Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tong Wah Cave Temple @ Tambun Celebrates 138th Anniversary

The cave temple located 100m above ground

The entrance to the cave temple

The Tong Wah Cave Temple located near Tambun in Ipoh celebrated its 138th anniversary yesterday. The cave, which was founded in 1872, was thought by many archaeologists to be more than 250 million years old.

Dato' Rosnah Kassim delivering her speech

The cave temple, which is located 100m above ground and 500m away from the Lost of Tambun, is visible from the main road leading to Tanjong Rambutan.

Dato' Seri Ahmad Husni delivering his speech

The function was attended by over 800 people. Also present were the Minister of Finance (II) and Member of Parliament for Tambun, Dato' Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and State Assemblyman for Ulu Kinta, Dato' Rosnah Kassim.

Dato Rosnah meeting members of the public whoh have come to celebrate the 138th anniversary of Tong Wah Cave Temple

Launching the anniversary celebration by Dato' Seri Ahmad Husni and Dato' Rosnah together with temple committee chairman, Mr. Lee

The objective of the function was to raise fund for the development and expansion of the Buddhist Meditation Centre located at the foothill of the cave.

Dato' Seri Husni meeting members of the public who have attended the celebration

Temple Association Chairman, Mr. Lee, said that the Tong Wah Cave temple was founded by Liew Tong Sen in the 1870s. Several buddhist monks used to stay and do their meditation there. Several philanthropists include Leong Sin Nam has provided funds in the early stages to help develop the temple. Its strategic location and also its long history can become a tourist attraction for the state of Perak. He welcome any individual or organization to help expand and develop the temple.

The burning of the giant joss stick

During her speech at the function, Dato Rosnah congratulated the temple committee for having successfully organized the functions. She hopes that everyone regardless of their religious beliefs can live harmoniously and peacefully and contribute towards the development of the nation.

Dato' Seri Husni with some of the committee members of Tong Wah Cave Temple

Dato' Seri Ahmad Husni in his speech also congratulated the temple's committee on their 138th anniversary celebration. He said he was very happy to be invited to the occasion. As MP of Tambun, he will provide assistance to the temple committee to ensure that the Tong Wah Cave Temple will become not only a place for the buddhist to meditate and offer prayers but also as a tourist attraction.

Group photo with members of the Lion Dance from Tat Choi Primary School

During the function he contributed RM20,000 to temple committee to help fund its development plan.

Part of donors who have come to celebrate

Dr Richard Ng, the Director of OUM, with Dato' Seri Husni and Dato' Rosnah

Members of the Line Dancers

During the functions, more than RM5,000 were collected from the bidding of the giant joss stick and also from the generous donors. There was also lucky draw and karaoke held during the function.

Chatting with the Line Dancers from Tat Choi Primary School

Dato' Seri Husni shaking hands with Jun Hoong, whom he has given advice on future education

Group photo for remembrance

Group photo with the Tong Wah Cave Temple committee

The function which began at 7.30pm with the national anthem song "Negaraku" ended at 11.00pm.

Members of the Tong Wah Cave Temple committee lining up to give Dato' Seri Husni a grand send off

Monday, November 15, 2010

Perak's former tin mining towns linked to Sun Yat-sen - Star


Dr Sun Yat-sen’s numerous supporters in Malaya played a role in the revolution that changed the history of China.

THE many former tin mining towns in the Kinta Valley hide a wealth of stories – of unsung heroes whose sacrifices helped Dr Sun Yat-sen change the history of China.

Perak may not have been Dr Sun’s base, like Singapore and Penang, but its thousands of tin mine and rubber estate workers were instrumental in raising funds for the revolutionary’s activities.

Dr Sun, who played a key role in inspiring the 1911 Revolution which brought an end to the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, is best remembered as the founding father of Republican China. But not much is known about his activities in then Malaya.

The words of Dr Sun Yat-sen are inscribed on a wall of the Sun Yat-sen Gallery in the Perak Cave Temple.

Stories from small, old towns are normally carried down the generations by word of mouth. Much information may have been lost along the way, and even the descendants of Dr Sun’s supporters have little to tell.

So it is not surprising that few have heard stories like Dr Sun’s romantic link with his bodyguard’s sister, Chen Cuifen, while in Nanyang (South-East Asia).

