The Stone Masons of Java - An Ancient Indonesian Craft


by Ten - Date: 2007-04-30 - Word Count: 480 Share This!

A truly wonderful monument of historic importance is located in Central Java / Indonesia: the ancient Buddhist stone temple of Borobudur, which is the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in the world. Borobudur was built to resemble a microcosm of the universe and its purpose was to provide a visual image of the teachings of the Buddha. The period 600 AD to 800 AD was the golden age of temple construction throughout India, Ceylon (today Sri Lanka) and South East Asia. It was a time when Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished and men raised magnificent monuments to heaven in praise of their gods.

Approximately 2 million cubic feet of stones were taken from neighbouring rivers to build the monument. The stone was cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones. Reliefs were created after the building had been completed. Reliefs depicting the life of the Buddha cover the upper half of the main wall all around the first gallery of the temple, a total of 120 panels.

Replicas of such reliefs are handmade and hand carved in Yogjakarta, a city which is located in close proximity to Borobudur. Anybody visiting the local craft shops will be impressed about the professional skills of the masons. The variety of stone and clay & ceramic products they are able to produce with their bare hands is admirable. They are producing stone carving items handmade and hand carved of natural mountain stone (e.g. lava stone, limestone, sandstone) as well as clay & ceramic items, clay pot or ceramics vases, sculptures, gardening & landscaping items, pillars, lamps, statues, elephants, vases, Buddhas, lava stone, sand stone, limestone items, fountains & wells and much more.

The stonemasons of Java use a wide variety of tools to handle and shape limestone, sandstone and lavastone blocks into finished items. The basic tools for shaping the stone are hammers, chisels, and a metal straight edge. With these they make a flat surface on the stone - the basis of all stonemasonry. Under certain circumstances the hammer is even be used to make shims and chinks while holding a small stone in one hand and striking it with the hammer. Many of their basic tools of Javanese masons have remained virtually the same throughout the centuries.

The shipping and packing of Yogjakarta's stone products is done in a safe and reliable manner: the fragile, sometimes quite large ceramic and stone products are wrapped, and then a wooden frame is constructed to hold and protect the object during shipment. On trucks, the items will be sent to north Java's port of Semarang / Indonesia, and from there to anywhere in the world.
The author is an expert when it comes to high quality stone items since his familiarity with local manufacturing techniques is based on year long experience. For more information visit http://teak-rustique.com/english.html (sections carved stone and clay & ceramics).

Related Tags: gardening, buddha, pot, java, indonesia, sculpture, craft, clay, stone, ceramics, ceramic, landscap, lava, limestone, sandstone, borobudur, yogjakarta

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