Texts and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java - article ; n°1 ; vol.80, pg 181-211


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Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient - Année 1993 - Volume 80 - Numéro 1 - Pages 181-211
Jan Wisseman Christie, « Textes et textiles à Java à l'époque médiévale ».
Cet article passe en revue les différentes références aux textiles dans les inscriptions et dans la littérature javanaises des IXe-XVe siècles. Dans les chartes les plus anciennes, il en est fait mention dans les listes de dons et de leurs récipiendaires. Par la suite, après le XIe siècle, c'est dans les textes traitant de la réglementation de la production textile et de son commerce que l'auteur trouve l'essentiel de ses données. Elle montre alors que les changements survenus dans la technologie ou l'économie de la producton textile, mais aussi dans les critères esthétiques liés au statut des récipiendaires, sont le reflet de transformations profondes survenues dans la société javanaise après le boom économique asiatique du Xe-XIe siècle.
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Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Jan Wisseman Christie
Texts and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java
In: Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient. Tome 80, 1993. pp. 181-211.
Jan Wisseman Christie, « Textes et textiles à Java à l'époque "médiévale" ».
Cet article passe en revue les différentes références aux textiles dans les inscriptions et dans la littérature javanaises des IXe-
XVe siècles. Dans les chartes les plus anciennes, il en est fait mention dans les listes de dons et de leurs récipiendaires. Par la
suite, après le XIe siècle, c'est dans les textes traitant de la réglementation de la production textile et de son commerce que
l'auteur trouve l'essentiel de ses données. Elle montre alors que les changements survenus dans la technologie ou l'économie de
la producton textile, mais aussi dans les critères esthétiques liés au statut des récipiendaires, sont le reflet de transformations
profondes survenues dans la société javanaise après le boom économique asiatique du Xe-XIe siècle.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Wisseman Christie Jan. Texts and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java. In: Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient. Tome 80, 1993.
pp. 181-211.
doi : 10.3406/befeo.1993.2194
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/befeo_0336-1519_1993_num_80_1_2194and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java Texts
Although the first rudimentary states on the island of Java may have formed
towards the end of the first millennium ВС, during a period of regional trade boom,
Javanese states left few enduring records until late in the first millennium AD, by which
time the Javanese had been interacting both commercially and culturally with the Indian
subcontinent for nearly a thousand years.1 Trade with neighbouring parts of Southeast
Asia and even parts of southern China began even earlier,2 and Java appears to have
had, at least at times, considerable impact upon some of its neighbours. It is against this
background of an extended history of active trade networks, in which textiles played a
major role as valued commodities, that the data relating to textiles in early Javanese
inscriptions must be examined.
Early in the ninth century AD Javanese courts began to record certain classes of
document relating to tax grants on permanent materials, either on stone or on copper
plates. These so called slma charters form the bulk of surviving records dating to the
seven centuries between the beginning of the ninth century and the end of the fifteenth.
These documents record the transfer of tax and labour rights by a ruler or highly placed
taxing authority to a specified beneficiary. In most cases the beneficiary was a religious
foundation enjoying royal or aristocratic patronage, often connected with the veneration
of royal ancestral figures whose prestige seems to have underpinned political power.
These charters must have formed only a small portion of the written output of early
Javanese states, most of which has not survived, with the exception of a few poorly
dated religious and legal texts and a number of lengthy works of poetry, all largely
modelled upon Indian originals.3 As sources of information concerning the economic
and social history of Java the sïma charters are valuable, and they have the advantage
over the metric kakawin literature of being fixed in time and focused inward, upon the
shared concerns of all strata within the Javanese societies of their day. The courtly
1. Evidence for contact between the coasts of western Indonesia and Malaysia and the Indian
subcontinent in the last few centuries B.C. and early centuries A.D. is found in archaeological contexts
mainly in the form of imported Indian glass and stone beads and Rouletted Ware pottery of the type
found at Arikamedu. See Glover 1979; Bellwood 1985; Walker and Santoso 1980; Ardika and
Bellwood 1991, and Basa 1991, among others.
