The Classical Cultural History of Java

The Classical cultural history of Java can be divided in to three different periods (Miksic 2004: 234). First there is the Proto-historical Period, which began at the time of the introduction of the art of writing, approximately around 400 B.C.E. Then, the Early Classical Period starts from the seventh century, after which the Middle Classical Period begins from the tenth century until the early thirteenth. Next, there followed the Late Classical Period, which lasted until the fifteenth century (Miksic 2005: 234).

The Classical Cultural History of Java

During the Early Classical Period the heart of Javanese culture and political power was based in Central-Java (Hinzler 1992:61). Then, in the ninth century the political center gradually shifts from Central-Java to East-Java. There, in the year 929, a Hindu ruler by the name of Sindok established the new capital city near the area of Jombang (Kinney 2003:45).  The main important empires from the East-Javanese Period are Kadiri (1049-1222), Singasari (1222-1292) and Majapahit (1293-1519).

Map of Singasari

The Late Classical Period is characterized by the establishment of the Majapahit empire – the largest Kingdom of pre-modern Indonesia. The Majapahit empire was established shortly after the fall of its predecessor – the empire of Singasari – in 1292 (Miksic 2005:251). The fourteenth century are considered the heydays of the Majapahit empire (Kinney 2003:159). The reign of power of Majapahit stretched from New-Guinea in the East to Sumatra in the West. Though the administrative influence was restricted to East-Java and Bali, the Majapahit rulers did, however, managed to maintain their militairy influence on various other islands of the archipelago, such as on the Moluccans, parts of Kalimantan and Sunda, which all were subject to the political power of Majapahit (Miksic 2005:251; Kinney 2003:159). Then, eventually, in 1519, the reign of the Majapahit empire had come to an end.

Map of Majapahit


Hinzler, Hedi, 1992, ‘Tussen Javazee en Hemelberg’, in: Hedi Hinzler, Pieter ter Keurs & Marijke Klokke, Boeddha en Shiva op Java, pp. 27 – 90, Leiden: Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde.

Kinney, Ann & Klieven, Lydia, 2003, ‘Worshiping Siva and Buddha – The Temple Art of East-Java’. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Miksic, John, 2004, ‘The Classical Cultures of Indonesia’, in: Ian Glover and Peter Bellwood, Southeast Asia from Prehistory to History, pp.234 – 256, United States of America and Canada: Routledge Curzon.

Spread the knowledge