The island of Langkawi, also named as the Jewel of Kedah, is located some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. It has been a popular tourist spot for its natural pristine beauty.
With a population of about 64, 792, the island has a rich culture of wood and timber use is embedded in the life of the residents. For example,the Temple Tree/ Bon Ton Resort has a collection of ancient houses from allparts of Malaysia that display the unique wooden constructions of each regionand culture.
There are also traditional Malay wooden houses scattering on the countryside. Among them, we visited a large, luxurious private residence,which is a blend of tradition and modern construction.
We traveled to the suburb of Kuala Lumpur where we have visited National University of Malaysia and Seri Menanti. These visits allow us to understand better the uniqueness of traditional Malay houses.
National University of Malaysia is 30 km away from KL downtown, there is another delicately carved traditional Malay house, which used to be owned by an aristocrat back in the early 1900s. The structure of the house is well kept now for research purpose.
Seri Menanti is about 100 km away from the southeast of KL downtown,. It is the royal capital of the state of Negeri Sembilam. One of the landmarks within the small town is Istana Lama Seri Menanti, a 4-story wooden old palace, which was constructed without a single nail.
Kuala Lumpar is the federal capital city of Malaysia and located in Peninsular Malaysia. The city covers an area of 243 square kilometres (94 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 1.6 million. It is the cultural, financial and economic center of Malaysia.
We visited Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman, a preserved traditional Malay house, and an exhibition on wooden arches in the National Museum of Malaysia. In addition to these, the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), a governmental organization in forest management and sustainable development is also one of the remarkable places we have visited within downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Gudingzi village (now renamed as JinJiang village) is located in the Fusong County, is famous for its wooden constructions. It has a history of 400 years and there are 44 households left in the village. Here, Manchu is the main ethnicity.
Due to its high altitude of 900 meters, there is only little agricultural development in the village. Therefore, the villagers mostly rely on gathering and exchanging vegetable, medicine and pine nuts from woods for money and food.
The harmony way of living with the nature has captured the attention nationwide, so does the wooden houses. Gudingzi village is now preserved as the last wooden house village at Changbai Mountain.
The JinJen Octagon, built in 1703 A.D.was one type of Hinayana Buddhist architecture. It was used as a venue for meeting and chanting amongst monks. During the Cultural Revolution, Chinese government forbade people from participating in any religious activities. Many monks at the JinJen Octagon were sent back to their countriesor hometowns. The revolution ended in 1976. Restrictions on religious activities were lifted in the 1980s and JinJen Octagon gradually regained its vitality.
Experts congregated at the JinJen Octagon to discuss plantsspecies, tree growths and usage surrounding it. The biggest tree around the JinJen Octagon is the Bodhi tree (sacredfig). Next to it is a Blossoming Tree, which is known as the Golden Lotus forits shape. The Golden Lotus belongs to the Musaceae family. Growing on the Bodhi tree was Lumeria Rubra and ferns. Therefore, the Bodhi tree itselfis regarded as a botanical garden.
Manyangguang Forestry mostly lived by Dai people now, who use Dai language still. Dai language is 80 percent similar to Thai language in Thailand. Some Manyangguang schools teach bilingual languages (Dai language, Mandarin). To the overall village, there are no much differences from a decade ago to now, but the original wood tiles have been replaced by modern cement. Traditional Dai houses - so called Ganlan-style Architecture (Stilt-style Architecture), which often kept animal on the ground floor, and people live above. The usually use selected wood to build the Ganlan- style Architecture, because selected wood can prevent termites from decay the wooden column. Dai people also know that chicken eats termites, so they raise chicken too. In addition, they raising buffalo and pigs, so that mosquitoes will attack livestock rather than human being, deducting the chance people getting malaria.
Manfeilong Pagodas are called “Tanuo” meaning “bamboo tower” in the Dai language. The pagodas were built in 1204 BC from brick and stone. There are nine towers total with the main tower in the center surrounded by the other eight forming an octagon. It is considered a valuable work of art and a national symbol for ancient buildings. The Manfeilong Pagodas and other Buddhist temples are built by the minority ethnic groups whose religion is Theravada. The trees and flowers to be planted around the temples are chosen according to Theravada beliefs. Each species of tree is a sacred representation of each generation of Theravada Buddha.