Xudong Chen 3325439 Post 4

Indonesia History and Culture

As early as the seventh century, powerful Buddhist and Hindu empires challenged each other for supremacy in Indonesia: the Buddhist Srivijaya were centered in Sumatra, while the Hindu Mataram located their capital on Java. The rich architectural and cultural legacy that remains from that time forms the basis for Indonesia’s national identity. In the thirteenth century, the Hindu Majapahit of Java faced a strong challenge from Muslim forces, which spread south from the Malay peninsula. Slowly losing ground, the Hindus retreated to Bali, where they remain today. The rest of the islands became Muslim, and various sultanates were established.

The sixteenth century marked the arrival of the Portuguese, the first Europeans in Indonesia. Although the Portuguese broke the Islamic hold on Indonesia, they were eventually displaced in turn by the Dutch, who named the area the Dutch East Indies. Although a revolt led by Javanese Prince Diponegoro in 1825 briefly threatened Holland’s empire, Dutch rule continued until W.W.II and invasion by the Japanese. The Indonesian revolutionary nationalist movement, led by Sukarno, welcomed the Japanese as a potential force of liberation, and at the war’s end the movement embarked upon a bloody war of independence against the restored Dutch rule. Although the war dragged on for four long years, from 1945-1949, the independence movement was ultimately victorious.

Turmoil characterized the first decade of Indonesian independence, until in 1957 Sukarno unified power in his own person. An attempted coup against Sukarno in 1965 brought renewed turmoil; however, the army led by General Suharto restored order and initiated a purge of communists. Eventually Suharto eased Sukarno out of the presidency and assumed office himself. Suharto’s rule ushered in a period of stability and economic development.

Indonesia’s varied past has produced a remarkable array of vibrant cultures,making it one of the world’s most diverse and fascinating travel destinations. Today, Indonesia is the fifth most populous nation on Earth, with over 180 million citizens comprising over 300 ethnicities. Most Indonesians are of Malay or Polynesian descent, though the country’s history has produced minority populations from India, China, Arabia, and Persia, as well as from European colonial powers such as Portugal, Holland, Spain, and England.

Although primarily a Muslim nation, Indonesia is marked by wide religious tolerance. Hinduism thrives on Bali, and Christianity has a significant presence on Flores, Timor, and several other islands. Indonesians speak numerous languages and dialects, but the common language is Bahasa Indonesia. English and Dutch are also widely spoken.


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