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culture by locations
Discover Penang George Town - Traditional Joss Stick Maker
Lee Beng Chuan, who has been making joss sticks since he left school. Together with his wife they made the joss sticks at their rented pre war shop house located near to the Kuan Yin Temple (Temple of the Goddess of Mercy), right in the heart of heritage George Town.
Nowadays, most if not all the sold joss sticks are made in the factories using machines, thus handmade ones are practically difficult to find. Not many are keen to pick up this traditional craftsmanship as their livelihood because the returns are not attractive. For Mr Lee "his work doesn't bring him fame or financial promise. To him, it is a way of living.
For the joss sticks, he would first knell a paste consisting of sandalwood and sticky powder made from terja tree. Once the paste is ready, he will tediously mould the paste onto long bamboo sticks one at a time. He only covers three quarter of the stick with the paste whereas the other quarter is left empty for easy handling. The joss sticks are then left to harden on a rack for a few hours. Once harden, a roller board is use to remove the uneven part of the joss stick and make them smooth all rounded. The joss sticks are then left to dry completely in the sun for two to three days, much depending on the weather.
Beside the normal joss stick, he also made other incense burners, small cone joss burner and decorative souvenir made from sandalwood for tourist. There are only a few living heritage craftsmen like Lee left around who are proud of their skills and still clinging to their craftsmanship, but they are fast disappearing due to technology and mass production method. Both Mr Lee, his wife and many other skilful craftsmen have made Penang proud.
No. 1 Lorong Muda (Off Steward Lane) Penang Operations hours: 8.00am - 11.00am (weekdays)