2. See Bernet Kempers (1988) on the distribution in Indonesia of the bronze Dong-son drums
exported from northern Vietnam during the last centuries B.C. Also, all of the tin and most of the
copper used in Metal Age tools in Java must have been imported from elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
3. The main exception to this rule, the lengthy metric work, the Nâgarakrtâgama, an ecclectic
compendium of information concerning the royal family and state of Majapahit, its history, court,
conquests, religious establishment, and so forth, was written in A.D. 1365. No comparable description
exists for earlier states on Java. 182 Jan Wisseman Christie
kakawin poetry, although focused outward, upon an imagined world at least partially
foreign, should not, however, be ignored. Details of description in court poetry appear
to have expressed aesthetic ideals, and these became increasingly prominent as the
rather artificial kakawin poetry gave way by the fifteenth century to the more purely
indigenous kidung literature. While this paper focuses upon data relating to textiles
which can be extracted from the sïma charters, comparisons with the metric literature
remain important.
Several hundred sïma charters have survived, and although they range in date from
the early ninth century to the late fifteenth, the vast majority were issued between the
mid ninth century and the mid fourteenth. Though the intent of the documents and the
ceremonies associated with the establishment of a sïma appear to have remained essent
ially the same over this period, and the core of these texts reflects that continuity, the
focus of the secondary contents tended to change as emphasis shifted, reflecting
changing circumstances and preoccupations within a series of related but by no means
identical or static polities. Ceremonies associated with the establishment of a sïma grant
settlement followed patterns which must then have been old and which are still echoed
in many parts of the archipelago: a sacrifice at the stone of the village ancestor shrine
was followed by a sělamatan-Mke feast with the performance of some form of wayang
drama and the presentation of gifts to those affected by the transfer of rights and to
witnesses attending the ceremony. In the ninth and early tenth centuries the secondary
contents of the charters were dominated by lists of the gifts presented at the ceremonies,
and since pieces of cloth of various sorts were prominent amongst these gifts, the lists
of this period provide a rich source of information concerning the range of textiles
available in late first millennium Java.
During the tenth and early eleventh centuries emphasis in the charters shifted away
from these gifts and their recipients towards the regulation of trade and economic activi
ty. Through this period the gift lists began to shrink into brief, less informative sum
maries as the available space was increasingly absorbed by lengthy and detailed lists of
taxable commercial activities allowed to occur free of state tax within the communities
affected by sïma transfers. These new lists provide a different perspective on textiles,
less related to the social value placed upon them and more concerned with their product
ion and trade, and with the range of people involved.
By the middle of the eleventh century the focus of the secondary text had shifted
once more, and increasingly elaborate lists of regulations governing insignia of rank
and the paraphernalia through which individuals and communities displayed social and
ritual status within the state hierarchy began to displace the commercial tax lists. This
new preoccupation with sumptuary regulations involved an interest in, and restrictions
on the use of, certain types of textiles, thus providing a third perspective on the role of
textiles in the evolving early Javanese societies.
Textiles as gifts
Within the body of surviving sïma documents, the earliest, most common, and most
persistent reference to textiles is found in lists of gifts presented at ceremonies con
nected with the establishment of a sïma, or permanent tax grant, involving either a part
or the whole of the tax and labour-levy base of a specified community. Although such
lists occur sporadically from the early ninth until the late fourteenth century, they
reached their peak, not only in frequency of occurrence but also in the sheer quantity of
goods involved and the detail in which they were recorded, during the century between and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java 183 Texts
880' s over AD 840 and 940. At some sïma ceremonies during the later 870' s and early
200 pieces of cloth were presented to huge bodies of residents and guests, in addition to
large quantities of gold and silver currency and iron bars and tools (Machi Suhadi and
Soekarto 1986: 62-102). It has been calculated that over a six-year period during these
decades, two successive holders of the title of Rakryan i Sirikan, who were members of
the royal family in Central Java, gave away almost 1.75 kg of gold, 0.25 kg of silver,
and over 800 pieces of cloth, in addition to large numbers of iron tools, bundles of iron
bars, a range of items presented to local shrines, and the ingredients of a series of
sělamatan-like feasts for many hundreds of people (Jones 1984: 32). One of the charters
produced during this period, that of Jurangan, is reproduced in Appendix 1.