Chen from Fujian met Dr Sun when she was 17. Extremely dedicated to Dr Sun and his cause, Chen was his constant companion in Nanyang. She washed, cooked for many of Dr Sun’s comrades, delivered important documents, and even smuggled dangerous explosives.

Chen and Dr Sun’s first wife, Lu Muzhen, treated each other like sisters. Although not officially married, she was known as Dr Sun’s Nanyang wife to his descendants.

Family photos: A picture of Chen Cuifen and Dr Sun Yat-sen at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Museum in Guangzhou.

On her death, she was allowed to be buried in the Sun’s family cemetery in Cuiheng village, Guangdong, China.

Chen adopted a daughter, Su Zhongying, from a rubber estate worker in Perak. Su later married Sun Qian, a grandson of Sun Mei who was Dr Sun’s elder brother.

Renowned historian Prof Yen Ching-hwang said in his doctoral thesis, Chinese Revolutionary Movement In Malaya 1900-1911, that Dr Sun’s first trip to Ipoh in 1906 ended abruptly when he was threatened by well-known tin miner Foo Choo Choon who was backing a different political camp in China. Dr Sun returned to Kuala Lumpur the following day.

According to the late Foong Choon Hon, a director of the Sun Yat-sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in Singapore, on one occasion, stones and cow dung were hurled at the car carrying Dr Sun in Menglembu near Ipoh.

Foong said Dr Sun had also stayed in a shop belonging to his supporter Lee Guan Swee in Old Town, Ipoh. He would only leave the shop at night using the back lane for fear of assassins.

Chen Cuifen’s adopted daughter Su Zhongying was from Perak.

Dr Sun’s bad experiences with rich merchants made him realise that his core support came from the middle and lower social groups of overseas Chinese communities. His supporters organised themselves into small groups and were active in propaganda activities in the Perak towns of Lahat, Papan and Tronoh.

One of Dr Sun’s most loyal supporters was entrepreneur Teh Lay Seng from Ipoh.

When Teh passed away in Nanjing, China, in 1940, the Chinese Republican Government posthumously decorated him with words of praise: Benevolence and Loyalty, Honour and Peace were inscribed on his tombstone at the Hokkien Cemetery in Tambun. His sundry shop Keat Seng Leong is still being run by his descendants in Jalan Bijeh Timah, Ipoh

Lee Guan Swee, also from Ipoh, was another prominent supporter. The English-educated Lee was one of Dr Sun’s most trusted aides in South-East Asia. He spared no effort in raising funds for the revolution. Other supporters from Ipoh included Ke Shuijin, Ou Shengang, Li Xiaozhang, Tang Boling, Liu Yexing, Huang Yiyi and Liang Shennan.

Dr Sun also had the backing of Lu Wenhui and Chen Zhian from Taiping, and Yang Chaodong from Kampar.

The Perak Cave Temple with a gallery on Sun Yat-sen in Ipoh.

Together they formed the Tung Meng Hui (the revolutionary Union League) in towns in the Kinta Valley, clubs and drama troupes, to spread their propaganda. One such drama troupe in Ipoh was the Perak Chisin Seah which later became the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association.

Dr Sun’s supporters addressed the general public at street corners, along roadsides and parks, and attacked the Qing government and Qing reformists, besides preaching revolutionary doctrines.

Dr Sun’s political career was marked by a series of failed uprisings. Between 1907 and 1910, several revolts at the Sino-Vietnamese border and Guangdong in China failed because of insufficient financial support and military supplies.

The now-defunct Straits Echo in Penang condemned Dr Sun and the revolutionary movement, saying that Dr Sun was all money talk and did not have anything to show for the stream of gold that flowed his way.

Dr Sun’s supporters also met with resistance from merchants who were sympathetic to calls for political change in China, but who were aligned to reformist Kang You-wei. Many of the rich were supporters of the Qing government which offered honorary titles and positions to them.

The house where Chen Cuifen and Dr Sun Yat Sen stayed when they were in Taiping which is now a coffee powder factory.

On Nov 13, 1910, Dr Sun held the important “Penang Conference” at Armenian Street in Penang. He made an emotional appeal for funds but many rich Chinese businessmen were reluctant to associate with revolutionary politics as they were under the watchful eyes of the British in the Straits Settlements. The Penang contribution only came up to $11,500 (Straits dollars).

