THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

194 posts categorized "South East Asia"

11 February 2019

Javanese poetics and canto indicators: Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24)

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Today’s guest blog, highlighting one of the most important Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta which has just been digitised, is by Dr Dick van der Meij from Hamburg University's DREAMSEA project which digitises endangered manuscripts in Southeast Asia.

Javanese texts are generally written in a non-rhyming poetic form called tembang macapat. Within each metre, verses consist of stanzas with a fixed number of lines, a fixed number of syllables per line, and a fixed vowel in the last syllable of each line. There are about 30 different metres, some of which are short and have only four lines per stanza, while others are substantially longer and have as many as ten lines per stanza. Each metre has its own name, with some used more often than others, while some are rarely encountered. [For further information on tembang macapat see Arps 1992 and Van der Meij 2017, Chapter 4 and Appendix 3.]

Most Javanese texts consist of more than one canto in any number of different metres. Canto changes are usually indicated by small intricate indicators called pepadan, which are often very beautifully illuminated in colours and gold, and thus stand out on the page, as in the illustration below from Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24).

Mss_jav_24_f046v-47r
An illuminated canto indicator, pepadan, standing out on the left-hand page, in Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 46v-47r   noc

Other manuscripts do not have clear canto change indications, and the places where new cantos start are virtually invisible on the written page, and only become apparent when the canto change has been reached while reading or singing the text. Experienced singers are able to identify immediately the metre of the next canto from the use of certain key words in the final lines of the current canto, or in the first lines of the next. For instance, the name of the metre dhangdhanggula contains the word dhandhang which is a bird, and gula which means sugar. Dhandhanggula is thus indicated by words that also mean 'bird' or 'sugar', or by extension ‘sweet’, or contain the syllable dhang. A small bird or wings may even be depicted pictorially in the pepadan. However, readers should be aware that this is not a golden rule, and some scribes play tricks to confuse the singer.

Mss_jav_24_f046v-det
Detail of a pepadan with wings, and with the word manis, ‘sweet’, in the preceding line, both indicating dhandhanggula as the new metre.  British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 46v  noc

Mss_jav_27-f.50v
Jatikusuma, copied in Yogyakarta, 1766. A little bird is put in the pepadan to indicate that the metre that follows is dhandhanggula, while the words gula drawa before the pepadan mean ‘melted sugar’ and thus also point to the same metre. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 50v  noc

In Javanese poetic theory, each metre evokes a certain emotion, and are thus used for parts of text that suggest that particular state of mind. Below, we will have a look at how some of these canto changes have been indicated in MSS Jav 24 in the British Library. The text is a story called Jaya Lengkara Wulang, and the book was written in 1803 at the palace of Yogyakarta in central Java.  The text has 434 pages and consists of no fewer than 92 cantos. It has beautifully ornamented opening pages and also other illuminations that enhance the beauty of the manuscript. Interestingly, in this manuscript, with one exception, these ornaments all coincide with canto changes in the text.

Mss_jav_24_ff002v-003r
Opening pages of Jaya Lengkara Wulang; at the start of the text on the left-hand page the metre is clearly stated to be Dhandhanggula. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 2v-3r  noc

The manuscript has 25 illuminated pages, of which four have been left unfinished. On two other pages, space was left empty to allow for illuminations to be added, but these were evidently never made for one reason or another. Thus although the text seems to be complete, the manuscript itself is unfinished. All punctuation marks in the text have red signs above them up to folio 168r (except for f. 57v) after which the addition of these marks is discontinued, and the pepadan are coloured only in yellow or not at all. Also, no gold leaf was applied after this page.

The scribe of the manuscript and the illuminator were probably not the same person but worked closely together. Remarkably, elaborate illumination at the top of a page always coincides with the start of a new canto. This means that the scribe knew exactly how many cantos a page could contain, and worked to ensure that the final canto always ended precisely at the end of the last line of the page. Folios 30v and 31r have full-page illuminations reminiscent of those at the start of the manuscript, but in this case the new canto starts at the end of the text within the illuminated frames, rather than at the beginning.

Mss_jav_24_ff030v-031r
The second set of full page illuminations. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 30v-31r  noc

The relation between the illuminations that start cantos is not easy to establish. Often the illuminated elements actually illustrate the start of a new episode in the text, but for outsiders and people not truly versed in Javanese texts and illuminative iconography this is often very hard to understand. In some cases the symbolism is quite clear, for instance, the lion and the crocodile in the illuminated panel shown below may suggest the names of the kings of Pringgabaya and Singasari, as baya points to a crocodile and singa a lion.

Mss_jav_24_f129r  Mss_jav_24_f129v
 On f. 129r, shown on the left, the text in metre durma ends at the end of the page. On the next page, f. 129v, the new metre kinanthi is the first word in the illuminated panel. Note the red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 34, f. 129r and f. 129v  noc

Because of the characters of the various metres we can sometimes decide what the relationship between the illuminated pepadan and the text is, although I believe that these characters are not fixed. For instance, the metre durma is used, among others, for scenes of war but in my view pangkur can also be used for this. Thus the word ‘dur’ indicative of durma in manuscripts is sometimes used for pangkur too. In this manuscript of Jaya Lengkara Wulang, the fiery character of both durma and pangkur is indicated by the same elaborate illustrations of war equipment like cannon and flags, as in folio 139v below where a canto in durma starts.

Mss_jav_24_f139r
Battle standards and guns indicating the metre durma. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 139r  noc

However, in the next illustration the canto starts with the metre pangkur but the illustration is very similar to the one above.

Mss_jav_24_f057v
The text starts in the metre pangkur, suggested by the war-like assemblage. Note the absence of red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 57v   noc

Some idea of the production process of the manuscript can perhaps be deduced from the fact that the text is finished but the illuminations are not. Occasionally the change in canto between one page and the next is not accompanied by any illumination, and the pepadan is divided in two, with one half on the first page and the other on the next. In the half of the pepadan at the bottom of folio 167v colour was added but the second part on the next folio not, and also not in pepadan after this page. Apparently, the scribe wrote the text and probably also made the black and white pepadan, while someone else applied the colours and the gold leaf to the pepadan and was responsible for the illuminated panels. One might even wonder if a third person was involved for the illuminations, but at present we have no way of knowing. Perhaps the artist who made the illuminations and the scribe worked closely together to decide what the illuminations should look like and where they should be put but this too is conjecture. We need to study many more illuminated and illustrated Javanese manuscripts in order to work out how they were actually produced.

Mss_jav_24_f167v-det    Mss_jav_24_f168r-det
The first half of the pepadan at the bottom of f. 167v marking the new canto is illuminated with gold and colours, while at the top of the next page, the only colour added to the second half of the pepadan is yellow (indicating elements to be gilded with gold leaf). British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 167v and f. 168r  noc

References
Arps, Ben (1992). Tembang in two traditions: performance and interpretation of Javanese literature. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.
Ricklefs, M.C., P. Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop (2014). Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain. A catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: École Française d’Extrême Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia.
Van der Meij, Dick (2017). Indonesian manuscripts from the islands of Java, Madura, Bali and Lombok. Leiden: Brill.