Amongst the hundreds of pieces of cloth presented to individuals, most were appar
ently of moderate value; some presented to members of the royal family and high offi
cials were clearly very valuable indeed. It is not possible, however, to construct a sati
sfactory table of relative values for the approximately 70 types of cloth listed. Not only
did the textiles described in the lists change over time, but the structure of the lists of
gifts was complex, reflecting the range of recipients and the roles they played. These fell into several categories: they took the form of recompense - often substantial -
for those ceding tax and labour benefits in perpetuity, payment to individuals perform
ing the rituals and providing the dramatic accompaniment, marks of recognition of the
acquiescence and cooperation of the members of the affected community, and an indi
cation of the acceptance by invited witnesses from surrounding communities of their
future obligations in defending the newly-acquired rights of the 5řma-holders. These
were not potlatch-like sessions of feasting and gift-giving designed solely to enhance
the status of the donor, although this may have been a secondary effect of the cere
monies, a fact which may explain some of the differences in scale of gift disbursements
connected with sïma grants of similar size. The division of the recipients of these gifts
into internally-stratified categories based upon their role, and upon the manner and
degree to which they were affected by the tax transfers is evident from the way in which
the lists were organized. Since the relative value placed upon the roles played by the
various groupings is not made explicit, and since most gifts comprised a combination of
textiles and money or iron implements, no clear-cut scale of value can be attached to the
listed cloths.
A number of interesting points do, however, arise from these lists. Textiles pre
sented to individuals at sïma ceremonies reflected not only the role and status of the
recipients, but also their sex. Male recipients normally received wdihan, cloth for a
man's wrapped garment. These cloths were measured in yu (an abbreviation of the Sans
krit term yuga or yugala, meaning 'pair, set') or in Mai (a Javanese term meaning
'piece, sheet'), which appears to have been half a yugala. Use of an imported term for
one of the standard measures of a male garment is interesting: it may reflect the impact
of Indian fashion or Indian trade cloth in measured pieces upon local male dress styles.
Adult men depicted in reliefs on Central Javanese temples dating to the late eighth or
ninth century are normally shown wearing either a knee-length wrapped lower garment
or one of thigh length, the end of which is drawn up between the legs. The у и and Mai
measures may thus relate to the width of the cloth, 1 yu possibly being constructed of
two Mai sewn together along their length. Women received kain {ken), which were
always measured in blah (wlah), a Javanese term meaning 'piece', which was also used
occasionally in connection with the measurement of sawah, or irrigated rice fields.4
4. It is interesting to note that in the Old Khmer language inscriptions of Cambodia, terms used for
the measurement of cloth included yo/yau and vlah, which suggests borrowing of Javanese terminology.
If (and this remains speculative) these terms did enter the Khmer vocabulary via Old Javanese, it may
indicate that Javanese or related coastal Sundanese or Malay speakers carried much of the trade cloth 184 Jan Wisseman Christie
In a very few cases, involving four or five wdihan and one kain, the monetary value
of the cloth is given (See Appendix 2). The gift list of the Jurungan charter (See
Appendix 1) includes two of these, a wdihan valued at 8 masa (19 gr) of gold and a
kain valued at 4 màsa (9.5 gr) of gold, both presented along with other substantial gifts
to members of the aristocratic family giving up valuable tax rights. Other wdihan, also
given to persons of high status who were relinquishing tax rights, were valued at 5, 4
and perhaps 2 màsa in gold. The Jurungan charter lists the value of a buffalo as 10 masa
(24 gr) of gold, which does provide some basis for comparison, at least for textiles at
the higher end of the scale of monetary value.