After the conference, fundraising campaigns were carried out in Ipoh, Taiping and Kampar, and they managed to hit the targeted $50,000 – a princely sum then.

The tin mine workers in the Kinta Valley, who were driven out of their homeland in China by poverty and the corrupt Qing government, were all fired up by Dr Sun’s revolutionary call.

It was said that the workers alone contributed $10,000 following the Second Guangzhou Uprising in April, 1911.

This was no small sum as the workers earned an average $8 to $9 a month.

A certificate signed by Sun Wen, Dr Sun Yat-sen’s birth name, in 1912 presented to the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association in appreciation of raising funds during the Canton Floods and other charitable acts.

After deducting expenses for daily necessities, the worker could at the most save $4. He had to send money home to family members in China, after which he would be left with $1 to $2 a month. Going by the amount collected, the workers must have scrimped and saved every cent they could for the cause of the revolution.

A prominent revolutionary leader Hu Hanmin said: “These workers were so enthusiastic in donating funds. They often donated between $20 and $30 to the revolution. Some even wrote down their names first and tried to pay up later.”

Besides the tin mine workers, other members of the lower social group such as hawkers, rickshaw pullers and beggars also contributed to the cause of the revolution.

The success of the fundraising campaigns in Malaya served as an impetus for similar fund-raisers by the overseas Chinese in other parts of South-East Asia and America.

Some residents in the mining towns even sacrificed their lives for the sake of the revolution.

Gopeng Museum curator Phang See Kong said a Hakka tin mine worker, Wen Sheng-cai, from Kopisan near Gopeng, was so taken by a speech delivered by Dr Sun that he returned to China and tried to assassinate Qing official Admiral Li Zhun in Canton. His attempt failed and he was captured and killed.

Phang said three Gopeng residents, Eu Tong Hong, Wan Sang Choy and Kok King Mak, later took part in the Second Guangzhou Uprising and were killed. Their names are included in the list of 72 martyrs at the Huanghuagang Memorial Park in Guangzhou.

Revolutionary activities were again stirred up when news of the Wuchang Uprising reached the people.

On Oct 10, 1911, the New Army in Wuchang revolted and seized power, marking the start of the Xinhai Revolution or the Chinese Revolution, which eventually saw the end of more than 2,000 years of imperial rule in China.

Large-scale public meetings were held in Ipoh under the auspices of the Tung Meng Hui, the underground resistance movement organised by Dr Sun. As a result of the inflammatory speeches by supporter Teh Lay Seng, more than $8,000 was collected on the spot.

On Nov 3, 1911, mass meetings held to raise funds for the revolution were reported to have attracted some 4,000 to 5,000 sympathisers in Ipoh.

About 2,000 tin mine workers from Perak were said to have left for Guangzhou within a fortnight after the Oct 10 Revolution, to join in the uprising. Those that remained behind did all they could to raise funds for the cause.

Tin miner Foo Choo Choon, who by then had switched allegiance to Dr Sun, was appointed chief fund-raising officer in South-East Asia and $234,000 was remitted from Malaya and Singapore to help the revolutionaries secure Fujian Province.

Dr Sun termed the overseas Chinese as the “Mother of the Revolution” as their financial contribution was indispensable to the success of the revolution.

In later years, tycoons in Perak, including Datuk Seri Lau Pak Kuan, Leong Sin Nam and Foong Seong, who were Tung Meng Hui leaders, continued to support Dr Sun and his new Kuomintang government.

Perak once had the most number of Tung Meng Hui members in the country.

Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association vice-chairman Datuk Ooi Foh Sing recalls that students in Yit Ching Primary School in Pusing where he studied, used to raise the Kuomintang flag and sang patriotic songs with verses from Dr Sun’s San Ming Chu Yi (Three Principles of the People) every Monday during assembly.

“There was an arch with the image of the Kuomintang flag on one side and the British King on the other side during the Double 10 celebrations,” he says.

Today, many of the buildings in Lahat, Pusing, Gopeng, Papan, Tronoh and Kampar where Dr Sun and his supporters had visited, have been demolished.

