EARLY HISTORY TRADE LINK TO THE WORLD .SUMATRA JAVA/CHINA/INDIA/EGYPT

 

Early traders bound for the island of Sumatra

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Native versus Imported Cobalt

Though my resource literature is on a much broader scale, most (if not all) of what I say can be confirmed in Hobson1, The Wares of the Ming Dynasty, considered by many the Bible of Chinese Porcelain. I will often give reference. My starting point is of course the year 1368, the beginning of the Ming dynasty. I’ve tried to arrange things in a chronological manner, but will at times break out of the period for a key reference, or note.

First a brief introduction to the two main varieties of imported cobalt.

Mohammedan Blue2 or Persian Blue, also called Hui Hui Qing or just Hui Qing.  The name given to imported cobalt obtained via the overland route (Silk Road). This variety of cobalt was in use for most of the 30 year span of the Hongwu reign.  It’s source was different mines within Persia, India, and possibly other regions within the Arab world, as it’s name implies. It’s known for it’s bright blue color and soft wash-tones. The presence of the trace element arsenic combined with the absence of the trace element manganese contributed to it’s bright blue tone.

 

Sumatran Blue3 also called Su-ma-li, Su-ma-ni, Su-ni-p’o, or Hui hu da Qing.  The name given to cobalt imported after the reign of Hongwu. It’s source was from between the first return voyage of Zheng He in 1407 to the last return voyage in 1433, or delivered by envoys from Sumatra in the years 1426, 1430, 1433, and 1434. It’s known for it’s deep blue color and seemed to appeal to the tastes of the new world. Though the name (translation) may be correct, the impression it gives is not. The island of Sumatra was the trading port, not necessarily the origin of the material. The origin now offered a much wider variety as compared to what the overland route provided. And now, being somewhat more abundant, the materials were often combined.

There are two other names used to further categorize the pigment which specifically call out the reigns Yongle, Xuande, and the later reign of Jiajing (1522-1566).  Though the names are rarely used, they are worth mention since they are usually incorrectly categorized as Mohammedan Blue, and not Sumatran Blue.  The names are Mohammedan Bile and Lajvard Blue.  The latter is sometimes called  Lajivard or Lajvardi and is the Persian word for Lapis Lazuli, referring only to the color, as the stone was not used in the pigment. Still, both fall in the Sumatran Blue category, having properties of rich, dark blue, and containing black and silver specks where thickly applied.

I myself would simplify it in calling the two varieties of imported cobalt Early Mohammedan Blue for the cobalt used during late Yuan and most of the Ming Hongwu period,  and Later Mohammedan Blue for the cobalt obtained from the voyages after the Hongwu reign.

Though there is little to differentiate between the two, there are subtle differences in color and tone. Some quite noticeable, and some not so noticeable. Treated as a precious commodity, these supplies were carefully measured out and inventoried. The quality of each was noted as it was first used. Any supply of inferior quality was set aside for other than Imperial use.

Keep in mind that scattered quantities of the latter, Sumatran Blue, were possibly  intermixed with those from the same mines of the earlier Mohammedan Blue, adding to the confusion of differentiating between the two in the later reigns.

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At the start of the Ming dynasty, emperor Hongwu reopened the Imperial kilns which had been closed for some years under the Yuan rule. Up to this time, supplies were limited to what was allowed into China via the overland route by the now defeated Mongols. The imported cobalt used at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, Hongwu period, was what was left over from the earlier Yuan stores. The overland route was mostly closed at the beginning of the reign of Hongwu.  China turned inward to itself, focused internally on the building of the new Ming dynasty. Internal wars and continued Mongol threats made trade by the overland route to dangerous to consider.

Luckily the supplies at hand of the imported Mohammedan Blue cobalt were sufficient to start with, but they gradually depleted. The supply was all but exhausted nearing the end of the reign. When Hongwu died in 1398, ending the reign, the overland route was practically closed to further trade.

Little is mentioned of the brief reign of the second Ming emperor Jianwen, grandson to Hongwu. But things started to happen in 1402 when Yongle took the throne as the third Ming emperor. 

With fresh supplies of cobalt no longer available, the potters now had to rely on the dwindling supplies at hand. This meant supplies previously set aside due to inferior quality of tone or color, now had to be used out of necessity. This explains the noticeable difference between the early wares of Hongwu, having a bright blue of a softer shade, as compared to the deeper shades of blue of the succeeding reign of Yongle, and especially that of Xuande.

Known for his commitment to the arts, Yongle was very concerned over this dilemma. To quickly re-establish trade and replenish the much needed supplies, he wisely initiated the seven voyages of Zheng He, sending a massive fleet of envoys to open trade by sea. The first voyage departed in 1405. Starting from the first return voyage in 1407 till the return of the last voyage in 1433, trade goods were obtained from India, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, Africa, Malacca, Siam, and possibly other seaports along the routes traveled. It is noted that the cobalt was not received in large quantity, and that it may not have been present on all seven of the return voyages, making it still a rare and precious commodity. Hobson also states that it is noted in the Ming Annals that envoys from Sumatra brought supplies of Mohammedan Blue in the years 1426, 1430, 1433, and 1434. As previously mentioned, the cobalt obtained at these later periods is now referred to as Sumatran Blue, the deeper tone.

This is also defined in a later reign as Hui hu ta Qing,  or deep Mohammedan blue, referring to the deep, darker blue of some Xuande wares. Though I like this term since it specifically identifies a reign, and describes the color, it also adds to the confusion by being categorized with true Mohammedan Blue of the earlier period.

In 1435, the emperor Xuande died and the reign ended. China entered a time of political unrest and instability known as the  Interregnum Period (1436-1464). With the voyages now ended and the overland route closed, the supply of Mohammedan / Sumatran Blue was again cut off. What little amount remained would have been reserved for Imperial use. But closure of the Imperial kilns during this time of unrest almost guaranteed it’s non-use. Not much is mentioned of porcelain manufacture during this time. It was of course continued in private kilns to meet local supply and demand.

