Wednesday Rojak #19

No Comments

After missing the last two weeks’ installments, Wednesday Rojak is back again this week for a mishmash of Southeast Asia and related-to-archaeology posts.

  • Pensée Libre takes us to the Banteay Srei in Angkor (site is in French)
  • The Ethnographer’s Note posts a soon-to-be published paper by Edward M. Bruner entitled “The Ethnographer, Tourist in Indonesia”.
  • Backpackers Mal and Pam make their stopover to Laos and Cambodia.
  • While Jeffrey visits the Laos National Museu, finding it a little short on artifacts, but not on scope.
  • Lilie Down Under posts something from her two nights in Sukhothai.
  • While PhD candidate Alison shows us how salt is produced in Ban Non Wat.
  • Katie visits Candi Borobudur in Java.
  • Jim visits the lesser-known Angkor temple at Koh Ker.

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are related to Southeast Asia and archaeology in general. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!

5 Southeast Asian archaeology sites to visit (that are not Angkor)

1 Comment

Forget Angkor. Sure, it’s one of the largest religious monuments in the world, and you gotta admit that with spectacular architecture, sculpture and bas-reliefs there’s no wonder over two million people visited Cambodia last year. But the archaeological sites in Southeast Asian are so much more than the 11th century temple to Vishnu.

With some suggestions from the facebook group, SEAArch gives you the internet tour of five other spectacular archaeological sites in Southeast Asia open to the casual visitor – and three of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So step in and take a look at some of the other great sites Southeast Asia has to offer – in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and yes, even Singapore!

Note: The names in parentheses denote the nearest airport.

Wednesday Rojak #6

No Comments

I might be away, but that didn’t stop me from preparing this edition of the Wednesday Rojak beforehand! Up this week:

More hobbit thoughts:

  • Suvrat Kher wonders if the Hobbit was our ancestor.
  • Julien Riel-Salvatore writes about the Hobbit wrists and new directions in the interpretation of the associated stone tools.
  • MumbaiGirl posts about sunrises and elephants at Borobudur.
  • A college history and geography tour visits the temples of My Son.
  • Eon and Chantell’s round-the-world trip also brings them the My Son sanctuary and the ancient town of Hoi An.

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are of related to archaeology in Southeast Asia. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me

Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
– My Son Sanctuary by Nguyen Van Binh
The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic

Borobudur threatened by climate change

1 Comment

06 September 2007 (Reuters) – If you think Angkor falling victim to climate change was bad enough, today Reuters carries a story about how Borobudur is falling victim to the crazy weather as well. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!

creative commons photo by elbisreverri

Global warming threatens Indonesia’s Borobudur temple
By Sugita Katyal and Adhityani Arga

Like any historical monument, Indonesia’s magnificent Borobudur temple in central Java has suffered the ravages of time.

But now conservationists fear the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, topped with stupas and decorated with hundreds of reliefs depicting Buddhist thought and the life of Buddha, faces a new threat: climate change.

As global temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, the dark stone temple, which dates from the 9th century, could deteriorate faster than normal, Marsis Sutopo, head of the Borobudur Heritage Conservation Institute, told Reuters.

Read More

Wednesday Rojak #2

No Comments

It’s time again for another edition of Rojak! – a mix of entries trawled from the web about archaeology and Southeast Asia. In this edition, we visit temples in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia:

  • Pigtales visits the Buddhist and Hindu complexes of Borobudur and Prambanan.
  • Zheng He has a blog?! Yes, if you wish to know more about the famous Chinese admiral whose explorations took him as far west as East Africa, you can read more about him on My Wonderful Travellings.
  • Thinking of visiting Thailand? You shouldn’t miss a trip to Ayuthuyya, the old kingdom of Siam. You can find a detailed map of the Ayutthaya Historical Park here.
  • Adam Bryan-Brown posts a lenghty account about visiting the temples of Angkor entitled Marvellous Angkor.

Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!

Srivijaya: A primer – Part 1


Victorious is the king of Srivijaya, whose Sri has its seat warmed by the rays emanating from neighbouring kings, and which was diligently created by Brahma, as if this God has in view only the duration of the famous Dharma.