Dr Sun and his supporters were said to have held meetings at the Oi Low Club in Gopeng, the Anglo-Chinese Club in Papan, the Wah Seong Kok literary association in Kampar, and Teh Lay Seng’s bungalow in Jalan Sungai Pari, Ipoh.

Today, only remnants of the foundation of the Oi Low Club are visible at the site, while a four-storey building stands where the Wah Seong Kok association once stood. Teh’s residence has also been demolished to make way for development.

Few residents in Lahat remember that a settlement opposite the town was once known as Kap Meng Chun (Revolution Village) because the residents were Dr Sun’s supporters.

A cinema named in memory of Dr Sun, The Sun in Ipoh which locals called Chung Shan theatre beside the Kinta River, has also been torn down.

Other buildings established in memory of Dr Sun, including SJKC Chung Shan school in Ipoh, SJKC Chung Sun in Tronoh and SJKC San Min school in Teluk Intan are still in existence.

The Kin Kwok Daily News building in Old Town, Ipoh, still stands. The now-defunct Chinese newspaper was started by a Kuomintang supporter before World War II. The original masthead of the paper was written by Yu Youren, a Kuomintang scholar.

Perak Cave Temple chairman Chong Yin Chat said Yu was a friend of his father Chong Seng Yee, who was the last batch of graduates of the prestigious Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou.

Yin Chat had set up a Sun Yat-sen Gallery at the temple in 1995 in honour of the Father of Modern China.

On display at the gallery are photographs of Dr Sun, a bust presented by the Sun Yat Sen memorial museum in Taiwan, calligraphy works and reproductions of letters by Dr Sun.

An oil painting of Dr Sun in official uniform, graces the hall of the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association.

A framed certificate with the autograph of Sun Wen (Dr Sun’s birth name) dated 1912, expressing appreciation to the association for its efforts in raising funds for the Canton floods and other charitable acts, hangs proudly from the wall.

In Assam Kumbang, Taiping, the Chang Chun Pu bungalow or Evergreen Mansion, where Dr Sun and Chen Cuifen once stayed, is now owned by Aun Tong Sdn Bhd, a coffee powder manufacturing factory.

As these relics from the past lay largely forgotten by the masses, the few who remember them cherish the rich legacy and their vital links with an indomitable man who eventually became known as the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China.

Several descendants of Dr Sun from all over the world are expected to be in Penang between Nov 19 and 22 to attend the 22nd joint conference of the Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling memorials in conjunction with the International Centennial Celebrations of Sun Yat-sen’s ‘Penang Conference’.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silver state makes bid for Unesco listing - The Star

PERAK is seeking to list Kinta Valley, Lenggong Valley, Gua Tempurung and Royal Belum as Unesco world heritage sites, said state Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman.

She said the state hoped to get Kinta Valley — which includes Ipoh, Batu Gajah and Kampar — listed as a Unesco tin heritage site by 2012.

Awesome attraction: Limestone formations ar the entrance of Gua Puteri.

Hamidah said the state was also trying to nominate Lenggong Valley as a world archaeological heritage site, Gua Tempurung as limestone heritage site and Royal Belum as the rainforest, jungle and biodiversity heritage site.

She said a committee comprising representatives from the Ipoh City Council, Kinta Heritage Group, Perak Tourism Action Council and the National Heritage Department was preparing a nomination dossier on Kinta Valley to be submitted to Unesco.

Hamidah said the committee had been tasked to identify and mark sites and buildings to be included in the dossier.

“We are looking into the possibility of promoting Visit Perak Year in 2012 and everything must be in place by then,” she said in an interview.

Hamidah said the Kinta Valley had left behind significant buildings from its glorious tin mining past.

Heritage landmark: The Neo-Classic Ipoh Railway Station in Ipoh Old Town.

She said these heritage structures were treasures that should be preserved.

“Unlike modern buildings, the old ones will be gone forever if uncared for and torn down.” she added.

Hamidah said about RM450,000 had been allocated for conservation projects in Panglima Lane (Concubine Street) which was among the sites that had been identified.

“We have roped in a team specialising in conserving old buildings from Universiti Teknologi MARA to help us,” she said.

Hamidah also said the tin dredge in Batu Gajah was another heritage structure that should be protected.

“It is our last remaining tin dredge and is in very bad shape with its pontoon badly damaged,” she said, adding the dredge caretaker had estimated RM1.5mil to fix it.

