Accepted paper:

Personal adornment, cosmopolitan inspiration, and social hierarchy: a comparative study of Javanese temple iconography


Natalie Ong (National University of Singapore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes that analysing the style, distribution and usage of ornaments on different social groups as depicted on the narrative reliefs of Borobudur and Prambanan may aid to a certain extent in reconstructing ancient Central Javanese society, and inform us of how they viewed themselves.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will consider objects of personal adornment and what they communicate about the ancient Central Javanese communities of the 8th to 9th centuries C.E. The principal source of information derives from the extensive narrative reliefs of the Lalitavistara (Life of the Buddha) on Borobudur and of the Ramayana on candi Loro Jonggrang, and also draws on corresponding archaeological artefacts. The aim is to elucidate on certain aspects of social interactions as represented by the depictions of society on these reliefs. From the style, distribution and usage of personal adornment in the reliefs, one may state that ornaments play a role in characterising different groups within a society, and hence allow the viewer to understand the different requirements of social behaviour within those idealised worlds. The approach used is mainly art historical and this paper will discuss the feasibility of such an approach, some preliminary findings, as well as what else may be done to achieve a more integrated overview of Old Javanese society through the lens of personal adornment, and to situate Java within the broader context of trans-regional contact and exchange in pre-modern Southeast Asia.

panel P18
Ancient ornaments around the South China Sea: style, technology, provenance and circulation