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The Culture of Batavian

Batavia was a meeting point between the Western culture and the Eastern culture. The western culture was brought by the Dutch, and other European ethnic groups, while the eastern culture was brought mostly by the Chinese, the Arab, the Indian and other ethnic groups in the archipelago.

In the 17th century, inside the town wall lived the Dutch, the Chinese and the slaves. They lived glamorously along the prosperity of the town.  Their luxury can be seen from the old painting where man and women dressed well accompanied by their slaves behind holding an umbrella and their bible going to the Church.

In the old Batavia, the government only recognized Calvinist church. Hence only three churches were built inside the town wall: the Dutch church, the Portuguese church inside the town wall, and the Portuguese church outside the town wall that survive until today. This church is now called Gereja Sion or Sion church, located at the end of Pangeran Jayakarta street. There was also a Malay church located at the Dutch hospital, southern part of the town. However this Dutch hospital is now gone.

Why there were Portuguese churches, while we know that Batavia was ruled by Dutch? These Portuguese churches were not built by the Portuguese who were catholic. At that time Catholic was a forbidden religion in the old Batavia. The Portuguese churches were also Protestant and built by the Dutch. The church was for slaves that were brought from India who speak Portuguese. After they arrived in Batavia they were compelled into protestant and the government built two protestant churches for them.

In front of the Dutch church

Besides protestant churches there were Chinese temples that all were built outside of the town wall. The biggest temple was Jin De Yuan temple at Petak Sembilan. However in the riot of 1740 all of the Chinese temples were burned down. Only Jin De Yuan temple was rebuilt and the surrounding area is now known as Glodok. 

Other ethnic group who lived in Batavia was the Balinese. They came to Batavia as traders, but there were also slaves. Since they were Hindu, it was very easy to live among the Chinese. Almost all of the Chinese man in Batavia married the Balinese women as there was no Chinese woman came to Batavia.

Beside those ethnic groups, Batavia also became an interesting place for textile traders from India. Although their number was small, they gave a certain color to Batavia. Nowadays, the Indians textile traders can be found in Pasar Baru quarter. They trade side by side with the Chinese.    

Not to forget that Batavia is also a home for the Arab. They lived in Pekojan with their old mosque, the Moorish quarter. Pekojan is named after the Koja, immigrant from Gujarat. According to De Haan, the term was used also for the people from Coromandel dan Gujarat.

Nowadays, beside the Chinese who live in Glodok, the various cultures of Batavia are in heritage to the Betawi society, the so call natives of Jakarta. Their culture is a mix between several ethnic groups who had settled in Batavia and its surrounding. Anyhow, now they are mostly live at the fringes of Jakarta.

All of them represent the culture of modern Jakarta.


Sion church at the end of Pangeran Jayakarta Street
Sion Church at the end of Pangeran Jayakarta Street