January 27, 2013
Indonesia ended up being on my itinerary during my six month trip I had scheduled and during my time there I learned so much about the rich history of the country and its people. The Chinese of Indonesia became my primary focus in my research due to the lack of acknowledgement given to them by other Indonesians.
Indonesia name derives from “Indos Nesos”, meaning “Islands near India” and is the largest archipelago in the world. It is the fourth largest country in Asia with the fourth largest population in the world which was estimated in 2000 to be about 213 million and home to over 17,000 islands. Indonesia’s varied past has helped make it home to over 300 ethnic and tribal groups, making it one of the world’s most diverse populations. (HinuismToday:Indonesia.(2010)).
Indonesia is made up of many different races and various ethnicities. The different races in this country is made up of Javanese 45%, Sundanese 14%, Maduresee 7.5%, coastal Malays 7.5% and other of 26% . The Javanese are the largest ethnic group native to Indonesian island of Java at approximately 85 million as of 2009 and identify themselves as Muslim (Ethnicity and Race by Countries,(n.d.)). The Sundanese is the second largest ethnic group in Indonesia and fought for their right to have self-ruled territory, but eventually became fully integrated into Indonesia in the late 1950s, which is now called West Java. Most Sundanese are bilingual, speaking both Sundanese and the Indonesian national language. Most of them consider themselves Muslim, however, some are Catholic and Protestant (Ethnicity and Race by Countries,(n.d.)). Madurese is the third largest people group in Indonesia and their native language, Madura, also derives from their name. They originally inhabited the island of Mandura, located on the eastern part of Java and the Kangean Islands, most of them now live throughout other parts of Indonesia. Although most of the Mandurese consider themselves as Sunni Muslim of the Shafi sect of Islam, their religion is made up of many different belief systems (Ethnicity and Race by Countries, (n.d.)). The coastal Malays population is made up from several genetically related peoples who were largely Animist, Buddist, or Hindu origin. Their culture took on numerous cultural features of other ethnic groups like the Minang, Aceh, and some of the Javanese culture, but the difference among them is they are more overtly Islamic. Malay culture is of Austronesian stock with an entire load of Chinese, Arabic and Indian influences. Malay can also refer to the Malay Race. The Malay Race and the ethnic Malays are two different things. Ethnic Malays are focused on the ethnic group living in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. The Malay Race on the other hand, includes people from all of Southeast Asia, Oceania and the African island of Madagascar. All other Southeast Asian and Oceanic people are all "Malays" by race, not ethnicity (Ethnicity and Race by Countries, (n.d.)).
Although it seems that Indonesia is primarily a Muslim nation, it is marked by wide religious tolerance and even though most Indonesians are of Malay or Polynesian decent, through the country’s history has produced minority populations from India, China, Arabia, and Persia. The arrival of the Portuguese broke the Islamic hold on Indonesia and they were ultimately displaced by the Dutch and they named the area the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia.Geographica,(n.d.)). Powerful Buddhist and Hindu empires also fought each other for supremacy in Indonesia. The rich architectural and cultural legacy that remains from that time is the basis for the Indonesia’s national identity today. During 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...