Alternative Networks In Southeast Asia: One Sea One Temple, And The City Of A Thousand Temples

Post Author(s)

In response to the slogan One Belt One Road a small temple in Sibu, Sarawak came up with an alternative slogan – One Sea One Temple. They then built a network of over 100 Dabogong (Tudigong) temples in ports along the South China Sea and into the Indian Ocean. This covers much of the same territory as the BRI’s “Maritime Silk Road.” But rather than a top-down network of massive linked infrastructural investments from China, this is a horizontal network of equal and independent temples, each with a tutelary divinity looking out for the people of its own port city. This project retraces the steps taken by this temple to create and expand this network.

The second related project concerns the “1000 temples of Singkawang, Kalimantan”, where representatives of the One Sea One Temple network participate in the annual Cap Goh Meh (Yuanxiao) processions of hundreds spirit medium troupes through the streets of Singkawang, a largely Chinese city that once served as the gateway to the gold mines of the Hakka Lanfang Kongsi. This project comprehensively maps Chinese temples and spirit-medium altars in Singkawang and investigates the simultaneous reemergence of transnational temple networks, and the proliferation of hybrid inter-ethnic spirit possession practices. With long historical connections to China and overseas Chinese settlers and sojourners, Singkawang has experienced period of intense connection as well as periods of rupture and relative isolation. In the context of the current post-Suharto era, a time of increased rights and freedoms for Chinese Indonesians, Singkawang is experiencing a major re-florescence of Chinese religious practice, including rites and rituals that are highly localized, involving the spirits of non-Chinese ethnic groups and forms that are transnationally influenced, such as membership in international temple networks. This double move which is simultaneously locally-generated, but also international in scope is the focus of this research.

Kenneth Dean, “Religion and the Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia”,  Review of Religion and Chinese Society 7 (2020) 220-249. 

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