Nusantara—the Archipelago—has been the destination of the world’s great voyagers for centuries. Various journals, chronicles, and observation reports were written from the journeys of “adventurers” and “travelers” from China, India, Arabs, Persia, Portugal, Spain, France, and the Netherlands when they visited the Archipelago.
The writers came from various backgrounds—religious scholars, merchants, seafarers, colonial administration staff, geographers, naturalists, the military, and botanical scientists—each wrote all about the Archipelago with their unique interests, objectives, and sensibilities. From notes on societies, observations on cities, rituals and relics, culinary, panoramic beauties, trade, to flora and fauna.
We do not have many symposiums connecting history writers with hospitality and tourism workers, with specific discussions on journals or books written by foreign travelers in Indonesia. From a historical point of view, these journals and chronicles serve as primary data to understand the uniqueness of Indonesia. From a daily journal—often intimate and impressionistic—we can see “the other side” and “surprising points of view” when looking at the nation’s diversity.
Their words were often written in a very personal way. Sometimes they were written with an “exotic point of view” so that they managed to capture small, oft-overlooked details. They wrote so meticulously all about the different things they did not find back home. At times, the travel journals were written with the composure of someone who reported in a scientific way. At other times, they were written with strong critical spirits.
Many of these travel journals then went on to become the standard book for global sciences. For example, Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, published in 1869, is a popular work of science that, to this day, is a reference for researchers and travelers around the world. The travel journal contains Wallace’s observations during his time exploring Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Alfred Russel Wallace is a naturalist, geographer, anthropologist, and botanical expert from the Great Britain. He was the scientist that coined the Wallace Line—the line that divides the Indonesian archipelago into two different parts: the West, where most of the fauna comes from Asia, and the East, where the fauna comes from Australasia. Many are unaware that Wallace’s researches in Indonesia were highly influential to Charles Darwin when he was working on his theory of evolution, particularly the concept of the origin of species and survival of the fittest.
Another example is the diary of Portuguese voyager Tome Pires called Suma Oriental, which contains descriptions of the city of Malacca, as well as cities in Java and Sumatra. Through Tome Pires’ observation in Suma Oriental, we know that before Malacca was won by Portugal in 1511, it was already at the height of its trade glory. Malacca had been a big market for Asian trades, including for Javanese merchants. Tome Pires also reported that many ethnic-Chinese people had become powerful rulers in cities like Pati, Central Java.
Based on this observation—the lack of symposium specifically discussing foreign travelers’ journals and diaries in the Archipelago, connecting historians, archaeologists, literature writers, philologists, and others with tourism and hospitality workers—BWCF 2018 came up with the theme: Diary & Traveling: After 1,300 Years of I-Tsing’s Diary (Rereading the Books of Voyages about the Archipelago).
The reason why we decided on this theme is because in order to discuss the various diaries of foreign voyagers who explored the Archipelago, we would like to start from an old diary written by a renowned Chinese monk named I-Tsing, who traveled to Sumatra in 7 AD. I-Tsing made two visits to Sumatra. On his journey from Chang’an, China, to study at the University of Nalanda, India, in 671, he stayed for six months in Sriwijaya (Palembang) and two months in Malay (Jambi). After finishing his study in the University of Nalanda, he did not directly return to China. Instead, for 10 years between 685-695, he stayed in Sriwijaya to translate the sutras, or written texts.
BWCF 2018, held in mid November 2018, will start with the launch of I-Tsing translated book on the religious and spiritual life of the places that he traveled to, including Sumatra, called A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practised in India and The Malay Archipelago (671-695). The book was specially translated by a Buddhist community that became our partner in organizing BWCF 2018, and published by the Directorate of History at the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In addition to I-Tsing’s book, during the opening of BWCF, we are also launching eight other books related to foreign travelers’ historical reports on the Archipelago. One of the books is Painting and Description of Batavia in Heydt’s Book of 1744 by Prof. Adolf Heuken SJ. The subject of the book, Johann Wolfgang Heydt, was a German-born VOC employee. In the 1740s, he described in details the buildings in Batavia. His images and descriptions on Batavia are very important, because they help us get an idea of the atmosphere of Batavia at the time. Heydt’s pictures and information are required from a historical point of view, because they offer us a glimpse of city life in Batavia – and also the character of Batavia as a city – leading to the big riot and genocide of ethnic-Chinese there in 1740 by the Dutch government. The opening of BWCF will also present a cultural speech about Borobudur and the sides of the temple yet to be discovered.
