Timor Leste 2005
Guan Di Miao
A Chinese Temple in Dili
The main deity is Guan Di Yeh while there are also separate altars devoted to Tua Beh Gong and Guan Yin. There was an elderly Chinese-looking man - maybe he was a mixed Chinese-Timorese native - interpreting the Qiu-Qian slips which are written in Bahasa Indonesia. I saw a few native Timorese qiu-qian there. The temple was built in the 1930s but damaged during the 1975 Indonesian invasion and 1999 rampage by the pro-Indonesian militias. The temple has since been repaired and repainted in bright red colours.
I met many Chinese-Timorese, descendants of Chinese immigrants who arrived in Timor over the last 600 years - even before the Portuguese. Chinese traders had long sought the sandalwood here which were highly valued in religious ceremonies. During the Portuguese days, it was also the Chinese who collected coffee from remote mountain villages and supplied villagers with goods. There were 20,000 Chinese-Timorese in 1975, before the Indonesians invaded. They ran the local economy - banknotes of those days had Portuguese and Chinese on them. 90% fled to Australia or Portugal when Jakarta invaded, while some of the remaining 10% died in the horrific massacres that other Timorese were also subject to. Since 1999, some of these Chinese sons of Timor Leste have also returned, to reclaim their ancestral properties and apply for a new Timorese passports. They bring with them their entrepreneurial skills as well as the international connections built over the last two decades of exile. I was told that relations between the Chinese-Timorese and other Timorese are generally good.