Unveiling Tay Kak Sie’s Festive Atmosphere, and The Making of a Bhe Kun

Unveiling Tay Kak Sie’s Festive Atmosphere, and The Making of a Bhe Kun

 reported by: Liu Setiawan


Semarang, June 9, 2024/Indonesia Media – The grand procession of Po Seng Tay Te hosted by the Tay Kak Sie Chinese Temple in Semarang last Sunday had a notable group of participants: the Bhe Kuns (“Horse Attendants” who were supposed to guard the horse of Po Seng Tay Te).

Since the procession would start before dawn, the Bhe Kuns must endure a night of face painting on the eve of the big day, where artists would paint Chinese mask designs on their faces.

Originally Bhe Kuns were avowed devotees making good of their vows, but nowadays some seasonal actors also joined the fray and became famous photo hunt subjects. Rudy Sujanto, an enthusiast photographer from Jakarta enjoyed the procession and the whole program organized by Tay Kak Sie during his participation in Linimasa Phototrip covering Semarang, Yogyakarta and other places in central Java. “I made a set of pictures of the event in Semarang, particularly Tay Kak Sie, after I managed to document some great moments around the Bhe Kuns and other activities,” said Rudy Sujanto.

When taking pictures during the visit to Tay Kak Sie, he shot his camera at some devotees worshipping at the altar. Besides, he shot his camera to other devotees, including the chairman of Tay Kak Sie foundation, Mr. Tanto Hermawan and his wife. He documented some moments in which he could see the gracious moments of charity in which some local people queued in line to get some free food. The 278-year-old temple, overseen by a foundation currently chaired by Mr. Tanto Hermawan remains a popular destination for worshippers and cultural enthusiasts. “When I was about to enter the temple, I met Mr. Liu Setiawan, a roving journalist who covered Chinese-Indonesian issues. He introduced me to the Chairman and the management of the temple,” he said.

The third day of his visit to Semarang, I attended a procession celebrating the 164th anniversary of Po Seng Tay Te (Bǎoshēng Dàdì), the “God of Medicine” organized by the Tay Kak Sie Chinese Temple in Semarang, Indonesia. The procession started Sunday before dawn from the home temple and lasted until afternoon, visiting several other temples around Chinatown and drawing a crowd of onlookers. “What a festive atmosphere I have never experienced before,” he said.

Tt was a sizeable train of participants: standards bearers, guards and armories; a musical troupe with gongs, drums, cymbals, and trumpet; street sweepers (!); incense burners carriers; dragon and lion dancers; a horse and its numerous face-painted attendants called “bhe kuns”; and finally the figurines of the deities Po Seng Tay Te and his deputy, both carried by a team of able-bodied devotees on ornate, movable-jointed palanquins. (LS/IM)

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