Over fifty types of wdihan and about fifteen kain are listed in Javanese charters,
most in documents issued before AD 940. A provisional listing of these is provided in
Appendix 2, arranged in chronological order. Of the cloths listed by name, those called
rangga (also ruga and râgî) and angsit are by far the most common. Textiles of these
types were presented to members of all status groups, although most frequently to those
below the highest ranks. The terms appear to have referred to the dominant colour of
'red' and angsit 'blue'. Both of these terms were used the cloths, rangga meaning
solely for colour on textiles and they appear to have been part of a well-developed
technical vocabulary relating to the colouring and decorating of cloth. Both of these
terms appear to have been derived from Sanskrit terms for the same colour: rangga, and
the variant forms rága and râgï, derive from the Sanskrit term ruga, 'red', and angsit
from the Sanskrit asita, 'dark-coloured, blue'. Neither of these terms appears to have
survived in the mainstream Javanese textile vocabulary.
Most of the other types of cloth listed in Appendix 2 were presented to persons of
high status and with a large stake in the proceedings. The majority of these terms are
rather obscure or unspecific, although it is clear that several relate to specific patterns or
classes of pattern. At least two of the patterns, the siwakidang and the syani himihimi,
seem to have involved human or animal forms, but they appear to have been outnum
bered by cloths with floral or vegetal patterns, or with geometric patterns of one sort or
another. A few of the terms relate to the origin of the cloth: 'white cloth made in India',
'made in the north', 'made in the east', and 'made in the interior'. Some describe the
quality of the cloth: 'choice', 'distinguished', 'royal gift', 'princely'. A couple of terms
suggest the function of the piece of cloth; singhěl (loose wrapping for ritual occasions),
salimut (possibly referring to a shoulder blanket?). Others describe colours: white, pos
sibly a rose-colour, possibly 'milky', and one with yellow as part of the colouring. The
overall impression derived from the list is that cloths presented as gifts during the ninth
and early tenth centuries, particularly in Central Java, were overwhelmingly of red or
blue colour, more special cloths being of a wider range of colours and falling into a
number of design classes for which there was a specialized technical vocabulary.
Although none of the descriptions of gift cloths indicates whether they were com
posed of cotton or silk, most were almost certainly cotton. Some, described as particu
larly fine, may well have been of silk or silk and cotton mix. While only one piece of
white cloth is specifically described as having come from India, some patterns appear
ing commonly on tenth and eleventh century statuary, particularly the cloths with
flowers or circles of dots scattered across a plain ground, resemble patterns occasionally
found on Indian statuary of the time. Here the kakawin poetry provides only limited
help, since descriptions of clothing in the earlier works are less detailed than in later
literature. It does seem, on the whole, however, that the heroes and heroines of this
period were partial to silk in white and a range of reds. None of the terminology of the
into the Mekong ports, and that direct trade occurred less regularly between India and Cambodia than
between India and the maritime states. and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java 185 Texts
gift lists appears in the literary works of this period. Only much later, after the emer
gence of kidung literature, did the terminologies begin to merge.
After the tenth century there was a marked decline in the use of textiles and iron
goods as gifts, and a concomitant growth in emphasis upon the presentation of graded
quantities of money. This trend may reflect several developments within the Javanese
economy and society. By this time there appears to have been far more cash available, a
mixture of locally-minted gold and base-metal silver coins and imported Chinese cop
per cash. East Java, where the centre of the Javanese state settled early in the tenth cen
tury, was also far more open to foreign trade, and the domestic commercial sector,
including such village-based industries as textile production, experienced a boom in the
tenth and eleventh centuries as part of the knock-on effect of the more general Asian
trade boom, the main engines of which were the Chinese and the Colas of South India.
Both these states were major textile exporters, and the floods of cloth carried into island
Southeast Asia may have seriously destabilized the local systems of valuation of
Weaving and dyeing in early Javanese communities
The reorganisation of the contents of sïma documents very early in the tenth cen
tury brought the non-agricultural activities of Javanese communities affected by tax
transfers into sudden prominence. This change appears to have occurred in response to
the increase in the importance of the commercial sector of the Javanese economy to
state finances as the rapidly expanding Chinese market for imports created a regional
trade boom. A large number of the charters issued between the early tenth and mid
eleventh centuries, particularly in the Brantas delta and adjacent regions of East Java,
include lengthy and detailed lists of commercial activities which were subject to state
tax. These lists were not totally standardized, and were apparently tailored to the size
and economic circumstances of the particular communities involved. The lists also
changed over time, new activities being added and a few older ones being dropped.