Hamidah said there had been proposals to move the tin dredge away from the outskirts of Batu Gajah and closer to towns.

“The cost to dismantle and reassemble the structure is also a killing factor, at about RM30mil,” she said.

“We have spoken to the National Heritage Department to get feedback on the matter,” she added.

Kinta Heritage Group Sdn Bhd chairman Jek Yap said Ipoh’s Old Town would be the core sector in the nomination centre.

He said the group had distributed 500,000 copies of the Ipoh Heritage Trail to rekindle the people’s interest in the cultural heritage of the city.

“We have also introduced the Ipoh Heritage Trail tour which starts from the Ipoh railway station and end at Jalan Panglima (Concubine Lane),” he added.

Participants would be taken to see 24 historic buildings and places including the Straits Trading Building built in 1907, the former tin miners club Han Chin Pet Soo built in 1929, the 1920’s Dramatists’ Hostel and the Ipoh Railway Station built from 1914 to 1917.

Yap said the group was registered in April to assist the government to “save Ipoh” and promote the city, which has more than 120 years of history.

A hotspot — then and now - The Star


PANGLIMA Lane or Yi Lai Hong (Concubine Lane in Cantonese) as it is popularly known, comes across as just another narrow street in Ipoh.

Yet the row of 27 pre-war buildings along the road has never failed to attract tourists, photographers and artists from far and near.

Old-world charm: The Once notorious Panglima Lane in Ipoh is now drawing a differnt crowd- touristsm shutterbugs and even movie producers.

It has, in fact, become a famous landmark, probably more for its notorious label as a place where mistresses are allegedly kept than as a opium haunt in the early 1950s.

Ninety-year-old Wong Koh Kee, the retired boss of Koh Kee Restaurant situated along the lane, however, doubted there were businessmen and tin miners who kept their mistresses there nor were there any brothels.

Classic design: The horizontal bars doorway is among the olden architecture that attracts visitors from near and afar to visit Panglima Lane in Ipoh.

“A story that goes round is that opium smokers would always say they are going to their mistresses instead of to the opium den when asked by friends,” he noted.

Wong said despite its reputation, the area was surprisingly peaceful back then with hardly any serious crime.

“One thing for sure is that the place is quiet and peaceful. The folks at the opium dens only wanted to be left alone,” he added.

Today, many people are still interested in the buildings’ architecture along the lane, which mainly serves as a passageway for visitors who parked their cars along Jalan Bijeh Timah to go to the coffeeshops along Jalan Bandar Timah.

Car-free: Panglima Lane has become a walkway between Jalan Bijeh Timah and Jalan Bandar Timah.

“The traditional horizontal bar gates, wooden window panes and bronze door knobs are a rare find for visitors,” said former resident Loh Vooi Leong.

“Tourists could also be seen snapping away pictures of bamboo poles placed across one window ledge to another to dry their clothes,” said the 58-year-old, adding that it was completely new to them.

Loh said the place had also become a favourite spot for location shootings, including for a Hong Kong drama series starring renowned actor Alex Man Chi Leung as well as by local producers filming Chinese New Year music videos and films. Once a hive of activity in the 1950s and 1960s, Panglima Lane is a close-knit community of mostly hawkers and traders where everyone is a familiar face.

Whether it is the birth of a child, the Chinese New Year festivities or even if a resident gets a job, there is always a cause for celebration.

As Loh puts it, “everyone was practically a family member then.”

“In times of duress, we will try to help each other and keep an eye for one another,” he said.

The lane with about 27 prewar shophouses used to house about 100 families. One shophouse would have about four to five families staying under one roof.

“Only six buildings are still occupied, four with families and the other two have become workers’ quarters,” he said, adding the rest were vacant and dilapidated.

Many residents left the place after the Ipoh City Council came down hard on street hawkers in 1998.

Loh, who spent his childhood days in the area, said life was pretty simple then.

“The boys like to play near Sungai Kinta, catching fighting fish in the river and spiders by the embankment. Given some marbles or spinning tops, we would enjoy ourselves for the whole day,” he recalled.

Resident Chou Yuet Lai, 60, said her childhood always revolved around work.