It wasn’t until the reign of Chenghua (1465-1487) that the Imperial kilns were reopened and porcelain manufacture was resumed in full swing. One problem though, there was practically no Mohammedan / Sumatran Blue available. With the resume of foreign trade, and the increased demands of the Imperial court, a new problem was at hand. Native cobalt had to be used to meet the demands. Though there was a sacrifice in the color of blue, it was offset by the exquisite wares produced during the reign. The now forced use of native cobalt revealed a very valuable property which would lead to it’s continued use, and to a greater extent than before. The potters discovered that the native cobalt had less of a tendency to run during firing than the imported variety.

In 1486, nearing the end of the reign of emperor Chenghua, the precious import variety of cobalt  was once again available. Now the potters experimented by mixing the two cobalts. They discovered that using a mixed ratio of 1 part native cobalt to 10 parts imported cobalt resulted in less run during firing. Different ratios were tried, but as the quantity of the native variety was increased to 2, 3, and even up to 6, the tone of the blue became too dull. Though private kilns used a cobalt mix ratio of up to 6 to 10, a ratio of no more than 1 to 10 was used for Imperial porcelain. The result was a finer detailed outline with wash-tones staying better within their boundaries. A key note  here is that the once again available imported cobalt, known as Su-ma-ni, was a darker tone of blue compared to the brighter more pale variety used for Hongwu, and late Yuan.

Being too late to affect the wares of Chenghua, the first appearance of this is of course seen in the porcelain of mid to latter period of Hongzhi (1488-1505).

Another key thing to note is that native Chinese cobalt, be it of the Bi-tang or Shi zi Qing variety, was in use, however slight the mix, from about 1436 to the present. It was the potters of the Qing dynasty, during the successful reign of emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) that perfected the refining process of the native cobalt to where it could rival Mohammedan Blue.

Conclusion

Perhaps I should say Confusion instead of Conclusion as I’m sure it is a bit confusing. Just keep in mind the old rule, there are always exceptions. Over the 276 year span of the Ming dynasty, many varieties of both imported and native cobalt were used resulting in many different tones and shades of blue. A piece having definite signs of age that exhibits no sign of native cobalt has a very good possibility of being early Ming, or quite possibly Yuan.

 

Fratello Coffee is introducing a new Sumatran coffee to our clients.  The Sumatran Sidikalang Tabu Jamu will be available to everyone in early August.  We have been exploring the Lintong region this year and had recently been promoting a coffee from there.  We have been fine tuning our sourcing skills and are narrowing down the specific regions we want to work in.

We found that this natural processed Tabu Jamu had chocolate cinnamon and toffee aromas with a lingering syrupy body, followed by mild earthy and clean flavors of smoked red apples.   We gave this a cupping score of 88.

If you want to know where the arabica growing areas are in Sumatra, it is easy to find them on a map using Lake Toba and Lake Tawar as reference points. Both lakes are located in the volcanic highlands of Northern Sumatra.  Tabu Jamu was purchased by the private exporter Yudi Putra.  

Yudi Putra is in the town of Sidikalang which is situated on Lake Toba.  Lake Toba is the massive, doughnut shaped lake. A tremendous amount of coffee is grown around this lake, primarily along the Western side. In recent years full sun hybrid coffees have been introduced here.  

They take great care in the preparation of all coffee and this particular selection was processed with a Double Pick – Hand Selection (has passed through the grading process twice to ensure only the best beans pass through) creating a much cleaner, more acidic cup profile than the traditional heavy earth profile found in Mandhelings.   

 

Jumat, 2007 November 16

Indonesian ‘Hinduïsm’

It may one day be shown by students of prehistory that Indonesians were sailing to other parts of Asia long ago. Records of foreign trade, however, begin only in the early centuries AD. A study of the Roman historian Pliny the Elder’s Natural History suggests that, in the 1st century AD, Indonesian outriggers were engaged in trade with the east coast of Africa. Indonesian settlements may have existed at that time in Madagascar, an island with distinct Indonesian cultural traits. The geographer Ptolemy, in the following century, incorporated information from Indian merchants in his Guide to Geography concerning “Iabadiou,” presumably referring to Java, and “Malaiou,” which, with its variants, may refer to Malayu in southeastern Sumatra. Regular voyages between Indonesia and China did not begin before the 5th century AD. Chinese literature in the 5th and 6th centuries refers to western Indonesian tree produce, including camphor from northern Sumatra, and also to two resins that seem to have been added to the seaborne trade in western Asian resins and were known in China as “Persian resins from the south ocean.” Indonesian shippers were probably exploiting the economic difficulties southern China was suffering at the time because it had been cut off from the ancient Central Asian trade route. Certain small estuary kingdoms were beginning to prosper as international entrepôts. Their location is unknown, though Palembang’s commercial prominence in the 7th century suggests that the Malays of southeastern Sumatra had been active in the “Persian” trade with southern China.

purnawarman
River rock with name and ‘footprints’ of Purnawarman,
ruler of the 5th century Tarumanegara. West-Java.

Senin, 2007 November 26

The Majapahit era.

In 1289 Kertanagara maltreated Kublai Khan’s envoy, who had been sent to demand the Javanese king’s submission. The Mongol emperor organized a punitive expedition in 1292, but Kertanagara had been killed by a Kadiri rebel, Jayakatwang, before the invaders landed. Jayakatwang in his turn was quickly overthrown by Kertanagara’s son-in-law, later known as Kertarajasa, who used the Mongols to his own advantage and then forced them to withdraw in confusion. The capital city was now established at Majapahit. For some years the new ruler and his son, who regarded themselves as successors of Kertanagara, had to suppress rebellions in Java; not until 1319 was Majapahit’s authority firmly established in Java with the assistance of the renowned soldier Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada was the chief officer of state during the reign of Kertanagara’s daughter (c. 1329-50), and in these years Javanese influence was restored in Bali, Sumatra, and Borneo. Kertanagara’s great-grandson, Hayam Wuruk, became king in 1350 under the name of Rajasanagara. Hayam Wuruk’s reign (1350-89) is remembered in the archipelago as the most glorious period in Javanese history. Prapañca’s poem, the Nagarakertagama, written in 1365 and surviving in a manuscript found in Lombok at the end of the 19th century, provides a rare glimpse of the kingdom from a contemporary point of view. The poem, originally called the Desha warnana, or “The Description of the Country,” describes itself as a “literary temple” and endeavours to show how royal divinity permeates the world, cleansing it of impurities and enabling all to fulfill their obligations to the gods and therefore to the holy land–the now undivided kingdom of Java. The poem resembles an act of worship rather than a chronicle. The poet does not conceal his intention of venerating the king, and, in the tradition of Javanese poetry, he may have begun it under the stimulus of pious meditation intended to bring him into contact with divine influences embodied in the king.

