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Thursday, 12-Apr-2007 20:03

Lost and Found :



Take the road from the UKM Bangi junction, in the direction of Bangi Lama and
pay attention to your right.

( Well, of course, if you are driving, do mind your front too

... and I shouldn't be held liable if you don't ! )

Very soon you will pass a hillside and from afar, a big wooden structure of what looks
like a house would appear, standing inside a fenced area, amidst lush greeneries of
what seems to be an orchard.

Those with trained eyes and good knowledge will find the roof tiles being distinctively
East Coast and the architectural being typical to that of northeastern region of the
peninsular. The fact that the land is owned by the nearby university, Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia ( UKM ), probably would make most people to think it as
another "school project", dedicated to related fields of learning.

Quite true, but I wonder how many people do realise that the house was in fact brought
all the way down from Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Few, I think. Even fewer are aware of the
fact that it also used to be home for three generations of one Kelantanese Royal family
that brought me to this World ....

I dedicated this entry to my late father,
who loved his family and held pride in the old house, so much ....

A story of mixed emotions about a family house

that was once lost .... but again found ... far away on a strange land.


Near the turn of the 20th century, Kelantan ( regardless the baseless territorial claim from the expansionist Bangkok regime ) was still an independant, self-ruled, sovereign entity in the East Coast of the Malay Peninsular, yet to be formally incorporated into British Malaya.

The jealousy between the two powers resulted the state to become some sort a refuge, a safe haven for the ages old Malay culture and art, much of those already being smeared or contaminated by Siamese influences up in the isthmus and by British Western ideals down south. In Kelantan, local feudal rulers became patrons of culture and art, from court rituals, sports, performances to metal workings and wood carvings. Creating rooms for many unique skills, hardly found anywhere else in the region, to thrive and prosper.

Around the same time, a noble lady, an immediate member of the ruling family, requested for a house to be build for her at what is now Jalan Mahmood in Kota Bharu. She was in fact the daughter of Sultan Ahmad, the Ghajo or the ruler who ruled Kelantan between 1886 ~ 1889. Her name was Tengku Bongsu and her husband was Tengku Chik. In days when the best craftmen were often placed under direct patronage of the rulers, expert carpenter(s) and woodcarvers were soon put to work. Using the best selected hardwoods and combined with skills enherited from old Langkasuka, they toiled to build a grand residence for the couple. The house was eventually finished and they both moved from their previous home at somewhere near the present day Jalan Tengku Chik in Kota Bharu to settle down in the new house for good.

They were my great grandparent.

Reeling again back in time, this time getting quite personal,
the house was home to my great grandparents, my grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and of course also to my late father too. My father was born, brought up and spent much of his life there. He always wanted the majestic, old house to be turned into a living family museum, that stands shoulder to shoulder with Istana Jahar alike. He never thought of replacing or selling it away, hoping that by preserving it would preserve the family legacy as well, right here in Kota Bharu.

The house is not like any typical, common Kelantanese house that you might know of.
It was a house akin to any other houses meant for prominent Kelantanese feudal families of those days. It was built using specific designs which were only reserved exclusively for the royal blooded. Which means, no matter how capable a commoner is ( say, a rich merchant or an expert carpenter ), he never dare building or decorating his own house similar to his social superiors, solely out of respect and reverence.

My late father was proud of it so much that he made a model of the earliest design of his grandparent's house and had it displayed at the entrance, which was really a hall ( balai ) to receive visitors, a unique space normally found in the houses of traditional Malay aristocrats. He treasured his family, believed firmly that the children deserves to be made aware of their past to better prepare for the future. He was a man of visions, man of methods and many times, he managed to turn them into realities. But he died, ten years before the last occupant, his aunt, Tengku Fatimah Zaharah passed away .......

After his death, things strayed far from what he wished.

The last occupant cum last owner died without leaving any descendant and the house fell to the mercy of remaining nephews. It seems that different people has different priorities, different plans in life and unfortunately, none of them shared what my late father dreamed of. The dream went to the grave with him and the house fell into disrepair. The events that followed are too complicated and too personal to mention and the house ended up being sold to the Malaysian Department of Museums and Antiquities, dismantled and was taken away - totally gone from sight.


