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Chinese Religion in Malaysia

Temples and Communities

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Chee-Beng Tan

Based on long-term ethnographic study, this is the first comprehensive work on the Chinese popular religion in Malaysia. It analyses temples and communities in historical and contemporary perspective, the diversity of deities and Chinese speech groups, religious specialists and temple services, the communal significance of the Hungry Ghosts Festival, the relationship between religion and philanthropy as seen through the lens of such Chinese religious organization as shantang (benevolent halls) and Dejiao (Moral Uplifting Societies), as well as the development and transformation of Taoist Religion. Highly informative, this concise book contributes to an understanding of Chinese migration and settlement, political economy and religion, religion and identity politics as well the significance of religion to both individuals and communities.

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Edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and David D. Harnish

Between Harmony and Discrimination explores the varying expressions of religious practices and the intertwined, shifting interreligious relationships of the peoples of Bali and Lombok. As religion has become a progressively more important identity marker in the 21st century, the shared histories and practices of peoples of both similar and differing faiths are renegotiated, reconfirmed or reconfigured. This renegotiation, inspired by Hindu or Islamic reform movements that encourage greater global identifications, has created situations that are perceived locally to oscillate between harmony and discrimination depending on the relationships and the contexts in which they are acting. Religious belonging is increasingly important among the Hindus and Muslims of Bali and Lombok; minorities (Christians, Chinese) on both islands have also sought global partners.
Contributors include Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin, David D. Harnish,I Wayan Ardika, Ni Luh Sitjiati Beratha, Erni Budiwanti, I Nyoman Darma Putra, I Nyoman Dhana, Leo Howe, Mary Ida Bagus, Lene Pedersen, Martin Slama, Meike Rieger, Sophie Strauss, Kari Telle and Dustin Wiebe.

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Kari Telle

Abstract

In Indonesia – as in other parts of the world – communities aspire to build larger and larger monuments to religion; monuments which are not only houses of worship but markers of ethnicity. In Lombok, the Sasak Muslims and Balinese Hindus are eager to create new mosques and temples, but such building activities easily arouse mutual suspicion. This chapter analyses the attack on Pura Sangkareang, a Balinese temple with an interethnic history, and the rationales, from the perspectives of both Sasak and Balinese, for the temple’s destruction. Telle’s approach discusses the way in which physical spaces are spiritual landscapes connecting living communities with past religious ideation. Examining how shared sacred sites come under pressure as groups redefine their religious identity and practice, the chapter also argues that legal regulations concerning the construction of places of worship discriminate against minorities.  


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Ni Luh Sutjiati Beratha and I Wayan Ardika

Abstract

As historical sources document, people of Chinese descent and followers of Konghucu (Confucianism), as well as Hindu Balinese, have been living together peacefully in the same villages, though there exists a division of labour between them. Intermarriage has been a common practice and enduring relations of the couple with both the wife’s and husband’s sides are fostered. The authors of this chapter investigated three different villages to determine the extent to which people of Chinese descent participate in and are integrated into the village organisation. They conclude that the status of the Chinese within each village depends on the particular historical circumstances of that village, especially the relationship their families formerly had with royal houses. Furthermore, both the Chinese Balinese and the Hindu Balinese seem to have emphasised increasingly multiple identities over the past 15 years, resulting in mechanisms of exclusion as practiced by the dominant majority.


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Sophie Strauss

Abstract

The dispute over “sustainable” tourism projects on the banks of the neighbouring Buyan and Tamblingan lakes in the mountains of Buleleng (Northern Bali) has disunited the inhabitants in the villages concerned. In the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments, each party draws on a similar syncretistic mixture of local Balinese ideas about human-environment relations, Hindu scriptures and elements from modernist ecological science with global “green” jargon. However, the configuration of these elements and the interpretation of them serve, as this chapter shows, different goals for different parties. This chapter traces how the actors combine global ideas of sustainability and ecology with Hindu Balinese space concepts and concepts of agama and local adat for their own purposes. In doing so, they renegotiate the power relations of local levels with provincial, national and transnational levels and rearrange the various constellations of minority and majority relationships.


