper, but in their abilities to
transform the hidden into the visible. Photographs, in this context, are not just passive and fixed images.
Rather, they serve as the dynamic representation of reality because photographs have “the constitutive
importance, agency, and affective qualities of things in social relations” (Edwards, 2012:222).
This dynamic representation leads photographs to being powerful. They are not just “snaps”
because they go beyond what they replicate. They elucidate by providing vivid images of their subject,
which can evoke emotion and trigger insights that might not be thought of before. In this way,
photographs‟ semiotic signs, as seen in their dynamic representations of reality, should be viewed not only
as a mode of replication or communication, but also as signs that can give “rise to and transform
modalities of action and subjectivity regardless of whether they are interpreted” (Keane, 2005:186).
Using the idea that photography can function as an ethnographic method, that photography has
the abilities to transform the hidden into the visible, and that photography can go beyond what the image
replicate, I discuss how Paul Piollet‟s collection of photographs gives new insights on the lives of the
Chinese in Indonesia.

“PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY INTO THE LIVES OF CHINESE INDONESIANS”

On Saturday, September 6, 2014, I went out to meet Rizal, an old friend of mine who is of
Javanese ethnic background. Since I know that he likes photography, albeit amateurish, I brought Piollet‟s
book because I wanted to show him the photographs Piollet took. It was interesting to see his reaction
when he saw the two photographs below.
Watching Chinese Indonesians through the Lens of Camera 237

Welahan, Central Java, 20 November 1983 (p. 32).

Singgarang, Riau, February 7, 1988 (p. 39).

At first, there was nothing special in his reaction. However, when I told him that those houses belong to
Chinese families, he expressed his disbelief. He said in Javanese, “mosok tha?”, which mean “no way!” in
English. It was understandable that he did not think that Chinese families lived in those houses as there
were no sign that Chinese families owned them. His disbelief was getting bigger when I showed similar
pictures but this time, there was an inscription board (biăn’é, 匾额) which indicated that the houses
belonged to Chinese families, as seen in the two pictures below.

Tanjungbatu, South of Singkawang, Belinyu, Bangka, 11 September 1982 (p. 19)


West Kalimantan, 6 December 1991 (p. 45).

The images of houses in Singgarang, Welahan, Tanjungbatu, and Belinyu above are like any other
ordinary houses in villages in Indonesia. However, what is special about them, namely, the thing that
makes my friend surprised, is that those belong to Chinese families. People may wonder why the fact that
they belong to Chinese families matters.
In his article, “Seeing through Pictures: The Anthropology of Photography,” Ruby writes that
photography is “a culturally conditioned visual communication system amenable to ethnographic analysis”
(1981:19). Viewed from this perspective, in studying photography, one should pay attention to context in
which images are taken in order to understand their full meaning. The four pictures above provide a good
example of how context helps us grasp the idea they reflect.
During the New Order era, the Chinese were described as an ethnic group that dominated
Indonesian economy. Popular discourse on Chinese Indonesians was that they came to Indonesia as poor
people, but after some time, they became successful businessmen, as a scholar formulated, “a personal
career from rags to riches” (Sukisman, 1975:63-64). But their success stories do not reflect the reality, as
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CHINESE DIASPORA TRADITION IN INDONESIA NATION BUILDING: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

not all overseas Chinese are “the new emperors,” and those stories only highlight the bright side of the life
of the successful overseas Chinese. Yet, the impact of the success stories is so great that they become
the target of the social jealousy. In his book which was published in 1983, Coppel notes that the image of
the Chinese Indonesians is that they were opportunistic group of people who often used dubious methods
in their business because of their interest in money and oppressed the “real” Indonesians. Other ethnics in
Indonesia often thought that the ethnic Chinese were rich because they exploited the former. This public
perception conjured the image of the ethnic Chinese as an exclusive and rich people. Reformasi (the
Reform) has indeed opened up opportunities for the Chinese to challenge the institutional discrimination
and stereotypical portrayal, but they were unable to challenge their marginal position without articulating
their interests as an ethnic minority. In their effort to do so, they tended to re-affirm the public stereotypes
portraying them as an exclusive group.
In a fieldwork I did in 2004, one informant said that the Chinese “colonized” other ethnic groups
economically and did not have social concern. This informant grew up in a remote village in East Java,
and there was a Chinese shop owner whom he thought was very cruel. The Chinese lent the money to
villagers and charged a very high interest. His experience taught him to think that the Chinese were rich
by exploiting other people. Describing that the Chinese did not like mingling or having interaction with
people outside their ethnic group and hence were considered exclusive, one informant shared his opinion.