The core territories of Hayam Wuruk’s polity were probably considerably more extensive than those of his predecessors. Important territorial rulers, bound to the royal family by marriage, were brought under surveillance by incorporation in the court administration. A network of royal religious foundations was focused on the capital. But the question remains whether a genuinely more centralized and enduring structure of government was introduced or whether the unity of the realm and the ruler’s authority still depended on the ruler’s personal prestige. Prapañca, at least, does not ascribe to him an unrealistic degree of authority, even though his poem is an undisguised representation of the attributes of royal divinity and effects of divine rule in Java. Subordinate officials traveled around the kingdom, asserting the royal authority in such matters as taxes and the control of religious foundations. A sign of the king’s prestige was his decision to undertake a land survey to ensure that his subjects’ privileges were being maintained. In the absence of an elaborate system of administration, the authority of the government was strengthened by the ubiquity of its representatives, and no one set a more strenuous example than the king himself. According to Prapañca, “the prince was not for long in the royal residence,” and much of the poem is an account of royal progresses. In this way Hayam Wuruk was able to assert his influence in restless areas, enforce homage from territorial lords, reassure village elders by his visits, verify land rights, collect tribute, worship at Mahayana, Shaivite, and ancient Javanese holy sites, and visit holy men in the countryside for his own spiritual enlightenment. His indefatigable traveling, at least in the earlier years of his reign, meant that many of his subjects had the opportunity of coming into the presence of one whom they regarded as the receptacle of divinity.

One of the most interesting sections of the Nagaraker-tagama concerns the annual New Year ceremony, when the purifying powers of the king were reinforced by the administration of holy water. The ceremony, attended by scholarly Indian visitors, enables the poet to assert that the only famous countries were Java and India because both contained many religious experts. At no time in the year was the king’s religious role more emphatically recognized than at the New Year, when the notables of the kingdom, the envoys of vassals, and village leaders came to Majapahit to pay homage and be reminded of their duties. The ceremony ended with speeches to the visitors on the need to keep the peace and maintain the rice fields. The king explained that only when the capital was supported by the countryside was it safe from attack by “foreign islands.”

Since the poem venerates the king, it is not surprising that more than 80 places in the archipelago are described as vassal territories and that the mainland kingdoms, with the exception of Vietnam, are said to be protected by the king. Prapañca, believing that the king’s glory extends in all directions, delineates in detail the actual limits of relevant space from a 14th-century Javanese point of view. No fewer than 25 places in Sumatra are mentioned, and the Spice Islands, whose product was a source of royal wealth, are well represented. On the other hand, northern Celebes (Sulawesi) and the Philippines are not mentioned.

During Hayam Wuruk’s lifetime Javanese overseas prestige was undoubtedly considerable, though the king demanded no more than homage and tribute from his more important vassals, such as the ruler of Malayu in Sumatra. In 1377, when a new Malayu ruler dared to seek investiture from the founder of the Ming dynasty in China, Hayam Wuruk’s envoys in Nanking convinced the emperor that Malayu was not an independent country. Javanese influence in the archipelago, however, depended on the ruler’s authority in Java itself. When Hayam Wuruk died in 1389, the Palembang ruler in southeastern Sumatra saw his opportunity for repudiating his vassal status. He had noted the Ming dynasty’s restoration of the long-abandoned tributary trading system and its prohibition of Chinese voyages to Southeast Asia and supposed that foreign traders would again need the sort of entrepôt facilities in western Indonesia that Shrivijaya-Palembang had provided centuries earlier. He may even have announced himself as a bodhisattva and heir of the maharajas of Shrivijaya. The Javanese expelled him from Palembang, whence he fled to Singapore and then to Malacca on the Malay Peninsula.

 

Senin, 2007 November 26

The Majapahit era.

In 1289 Kertanagara maltreated Kublai Khan’s envoy, who had been sent to demand the Javanese king’s submission. The Mongol emperor organized a punitive expedition in 1292, but Kertanagara had been killed by a Kadiri rebel, Jayakatwang, before the invaders landed. Jayakatwang in his turn was quickly overthrown by Kertanagara’s son-in-law, later known as Kertarajasa, who used the Mongols to his own advantage and then forced them to withdraw in confusion. The capital city was now established at Majapahit. For some years the new ruler and his son, who regarded themselves as successors of Kertanagara, had to suppress rebellions in Java; not until 1319 was Majapahit’s authority firmly established in Java with the assistance of the renowned soldier Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada was the chief officer of state during the reign of Kertanagara’s daughter (c. 1329-50), and in these years Javanese influence was restored in Bali, Sumatra, and Borneo. Kertanagara’s great-grandson, Hayam Wuruk, became king in 1350 under the name of Rajasanagara. Hayam Wuruk’s reign (1350-89) is remembered in the archipelago as the most glorious period in Javanese history. Prapañca’s poem, the Nagarakertagama, written in 1365 and surviving in a manuscript found in Lombok at the end of the 19th century, provides a rare glimpse of the kingdom from a contemporary point of view. The poem, originally called the Desha warnana, or “The Description of the Country,” describes itself as a “literary temple” and endeavours to show how royal divinity permeates the world, cleansing it of impurities and enabling all to fulfill their obligations to the gods and therefore to the holy land–the now undivided kingdom of Java. The poem resembles an act of worship rather than a chronicle. The poet does not conceal his intention of venerating the king, and, in the tradition of Javanese poetry, he may have begun it under the stimulus of pious meditation intended to bring him into contact with divine influences embodied in the king.

