China Town in Tanjung Pinang (Tanjung Pinang, Pulau Bintan, Indonesia)
That was when I was exploring the downtown of Tanjung Pinang. The atmosphere of the town changed as soon as entering in a certain area. It was as if I got lost at different times. To account for the place, go into the street in front of the ferry terminal for Singapore, turn to the east at the intersection, and turn left at the intersection of the lively market after walking for a while then go straight down the street towards the sea. However, that may be mumbo jumbo for people who don’t know Tanjung Pinang.
In this area, the land is ending and the sea comes in. From the narrow gap between buildings, stakes standing in a mud full of trash are seen.
Most of buildings are a wooden two-stories building. Similarly to shops of concrete construction in a usual market, the first floor of those are opened overall. Meanwhile a wing wall protruding from both ends of the exterior wall on the second floor decides the impression of the streetscape. A part of buildings change the exterior wall into a corrugated board of tin or an aluminum plate, but, in a lot of outdated buildings, the exterior appearance keeps the combination of horizontal thatching plates and a door finished with a wooden plate and bar. That also produces an peculiar impression. Furthermore, the shopkeepers have changed from Indonesian into Chinese.
This area is a district of Chinese immigrants as Sengarang on the opposite shore.
Unlike Sengarang at which the immigrant arrived first, this side is swallowed in the downtown of the big city. Even now when the surrounding area is rebuilt with concrete construction, only this section maintains the old form as resisting the wave of urbanization. It is said that it follows the residence form of Southern China, from which their ancestors had come. And here is no development to a sophisticated townhouse by fusion of modern architecture and Chinese style which is seen in overseas Chinatown.
There may be a realistic reason that it is difficult to remodel this area due to the lack of the strength of ground. However, the reason would be only that?
In Indonesia, until recent years, the harsh Chinese exclusion movement has been repeated many times, and they had been kept away from politics. Even if some Chinese conglomerates has acquired economic power, it is certainly a distant world for fringe Chinese. It seems that the group, who was fragile against pressure from outside and which financial power was poor, has made survive this old architectural form as an identity to strengthen their unity and cling to a part of a big city. Would not the architecture be a fortification to bind and protect them ? The pressure from the outside is, this is, exclusion and, in contrast with it, assimilation pressure from the Indonesian society and then the disappearance of the community by modernization.
The fact that an old form remains often connects with alienation in various cases. Now it has been a time when such places are spotlighted little by little, and this China town may become a sightseeing spot of Tanjung Pinang in the near future. However, would that attract the future that the Tanjung Pinang Chinese community with a complicated background has dreamed about ?
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