Diving deep into Bali culture: Fred B. Eiseman Jr.

His bestseller sekala & Niskala  supplied  generations of travellers with a fundamental  introduction to Bali culture – little known however many of his other writings.  It seems, no Expad dived deeper into Bali culture than Fred B. Eiseman Jr (1926-2013), who even published the first dictionary on Balinese language.

Reaching  out to shoot an interview with him 2014, I was sad to hear he passed away just the year before.

Publishing over 30 books on Bali,  Eiseman Jr.  was a great messenger of Bali culture. Only one of his books is  still reprinted, his bestseller “sekala and Niskala” (the Seen and the Unseen), Balinese terms for the co-existence of the spiritual world (Niskala) next to ours (sekala). Another title is still available as e-book (Fruits of Bali).

Most of his books were just self-published, hand-copied in small editions and sold in a few places like Ganesha bookstore in Ubud.

There is a great a great Open-Source project supporting the preservation of Balinese language, which started with 10.000 words of Eisemans dicitionary basabali.org This wonderful project  will continue to add content of Eisemans work in the future.

Back in 2015  I  tried to compile a list of Eisemans works in chronological order (see below), using international library search tools (worldCat) for 24 titles. More titles, mainly collaborations (with Patrick de Panthou and others), I found in online-bookstores.

To preserve Eisemans heritage, I encouraged  2014/2015 his long-term assistant Linud, who cared about Eisemans original scripts after he passed away 2013, to support a Open Source solution. 2016 Linud gave all material to Alissa Stern, who created the Open Source dictionary of Bali language, based on Eisemans work. Now Eisemans manuscripts, books and photo archive are accesible at the Cornell University, USA and hopefully will be digitalized, becoming part of the BasaBali Wiki-Project.

 Here is a a first list of original scripts now included in the Cornell University library: http://basabali.org/fred-eiseman-works/


Many decades Eiseman Jr. spend in his second home Bali, but his stunning biography shows a curious explorer far beyond Bali.

Born in Mark Twains Missouri 1926, nature and indigenous culture soon became his passion. 11 years old he visited the Great Canyon the first time in 1937.  At the age of 12 he  joined Prairie Trek Expeditions in the South West in his summer  school holidays.

In war time he completed his studies and became a highly acclaimed teacher in the 50s, teaching Earth science, chemistry, and physics, publishing on these topics and receiving a a nation-wide teacher award 1959. In school holidays he would continue to explore the Grand Canyon, becoming an experienced river guide and a good friend of Hopi and Navajo Indians.

In the 70s he came to Bali his first time, to stay here almost the rest of his life.

Fred Eiseman Jr.  died April 6, 2013 in Arizona, his ashes have been returned to Bali.


Works by Fred B. Eiseman Jr.

(compiled 2015 by Joo Peter)


Bali : wood carvings and trees

a guide to the wood carvings of Bali with discussions of the types of woods used and the trees from which these woods come

Fred B Eiseman, Margaret H Eiseman

Den Pasar, Bali, Indonesia : Fred B. Eiseman, Jr., 1987

Bali : sekala, what you can see, and Niskala, what you can’t

Fred Eiseman, 1988

Scottsdale, Ariz. (13025 East Mountain View Road, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85259) : F.B. Eiseman

Fruits of Bali

Fred B Eiseman, Jr.; Margaret H Eiseman, Berkeley : Periplus Editions, 1988

Flowers of Bali

Fred B Eiseman, Jr.; Margaret H Eiseman, Berkeley : Periplus Editions, 1988

Woodcarvings of Bali

Fred B Eiseman, Jr.; Margaret H Eiseman, Berkeley : Periplus Editions, 1988

Bali, sekala and Niskala

Fred B Eiseman; Margaret H Eiseman Berkeley, Calif. : Periplus Editions, 1989-1990

Bali: sekala and Niskala / 2. Essays on society, tradition, and craft.