After the mid eleventh century these lists continued to appear, but more frequently in an
abbreviated form, as other concerns gained prominence. The shift does not appear to
reflect any decline in commerce after the eleventh century, and it is interesting that
these early commercial lists overlap to a great degree with lists of taxable commercial
activities still being carried out for the markets of the nineteenth century (Crawfurd
1820: III, 145-46; Christie 1982: 147ff).
Taxable commercial activities in early East Javanese communities were divided in
the charters into two major categories, semi-professional and professional, the latter
being further divided into two sub-groups. An example of this type of passage is found
in Appendix 3. References to textile production and trade occur in all three contexts.
The first of the broad categories, occasionally prefaced by the term mišra (a Sanskrit
term meaning 'various'), but otherwise lacking formal designation, appears to have
encompassed a number of part-time, semi-professional manufacturing and processing
industries which were operated in some farming households in most Javanese villages
of the time. These activities included certain types of potting, sugar-making, the manuf
acture of woven screens, baskets, mats, and a variety of other minor wood, reed and
bamboo items, as well as a number of activities related to the processing and use of
dyestuffs. In fact, dye processors and other textile support industries typically made up
between half and two-thirds of the mišra category. No limit was placed upon the numb
er of persons within a sïma community who could engage in these semi-professional 186 Jan Wisseman Christie
activities, but from the mid tenth century onwards taxes on this sector of the commun
ity's economy were divided three ways rather than being transferred to the sïma holder
in toto, an indication, perhaps, of the increasing scale of taxable income involved.
Members of the mišra category in early tenth century charters dealt with a wide
variety of dyestuffs, which are discussed at some length in Appendix 4. Of these, the
most important were indigo and wungkudu, the major sources of blue and red dyes re
spectively. These two were also mentioned regularly in the less detailed lists of Bali-
nese charters of the same period. These were not the only dyes processed, however. A
dark dye or dyeing process called cambul also appears in most lists, along with red dyes
from three other sources: cawring (sappan wood), laka wood, and ubar wood. It is
interesting that within this range of available red or reddish dyes there is no mention of
soga or kayu tinggi (Peltophorum pterocarpum, Backer), which has more recently pro
vided the major vegetable red/brown of the traditional Javanese batik industry. There is
also no mention of těgěrang (Cudrania javanensis) being used as a source of yellow
vegetable dye as has been the case more recently. The colours worn by Javanese vi
llagers of the early second millennium must have been closer to those of more recent
Nusa Tenggara Timur than to those of the later nineteenth and early twentieth century
in Java.
Others who were apparently connected in some way with the textile industry were
the producers of pahang-ash to be used as mordant and enhancer of red dyes, the pro
ducer of oil which was used to prepare cloth for wungkudu-dyemg, and the burner of
lime used both in betel chewing and in dyeing. There were also makers of spindles
(kisi), cotton bows (wusuwusu) and combs or reeds (suri) (For these last two see
Brandes 1913: lxxxiii.7a). These small adjuncts to spinning and weaving must have
been used in most households. The kakawin poem Bhomakàwya, of the twelfth or thi
rteenth century (Zoetmulder 1974: 320) places these items in their (in this case, upper-
class) household context:
[... the honoured grandmother was inseparable from her soaking vessel (panucyan) and
her loom (těnunan), and her cotton-carding place (pamuswan), where there hung her
cotton-bow (wusuwusu) and her swift (lawayan) ... (12.5; Zoetmulder, 1982: 2337).
