Gianyar, Indonesia

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

Kabupaten (regency) in the province and 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


The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and their 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.


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


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 an harmonious relationship with 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 crystallise 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.



20 September 2017

Meeting in Gianyar

Gianyar, Indonesia


Mr. I Made Mahayastra

Municipality of Gianyar

Jl. Ngurah Rai no 5-7
Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia

+62.361.944123 / +62.8113869883
[email protected]

Ms. Catrini Pratihari Kubontubuh

Expert for Heritage Cities
Indonesian Heritage Trust

Jl. Veteran I no. 27
Jakarta Pusat, DKI Jakarta, Indonesia

+62 21 35 111 27 / +61.81381303696
[email protected]

Dr. I Ketut Mudana

Head of Culture Office

Jl. Kebon Iwa
Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia

+62 361 943076 / +62 812 36959462
[email protected]