The 7th Borobudur Writers and Cultural Festival 2018

Diary & Traveling

After 1,300 Years of I-Tsing’s Diary
(Rereading the Books of Voyages about the Archipelago)

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.


  • Symposium and Cultural Speech


    A. Chinese Travelers in the Archipelago

    • Chronicles of Chinese travelers and their travels during the Singhasari and Majapahit era. This session discusses Chinese travelers’ contributions in exposing the history of Singhasari and Majapahit from foreigners’ perspectives; and how far the travel documentations have informed us about Singhasari and Majapahit.
    • Travel documentations of Chinese travelers in Malacca and the Archipelago. This session discusses Chinese travelers in these two regions, and their contributions to uncovering the history of Malacca and the Archipelago.
    • Discussion on I-Tsing’s book on his journey to the Archipelago. This session discusses the book that unveils the Archipelago’s past and history, as well as talks about the process of translating I-Tsing’s book to Indonesian.
    • Discussion on Indonesian and Chinese culture.

    B. Muslim Travelers in the Archipelago

    • The mission of the Muslim network in the Archipelago. The session discusses how Muslims from the Middle East arrived in the Archipelago and built a network, in which we found various ideas of Islam in the nation.
    • The travels of Ibnu Battutah leading to his arrival in the Archipelago.
    • The trail of the Muslim journey in the Archipelago, as seen in the stories of Indonesian people on their Hajj pilgrimage.
    • The chronicles of Sam Pho Kong in relation to the Wali Sanga (the nine Muslim evangelists in Java). The chronicles explain that the Wali Sanga originated from China, and only one of the nine, Sunan Kalijaga, actually came from Java. This source was used by historian Slamet Mulyana, while others rejected the idea.

    C. Indian Travelers in the Archipelago

    • Chronicles of Atisha’s travels that led him to the Archipelago. This session talks about the figure of Atisha and how he traveled from India to Sumatra and Nepal; and what Atisha had to do with the Buddhism from the Sriwijaya era.
    • The travels of Rabindranath Tagore to Java and Bali. Tagore’s travels to the Archipelago inform us of a different Hinduism in the Archipelago. Even though the history of Hinduism and Buddhism from India developed over a thousand years in the Archipelago, there were some bold differences. This session talks about the differences and similarities, and the reason behind the differences.
    • The writings of VS Naipaul in his journey to Indonesia in the book Among the Believers. This session discusses the situation of the Indonesian Muslims at the end of the 20th century in the writings of Naipaul, an Indian. What are Naipaul’s points of view as an Indian and how were the objective conditions of the Indonesian Muslims that he wrote about?
    • The theosophical influences in the books written by Cipto Mangunkusumo and Ki Hajar Dewantoro. This session discusses the theosophy originated in India and how it was adopted by the Archipelago, and how this theosophy influenced the minds in Indonesia’s nationalist movement?

    D. Western Travelers in the Archipelago

    • The writings of Tome Pires in the Archipelago, particularly on socio-political phenomena in the Archipelago.
    • Thomas S. Raffles’ writings on Java. This session discusses Raffles’ The History of Java and the context of the time it was written. The discussion aims to give a clear idea of the book’s stance and the descriptions of Java from a foreigner’s perspective.
    • Georg Everhardus Rhumpius’ works on botanical books in Maluku. This session discusses phenomenal Rhumpius’ works, written when he was impaired by blindness. Speaker: Dr. Haris Maduppa (Bogor Agricultural University)
    • Alfred Russel Wallace’s research documentations on the Archipelago’s botany. Wallace’s journeys to tropical forests in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and the eastern parts of Indonesia became the first documentations of the Archipelago’s tropical forests. Through Wallace’s books, the hidden botanical universe of the Archipelago was uncovered for the world to see, especially the Western world. This session discusses Wallace’s contributions to the botanical science.


