Borobudur ship

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The image of a ship on Borobudur bas relief

A Borobudur ship is the 8th-century wooden double outrigger sailing vessel of Maritime Southeast Asia depicted in some bas reliefs of the Borobudur Buddhist monument in Central Java, Indonesia.[1] It is a ship of Javanese people, derivative vessels of similar size still survived in East Java coastal trade at least until the 1940s.[2]


The characteristics of the ships of the Borobudur temple include: Having outriggers that are not as long as their hulls, bipod or tripod mast with a canted square sail (tanja sail), a bowsprit with a spritsail, rowing gallery (where people rowing by sitting or standing), deckhouse, have oculi (carved/bossed eyes), and quarter rudders. Some ships are depicted with oars, numbering at least 6, 8, or 9, and some others have none.[3]

Common misconceptions[edit]

There are some common misconceptions about the Borobudur ship:

  1. The ship depicted in the Borobudur temple is an Indian ship. This opinion is supported by Indian and Dutch scholars who attribute the influence of India to the kingdom of the Archipelago ("Indianization"), so the ship depicted in the temple must have come from India. This also stems from the notion that Javanese ships are inferior to Indian ships.[4][5] This argument has been debunked, the Javanese were experienced navigators and built large ships, as early as the first millennium CE.[6]: 193 [7] The characteristics actually indicate Indonesian origin: The presence of outriggers, the use of canted sails with a lower boom, the use of bipod and tripod mast, and rowing galleries.[8]
  2. The ship was a Srivijayan ship or a Malay ship. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence to support this statement. In the Srivijaya era, the type of watercraft is rarely recorded, the type of Malay boat recorded is the samvau (modern Malay: Sampan) on the Kedukan Bukit inscription (683 AD) in Sumatra. Another recorded watercraft is the lancang, from 2 inscriptions on the northern coast of Bali written in the Old Balinese language dated 896 and 923 AD.[9]: 149–150  Meanwhile, the Borobudur ship is only found in the Borobudur temple, which is a Javanese heritage, not Malay.[10]: 109–110 [11]
  3. The Borobudur ship is a Majapahit ship. In fact, historical accounts of the main ships of Majapahit mention the jong, malangbang, and kelulus, all of which do not have outriggers.[12]

Plate renderings[edit]

Renderings of the five ships with outriggers in the Borobudur bas-reliefs (out of seven ships depicted in total) in Conradus Leemans's Boro-Boedoer (1873). Note that the ships are of different types.[13]


  • The earliest replica of this ship was made in the Philippines in 1985, based on the Pontian boat structure. It is called Sarimanok (lucky little bird), used to sail to Java and Madagascar.[14]
  • The well known replica is housed at Samudra Raksa museum, Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, built in 2003. It sailed to the Seychelles, Madagascar, South Africa and Ghana between August 2003 and February 2004.[15]
  • One replica is moored on Marine March of Resorts World Sentosa dock in Singapore.[16]
  • Borobudur relief serve as the basis for constructing "Spirit of Majapahit", a replica of Majapahit ship. This replica has received criticism from historians, because the ship used by Majapahit is jong while the Borobudur relief ship is an earlier vessel.[12]
  • A replica of Borobudur ship was featured in the opening ceremony of the Asian Games 2018 on 18 August 2018 in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Naʻalehu Anthony (September 25, 2015). "The Borobudur Temple Ship: Bringing a Memory Back to Life". National Geographic. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  2. ^ Hornell 1946, p. 216.
  3. ^ Inglis 2014, p. 108-116.
  4. ^ Inglis 2014, p. 96-97.
  5. ^ Van Erp 1923, p. 10.
  6. ^ Dames, Mansel Longworth (1921). The Book Of Duarte Barbosa Vol. II. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society.
  7. ^ Manguin, Pierre-Yves (1993). "Trading Ships of the South China Sea. Shipbuilding Techniques and Their Role in the History of the Development of Asian Trade Networks". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient: 253–280.
  8. ^ Inglis 2014, p. 116.
  9. ^ Manguin, Pierre-Yves (2012). Lancaran, Ghurab and Ghali: Mediterranean impact on war vessels in Early Modern Southeast Asia. In G. Wade & L. Tana (Eds.), Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast Asian Past (pp. 146–182). Singapore: ISEAS Publishing.
  10. ^ Kumar, Ann (2012). 'Dominion Over Palm and Pine: Early Indonesia’s Maritime Reach', in Geoff Wade (ed.), Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast Asian Past (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies), 101–122.
  11. ^ Inglis 2014, p. 98-101.
  12. ^ a b Nugroho, Irawan Djoko. "Replika Kapal Majapahit, Replika Untuk Menghancurkan Sejarah Bangsa – Nusantara Review". Nusantara Review. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  13. ^ Haddon, A.C. (1920). The Outriggers of Indonesian Canoes. London, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
  14. ^ Dennison, Richard (producer) (1985). Flight of the Sarimanok (Motion picture). Philippines: Orana Films.
  15. ^ Beale 2006, p. 22.
  16. ^ "I ship it! Historic Ship Harbour at RWS". S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa. 2014-06-04. Archived from the original on 2019-06-02. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  17. ^ Pak Dosen (2018-08-18), Opening Ceremony Asian Games 2018 - Jakarta Palembang, 9:14, retrieved 2018-08-26


  • Beale, Philip (2006). "From Indonesia to Africa: Borobudur Ship Expedition". ZIFF Journal. 3: 17–24.
  • Hornell, James (1946). Water transport: Origins and early Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Inglis, Douglas Andrew (2014). The Borobudur Vessels in Context (Thesis). Texas A&M University.
  • Pareanom, Yusi Avianto (2005). Cinnamon Route, The Samudraraksa Borobudur Expedition. Yogyakarta: PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Republic of Indonesia, Lontar Foundation. ISBN 978-979-8083-58-7.
  • Van Erp, Theodoor (1923). Voorstellingen van vaartuigen op de reliefs van den Boroboedoer. ’S-Gravenhage: Ādi-Poestaka.

External links[edit]

Note: The following two links are dead. Could someone help please?

  • "The Cinnamon Route (web archive link)". Borobudur Temple (within this section). Borobudur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko. 2011. Archived from the original on 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  • "From Indonesia to Africa - Borobudur Ship Expedition." Philip Beale. 2006.pdf [1] Retrieved 3 November 2015