© Courtesy of Instagram account: @made_batuan

Budding numismatists will find Bali a fascinating experience with regard to its history of currency, in particular coinage. Chinese coins (Kepeng) were once the standard currency. Today, replicas of these coins can be found at most touristy shops.

It was long believed that Kepeng was first used in the 11th century but this was debunked when Kepeng dating back to 7th century of the Tang Dynasty was discovered in Bali. This was a period when there existed a flourishing commercial connection between Indonesia and mainland China. It was in use as currency till 1951 when the Indonesian Rupiah became the exclusive legal tender. However, as late as the 1970s, it was still used as currency in some parts of Bali.

These Chinese coins were inscribed with the prevailing Chinese emperor’s name and the date of manufacture.  They were made of three metals – lead (timehitem), bronze (kuningan), and copper (tembaga).

In the years following independence, the number of Chinese coins in circulation dwindled. This caused a problem for the Balinese as these coins were used in certain rituals. Hence, it was decided to replace them with coins made in Bali, depicting Balinese symbols and made of Panca Datu (5 elements), which co-relate to Panca Shrada (5 beliefs), in God, the rule of Karma, Reincarnation, Moksa (liberation of worldly attachment), and Atman (Soul).

The Siwa High Priest, Ida Pedanda Made Gunung, was instrumental in suggesting the symbols on the coins and their uses in religious activities.

On one side of the coin is engraved the five cardinal points which represent a particular god, element, metal and colour (Panca Datu/five elements).

Balinese letter ‘A’ – (North) Dewa Wisnu, Water, Iron (Besi), black.

Balinese letter ‘Ba’ – (South) Dewa Brahma, Fire, Copper (Tembaga), red.

Balinese letter ‘Sa’ – (East) Dewa Iswara, Air, Silver (Perak), white.

Balinese letter ‘Ta’ – (West) Dewa Mahadeva, Earth, Gold (Enas), yellow.

Balinese letter ‘I’ – (the hole in the centre of the coin) Dewa Siwa, Ether, Bronze (kuningan), 5 colours (4 colours + ether)

On the reverse side of the coin are two symbols – Ang (south, symbolizing woman) and Ah (north symbolizing man). This is the significance of Rwa Bhineda – opposites. The Balinese believe that it is opposites that maintain the balance and harmony of the cosmos.

Kepeng is 2cm in diameter with 1.2mm thickness and weighs approx. 5 gms.

Kepeng, made of Panca Datu, are used in religious ceremonies and for creating religious handicrafts like Gedong Arta and Patung Rambut Sedana. These (Panca Datu coins) are expensive and so cheaper plain metal coins are manufactured for various social uses but are not used as currency. However, if the coins are blessed then they attain a special meaning and therefore cannot be used as fashion accessories or for any other form of adornment.

The area where these Panca Datu coins are made is in Kamasan in Klungkung, the historical centre of arts and crafts.

A visit to Kamasan is a must for those tourists interested in viewing old Chinese coins, Balinese Panca Datu coins and religious artefacts made with these coins.

                                                              © Courtesy of Instagram account: @made_batuan

WakaLandCruise – Tenganan Trip will take you on a fascinating day trip to Tenganan, Sidemen & Kamasan.

Contact us at info@wakahotelsandresorts.com or call +62-361-484085 for more information.