In the centre of that region of countless islands termed not inaptly the “Summer of the World,” midmost of the Sunda group of which Sumatra lies to the west, and Flores to the east, with the fury of the tropical sun tempered by a physical formation which especially exposes it to the cooling influence of the ocean, lies the island of Java. Rich in historic remains of a bygone Hindu supremacy, when the mild countenance of Buddha gazed upon obedient multitudes, in memorials of Mohammedan, Portuguese, and Dutch seafaring enterprises, it is a country singularly alluring to the student and antiquarian. Nor is its present life less interesting. Densely populated by a simple and refined native race, who live for the most part in the midst of mountain glories and tropical verdure, itself the best example of a rival and successful system of colonization, modern Java is no mere tourist’s country, but one which possesses, and always has possessed, special attractions for the man of science and the political student.
From an immense mass of native tradition the main outlines of the history of the island can be disentangled with sufficient certainty.
Javanese tradition universally speaks of a personage called Saka, variously termed warrior, priest, and god, to whom is attributed the introduction of the arts of civilization, and whose advent marks the opening year of the native chronology. The first year of Saka corresponds to the seventy-eighth of the Christian era. There can be no doubt as to the region from which this extraneous civilization came. Native tradition and the vast religious monuments of the eastern and central districts alike point to an Indian colonization and supremacy; for the temples of Java bear the stamp of a culture and of an artistic and architectural genius superior to that possessed by a race, the sole record of whose national existence is contained in the meagre tradition of an immigration from the western lands about the Red Sea.