According to some, the town of pekalongan derives it’s name from the Chinese A-pek-along-an, meaning a place for it’s fish auctions. Yet other say that the name syems from the Indonesian word Kalong, meaning ‘bat’. The story goes that a young man named Raden Bahu, who served at the Sultan Agung to go and clear an area of forest on Java’s nort coast. This particular forest was notorious for being haunted by all manner of malicious ghosts and spirits for being haunted by all manner of malicious ghosts and spirits and so, to ensure his safety while involved in his work, Raden Bahu undertook a special spiritual exercise. Known in Javanese as tapa ngalong, the discipline entails hanging upside down from the branch of a tree like a bat for long periods. Thus protected, Raden bahu was able to clear the forest and the town of pekalongan was founded. Pekalongan, however, is best known for it’s batik cloth. In fact, the place is often referred to as batik city and a large proportion of the population is involved in the industry in one way or another. The main Batik centres lie just outside the town in the villages of pekajungan, Buaran, kedungwuni, and Wonopringgo. The workshop of oey Soe Tjoen is perhaps the most well known. Situated in kedungwuni, this workshop some of Java’s finest contemporary work, one length of cloth taking about 9 mounths to complete.
Pekalongan and the nearby towns of pemalang, Kaliwungu, and Batang probably represent the largest centre of Batik production in Indonesia. Batik from this region is exported to all major cities in the country and throughout the world.
Aside from the numerous batik workshops, there is an old fort in Pekalongan, whice was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1753 and later used as a prison.