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The Admiral Cheng Ho Mosque, a Symbol of Diversity of Batam City Society

by Rivaldi Ihsan, Ethnomusicologist and Lecturer in Music at Sumbawa University of Technology (Instagram: rivaldiihsan, E-mail: ihsanaja361@gmail.com)

At that time, it was Tuesday, December 3, 2019. I was visited by two senior doctors of arts and culture researchers from The Indonesian Institute of the Arts Yogyakarta (ISI Yogyakarta), Wisetromo, and The Indonesian Institute of the Arts Padang Panjang (ISI Padang Panjang), Asril. They visited Batam City because they got an assignment from the institution where they work. At that time Mr. Wisetromo asked me about the tourist sites or heritage places in Batam City.

Then, it came to my mind there are some popular places that are always visited by domestic or foreign tourists. The tourist attraction, like a special attraction makes people to always visit it. Some of the objects we visited at that time, such as the landmark “Welcome to Batam” or commonly called WTB located in Batam Center. The landmark became an icon as a photo background. Then, after that, we visited the mosque in Sei Jodoh Baitussyakur. The uniqueness of this mosque is that there are seven sacred tombs, one of which is believed by the local community to be the tomb of Sheikh Abdullah Syukur.

After that, we visited the Admiral Cheng Ho mosque in Tanjung Buntung Bengkong Laut Batam by private car. After we arrived, my two lecturers and I looked at the admiral Cheng Ho mosque from the front of the mosque. The mosque was dominated by red and yellow colors. It was our admiration for the building that can be said if seen for a moment like a temple even though it is a mosque.

Then, after my two lecturers and I went around looking around for a moment at the Cheng Ho mosque. I also took the initiative to capture a picture of the two of them through my cellphone. After capturing the picture. Then, we took a moment of ablution water to perform dhuha prayers. Perhaps this is a form of our gratitude and admiration for the beautiful Cheng Ho mosque.

The marriage of Arabic and Chinese culture is evident in the architecture of the Cheng Ho mosque. The combination of temple buildings and pagoda domes characterizes Chinese culture. Chinese characters are written at the entrance of the mosque. Calligraphic decorations are on the right and left sides of the mosque. For Arabic calligraphy decorations inside the mosque. The red color means a symbol of happiness that decorates the walls of the mosque, the yellow color on the mosque pillars means fame. The blue color outside the mosque wall means hope, and the green color on the roof of the mosque means prosperity.

The following is a review of the background of the establishment of the Admiral Muhammad Cheng Ho mosque. “Cheng Ho, who was a sea admiral from China, was trusted to lead a shipping expedition with a crew of approximately 27,000 men sailing to Indonesia. This event happened seven times in 1416. The arrival of Admiral Cheng Ho was welcomed by the kings and people of Indonesia at that time. Admiral Cheng Ho was recorded to have lived in Aceh, Palembang, and several places in Java. He was the son of Haji Ma Ha Zhi and his mother came from the Chinese Oen (wen) clan. As a Muslim and a strong sea admiral he was sent by the Chinese emperor Yongle to Indonesia with the aim of trading, cooperating, and not forgetting to spread the teachings of Islam in Indonesia,” quoted from the description of Cheng Ho mosque Batam.

The admiral Cheng Ho mosque was built by Batam entrepreneurs in 2015. The facilities provided by the mosque are Chinese and Arabic architecture making it comfortable and beautiful to be seen by the eyes of visitors. Large parking lot is spacious. Clean and comfortable ablution place, as well as facilities for worship equipment, such as sarong, mukenah, and Qur’an for those who want to read.

The purpose of this mosque is to facilitate a place of worship for all Muslims, especially the Bengkong community and the people of Batam City. Then, to make Batam a memorable place for all Indonesian and foreign people. Making Batam better known by domestic tourists and tourists from abroad. In addition, it becomes the identity of Bengkong, so that it can be remembered by the people of Batam and the people of Indonesia.

If seen, the construction of Cheng Ho mosque is one of the strategies of Batam entrepreneurs to enliven around the Golden Prawn area in Bengkong District. Considering that the area is a newly built area in 2015. The facilities provided, such as the four-star Golden View hotel, Cheng Ho Mosque, seafood restaurants, then a miniature park of Indonesian traditional houses. The goal is none other than to attract local tourists and foreign tourists, especially Malaysian tourists and Singaporean tourists, considering Batam is a direct neighbor to the two countries. Not surprisingly, on Saturdays and Sundays the place is always crowded.

This is evident from the enthusiastic crowds of people who come just to visit Golden Prawn on weekdays. Especially on weekends, namely on Saturdays and Sundays it is always crowded. Because there are several facilities provided by entrepreneurs that are free, free of charge. For example, a trip to the Cheng Ho mosque and a miniature garden of traditional houses of the archipelago that draw multi-ethnic communities in Batam City.

With the heritage of Cheng Ho mosque, Batam entrepreneurs try to explore or present a narrative of heritage cultural values in the form of heritage. The goal is none other than for the public to recognize and know, and participate in preserving the heritage of the next generation.

Although until now the track record, whether Admiral Cheng Ho ever stopped in Batam City, is still questionable. However, apart from all that, according to experts, that Admiral Cheng Ho had stopped at several islands in the Riau Islands. One of them is Batam City, considering that Riau Islands is an international sea trade route, namely the Malacca Strait. The Malacca Strait has existed since the 15th century, when the Srivijaya kingdom was founded.

In addition, the effect of heritage tourism also has an impact on the social life of the local community. Like the traders who sell, most of them are Bengkong people who sell in small stalls provided by entrepreneurs. So that the economy of the local community has progressed. Not surprisingly, one of the heritage attractions that became an icon of Batam City, namely the Cheng Ho mosque. Do not forget, if there are relatives who visit Batam City. Don’t forget to take a walk to the Admiral Cheng Ho mosque.

Sentinel

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