Dick van der Meij, Hamburg  ccownwork

01 February 2019

Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Pig 2019

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1. Pig Thai MS
Horoscope for the year of the pig, from a Thai manuscript dated 1885, containing drawings based on the Chinese Zodiac and its animals (BL Or.13650, f.6v )
 noc

In East Asian and South East Asian countries, as well as among overseas communities of Asian origin, traditional celebrations for the start of a New Year are approaching. On the 5th of February, we will leave the year of the Dog , and welcome the year of the Pig. Dog and Pig are part of a series of twelve zodiac animals associated with the Chinese lunisolar calendar. The Pig is the last animal of the twelve-year cycle, and in the Japanese and Tibetan traditions is replaced by the Boar.

2. Boar Japanese MS
Illustration of a boar from Seihō gahakuhitsu junishi-jō by Takeuchi Seihō (c. 1900)  (BL ORB.40/71)
 noc

The lunisolar calendar developed in China from the solar one, and was first introduced during the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 to 256 BC). Years, months and days are calculated taking into account both the phases of the moon and the position of the sun which determines the seasons. Lunisolar calendars require a “leap month” or an “intercalary month” every one or two years. People born during the Year of the Pig, are thought to be clever, calm, mature and well-mannered, but sometimes naïve and insecure.

3. Japanese toy pig
Illustration from the Japanese album of toys Omochabako (BL ORB 40/950)
 noc

Zhu Baijie (豬八戒, where the first character means “pig”) is probably the most famous pig in Chinese literature. He is one of the main characters of the novel Journey to the West (西遊記Xi you ji) by Wu Cheng’en, published in 1592. The novel narrates the pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang to India and Central Asia along the Silk Road to gather and take to China Buddhist texts. During his journey, he meets three creatures who become his disciples to atone for their past sins: Sun Wukong (the Monkey), Zhu Bajie (the Pig) and Sha Wujing (a water monster or “Monk Sha”).

4. Xiyou ji
Page 494 from the 18th century woodblock printed edition of the Xiyouji depicting four characters of the novel travelling: Tang Sanzang on horseback, Zhu Bajie and Sun Wukong with martial arts sticks, and Sha Wujing bringing up the rear (BL 15271.c.13, page 494)
 noc

The Chinese New Year is welcomed with fireworks, whose sound, together with the sound of drums and music, is meant to scare away the demon Nian (written 年, like the character for year). Delicious food is put on the table and chun lian (written春聯: good wishes for the new year in form of poems, usually on red paper) are pasted on the entrance doors.

5. chunlian writer
Calligrapher preparing chun lian (BL Or. 11539, folio 34)
 noc

Our Curator Han-lin Hsieh wrote a chun lian to wish all our readers a very Happy Chinese New Year!

6. Poem

 

 

Happy New Year from us to you,

May your triumphs be big,

In the year of the Pig,

And success come with all that you do.

 

 

 

 


Sara Chiesura, Han-lin Hsieh, Hamish Todd (East Asian Collections)
With thanks to Emma Harrison
 ccownwork

28 January 2019

Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection: the publication of Weatherbee’s 'Inventory'

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The Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project is currently digitising 76 manuscripts now held in the British Library which originate from the palace library of Yogyakarta. The largest portion, comprising 46 manuscripts, derive from the collections of Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), a Scottish army officer in the British East India Company who later became the first Surveyor General of India.  From 1811 to 1813 Mackenzie served in the British administration of Java under Thomas Stamford Raffles, and was Chief Engineer of the British army during the attack on Yogyakarta in June 1812. After the assault on the kraton (palace) of Yogyakarta, the manuscripts taken from the royal library were shared out between Raffles, John Crawfurd and Mackenzie. Following Mackenzie’s death in Calcutta in 1821, his Javanese manuscripts, together with his vast collections relating to the history, languages and cultures of south India, were sent to the India Office Library in London, and now form part of the British Library collections.

MSS.Jav.24  ff. 92v-93r
Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, copied in Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 92v-93r  noc

The name of Donald E. Weatherbee, from the University of South Carolina, will be familiar to scholars of Javanese from the many descriptions of Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library which are credited to ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ in the catalogue of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain published in 1977 by M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve. In the bibliography, this important source by Weatherbee is identified as ‘An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS’ (Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1977: 201). But ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ never forthcame, although Donald Weatherbee did shortly thereafter publish an article in the Cornell journal Indonesia, on ‘Raffles’ sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie Collections’ (Weatherbee 1978).

A photocopy of Weatherbee’s original 1972 typescript of the ‘Inventory’ is however held in the British Library as MSS Photo Eur 107.  Although many portions of Weatherbee's descriptions of the Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection are reproduced verbatim in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), the ‘Inventory’ often contains further information, notably Mackenzie’s own descriptions of the title and contents, annotated on the volumes themselves, as well as comments on styles of handwriting and bindings.  Thus, despite the partial duplication with information already published in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), I felt it would still be of value to make available the original text of the ‘Inventory’, and in November 2018 I contacted Professor Weatherbee to request his permission to reproduce it in the SEALG Newletter. Permission was kindly granted, and so the ‘Inventory’ has just been published in  the special issue of the SEALG Newletter for 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Asia Library Group, which is freely accessible online via the link. The only editorial changes made to the ‘Inventory’ are the addition to each manuscript description of the current British Library shelfmark in bold square brackets.

In the introduction of the ‘Inventory’, Weatherbee explains the formation and ordering of the Mackenzie Collection. According to Mackenzie’s own account, in 1813 his collection consisted of 171 ‘sections rather than volumes’ of manuscripts in the Javanese language, and on his return to Calcutta, many of the smaller works were bound together in single volumes. Following Mackenzie’s death in 1821, an inventory was compiled of his collections from Java, listing two groups of manuscripts: (A) 33 ‘Malay’ books, namely Javanese manuscripts written in pégon (Arabic) script, and (B) 67 ‘Javanese’ books, in Javanese script. Together with 94 manuscript volumes in Dutch and English containing many translations of the Javanese texts, and 19 printed Dutch works, these were all shipped to the East India Company Library in London.  Weatherbee also documents how the IOL numbers – source of many of the present-day British Library ‘MSS Jav’ shelfmarks – derive from the randomly-assigned numbering system made by Keyzer in 1853.

