Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mosques and temples

The George Town World Heritage group run free walking tours led by volunteers and I went on the LaCaLa Discovery tour with this man
LaCaLa is Acheen Street, Cannon Street and Armenian Street. The group included a young Malay girl wearing a headscarf who had done a two-hour drive to get here from her home in Kedah. She lectures in mechanical engineering at a technical college. Also two Singaporeans here for the weekend, a couple from Germany and several locals.

We visited the Lam Yeong Tong Yap Temple and clan house, the part-fortified Hock Teik Cheng Sin temple which these days has a temple dedicated to the Hokkien god of prosperity but in early times functioned as a Secret Society rather than a religious organisation, and the small kampong centred on the Malay Mosque, a long-time centre for those preparing to take their Haji.

Ethnic collaborations have been complex, and the architecture in this densely-populated area is known as Straits Eclectic, richly ornamented and borrowing from traditional Indonesian and Malay styles as well as Chinese and colonial.

This craft shop is known locally as the death house because for Malaysians, frangipani trees are more commonly found in cemeteries 

European art deco style
Chinese mansion, under restoration 

Yap Temple


 In the clan house beside the Yap temple, a woman is folding gold leaf paper squares that she makes into crowns. She does about 100 of these each day. For a particular festival when the Gates of Hell open up, people buy the crowns and they are burned in the street to appease the ancestors and to stop them getting up to mischief.

Outsourcing filial duties - for a small payment you can have your ancestor tablets put into a shrine in the Clan House where it is guaranteed that joss sticks will be lit every day and offerings made regularly.

Pineapple candle

The pineapple is a symbol of wealth and gold, so explains why I have seen so many pineapples, both real and these candles, on the shrines outside shops and homes

Worship of a completely different sort - this afternoon I passed a young indian man sitting on the pavement with a small plastic bag. Huffing something. He was still lying there when I walk by an hour or so later. Totally wasted.

At the end of the walking tour I went for coffee with Anya, a German expat who has lived here for nearly a year. Her husband works for Bosch. They live in an apartment near where he works which is far from the district where most of the europeans who live here choose to live. She has just got a scooter and is learning to ride which sounds pretty brave to me given what the traffic is like around the Heritage Zone. She warned me to be careful of my bag. Although is is generally very safe here, handbag thieves on motorbikes are the biggest threat, and she'd had her bag snatched from the basket on the front of her bicycle by someone riding past. She draws and paints and also sews, and she contributes articles and art work for a magazine put out by the local German-Malay association.

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