Thursday, February 26, 2015

Indian Breakfast in Georgetown

With Georgetown's large South Indian population, we spent quite a few of our meals enjoying South Indian cuisine. One morning we ate at this small street side stall. For around $2, we had our fill of comfort food such as appams and rotis as well as fresh juice. The stall was a busy one, with many people stopping long enough to order their meal and have it taken "to go," with the sauces packaged in plastic bags. True, the rather strong rainfall made the plastic tarp rather noisy when eating, but we didn't mind. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Yet another mosque in historical Georgetown is the Kapitan Keling Mosque. It was built in 1801 to serve the area's Muslim South Indian community. Much of its current style was achieved during the mosque's major enlargement in 1916. Indeed, the Moghul-styled architecture felt like the building could easily have been in Agra or Delhi, reminding me of buildings such as Agra's Jami Masjid, the Taj Mahal or the Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. 

The single minaret, which seemed more like a small building, is from where the call to prayer is announced. 
The Kapitan Keling Mosque is located on what is known as Harmony Street, as it contains buildings serving the community's varied faiths including Islam, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seollal New Year's Celebration - Year of the Sheep

The roadways of Korea are likely quite congested right about now, with many people trying to inch their way back home. Traditionally, Seollal (Lunar New Year) is a time when families gather at the home of the oldest male relative to perform ancestral rituals, eat special foods, and play traditional games. Years ago, all businesses typically closed down during this three day festival and even now, many doors were shuttered on February 19 - the most important day. It is a birthday celebration for all Koreans, each turning one year older during Soellal. Gifts are traditionally given (although money is often preferred nowadays). Elders bestow blessings on the younger generation, while the young people pay respect to older members of the family.

On Friday, I joined a few colleagues to attend the free performance held at the Folk Museum in downtown Seoul. On this pleasant winter day, the downtown area was a busy area, with many others taking advantage of the time off of work/school.   
Musicians playing bamboo flutes and drummers began with a rather tranquil piece, fitting for the Year of the Sheep.

Some women dancers then joined the ensemble.

My favorite was the lion dancers. Two young men formed each lion, whose shaggy yarn fur reminded me of creatures from Sesame Street such as Barkley or even Snufalapogus. At one point, a lion "ate" a rabbit, with the stuffed animal disappearing in its wide wooden mouth. 
Later, some children (several of whom were wearing traditional hanboks) were invited to join in, dancing and even riding on top of the lions. Nearby, some children flew small, colorful kites.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh

A very short distance from the Yap Kongsi Temple, we decided to pay the Lebuh Acheh Mosque a very quick visit. Founded in 1808 by a wealthy individual from Acheh known as Tenku Syed Hussain bin Adul Rahman Aideed. This mosque was a center of Haj travel during the 19th century, attracting devotees from as far away as Sumatra and Thailand. Descendants of the early Hadhrami Arab settlers still live in the surrounding 19th century bungalows.
Compared to the nearby Chinese temples, the mosque exterior felt quite plain.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chien Nien mural work at Yap Kongsi

Although the scaffolding did obscure the wider view of the Yap Kongsi Temple in Georgetown, it did provide a glimpse into the process of the chien nien artistry adorning it and many other local Chinese temples.
Literally meaning "cut and paste," chien nien utilizes broken pieces of special porcelain bowls from China. While typically a brilliant glazed color on the outside, the bowl interiors tend to be unglazed, enabling bonding to the cement to be strengthened. The thinner the porcelain, the more desirable the bowls are for this art form. Chien nien can be found in such murals and the often highly decorative rooftops. The technique is also used to cover more sculptural pieces.
A rather fragile art worn down by time and weather, restoration work is a frequent need. Throughout Penang and Melaka, chien nien in various states of repair were noted.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Yap Kongsi Temple

Located in the heart of the historic quarters in Georgetown at the intersection of Cannon and Armenian Streets is the Yap Kongsi Temple. Built in 1924, it served the Yap clan from Southern China. It had some beautiful stone carvings on its façade and columns. Scaffolding and netting currently obstructed a good view of ornate the roof.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Heritage Shophouses of Penang

The streets of Georgetown in Penang are filled with heritage shophouses. Certain traits (as listed in a very helpful brochure) such as in the air vents, doors, and windows help date the buildings to a specific style. Dating from between the 1790's and 1850's, the Early Penang style shophouses were very simple and low - either one or perhaps two stories. I don't think we went past many of these - or perhaps they were more dilapidated and I didn't notice them.
Those from the Southern Chinese Eclectic Style typically dated from the 1840's -1910's. These had a mixture of Chinese (carved wooden door, air vents, gable end) as well as European & Indian influences (full-width timber louvered shuttered windows and U/V shaped terracotta roof tiles). This seems to describe the green shophouse in the photo above.

Walkways in front of the shophouses were covered and had thick arches. Obstacles between the shops were common though, forcing us to step over and into the rain.

Fueled by the tin mining industry, Straights Chinese people began making more improvements in their homes (1890's-1910's). Such shophouses still have carved wooden doors, air vents, and air wells of the Chinese influence, but also began including full-length shuttered windows, and geometric patterned colored clay floor tiles. Although faded, these two shophouses in the photo above are quite beautiful and seem representative of the Early Straights Eclectic Style.

In the Late Straits Eclectic Style (1910's-1930's), the European influence became greater (full-length shuttered windows, plaster relief, geometric patterned floor tiles, dado panel tiles below windows). Carved doors and air vents were formed some of the Chinese influence. Many of such homes were built by Straits-born Chinese trying to emulate their European counterparts. Expensive imported materials were financed by the booming rubber industry. 

Also present were buildings of the Art Deco style (1930's-1960's) and the Early Modern Style (1950's-1970's) Such buildings included curved concrete façades and metal-framed glass windows.