12 Ethnicity, Religion and the Economic Imperative

Some Case Studies from the Fringes of West Bali

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Mary Ida Bagus

Abstract

Ethno-religious competition has always featured in the social landscape of Jembrana, the western region of Bali. Cooperation and conflict, integration and separatism are common themes in Jembrana histories. This chapter will discuss Bali-Hinduism and Islam as the two dominant and often competing ethno-religious identity systems in Jembrana.


Examples from the fish processing and timber industry as well as kafe (prostitution) illustrate how economic factors influence local opinion around ethnic and religious differences. Jembrana hosts a diverse range of primary and secondary industries that are dominated by particular ethno-religious groups. The notorious kafe scene illustrates specific roles played by discrete ethno-religious groups, an ambiguous arena of social relations in the evolving moral order that generally pervades discourse on Indonesian citizenship and particularly Bali Hindu identity.


This chapter highlights the implications of economic necessity that contribute to ethnic and religious stereotypes in West Bali and how these characterizations inform local social systems.


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I Nyoman Darma Putra

Abstract

Near the tourist resort of Nusa Dua in Bali sits a cluster of houses of worship representing five out of the six religions (agama) officially recognised by the Indonesian state. The site, called Puja Mandala, The Domain of Worship, is home to a Buddhist temple, Hindu temple, Catholic Church, Protestant Church, and Islamic mosque. The plan to build this complex was initiated by the national government in the early 1990s, following the construction of international chain hotels in Nusa Dua. Puja Mandala was intended to provide visitors with worship facilities, acknowledge the equality of these official religions, and symbolically express tolerance and harmony between the members of different agama embodied in the national slogan, “unity in diversity.” This chapter investigates the mixed responses to Puja Mandala from the different religious communities in the 15 years of its existence and interprets its significance as an invented icon of religious tolerance.


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Leo Howe

Abstract

This chapter examines aspects of nationalism, citizenship, migration and belonging in relation to an informal chess club in Denpasar, Bali. The members include Hindu Balinese, but the majority are labour migrants from other islands who are both Muslims and Christians. The group, highly heterogeneous religiously, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically, is thus a microcosm of national Indonesian society.


Howe uses the game to explore how players employ chess to think imaginatively about Indonesian society as it currently exists and how they would like it to be. The meritocratic and egalitarian nature of chess allows players to criticise inequality, corruption and ethnic and religious conflict. The chapter concludes by introducing a distinction between “Balinese society” and the “society of Balinese,” and discusses the closed nature of the latter and its virtual impenetrability by migrants, however long they have lived on the island.


2 Balinese and Sasak Religious Trajectories in Lombok

Interactions, Tensions, and Performing Arts at the Lingsar Temple Festival

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David D. Harnish

Abstract

The temple and festival at Lingsar in Lombok are historic sites for connecting with the divine, constructing identity and renewing the relationships between Muslim Sasak and Hindu Balinese. The temple land contains the most abundant water springs in Lombok, strongly associated with fertility, divine power, the mountains, and rulership. Both Sasak and Balinese generate legends that privilege themselves over the other party and use the performing arts to express their ethnicity, identity and narrative of water-spring discovery. Islamic and Hindu reformist organisations have been altering performance styles and programmes in an attempt to shape the modern realisation and interpretation of this very old institution. This chapter analyses the changing agents, arts and developments at the festival over a 20-year period to explore shifting interreligious relationships and locate religious trajectories. With changes of cultural identity come changes in the performing arts, which generate identity narratives and the event’s cosmological statements.


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Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin

Abstract

After the fall of the New Order regime in 1998 with its legally fixed discrimination of the Chinese, the “ethnic Chinese,” or Tionghoa, have started to vigorously revitalise their culture and also to display it in public. In Bali, as elsewhere in Indonesia, the Chinese have had a long history as subandar or trade masters who managed maritime trade on behalf of Hindu-Balinese kings. Today, many Balinese temples still display shrines for the worship of these important ancestral office holders called Ratu Subandar. In the wake of the revival of their cultural life, the Chinese have started to perform elaborate rituals and ceremonies, such as the Chinese dragon dance, in front of Ratu Subandar shrines. This chapter traces the transformation of the ethnic Chinese in Bali, who have built up networks with religious communities in many Asian countries from where they now import elements of “Chineseness” in varied ways.