Denpasar, Indonesia

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

Capital of the Island of Bali

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

Registration Year


Historical function

Religious and cultural

Location and site

The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and water temples that cover 19,500 ha. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century. Included in the landscape is the 18th-century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the island. The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world, and nature. This philosophy was born of the cultural exchange between Bali and India over the past 2,000 years and has shaped the landscape of Bali. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.

Urban Morphology

A line of volcanoes dominates the landscape of Bali and has provided it with fertile soil which, combined with a wet tropical climate, makes it an ideal place for crop cultivation. Water from the rivers has been channeled into canals to irrigate the land, allowing the cultivation of rice on both flat land and mountain terraces.

Registration Criteria

Criterion (iii): The cultural tradition that shaped the landscape of Bali, since at least the 12th century, is the ancient philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana. The congregations of water temples, that underpin the water management of the subak landscape, aim to sustain a harmonious relationship with the natural and spiritual world, through an intricate series of rituals, offerings, and artistic performances.

Criterion (v): The five landscapes within Bali are an exceptional testimony to the subak system, a democratic and egalitarian system focused on water temples and the control of irrigation that has shaped the landscape over the past thousand years. Since the 11th century, the water temple networks have managed the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. They provide a unique response to the challenge of supporting a dense population on a rugged volcanic island that is only extant in Bali.

Criterion (vi): Balinese water temples are unique institutions, which for more than a thousand years have drawn inspiration from several ancient religious traditions, including Saivasiddhanta and Samkhyā Hinduism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and Austronesian cosmology. The ceremonies associated with the temples and their role in the practical management of water together crystallize the ideas of the Tri Hita Karana philosophy that promotes the harmonious relationship between the realms of the spirit, the human world, and nature. This conjunction of ideas can be said to be of outstanding significance and directly manifest in the way the landscape has developed and is managed by local communities within the subak system.





Mr. I Gusti Ngurah Jaya Negara

Local Government of Denpasar City

Gajah Mada Street No.1
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

62 361 234 831
[email protected]

Ms. Ida Ayu Ganda Yukti

Head of Cooperation Division
Local Government of Denpasar City

Jalan Gajah Mada number 1
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

+62 361 234831 EXT 143/131/140
[email protected]