Recorded history of West Java administration was started from the fourth century with the existence of Tarumanagara kingdom. Seven inscribed stones written in Wengi letters (used in the Indian Pallava period) and in Sanskrit language describe most of the kings of Tarumanagara. Records of Tarumanegara's administration lasted until the sixth century, which coincides with the attack of Srivijaya as stated in the Kota Kapur inscription (AD 686).
An ulema known today as Sunan Gunung Jati settled in Banten Girang, with the intention of spreading the world of Islam in this still pagan town. In the meantime, the Sultanate of Demak from central Java grew into an immediate threat to Sunda kingdom. To defend against the threat, Prabu Surawisesa Jayaperkosa signed a treaty (known as the Luso Sundanese Treaty) with the Portuguese in 1512. In return, the Portuguese was granted an accession to build fortresses and warehouses in the area, as well as trading agreement with the kingdom. This first international treaty of West Java with the Europeans was commemorated by the placement of the Padrao stone monument at the riverbank of the Ciliwung River in 1522.
Although the treaty with Portuguese had been established, it could not come to realization. Sunda Kalapa harbour fell under the alliance of the Sultanate of Demak and the Sultanate of Cirebon (former vassal state of Sunda kingdom) in 1524 after their troops under Paletehan alias Fadillah Khan had conquered the city. In 1524/1525, their troops under Sunan Gunung Jati also seized the port of Banten and established the Sultanate of Banten which was affiliating with the Sultanate of Demak. The war between the Sunda kingdom with Demak and Cirebon sultanates then continued for five years until a peace treaty were made in 1531 between King Surawisesa and Sunan Gunung Jati. From 1567 to 1579, under the last king Raja Mulya, alias Prabu Surya Kencana, Sunda kingdom declined essentially under the pressure from the Sultanate of Banten. After 1576, the kingdom could not maintain its capital at Pakuan Pajajaran (the present-day Bogor) and gradually the Sultanate of Banten took over the former Sunda kingdom's region. The Mataram Sultanate from central Java also seized the Priangan region, the southeastern part of the kingdom. In the sixteenth century, the Dutch and the British trading companies established their trading ships in West Java after the falldown of Sultanate of Banten. For the next three hundred years, West Java fell under the Dutch East Indies' administration. West Java was officially declared as a province of Indonesia in 1950, referring to a statement from Staatblad number 378. On October 17 2000, as part of nationwide political decentralization, Banten was separated from West Java and made into a new province.
West Java borders Jakarta and Banten province to the west, and Central Java to the east. To the north is Java Sea. To the south is the Indian Ocean. Unlike most other provinces in Indonesia which have their capitals in coastal area, the provincial capital Bandung is located in a mountainous area.
The province's landscape is one of volcanic mountains, steep terrain, forest, mountains rivers, fertile agricultural land, and natural sea harbours.
In addition to Indonesian, the official national language, the other widely-spoken language in the province is Sundanese. In some areas near the southern borders with Central Java, Javanese is also spoken. The main language spoken in Cirebon and nearby areas (Majalengka, Indramayu, Sumber) is Cirebonese, a dialect of Javanese. Indonesian is widely spoken as a second language, except in some remote rural areas.
Sundanese share Java island with other Malayan people: Javanese people. They primarily live in their home province of West Java. Although Sundanese live in the same island with Javanese, they consider themselves a distinct cultural area called Sunda. Someone moving from West Java Province to Central or East Java Provinces, is literally said to be moving from Sunda to Java.
The musical arts of Sunda, which is an expression of the emotions of Sundanese culture, express politeness and grace of Sundanese. The music some of the most beautiful sounds in the world. Degung orchestra consists of Sundanese gamelan.
In addition to the Sundanese forms of Gamelan in Parahyangan, the region of Cirebon retains its own distinct musical traditions. Amongst Cirebons' varying Gamelan ensembles the two most frequently heard are Gamelan Pelog (a non-equidistant heptatonic tuning system) and Gamelan Prawa (a semi-equidistant pentatonic tuning system). Gamelan Pelog is traditionally reserved for Tayuban, Wayang Cepak, and for listening and dance music of the Kratons in Cirebon. Whereas Gamelan Prawa is traditionally reserved for Wayang Purwa.
Cirebon also retains specialized Gamelan ensembles including: Sekaten, which is played in the Kratons to mark important times in the Islamic calendar. Denggung, also a Kraton ensemble which is believed to have a number of "supernatural powers". And Renteng, an ensemble found in both Cirebon and Parahyangan that is known for it's loud and energetic playing style.
Kacapi suling is tembang Sunda minus vocal.
Tarawangsa is a genuine popular art is performed on ensemble consists of tarawangsa (a violin with an end pin) and the jentreng (a kind of seven-stringed zither). It is accompanied by a secret dance called Jentreng. The dance is a part of a ritual celebrating the goddess of paddy Dewi Sri. Its ceremonial significance is associated with a ritual of thanksgiving associated with the rice harvest. Tarawangsa can also be played for healing or even purely for entertainment.
The three main types of Sundanese bamboo ensembles are angklung, calung, and arumba. The exact features of each ensemble vary according to context, related instruments, and relative popularity.
Angklung is a generic term for sets of tuned, shaken bamboo rattles. Angklung consists of a frame upon which hang several different lengths of hollow bamboo. Angklungs are played like handbells, with each instrument played to a different note. Angklung rattles are played in interlocking patterns, usually with only one or two instruments played per person. The ensemble is used in Sundanese processions, sometimes with trance or acrobatics. Performed at life-cycle rituals and feasts (hajat), angklung is believed to maintain balance and harmony in the village. In its most modern incarnation, angklung is performed in schools as an aid to learning about music.