Perhaps the most interesting member of the mišra semi-professional category was
the mangapus, a processor always classed with the dye-workers. This term may hold
the key to understanding the process by which most households in Java produced pat
terned or decorated cloth during this period. The word apus in Old Javanese meant 'a
tie, a band, bond, a thread' (Wojowasito 1979: 33; Juynboll 1902: 27; Zoetmulder 1982:
1 17), and the verbs derived from the root meant 'to bind with string, to tie or bind
together'. It is a synonym for the word ikat (ikèt), a term used infrequently in Javanese
charters, but which appears in parallel contexts in Balinese inscriptions of the same
period. Both ikat and apus had two major meanings: the mundane meaning 'to tie
together' and the metaphorical meaning 'to compose (a poem or song)'. The link
between the two uses of the term appears to have been the use of the word to refer to
the process of producing patterns in woven cloth by means of tie-dyeing the yarn before
weaving - a process still called ikat in some areas. In parts of Java cloth patterned in
this manner is now more often called kain těnun (woven cloth) to differentiate it from
kain batik (resist-dyed cloth).
In the context of the class of semi-professional processors listed in early Javanese
inscriptions, the term mangapus probably referred to a person who tie-dyed the warp
threads for someone else to weave, rather than to the who wove the cloth. The
term normally used, both in early Java and early Bali, for the act of weaving itself was
těnun, and in any event, in both and Bali the mangapus was listed with dye-
processors or dyers. If tie-dyeing of yarn was indeed a semi-professional activity, as and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java 187 Texts
seems to have been the case, and subject to tax, then one must assume that the product,
like others in the list, was sold, at least under certain circumstances. If there was a trade
in pre-patterned yarns then this may indicate that by the tenth century in Java (and in
Bali) the link between identified patterns and lineage groups was not the overriding
factor in choice of design, unlike the situation until recently in parts of Nusa Tenggara
The availability of pre-dyed and pre-patterned yarns almost certainly led to an
increase in the individual household's output of woven cloth, and probably enhanced
considerably the sophistication of the designs and worn by members of rural
households, at least for ceremonial occasions. Most early Javanese households must
have produced the majority of the cloth that they consumed, using the type of body-
tension loom with a continuous warp still commonly used in some parts of Indonesia
(Gittinger 1979: 230, loom A). Such a loom is illustrated in a household scene in a four
teenth century relief found on a stone pillar base from Trawulan in East Java (Bernet
Kempers 1976: plate 152). Cloth of this type that was presented to participants oîsïma
ceremonies is more likely to have been collected by the donor from client households
than to have been bought at market.
Membership of the misra category of semi-professionals changed somewhat over
time. A notable addition connected in some way with textiles occurred in the eleventh
century, when the amanantěn was first added to misra lists. At the same time (in fact in
the same charter, that of Cane, dated AD 1021; see Appendix 3) the term abalantěn
appears amongst the professional peddlars. Since the two terms seem later to have been
conflated, they will be discussed below in connection with the professional traders, the
category in which they appeared most frequently.
The second broad category of commercial activity subject to state tax in early Java
was more closely identified with the periodic market that circulated amongst settl
ements on a five-day schedule. Those who traded in the market as full-time professionals
or who made their living as professional artisans were classed as masamwyawahàra
(from the Sanskrit samvyavahâra, 'mutual dealing, trade, business'). This professional
group was divided for tax purposes into two sub-categories: one consisting of peddlars
who moved from market to market selling manufactured goods, raw materials and
foodstuffs provided or produced by others. Those dealing in some consumables were
tied together in a network of pikul (shoulder-pole) carrying peddlars and market-based
bakul (middleman) traders, the remnants of which can still be found in some rural areas
of Java. The other sub-group comprised a variety of persons who either provided a ser
vice or who produced the goods they sold (eg. herdsmen, smiths, weavers). Both of the
groups of professionals included in their numbers specialists connected in some manner
with the textile trade.