The core territories of Hayam Wuruk’s polity were probably considerably more extensive than those of his predecessors. Important territorial rulers, bound to the royal family by marriage, were brought under surveillance by incorporation in the court administration. A network of royal religious foundations was focused on the capital. But the question remains whether a genuinely more centralized and enduring structure of government was introduced or whether the unity of the realm and the ruler’s authority still depended on the ruler’s personal prestige. Prapañca, at least, does not ascribe to him an unrealistic degree of authority, even though his poem is an undisguised representation of the attributes of royal divinity and effects of divine rule in Java. Subordinate officials traveled around the kingdom, asserting the royal authority in such matters as taxes and the control of religious foundations. A sign of the king’s prestige was his decision to undertake a land survey to ensure that his subjects’ privileges were being maintained. In the absence of an elaborate system of administration, the authority of the government was strengthened by the ubiquity of its representatives, and no one set a more strenuous example than the king himself. According to Prapañca, “the prince was not for long in the royal residence,” and much of the poem is an account of royal progresses. In this way Hayam Wuruk was able to assert his influence in restless areas, enforce homage from territorial lords, reassure village elders by his visits, verify land rights, collect tribute, worship at Mahayana, Shaivite, and ancient Javanese holy sites, and visit holy men in the countryside for his own spiritual enlightenment. His indefatigable traveling, at least in the earlier years of his reign, meant that many of his subjects had the opportunity of coming into the presence of one whom they regarded as the receptacle of divinity.

One of the most interesting sections of the Nagaraker-tagama concerns the annual New Year ceremony, when the purifying powers of the king were reinforced by the administration of holy water. The ceremony, attended by scholarly Indian visitors, enables the poet to assert that the only famous countries were Java and India because both contained many religious experts. At no time in the year was the king’s religious role more emphatically recognized than at the New Year, when the notables of the kingdom, the envoys of vassals, and village leaders came to Majapahit to pay homage and be reminded of their duties. The ceremony ended with speeches to the visitors on the need to keep the peace and maintain the rice fields. The king explained that only when the capital was supported by the countryside was it safe from attack by “foreign islands.”

Since the poem venerates the king, it is not surprising that more than 80 places in the archipelago are described as vassal territories and that the mainland kingdoms, with the exception of Vietnam, are said to be protected by the king. Prapañca, believing that the king’s glory extends in all directions, delineates in detail the actual limits of relevant space from a 14th-century Javanese point of view. No fewer than 25 places in Sumatra are mentioned, and the Spice Islands, whose product was a source of royal wealth, are well represented. On the other hand, northern Celebes (Sulawesi) and the Philippines are not mentioned.

During Hayam Wuruk’s lifetime Javanese overseas prestige was undoubtedly considerable, though the king demanded no more than homage and tribute from his more important vassals, such as the ruler of Malayu in Sumatra. In 1377, when a new Malayu ruler dared to seek investiture from the founder of the Ming dynasty in China, Hayam Wuruk’s envoys in Nanking convinced the emperor that Malayu was not an independent country. Javanese influence in the archipelago, however, depended on the ruler’s authority in Java itself. When Hayam Wuruk died in 1389, the Palembang ruler in southeastern Sumatra saw his opportunity for repudiating his vassal status. He had noted the Ming dynasty’s restoration of the long-abandoned tributary trading system and its prohibition of Chinese voyages to Southeast Asia and supposed that foreign traders would again need the sort of entrepôt facilities in western Indonesia that Shrivijaya-Palembang had provided centuries earlier. He may even have announced himself as a bodhisattva and heir of the maharajas of Shrivijaya. The Javanese expelled him from Palembang, whence he fled to Singapore and then to Malacca on the Malay Peninsula.

 

Sabtu, 2007 November 24

Eastern Java and the archipelago from 1019 to 1292 B

The empire of Kertanegara.
Long before the 12th century, Chinese shipping had become capable of distant voyages, and Chinese merchants sailed directly to the numerous producing centres in the archipelago. The eastern Javanese ports became more prosperous than ever before. A smaller entrepôt trade also developed on the coasts of Sumatra and Borneo and in the offshore islands at the southern entrance to the Strait of Malacca. Heaps of Chinese ceramics of the 12th to 14th century provide remarkable testimony to an important trading centre at Kota Cina near modern Medan on the northeast coast of Sumatra. In consequence, the Minangkabau princes in the hinterland of central Sumatra, heirs to the pretensions of the great overlords of Shrivijaya-Palembang, were deprived of the opportunity of developing their port of Jambi as a rich and powerful trading centre. A power vacuum existed in the seas of western Indonesia, and the Javanese kings aspired to fill it.

Java had probably long been regarded as the centre of a brilliant civilization. Old Javanese became the language of the inscriptions of the island of Bali in the 11th century, and in many parts of the archipelago the contacts of trade must have spread Java’s reputation as an island of scholars. A study of the grafting of Tantric ritual onto a megalithic shrine at Bongkisam in Sarawak, some time after the 9th century, provides a glimpse of cultural diffusion at work on the maritime fringes of Indonesia. Javanese cultural influence in other islands almost certainly preceded political domination.

Disunity in the Malay world and the cultural fame of Java are not sufficient to explain why the Javanese king Kertanegara (reigned 1268-92) chose to impose his authority on Malayu in southern Sumatra in 1275. It has been suggested that the king’s concern was to protect Indonesia from the threat of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan by organizing a religious alliance. But Kertanagara probably imposed his political authority as well, though his demands would have been limited to expressions of homage and tribute.

The king’s activities overseas were almost certainly intended to enhance his prestige in Java itself, where he was never free from enemies. His political priorities are reflected in a Sanskrit inscription of 1289, attached to an image of the king in the guise of the wrathful Aksobhya Buddha, claiming that he had restored unity to Java; his overseas exploits are not mentioned.

