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Home » Lasem: “Le Petit Chinois” , the “Beijing Old Town” in Central Java

Lasem: “Le Petit Chinois” , the “Beijing Old Town” in Central Java

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  1. Kota Lasem

  2. Pembatik Lasem

  3. Pembatik Lasem

  4. Pembatik Lasem

 

Overview

The entire north coast of Java is not only the beating pulse of the island’s economic activities, but it is also dotted with fascinating cities and towns that hold significant historical values and enchanting cultural legacies.  While Cirebon in West Java;  Demak, Kudus, and Jepara in Central Java; as well as Surabaya and Gresik in East Java  are historic cities marking the sp

The entire north coast of Java is not only the beating pulse of the island’s economic activities, but it is also dotted with fascinating cities and towns that hold significant historical values and enchanting cultural legacies.  While Cirebon in West Java;  Demak, Kudus, and Jepara in Central Java; as well as Surabaya and Gresik in East Java  are historic cities marking the spreadof Islam on Java,  other cities like Semarang and Pekalongan present a rather oriental ambience,  rich in Chinese legacies.  Most Interesting, traces of Chinese culture on Java lead to their origin in the little town located in the Rembang Regency, in the Central Java Province, called Lasem.

 

Lasem is believed to be the site where the Chinese made their first settlement on Java over 200 years ago.  An uncorroborated account even suggests that Lasem was named after the number 63 (Lak-sam in the southern Chinese dialect) that refers to the fleet of the legendary Admiral Cheng He from the Zu Di empire of the Ming Dynasty. The story goes that 63 of the fleet‘s Jung ships were washed ashore  by a heavy storm to this coast. The location where they landed and settled was henceforth called: Lasem.

 

Another  historic record mentions the arrival of the first Chinese in Lasem in the fifteenth century (1411-1416.) He was  a Hanafi Chinese Muslim by  the name of  Bi Nang Un, whopioneered the establishment of the Chinese settlement in Lasem.  He was later followed by more Chinese Hokkien immigrants who embraced Confucianism.

 

The influence of Chinese culture on Lasem can still be strongly felt until today in the city’s architecture and daily life of the people.  Once known as “The little Beijing old town” by European researchers during Dutch the colonial days, Lasem was, however,  dubbed the town  le petit Chinoisor Little China by the French.  Through the centuries Lasem today exemplifies the peaceful assimilation of Chinese and Javanese cultural traits that have become part of the Peranakan Chinese, descendents of mixed marriages.

 

Today, one can still observe the maze of high walls and distinctively oriental designed gates. Inside these walls and gates are huge houses with Javanese-style porches and Chinese-style roofs. Distinct Chinese architecture is also found in several other buildings all across the town. These exceptional buildings are found in the Babagan village, Gedong Mulyo, Karang Turi, Soditan, Sumber Girang and Ngemplak, that are today designated as protected cultural heritage buildings by the local government.

 

Another outstanding feature of Lasem are three unique Chinese temples. The first is the brightly-hued and intricately-designed Chinese Cu An Kiong Temple in Dasun Street. Built in the 16th century, the temple is regarded as the oldest temple in Lasem, and is even believed to be the oldest on Java. Next is the Gi Yong Bio Temple in Babagan Street, which  is also a monument to the time when the Chinese of Lasem together with local Javanese compatriots waged  war against the Dutch colonial rule in 1745-1752. The third temple is the Poo An Bio which was built around 1740, when the Lasem Chinese population increased rapidly with the arrival of Chinese refugees from Batavia fleeing the slaughter of the Chinese by the Dutch.  The three temples in Lasem are incorporated into the Trinity Foundation, where each shows diverse rituals.

 

The most outstanding Chinese legacy in Lasem is probably the Reclining Buddha Statue which is housed in the Vihara Ratanavana Arama. The Reclining Buddha measures 14 Meters in length and is  done in  bright gold color. Inside the vihara is also a miniature Borobudur Temple.