MSS.Jav.83  ff.1v-2r
A volume of Shaṭṭārīya tracts, Yogyakarta, from the 'A' group of 'Malay' books (i.e. Javanese works in Arabic script) in Mackenzie's collection. British Library, MSS Jav 83, ff. 1v-2r  noc

In terms of the collection profile, Weatherbee notes that the Mackenzie collection seems to have a higher proportion of older manuscripts than the Raffles or Crawfurd collections, and includes some literary texts – including the Islamic romances Jati Kusuma, dated 1766 (MSS Jav 27), Asmara Supi, 1769 (MSS Jav 26) and Ahmad-Muhammad, possibly 1785 (MSS Jav 35), all from the Yogyakarta kraton library – not represented in the Raffles and Crawfurd collections. The Mackenzie collection is especially strong in the wayang genre, ‘pakěms and lakons from the wayang purwa and wayang gěḍog traditions forming the contents of at least 48 “sections” scattered through 20 bound volumes’, all most probably dating from the last quarter of the 18th century.

MSS Jav 27  f.6v
Opening lines of Jati Kusuma, dated 1766. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 6v   noc

Manuscripts from the palace library of Yogyakarta probably account for half of Mackenzie's collection; in his own words, ‘others were purchased and collected on the tour through that island: some were presented by Dutch colonists and by regents, and others are transcripts by Javanese writers employed by Colonel Mackenzie to copy them from the originals in the hands of the regents and with their permission’ (Weatherbee 2018: 82). On a tour of Central and East Java he received manuscripts from the regents of Grěsik (MSS Jav 12) and Lasěm (MSS Jav 29), and in Madura from Panembahan Nata Kusuma of Suměněp.  In Semarang in July 1812, MSS Jav 17, containing two texts, Panji (Angrèni) and Angling Darma, was copied from an original belonging to the Adipati of Kudus, and it was in Semarang that Mackenzie met Kyahi Adipati Sura Adimanggala, who also presented him with manuscripts.

MSS.Jav.17  ff.154v-155r
Angling Darma, copied in Semarang, 1812, from an original manuscript belonging to the Adipati of Kudus. British Library, MSS Jav 17, ff. 154v-155r   noc

Two of the most beautiful manuscripts in Mackenzie’s collection were received from Mackenzie’s colleague on the land commission, F. J. Rothenbühler, in 1812. Serat Sela Rasa (MSS Jav 28), dated 1804, and Serat Panji Jaya Kusuma (MSS Jav 68), dated 1805, were both said to have originally belonged to a Madam Schaber[?] of Surabaya. Both are filled with exceptonally fine illustrations in the wayang style.

Mss_jav_28_f138v-139r
Serat Sela Rasa, 1804. British Library, MSS Jav 28, ff. 138v-139r   noc

Weatherbee notes three major types of binding in the collection. ‘The most common, that which can be called Mackenzie’s binding, is like that of B-10 [MSS Jav 36] in which a pencilled note on the flyleaf states: "Bound by Mr. Ferris January 1815"; thus in Calcutta.’ Paul Ferris (1768-1823) was a well-known printer who had been established in Calcutta from at least 1793. These ‘Ferris’ bindings have three-quarters brown leather bindings with blue-brown marbled paper boards; over the intervening years a certain number have been rebound (including MSS Jav 36) or refurbished, but many are still intact.

MSS Jav 36A f.2r
Binding note at the beginning of Babad Mataram. British Library, MSS Jav 36, vol. 1, f. 2r  noc

MSS Jav 41  front cover   MSS Jav 41 spine
Typical binding by Paul Ferris of Calcutta, ca. 1815, found on many Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection, including this collection of Primbon. British Library, MSS Jav 41, front cover  noc

The second type is a ‘tooled leather binding’, some examples of which ‘can be definitely established as coming from Jogjakarta’.  These are characteristically dark brown, with multiple stamped frames, stamped corner pieces and a central medallion.

Mss_jav_46_fblefr
Javanese brown leather binding from Yogyakarta, with six concentric stamped decorated frames, four corner pieces, and a central mediallion, on the back cover of Arjuna Sasrabahu, 1800. British Library, MSS Jav 46, front cover  noc

The third type of binding identified by Weatherbee is ‘that on the texts from the hand of Sura Adimanggala and probably is a Samarang binding.’ Weatherbee inspected the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library in 1971-1972; but when I rechecked the Semarang manuscripts last week, I found that all these volumes were rebound in 1988. While current ‘good practice’ involves preserving original bindings, even if it is necessary to store them separately, unfortunately no trace remains of the original Semarang bindings in the Mackenzie collection.

Mackenzie
Portrait of Colin Mackenzie, accompanied by three of his Indian assistants, painted by Thomas Hickey in 1816. British Library, Foster 13  noc

References:
Blake, David. M.  “Colin Mackenzie: collector extraordinary”. British Library Journal, 1991, pp.128-150.
M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve. Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'Raffles' sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie collections.'  Indonesia, 1987, no. 26, pp. 63-94.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS.' SEALG Newsletter, 2018, pp. 80-111.

Blog posts on Mackenzie:
Sushma Jansari and Malini Roy, 22 August 2017, Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinaire
Ursula Sims-Williams, 29 August 2017, A Hindu munshi’s ‘Chain of Yogis’: a Persian manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

 

23 January 2019

Researching the Asian and African Collections at the British Library

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The Asian and African department at the British Library began 2019 with one of the most important annual events in our calendar: a training day for students beginning their doctoral dissertations. Approximately fifty students from across the UK were introduced to the collections and the best ways to research them.

It was a ‘really fantastic’ experience, according to one participant, who explained that ‘the collections of the BL can be wonderful but overwhelming so it was incredibly helpful being introduced to what there is and how to use them’.

Show and tell 1
Items on display at the ‘Meet the Curators session’

So, what were the top tips from the day? Where should researchers begin when confronted with the enormous collections at the British Library? If you haven’t used our collections yet – or if you have, but aren’t too sure how it all works – then this blog will get you started.


Where to start

The first place to look is our subject hub pages. (You can also get there from the front page of our website by going to the ‘Catalogues and Collections’ menu, then selecting ‘Overview of the Collections’.)

These pages give you a quick overview of what’s in the BL’s collections, how you can access it, and what you can get elsewhere. It’s an essential place to start, so that you know the sort of things you can search for in our catalogues and what we’re likely to have (as well as what we don’t have).
Subject hub imageRelevant subject hubs for Asian and African Studies via https://www.bl.uk/subjects


Understanding our collections

The British Library’s collections are huge. They are:

  • from all over the world
  • in all major world languages, and many others
  • in all disciplines, and
  • historical and contemporary.

We hold material in a very wide range of formats. If, so far, you’ve only thought about using books and manuscripts or archives, it could be worth asking how other items (perhaps sound recordings, or maps) could bring new dimensions to your research.

Collection formats
Different collection formats in the British Library


Searching the collections

There are two main catalogues:

Explore the British Library, for (mainly) published material:

  • Books and serials
  • Newspapers
  • Maps
  • Audio-visual material
  • Doctoral theses
  • E-resources
  • Archived websites
  • Printed music

Explore Archives and Manuscripts, for (mainly) unpublished material:

  • Archives
  • Manuscripts
  • Visual collections

Both catalogues indicate hard-copy and digital material.

Additional catalogues are also available via our website, and these may give more detail on particular collections. For example, the Sound and Moving Image catalogue is recommended for audio-visual collections.

