University of Tasmania
Final Thesis - HENDRAWAN.pdf (40.84 MB)

Cross-cultural architecture: an investigation of Chinese temple architecture in Bali

Download (40.84 MB)
posted on 2024-06-11, 03:30 authored by Freddy Hendrawan

The Chinese-Balinese have maintained and negotiated their Chinese identity within Bali’s broader socio-cultural and political contexts and this study analyses how their identity is represented in Chinese temple architecture. As they have been in Bali for generations, the Chinese have adapted to Balinese culture and society in multiple ways. These adaptation processes have also involved responding to the shifts of political attitudes towards ethnic Chinese under successive Indonesian regimes that have viewed the Chinese people as ‘Other’. These responses have influenced Chinese-Balinese ways of maintaining and developing Chinese belief systems and architecture. The result of this history has been the need to negotiate intercultural and nation-building narratives, leading to cross-fertilisation between Chinese and Balinese cultures and geographies.
Specifically, this study focuses on the exploration and explanation of the widespread cross-cultural phenomenon of Tri Dharma temples in Bali, based on empirical observations and analysis of 14 Tri Dharma temples distributed across all Bali’s regencies. Tri Dharma temple is an Indonesian term for a Chinese temple with Chinese traditional features and used by the adherents of the combination of three religious doctrines (Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism). In order to explain the Tri Dharma temple’s history, analysis has been made of the history of Chinese ethnic group in Bali and how this history has been influenced by the broader history of Indonesia, from pre-colonial Balinese kingdoms, the Dutch colonial regime, and then the changes in post-independence regimes that sought to define national identity, as well as recognise particular forms of religious beliefs. On-site surveys of the Tri Dharma temples’ siting, spatial planning, and architectural forms in Bali have also been conducted, which led to categorising the Tri Dharma temples according to their cultural and architectural characteristics that are the core of this thesis. Representative examples from each Tri Dharma temple’s classifications were selected as case studies, to illustrate how the processes of intercultural and political negotiation can be read in Chinese-Balinese architecture.
The Tri Dharma temples in Bali illustrate how the condition of migrancy influences the degree of cross-fertilisation. This can be seen in the Tri Dharma temples’ siting in Bali that is identifiable within both broad-scale and specific locations as a consequence of pragmatic and conceptual compromises. The positions of Tri Dharma temples being at the margins of Balinese villages, the integration of Chinese and Balinese cultures reflected in the Subandar shrine, as well as the hybrid architecture of many of the buildings reflect the status and position of Chinese?Balinese communities as ‘the guests’ who will not take ‘the host’s’ central territories or areas. The different cosmo-geographical features of Bali, compared with China, have also led to pragmatic responses, such as orientating the temples to the local waterways or main roads and focusing on internal axiality rather than the north-south orientation. Variations of cultural modifications are also identifiable in the typologies and architectural forms of individual buildings within the Tri Dharma temple compound. This indicates that as architecture in China developed in response to local geography, migration to Bali’s different environment has led to architectural changes.
Ultimately, the hybridity represented by Tri Dharma temples in Bali can be seen as a symbolic model of together-in-difference, providing new insights on how religious architecture reflects cultural interaction and a necessity of survival strategies in facing the confluence of social and political differences, and managing being a minority within cultural and national borders. The findings of this study, therefore, provide an understanding of how cultural negotiating processes contribute to maintaining and adapting cultural identities in everyday lives that would also be relevant to other intercultural built environments.



  • PhD Thesis


xix, 364 pages


School of Architecture and Design


University of Tasmania

Event title


Date of Event (Start Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2023 the author

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager