Sintang District, within the heart of Indonesian Borneo, is located about 400 Km northwest from Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan Province. Most people in Sintang are of Dayak origin, belonging to one of the many Dayak subgroups. Dayak, an ethnic minority group, inhabit the entire central part of Borneo (Sarawak – East Malaysia and Indonesian Kalimantan). Although cultural aspects of Dayak sub-groups vary with unique elements such as separate languages, similarities are found in their means of seeking sustenance (mainly dry-field farming), lineal descent system, ancestral weapons and hunting tools, and a form of ancestor worship blended with animisticdynamism, called Kaharingan.
Dayak maintain traces of prehistoric cultures that first migrated into Kalimantan, such as the Dongson culture. Dongson was a province of China where cultural elements spread from the Asian mainland to Indonesia. Chinese decorative jars found in many Dayak homes constituted part of fines paid by transgressors of traditional law, and now are relics of the Chinese culture that spread over much of interior Borneo. Chinese patterns are evident in the ornamentation of Dayak textiles, including geometric lines emphasizing the spiral, double spiral, hook, and meander.
These patterns are found on basketry, rattan work, beads, and on houses. The motifs are said to be abstract birds, dragon-snakes, and animals and plants taken from the Dayak environment. This conforms to the mythology or folklore that puts birds in a symbolic context. In Dayak folklore, birds are sacred foretellers of good fortune and misfortune. They represent the upper-world, while reptiles are symbols of underworld. The Dayak recognizes more than ten species of hornbill, which forecast daily events. Abstract forms of the hornbill and naga (dragon snake) are basic elements in ornamentation generally found in carved work and weavings. In most Dayak weavings, known as Ikats, the dominant floral pattern is the tree of life, which is an important factor in the Kaharingan belief.