Show and tell 2
Hebrew and Christian Orient curator Ilana Tahan showing some BL collection items at the doctoral training day


Using the collections: in the Reading Rooms

For physical/hard-copy items, you’ll need to come into our Reading Rooms (having first obtained a Reader Pass). Our full collections are available for research at our main building in St Pancras, London. You can also see many items (but not everything) in our Reading Room at Boston Spa, Wetherby, Yorkshire.

For licensing reasons, some electronic material is only available on-site in our Reading Rooms. The most important thing to be aware of in this respect is our collection of subscription e-resources. These are electronic packages which the British Library buys and/or subscribes to. They include:

  • bibliographies and other reference tools
  • journals and e-books, and
  • collections of primary sources.

University libraries also offer these packages, but we have many things which individual libraries may not hold, so it’s always worth checking. The best way to find out what we have is to go to our electronic resources page.

Remote access to a few of these resources is available to Reader Pass holders, and may increase in future. Where this service is offered, it’s indicated on the electronic resources page.

E-resources Japan sample search
Sample search for electronic resources on Japan

The British Library is given one free copy of every book published or distributed in the UK. This is called legal deposit, and these days about half of this material come to us as e-books. These electronic publications are also only available in the Reading Rooms. These can be identified through Explore the British Library and read on the Reading Room computers.


Using the collections: online

We are digitising more and more of our collections, which means that some of the material you’ll find in our catalogues is available free online.

Manuscripts from our collections are available through the Digitised Manuscripts portal, which includes (but is not limited to) Ethiopic, Hebrew, Malay, Persian and Thai manuscripts. See the Asian and African Studies blog for more on these digitised manuscripts.

  • The Endangered Archives Programme offers large collections of archives and manuscripts from many African and Asian countries online. (The originals remain in the country of origin.)

Doctoral theses (dissertations) from most UK universities can be downloaded or requested via our EThOS service. In many cases, it’s free.

  • The Qatar Digital Library has digitised many India Office Records and Arabic manuscripts held by the British Library. These are of particular relevance to the history of the Middle East, but also relate to East Africa and the Horn, as well as other regions.

Many older books in our collections have been digitised and are available through Explore the British Library. When you find records for these items, you can click through to the full text, which is also available in Google Books.

E-book picture
Catalogue record and digitised full text of a work by the Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop on the Niger

For more information on what’s available online, see our Digital Collections page as well as the subject hub pages for your area.

And finally…talk to us!

We know that the BL is complicated and staff in Asian and African Collections are happy to point you in the right direction. You can reach us online, or by talking to the staff on the enquiry desk in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Enquiries are handled by a specialist reference team, and referred to curators if necessary.

And don’t forget our blog, a mine of information on our collections.

Show and tell 3
Discussions at the doctoral training day


Marion Wallace, Lead Curator, Africa
https://blogs.bl.uk/.a/6a00d8341c464853ef022ad37726d4200c-pi

21 November 2018

Beautiful Burmese Barges and Boats

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A recently digitised Burmese manuscript in the British Library (Or. 14005) contains images of different types of royal barges and boats, illuminated in red and gold. The barges are carved and decorated elaborately with figures of mythical creatures such as the garuda (bird), naga (serpent), and manuk siha (half-lion half-man), and some bear structures resembling palaces or pavilions. The paintings of the vessels are as finely excecuted as those of scenes found in other Burmese folding books but, unusually, this book has no captions at all. Nonetheless, each boat is so stylistically and symbolically distinctive that it can easily be identified. 

Or_14005_f001r
A Pyigyimon boat, which consists of two conjoined gilded boats, with a seven-tired roof (pyatthat). There are two separate dragon-headed hulls, while on the bow are figures of a garuda (mythical bird) and a naga (mythical dragon), with Sakka (a celestial king and the ruler of Tavatimsa heaven) standing between them. British Library, Or. 14005, f. 1  Noc

Or_14005_f007r
Shown above are the golden state barges Nawayupa and Nagadeva, for carrying ministers and royal officers. The Nawayupa golden barge (top) has the mane of a karaweik (mythical bird), the hump of bull, the tail of a nga gyin fish, two elephant tusks, the trunk of a makara (sea creature), two horns of a toe naya (mythological creature), two wings of parakeet, and a front and hind leg of a horse. The Nagadeva barge (bottom) is adorned with the figure of the snake king. British Library, Or. 14005, f. 7  Noc

Other state barges used for royal river journeys depicted in the manuscript include the Pyinsayupa golden barge, used by the chief queens, which has the mane of karaweik bird, the tusk and trunk of an elephant, the hump of bull, the tail of a nga gyin fish, two horns of a toe naya and two ears. The Eni barge is adorned with the figure of a deer, while the Hintha barge, which was used by princes, is adorned with the figure of a hamsa (mythical bird). The Udaung boat, also used by princes, was adorned with the figure of peacock.

Or_14005_f016r
Hlaw ka-daw (above) are the king’s dispatch boats. They are gilded all over, even including the paddles, and the stern rises high up in the air. These boats carried canons, drums and gongs. British Library, Or. 14005, f. 16 Noc

Or_14005_f036r
Shown above are the Nawaraja and Manuk siha boast. The Nawaraja boat (top) has figures of five Brahmas in the prow and four in the stern, in memory of the nine Brahmas who appeared on earth in the beginning of the world. The Manuk sika boat (bottom) is adorned with the figure of a mythical creature with a human face and hands, and the body and legs of a lion. British Library, Or. 14005, f. 36  Noc

The other kings’s boats are Thone lu pu saw and Thone lu tot pa. The Thone lu pu saw boat has figures of the king of Brahmas, the king of devas (deities), and the king of men affixed on the bow, and three umbrellas hoisted on the stern. Thone lu pu saw means three sentient beings (Thone lu), namely humans, devas, and Brahmas, who all pay homage to the Buddha. This boat was stationed in front of the royal barge when the king travelled in state. The Thone lu tot pa boat has the figure of a deva on the bow and figures of a human, a deva and a brahma on the stern.

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Pyi kone (top) is the king’s boat, with figures of the moon and the sun adorning the bow and stern. Lokabihman boat (bottom) is also for the king's use and has two pavilions, one at the bow and one at the stern. Or. 14005, f. 37 Noc

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The boat at the top is adorned with the figure of a Kinnera, a mythical half bird-half woman, and the Thuwa hle (bottom) is a boat with the figure of parrot. British Library, Or. 14005, f. 44 Noc

Among the variety of boats many were named from the places whence their models were taken, such as the Zimme, In-ma, Tha-byu, etc. Other notable boats were the Thingan-net and the Lin-zin boat, with a low bow and lofty stern. The Azalon or Azalompani boat had the figure of a goat with an aubergine in its mouth and its forefeet resting on the prow of the boat, and its two hind legs and tail at the stern.

