After the lifting of a decades-old ban on displays of Chinese culture, ethnic Chinese in Indonesia ring in the Year of the Dragon New Year out in the open.
Ekayana Buddhist Center in west Jakarta glows bright with the light of candles and red lanterns as hundreds of crimson-clad ethnic Chinese file into the temple for the Lunar New Year sermon. Across the city fireworks burst and banners celebrated the new year in Mandarin.
Such a scene was practically unheard of just 10 years ago, as Chinese-Indonesians struggled to overcome decades of discrimination and cultural repression under former strongman Suharto.
“The Chinese have been treated with hostility for some time,” says Myra Sidharta, a third-generation Chinese-Indonesian and one of the country’s most well-known researchers on ethnic Chinese culture and philosophy.
Now Indonesians of all ethnicities visit the city’s temples during Imlek, as the holiday is known here. Dragon dances and parades take place in cities around the country and red and gold billboards outside shopping malls advertise discounts along with new year wishes: “Gong Xi Fat Cai.”