 

Another legacy of Chinese culture –and its welding with the local Javanese culture- are painted in the colorful patterns of the Batik fabric commonly known as Batik Lasem. The Batik of Lasem features  vibrant designs such as the phoenix and butterflies with a combination of geometrical Javanese patterns such as parang, kawung, and udan liris. What makes the Batik Lasem special is the domination of a particular red color that is here known as “getih pithik” – the Javanese language for Chicken Blood-, which is said be only made here. Lasem's hand drawn batik centers can be found in the subdistricts of  Gedongmulyo, Babagan, Karangsuri, Sumbergirang and Karanggede. {AAM}

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See on The Map

To Stay

There are a number of hotels and modest inns available in the Rembang Regency. Here are a number among them:


Hotel Sewu Beach
Jl. Raya Tuban ‐ Lasem Km 5 Lasem, Rembang
Phone: (mobile) +62 8139 2187 998

 
Hotel Surya
Jl. Untung Suropati No. 9 Lasem, Rembang
Phone: +62 295 531233

 
Hotel Wijaya
JL. Raya Lasem, No 101-105, Sumber Girang, Lasem, Rembang
Phone: +62 295 531095
Email: hotelwijaya@gm













There are a number of hotels and modest inns available in the Rembang Regency. Here are a number among them:


Hotel Sewu Beach
Jl. Raya Tuban ‐ Lasem Km 5 Lasem, Rembang
Phone: (mobile) +62 8139 2187 998

 
Hotel Surya
Jl. Untung Suropati No. 9 Lasem, Rembang
Phone: +62 295 531233

 
Hotel Wijaya
JL. Raya Lasem, No 101-105, Sumber Girang, Lasem, Rembang
Phone: +62 295 531095
Email: hotelwijaya@gmail.com

 
Hotel Antika
Jl. Erlangga No.17 Rembang
Phone: +62 295 6998800
Fax: +62 295 6998900
Email: antikahotel@yahoo.com  

 
Hotel Pantura
Jl.Gajah Mada No.1, Rembang
Phone: +62 295 693114

 

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Get There

Located approximately 118Km East of Semarang, capital of Central Java, the town of Lasem is about 4 hours drive from here. It is best to rent a car, however if you wish,  you can take a bus from  the Terboyo Terminal in Semarang.

Located approximately 118Km East of Semarang, capital of Central Java, the town of Lasem is about 4 hours drive from here. It is best to rent a car, however if you wish,  you can take a bus from  the Terboyo Terminal in Semarang.

To Eat

The little port town of Lasem also offers a number of delicacies, with distinct north Java’s coastal taste. Just below the Lasem or Argupuro Mountains is a village called Tuyuhan. Here you can take a bite of the locally famous Lontong Tuyuhan which consists of Lontong (Rice wrapped in banana leafs) and Opor Ayam Kampung or Chicken stew.

Other interesting cuisine you may want to try include

The little port town of Lasem also offers a number of delicacies, with distinct north Java’s coastal taste. Just below the Lasem or Argupuro Mountains is a village called Tuyuhan. Here you can take a bite of the locally famous Lontong Tuyuhan which consists of Lontong (Rice wrapped in banana leafs) and Opor Ayam Kampung or Chicken stew.

Other interesting cuisine you may want to try include Sate Srepeh, Urap latoh, and Dumbek. To wash down these mouthwatering food , try the  traditional soda drink called Limun Kawista. The beverage is made from a local fruit called Kawis and tastes just like soda.

 

One other special feature of Lasem is dedicated to those who enjoy coffee and cigarettes, and is called Kopi Lelet. This is served as a strong cup of  coffee  using very smooth coffee powder, with a batik-painted cigarette , that has been painted on with the dregs of the coffee. Aside from being a visually interesting presentation, the coffee dregs on the cigarette are said to add more flavor to the cigarette.

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