“While the boys are outside running and playing, the girls are often told to remain at home to cook, sweep the floor or wash cloths,” she said.

Even during her teenage years, she would help out at her relative’s noodle stall after school.

“It’s basically the norm for my family that if you don’t work, you won’t get money to eat,” said the retired waitress.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Easy steps to make dumplings - The Star

HAINANESE dumplings stand out among the usual dumplings as these are wrapped with banana leaves instead of bamboo leaves. These are also tied individually while the others hang from a bundle of hemp strings.

The Selangor and Federal Territory Hainan Association Women’s Section members demonstrated the methods to make the pyramid-shaped delights. The dumplings are later boiled until thoroughly cooked.

To make these, hemp strings, banana leaves (grill them over charcoal fire, then wipe clean) are required.


Glutinous rice (soaked overnight, drained then fried with garlic, salt and soy sauce), Chinese mushrooms, dried shredded squid, shallots, dried shrimps (saute separately), pork (marinated with seasoning, then fried), salted egg yolk, chestnuts (steamed or boiled)


Step 1: Tie two hemp strings together by making two knots — a few centimetres apart — in the middle of the strings.

Step 2: There should be a loop like this if you tie the strings correctly.

Step 3: Lay one banana leaf on top of another.

Step 4: Fold the leaves diagonally twice.

Step 5: Open the folded leaves to form a cone.

Step 6: Add one tablespoon of glutinous rice, followed by various desired ingredients, then cover with another two tablespoons of glutinous rice.

Step 7: Wrap the leaves tightly.

Step 8: Place the loop of the hemp strings at the top of the pyramid-shaped dumpling. Cross the strings at the bottom of the dumpling. Pull them through the loop, then pull towards the bottom of the dumpling again and tie both ends into a tight knot.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Firing up an interest in dragon kilns of Ipoh

Saturday June 5, 2010 By CHAN LI LEEN, Photos by LEW YONG KAN

Sixty-year-old business: One of the dragon kilns that is still in use at Sin Cheak Seng on Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh.

IPOH may hold a secret that not many know about, not even its sons and daughters who have lived here all their lives.

A rare gem in present times, there are actually a handful of operational dragon kilns lying in our own backyard.

For thousands of years, dragon kilns — brick-built kilns shaped like a dragon and fuelled with firewood to fire ceramics — were used extensively in China and later on in parts of South East Asia due to the migration of its people.

But no thanks to modern and more convenient processes that use diesel and electricity, these old-fashioned kilns have become a dying breed.

Chin Kam Peng

According to one owner Chin Kam Peng, a third generation potter operating on Jalan Kuala Kangsar, there could be perhaps 10 dragon kilns left in Ipoh.

“Our three dragon kilns each measure 24m-long by 2.4m wide and 2.1m high and are as old as I am.

“They are still in working condition despite having been built 60 years ago by my father,” said Chin, whose company Sin Cheak Seng exports flower pots and an assortment of pottery to Europe, Australia, the United States and Canada.

Firing ceramics in dragon kilns is a long and tedious process but the results are often unexpected and worth every effort.

Polished product: Flower pots being left to cool inside a kiln.

Regardless of what the pro-ducts are, it takes up to 30 hours at above 1,400 degree Celsius to fire the pieces.

“We have to continuously stoke the fire to make sure the heat remains at that temperature,” he said, adding that it takes another 10 hours or so for the pieces to cool before they can be removed from the kiln.

“There is no short cut to it. Otherwise, the pieces will crack and have to be thrown away.

“But what we get for our time and effort are beautiful pieces that are unique from each other,” he explained.

Wood ash settles on the pieces during the firing, and the complex interaction between flame, ash, and the minerals of the clay body forms a natural ash glaze.

This glaze may show great variation in colour, texture, and thickness, ranging from smooth and glossy to rough and sharp.

Stoke up the fire: Kiln worker Tang Teng Guan feeding firewood into a dragon kiln at Sin Cheak Seng pottery workshop.

Tang Teng Guan, 52, a third generation kiln worker, had picked up the trade from the time he was 11 years old.

“It requires much practice and experience because you are to judge if the temperature is right by just looking with your naked eye.

“It is physically draining and a dirty job, which no young man is interested in doing or even know about for that matter,” he said.

Ceramic artist: Tan with his replica of a dragon klin.