– The Wiang Sa Inscription (Thai Peninsula) dated 775 AD.

With a reach spanning from Sumatra and Java to as far north as the Thai peninsula and a reign of some 600 years, it’s remarkable that what is now known as the Srivijaya empire was only unearthed relatively recently. The first hint of a Sumatran-based polity was first alluded to by the eminent French scholar George Coedes 1918, based on inscriptions found in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. In this primer, we’ll talk about the Srivijayan empire, the extent of its influence and its eventual fall.

The kingdom of Srivijaya, a name which translates to “shining victory”, was a Malay polity centred in Palembang in south Sumatra. At its height, its area of influence included neighbouring Jambi, to the north the kingdoms of the Malay Peninsula: Chitu, Pan-pan, Langkasuka and Kataha, as well as eastwards in Java, where links with the Sailendra dynasty and Srivijaya are implied. The same Sailendra dynasty was responsible for the construction of the massive Buddhist stupa of Borobudur between 780 and 825 AD.

Indeed, Srivijaya was considered to be one of the major centres of learning for the Buddhist world. In the 7th century, Yijing, a Buddhist monk who travelled between China and India to copy sacred texts mentioned the high quality of Sanskrit education in Palembang, and recommended that anyone who wanted to go to the university at Nalanda (north India) should stay in Palembang for a year or two to learn “how to behave properly”. Srivijaya’s prominent role in the Buddhist world can be found in several inscriptions around Asia: an inscription in Nalanda dated 850-860 AD described how a temple was built in Nalanda at the request of a king of Srivijaya. In the 11th century, a temple in Guangzhou in China received a donation from Srivijaya to help with the upkeep. The Wiang Sa inscription quoted above recounts how a Srivijayan king ordered the construction of three stupas in Chaiya, also in the Thai peninsula.

The Srivijayan empire controlled the important Strait of Melaka (Malacca) which facilitated trade between China and India. With its naval power, the empire managed to suppress piracy along the Malacca strait, making Srivjayan entrepots the port of choice for traders. Despite its apparent hegemony, the empire did not destroy the other non-Srivijayan competitors but used them as secondary sources of maritime trade. Srivijaya’s wide influence in the region was a mixture of diplomacy and conquest, but ultimately operated like a federation of port-city kingdoms. Besides the southern centre of power in Palembang, Arab, Chinese and Indian sources also imply that Srivijaya had a northern power centre, most probably Kataha, what is now known as Kedah on the western side of the Malay peninsula.

Kedah is now known for remains of Indian architecture at the Bujang Valley. This was due to the invasion by the Chola kingdom from South India – an invasion which ultimately led to the fall of Srivijaya. How did this happen? Look out for part 2 of Srivijaya: A primer.

Books about Srivijaya (and also the books I referred to):
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds) contains chapters on the classical cultures of Indonesia and the archaeology of the early maritime polities of Southeast Asia.
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Early History (The Encyclopedia of Malaysia) by Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman (Ed) has several chapters on Srivijaya.
Sriwijaya: History, religion & language of an early Malay polity by G. Coedès and L. Damais

Borobudur exhibition in North Jakarta mall

1 Comment

04 June 2007 (Jakarta Post) – For this week at the Mangga Dua Square in Jakarta, shoppers will be treated to an exhibition on the greatest Buddhist monument in Southeast Asia, Borobudur.

Ancient past exhibited in mall

For the next seven days starting Sunday, the seemingly distant topic of archaeology will be bridged by the exhibition, “Tracing the Nusantara civilization from the 9th to 12th centuries, Maha Karmawibhangga: The hidden legacy at the foot of Borobudur.”

“We want to bring this topic closer to the public and reveal things that previously remained exclusive to academics,” the Tourism and Culture Ministry’s head of cultural research and development, Junus Satrio Atmodjo, said last week.

The famed Borobudur serves as a lure to bring people in and pique their interest in Indonesia’s ancient past.

The timing of the exhibition was impeccable, with Buddhists commemorating Buddha’s Day of Enlightenment, or Waisak, the Friday before its opening.

Working with the Indonesia Sangha Conference, the ministry is putting on a full week of events as part of the exhibition, including art performances that will highlight the country’s rich cultural past.

