A fortnight ago, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese around the world celebrated Lunar New Year. Although limited by Covid-related social restrictions, many ethnic Chinese ushered in the Year of the Golden Ox with family gatherings and rituals, such as praying at temples, lighting fireworks, and giving red envelopes to children. In Indonesia, not only is Lunar New Year (locally known as Imlek) celebrated by many Chinese Indonesians, it is also regarded as the official national holiday of the Confucian religion.
The newest addition to Indonesia’s list of official religions, little is known about Indonesia’s brand of Confucianism. With Confucians comprising less than 0.05% of the population (about 180,000 nationally), Confucianism is also Indonesia’s smallest religion. But while the religion is small, Indonesian Confucianism is unique because the state recognises it as an official religion. In other countries with large ethnic Chinese populations, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China, Confucianism is regarded more as a tradition or set of moral principles rather than an institutionalised religion. Why and how did Confucianism come to be recognised as a religion in Indonesia? Who are Indonesia’s Confucians, and what does the future hold for Confucianism in Indonesia?
To understand more about Indonesian Confucianism, in Talking Indonesia this week, Dr Charlotte Setijadi speaks to Dr Evi Sutrisno, lecturer at the School of Social and Political Inquiry at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta. She completed her PhD in anthropology at the University of Washington, with a thesis that examined the establishment and evolution of Confucianism as a religion throughout Indonesia’s history.
In 2021, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Charlotte Setijadi from the Singapore Management University, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, and Dr Annisa Beta from the University of Melbourne’s School of Culture and Communication.