Balinese Stories

Indonesian Batik

Indonesian history is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, the large ethnic Chinese population in many cities, brought with them their culture, many aspects of which then became assimilated into the local culture. Through the times, this process has left its mark in Balinese architecture, cuisine, dance, songs and fashion, and textiles including batik.

According to history, Cirebon, a city on the coast of Java, was famous for its harbour, where trade flourished with visiting Indonesian as well as foreign vessels. Cirebon, then known as the Kingdom of Pakungwati, was founded by Sunan Gunungjati (1448–1580) who was the only religious figure (Islamic leader) to become a king.  He used his reign to propagate Islam all along the Pesisir, or northern coast of Java, from Ciberon  to remote Pasundan.

One of Sunan Gunungjati's wives was a Chinese princess named Nio Ong Tien, who became an influential force promoting the artistic elements of the Ciberon court, and ceramics in particular.

The influence of classic Chinese ceramic motifs can be seen in Indonesian Batik, hence the blend of Ciberon-China batik designs with ornate phoenixes, cranes, peonies and a mythical beast part lion, part dragon and part bird. One the most famous Ciberon batik motifs is Megamendung, which literally means 'dark clouds'. Because of its association with rain, Megamendung,  symbolizes life as water for a parched land. Often the cloud motif is also combined with roosters against intertwined leaves and vines; usually in layers of blue, in different shades. Again, the colour dark blue, making reference to dark clouds and life-giving heavy rains, while the lighter blue is a symbol of hope for a brighter future.