Chinese Muslims in Indonesia

Chinese Muslims in Indonesia

Chinese Muslims in Indonesia 《印尼华人回教徒》摄影画册

By Zhuang Wubin / 庄吴斌

Essays by Charles Coppel, Enin Supriyanto and Yenny Zannuba Wahid

128 pp / 40 colour plates 128页 / 40张彩照

Select Books / Jan 2011

11.6 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches

Hard cover: S$50 / 368,000 rupiah

Soft cover: S$35 / 260,000 rupiah

My third photographic book, Chinese Muslims in Indonesia, is now available. Lee Foundation has generously supported the publication.


To purchase the book online:


Discounts will be available during the launch.

Book Launch Schedule (in Indonesia):

18 Jan 2011; 6.30pm

CCCL Surabaya

10 Darmokali, Surabaya, East Java

[Featuring Barongsai and traditional Chinese music performance]

27 Jan 2011; 7pm

Antara Photojournalism Gallery

Jalan Antara 59, Pasar Baru, Jakarta

[Guest speakers: Myra Sidharta and Eddy Prabowo Witanto; Food sponsored by Bakmi GM]

From 2007 to 2009, I made numerous visits to Bangka, Palembang, Java and Madura in an attempt to understand the histories of the Chinese Muslims in Indonesia and the lives that they lead today.

As early as the 15th century, Chinese Muslims were already living in Java and Palembang, even before these cosmopolitan port-cities were converted into Islam. In the subsequent centuries, they continued to make significant contributions to the political, cultural and social fabric of the Indonesian archipelago. But the colonial policies of the Dutch government, perpetuated subsequently by Suharto, had obscured their place in the histories of the Nusantara.

This book attempts to counter the erasure by focusing on the faces and places associated with this small yet important community in Indonesia.

The essays of Charles Coppel, Enin Supriyanto and Yenny Zannuba Wahid add substantially to this photographic monograph.

Esteemed historian Charles Coppel starts off by examining the paradoxical policy of the Suharto administration, which strived to “erase any association of Chinese-ness and Islam, while at the same time urging ethnic Chinese to assimilate in this predominantly Muslim nation”. Since the fall of Suharto however, Indonesian Chinese are now free to celebrate their Chinese-ness—likewise for the Chinese Muslims. Responding to my work, Coppel notes that the Chinese Muslims today defy neat categorization and are varied in their occupation, education, wealth and status. In closing, he urges the viewers to consider this book in relation to the national motto of “Unity in Diversity” (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika), which highlights the importance of tolerance.

In perhaps the most affecting essay of this book, contemporary art curator Enin Supriyanto recalls his conversion into Islam while growing up as a Chinese boy in Lombok. In particular, he is attracted to “the values of humane solidarity enshrined in the teachings of Islam and sees the rituals as something quite unimportant”. However, since he moved to Java, first to study at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB; 1984 – 89) and then to work as a curator, Supriyanto has come to realize the fact that being a Muslim does not exclude him from the prejudices of the New Order policies. Reflecting on the lives of the Chinese Muslims whom I have visited and photographed, Supriyanto sees a parallel with the identity crisis that he has experienced over the years: “Looking at the images, I can imagine the struggles that some of them are still resolving in terms of that three sources of identity—Indonesia, Chinese and Muslim—that seem extremely difficult to reconcile in this country.”

Daughter of the late president Gus Dur, Yenny Wahid believes that Chinese Muslims have played a part in bringing Islam to Indonesia. As such, to use the term warga keturunan (literally “citizens of the clan”) to mark the Indonesian Chinese is “not only a form of discrimination, but also an act of ignorance”. Highlighting the fact that the Chinese are not foreigners in this country, Wahid reiterates the legacy of her father, who rectified the laws that discriminated against the Chinese.

Photographs of the book kindly provided by Han Tan (

Chinese Muslims in Indonesia