The Dying Trades of Melaka

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July 17th 2013
Published: July 17th 2013
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Melaka Bound Feet ShoesMelaka Bound Feet ShoesMelaka Bound Feet Shoes

Seems this can only be found in Melaka only even though the Chinese from China were the first to introduced this unique shoes.
Melaka, formerly known as Malacca was colonized by The Portuguese, Dutch and The British from 1400 until 1957. Melaka was the important trading port, strategically located in the South East Asia, all because of the Three "G"s. Gold, Glory and God.

Today, Melaka is named UNESCO World Heritage. A busy city with two million pairs of legs. Traffic is bad on weekends. Jonker Street became Chinatown took over Bunga Raya Road (the original Chinatown, now a sleepy road during the nights). Gosh! How I missed the oldies played from the Jukebox and ice kacang (shaved ice dessert) It was in the sixties, when I was less than ten years old. Melaka has become wider and bigger due to numerous reclaiming the land. I always joke with my friends that this reclaiming land one day will join Sumatra. I will not elaborate on Melaka, but the Dying Trades in Melaka. It is crucial for me to pen this down as this is going to phase off when no new bloods are taking over and modernization crept in so fast, the minds changes accordingly, these trades is of no importance anymore. Such a pity.

Dying Trades were not highlighted by the Ministry of Tourism in Melaka. Some Tourist Guides took the initiative to revive them when the tourist booked for the Heritage Walk but many were not told. Sad. During the early years, there were most sought after by the locals; they flourished together with the State through good times never affected by bad economy. They were taught by their forefathers, generations before them.Tourists seem to miss the opportunity to witness such businesses that had been there many years long before I was born, now they seem getting smaller each day, slowly diminishing when time comes. The new generations and tourist of the future will not know about them, never existed in their itinerary in the future, which I find it ashamed to say. I managed to capture a few dying trades while I was on a trip to Melaka, took some photos that might be of good use to some, someday.

Namely, the Bounded Feet Shoes, still in the making by the third generation, claiming the only shop that make Bounded Feet Shoes in the world whereby we cannot see this in The Great China anymore. In the early years of China, many young girls as young as three years old had their feet bounded by their parents. Hoping when they grew to right age, they will be married off to a rich man. The smaller the feet , fetches good catch. They are considered the “lady” in the men’s world. But we never knew their pain as they grew older. They had to wash and perfumed their legs every day or they will get infection but the most sad thing to see is the deformed leg and toes that they hlivery he'd with all their lives.

The making of Popiah Skin (Hokkien Dialect - Thin Pastry/Crepe), a kind of thin plain Chinese rice flour skin wrapping savory vegetables and deep fried them or just as it is, like the Spring Roles wrappers but softer. The dough is sticky. They wrapped around the fist like a boxer glove and ran over a hot flat pan for the dough to stick on; making a thin round sheet and quickly fished it up before it gets too hard and burnt. They stacked it up and sell it to Popiah Vendors.

The Wooden Bucket backlane workshop, met the
Wooden BucketsWooden BucketsWooden Buckets

The sole proprietor, the only employee
sole proprietor but very old, depends on old regular customers. Originally, these buckets were meant for the stool collectors working in the wee hours of the morning from house to house before the sunrise. During 60’s not many houses have proper sanitary system especially the villages. Today, these buckets are commonly used for cooking rice and to contain water. The owner said, “The golden days are gone”. Sometimes he could not sell anything for a month, but he kept on going, for this business is his only rice bowl. No one wants to do this business anymore.

The Chinese Funeral Paper Mache Shop or Joss Paper Shops are the very few left in Melaka or rather in Malaysia. They make paper dolls, houses, gold bars, Mercedes, chariots with horses, tv and video players for the dead and even dragon dance outfit and dragon heads, commonly seen during the Chinese funerals and festivals. This is Taoist style. These are the “Spirit Items or Gifts” or "Heavenly Offerings" for the deceased and the Gods, from the hearts of the living. It is made from rice paper, bamboo sticks, glue and colored papers. Creativity comes in and flow with the modern times and requirements of the buyers. It is quite an art to see but can be very expensive. Once Burn, Money Gone.

What about Clogs? Not the Dutch Clogs but the very different kind that came from the East. Chinese Clogs. A simple thick wooden block painted red that fits the size of the feet, with four to eight nails to hold the red or black plastic top together. It is usually worn by the ladies who worked in the kitchen, also for the bathroom. I met the fourth generation owner, a lady in her fifties in a rundown wooden house by the Melaka River. Her face glistened when I interviewed her. She gave me a brief story. She is the only one in the family to continue this business. She could not expand nor giving it up for it is her world for many years earning pittance every day. She called this “Small Trade Simple Life”. I remembered the sound of the Clogs “Click Clock Click Clock” still ringing in my mind as I looked at these Clogs again. Reminds me of my Mom when she was
Wooden BucketsWooden BucketsWooden Buckets

This trade was certified by the Malaysian Craft in 2011
in the kitchen in our old house in Melaka when I was a little toddler. This is sweet sound to my ears. Good memories indeed.

Feeling warm on hot weather? Try the Rice Powder Pills. In my younger days, I used to see ladies to elders applied this Rice Powder Pills on the faces, necks and hands on the hot day after their bath. They even applied this powder paste onto babies and children. Just take a few pills, put on your palm, add some water to break it up to paste and applied on the face, neck and hands. Its cooling and refreshing with the pandanous vine leaves giving out untamed aroma.The Myanmar ladies till today applies this Rice Powder Paste. In Malaysia, I don't see this anymore.

I am lucky to have witnessed all these in my younger days and today some of these dying trades still exist but soon will be forgotten in the near future. "Gone with the Wind". I should say.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Wooden BucketsWooden Buckets
Wooden Buckets

Make my Day!
Funeral Joss Paper ShopFuneral Joss Paper Shop
Funeral Joss Paper Shop

They also made Dragon Heads

18th July 2013

Wooden Bucket
Hi, the wooden bucket shop is on which street?

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