This gentleman sells a wide range of fresh produce in one of the Penang wet markets. I was so taken with his sense of self-- the amazing beard and the soft expression in his eyes.
Each of these lanterns was donated by a family to a neighborhood Chinese temple, where they hang from the rafters. The families are acknowledged with a hang tag. At this particular temple, I had my fortune told with a rather spectacular result. I was told that I was to face a very serious health problem, but that I would overcome it with much patience. A year later I was in a cardiologists office being told that two of my valves needed repairs. After open heart surgery and a couple of years of rehab I am getting back up to speed with my life. Wow. I think I should look into donating a lantern.
This clan jetty shrine in Penang, Malaysia, honors a variety of Chinese and local religious figures. The Chinese deities each have a characteristic appearance. I am too much of a novice to even begin to tell them apart. During a trip to the local carving center, I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the figures and their particular wardrobes and devices. Look closely and you will see a cluster of cobras in the center of this shrine. There are several groups of Indian decent in Penang, the Chulias and the Tamils, notably, and I assume that the snakes are related in some way to Hinduism. There are also glasses of beer inserted into the shrine to appease the local animistic spirits
While I cannot tell you a great deal more about the meaning of the figures in the shrine, I love the odd visual unity that they create together.
These moms and children were watching my friend Nancy do the Hokey Pokey with some village children in West Kalamantan, Island of Borneo. General hilarity ensued when Nancy got to the "put your right hip in, and shake it all about" part.
This very kind Imam gave a tour of a mosque, on the island of Java, that is associated with a historical event--a visit by the Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He in the time of the Ming dynasty. He explained that as a Chinese Muslim in Indonesia he is rather unique, but he is also proud of his forebear, Zheng He.
Joss sticks are an essential part of a visit to the temple. They come in many sizes and several different scents. The closer you get to a temple, the more storefronts selling incense.
This young TukTuk driver has decked out his ride with elaborate decorations. He is waiting for customers at the edge of the night market in the center of Malacca.
A ceramic artist at a traditional wood burning Dragon kiln begins the process of carving a design into greenware. This Dragon kiln harvests its own clay in West Kalamanton, and throws and fires thousands of vessels.
This is a particularly elaborate take on a typical West Kalamanton water jar. The water jar traces back to sailing voyages across the South China seas. The water jars on the ships could be suspended from handles built into the shoulder of the jar. Once suspended, the jars don't spill. Instead, they adjust to the heel of the ship.
In Georgetown, Penang, six clan jetties extend into the harbor. According to UNESCO, "When the jetties were established in the mid-19th century everybody who lived on the same jetty had the same surname because they all came from the same fishing village in China’s Fujian Province. When they arrived they did not have money to buy land and so decided to build their own villages: the jetties. The families were used to living close to the water and most men who lived on the jetties worked as fishermen or as coolies in the port."
This particular jetty has a burner for "hell money." This is a special printed and decorated paper that is offered to the ancestors.
An articulated statue awaits its costume. This store specializes in carving and detailing statues of the hundreds of figures from Chinese religion and mythology.
Just a few of the hundreds of Chinese religious statues in a single store in Georgetown. The detailing is amazing--individual figures are hand painted, have real hair, and are equipped with removable spears, swords, and magical tools.
This women prepares to apply a beard to a statue of a Chinese god. She works in a tight space, surrounded by paints and brushes, varnishes, and the tools she will use to make tiny holes and glue real hair into them to create the beard.
A fierce guardian lion mouths an iron ball. The ball moves. Most of its paint has been rubbed off by the many hands that have rolled it around in the lion's mouth over the years.
Chinese temples are filled with the oder of burning incense.