Among the many festivals held throughout the year in Burma (Myanmar) is the Regatta festival which is held Burmese month of Tawthalin (late September) due to the favourable weather conditions. According to the Burmese chronicles, royal regatta festivals were held by eleven monarchs beginning with King Anaukphetlun (r.1605-28), and ending with King Thibaw (r.1878-1885), the last King of Konbaung dynasty (1752-1885). During the regatta, the king surrounded by his entourage would watch the event from his royal barge, which often headed the procession down the river. The king and his nobles and courtiers often raced each other in their boats, accompanied by the songs of the rowers. The very oars of the royal boats were gilded, and as the boats circled the spray flew from their blades, and the sun blazed upon their magnificence. High officials supervised preparations for boat races along the shore of rivers throughout the country, and these races were also regarded as good tests for improving the skills of the royal navy.

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Racing boats in the river during the Regatta festival. In the foreground, the King and Queen watch from a grandstand on the bank. Or. 6779, ff. 9-12 Noc

Royal barge processions were held for the Coronation and other religious ceremonies on the Irrawaddy River or Ayeyarwady River. It is the main river of Burma, flowing from north to south through the centre of the country, and one of the great rivers of Asia. Burmese chronicles recorded that King Alaung Sithu (r.1112-1167) was a great traveller as he spent much of his time on water journeys.

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This illustration depicts a royal water procession. The barge is tugged by golden Letpyi boats paddled by a full complement of oarsmen in the Irrawaddy River. People are gathered on the banks of the river to watch the royal barge and boats. British Library, Or. 14031, ff. 9-13  Noc

From 1975 to the present day, the Karaweik golden barge - based on the design of the Pyigyimon royal barge - has floated on the Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon. This barge is adorned with the figure of a karaweik  bird, and has a covered area with a pyatthat tiered roof.

Further reading:
Zayyathinkhaya, Minister of King Bodawpaya (1782-1819). Shwe bhon nidan. Yangon, Hkit lu, 1957

San San May, Curator for Burmese Ccownwork

14 November 2018

Pawukon, Javanese calendrical manuscripts

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Today’s guest blog on the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project is by Prof. Ann Kumar of the Australian National University

The highly complex Javanese calendar has evolved over many centuries. The year dating system used is the Indian Shaka era, which begins in 78 A.D., but in the 17th century the Islamic lunar months were substituted for the solar months of the Shaka era. This unorthodox and hard-to-operate hybrid was presumably due to the desire to observe the major events of the Muslim year, particularly the Hajj, at the same time as Muslims around the world.

However, apart from these external influences, there are distinctively Javanese systems of time-keeping, such as the use of cycles not tied to any year-date. The principal ones are a seven-year cycle, the eight-year windu cycle, and the one described in this article: the 30-week wuku cycle, which has been referenced in inscriptions dating from the 8th century (Damais 1955).

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Early wuku illustrations, found at the end of a manuscript volume containing Babad ing Sangkala, dated 1738. British Library, MSS Jav 36B, ff. 374v-375r Noc

A wuku week lasts for 7 days, and there are 30 named weeks in the wuku year of 210 days, as follows:

1. Sinta
2. Landep
3. Wukir
4. Kurantil Go
5. Tolu
6. Gumbreg
7. Wariga alit
8. Wariga gung
9. ]ulung Wangi
10. Sungsang
11. Galungan
12. Kuningan
13. Langkir
14. Manḍasiya
15. Julung Pujud
16. Pahang
17. Kuru welut
18. Mrakeh
19. Tambir
20. Menđangkungan
21. Maktal
22. Wuye
23. Manail
24. Prang bakat
25. Bala
26. Wugeo [or Wuku, Wugu]
27. Wayang
28. Kulawu
29. Dukut
30. Watu Gunung

Much like a horoscope, a specific wuku gives a picture of the character and circumstances of a person born in that wuku which will determine their fortunes. Each wuku is assigned a god and a tree. It may also be assigned a bird; an icon depicting water, ie. forecasting rain; a house in different positions, referring to economic matters; and a pennant (umbul-umbul), an insignia of rank. The 30 wuku are depicted in illustrated manuscripts known as pawukon. The three pawukon manuscripts from the British Library collection illustrated here have all been fully digitised.

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Wuku Wariga Alit, in a Pawukon from Yogyakarta, 1807. British Library, Add. 12338, ff. 90v-91r  Noc

Shown above is the seventh wuku, Wariga Alit, which has the following elements:
• The god is Yang Asmara, another name for Kama, the god of love (he holds an arrow à la Cupid). His name is written in Javanese characters on his left. This indicates that a child born in this wuku will be beautiful.
• The red-eyed bird is the solitary kapoḍang, or black-naped oriole, perching on a sulastri tree, well known for its fragrance.
• The structure in the left foreground is a canḍi, or funerary temple, indicating melancholy.
Interpreting these symbols, a child born in this wuku is beautiful, but fickle, and is solitary, shy, or melancholy. This wuku is also said to be bad for leaders of troops.

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The same wuku, Wariga Alit, depicted in Papakĕm Pawukon, with explanation in Javanese on the left hand page, and in Malay in roman script on the right hand page. The MS was acquired by Col. Colin Mackenzie from Kyai Suradimanggala, Bupati sĕpuh of Dĕmak, in ‘Bagor’ (Bogor) in [A.J.] 1742 [A.D. 1814-15].   British Library, Or 15932, ff. 17v-18r  Noc

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Unlike the stylized canḍi depicted in the Yogyakarta Pawukon of 1807, in Kyai Suradimanggala's Pawukon the canḍi recalls the profile of Borobudur, which in 1814 was only just being excavated. British Library, Or 15932, f. 17v (detail)  Noc

More elaborate versions of the wuku calendar are also known, where each wuku might have a particular danger inherent in it, such as being bitten by a snake or wounded with a weapon. Some wuku calendars also include information about the movements of a monster called Jabung Kala who watches over the wuku and rotates in a circle synchronically with the wuku weeks, changing position every seven days. His position is considered important for generals, who should orientate their battle lines so as not to get across him.

The American sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel describes the Javanese wuku calendar as the most remarkable and intricate week-calendar ever invented (1985: 68-9). Unrelated to the seasons and to solar and lunar phases, he points out it is a unique product of the rational human mind and of humans’ ability to live in accordance with entirely artificial rhythms which they create.

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On the left, the 9th wuku, Julung Wangi, and on the right, the 12th wuku, Kuningan, from a Pawukon from Yogyakarta, 1807. British Library, Add. 12338, f. 95r and f. 101r Noc

The wuku calendar is often said to be based on the Watu Gunung myth.In this, Watu Gunung is a powerful warrior who by defeating the incumbent king and his allies became ruler of Giling Wesi. He married two heavenly nymphs with whom he had thirteen sets of male twins, plus one single male birth. The parents and children gave their names to the thirty wuku, listed above. Watu Gunung was enterprising and undertook to build an iron city. A voice from heaven warned him to offer the proper prayers to Batara Guru, the supreme Hindu god, and to do asceticism, after which he built the iron city in less than seven years. He subsequently became more and more conceited and populated the city with 40 men resembling the gods and 40 maids like the Widadaris (heavenly nymphs), claiming that it was like the palace of Batara Guru, the chief god. This eventually led to war with the gods, in which Watu Gunung was killed. Thanks to his wives interceding with the gods he and all his family were admitted to heaven. However, it is difficult to see how the Watu Gunung myth, with its incredible story of thirteen sets of all-male twins plus a single son, could have been the founding myth on which the wuku calendar was subsequently based. It seems more likely that it was composed after the wuku calendar, to provide a mythic basis, or that a previous myth has been substantially modified. Thus the origin of the wuku remains unclear.

