Sutikno Djiyanto is, like his father before him, the Chinese-Indonesian caretaker of a derelict, two-storey mansion in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, that’s supposedly haunted. Two centuries old and widely known as Gedung Setan – or Satan’s Building – because it was once surrounded by graveyards, the mansion sheltered refugees from a violent communist rebellion in 1948. Sutikno’s late father took refuge in the building that year, and Sutikno himself was born there in 1957. Long abandoned by its legal owner, the mansion is today home to about 150 poor residents from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Now 63, from a family with Hokkien roots in southern China, Sutikno is also known by his Chinese name, Djie Djwan Tek. He takes care of the community in the building using a social approach. Sutikno charges each household a monthly fee of 15,000 rupiah (about US$1) to cover maintenance, property taxes and death benefits compensation, and a monthly fee per person of 5,000 rupiah for use of baths, wash basins and toilets. None of the tenants pays formal rent for what he describes as “very cheap housing”. “Originally, Chinese people lived here, but four generations on we are now assimilated,” he says. “There’s a mix of Javanese people, Sumatrans, people from Kalimantan . This is Indonesia.” Sutikno says the building is not haunted, but it’s hard to dispel widely held beliefs. He says there is moral pressure on him to carry on caring for the mansion and its residents, because he was given a mandate to do so. “They are my siblings under one roof, so I have to treat them wisely,” he says. “I cannot do whatever I wish.” Handinoto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, is an architecture lecturer at Petra Christian University in Surabaya . He says the mansion once belonged to the Dutch colonial government and was used as the headquarters of the administration in eastern Java. After Herman Willem Daendels arrived as the Dutch colony’s governor in the early 19th century, the headquarters was moved to another location and the building was abandoned. An ethnic Chinese doctor named Teng Sioe Hie bought the building, possibly in partnership with a Chinese-Indonesian volunteer group. During the 1948 conflict, Teng opened his doors to hundreds of ethnic Chinese refugees from Central and East Java. About 25 families stayed on in the mansion because their homes had been burned down or forcibly taken over, and they became the founders of a multi-generational residents’ group. Teng asked Sutikno’s father to manage the home after 1948, and then the doctor left. Sutikno says he doesn’t know what happened to him. Sutikno’s father later handed the caretaking responsibility to another resident. Then, most of the mansion’s inhabitants voted for Sutikno to take over as the next caretaker. Handinoto says the mansion is a European-style building, suited to Europe’s four distinct seasons rather than to Indonesia’s wet, tropical climate. It has many windows that let in direct sunlight, but also the rain. There was no concrete used in the construction; wooden blocks were used in the roof and planks for the floor. “If we look at the law on cultural heritage, even a 50-year-old building can be classified as a cultural heritage building,” he says, adding that the mansion is 200 years old. It is classed by the Surabaya government as a cagar budaya , or building of cultural heritage or significance. Elly Kusuma, 43, also a Chinese Indonesian, has lived in the mansion all her life and sells Indonesian-style meatballs to support her family. A third-generation resident, the mother of three and her family still celebrate the Lunar New Year by visiting neighbours. They usually wear red clothes and exchange lucky packets, with 5,000 rupiah in each envelope, while philanthropic Indonesians send them fruit and confectionery. Elly hopes she can find “a more decent life” because she lives in a small room with her husband and three children, and she often sees rats, mosquitoes and cockroaches. “I have always wanted to get out of here because the kids are uncomfortable too,” she says. She adds that she still remembers, as a child, her mother telling her about how the now decrepit building once sheltered ethnic Chinese residents like herself. Harryanto Aryodiguno, assistant professor in international relations at President University in Bekasi, near Jakarta, says Chinese Indonesians became “the target of violence” of the various regimes that ruled the archipelago. The Japanese invasion of the country during the second world war kept the pressure on them, adds Harryanto, who studies sinology in Southeast Asia. “As a result of the resistance of Chinese people in China to Japan, and the support of overseas Chinese around the world against the Japanese invasion, Chinese descendants in Indonesia suffered even more. The Japanese massacre of ethnic Chinese sent waves of refugees from various regions to the big cities,” he explains. Their living standards must improve. That is our concern Richard Susanto, chair of the Surabaya chapter of the Chinese Indonesian Association Surabaya native Soe Tjen Marching, 49, recalls how life was difficult for Chinese-Indonesian residents of the city during the nationwide anti-communist crackdown in the 1960s that claimed thousands of lives. “Indeed, it was very bad in Surabaya at that time,” the author of The End of Silence: Accounts of the 1965 Genocide in Indonesia , published in 2017, says. “Many ethnic Chinese people, especially those considered full-blooded ones, were accused of being communists and were either killed or jailed.” After the ousting of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno in 1967, Indonesia’s second president, Suharto , ruled the nation for more than three decades and sought to quash Chinese culture in Indonesia, suspicious of links to communist China. The Communist Party of Indonesia – one of the largest in the world, with strong ties to the Communist Party of China – has since been disbanded, although some Indonesians remain concerned about a revival of communism in the country. Harryanto says the old Dutch mansion reflects Chinese culture because three generations of families live under the same roof – a phenomenon known in Chinese as san dai tong tang . In Chinese communities, Harryanto explains, a large home can accommodate a number of small families from the same clan, or clan of the mansion’s owner. He says the Surabaya mansion has the characteristics of a hostel or temporary stopover for refugees from political violence during the late Qing dynasty (1636–1912) in China, or in the early years of the Republic of China. He says many of the ethnic Chinese Indonesians who sheltered there were Taoists or Confucians, yet most of the mansion’s residents today are Christian. How ethnic Chinese hope to help build a better Indonesia Richard Susanto, chair of the Surabaya chapter of the Chinese Indonesian Association (Perhimpunan INTI), says residents of the mansion have naturally assimilated and intermarried with other ethnic groups. “The Chinese ancestral culture has shifted, so some ornaments and ancestral worship inscriptions are not well preserved,” he says. “Some are still attached to the wall; some are placed on the floor.” He notes that living conditions in the mansion are quite unhealthy. In June, his association donated grocery packages to each of the 58 resident households. “Most importantly, their living standards must improve,” he says. “That is our concern.” Trismi, who goes by one name, made a home in the building after marrying a local ethnic Chinese resident and starting a new life with her husband, who has lived there all his life. The 43-year-old housewife and mother of three is ethnic Javanese and Christian. Originally from the city of Blitar in East Java, she moved to Surabaya in 1997, and now sells snacks at a nearby traditional market. As soon as she can, she says, she would like to get out of the mansion regardless of how cheap it is to stay there, adding: “I hope to have my own house.”.