Standing almost lost amongst high rise constructions in the Green Central City superblock along Jalan Gajah Mada in Jakarta’s China Town, is a fine example of Chinese architecture of Old Batavia, known as : Candra Naya.
Because of its historic significance relating to the presence of the Chinese in Batavia during the colonial era, moreover, the land on which it stands is believed to be a “land of prosperity”, sure to bring luck to its owners, the present developers have saved this building from the bulldozers.
Instead, Candra Naya Building has now been restored and refurbished to serve as a place for social gatherings for the present Indonesian Chinese community, to revive forgotten traditions, hold seminars, festivals and exhibitions and become the icon for the Green Central City development.
While most Chinese houses in Batavia that were owned by traders used to have simple structures, the Candra Naya, on the other hand, was distinctive for its massive structure and spacious rooms, with the interior of the house decorated with intricate ornaments while its roof top has a tou-kung crown which is also fully ornamented.
The original layout of the Candra Naya compound covered two buildings which flanked the main buildings on the right and the left sides. Both have been dismantled but developers have promised to rebuild these once the construction of all buildings is completed.
Estimated to have been originally built in the early 19th century, nonetheless, the exact date when it was actually constructed remains unclear. The only indication is a painting in the old house which gives the date of the year of the fire rabbit, which should be either 1807 or 1867, said Naniek Widayati, senior architect in the Centre of Architecture Conservation.
The last known owner of the house was a prominent and presumably wealthy Chinese businessman, by the name of Khouw Kim An, who was entrusted by the Dutch government to take care of the Chinese community in Old Batavia. He was also shareholder of the Bataviaasche Bank. Khouw died in a Japanese concentration camp in 1945.
At the end of World War II, the Sin Ming Hui social organization made the home of Khouw Kim An on Jalan Gajah Mada 188 its center. The organization helped and gave information to the war-stricken Chinese community. Sin Ming Hui conducted many works for social purposes. They established health clinics, sports clubs as well as arranged educational activities and organized a club in photography.
In 1962 the Sin Ming Hui social organization changed its name to the Tjandra Naja. Then, adjusting to the new Bahasa Indonesia spelling, the organization’s name changed again from Tjandra Naja to Candra Naya. The house of the late Khouw Kim An became the home of the social organization for quite some time and today ‘Candra Naya’ remains the building’s official name.
Already, among others a seminar on the Chinese cultural heritage in Sumatra was recently organized in the Candra Naya as well as the Peh Cun festivities.
Jalan Gajah Mada is the main road that leads from Harmoni, near the Presidential Palace to the Old Batavia or Jakarta Kota. Jalan Gajah Mada and its counterpart street across the canal, Jalan Hayam Wuruk, that has the opposite going traffic into the city, are normally crammed with traffic.
So, to get there it is best to travel by car or taxi. The Trans Jakarta Busway also passes this way on its route to Jakarta Kota station.