Foreign relations with Semarang have existed for hundreds of years, including relations with the Chinese. The waters of the Java Sea played a role in this international trade relationship and began to develop rapidly since the 6th century AD. With the interactions that occurred, causing the ports in northern Java to be busy with both local and foreign traders. Most of the commodities traded are dominated by the spice trade. The Semarang area itself is famous for its rice commodity, which is usually exchanged with traders who had stopped at the Semarang Port to meet logistical needs before sailing further. In addition, battering activity also occurred between indigenous traders and Chinese traders who exchanged natural products for goods such as porcelain ceramics.
The close relationship between Semarang and China was strengthened after the arrival of Admiral Ceng-Ho in the 14th century AD. Ceng-Ho’s entourage stopped in the Semarang area because the ship they were on needed repairs before returning to their original area. Then, they set up a settlement as a place for them to live temporarily. In addition, the monsoon factor also prevented them from sailing to China. At that time, Admiral Ceng-Ho who is a Muslim, built a Chinese mosque in the residential area. In addition, there is also the Sam Poo Kong Temple which is used by the Ceng-Ho group to carry out worship activities. The existence of this mosque and pagoda indicates that the group who joined Ceng-Ho adhered to Islam and Confucianism.
The population of the Chinese community in the Semarang area is increasing and quite influential. Traces of its existence are also increasingly diverse, such as pagodas to Chinatowns. Chinatown or Chinese settlement is an area that contains people of Chinese descent and usually the houses they live in are also used for trading activities. Chinatown in Semarang has undergone development and displacement for several times. Therefore, the location of the original Chinatown since the beginning of the entry of the Chinese people is thought to have disappeared. Even so, we can still see the Chinatown area of Semarang which emerged in the 17th century when Semarang became part of Mataram which sided with the VOC. Chinese residents who are not happy about this have been forced to move locations near the Semarang River and can still be found today. Until now, the Chinatown area is still a trading center and is developing in the strategic center of Semarang.
It doesn’t stop there, the Chinese element in the Semarang area that can still be found today is the Semarangan batik motif. This Semarangan batik motif shows a Chinese pattern in the basic color of batik and the motif is slightly influenced by striking. The color used is orange-red, although the batik motifs that are owned are not much different from the batik motifs in other northern coastal cities of Java.
Based on the remains that have been described, it can be concluded that Semarang, which became the strategic point of the spice route, had an impact on the relationship between the indigenous people and the Chinese community and also left traces of culture, not a few of which can still be found today.