Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Crime does not pay?

No, no, no. They are not the criminals. They are my students.

Now, the one on the right is Chung Keng Quee (or Kwee), the famous gangster leader (OK, they are called secret societies) from the late 19th Century, leader of the Hai San secret society who fought in the infamous Larut Wars, all for the sake of a few tin mines. Oh, yes, the British loved him and he was respected, millionaire philanthropist, founder of modern Taiping, member of Perak Advisory Council and a survivor in the face of adversity. So, let's just ignore the gangster bit.

In October 2007, I wrote about the bus drivers from Adelaide. Well, they are back. OK, not the same guys, except for Matthew. This is six years in a row that the University of South Australia students have come to work with my students at USM under their international Planning Visit Study course. This year the heritage walk started at the Peranakan Museum which was beautifully restored at a cool RM4 million. It used to be the mansion of Mr. Chung or Kapitan Chung.

This is the air well. Quite inspiring opulence.

The USM and UniSA students being given a tour of the museum by a heritage guide. We had the same guide (Mr Yap) last year and he is so full of interesting anecdotes we have to constantly remind him of the time. Can you guess which one he is?

There's this courtyard painted green with lots of green plants so if you just sit there like a Mandarin (like Matthew here), you also become green.

One of the places we stopped at was a joss-stick maker. He is a living heritage. He looks very healthy at 80 years of age and still makes joss sticks at a prewar shophouse near to the Goddess of Mercy Temple. He's been there for 71 years, doing the same trade which he learned by secretly observing the workers who used to make joss sticks at the Temple nearby. He still lives in the double-storey shophouse with his wife, all his children having moved out. The building was rented for about RM20 per month in the good old days, then went up to about RM50 until the Rent Control Act was abolished in 2000. He now pays RM300+ per month (on a two year contract) to Ban Hin Lee, the owner, which is a holding company of a famous Penang family founded by a barber (Yeap Chor Ee). The joss-stick maker remembers that as a youngster he saw Yeap visiting the Temple regularly but by then Yeap was already a very old man walking with the aid of his wife (probably a young one?).

Before I left, I asked for his name. He said Lee Meng Chuan. Wow. So, I told him my name. He instantly jumped up and went inside and took out some joss-sticks with Chinese characters written by him wishing me luck. Apparently I am "chin lang", or relative.


abe said...

What a wonderful trip!
I wish i can be part of it. although im nt from planning..i love to see and experience the true 'living' heritage. Talking to them alone is a life changing experinece..
Count me in for trips like tat...PLEASE!!!!!!!
Good job Dr.



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