* IMAGE UPDATED 2 SEP 2008 : The house during its final days in Kota Bharu.

Image courtesy of http://imageevent.com/jassabtr(SHAARI NTQT).

Terima kasih atas budi baik saudara.

* The house former site in Kota Bharu, now covered with wild vegetations. Slightly hidden from the hustle and bustle of the Kelantan state capital. Seen in the background is Hospital Besar Kota Bharu ( red roof ) or formally known as Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II.

Struck and rather saddened by the move, I waited for years and years, to know what actually happened to the house after they took it away.

The only clues to its whereabout were from these two articles, collected seven years ago by my mother from the local newspapers. I was away at a preparatory school in Bangi at the time, and remember coming home on one holiday, and was shown these :

* The New Straits Times ( 3 June 2000 ) - http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-82543196.html(Click here for online version)

* Utusan Malaysia ( 3 June 2000 )

Quite regularly I browsed the internet for any possible news on the so called " Muzium Etnologi Bangi " or " Ethnology of Malay World Museum " said to be built ( or supposed to have been built ) in Selangor, at this place called Bangi - the same place where I used to stay for a couple of years ( till early 2001 ) though it was not there during my stay.

Nothing of much help appeared from my Internet searches either but until very recently, I managed to find http://imageevent.com/shaari/rtfz?n=0&z=2&c=4&x=0&m=24&w=0&p=0(a site, with the informations to what I was hoping for years.) *

( * UPDATED 5 May 2007 : Don't bother clicking the link, the owner had all the photos related to it, erased for some unknown reason - sensitive info perhaps ? To those wondering, they were photos of the house being rebuilt )

( * UPDATED 4 Nov 2009 : The owner / author of the said link was really kind enough to have them re-posted ( at a different link though ), even much better than before. Click http://imageevent.com/jassabtr/rumahtengkufatimahzaharah(HERE) to see what I meant ... Thank you so much, En.Shaari ! )

Though it didn't reveal any clue to its exact location and current condition but at least, I knew then that my search is over. I got the rough idea that it is somewhere in Selangor, in Bangi. To be exact, somewhere within Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia ground. I told myself that I need to go and see it again. I really have to. Thankfully, it came to me later that I do know someone from the UKM who could probably lend a hand. http://hotzone.fotopages.com(A former schoolmate to be exact - currently working as an Assistant Consultant) at the UKM Pakarunding.

So I contacted him, told him a little bit from my story and asked him to find out the house exact location and the date it opens to the public - hoping that I could make it there somehow in the future. Days later he replied with details of its whereabout, some supporting photos but informed me that the area is locked and currently off limit to the public. Well, I had expected that and was hoping that it would open anytime soon when he went on telling me that if I insist, he could arrange an appointment with the person-in-charge who could show me inside. Delighted and more than interested, I agreed.

On Friday morning, 30th March 2007, I found myself in Bangi, standing inside an area surrounded by flowering Durian trees - an orchard while overlooking the house where my late father was born and grew up. Finally, after seven years of fruitless search, there it was ~ in front of me. I was not alone that day. With me was my eldest brother ( who lives nearby and was invited along ), the friend, the person-in-charge of the house, an architect attached to the university - Ar. Mastor Surat and one of his student. Never thought that the university itself would give us ( me and not to forget my bro ) this special honor, a chance to look again into our missing past ....

* Those are not windows but doors to what used to be rooms. ( Photo credit to http://hotzone.fotopages.com(Saiful Amri) )

Ar. Mastor ( I shall addressed him here on with his formal title ) led us into the house, which was nicely rebuilt and restored, but missing parts made it to be slightly smaller than it was. He told us that the house was kept all the while at Lukut for some reasons that he himself seemed reluctant to elaborate.

The first thing that I noticed was that the porch is not as what it used to be. Obviously it is a very recent addition that didn't come all the way from Kota Bharu. Even the stairway doesn't point to the previous direction ( it should point sideways ). From my Mom's descriptions, I also know that those big " windows " are in fact doors, leading to more rooms and spaces which had long deteriorated and probably got discarded during the dismantling work. In fact, I would say that the structure seen here is only about 50% of the house original shape and size during its heyday. Ar. Mastor confirmed this and plans have been set up to revive the remaining structures based on relatives' descriptions.