Heading the list of vendors in the peddlar category was the abasana, vendor of
clothing (basana, from the Sanskrit wasana), whose position at the head of the list was
maintained from the early tenth century to the late fourteenth - an indication of the
importance of this vendor. The abasana probably sold both cloth and made-up clothing,
and as early as the tenth century there appears to have been sufficient demand for such
items to support a specialist vendor in every village market whose taxes were subject to
transfer under sima provisions. Other goods were more often carried by general peddl
ars in the tenth century. These included cotton (jcapas, from the Sanskrit karpàsa - not
to be confused with kapok, which appears separately in the lists), cotton yarn or thread
(laweAabeh), wungkudu roots for dyeing, and in East Javanese markets after AD 915,
safflower dye (kasumbha/kasumu, from the Sanskrit kasumbha; see Appendix 4).
Safflower seems to have been an import from South Asia, appearing much later than the
cotton plant and Indigofera tinctoria (the Indian indigo which replaced the less effective
local indigo sources), both of which must have been transplanted in Java by the early 188 Jan Wisseman Christie
first millennium AD, if not before. Safflower is not mentioned before the tenth century,
but it rapidly became not only a standard feature of Javanese markets, but also a major
source of export income for both Java and Bali, being high on the list of goods imported
from the islands by the Chinese. Javanese response to this market opportunity was
paralleled, on a greater scale, by the transplantation from South India, and subsequent
mass export, of black pepper by the twelfth century.
Cotton (Gossypium, Linn.), though clearly older in Java than safflower, was also
known universally by names derived from Sanskrit.5 Like safflower it grew best in the
drier portions of East Java and Bali, and it was grown commercially. The twelfth cen
tury Sumanasántaka kakawin speaks of "cotton fields along the side of the road"
(Zoetmulder 1982: 797; 154.4). Such monoculture of anything but rice indicates that
this was not merely a village householder's home-grown supply, but rather a commerc
ial operation. Although the warehouse lists of Javanese exports of the eleventh and
twelfth centuries do not mention cotton, and though Java was probably a net importer of
raw cotton from Bali, the Chinese records of the Sung period list cotton cloth and cotton
piece goods amongst the exports of Java; these were, however, considered to be much
inferior to those of South India at the time.
The list of professional traders in Javanese markets, and of the range of goods in
which they dealt, tended to lengthen as time went on, particularly in the category of
specialist dealers in particular items. By the early eleventh century hanks of cotton yarn
(tukěl), which had previously been handled by general peddlars, began to be carried by
specialists (atukëî) (See the Cane market list in Appendix 3). This seems to indicate that
there was at the time an expanding for finer, professionally-spun cotton yarn. At
the same time the general peddlars had begun not only regularly to carry safflower, but
also occasionally to carry skeins of silk (bsar). This addition of silk thread to market
lists in the eleventh century, under an indigenous name, may confirm Sung Chinese
reports that the Javanese were at the time both raising and weaving their own silk, as
well as importing skeins of coloured silk from China (Wheatley 1959: 97-98; Hirth and
Rockhill 1966: 78). The earliest explicit Chinese references to cloth from Java which
was almost certainly silk, in fact, occur a century earlier, in the mid tenth century. In
AD 966 a Cham mission to the Chinese court carried several pieces of Javanese ge-man
silk of more than one type, several of them embroidered, and one from the Ma-li-an-
luan part of Java, which appears to have been known for its textiles (Wong, 1979: 8). In
AD 992 a Javanese mission carried coloured silks, some embroidered in gold, at least a
number of which appear to have been of local manufacture (ibid.: 17), and later the
Javanese were reported to be exporting thin silks and yellow silks (Wheatley 1959: 97-
98; Groeneveldt 1960: 16), as well as cloths that the Chinese classed as brocades and
damasks. These last may refer to embroidery-work and weft ikat, though there is no
clear mention in Javanese records of songket-style. weaving with metallic thread at this
time. Chinese texts of this period also mention the export from China to Java of
cinnabar, which was apparently used both as a cosmetic and as a pigment for dyeing
silk (Wheatley 1959: 91). It is interesting to note that the term for silk used in the
Javanese market lists was not the Sanskrit word sutra, used so frequently in the kakawin
poetry of the period, but rather the indigenous term, bsar, which was also applied to
spider's silk and other silky filaments. Although true cotton was apparently introduced
from South Asia at an early date (as an extension of the movement of the plant east-