    A scientific speech according to the Books of Voyages about the Archipelago


    1. Buku Kiriman Catatan Praktik Buddhadharma dari Lautan Selatan oleh Yi Jin (I-Tsin) (Direktorat Sejarah, Kemendikbud).
    2. Mimipi Mimpi Dari Pulau Emas (Elizabeth Inandiak)
    3. Buku Tagore
    4. Painting and description of Batavia in Heydt’s book of 174
    5. Lanskap Indonesia dalam karya Fotografer Jepang (K.T. Tasake) semasa pendudukan.
    6. Napak Tilas Perjalanan Dang Hyang Nirarta di Bali (I Gusti Ranuh/Dibal)
    7. Novel Kura Kura Berjanggut. (Azari)
    8. Agus Darmawan : Turis Siluman.


    Awarding the accolade to writers, as well as figures of science and culture with great contributions to the process of comprehending the legacy of the Archipelago’s culture.


    Extensive review on subject matters ranging from the stories of the Borobudur reliefs


    Exhibitions of various types of books from tens of publishers

  • Two Evenings at Akshobya

    I. Curatorial: Migration

    Borobudur was once an abandoned and forgotten temple. For some reason, the 8th century Buddhist community that built Borobudur migrated and left their massive spiritual landmark. A similar thing happened when the Cambodians left the Angkor Wat compound in the 15th century. The two temples, majestic as they are, were once abandoned ones.

    However, the two events were caused by different reasons. In Cambodia, archaeologists estimated that the holy city of Angkor was abandoned due to the attack from Thailand’s Ayuthaya kingdom. At the time, the holy city of Angkor was destroyed, causing the water system and infrastructure to stop working. An epidemic ensued, forcing the inhabitants to leave. Meanwhile, in the case of Borobudur, it is believed that the eruption of Mount Merapi was responsible for the migration.

    After being covered by forests for hundreds of years, Raffles was the first one interested to unearth Borobudur in the early 1800s. He instructed an English officer named Colin MacKenzie to go on a survey to Borobudur. Then, H. C. Cornelius led more than 200 workers for almost two months to clear off the reeds, bushes, and trees covering Borobudur. The entirety of Borobudur was covered in dirt, but it was a blessing a disguise, because the dirt and trees were protecting Borobudur’s reliefs from sunlight and rain, which, over centuries, could have corrupted the temple’s stones.

    In conjunction with the theme of BWCF 2018, Diary and Traveling, the curatorial theme for BWCF 2018’s contemporary dance and theater festival is Migration. The word means an act of moving from one area to another due to certain reasons. It is, in fact, a relevant theme for today. As we know, Europe is currently teeming with Syrian refugees, because of the political turmoil in their country. The refugees are taking with them their families, having escaped and braved the oceans by boats to get to Europe. There, they become a social problem to deal with, because many end up homeless on the streets because there are not enough social camps to accommodate them. Some European countries even refuse to take them in. Back in the 1960s, when Vietnam was torn by a civil war, many Vietnamese fled by sea and became boat people. They also became a problem in their destination countries.

    Migration is an archaic, perpetual theme in history. The Old Testament tells the story of Moses as he led his people out of Egypt to the land of Canaan, walking through unfriendly deserts, facing all kinds of challenges, obstacles, and tribulations for 40 years. This serves as a reminder that the history of the people in the Archipelago is a history of migration.

    Around 5,000 years ago, a massive wave of migration came from Taiwan and spread all over Southeast Asia. This is called the Out of Taiwan theory. This wave of ancient migrants then settled in areas we now call the Philippines, the Indonesian archipelago, as well as Micronesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian regions. Archaeologists call this the Astronesian migration. The majority of Indonesians are descended from the Astronesians. Archaeologists see traditional ceremonies from various ethnic groups in the Archipelago – from megalithic rituals of worshipping ancestors, birth rituals, and death rituals – are influences from the Astronesian culture.

    From Gilimanuk in Bali, Gunungsitoli in Nias, to Samosir Island in North Sumatra, we see many ancient artifacts – sarcophagi, boat-shaped stone coffins, and copper scales with boat-shaped ornamental patterns. Archaeologists see this as trails or a collective memory of massive waves of migration from Astronesia. A powerful migration through unforgiving oceans will never be erased from the memory of people of tradition.