* The amazing thing about this piece is that it was ( believed to be ) carved by Chinese Muslim artisan(s) who frequented the shores of the East Coast in the past, even the Arabic caligraphy ( Khat ) carvings greatly resemble those found in China's many mosques.

* One of the corridors. Notice the so called " Janda Berhias " wall panelling.

So, we went through each room and corridor of the old house, looking around while having Ar. Mastor explaining to us the amazing logic and practicality behind traditional Malay architectures. He stopped at certain points inside the house, pointing to some erroneous joints, fixings and additions made by the contractor(s) during the restoring work, which to him, demonstrate how people these days failed to fully understand the logic and science of living in the old days.

I was more amazed by the ambience and everything else inside, from carved wooden panels, the intricate designs of the so called " janda berhias " walls, strange but brilliantly fashioned wooden locks to old brass door knobs. The inside was so magnificent that I never thought that it would look that great - felt like slipping a hundred years into the past ! .... Even a lone antique safe box stole my attention, wondering why it came together with the house while the rest of the fixtures didn't make it ...... emmm ...

* In the old days, those with this kind of ornate wall were the royalties'.

* Inside the so called " Rumah Ibu ". The oldest part of the house. The number of pillars emphasize the former owner's special status in society.

The tour lasted for three hours in perfect weather condition, with the sun brilliantly shining overhead ( oh yes, with tonnes of mosquitoes too ! ). It was indeed something to remember, something that made me finally understand the reasons to my late father's wish and dream. I felt foolish for a while, thinking that I had been wandering around Kota Bharu, eyeing for any remaining magnificent old Kelantanese Malay house without knowing that what my great grandparent had left is already very special and is one of its kind, waiting only for me to discover .......

I asked Ar. Mastor later over some cold drinks at a nearby stall, why not on-site preservation ? Why not just leave it there in Kota Bharu and do all the restoration on site ? Isn't it far much better that way ? As it is so obvious that a historical house would not be much of history without its original surrounding or setting to relate to. Besides, aren't the dismantling and transportation works contribute more harm than good to the original make-up and the already fragile piece? Even the restoring work would certainly put them at risk from various degree of mistreatments, some of which already being detected from the restored Rumah Tengku Bongsu.

He seemed to agree but prefer to see it in a different way by relating to his experiences.
Things are not that easy, he claimed. Family feuds over lands, over status of the house itself, ages old sentiments and many more related issues are already contributing much difficulties in preserving the already dilapidated architectural artifacts, on site. Even the original location and its surrounding, over time, would drastically change thus might not do good to the building's well being. Besides, by having such buildings moved to a well designated site, nearer to the place where future generations could easily gain access, study and learn, is far better than having it the other way around, he claimed.

Personal experiences tought me that what he said are indeed true.
Eheh... though the last one seems to be made in favour of ( as it benefits more ) the university rather than the place of origin ( Kelantan ). Maybe the last reason is in fact the main reason for the house to be there ... ;-) ? Needless to say, I have to admit that the current fate of the family house is far much better now than before. They have all the fundings and for that, I sincerely believe that the house would be kept in good shape for at least another hundred years to come. Indeed, a good thing if seen in a constructive manner but personally, still a very difficult thing to live with when you have both Kelantanese and family pride in mind ( well, if there is any left of course ) ..... I bet Ar. Mastor would understand if he's in my shoes.

Either way, Ar. Mastor was indeed a great help.

Without him, we wouldn't be able to step into the house and would certainly miss all those valueable informations and knowledge that he happily shared with us. His help is much appreciated and nevertheless, I am totally proud of his work and dedication. He appeared to me, as a person who is very knowledgable and very proud in traditional Malay architecture, a true enthusiast I would say. He even proudly exclaimed that the best dwelling in the World is the traditional Malay House(s) - as there is no one else who makes similar to the Malays, pre-fabricated houses ( not tents ! ), with the intention of future dismantling, relocating and refixing it at any given location ! Yeah, I thought of that too !