In an effort to create more awareness about the dragon kiln, tea merchant Legend of Tea Sdn Bhd is teaming up with local ceramic artist Tan Vooi Yam and a group of potters from Singapore to hold a pottery exhibition next month.

“The Splendour of Tea and Clay” will feature pieces made from Ipoh clay fired in dragon kilns. The pieces will be sold to the public to raise funds for charity.

Legend of Tea advertising and promotion head Ng Sook Peng said pottery was as much an art as tea drinking.

“Ipoh is famous for our limestone hills and water. We have very good clay for making teapots but all this time, we’ve been importing clay from overseas.

“This got us thinking, why not promote our clay in Ipoh and at the same time promote the dragon kiln which is dying a natural death,” said Ng.

Life-sized-sculpture: Chong creating a torso from Ipoh clay as an art piece for a wall.

Part-time potter Vernice Chong, who is amongst three potters from Singapore taking part in the exhibition, said two remaining dragon kilns in the island state were no longer in use.

“We met Tan at an exhibition a few months ago and were very excited to learn from him that Ipoh still has dragon kilns.

“We are here to try out Ipoh clay and explore the dragon kiln, which is really very rare,” said Chong.

The 49-year-old housewife said that she was particularly fond of the natural fine lines on the pieces created from the slow firing in the dragon kiln.

Skillful handwork: Lim moulding a vase that will be fired in a dragon kiln and sold at a charity exhibition in Ipoh.

“And the inside of the kiln is most beautiful and colourful due to the glaze that ends up on its walls during the firing process,” said Chong, who was recently in Ipoh with the two other participants, Andrew Chua and Lim Hua Choon.

The exhibition will be held at the Legend of Tea showroom at No 33, Jalan Foo Yet Kai, Ipoh, Perak, from July 9 to July 15. For details, call 05-2539500.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Accidental farmer has not looked back since he started growing vegetables 12 years ago

Tuesday March 9, 2010

Story and photos by YIP YOKE TENG (

FARMING is making inroads into land-squeezed cities as many urbanites seek tranquillity amid the hustle and bustle.

The green campaign has also prompted more people to join the fraternity, especially after they have tasted the sweetness of their labour — organic fruits and vegetables.

Retiree Chia Sun Pau, 61, started planting fruits and vegetables in his house compound 12 years ago, when he discovered that the so-called organic vegetables he had been buying were actually sourced from the wholesale market.

No sweat: Chia enjoys working on his vegetable plot in his garden

The accidental farmer has not looked back since.

“I have peace of mind knowing that my family members are eating safe food because I am the one planting it, and, of course, it gives me a good feeling to be doing that for my loved ones,” he said when interviewed at his home in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.

While many may think gardening and farming are hard work, Chia has never felt that way.

“It is not taxing at all, and I enjoy being surrounded by greens and blooms,” he said.

The affable man had an exciting Chinese New Year because he had an exceptionally good lettuce harvest, having made a little adjustment to his winning formula.

The compound of his corner terrace unit is home to some 20 varieties of fruits and vegetables that always grow to impressive sizes, as well as a myriad of blooms that are big and bright.

Lush greens: No, this is not a farm in Cameron Highlands, but the compound of a corner terrace house in Setapak.

He attributed his success to the organic fertiliser he invented — a mixture of fruit peel, vegetables and egg shells left to decompose for three months in air-tight containers — which he mixes into the soil.

“I tried out a new way this year: I applied a layer of the fertiliser below the soil and the lettuce grew to an amazing size in just 40 days,” he said, adding that it used to take 50 days for the plants to attain that size previously.

His produce has made headlines in the Chinese newspapers on several occasions and each time, he would be inundated with calls from as far as Malacca, enquiring about his farming secrets. He has always obliged happily, and has even visited the callers in their homes to show them how it was done.

Fruit of his labour: Pineapple is one of the many fruits Chia plants in his garden.

Several schools have also invited him to impart his skills to the students.

Chia is generous in sharing his success.

Orphanages, old folks’ homes and neighbours are regular recipients of the sweet fruits of his labour, too.

“I want to share my formula with as many people as possible so that more can have healthy food. And, it is good for the environment, too.

“With the fertiliser, you do not need any pesticide either,” he added.