    For the performance night at BWCF 2018, we are inviting choreographers and theater artists to reflect migration in a wide scope of interpretations. Migration means wandering, traveling, explorations, journeys, and diaspora due to various reasons. One’s journey from one place to another can happen because of natural disasters – a big flood or a mountain eruption – political turmoil, famine, or the search for a new, promising land. Other reasons even include mystical signs or spiritual calls to venture to a land of hope.

    The performance space that we are providing is a stage in the open square of Aksobhya, near Hotel Manohara Borobudur, from which location we can still see the Borobudur temple as the backdrop. Clearly, the migration theme that we are offering goes beyond the physical sense, but also the spiritual or psychological sense – a traveling of the soul. Borobudur is a temple where yogis conduct their spiritual practices, stage by stage, to achieve the ultimate enlightenment. At the belly of Borobudur is a long relief called Gandawyuha. This 460-panel relief tells the story of Prince Sudhana’s journey, in order to meet many teachers to discover the highest state of reality. This relief was the guidance for ancient yogis during their spiritual practices in Borobudur.

    Borobudur is not the only one. Many temples in Java are adorned with reliefs from Hindu-Buddhist literature about one’s journeys to achieve spiritual heights – even journeys to the afterlife or the inferno. On Jago temple in Tumpang, Malang, for instance, is a relief called Kunjarakarna, which tells of a monstrous giant named Kunjarakarna, who wants his life to be free of the karma that has doomed him to being what he is. The god Sri Batara tells him that first he has to go to the underworld, run by the god Yama, to undergo a journey to hell.  In hell, he sees various kinds of torture for sinners, which eventually bring him to his senses.

    These are not strange things in Asia. Almost all of Asian religious traditions have stories, sutras (written texts), lontar (palm-leaf manuscripts), and books with this sangkan paraning dumadi (cycle of life) theme. In Tibet, for example, there is a book called Bardo Thodol, which translates as Tibetan Book of the Dead. It is not a ceremonial book on burial rituals, but a guidebook for the dead in their journey through the afterlife. The Tibetans believe that a trained mind will prepare someone to preserve their consciousness after death in order to maneuver through the afterlife. This book explains the stages of the journey one will go through after death, so that they can be led to a better rebirth.

    At the foot of the Borobudur temple, we are providing a space for choreographers and theater artists to freely interpret the archaic theme of migration. Hopefully, they will produce aesthetically interesting and unexpected bodies of work.

    II. The Performers

    1. Katsura Kan – Melati Suryodarmo – Skank (Japan – Indonesia)
    2. Miroto
    3. Yusril Katil
    4. Katia Angel (Germany)
    5. Tony Broer
    6. Cok Sawitri
    7. Rizadi Siagian
    8. Djarot B Darsono (Studio Taksu)
    9. Edhin Khoo (Malaysia)
    10. Boey Kim Cheng (Singapore)
    11. Bagus Prasetyo
    12. Taufik Ikram Jamil
  • Meditation, Children Fairy’s Tale Workshop and Film Festival

    I. Morning Meditation

    Instructor: Laura Romano, Romo Sudrijanta, SJ, Yuddhi Widyantoro

    II. Workshop Creative

    • Children Fairy’s Tale about Borobudur Temple by Murti Bunanta (tbc)
    • Creative Values of Borobudur Temple (tbc)

    III. Cultural and Historical Film Screening

    IV. Photography Exhibition

    • About Journey of I-Tsing
    • About Journey of Dan Hyang Nirartha

    V. Painting Exhibition


     VI. Relief Reading

    By Salim Lee

  • Penghargaan Sanghyang Kamahayanikan Award

    Seleksi dan pemberian penghargaan kepada penulis, tokoh ilmu pengetahuan dan budaya yang telah memberikan kontribusi besar terhadap pemahaman terhadap khazanah kebudayaan, khususnya khazanah asal muasal manusia Nusantara.