5. See the study made by Johnson and Decker (1980) of the spread of the terms for cotton in Asia.
Spindle whorls, which may have been introduced into Southeast Asia along with cotton, first appear in
later prehistoric contexts in the region, when the fibre must have begun to displace the coarser
indigenous fibres that were twisted into yarn in a different manner. (I am indebted to Dr. Ian Glover of
the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, for this insight). and Textiles in 'Medieval' Java 189 Texts
wards from West Asia or the Middle East), sericulture was probably introduced from
elsewhere, possibly from China via mainland Southeast Asia.
The other category of professional trader operating in early Javanese markets
included those who made the items they sold. By the tenth century, if not before, this
group included at least one member connected with the textile industry. This was the
acadar - the cadar-cloth weaver. The cloth produced by these professional weavers
was apparently finer than the textiles produced in most households. The term cadar has
more recently been applied to a type of gauze, and in one early gift list it was coupled
with the term tapis, which meant 'thin, fine' and may have been connected with silk
textiles. Cadar cloth was considered fine enough to be presented to the ruler in the tenth
century (See Appendix 2), and the cadar weaver was probably the main customer for
the professionally-spun cotton thread, and later for the skeins of silk thread sold in
Javanese markets. Ibis weaver was a standard member of the professional artisan lists
of both large and small communities in Central and East Java, and the acadar appeared
regularly in parallel tax lists from Bali during the same period. Since up to four cadar
weavers were allowed to work free of state tax in any one sima community, there must
have been a relatively large number of these professionals operating at any one time,
and the textiles they produced must have been fairly widely available. The loom used
by the cadar weavers was called apacadaran, or cadar loom, differentiating it from the
type of loom used in most households (Gittinger 1979: 230, loom A). The pacadaran
must have had a discontinuous warp, to allow for the use of a comb or reed (surf)
needed to separate the fine cotton or silk warp threads. This type of loom is still used in
parts of Indonesia for the weaving of cloth requiring the use of techniques in which the
weft yarn is allowed to ride on the surface to act as the major pattern element (ibid.: 13,
231, loom b). This technique is now associated with the weaving of plaids, with weft
ikat in silk, and with gold and silk kain songket in Southern Sumatra and Bali, the two
areas most heavily influenced by Javanese material culture (ibid.: 230). Traditionally
this type of loom has been associated with coastal and port areas and with court centres
of high culture in most parts of Indonesia. On Java and Bali the cadar loom was in
fairly common use from the beginning of the tenth century onwards.6
In the eleventh century another artisan connected with textiles was added to the list
of professionals. This was the amalantèn or amanantěn (from the terms walantěn and
banantěn, which seem to have become conflated and appear inter-changeably in the
market lists). Only in the Cane charter of AD 1021 do these terms appear in separate
contexts - the amanantěn in the misra semi-professional list and the abalantěn in the
list of circulating professional peddlars. Later market lists always class this figure
amongst the professionals, often in the same class as the acadar. This lack of consis
tency in both choice of spelling and classification of this figure makes interpretation of
the term difficult. It is clear from the later privilege lists, however, that banantěn was a
type of cloth. It appears to have called for special processing that involved both washing
and pounding, as is made clear by a passage in the Sumanasantaka kakawin of the
twelfth century (29.2; Zoetmulder 1982: 2179):
As [they] headed north and east, nearing the pamalantěnan (balantěn site) close by the
potting site on the banks of the deep river,
People were awakening, lighting their lamps, aware that the time for using their
mallets was almost upon them.
6. The relationship, if any, between the Javanese and Balinese term cadar and the more recent
Indian term chaddar (from the Persian chadir), used for cotton sheeting, is unclear. If the term is old in
India, it may have been borrowed by the Javanese to describe a finer class of cotton cloth, comparable
to Indian export cloth in quality. There is no evidence, however, that Indian loom technology was
imported at this time.