The thirty wuku are subdivided into five groups of six wuku each (wuku 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24, and 25-30); this system is called ringkel ing wuku. The ringkel ing wuku are classified as follows:
1. Humans (jalma: wuku 1, 7, 13, 19, 25)
2. Animals (sato: wuku 2, 8, 14, 20, 26)
3. Fish (iwak: wuku 3, 9, 15, 21, 27)
4. Birds (manuk, wuku 4, 10, 16, 22, 28)
5. Wuku (wuku 5, 11, 17, 23, 29)
6. Leaves (goḍong, wuku 6, 12, 18, 24, 30)

The wuku calendar is no longer used in Java, but its maximum complexity is fully preserved in Bali. In this, the 210 days of the wuku year are divided into weeks of differing lengths. They may be 10, 9, or 8 days long, or down to just one day long. Each week has a particular name and so does each day of each week, meaning that every day has a total of ten names! This is not just academic complexity, but has practical significance. For example, the three-day week determines the markets in Bali which shift from one village to another in a three-day cycle. The five-, six- and seven-day weeks are the most important, especially when they co-occur. Only once in 210 days does a day fall on all three cycles (5 x 6 x 7), and that day is Galungan, which is the main Balinese religious festival. Another important day, Kajeng-Keliwon, is when the third day of the three-day week, Kajeng, falls on the same day as the fifth day of the five-day week, Keliwon. This happens every 15 days, and many temple ceremonies are held on this day. Not surprisingly, to stay on top of all this a special calendar is needed, called a tika, of which there are some finely illustrated examples.

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Illustrations from a Balinese calendar on palm leaf, ca. 1981. British Library, Or 16911, f. 7r

References:

For a full listing of the 30 wuku and their associated characteristics, see:
Ann Kumar, Java and modern Europe: ambiguous encounters. Richmond: Curzon, 1996; chapter 3.

Louis-Charles Damais, 'Ếtudes d’Ếpigraphie Indonésiennes’, Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient XLVII, 1955, pp. 7-290.
Roelof Goris, ‘Holidays and holy days in Bali', Studies in life, thought and ritual: selected studies on Indonesia by Dutch scholars, vol.5, ed. W.F. Wertheim et al., The Hague and Bandung: W. van Hoeve, 1960, pp.113-29.
M.C. Ricklefs, Modern Javanese historical tradition: a study of an original Kartasura chronicle and related materials, London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1978.
Eviatar Zerubavel, The seven day cycle: the history and meaning of the week, New York: The Free Press, 1985.

Ann Kumar Ccownwork
Australian National University, Canberra

 

09 November 2018

Buddhism Illuminated through Southeast Asian Manuscript Art (2)

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Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia is a lavishly-illustrated book published  earlier this year by the British Library in collaboration with Washington University Press. The book aims to share many years of research on the British Library’s unique collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts on Buddhism, which illustrate not only the life and teachings of the historical Buddha, but also everyday Buddhist practice, life within the monastic order, festivals, cosmology, and ethical principles and values.

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Extracts from the Tipitaka in Pali language, written in Khmer script. Folding book from Central Thailand, second half of the eighteenth century. British Library, Or 14027, f. 4 

The first two chapters, which introduce the outstanding art of Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscripts as well as the Life of the Buddha, were discussed in our previous blog. The third chapter of the book focuses on the teachings of the Buddha, or Dhamma, also known as the “righteous way”. Gotama Buddha spent more than half of his life walking around northern India over 2500 years ago, teaching his ever growing group of followers. Shortly after the Buddha’s parinibbana and physical death, the first Buddhist council was held at Rajagaha. Five hundred of the most senior Buddhist monks are said to have convened to recite and verify all the sermons they had heard during the Buddha’s forty-five years of teaching. They began to systematically arrange and compile the Buddha’s teachings called Tipitaka, or the 'Three Baskets', which include the Sutta Pitaka (the basket of discourses), the Vinaya Pitaka (the basket of discipline and monastic rules), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (the basket of higher teachings of the Buddha). Five more councils were held over the centuries, with the most recent one taking place in Rangoon at Kaba Aye Pagoda from May 1954 to May 1956 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha’s parinibbana.

Blog2 02
This manuscript, written in Pali - the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism - in yellow Burmese square characters, is inscribed on 49 palm leaves coated with lacquer. It contains fragments of Atthakathas, or commentaries on the Tipitaka. The manuscript is bound up with a green velvet wrapper and a ribbon, or sazigyo. Burma, nineteenth century. British Library, Or 3672

Buddhist texts that were compiled in addition to the Tipitaka are commentaries by important Buddhist scholars like for example Buddhaghosa, a fifth-century scholar who played a defining role in the development of Theravada Buddhism. Commentaries as well as translations were crucial for the spread of Buddhism to mainland Southeast Asia, where it is widely practised up till today.

Chapter four of the book provides information about the Sangha, the Buddhist monastic community. Themes in this chapter include aspects of monastic ordination in Theravada Buddhism, how the Buddha founded the Sangha, and the rules of monastic discipline and interaction between the Sangha and the lay community. Soon after attaining enlightenment the Buddha founded the order of monks, or Bhikkhu-sangha, which was later extended to the order of nuns, or Bhikkhuni-sangha.

Blog2 03
This image shows the Buddha’s ordination of Yasa, who went to the deer park near Varanasi
to become a Bhikkhu. Burma, nineteenth century. British Library, Or 14553, f. 2

After listening to Buddha’s first sermon, his five closest followers joined the Buddha and became his disciples, forming the first Sangha. Yasa, the son of a wealthy man, left his home as he was dissatisfied with his life. After hearing the teachings of the Buddha, Yasa became the sixth disciple to achieve the first stage of perfection. Yasa’s 54 friends followed his example. Later on, three brothers of the Kassapa family asked to be ordained into the Sangha after the Buddha tamed a naga (serpent).

The book’s fifth chapter deals with Kamma, or the principle of cause and effect that tells us that every action produces an effect, and the effects of all our actions will return to us in the future. Our accumulated positive Kamma will come back to us in the form of blessings and the opportunity to lead a good future life or to experience a better rebirth, while negative Kamma will result in deterioration and lower forms of rebirth. Burmese and Thai artistic expressions of Kamma often include scenes of the Buddhist heavens and hells and the sixteen sacred lands of Buddhism.

