History Of Jepara: The World Carving City
The city of Jepara is well-known for its wood carving crafts which are recognized throughout the world. Jepara carving craft has a long history and is said to have existed since the Kalinyamat Kingdom. With the progress of time, the Indonesian female figure, R.A Kartini, also had a big role in the development of the art of carving in Jepara. At that time, Kartini promoted wood carving crafts to major cities in Indonesia and even abroad with the intention that craftsmen could escape poverty.
Although there have been ups and downs, the Jepara wood carving craft continues to grow. In 2015, the carvings were exported to 113 countries. Now Jepara itself has earned the nickname The World Carving Center or the City of World Carvings.
The modern Jepara carving center makes it easier for buyers to find more efficient products and goods. Starting from the center of the statue, relief, gebyok, cupboard, and so on. The Jepara Regency Government itself concentrates the size of Jepara into several parts, namely:
- Sculpture Carving Center in Mulyoharjo Village: One of the most famous types of sculpture is the Macan Kurung statue.
- Relief Carving Center in Senenan Village: The design continues to evolve, not only in the scenery but also in other dimensions.
- Minimalist Carving Center in Petekeyan Village: Not only marketed offline but also online or on the website.
- Gebyok Carving Center in Bimbingrejo Village: Suitable for the door of a house or mosque so that it looks unique and attractive.
The First Version of Jepara Wood Carving History
There is a unique story about the origin of carving in Jepara. It is said that there used to be a painter and sculptor from the Majapahit Kingdom, East Java. During the reign of the king of Brawijaya, a carver named Prabangkara or also known as Joko Sungging was very famous across the kingdom.
Once upon a time, the king of Brawijaya wanted to have a painting of his wife naked as a form of the king's love for his wife. This made Prabangkara summoned to fulfill the king's wish. Of course, this was difficult for Prabangkara because he had never seen the king's wife without wearing any clothes.
Then, he imagined and succeeded in working on the painting. While Prabangkara was resting, the king saw the lizard throwing dirt and the painting then dried up and looked like a mole. The king was very happy because the painting was so perfect as the original. But when he saw the mole, the king became furious and accused Prabangkara of having seen the empress directly naked because the location of the mole was exactly like the original.
The king then felt jealous and punished the painter by tying him to the kite and flying him. The kite then flew to the back of the mountain in the Jepara area and landed which is now named Mulyoharjo in Jepara. After that, Prabangkara taught the craftsmanship of carving to the people of Jepara and the carving skills have survived until now.
The Second Version of Jepara Wood Carving History
For the second version of the history of Jepara wood carving, it is said that there used to be a great artist named Ki Sungging Adi Luwih who lived in the kingdom, and his expertise was known to the king. The king then wanted to order a picture of the empress on Ki Sungging. He then finished the painting but when he wanted to add black paint to the hair, some paint was scattered on the image so that it looked like a mole on the thigh of the painting.
The painting was then handed over to the king and the king admired it. However, the king was suspicious of Ki Sungging because he thought that Ki Sungging had seen the empress naked due to a mole on her thigh in the picture. The king was then forced to punish Ki Sungging by carrying a chisel and asked him to make a statue of the empress in the air on a kite.
The carving of the empress' statue was then finished, but suddenly there was a strong wind and the statue fell and was carried to Bali. Therefore, the Balinese are also known as experts in making sculptures. Meanwhile, the chisel used by Ki Sungging fell on a mountain and this location is now recognized as the place where the art of carving developed.
General History of Jepara Wood Carving
During the Kalinyamat Kingdom, Jepara architecture continued to progress, especially in the field of carving. When Tjie Bin Thang and his adoptive father named Tjie Hwio Gwan moved to Jepara and Tjie Bin Thang became king in the Kalinyamat kingdom where he received the title Sultan Hadlirin and Tjie Hwio Gwan became governor of Sungging Badar Duwung. The meaning of the title Sungging Badar Duwung is sungging means carving, badar means stone, and duwung means sharp. The name sungging was given because Badar Duwung was an expert in sculpture and carving.
Tjie Hwio Gwan is a maker of wall carvings at the Astana Mantingan Mosque. He then taught the art of carving skills to the people of Jepara. When he was still busy being the mangkubumi of the Kalinyamat Kingdom, he was still carving on the stone imported from China. Because the stone was not sufficient to meet their needs, the people of Jepara carved carvings on white stone and wood.
