http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00112

Indonesian Kris

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)

Country(ies): Indonesia

Identification

Description

Indonesian Kris

The kris or keris is a distinctive, asymmetrical dagger from Indonesia. Both weapon and spiritual object, the kris is considered to possess magical powers. The earliest known kris go back to the tenth century and most probably spread from the island of Java throughout South-East Asia.

Kris blades are usually narrow with a wide, asymmetrical base. The sheath is often made from wood, though examples from ivory, even gold, abound. A kris’ aesthetic value covers the dhapur (the form and design of the blade, with some 40 variants), the pamor (the pattern of metal alloy decoration on the blade, with approximately 120 variants), and tangguh referring to the age and origin of a kris. A bladesmith, or empu, makes the blade in layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel. In high quality kris blades, the metal is folded dozens or hundreds of times and handled with the utmost precision. Empus are highly respected craftsmen with additional knowledge in literature, history and occult sciences.

Kris were worn everyday and at special ceremonies, and heirloom blades are handed down through successive generations. Both men and women wear them. A rich spirituality and mythology developed around this dagger. Kris are used for display, as talismans with magical powers, weapons, sanctified heirlooms, auxiliary equipment for court soldiers, accessories for ceremonial dress, an indicator of social status, a symbol of heroism, etc.

Over the past three decades, kris have lost some of their prominent social and spiritual meaning in society. Although active and honoured empus who produce high-quality kris in the traditional way can still be found on many islands, their number is dramatically decreasing, and it is more difficult for them to find people to whom they can transmit their skills.

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