The precise doctrinal contents of Kertanegara’s Tantric cult are unknown. In his lifetime and after his death his supporters revered him as a Shiva-Buddha. They believed that he had tapped within himself demonic forces that enabled him to destroy the demons who sought to divide Java. The 14th-century poet Prapanca, author of the Nagarakertagama and a worshiper of Kertanagara, on one occasion refers to the king as the “Vairocana Buddha” and associates him with a ritual consort, who is, however, the consort of Aksobhya Buddha. Prapañca also admires the king’s scholarly zeal and especially his assiduous performance of religious exercises for the good of mankind. The role of the royal ascetic had long been a familiar feature of Javanese kingship. The king who had been buried in the 9th-century mausoleum of Prambanan was identified with Shiva, the teacher of asceticism. Early in the 13th century King Angrok, according to a later chronicle, regarded himself as the Bhatara Guru and therefore as Shiva, the patron of ascetics. Shaivite and Mahayana priests were under royal supervision from at least as early as the 10th century, and the Tantric concept of a Shiva-Buddha, taught by Kertanagara, would not have been regarded as extraordinary. Javanese religious speculation had come to interpret Shaivism and the Mahayana as identical programs for personal salvation, with complementary gods. Union with divinity, to be achieved here and now, was the goal of all ascetics, including the king, who was regarded as the paragon of ascetic skill. Kertanagara’s religious status, as well as his political problems and policies, are by no means eccentric features in early Javanese history; particular circumstances, stemming from Chinese participation in maritime trade in the archipelago, enabled him to exercise his divine power beyond Java itself. In the 14th century the homage of overseas rulers to the Javanese king was taken for granted

Sabtu, 2007 November 24

Eastern Java and the archipelago from 1019 to 1292.

After the beginning of the 10th century, inscriptions and monuments in central Java cease. For more than 500 years little is known of developments in central Java, and nothing of what happened in western Java or in the eastern hook of the island. The evidence for these years comes almost exclusively from the Brantas River valley and the adjacent valleys of eastern Java. This abrupt shift in the historian’s focus of attention has never been satisfactorily explained. Government and politics.

Eastern Java did not form a natural political unit. No single town emerged that was so exceptionally endowed in local resources as to become a permanent capital; instead, the residencies of defeated kings were abandoned, and the sites of some of them are unknown. The problems of government in these conditions are illustrated by the events of the 11th century. In 1016 the overlord’s city was destroyed in what an inscription of 1041 (called the “Calcutta” inscription) described as “the destruction of the world,” and the kingdom fell apart. The most recent explanation of the episode is that a Javanese vassal had rebelled. The kingdom was restored by the dead king’s son-in-law Airlangga (Erlangga), a half-Balinese prince. From 1017 to 1019 he lived with hermits, probably practicing asceticism. In 1019 he was hailed as ruler of the small principality of Pasuruan near the Brantas delta, but he could not take the military offensive until 1028 and his final success was not before 1035. His victories gradually established his claims to divine power. Airlangga dispatched his last enemy by provoking an uprising against him in the manner taught by Kautilya , the master of Indian statecraft who recommended the use of subversion against an enemy. In his “Calcutta” inscription Airlangga expressed the hope that all in the land would now be able to lead religious lives.

He then undid the results of his achievement. Foreseeing that two of his sons might quarrel, he divided his kingdom so that one son should rule over the southern part, known as Panjalu, Kadiri , or Daha, and the other over the northern part, Janggala. The consequences of this decision are mourned in a 14th-century poem, the Nagarakertagama . Airlangga’s sons refused to honour their father’s intentions. Fighting broke out, and the Kadiri rulers were unable to establish their uneasy domination over the kingdom until the early 12th century.

The chain of command between the capital and the villages–and the number of officials involved–had grown since the central Java period. The ideal of a greater Javanese unity, protected by a divine king, was probably cherished most by the villagers, since they especially would benefit from peace and safe internal communications. Inscriptions sometimes acknowledge the king’s gratitude for villagers’ assistance in times of need. The villages were prosperous centres of local government. As a result of increasing contacts with the royal court, village society had now become more stratified, with elaborate signs of status. But local lords could make difficulties for the villages by tampering with the flow of the river or exacting heavy tolls from traders. In comparison with these vexations, the royal right to the villagers’ services and part of their produce was probably not resented. No document was more respected than the inscription that recorded a village’s privileges.

The king’s chief secular responsibility was to safeguard his subjects’ lands, including the estates of the temples and monasteries that were so conspicuous a feature of the Javanese landscape. When the king wanted to build a temple on wet-rice land he was expected to buy the land, not confiscate it. At court he was assisted by a small group of high officials, among whom his heir seems to have been the most important. Officials were rewarded with appanages from royal lands, for the king, like his noble vassals, was also a regional lord. The council of officials passed on royal decisions to subordinates. Officials made a circuit of the country and visited village elders. Royal rule was probably not harsh; the protests that have been preserved were probably prompted by unusually weak government. A reasonable relationship between ruler and villagers may be seen in a Balinese inscription of 1025 that records a king’s sale of his hunting land to a village after the villagers had complained of their lack of land. Village elders sat with the officers of royal law in order to guarantee fair trials and verdicts reflecting the consensus of local opinion. Customary law was incorporated in the royal statutes. Aggrieved individuals could appeal to the king for redress; groups of villages sought his assistance for large-scale irrigation works. The villages paid taxes to the ruler, who thus enjoyed an economic advantage over other regional lords. Everything depended on the ruler’s energy and a general agreement that his government served the interests of all.

