Admiral Zheng He’s Legacy in Semarang
In the early 15th century, long before Columbus discovered America, Admiral Zheng He set sail to explore the seas of Asia. Commanding 250 massive ships and 28,000 sailors, Admiral Zheng He led one of the largest expeditions in the history of globalization. Of course, you can now imagine the grandeur of Zhang He’s expedition compared to the other early explorers.
Raised as a eunuch, he prevailed over his Muslim Hui backgrounds in the imperial courts of Ming Dynasty & was given command of seven naval expeditions that reached as far as East Africa.
On six of these expeditions, he also visited the island of Java, including Semarang. Prior to the fleet’s arrival, the current capital of Central Java was just a small fishing village under the declining Majapahit Empire. It is now the 7th most populous Indonesian cities.
Zheng He’s legacy in Semarang started when his second-in-command, Wang Jing Hong, was suddenly taken ill while they were sailing through the Java Sea. For him to fully recover, they decided to temporarily camp near a cave in Semarang. Some of the fleet members, including Wang Jing Hong, eventually decided to stay in Semarang & became the early founders of the Chinese Indonesian community in Indonesia.
The local villagers regarded Zheng He’s visit as a great event and built a Buddhist temple at the cave site. The temple is now known as Sam Poo Kong Temple (Zheng He’s other name is Sam Poo) or “Gedung Batu” (literally means Stone Building). Up until today, there are annual celebrations held every 29th and 30th of the sixth month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar to commemorate the Admiral’s first expedition.
Whenever you are in Semarang, do visit the temple and experience yourself one of the most pivotal events in the Chinese Indonesian history…
NOTE: Some people claim that the word “Semarang” originates from the Chinese words “Sam Poo Long,” meaning “the city of Sam Po” (the other name of Admiral Zheng He).
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