Blog2 04
Paper folding book featuring extracts from the Tipitaka and Phra Malai, written in Khmer script, with illustrations of Mahabrahma bhum (the Brahma heaven) and Tavatimsa bhum (heaven of the Four Kings). Thailand, 1849. British Library, Or 14838, f. 1

The illustrations portray the god Brahma with his four-faced head and a red aura (left) and the god Indra, or Sakka, also with a red aura (right). Both are seated on a marble pedestal before a red background decorated with delicate flower ornaments. Brahma and Indra are considered to have converted to Buddhism, therefore they are depicted in a respectful pose facing the Pali text passages from the Tipitaka that lie between them.

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Illustration of Tiracchana loka, the world of animals. Burma, nineteenth century. British Library, Or 14004, f. 37

The idyllic scene above shows the legendary region of Himavanta. Located in the animal realm of Tiracchana loka, it is covered in forests with great lakes and mountain ranges. It is inhabited by wild animals such as tigers, monkeys, deer, bears, birds, rabbits, cockerels and buffaloes who live together peacefully. Groves of mangoes, bananas and bamboo are featured in this illustration; all play a critical role as the animals’ survival depends almost entirely on these plants.

The final chapter in the book provides details around “making merit” in every-day Buddhist life, which include activities that aim to support the Sangha, like the Kathina robe-offering ceremony, Uposatha or observance ceremony, and royal donations, but also rituals related to death and after-life, as well as communal festivals around the year which are open to everyone.

Blog2 06
Scenes from the Uposatha observance ceremony. Burma, nineteenth century. British Library, Or 16761, ff. 25–6

This painting depicts the Uposatha ceremony, held on new and full moon days of every month. Lay people bring food and other offerings to the Buddhist monastery and observe five or eight precepts on these days. Three Buddhist monks, shown seated in a pavilion with their large fans, administer eight precepts to the lay community. These precepts are: not to kill, steal, engage in sexual activity, lie, become intoxicated, eat after noon, adorn their bodies or sleep on luxurious beds. Uposatha days provide time for people to listen to the teachings of the Dhamma and the chanting of special Suttas, as well as to practise meditation.

Blog2 07
Scene from the Vessantara Jataka in a book containing drawings from the Ramayana and the Ten Birth Tales on European paper, with captions in Khmer script. Thailand or Cambodia, 1880. British Library, Or 14859, ff. 182–3

During the Bun Phawet festival in January the Vessantara Jataka is recited by monks or performed in puppet or shadow puppet theatres in the monasteries, mainly in Laos and northeast Thailand. In preparation for Bun Phawet lay people create long paper or cotton scrolls and banners decorated with paintings of scenes from the Vessantara Jataka. These scrolls, often tens of metres in length, are hung on the indoor walls of monasteries while recitations of the Vessantara Jataka are being performed. The illustration shown here depicts a scene from the Vessantara Jataka which typically features on scrolls made for the festival: the final grand scene in which Prince Vessantara and his wife Maddi are reunited with their children who had been taken away by the Brahmin Jujaka. This happy occasion is celebrated with music (right).

The book also contains a detailed bibliography, a glossary and three appendices providing a list of the 28 Buddhas of the past, explanations of symbols of the Buddha’s footprint, and an overview of the scriptures of the Tipitaka.

San San May and Jana Igunma, Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia, London: British Library, 2018. (ISBN 978 0 7123 5206 2)

The book is available from all major booksellers and online.

San San May, Curator for Burmese
Jana Igunma, Henry D. Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian

02 November 2018

The Javanese 'Chronicle of the Kingdoms': Babad Kraton

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Today’s guest blog for the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogykarta Digitisation Project is by Prof. Merle Ricklefs of the Australian National University

Despite the simple opening frames, devoid of colours and gold, this Javanese manuscript of Babad Kraton, ‘Chronicle of the Kingdoms’ (British Library, Add 12320), is one of the most important documents shedding light on the intellectual and cultural framework of the court of the Yogyakarta Sultanate in the later 18th century. The work has received considerable attention: I’ve discussed it particularly in my books Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi 1749-1792 (1974), War, culture and economy in Java 1677-1726 (1993) and The seen and unseen worlds in Java 1726-1749 (1998), and the text has been published in transcription by I. W. Pantja Sunjata, Ignatius Supriyanto and J.J. Ras (eds and translits), Babad Kraton: Sejarah keraton Jawa sejak Nabi Adam sampai runtuhnya Mataram, menurut naskah tulisan tangan The British Library, London, Add 12320, 2 vols (1992).

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Opening pages of Babad Kraton, Yogyakarta, 1777-8. British Library, Add 12320, ff. 1v.-2r.  Noc

Babad Kraton was written in the court of Yogyakarta in 1777-8. The writer was a son-in-law of Sultan Hamengkubuwana I (r. 1749-92) named Jayengrat. The work begins with Adam, as do many Javanese chronicles (babad) aspiring to a sort of universal history, and continues to historical times. The writer seems essentially to have copied out – perhaps altering to some degree as he did so – pre-existing manuscript copies of such babads to make his new compilation. There are, however, some oddities in this manuscript, the most important of which relates to the date when it was ended. To understand the significance of this, we have to turn to Javanese ideas about cycles of dynastic change.

Javanese sources make clear that there was thought to be a regular cycle of dynastic succession. At each ’00 year of a century, a court (kraton) would fall, and its successor would be established in the ’03 year of the new century. In Java’s poorly institutionalised and frequently unstable states, the widespread expectation that events would unfold in such a sequence made it more likely that they would. If everyone expected a kraton to fall, why bother to defend it when enemies appeared at its walls?

The most prominent example – and the one most relevant to our discussion of Babad Kraton – was the fall of the court of Plered, capital of the Javanese kingdom of Mataram, to a rebel army in the Javanese (AJ) year 1600 (CE 1677). After a period of division and conflict, the new court of Kartasura was founded in the month Ruwah of AJ 1603 (September CE 1680). In this example, the theory and the events were at one.

The next major kraton to fall was Kartasura, but it fell to rebels in June 1742, equivalent to Mulud AJ 1667, 33 years before it should have fallen in AJ 1700, according to the dynastic theory. The successor court of Surakarta was occupied in February 1746, equivalent to Sura AJ 1671. Surakarta was clearly the successor to Kartasura but, as far as the century cycle of kratons was concerned, as Hamlet famously lamented, the times were ‘out of joint’. Who, in 18th-century Java, was going ‘to set it right’?