The Kadiri princes of the 12th century ruled over a land that was never free from rebellion. In 1222 Kertajaya was defeated by an adventurer, Angrok, and a new capital was located at Kutaraja, later renamed Singhasari, near to the harbours of east Java. The changed economic circumstances in the archipelago as a whole must now be taken into account, since they have an important bearing on the internal history of Java in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Sabtu, 2007 November 24

Central Java

from the 8th to the 10th century

Eastern Javanese inscriptions throw little light on happenings before the 10th century, but the evidence from south-central Java, and especially from the Kedu Plain in the 8th and 9th centuries, is more abundant. This period in central Java is associated with the Shailendra princes and their rivals. An Old Malay inscription from north-central Java, attributed to the 7th century, establishes that the Shailendras were of Indonesian origin and not, as was once suspected, from mainland Southeast Asia. In the middle of the 9th century the ruler of Shrivijaya-Palembang was a Shailendra who boasted of his Javanese ancestors; the name Shailendra also appears on the undated face of an inscription on the isthmus of the Malay Peninsula; the other face of the inscription–dated 775–is in honour of the ruler of Shrivijaya. In spite of ambiguous references to Shailendra connections overseas, there is no solid evidence that the territories of the central Javanese rulers at this time extended far beyond central Java, including its north coast. Yet the agricultural wealth of this small kingdom sustained vast religious undertakings; the monuments of the Kedu Plain are the most famous in Indonesia. The Borobudur temple complex, in honour of Mahayana Buddhism, contains 2,000,000 cubic feet (57,000 cubic metres) of stone and includes 27,000 square feet (2,600 square metres) of stone bas-relief. Its construction extended from the late 8th century to the fourth or fifth decade of the 9th. Shiva’s great temple at Prambanan, though not associated with the Shailendra family, is less than 50 miles (80 kilometres) away, and an inscription dating to 856 marks what may be its foundation stone. The two monuments, which have much in common, help to explain the religious impulses in earlier Javanese history.
Borobudur Borobudur is a terraced temple surmounted by stupas, or stone towers; the terraces resemble Indonesian burial foundations, indicating that Borobudur was regarded as the symbol of the final resting place of its founder, a Shailendra, who was united after his death with the Buddha. The Prambanan temple complex is also associated with a dead king. The inscription of 856 mentions a royal funeral ceremony and shows that the dead king had joined Shiva, just as the founder of the Borobudur monument had joined the Buddha. Divine attributes, however, had been ascribed to kings during their lifetimes. A Mahayana inscription of this period shows that a ruler was said to have the purifying powers of a bodhisattva, the status assumed by the ruler of Shrivijaya in the 7th century; a 9th-century Shaivite inscription from the Kedu Plain describes a ruler as being “a portion of Shiva.”

BorobudurThe divine qualities of these kings, whether of Mahayana or of Shaivite persuasion, had important implications in Javanese history and probably in the history of all parts of the archipelago that professed the forms of Indian religion. The ruler was now and henceforth seen as one who had achieved union with the supreme god in his lifetime. Kingship was divine only because the king’s soul was the host of the supreme god and because all the king’s actions were bound to be the god’s actions. He was not a god-king; he was the god. No godlike action was more important than extending the means of personal salvation to others, always in the form of union with the god. The bas-relief of the Borobudur monument, illustrating Mahayana texts and especially the Gandavyuha–the tale of the tireless pilgrim in search of enlightenment–is a gigantic exposition of the Mahayana path to salvation taken by the king; it may be thought of as a yantra, or instrument to promote meditation and ultimate union with the Buddha. But Borobudur can also be identified as a circle, or mandala, of supreme mystical power that signified the Void of the Vairocana Buddha according to the Vajrayana persuasion of Tantric Buddhism. The mandala was intended to protect the Shailendra realm for all time. The pedagogical symbolism of the Prambanan temple complex is revealed in its iconography, dominated by the image of the four-armed Shiva, the Great Teacher–the customary Indonesian representation of the supreme deity. Prambanan affirms the Shaivite path to salvation; the path is indicated in the inscription of 856, which implies that the king had practiced asceticism, the form of worship most acceptable to Shiva. Shaivism in Java as well as Mahayana Buddhism had become hospitable to Tantric influences. An almost contemporary inscription from the Ratu Boko Plateau, which is not far from the Prambanan complex, alludes to special rites for awakening Shiva’s divine energy through the medium of a ritual consort.

Ratu Boko Palace Keraton Ratu Boko

These royal tombs taught the means of salvation. The royal role on earth was similar. The kings, not the religious elite, bore the responsibility of ensuring that all could worship the gods, whether under Indian or Indonesian names. Every god in the land was either a manifestation of Shiva or a subordinate member of Shiva’s pantheon, and worship therefore implied homage to the king, who was part of the god. The growing together, as a result of Tantric influences, of Shaivism and Mahayana Buddhism meant that, over the centuries, the divine character of the king became continually elaborated. His responsibility was the compassionate one of maintaining his kingdom as a holy land. The bodhisattva-king was moved by pity, as were all bodhisattvas, while the Shiva-like king, as an inscription of the 9th century indicates, was also honoured for his compassion. Compassion was expressed by providing an environment wherein religion could flourish. Keeping the peace, protecting the numerous holy sites, encouraging religious learning, and above all performing purification rituals to render the land acceptable to the gods were different aspects of a single mission: the teaching of the religious significance of life on earth. The lonely status of the ruler did not separate him from the religious aspirations of his subjects; Prambanan provides a recognition of the community of interest between ruler and ruled. The 856 inscription states that a tank of purifying water, filled by a diverted river, was made available as a pilgrimage centre for spiritual blessings. Hermitages had been built at the Prambanan complex, and the inscription states that they were “to be beautiful in order to be imitated.”

Prambanan TemplePrambanan Temple - detail Prambanan Temple

The great monuments of the 9th century suggest something of the cultural ambience within which events took place. One new development in central Java was that capable local rulers, called raka, were gradually able, when opportunities arose, to fragment the lands of some raka and absorb the lands of others. At the same time, they established lines of communication between themselves and the villages in order to guarantee revenue and preserve a balance between their own demands and the interests of the independent and prosperous agricultural communities. When a ruler manifested divine qualities, he would attract those who were confident that they were earning religious merit when they supported him. Local princes from all over the Kedu Plain constructed small shrines around the main Prambanan temple in a manner reminiscent of a congregation gathered around a religious leader. The inscription of 856 states that they built “cheerfully.”

Minggu, 2007 November 18

Malay kingdom of Srivijaya Palembang 3

The maritime influence.

