To the Balinese, Bali is the entire world. Knowledge of the other nations of which they are conscious - China, Java, and Europe - does not influence their belief in the least. They are simply other worlds that have no relation to their own conception of the earth. There is an old manuscript which gives a description of the structure of the world. Although not very highly regarded by scholars, it gives us the popular Balinese conception of the cosmos, especially as it justifies their faith that Bali is the world
The island of Bali indeed presents a modern paradox - an ancient, traditional society that is still incredibly alive and vital. While the basic conservatism of the Balinese has enabled them to preserve many of their past achievements, it has never hindered the acceptance of new and innovative elements, whether home-grown or foreign.
How are we to account for the island's fabled cultural wealth? A fortuitous congruence of circumstances - accidents, really, of geography and history, seems responsible.
First and foremost, Bali is extraordinarily blessed by Nature. Lying within a narrow band of the tropics where wet and dry seasons fall roughly into balance - providing both adequate rainfall and long periods of sunshine - the island's soils, topography and water resources are all remarkably well suited to human habitation. As a result, Bali has been civilized since very early times.
As a result, this is the only area of Indonesia that remains "Hindu" today - retaining elements of the great fusion of indigenous and Indian cultures which took place over a thousand years ago. When Bali was finally colonized by the Dutch, at the turn of this century, the European invaders were so fascinated by what they found here that a concerted effort was made to preserve and foster the island's traditional culture.
Balinese society remains strong and vital, moreover, because it promotes family and communal values. This is indeed the key - a self-strengthening system in which religion, custom and art combine with age-old childrearing techniques and deeply-entrenched village institutions to produce an exceptionally well-integrated society. Feelings of alienation from parents and peers, so common now in the West are rare in Bali.