Chart b
Detail from a dynastic tree-diagram of the rulers of Java compiled in 1814, starting from Adam, showing the leaves numbered 53-4 and mentioning the rulers: (53) Amangkurat I (Tegalwangi), whose court fell to rebels in AJ  1600/1677 CE (he was buried at Tegalwangi); (53A) Amangkurat II (Kartasura), who founded the court of Kartasura in AJ 1603/1680 CE; (53B) Amangkurat III (Selong), who was exiled to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in 1708; and (54) Pakubuwana I (r. 1704-19). British Library, Or 15932, f. 72r. Noc

When Jayengrat sat down to write out Babad Kraton, the Javanese courts were facing another turn of the dynastic cycle. The Sultanate of Yogyakarta might have felt the more threatened by the supposed supernatural forces that drove this cycle. Surakarta had clear precedents going back to previous kratons, but Yogyakarta was where the rebel prince Mangkubumi was declared king in 1749 and his permanent court was established after the end of warfare in 1755. What were its immediate predecessors? How could the supernatural forces surrounding the century cycle be managed when there were two rival courts in existence? Would one fall in AJ 1700 (March 1774-March 1775 CE)? Would a new court arise in AJ 1703 (February 1777-January 1778)?

Several measures were taken by the two courts in the years leading up to AJ 1700 to stabilise the politics of Central Java. Land agreements and legal codes removed potential sources of conflict. Then, at least in Yogyakarta, it seems that supernatural forces were mobilised through literature to protect the court in the challenging period AJ 1700-03.

In the month Muharram, the first month, of AJ 1700 the Yogyakarta Crown Prince (later Sultan Hamengkubuwana II) composed a vast (and beautifully illuminated) pseudo-history and prophecy entitled Surya Raja. It was about a court – which clearly represented Yogyakarta – and how it would triumph in unifying a divided kingdom. In the end, this court would also oversee the conversion to Islam of infidel intruders – clearly representing the Dutch – and their reconciliation with the ruler of pseudo-Yogyakarta. How – or indeed whether – Yogyakarta court dignitaries actually expected this to happen in the world of Realpolitik is unclear. But it is reasonable to accept that this book (which is now regarded as one of the sacred, supernaturally powerful regalia of the Sultanate) was a step to neutralise the threat posed by the arrival of the year AJ 1700.

AJ 1700 passed without a new war breaking out or a court falling. Nevertheless, there was still the question of how to understand AJ 1703 when it arrived. Would a new court be founded?

This is where Babad Kraton appears to have played a role. Jayengrat began his writing in Ruwah AJ 1703 (September CE 1777) – the centenary of the founding of the court of Kartasura. The century cycle is part of the history retold in the pages of Babad Kraton and surely must have been in Jayengrat’s mind (and that of the rest of the Yogyakarta kraton elite) when he began to write his chronicle at this time.

In February 1778, Jayengrat brought his chronicle to an end – for the first time for, as we shall see, there was a second ending. He first drew the chronicle to a close just after the founding of Kartasura in Ruwah AJ 1603 (September CE 1680), which is described on f. 395r. On f. 398r. (transcribed in Pantja Sunjata et al., vol. ii, p. 52), he wrote a concluding passage, saying that the writing came to an end on 19 Muharram AJ 1704 (17 February CE 1778) and particularly admonishing readers and listeners to ponder that date. Ff. 398v. and 399r. are without text (except for the last words of a blessing which the writer invoked), but they have borders marked which are identical to the beginning and the end of the MS. This was clearly where this babad was supposed to end. F. 399v. is blank.

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Decorative frames marking the originally planned ending of Jayengrat's Babad Kraton. British Library, Add 12320, ff. 398v.-399r. Noc

We may deduce that this babad – written on the centenary of the founding of Kartasura and ending with the account of Kartasura’s foundation in AJ 1603/CE 1680 – probably was intended to say that the century cycle was intact and, crucially, that a divided kingdom was part of the cycle. In AJ 1704/CE 1778, just as a century before, the kingdom was divided between two courts. In the earlier century, one monarch was in Kartasura while his brother occupied the previous court in Mataram (where Yogyakarta was located). This was a historically correct depiction.

But someone – Jayengrat, the Sultan, whoever – must have quickly realised that the precedent for division in AJ 1704/CE 1778 was inauspicious. That division in AJ 1603/CE 1680 had ended in the victory of Kartasura over the rebel brother holding out in Mataram. It was, that is to say, a precedent for Surakarta (as Kartasura’s successor) to be victorious over Yogyakarta (Mataram’s successor).

So Jayengrat took up his pen again. On f. 400r., he began writing the text exactly as it was written on f. 398r. (Pantja Sunjata et al., omit the repetition). But this time around, the date of completion was omitted; instead, the text carries on with more cantos. If ff. 398r. to 399v. had been removed from the MS, the text would have carried on seamlessly without the ending originally written there, and there would have been no sign that an earlier ending had been planned but then abandoned. Fortunately for us, whoever was responsible for the final polishing of the MS, including removing ff. 398r. to 399v., failed to do her or his job. So we are left with evidence supporting our deductions about the ideas of court circles.

Jayengrat wrote on for another three months. He made a mistake in this part of his babad. Was he getting tired of the whole enterprise and becoming careless? At the end of each canto in Javanese verse texts, there is commonly word-play signalling what metre would be used in the following canto. This was to assist people performing the text orally, to know which of the fixed poetic metres to use when beginning to sing the next canto. On f. 631r., Jayengrat ended Canto 150 with a signal that the next canto would be in Asmaradana metre. And so it is. But he must have put down the exemplar he was working with and when he picked it up again, or when he picked up another to copy from, he started with an Asmaradana canto from a much later period. He thereby managed to omit events over the years 1719-41 CE.

Add 12320 f.631r
Jayengrat's missing years: note the change of handwriting style after the canto marker. British Library, Add 12320, f. 631r. Noc

Probably unaware of this error, Jayengrat wrote until May 1778. He again brought his copying to an end, but this time the last significant event was the fall – not the foundation – of Kartasura in Rabingulakir AJ 1667/CE 1742 (we ignore a scribal error in this date). This is described on ff. 714v.-715r. (trancribed in Pantja Sunjata et al., vol. ii, p. 430).

Given the clear evidence that trouble was being taken to get dates and precedents right, we may reasonably conclude the following from this new ending. Courtiers who knew of this account could accept – we may say, they could pretend – that the century cycle was working. Kartasura had been the last kraton to fall, as it should have been, having been founded in AJ 1603/CE 1680. By omitting all the history since that date, Babad Kraton seems to have implied that Yogyakarta could regard itself as the new court for the new century. That is not the way history had worked out – and all those Javanese aristocrats knew this was so – but in the world of literature and literary magic, it could be made to seem so.

The looming threats of the ’00-’03 cycle had been surmounted. Literature provided a transition which history had stubbornly refused to do. Yogyakarta could be considered as a legitimate court in the new century, representing no violation to the chronological cycle of kratons.

When the British sacked the court of Yogyakarta in 1812 and carried off the Babad Kraton manuscript (along with many others), they brought us this fascinating object for our literary detective work.

Add_ms_12320_f715v-716r
Closing pages of Babad Kraton. British Library, Add 12320, ff. 715v.-716r. Noc

M. C. Ricklefs  Ccownwork
Melbourne, October 2018