Special circumstances affecting Shrivijaya-Palembang toward the end of the 7th century are consistent with this conclusion. In the centuries before the Chinese undertook long voyages overseas, they relied on foreign shipping for their imports, and foreign merchants, trading with China, required a safe base in Indonesia before sailing on to China. This seaborne trade, regarded in China as “tributary” trade with the “emperors’ barbarian vassals,” had developed during the 5th and 6th centuries but languished in the second half of the 6th century as a result of the civil war in China that preceded the rise of the Sui and T’ang dynasties. Chinese records for the first half of the 7th century mention several small harbour kingdoms in the region, especially in northeastern Sumatra, that were pretending to be Chinese vassals. The rulers of Palembang, hoping for a revival of trade under the new T’ang dynasty, must have been anxious to monopolize the China trade and eliminate their rivals. They succeeded in doing this. Before I-ching left Southeast Asia in 695, Shrivijaya was in control of the Strait of Malacca; the ruler’s determination to control all harbours in the region that might compete in the China trade explains his militancy, as shown in the Old Malay inscriptions.

The subsequent power of the maharajas of Shrivijaya depended on their alliance with those who possessed warships. The fact that Arab accounts make no mention of piracy in the islands at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca suggests that the seafaring inhabitants of these islands identified their interests with those of the maharajas, refraining from molesting merchant ships and cooperating in controlling Shrivijaya’s potential competitors in northern Sumatra. The maharajas offered their loyal subjects wealth, posts of honour, and–according to the inscriptions–supernatural rewards. But the grouping of maritime Malays in this geographically fragmented region survived only as long as the Palembang entrepôt was prosperous and its ruler offered enough largess to hold the elements together. His bounty, however, depended on the survival of the Chinese tributary trading system, which needed a great entrepôt in western Indonesia. Early Malay history is, to an important extent, the history of a Sino-Malay alliance. The maharajas benefited from the China trade, while the emperors could permit themselves the conceit that the maharajas were reliable imperial agents.

The Palembang rulers’ exact span of territorial influence is unknown. The Banka Strait and the offshore islands at the southern entrance of the Strait of Malacca would have been essential to their maritime power. According to the 7th-century inscriptions, the rulers also had influence in southern Sumatra on the Sunda Strait. Elsewhere in the hinterland, including what became known as Malayu in the Hari River basin, their authority would have been exercised by alliances with local chiefs or by force and always with decreasing effect the further these areas were from Palembang.

Malay unity under the leadership of the maharajas was inevitably undermined when, as early as the 10th century, Chinese private ships began to sail to centres of production in the archipelago, with the result that the Chinese market no longer depended on a single Indonesian entrepôt. Toward the end of the 11th century, Shrivijaya-Palembang ceased to be the chief estuary kingdom in Sumatra. Hegemony had passed, for unknown reasons, to the neighbouring estuary town of Jambi, which was probably controlled by the great Minangkabau country of Malayu in the interior. With the decline of the tributary trade with China, a number of harbours in the region became centres of international trade. Malayu-Jambi never had the opportunity to build up naval resources as Shrivijaya-Palembang had done, and in the 13th century a Javanese prince took advantage of the power vacuum.

Minggu, 2007 November 18

Malay kingdom of Srivijaya Palembang 2

Buddhism in Palembang.

Shrivijaya-Palembang’s importance has been established by Arab and Chinese historical sources spanning a long period of time. Its own records, in the form of Old Malay inscriptions, are limited almost entirely to the second half of the 7th century (682-686). The inscriptions reveal that the ruler was served by a hierarchy of officials and that he possessed wealth. The period when the inscriptions were written was an agitated one. Battles are mentioned, and the ruler had to reckon with disaffection and intrigues at his capital. Indeed, the main theme of the inscriptions is a curse on those who broke a loyalty oath administered by drinking holy water. The penalty for disloyalty was death, but those who obeyed the ruler were promised eternal bliss.

I-ching recommended Palembang, with more than a thousand monks, as an excellent centre to begin studying Buddhist texts. The 7th-century inscriptions, however, are concerned with less scholarly features of Buddhism. They deal with Tantric aids to magical power (see below), in the form of yantra symbols, which were distributed by the ruler as favours to faithful servants. Some of his adversaries disposed of them, too. Especially interesting as evidence of the influence of Buddhism within the context of royal power is the Talang Tuwo inscription of 684, which records the king’s prayer that a park he has endowed may give merit to all living beings. The language and style of this inscription, incorporating Indian Tantric conceptions, make it clear that the ruler was presenting himself as a bodhisattva–one who was to become a Buddha himself–teaching the several stages toward supreme enlightenment. Here is the first instance in the archipelago’s history of a ruler’s assumption of the role of religious leader.

The inscriptions show that the teachings of the Tantric school of Mahayana Buddhism, with its magical procedures for achieving supernatural ends, had reached Palembang before the end of the 7th century. Tantric Buddhism came into prominence in India only in the 7th century, and the synchronism of its appearance in Palembang reflects not only the regularity of shipping contacts between Sumatra and India but, more importantly, the Malays’ quick perception of the contribution of Tantric Buddhism as a source of personal spiritual power. The word for “curse” in the inscriptions is Malay, and it is reasonable to suppose that the Malays grafted Tantric techniques onto indigenous magical procedures. The vitality of Malay religion is probably also reflected in the prestige of the sacred Seguntang Hill near Palembang, which was visited by those in search of spiritual power. Seguntang Hill would not suddenly have become such a centre as a result of traffic in Tantric conceptions during the 7th century. In other words, the disturbances reflected in the inscriptions are less likely to have been the growing pains of a rising kingdom than the efforts of an already important kingdom to achieve, or perhaps recover, hegemony in southern Sumatra.