Oh, before I forgot, just prior to the visit, we met up at his office at Jabatan Senibina UKM. There, at the entrance into his room were two miniature models of old traditional Malay buildings - one of Masjid Kampung Laut and another one of the long gone Istana Seri Akar or sometimes being referred as Istana Tengku Seri Akar of Kota Bharu. To him, the Istana Seri Akar was very unique as it was built prior to British intervention thus having the distinctive, true Malay architecture. He preferred to call it as Istana Tengku Putri instead, after the name of the first occupant. When asked why, he explained that builders of the past built houses in proportion to the size of the owner thus having it named after the first occupant is thought to be more appropriate. I agreed, which is why I decided to call the ( former ) family house as Rumah Tengku Bongsu and not the formally accepted " Rumah Tengku Fatimah Zaharah " ( see the newspaper cuttings above ).

Ar. Mastor also revealed that he is currently working on project to build life size replica of the two for the soon to come, Muzium Etnologi Melayu. His plan to revive the magnificent Istana Tengku Putri has been approved and currently under way. The Masjid Kampung Laut however, is currently put on hold. The Istana Tengku Putri will be rebuilt based on some surviving drawings of the original structure and probably shall be erected next to the Rumah Tengku Bongsu. Rather amazing as Tengku Putri and Tengku Bongsu were in fact sisters from the same parentage, both were daughters to the late Sultan Ahmad of Kelantan !

As it was nearing Solat Jumaat, we bid farewell to Ar. Mastor and his student at the entrance of Fakulti Kejuruteraan UKM. I spent the night at my brother's house and left home for Kota Bharu the next morning - thinking how Kelantan had lost one of its treasure again ... Well at least, lost in good way. At least, http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=1102658(not at the antique shop) or as piles of wooden rubble or http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=566454(by rotting in the open). Tried to be optimistic but deep inside, it is still emotionally hard to live with.

I thought Kelantan is the " Cradle Of Malay Culture, Art and Civilization ", as reputed by many tourist brochures and internet sites but ironically, things that prove or support the claim are slowly disappearing from the Kelantanese soil itself. That soon, I am afraid, we will only be known for what we didn't do, for what we failed to do ......

Maybe this is what my late father used to worry about.

Maybe this is what he wanted the children to see, to understand.

Will there be light in the other end ?

I have no idea ~

RELATED ( 1 ) :

* Rumah Tengku Bongsu ( stated here as " Istana Tengku Zaharah ", a misnomer ) being featured in the book " Spirit of Wood : The Art of Malay Woodcarving ~ Works by master carvers from Kelantan, Terengganu and Pattani " by Farish A. Noor and Eddin Khoo ( photo : David Lok ). The subject in focus is the " ukiran sesiku ", one of the house many carving styles.

The book :


RELATED ( 2 ) :

( sekadar maklumat sampingan, tiada perkaitan dibuat antara yang hidup atau mati )


According to Ar. Mastor, an old house is not just simply an old house.
There are also spirits ( he used the word " semangat " ) that dwell alongside humans. The older the house, the stronger their presence and the more respect they demand. Wallahu a'laam.

This particular note on Rumah Tengku Bongsu ( formally known as Rumah Tengku Fatimah Zaharah ) appeared from one of my Google searches. The original source to this claim was a private forum hosted by http://www.c99limited.com/c99/rally/index.php?c=4(this site). I failed to reach the real source as it is a private forum, so had to use Google Cache to access it before had it copied and pasted here. Unfortunately now, the cache had gone and the post is no more traceable, so I only have this quote, with the credit goes to the anonymous forumer :

* Istana Kayu Rumah Tengku Fatimah Zaharah Dari Kelantan.