When I was still a university student, there were some students of Chinese descent in my batch.
But I don‟t know them quite well. We rarely had any contact. What they did were, coming to
school, going to classes, listening to the lectures, and then going home. As far as I know they
never participated in any activities the students held. They prefer to get together with their fellow
Chinese students. My interaction, as well as my pribumi friends‟ interaction with was limited to
academic matters. Although my friend and I tried to get them involved in our social circle, still they
did not show any responses. They just like being together with other Chinese students. (Fieldnote,
November 6, 2014)

In real life, people of other ethnicity could have the same attitude as that of the Chinese described by the
two informants above. Yet, they associated that attitude with the Chinese. What my two informants above
said showed that public opinion about Chinese Indonesians, that they were moneyed class and earned
their wealth through exploiting other ethnic group still exists, although nowadays it is not as pervasive as it
used to be.
With this social and historical background, viewers of the pictures of the houses above understand
why the knowledge of who the owners of the houses matters. It matters because those pictures do not fit
with the image of Chinese Indonesians, that is, being rich and exclusive. The houses in the pictures are
like the houses that belong to Indonesians who are in the low-rank of the society. However, public opinion
may not think that the Chinese could live in houses like them because those houses are not typical
houses where the Chinese live. Rizal said, “I know that not all Chinese are rich. There are Chinese who
are poor. However, I cannot imagine that there are Chinese living in houses as such.” Rizal‟s statement
reflects the stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese, which is still pervasive in Indonesian society. In this
context, Piollet‟s pictures refute the stereotypes of Chinese Indonesians and bring their real condition,
which is like that of other ethnic groups, into the limelight. These pictures could give an awareness that not
all Chinese belong to the rich class.
Besides the pictures of the houses above, the pictures below, which depict images of children,
also reflect that the lives of Chinese Indonesians are like those of other ethnic groups.
Watching Chinese Indonesians through the Lens of Camera 239

Tanjung Pandan, Belitung, 11 May 1983 (p. 24) Sungai Purun Kecil (Seliung), Pontianak,
West Kalimantan, May 14, 1983 (p. 25)

These pictures show children of Chinese descent. Nothing distinguishes them from those from any other
ethnic background, except perhaps their phenotypical features. As shown in the pictures, these children
do not live in big and fancy houses. Instead, they live in an old wooden-walled and wooden-floored house,
which looks like that it needs renovation. Even they do not have nannies that accompany them. In fact, an
older sister has to take care of their younger sibling, as seen on the picture on the left. The picture on the
right depicts two Chinese boys whose parents are farmers. It seems that they are helping their parents in
farming the land. The lives of the children seen in the pictures above are definitely not like their co-ethnic
peers who live in big cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya, many of whom, if not all, are from rich and
middle class Chinese families.
Images of Chinese as moneyed class can also be seen in many prestigious private schools in big
cities in Indonesia. Every morning when the school starts and afternoon when the school ends, people can
see a lot of cars jam-packing streets around these schools. Many of these cars send and pick up student
who comes from Chinese family background. Their drivers are mostly people of non-Chinese ethnicity,
who serve as the guards of these Chinese students. Scenes as such prove that students who study there
are definitely from well-to-do families. Describing his educational experience, a Chinese Indonesian
coming from a well-to-do family in Jakarta says, “The natives go to public schools, which are cheap and
the quality is not so good as the private schools where most of the Chinese send their children. I went to a
private school where my classmates were all Chinese” (quoted in Djao, 2003:137). However, not all
Chinese Indonesian students are like what Wei Djao‟s informant says. This can be seen in Paul Piollet‟s
pictures below.

Merawang, Bangka, 7 September 1982 Pasuruan, East Java, 28 November 1992

The school in Merawang (Bangka) and Pasuruan (East Java) are far from the image of elite
private schools which usually charge a very expensive tuition fee. Yet, people make a generalization that
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Chinese students usually go to expensive private schools usually found in big cities across Indonesia.
They overlook the fact that there Chinese students attending the schools like the ones in the pictures
above. In the eyes of the public, Chinese students never ever go to this kind of school, where classes are
conducted in a dilapidated building as in the case of the school in Merawang, or in the temple compound
as in the case of the school in Pasuruan. Pilloet‟s two pictures here counter the stereotypical portrayal of
the Chinese as a moneyed class. Chinese students depicted in these two pictures are like native students
as described by Wei Djao‟s informant.
Piollet‟s other interesting pictures are the pictures of Chinese temples. As far as I know, there are
almost no new Chinese temples in Indonesia. All temples – with the exception of Chinese Buddhist
viharas – were built many years ago, despite undergoing renovation or facelift. There are temples which
are still proper buildings, as seen in the following pictures.

Temple in Kampung Manggis, Jambi, Rogojampi, East Java, December 2, 1995 (p. 99)
December 7, 1992 (p. 99)

But there are those which are in a condition that seems to be relatively inappropriate for a religious
building, if they are compared to other places of worship. The pictures below depict temples as such.

