Chinese Culture in Bali

Chinese Culture in Bali

Down through history, Bali has had many encounters with people from the Far East, namely China.  This relation has turned into an assimilation of cultures with Bali taking on some cultural influences from China and China assimilating some from Bali.

Once upon a time

Contacts between the two cultures mostly relate to trading.  For centuries now Chinese goods and Balinese products have flowed back and forth.  While no one knows precisely how long the trade has gone on, there is some evidence of it happening as early as the 4th century.

Inter-marriage also occurred, although, again, no one can say how often.  One of the Balinese kings in the 9th century married a Chinese princess from the Chung dynasty.  While inter-marriage continues, trading reached its peak in the 19th century.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist based in Argentina.  Covering social issues globally, you can see his work on his website, www.JourneyAmerica.org

The Chinese ruled the trade route by selling opium and slaves.  Chinese traders helped support local kingdoms around the time they settled on Bali and spread to the edges of the island.

At that time, the Chinese had started to settle in Bali and spread to the corners of the island.

Legend of the lamps

Chinese live all over Bali, but some have formed communities such as Lampu village in the Bangli regency.

One of the leaders of the village is Lie Giok Tian.  At 59, he is the fourth generation of the Lie family in Lampu.  Lie says their presence in the village dates back three hundred years when their ancestors started providing protection as the military in the Bangli kingdom.

The name of the village, Lampu, comes from the word for “Chinese lantern”, lampion.  One night as his ancestors were facing hundreds of troops trying to attack the kingdom, the ancestors lit thousands of lanterns that tricked the enemy into thinking they were facing a large contingent of defenders.  The result?  The attackers didn’t attack the kingdom.

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