Tradition and Culture
Principally an oral tradition, the people of West Java developed more than 180 forms of artistic expression within 19 clusters, the oldest of these is supposed to be poetry. Traditional epic poems tell of the history and heroes of the people from time immemorial through the Galuh and Pajajaran kingdoms, and continue today. Haji Hasan Mustapa (1852 - 1930) is a giant in the tradition having produced some 10,000 works.
Today the languages of West Java bear an imprint of the oral tradition and remain popular for daily use. They are complex languages attesting to social roles and caste. Puppet plays were often used to transmit both legend and current events and continue to play a role in ceremonial and festive events. West Java is rich also in batik traditions from Tasikmalaya, Garut, Indramayu, and Cirebon.
Traditions handed down the generations mixed with beliefs (nature based and animistic) and religions (Hindu and Islam) formed the culture of the people. Marriages are the joining of families, and socially, most relationships are family-based. Still today a commercial company will refer to itself as a "big family" and seek quasi-familial relationships in day-to-day operations.
Nature and Plantation
With all its active volcanoes, West Java life has always been influenced by the forces of nature, bringing both momentary catastrophe and enduring fertility to the soil. Coastal peoples depend on the richness of the seas and the rhythms of nature form the core identity and very prosperity of West Java.
Colonial power organized the inherent riches with formal cultivation and institutions, providing great wealth for Europe. Plantations crops include tea, coffee, quinine, rubber, copra, sugar, cocoa, and coconut.
Village and City
Traditionally, geography and land use precluded large concentrations of people in the mountainous areas of West Java, but ports on the coasts bustled with trade and business. Villages remain today the most numerous settlements, but cities have burgeoned with population and economic shifts.
Village structures are made with materials at hand: bamboo, rattan, wood, grass, and rock and bonded together through the centuries as stylized and elegant constructions, and organization. Surrounding these villages are the rice paddies and vegetable farms that dictate the local economy.
Cities developed with industrialization and the western imprint is clear. West Java's strategic location and comparatively more comfortable climate made it a target of leisure and academic activities under colonial rule. The capitol, Bandung, was planned to become the capitol of the colony, and bears witness to its 1930's heyday in elegant streetscapes and outstanding architecture.