Porjek pemindahan istana kayu niee dibuat oleh pihak Muzium Negara ke kawasan
Taman Etanalogi di Bangi..(kawasan dusun kat depan UKM bangi ke lama Seremban)
..projek niee kemudian dibatalkan walaupun dipasang separuh siap kemudian rumah ini
disimpan di Lukut sebab political..proses pemindahan pun memang dah mengalami
macam-macam kerenah dan dugaan dan orang keje kejap jee tukar tukar sebab tak
tahan dugaan.. Waktu pasang kat Bangi niee dulu.. bayangkan rumah yang waktu tuu
separuh siap bila magrib jee tarak siapa budak keje aku yang berani naik..kalau tinggal
rokok jee sampai sanggup pegi pekan bangi beli baru dari naik ambik.. aku pun tanya
apasal.. diaorang just cakap keras...rumah tu.. aku lak kata memang laa keras sebab
rumah tuu dari kayu cengal dan berlian...(aku tak duduk site seminggu sekali jee
melawat) Suatu hari aku pegi site petang dan sampai magrib jee budak dah berenti
keje.. aku take time jenjalan dalam rumah tuu waktu magrib tengah samar-samar
gelab..tetiba ada satu perempuan baju putih tak nampak muka dia lalu depan aku siap
wangi lagiee dari suatu dinding ke dinding yang lain dia pegi...ikut dia sekali hilang...
jadiee yang niee laa diaorang risaukan rupanya...

Ada kes budak keje aku waktu bukak rumah niee kat kelantan ambik satu paku besi
panjang jenis lama tuu bawak balik katanya nak buat kenagan..sampai siang tak boleh
tido sebab sepanjang malam perempuan sama datang mintak suruh serahkan paku

RELATED ( 3 ) :

* Jangkaan rekabentuk asal Istana Tengku Putri ( Istana Seri Akar ) berdasarkan kajian Ar. Mastor dan dari lukisan terukur yang sempat dibuat semasa tahun tahun akhir kewujudannya.

* Bazaar Tengku Anis bakal dibina di atas tanah yang dahulunya merupakan bekas tapak Istana Tengku Putri ( Istana Seri Akar ) di Jalan Tengku Seri Akar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan.