Jumat, 2007 November 16

Malay kingdom of Srivijaya Palembang

The kingdom of Shrivijaya is first mentioned in the writings of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim I-ching, who visited it in 671 after a voyage of less than 20 days from Canton. He was on the first stage of his journey to the great teaching centre of Nalanda in northeastern India. The ruler of Shrivijaya assisted I-ching on his journey. Archaeological surveys undertaken since the late 1970s immediately to the west of Palembang city–an area now being overtaken by suburban development–have revealed such a quantity of materials as to make it practically certain that this was Shrivijaya’s heartland in the 7th and subsequent three centuries. Surface remains of more than a thousand shards of Chinese ceramics, two-thirds of which are datable from the 8th to the 10th century, have been recovered from several sites. Shards from the 11th to the 14th century found elsewhere in the neighbourhood may represent shifts of political and commercial activity in the Palembang area. Shards found on nearby Seguntang Hill (Bukit Seguntang), on the other hand, span all these centuries. A piece of Romano-Indian rouletted ware, attributable to the early centuries AD, has been dug up in Palembang near the river; the same ware has been found in Java near Jakarta. Moreover, new stone statues have been found, and the sheer bulk of Buddhist and Hindu statuary now recovered from the Musi River basin has suggested to at least one art historian that the basin must have contained the site of a polity near the sea that enjoyed considerable international contacts. Only Palembang suggests itself as the site in question. Finally, stupa remains have been unearthed at the foot of Seguntang Hill. These discoveries reinforce the textual evidence that Palembang was the heartland of this empire.

Jumat, 2007 November 16

Indonesian ‘Hinduïsm’ 3

Indonesian religious conceptions.

The question must be asked, however, to what extent such religious ideas were comprehensible to those who first heard them. Indonesians, who had been accustomed to constructing terraced mountainlike temples–symbolizing holy mountains–for the burial and worship of the dead, would not have been perplexed by the Brahmans’ doctrine that Shiva also dwelt on a holy mountain. Natural stones, already placed on mountain terraces for the ritual of megalithic worship, would have been easily identified with Shiva’s natural stone lingam, the most prestigious of all lingams. Indonesians, who were already concerned with the passage rites and welfare of the dead, and who considered the elaborate rituals of metalworking as a metaphor for spiritual transmutation and liberation of the soul, would have paid particular attention to Hindu devotional techniques for achieving immortality in Shiva’s abode. The meditative ascetic of Hinduism may have been preceded in Indonesia by the trance-inducing shaman (priest-healer). Again, the notion that water was a purifying agent because it had been purified by Shiva’s creative energy on his mountaintop would have been intelligible to mountain-worshiping Indonesians, especially if they already endowed the water flowing from their own gods’ mountain peaks with divinely fertilizing qualities.

Indonesian religious conceptions must certainly have supplied the perspectives of those who first listened to the Brahmans. Confidence in the Brahmans, honoured especially as teachers (gurus), would have depended on their demonstrating means of achieving religious goals already recognized as important in the indigenous system of beliefs. The Brahmans’ role was probably prepared during earlier visits by Buddhist missionaries, who also shared the Indian concern for religious salvation.

But Indonesian circumstances and motivation underlay the adoption of Indian forms. The use of Hindu terminology in the inscriptions represents no more than Indonesian attempts to find suitable metaphoric expressions from the sacred Sanskrit literature for describing their own realities. Sanskrit literature, imported from India on manuscripts or by feats of memory, would have been especially culled when courtly literati were seeking to describe those rulers who had achieved an intensive personal relationship with Shiva. One must not be deceived by the accumulating acquaintance with Indian civilization reflected in Indonesian inscriptions and Javanese literature. The Indonesians, like others in early Southeast Asia, had no difficulty in identifying themselves with the universal values of “Hindu” civilization represented by the sacred literature. Indian literary and legal works were to provide useful guidelines for Indonesian creative writing, but they did not bring about a thoroughgoing “Hinduization” of the archipelago any more than Indian Brahmans were responsible for the formation of the early kingdoms of the archipelago.

In the final analysis, therefore, India should be regarded as an arsenal of religious skills, the use of which was subordinated to the ends of the Indonesians. Expanding communication meant that increasing numbers of Indonesians became interested in Indian thought. The first reasonably well-documented period of maritime Malay history provides further evidence of the Indonesian adaptation of Indian religious conceptions

Jumat, 2007 November 16

Indonesian ‘Hinduïsm’

Hindu religious conceptions.

The cultural effects of these commercial exchanges, usually described as “Hinduization,” have been discussed for many years. It is now held that Hinduism was brought to Indonesia not by traders, as was formerly thought, but by Brahmans who taught the Shaivite message of personal immortality. Sanskrit inscriptions, attributed to the 5th and 6th centuries, have been found in eastern Kalimantan, a considerable distance from the international trade route, and also in western Java. They reveal that Indian literati, or their Indonesian disciples, were honoured in some royal courts. The rulers were prominent rakas, heads of groups of villages in areas where irrigation and other needs had brought into being intervillage relationships and supravillage authority. The inscriptions, and also Chinese sources, indicate that some rulers were involved in warfare and must have been seeking to extend their influence. The Shaivite Brahmans supervised the worship of Shiva’s phallic symbol, the lingam (linga), in order to tap the god’s favours on behalf of their royal patrons. These Brahmans were representatives of an increasingly influential devotional movement (bhakti) in contemporary Indian Hinduism; they probably also taught their patrons how to achieve a personal relationship with the god through “austerity, strength, and self-restraint,” in the words of one inscription from Borneo. The rulers, therefore, were encouraged to attribute their worldly successes to Shiva’s grace; the grace was obtained through devotional exercises lovingly offered to Shiva and probably regarded as the guarantee of a superior status in the life after death. These Shaivite cults, marks of a privileged spiritual life, would have been a source of prestige and royal authority.

2 Comments

  1. EARLY HISTORY TARDE LINK.SUMATRA CNINA?INDIA?EGYPT/JAVA « my radical judgement by roysianipar said,

    […] READ MORE FULL STORY roysianipar @ 1:41 am [filed under Uncategorized tagged arab, charliesianipar, china, egypt, europe, INDIA, JAVA, monangsianipar, ROYSIANIPAR, VIKYSIANIPAR […]

  2. bali said,

    Very nice website. i have the same website on Indonesia in french🙂. i suscribe at your rss feed

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