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Chinese Influence in Bali  

by on Saturday, 17 February 2007No Comment | 5,406 views

Chinese influence in Balinese culture have been perfectly assimilated and it is hard to distinguish the influence that have been thoroughly assimilated, but there are some influences that still clearly visible.


Chinese coin, small lead or bronze coins with a hole, in the center that is called “pis bolong” by the Balinese is the most visible sign of Chinese influence in Bali. It was the most wide-spread form of “cash” used on Bali, In the 19th and early 20th century, worth a fraction of a Dutch cent and the smallest coin in use. Nowadays the Pis Bolong is only used as a part of offering. Though the real pis bolong that was imported from china is made of bronze but the pis bolong that is use in the offering must be made of the mold of five metal (Panca Datu), namely gold, silver, copper, brass and iron.

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The Baris Cina shows the Chinese influence in the realm of dancing. The Baris Cina is danced by 18 dancers the weapon being a saber. This dance has unique costume, trouser, shirt, sarong shawl, black spectacles and hat. The dance movement imitates the artistic motion of martial art. The accompanying music is Gong Beri (gong without snout). This dance is performed in temple ceremony in south Bali especially in Khayangan Tiga Temple, Renon village and Belanjong, Sanur (Denpasar).


The story in relation with the origin of Baris Cina goes that a Chinese ship was beached along the Sanur coast hundreds year ago. While the ship was being repaired the Chinese camped on the beach and, during their spare time, went through group exercises something like manual of arms with their swords. The Chinese were the only people in Bali who wore long pants in those days. The Balinese had never seen anything like this, and so, when the ship had been repaired and gone away, they imitated the action of the sailors and the instruments that were used in to accompany the military exercise.


The most venerated Chinese influence in Balinese culture is Barong Landung, the story of the origin of this sacred gigantic puppet goes back to the ancient Balinese tale of Dalem Balingkang. The story goes that in 6th century Bali was reign by a wise king named Jayapangus. Unfortunately, the King had a wicked son who caused the people to hate him. The Queen died of sadness because of her son’s behavior and King Jayapangus was desperate about his wife death.


However, King Jayapangus had a Chinese advisor in his palace. This man, called Empu Liem, advised the King in political and economical affairs and besides, practiced medicine to help the people with their illnesses. He taught the men martial arts, which they in turn, converted to dances. This old man had a female assistant, a beautiful young Chinese girl by the name Kang Cin Wei and this girl was offered to the king as his wife, provided that the King would file his teeth and stop eating raw meat. The King agreed and the two led a happy live. They were often seen walking together and where they came, they would make the people happy and the neighborhood was blessed. They were supposed to bring safety and prosperity in the country. After a few years it was clear that the young woman could not bear children, hence her nickname Dewi Mandul (Barren Goddess).


After their death the people made tall puppets which they would carry in processions preceding important festivals, such as Galungan and the Hari Nyepi. The King is depicted as a dark figure with long teeth, the Dewi Mandul as a fair woman with a wise and merciful expression. Symbolically they are seen as figures that bring prosperity in the country at the same time protecting the places they go from evil spirits.


The Chinese influence in Balinese architecture can be seen in the use of china porcelain as a decoration of temple gates and wall. The idea seem to have been that porcelain has a higher status and is more refined than the usual terra cotta of Bali, making it suitable for temple decoration.


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