In building Borobudur, the ancient civilization of Syailendra was thoughtful enough to provide a temple that would serve as a historical library for future generations.

Read more about the Borobudur exhibition at Mangga Dua Square mall.

Books about the great Buddhist monument, Borobudur:
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic
Borobudur by L. Frederic and J. Nou
Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas (Periplus Travel Guides) by J. Miksic
The Magnificence of Borobudur by D. D. Burhan

Preserving Borobudur's legacy beyond bricks and mortar


24 April 2007 (Jakarta Post) – This news is related to the earlier post about the visual art exhibition on Borobudur in Jogjakarta. Here, the story also touches on the restoration work on the Buddhist monument.

Preserving Borobudur’s legacy beyond bricks and mortar

The world-famous and heritage-listed Borobudur Buddhist temple was over the weekend the subject of much discourse as experts argued around how best to preserve and maintain not just the temple building — but everything it represents, including religious expression, cultural heritage and art history.

“Long-term preservation must go further than just the recovery of the physical monument,” said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“After such a successful physical restoration, we must address the next challenges — to develop and undertake further studies and research; to restore the natural landscape around the complex; to involve surrounding communities; and to somehow balance all this with sustainable tourism.

“Only this comprehensive approach will lead to true sustainability in the long term,” he said.

Built between 750 and 850, the 40-meter high temple comprises two million huge stone blocks. The building was “lost” for many years and not rediscovered until 1814 during Dutch occupation.

The first restoration phase was conducted in the early 20th century (1905-1911) by Theo Van Erp and focused on improving drainage and structural restoration.

A second massive restoration program was then conducted by the Indonesian government between 1973 and 1983, with full support from UNESCO.

This giant effort bought together 27 countries and a range of private companies from around the world. The total cost was US$25 million.

Related Books:
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic

Art exhibition showcases Borobudur

No Comments

21 April 2007 (Antara) – The greatest Buddhist monument on the face of the earth becomes the subject of a visual art exhibition to held in Jogjakarta from April 20 to May 9.

Indonesia, Unesco hold expo on Borobudur temple

Indonesia`s Cultural and Tourism Ministry and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organized a visual art exhibition entitled `The Thousand Mysteries of Borobudur` in Yogyakarta.

“This expo marks the revival of Borobudur through visual art performances from various works of arts,” Jogja Gallery Curator Mikke Susanto said when opening the exhibition at the Jogja Gallery, here late Friday.

The expo displays various paintings, statues, graphics, photography, and videos depicting the Borobudur Temple.

Visitors of the exhibition could get a picture about the Borobudur Temple in the past, before and after the restoration.

The exhibition will last from April 20 to May 9, 2007, at the Jogja Gallery, Yogyakarta northern square.

Related Books:
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic
Borobudur by L. Frederic and J. Nou
Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas (Periplus Travel Guides) by J. Miksic

Borobudur and Merapi: What went on before?

No Comments

13 June 2006 (Jakarta Post) – An interesting discussion on the volcano Mount Merapi Borobodur, and whether Borobodur ever existed partly underwater or covered by ash.

Borobudur and Merapi: What went on before?

It all started with a theory proposed in 1933 by Dutch anthropologist WOJ Nieuwenkamp, who said that the temple was built on a hill surrounded by a lake.

That then triggered the curiosity of a Dutch geologist, Reinout Willem van Bemmelen, who carried out more research on the history of the temple.

Concurring with Nieuwenkamp’s theory, in the early 1950s, van Bemmelen proposed that the eruption in 1006 resulted in the burial of Borobudur temple and the ancient Mataram-Hindu kingdom, forcing it to relocate to East Java.

But should Merapi be blamed for all this? Dr. Sri Mulyaningsih, a geologist who wrote a dissertation for her doctorate degree at Bandung Institute of Technology on the impact of Merapi eruptions on the old temples at Yogyakarta, agrees with Nieuwenkamp’s theory but refutes van Bemmelen’s.

Related Books:
Borobudur by L. Frederic and J. Nou
Borobudur Projekt by H. Prager
Some architectural design principles of temples in Java: A study through the buildings projection on the reliefs of Borobudur Temple by P. Atmadi
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)