Setinggi dan sepenuh penghargaan buat Ar. Mastor Surat, Senior Fellow - Jabatan Senibina, Fakulti Kejuruteraan, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia ( UKM ) Bangi dan Saiful Amri Md Nor, Pembantu Pakarunding, UKM-Pakarunding. Tanpa campurtangan kalian, mustahil impian saya tercapai.

~~~~~~~~~~ # ~ # ~ # ~ # ~~~~~~~~~~


Pada tahun 1966, banjir besar telah merosakkan struktur dan tapak sebuah masjid lama di Kampung Laut, Tumpat, Kelantan. Tahun berikutnya, 1967, perkara yang sama telah berlaku dan kali ini hampir melenyapkan terus masjid tersebut. Namun, ia masih mampu bertahan, menanti banjir besar seterusnya untuk menyelesaikan segala apa yang tertinggal.


Tahun 1968, struktur bersejarah itu yang dikenali sebagai Masjid Lama Kampung Laut, yang ketika itu dalam keadaan serba dhaif dan hanya menghitung masa terhumban ke dalam Sungai Kelantan, akhirnya telah diselamatkan. Ia telah dileraikan, dipindahkan dan didirikan semula di Nilam Puri, Kota Bharu iaitu 10 km dari tapak asalnya di Kampung Laut, Tumpat.

Allahyarham Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard melaporkan secara agak terperinci tentang operasi menyelamat berkenaan dalam jurnal bulanan Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia ( Malaysian Historical Society ) , edisi Disember 1970 antaranya :

dan disusuli dengan kenyataan ini :

Note :
Excerpts scanned from " The Oldest Mosque In Malaysia ; Moves To A Safer Site " by Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard ( The Malaysian Historical Society magazine, ' MALAYSIA in History ', Volume 13, December 1970 - Number Two )

Dari laporan berkenaan, beliau seolah olah ingin menggambarkan secara tersirat ( atau pun sudah tersurat ) bahawa pertama, tidak ada inisiatif dari pihak berkuasa mahupun penduduk tempatan untuk setidak tidaknya cuba menyelamatkan masjid berkenaan melainkan seolah olah sengaja dibiarkan untuk musnah. Kedua, tindakan menyelamat adalah dari inisiatif individu luar yang prihatin. Ketiga, tiada penglibatan yang signifikan dari pihak berkuasa dalam kerja pemulihan dan keempat, kos pemuliharaan adalah dari dana individu dan bukan awam !

Tak mengapalah. Itu perkara yang telah berlalu.
Tetapi ternyata amat berkhasiat jika diungkit bagi dijadikan iktibar.
Saya cuma tertanya tanya dengan keadaan sekarang. Adakah kita memiliki undang - undang tempatan atau paling kurang, polisi khusus dalam memulihara senibina silam agar kekal di tempat asalnya ( di negeri asalnya ) serta dapat disampaikan dalam keadaan yang boleh dimanfaatkan oleh umum ? Kenapa dibiarkan pihak luar terlebih dahulu mengambil inisiatif ? Dibiarkan khazanah sedemikian diangkut keluar ? Tidakkah sebegitu seolah olah menunjukkan kita tiada perasaan hormat, bangga dan kasih kepada khazanah sendiri ?

Saya ingin benar mengambil contoh dari Jepun.
Di Jepun, struktur binaan milik individu yang dikira amat bernilai dari segi nilai budaya dan sejarah akan sentiasa dipantau rapi oleh pihak kerajaan tempatan. Sekiranya pemilik dilihat tidak mampu lagi menjaganya dengan baik, pihak berkuasa akan memujuk si pemilik untuk menyerahkannya kepada mereka bagi dipulihara, dikekalkan dan dimanfaatkan oleh semua orang - yakni bagi dijadikan aset kebudayaan dan pelancongan setempat sekaligus membantu menaikkan nama dan memberi kebanggaan kepada anak tempatan. The logic is simple. If you own something that could draw others to you in amazement and awe, you should keep it well because once you lose it, you are John Doe !

Akan tetapi apa yang saya lihat di Kelantan tidak begitu ( entahlah, mungkin negeri lain pun sama ). Yang dipulihara dan dipelihara hanyalah apa yang dimilik penuh oleh kerajaan negeri sahaja. Mana yang tidak, diserah dan dipertanggungjawab sepenuhnya atas inisiatif peribadi si pemilik, sama ada ingin dijaga rapi dan dikekal atau dijual sebagai barang antik atau sekadar dijadikan kayu api ! Nampaknya tidak ada sebarang pemantauan dari pihak berkuasa tempatan bagi menentukan tindakan yang terbaik demi kemaslahatan umum masyarakat setempat. Apa yang berlaku kepada Rumah Tengku Bongsu adalah satu contoh yang terbaik !

Walau bagaimana pun, jika dilihat pada kes Masjid Kampung Laut, Kelantan boleh dikira beruntung kerana masjid berkenaan tidak dibawa keluar dari bumi Kelantan dan sekadar berpindah ke " sebelah rumah " sahaja ( boleh jadi idea Muzium Etnologi Melayu masih belum timbul di benak pihak kerajaan pusat ketika itu !? Kalau tidak, aku yakin ia juga akan berakhir di Bangi ! :-D ). Paling kurang, pihak Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia ( sebuah NGO ? ) tidak memiliki perancangan atau niat lain melainkan sekadar ingin menyelamat. Kerana itu, anak Kelantan masih boleh berbangga kerana Masjid tertua di Malaysia letaknya di negeri mereka.

Bayangkanlah kalau sebaliknya berlaku.
Apa agaknya yang boleh kita banggakan dari warisan senibina kita yang unik ?
Rumah kedai moden berderet deret ? Kota Sri Mutiara ?? Pelangi Mall ? Kelantan Trade Center ? Kota Bharu Trade Center ? Atau keupayaan anak muda kita berlumba motorsikal di atas jalan awam ? -- errrr ... yang ternyata bukan sejenis warisan senibina ..

Emm .. yang kemudian itu pun bagus juga.
Mungkin kita perlu memperuntukkan satu sudut di Muzium Negeri ( yang aku yakin banyak ruang kosongnya ) berkenaan budaya Rempit di Kelantan.

Waaaah ! Aku setuju !!
Aku sanggup jadi pembekal bahannya !

LOL ( ketawa sarkastik ! )

" History repeats itself
and the more you know of the past,
the better prepared you are for the future "

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