Tjie Hwio Gwan, who then began teaching carving to the people of Jepara, so that most of the house architecture in Jepara was decorated with carved ornaments because Jepara residents were very proficient in the art of carving. Even today, Jepara carved wood furniture products are famous throughout the world.
The most authentic evidence of Jepara carvings is artifacts from the time of Queen Kalinyamat at the Mantingan Mosque. Traces of Jepara carving have existed during the reign of Ratu Kalinyamat, from 1521 to 1546. The Queen has a daughter named Retno Kencono who has a big role in the development of the art of carving. In the kingdom, there is a minister named Sungging Badarduwung who comes from Campa or also known as Cambodia. He became a very good carver.
The queen then built the Mantingan Mosque and the Jirat Tomb, namely the tomb of her husband, then asked Sungging to adorn the building with carvings. Until now, carvings can still be seen in the mosque and the Tomb of Sultan Hadlirin, where there are 114 reliefs on white stone because Sungging was able to fulfill the request of Queen Kalinyamat.
Jepara Wood Carving Motifs
Jepara's distinctive motif is an expression of creeping plant forms. At each end of the recess, there are krawing leaves which are very dynamic, and usually in the middle of the tassels, there is small circular fruit. This characteristic can be seen in the presence of peacocks. The long, circular stalk of the niche forms a small branch that is useful as a sweetener or to fill space.
Jepara wood carvings are very suitable for home decoration because they can add to the beauty of your home. There are so many Jepara wood carvings and here are some recommendations:
- The Makara Motif
The motif of Jepara wood carving which is suitable for your residence is the makara motif. This is a carving of a blend of two cultural elements, namely Hinduism, Java, and Islam.
Makara itself is a Hindu mythological creature in a fairy tale character commonly seen in reliefs of Indonesian temples. The form is a combination of two dragons and elephants or it can be other animal forms. In the story, this water creature from India became the vehicle for the goddess Ganga and also the god Baruna.
- The Dragon Carving Motif
The next Jepara carving motif is dragon carving. Dragons are also mythological animals that are believed to be symbols of rulers and are known throughout the world. This motif is usually found on the bledek door of the Deman mosque and is commonly applied to gebyok, Dayak paintings, and reliefs.
- The Gunungan Motif
The next famous Jepara carving motif is the gunungan motif, plant motif, and leaf motif. For example, such as the shape of the tapered leaves upwards like pandanus leaves and frangipani leaf motifs. This gunungan motif is usually embedded in carvings such as the Mantingan mosque.
- The Bird Motif
The next Jepara carving motif that is frequently used is the bird motif. Usually, this motif is used for the table leaves where Kartini stitches. This is one of the carving frame artworks that Kartini had sent at the National Exhibition of Women's Work or the Nationale Tentoonstelling voor Vrownarbeid in 1898. This is also the first impression of the recognition of Jepara carving in the international world.
- Window of Krepyak, Decorative Mirror Carved Raw Teak
Krepyak is a window that has a series of jalousies arranged horizontally. Jalusi is useful for regulating air circulation and light. Some of the Jalusi themselves are planted permanently and some are not. When blinds are installed in the room, the air circulation will be better and suitable for tropical climates such as Indonesia.
These windows are sold raw which can later be repainted as desired. The windows are made of teak wood measuring 60x70 cm and also 70x80 cm.
The Social Status of Jepara Carving
Jepara carving furniture can show social status if someone is classy. For people who have Jepara carving furniture such as statues, tables, cabinets, and so on, it seems that they can increase their social status as well as show the economic status of the house owner. This is because the quality of the famous Jepara carvings is very good and the price is also expensive. For this reason, someone who has a Jepara carving is usually a rich businessman or an official.
The Strengths of Jepara Wood Carving
Jepara carving itself has many strengths that make it very famous throughout the world. Here are some of the advantages of Jepara carving:
- The Innovation of Jepara Carving Craftsmen
If you pay closer attention, the Jepara carving motifs always change according to the developing era so that they are not monotonous. In the past, Jepara carvings were generally classic and intricate motifs, now the motifs and models are made simpler so that they seem minimalist following the current trend.
- Engraving Display
The appearance of Jepara carvings will always look not stiff and neat so that it is more pleasing to the eye. The beauty of this Jepara carving has never been eroded by the times and can be enjoyed anytime.
- Professional Carver
To produce attractive and good carvings, the craftsmen must have a high artistic soul. For this reason, every engraver must have patience and also a high skill, and everything is owned by Jepara carvers.