Borobudur Writers and Cultural Festival 2018 Teams

Tim Kerja dan Kuratorial

  1. Romo Mudji Sutrisno, SJ, seorang rohaniwan dan guru besar fi lsafat di STF Driyarkara dan staf pengajar di Universitas Indonesia. Aktif dalam berbagai kegiatan budaya dan keagamaan dan menerbitkan berbagai buku kajian kebudayaan, filsafat dan keagamaan.
  2. Seno Joko Suyono, adalah redaktur kebudayaan Majalah Tempo. Menempuh pendidikan di bidang filsafat, menulis novel dan buku-buku kebudayaan. Beberapa artikelnya termuat dalam kumpulan buku, seperti Tafsir dalam Permainan (diterbitkan Utan Kayu). Pernah mendapat beasiswa selama musim panas menikmati pertunjukan-pertunjukan teater di New York.
  3. Imam Muhtarom, lulusan pasca-sarjana di FIB, Universitas Indonesia. Ia menulis dan editor mengenai sastra dan budaya, juga pengajar/peneliti budaya di Universitas Indraprasta PGRI, Jakarta. Bukunya (2013, kumpulan esai sastra) dan Rumah yang Tampak Biru oleh Cahaya Bulan (2007, kumpulan cerpen).
  4. Budhy Munawar-Rachman adalah penulis dan pendiri Nurcholish Madjid Society (NCMS). Mendapat pendidikan dalam bidang filsafat pada STF Driyarkara. Mendirikan dan menjadi Direktur Project on Pluralism and Religious Tolerance, Center for Spirituality and Leadership (CSL). Menulis karangan dalam lebih dari 50 buku di antaranya, Islam Pluralis, Fiqih Lintas Agama (co-author), dan Membela Kebebasan Beragama (2016, editor). Kini bekerja sebagai Program Officer Islam and Development, The Asia Foundation.
  5. Sudiarto, ketua Sudimuja, sebuah lembaga yang mendedikasikan diri mengungkap Muarajambi sebagai pusat kebudayaan Budha. Lembaga ini dapat diakses di
  6. Yessy Apriati, bekerja sebagai manajer seni independen. Mengelola Gumarang Sakti Dance Company bersama koreografer Boi G sakti (2001-2009) dan telah pentas di pelbagai pentas di Negara-negara Asia, Eropa, dan Amerika Serikat. Menjadi manajer festival Indonesia Dance Festival 2004 sampai sekarang.

Panitia Pendukung:

  1. Dorothea Rosa Herliany, penulis yang sudah menerbitkan 30 buku (puisi, prosa, biografi). Ia juga telah menerima berbagai penghargaan, di antaranya dari Dewan Kesenian Jakarta (2000), Pusat Bahasa Jakarta (2003), Kementerian Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata (2004), Khatulistiwa Literary Award (2006), Cempaka Award (2011), Prasidatama (2014), Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa (2016), juga grant award dari Asialink dan La Trobe University (2000), Monash University (2002), Heinrich Böll Stiftung (2009), DAAD / Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (2013) dan Stichting Poets of All Nations (2014).
  2. Wicaksono Adi, penulis esai seni-budaya, menempuh pendidikan di bidang seni rupa di Institut Seni Indonesia, Yogyakarta. Memiliki pengalaman sebagai jurnalis, mengkuratori beberapa pameran seni rupa, dan menjadi editor buku-buku seni-budaya.
  3. G. Budi Subanar, Ketua Program Magister Ilmu Religi dan Budaya, Universitas Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta. Doktornya diperoleh dari Universitas Gregoriana Roma, Italia. Bukunya, antara lain Kilasan Kisah Soegijapranata (2012) dan novel berjudul Hilangnya Halaman Rumahku (2013).
  4. Yudhi Widdyantoro, praktisi yoga dan terlibat dalam banyak program keberagaman di Indonesia.
  5. Yoke Darmawan, seorang profesional di bidang konsultasi managemen dan proyek pembangunan sumber daya manusia dengan pengalaman lebih dari satu dekade dalam bidang pembinaan dan program pelatihan presentasi kepemimpinan dan tim manajemen di beberapa negara Asia Tenggara. Kini ia dosen di Universitas Stenden untuk siswa overseas Eropa.
  6. Hartono Aris Munandar, seorang penekun budaya Jawa. Ia sering terlibat dalam program kegiatan kebudayaan di Yogyakarta dan sekitarnya.