Ubud History

Eighth-century legend tells of a Javanese priest, Rsi Markendya, who meditated at the confluence of two rivers (an auspicious site for Hindus) at the Ubud locality of Campuhan. Here he founded the Gunung Lebah Temple on the valley floor, the site of which remains a pilgrim destination.

The town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants; Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (medicine).

In the late nineteenth century, Ubud became the seat of feudal lords who owed their allegiance to the king of Gianyar, at one time the most powerful of Bali’s southern states. The lords were members of the Balinese Kshatriya caste of Suk, and were significant supporters of the village’s increasingly renowned arts scene.

Tourism on the island developed after the arrival of Walter Spies, an ethnic German born in Russia who taught painting and music, and dabbled in dance. Spies and foreign painters Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet entertained celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells and Vicki Baum. They brought in some of the greatest artists from all over Bali to teach and train the Balinese in arts, helping Ubud become the cultural centre of Bali.

Another foreign artist Han Snel was a dutch soldier who discovered Ubud after his military service building a studio with his new wife Siti, his painting captured the imagination of both foreigners and Balinese alike with his invigorating synthesis of both cultures.

Antonio Blanco a Spanish/American artist lived in Ubud from 1952 till his death in 1999.

A new burst of creative energy came in the 1960s after the arrival of Dutch painter Arie Smith (b. 1916) and the development of the Young Artists Movement.

Ubud is the best place to visit in Bali.