Mapping Taiping Heritage

Text and Photos by Law Siak Hong

Carved partition in a Taiping shophouse.

This blog begins with quotes from two leaders of the future:

“Progress cannot happen without learning from the past.” – Mohd Aminuddin, Student Representative, UM

“For all the potential Taiping has, perhaps its future is actually not in urban renewal. Conversely, it might be in this: that the soul of the town is left intact, so residents can continue to love her, and also that those who have left the town may one day return to enjoy their sunset years.” – Joel Lau Mun Fai, Student Representative, NUS.

Details of the supports of the plaque.

The long-awaited exhibition ‘Returning Taiping’ finally opened in Taiping on 26 February. It was a great day for Taiping heritage.

From the Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre in Melaka, the exhibition travelled to Taiping. It was installed by students and academics in the Joint Programme. The show in Taiping was organised by Teoh Chee Keong and Lee Eng Kew with the co-operation and local support of members of the Ng family.

From Left: UM’s Lim Take Bane called for preservation for Taiping's old market; UM’s Associate Professor Dr. Sr. Yahya Ahmad talked about the collaboration and NUS’ Lai Chee Kien thanked the people of Taiping for a fun experience.

The result of the University Malaya-National University of Singapore (UMNUS) Joint Studio Programme 2010, the exhibition was displayed in the townhouse of Ng Boo Bee, one of the buildings in this study. For the occasion, the townhouse was given a fresh coat of paint, inside and out.

Ng Boo Bee's townhouse - A collage by Chee Keong, by courtesy of the photographer.

The opening ceremony cum book launch was held in tents erected on the side street. More than two hundred had gathered on this sunny Saturday morning to witness a significant event in the annals of Taiping heritage.

A collage by Chee Keong, by courtesy of the photographer.

The Joint Studio Programme in Taiping this year is part of the on-going learning about ‘the morphology of South-east Asian towns and the taxonomy of various Chinese shophouse typologies’. Four different types of shophouses are studied in the process, and out of this, an admirable cultural mapping of the town’s heritage.

Students in the process of taking measured drawings - A collage by Chee Keong, by courtesy of the photographer.

Hooded side windows.

The four ‘shophouses’ and ‘townhouses’ have been selected for the measurement exercise to ‘reflect the life and trials of the town’. They ‘intersect the intricate and inter-twined fabric and grain of a resilient town that, despite its tranquil demeanour and routine, is now facing particular challenges in the years to come’, wrote Lai Chee Kien in one of the prefaces. The book comprises measured drawings, interviews, summary of students’ discussions and heaps of photographs. It is available in Melaka from the Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre for Asian Architectural and Urban Heritage.
Address: 54-56, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. 75200 Melaka. Enquiries to akittclc@nus.edu.sg attention Mr Philip Tay.

Students' architectural models.

After lunch, Teoh Chee Keong led an interactive talk about Taiping heritage. That evening, Lee Eng Kew hosted the screening of a documentary ‘The Pirate and the Ship’ and gave a talk on Towkay Ng Boo Bee.

Portrait of Ng Boo Bee.

A most prominent old Taiping resident and the wealthiest, Towkay Ng Boo Bee (1854-1921) was a Hokkien philanthropist. From supplying wooden sleepers and bricks for the construction of the first railway in the Malay Peninsula, which ran between Taiping and Port Weld (now Kuala Sepetang), he went on to become the contractor for the building of railways for two decades. He also prospered through revenue farming and tin-mining in Kamunting.

Quaint window display.

Because of the quality of this study, the Penang Heritage Trust will host the exhibition in Penang after its run in Taiping which ends early April.

If you want to see the exhibition in Ipoh, come forward. Let us find a venue, free of charge for a couple of weeks, and raise RM6000 to host the exhibition here. Of course, you can also be a sponsor or a donor.

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4 Responses to “Mapping Taiping Heritage”


  1. 1 John March 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Hi, I would like to know where can I get the book “Returning Taiping”. Hope that you can help. Thanks.

  2. 2 perakheritage April 1, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Hi John, welcome to the PHS Blog. For the book please refer to details in the blog ‘Mapping Taiping Heritage’. Thank you.

  3. 3 KC Low April 21, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Dears, is it still possible to visit Ng Boo Bee’s townhouse? Can I anyway have the address or local (Taiping) contact person? Thanks a lot!


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