Durable Brick Material: Learning from the Architect of Muaro Jambi Temple

Brick material is one of the most common building materials we meet today. Although many buildings today use more modern materials such as concrete and steel, the use of bricks as one of the building materials is not simply abandoned. This time, Rumahdaribambu.com wants to put forward the topic of “The Durable Brick Material: Learning from teh Architect of Muaro Jambi Temple”.

Some time ago, due to an office assignment I had the opportunity to visit the Jambi Province in the Sumatera Island. There, considering one of my tasks is closely related to the development of the region especially related to the integrated development of strategic areas, so I as part of the team deliberately stopped by one of the strategic conservation areas in Jambi Province, the Muaro Jambi Temple complex.

It is no coincidence that the southern part of Sumatera used to have a strong historical attachment to the Sriwijaya Kingdom. Although there are some areas that claim to be the center of the embryo of the kingdom of Sriwijaya (Palembang, Jambi, and Kedah-Malaysia) [1], my curiosity towards the temple complex in Muaro Jambi does not disappear.

Muaro Jambi temple is a temple complex near the Batanghari River, Jambi, which according to information is a “university” complex of its time. The university is a university specializing in Buddhism, and is similar to Nalanda University in India at the same time. When circumstances in India were not conducive due to the invasion, the Nalanda university was transferred to Sriwijaya, as many of the university students were from Sriwijaya [2].

This is quite interesting, according to Ahok (Abdul Hafiz, red), one of the historical and cultural activists of Jambi who accompanied us biking around Muaro Jambi Temple complex, the university was built on the side of Batanghari River so as to facilitate the movement of (foreign) students to come and go to the education complex. Given that the main transportation means of long-distance transport is boat/ship, the student’s learning time also adjusts to the coming of wind season which can bring the boat/ship to sail.

Muaro Jambi Temple area, in addition to having appeal from the side of the story, for me personally also has the appeal of the physical aspect of the building.

Muaro Jambi temple is one of the ancient temple buildings that do not use stone material as the main building material of the temple, but it use mainly brick material.

Stone material is used in some elements and parts of the building, for example as a locking brick arrangement at the corner of the building, as a stone combined with wooden frame, as well as the main material of the statues and makara contained in parts of the temple.

Why is the brick material in Muaro Jambi Temple building so interesting?

This is due to the fact that as a temple that was built hundreds of years ago, the condition of the original bricks that make up the Muaro Jambi temple is still maintained in good condition.

In addition, looking at the temple building which is the result of lengthy process of preservation work, we will be able to see the craftmanship quality of the architects and artisans at that time. The composition of red brick shaped building of the temple is neatly arranged and straight. Whether at that moment there is already a waterpas or bow ruler I do not know for sure. However, looking at the quality of brick arrangement which is very precise and neat I believe if the Architect of Muaro Jambi temple already familiar with quite complex mathematical formulas, geometry, and carpentry.

Durable Brick Material

If we look in more detail, then we will be made even more amazed.

If we look carefully at the bricks used to construct the temple building, then we will be able to see the different composition of the brick material compared to the bricks made today.

Here are some photos of the original brick Muaro Jambi temple when compared with red bricks made in modern times:

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Original brick of Muaro Jambi Temple

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The old brick compared to the replacement brick (the upper one is the original brick)

If you look closely, even if you only see at a glance, we will be able to see significant differences in the two types of bricks contained in the photo above from the texture and color aspects.

From the texture aspect, it is clear that the old brick has a “sandy” texture, while the new brick is smoother. In addition, the red color on ancient bricks looks more mature when compared to bricks made with new/modern techniques.

However, is it true that the texture that appears on the outside of the ancient brick in Muaro Jambi temple is a clue about the possibility of its composition?

Let’s look at some other photos:

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The remains which can’t be preserved due to its condition

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The original old brick texture in Muaro Jambi

It seems that the texture contained in the ancient brick in Muaro Jambi temple complex holds a clue about the constituent materials. One that may be contained in it may be sand and ash powder, or coral fragments. The factor of brick maturity and brick density seems to also affect the durability of this ancient brick.

However, to really know the composition of Muaro Jambi red bricks that have strong resilience is of course we need to see the results of existing scientific research.

Unfortunately, I myself have not been able to find a complete related scientific article that specifically discusses the composition of ancient brick material contained in this Muaro Jambi Temple.

Munandar (2010) [3] in his article entitled “Damage and Weathering of Brick Material” conveys four types of damage and materialization of brick material (in the context of preservation of temple buildings composed of bricks), namely: physical damage, mechanical damage, chemical weathering, and biological weathering.

Factors causing the damage itself according to Munandar (2010) occur due to internal factors (quality of materials, technology / methods of manufacture, installation techniques and position on the building, and other internal properties), and external factors (climate, weather, disaster, etc.).

Munandar in his article explains that the good basic ingredients for making bricks are clay and sand with a certain ratio (based on the experience of brick craftsmen). If the clay content is too much, the brick will break easily or crack during drying. Meanwhile, if too much sand content, bricks will be easily broken.

A good brick is usually made from a good base material, has a good compressive strength, and a maintained level of porosity (better waterproof is better). Burning bricks with hardwood will produce a better brick than if burned with chaff. This is due to the temperature generated at the time of combustion and carbon substances that will also play a role in the combustion process. [4]

In terms of size, brick size in Muaro Jambi temple has a length of 24-35 cm, width 14-22 cm, and 4-8 cm thick. [5]

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The drawing in the brick

If you have interesting information about durable brick material, please feel free to share and comment so as to enrich our knowledge of all brick materials, especially red bricks.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Looking at the bricks


[1] MUARA JAMBI: Saksi Pusat Kerajaan Berpindah. (2013, July 22). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://hurahura.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/muara-jambi-saksi-pusat-kerajaan-berpindah/

[2] Candi Muaro Jambi, Kampus Peninggalan Kerajaan Sriwijaya. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://travel.kompas.com/read/2017/03/20/160300327/candi.muaro.jambi.kampus.peninggalan.kerajaan.sriwijaya

[3] Munandar, Aris (2010) Kerusakan dan pelapukan material bata. Jurnal Konservasi Benda Cagar Budaya Borobudur, IV (4). pp. 55-61. ISSN 19788584

[4] Ibid 3.

[5] Swastikawati, Ari (2011) Standar pengujian kualitas bata pengganti. Jurnal Konservasi Benda Cagar Budaya Borobudur, V (5). pp. 4-8. ISSN 19788584

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