The Angklung got more international attention when Daeng Soetigna, from Bandung, West Java, expanded the angklung notations not only to play traditional pélog or sléndro scales, but also diatonic scale in 1938. Since then, angklung is often played together with other western music instruments in an orchestra. One of the first well-known performances of angklung in an orchestra was during the Bandung Conference in 1955.
Like those in angklung, the instruments of the calung ensemble are of bamboo, but each consists of several differently tuned tubes fixed onto a piece of bamboo; the player holds the instrument in his left hand and strikes it with a beater held in his right. The highest-pitched calung has the greatest number of tubes and the densest musical activity; the lowest-pitched, with two tubes, has the least. Calung is nearly always associated with earthy humor, and is played by men.
Arumba refers to a set of diatonically tuned bamboo xylophones, often played by women. It is frequently joined by modern instruments, including a drum set, electric guitar, bass, and keyboards.
Wayang golek is a traditional form of puppetry from Sunda. Unlike the better-known leather shadow puppets (wayang kulit) found in the rest of Java and Bali, wayang golek puppets are made from wood and are three-dimensional, rather than two. They use a banana palm in which the puppets stand, behind which one puppeteer (dalang) is accompanied by his gamelan orchestra with up to 20 musicians. The gamelan uses a five-note scale as opposed to the seven-note western scale. The musicians are guided by the drummer, who in turn is guided by signals from the puppet master dalang gives to change the mood or pace required. Wayang golek are used by the Sundanese to tell the epic play "Mahabarata" and various other morality type plays.
Sundanese dance shows the influence of the many groups that have traded and settled in the area over the centuries, but remains uniquely distinctive, with its variation from graceful to dynamic syncopated drumming patterns, quick wrist flicks, sensual hip movements, and fast shoulder and torso isolations.
The Tari Merak (Dance of the Peacock) is a female dance inspired by the movements of a peacock and its feathers blended with the classical movements of Sundanese dance. The Tari Merak symbolises the beauty of nature.
There are and folktales transcribed from Pantun Sunda stories). Among the most well known folktale and stories are:
List of cities (kota) in West Java:
Based on the data from Indonesia State Secretary, total rice field in West Java Province in 2006 was 9,488,623 km which produce 9,418,882 tons paddy in 2006, consisting of 9,103,800 tons rice field paddy and 315,082 tons farmland paddy. Palawija production, reached 2,044,674 tons with productivity 179.28 quintal per ha. Nevertheless, the widest plant’s width is for corn commodity which reaches 148,505 ha, West Java also produce horticulture consists of 2,938,624 tons vegetables, 3,193,744 tons fruits, and 159,871 tons medicines plants/ bio pharmacology. Forest in West Java reaches 764,387.59 ha or 20.62% from total size of the province. It consists of productive forest 362,980.40 ha (9.79%), protected forest 228,727.11 ha (6.17%), and conservation forest 172,680 ha (4.63%). Mangrove forest reaches 40,129.89 ha, and spread in 10 regencies where coasts are available. Besides, there is also another protected forest of about 32,313.59 ha organized by Perum Perhutani Unit III West Java and Banten. From the productive forest, in 2006 West Java harvested crop of about 200,675 m3 wood, although the need of wood in this province every year is about 4 million m3. Until 2006, populace forest’s width 214,892 ha with wood production is about 893,851.75 m3. West Java also produce non forest’s crop which is potential enough to be developed as forestry work, such as Sutera alat jamur, pine, gerah dammar, maleleuca, rattan, bamboo, and swallow bird’s net. In fishery sector, the excellent commodities are goldfish, nila fish, milkfish, freshwater catfish, windu shrimp, green mussel, gouramy, patin, seaweed and vaname shrimp. In 2006, this province harvested 560,000 tons fish from fishery cultivation crop and brackish or 63.63% from fishery production total in West Java. In poultry husbandry field, dairy cow, domestic poultry, and ducks are excellent commodity in West Java. 2006’s data stated now there are 96,796 dairy cows (25% national population), 4,249,670 sheep, 28,652,493 domestic poultries, and 5,596,882 ducks (16% of the national population). Now there are only 245,994 beef cattle in West Java (3% national population), whereas the need every year is about 300,000 beef cattle. This province has many excellent objects in plantation fields, such as tea, clove, coconut, rubber, cacao, tobacco, coffee, sugar palm and akar wangi. From all those commodities, clove, coconut, rubber, cacao, tobacco, and coffee are of national excellent commodities from West Java. From area side, the best productivity, that is plan area’s width equals with plant’s width that produces tobacco and sugar palm commodities. From production side, the highest productivity is oil palm (6.5 tons per ha) and sugar palm (5.5 tons per ha).
West Java also produces excellent mine production. In 2006, it contributes 5,284 tons zeolite, 47,978 tons bentonite, iron sand, pozolan cement, feldspar, and jewel barn/ gemstone. Precious stone mining potential generally are found in Garut, Tasikmalaya, Kuningan, and Sukabumi Regency areas.
Raw natural resources include chalk, several offshore oilfields in the Java Sea, and lumber. Most of the province is very fertile, with a mix of small farms and larger plantations. There are several hydropower dams, including Jatiluhur, Saguling, and Cirata.