Panji, near Belinyu, Bangka, 11 September 1982 Elaja Temple, Bintan Island, Batu 14, Jalan Gesek,
(p. 65) Riau, 3 February 1988 (p. 89)

On Thursday, October 30, 2014, during a discussion on race and ethnicity in my Asian Studies
class, I showed the picture of Elaja Temple above to my students, the majority of whom were of Chinese
descent. I told them that the building was in Indonesia and asked them what building it was. All answered
that it was a house in a village. When I asked them further about the ethnic background of the owner of
that house, most answered that the owner was certainly a indigenous Indonesian. Out of 30 students, only
three – all of them were Chinese – said that the owner was probably a Chinese Indonesian. The answer of
these three students triggered my curiosity, so I asked them to explain why they thought that it belonged
Watching Chinese Indonesians through the Lens of Camera 241

to a Chinese Indonesian. One of them said that the discussion in class was about race and ethnicity, so
my question about the ethnic background of the owner made them think that he or she was Chinese
Indonesian because it was very rare to see a Chinese living in that kind of house. She said further that I
would not use it as an illustration of race and ethnicity if the owner of the house was an indigenous
Indonesian. She also explained that in a normal circumstance, she would not think that the house
belonged to a Chinese Indonesians. Such an answer was another proof that many in Indonesian society,
both the Chinese and the non Chinese perceived the image of Chinese Indonesians as rich people. None
of the students in my class would think that the owner was Chinese, so most were surprised when I told
them that the owner was Chinese. They were even more surprised when I exposed to them that it was a
Chinese temple and showed them the picture of a small temple in Sungai Pangkalan (see the photograph
above). Another student who was of Javanese ethnic background commented that he never thought that
there was such a Chinese temple. He elaborated further that he did not expect that a Chinese temple was
like a luxurious place of worship, but definitely he also did not expect that it was like a building in a poor
condition as such. Their surprise continued when I showed them Piollet‟s other photograhs (see those
pictures in previous pages). One student who was from Spain said that it never occurred to him to see
living condition and properties of Chinese Indonesians like those photographs exposed. When I asked him
what he thought of the Chinese in Indonesia, this Spaniard student said that based on the information he
got from the books he read and his experiences in living Surabaya for more than two years and visiting big
cities such as Jakarta, he thought that Chinese Indonesians belonged to middle and upper class. That
was why he said that he was surprised to know that the lives of Chinese Indonesians, as depicted by
Piollet‟s pictures, were not like what he thought before.
The people‟s reaction toward Piollet‟s photographs as I discuss above reflects the perception of
the society toward the Chinese. It is a result of the legacy of the past where there was much distrust
between the Chinese and the non-Chinese. This perception is based on prejudice and stereotype, which
are founded on inadequate evidence. In this case, the Chinese are often seen as an exclusive group, rich
people, and economic animals. The prejudice and stereotype are the results of the government‟s effort
that focuses on the economic development without thinking of equal distribution of economic pie. This is
exacerbated by the opinion that ethnic Chinese dominated the Indonesian economy. This opinion may
hide the fact that although ethnic Chinese dominates Indonesian economy, those are a handful of Chinese
who are close to the bureaucracy, as much more Chinese have to work hard to make ends meet.
Nevertheless, there are also people – some are Chinese, and some are non-Chinese – who said that they
were aware of the situation exposed in these pictures because they lived in that kind environment.
However, their number is very minuscule compare to those who never imagine that there are Chinese
Indonesians experiencing that kind of life.
Seen from the context, Piollet‟s photographs expose “the unseen colors” of the lives of Chinese
Indonesians. The lives captured in these photographs are the lives of ordinary Chinese Indonesians who
do not belong to the rich category, the lives that may have been neglected because they are part and
parcel of the daily life in Indonesia. This situation leads the society to overlooking it. These photographs
are also able to expose various nuances of life of the Chinese in Indonesia, the life that Indonesian society
may not identify with the Chinese, as it is weaved tightly into the life of the society itself, and the exposure
to various nuances of life enable the viewers of these photographs to understand the history and the
trajectories of Chinese Indonesians.

CONCLUSION
Although photography was originally used for documentary purposes only, it has the potentials for
being used as a tool in ethnographic studies. Photographs, as the product of photography, can serve as a
life narrative that provides a new perspective. They are also able to give new information or to change
people‟s point of view on the photographs picture. All these happen because photography can introduce
different voices into the images it captures.
Paul Piollet‟s collection of photographs that depicts images of the lives of Chinese Indonesians
provides materials that function as an eye-opener for Indonesian society. It gives a startling revelation on
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the lives of Chinese Indonesians that many do not imagine, as seen in the opinions of various people I
discuss above. As Piollett himself writes, “The photographs presented in this book … record the lives of
the Chinese in Indonesia. They are ordinary Chinese and live in their surroundings whose lives may be
forgotten without preserving them” (2014:7). It is the ordinariness that makes Chinese Indonesians‟ lives
pictured in his photographs thought-provoking because they challenge the prejudice and stereotypes of
Chinese Indonesians, that is, the prejudice and stereotypes that lead them to experiencing racial and
discriminatory practices. This ordinariness is something Indonesian society rarely see, or even think
about.

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