Paper Oblation Craftsmen: The Heritage Traders of George Town

Gain unique insight into the customs and beliefs of the Chinese community in Penang before witnessing the skillful art of making paper effigies. The intangible heritage of George Town is not only a vital contributing factor to the significance of the World Heritage Site, but it’s also what gives the city its richness and vitality, such as traditional performing arts, artisan skills and traditional crafts and trades.

According to Chinese custom, miniature paper replicas of houses, servants and worldly possessions (cars, mobile phones, watches etc.) are burnt as offerings to the newly deceased to accompany them on their new life in the afterworld. Aside from paper houses, the shop we visit on our trip also makes giant paper effigies of Chinese gods which are used to commemorate deities’ birthdays and religious festivals. The process of making any of these paper effigies is long and meticulous, with many of the steps carried out by hand, from assembling each stick to the patching of colored papers. This revealing program shows that George Town’s heart lies not in its stucco-fronted structures or intricately carved wooden shutters: instead, it’s in its people, and nobody exemplifies this more than the skilled craftsmen who continue to earn a living the same way that generations before them have done.

e: [email protected]

  • facebook
  • googleplus
  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • linkedin