The symposium itself will run for two days. The four sessions include a discussion on books and chronicles written by Chinese travelers; a discussion on journals and books by Muslim travelers in the Archipelago; a discussion on books and chronicles by Indian travelers; and a discussion on books and manuscripts by Western writers who traveled through and stayed in Indonesia. We will talk about Ma Huan’s journals—a Chinese traveler who visited Majapahit in the 14th century—and the writings of Rumphius—a German botanical expert who stayed in Ambon (he also died there in 1702)—who wrote the masterpiece Herbairum Amboinense. We will also talk about the works of Atisha, a professor at the University of Nalanda, India, who studied in Muoro Jambi in the 8th century; as well as the diary of Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali writer who paid a visit to Ki Hajar Dewantoro at Taman Siswa in Yogyakarta in the early 20th century, and continued his travel to Bali.
As a festival that combines the celebration of literature and performance art, like the previous years, BWCF 2018 not only organizes seminars, symposiums, and book launches, but also art performances. In keeping with the main theme Diary and Traveling, the curatorial theme of BWCF 2018’s art performances is: Migration.
We believe migration is an important global issue today. Europe, for instance, is witnessing massive migrations of Syrian refugees, leading to various social and economic problems. The social history of the Archipelago itself is a history filled with migrations. Most of the people in the Archipelago are descendants from the exodus out of Taiwan, which carried the Astronesian culture. Long before that, homo erectus in Java, such as Pithecanthropus Erectus or homo Soloensis, marked the last group of exodus of the prehistoric humans out of Africa.
The “migration” that falls into our scope of discussion is migration in its bigger dimension. It includes diaspora, wanderings, journeys to foreign lands, urbanization, escape, emigration, and so on, because these actions have impacts on politics, social issues, and climate disorders. Borobudur is a temple that was once abandoned and left surrounded by forests, because the society around it is believed to have moved to another area, due to the temple’s location, which was susceptible to Mount Merapi’s eruption. With the theme Migration, we are inviting renowned Indonesian choreographers to interpret things related to “wandering” and showcase their works on stage at Aksobhya, Borobudur. We are also giving liberty to the choreographers to explore more profound interpretations of migration beyond the context of geographical travels. A migration is not only limited to physical migration, but can also be a spiritual one. A voyage into the soul.
Because this year’s theme of traveling and voyages is different from the previous years, we are also inviting industry people from the field of hospitality, tourism, and tours. Traveling has now become a lifestyle of the middle class. It has become a secondary necessity. A trend is growing among our youth to search for travel destinations: alternatives that expand beyond the run-of-the-mill tourist destinations, including heritage traveling.
We believe that the materials discussed at BWCF 2018 have the potential to be developed into alternative travel destinations; which not only indulge travelers with beautiful sceneries, but also enrich them with knowledge and history. The discussion on Rumphius, for instance, can inspire a retrospective trip following Rumphius’ track in Ambon. We can visit the remnants of Rumphius residence in Hitu: the ruins of Leidjen (Enkhuijzen) fort. The discussion on Atisha can inspire a cultural tour to the Muoro Jambi temple. The discussion on Wallace can inspire a tour exploring nature, following Wallace’s track in Maros, Sulawesi. Therefore, we hope BWCF 2018 can be an oasis that connects history researchers and literature writers with industry practitioners—hoteliers, tourism workers, travel agents, tourism organizations, travel websites, and so on. Your support will be much appreciated.