Fred B Eiseman; Berkeley, Calif. : Periplus Editions, 1990

Tulisan Bali : a layman’s guide to Balinese script

Fred B Eiseman,  Jimbaran, 1995

2nd Edition Scottsdale, 1999

The story of Jimbaran

Fred B Eiseman, Jimbaran Bali, 1996

Punyan-punyanan : plants of the Jimbaran area Bali

Fred B Eiseman,  Jimbaran, Bali, 1997

Dadaaran Bali : foods that Balinese people eat

publisher: Jimbaran, Bali,1998

Ulat-ulatan : traditional basketry in Bali

Bangkok, Thailand : White Lotus Press, 1999

Balinese calendars

Scottsdale, 1999

Jimbaran, Bali, 2000

Usada Bali – A living Drug Store at Kubu Beach

written for Ritz-Carlton Bali, Jimbaran, 2000 (not listed  in worldCat)

Nyledét Jimbaran – Glimpses of everyday Life in a village in South Bali

Jimbaran, Bali, 2001

Usada Bali : traditional medicine in the Jimbaran area, South Bali

Jimbaran, Bali, 2001

Reinventing Bali : the island of peace

Wayan Darsana, I pseud. van Fred B. Eiseman (Jr.); Bali Tourism Authority (Denpasar)

Bali Tourism Authority, Denpasar, 2002

42 p. : ill., krt. ; 21 cm.

Traditional Balinese stories : satua Bali kuna

Jimbaran Bali, 2002

Dugas pidan : the way things were : everyday life in Jimbaran, a village in South Bali, from Dutch times to the present

Jimbaran Bali, 2004


Babantenan offerings and their role in the daily lives & thoughts of the people of Jimbaran, Bali

(other title: Offerings : and their role in the daily lives & thoughts of the people of Jimbaran, Bali = Babantenan)

Jimbaran Bali, 2005

Kakaputan : wrapping & packaging things in Jimbaran, Bali

Jimbaran Bali, 2006

Paribasa Bali – Playing with words in Bali

Jimbaran 2006 (not listed in worldCat)

Things I wish someone had told me when I first came to Bali

Jimbaran Bali, 2007

Guide to the common fishes of Jimbaran Bay & Bali Strait

Jimbaran, 2007, not listed in worldCat

Dictionary English-Balinese

Jimbaran, Bali, 2008

Traditional Balinese tools in the Jimbaran area, South Bali = Prabot Bali tatamian

Jimbaran, Bali

Palalyan : traditional Balinese games in the Jimbaran area, South Bali

Jimbaran Bali, 2009

How Balinese people express ideas = Nyatuwayang pakeneh anak Bali

Jimbaran Bali, 2010

Bali niskala : the intangible world of Jimbaran, Bali

Jimbaran Bali, 2010

About the publishers

Eiseman published five books with Periplus between 1988-1990, together with his wife Margaret.

Since 1995, Eiseman mainly self-published books as hand-made copies in small numbers.

Besides that, he had a major publication with White Lotus Press in Bangok 1999 (Ulat-ulatan : traditional basketry in Bali).

For other publishers, also see special collaborations below.


Special Collaborations

Eiseman is mentioned as author/co-author/contributor in other books, especially in a book about Bali by Patrick de Panthou, which seems to have been republished many times by different publishers and a variety of titles. All five titles below seem to be based on the same travel book, Eiseman developed with partners and had been published in English, French and German.


Patrick de Panthou, Fred B Eiseman and others

Editions du Pacifique (1978) french version

Times Ed. Singapore(1988)

Hachette (1989)

edition weltkultur (1996)

Bali (Travel Bugs)

Patrick de Panthou, Fred B Eiseman

Hungry Minds Inc (1993)

Bali – the emerald island

Patrick de Panthou, Fred B Eiseman

McGraw-Hill Contemporary (2001)

Bali and Lombok

Fred B Eiseman, Singapore, MPH Pub, Sun Tree Pub, 1992

Suntree Guides, Bali und Lombok

Fred Eiseman Jr., contributors Leonard Lueras, Kunang Helmi Picard, Morten Strange

GEO Center, München, 1997


Cockfighting in Bali


This text might be included in one of the books above.

Other work

Eka dasa rudra slides, 1979

Slides taken for a National Geographic magazine article.

ca. 10,000 slides (151 slide boxes)

Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY 14853 United States

(as listed on worldCat)

Bali Celebrates a Festival of Faith

article for National Geographic, 1980


Kecak : a Balinese music drama.

Fred B Eiseman; David Lewiston; I Gusti Putu Putra; Kecak Ganda Sari.

New York, NY : Bridge Records, 1990, CD-Rom

orchestra Kecak Ganda Sari conducted by I Gusti Putu Putra

and more

Eiseman Jr. published also on different topics besides Bali, these publications are not listed here.

Also, Eiseman had a special photo archive on Great Canyon river rafting. Eiseman Jr came from Arizona and was passionate about the Great Canyon. He served as river guide for a while and made many boat tours on the river. See also Fred Eiseman Collection below.

Fred Eiseman Collection


Short Biography:


more biographical informations: