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Tuesday, 11-Aug-2009 10:30
Distinctively KeLaTte : Kelantanese Trad. Timber Dwellings

Distinctively KeLaTte :

Kelantanese Malay Traditional Timber Dwellings

* Jalan Sultanah Zainab / Jalan Gajah Mati, July 2009.

A visitor ( I know, he's a regular ... doumo arigatou ! ),

left the following comment some time ago in http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=1766916(a not so past entry :)

hahaha..Pok Ku Ray kembali !

cadangan entry utk Pok Ku Ray - Rumah Kayu Tradisional Melayu Kelantan..
(rumah Tg Bongsu tu rumah kerabat..rumah ore keluaran/kebanyakan..
lagumana tu Pok Ku Ray ) tepek banyok gamba Masjid Lama (sudah baru) Mulong tu!

Thu 21-May-2009 04:44
Posted by:iruasta

Thank you Mr. Iruasta .. ( or sometimes ' http://adiatsauri.blogspot.com/(Atsauri) ' .. eheh )

I grinned when I read that ...

To tell the truth, I have been thinking of making a post about it for already quite some time.

The reason why I chose to 'hold it back' is solely due to the fact that I had no clear idea of what really or should represent the true ' rumah ore keluaran / kebanyakan ' of Kelantan which, in my opinion, has to be above all, distinctively Kelantanese.

Most ' old ' timber houses that we see throughout Kelantan today were actually built after or just before the World War II, easily identified through the integration of many non-native styles, materials and architectural elements in their construction and design. Styles and elements which are either strikingly European in origin or obviously copied or based on those houses typically found on the other side of the Peninsular. Simply put, they hardly represent Kelantanese traditional dwellings as existed in the past, particularly the ones that used to dot the Kelantanese landscape prior to the British arrival.

So, the question here is, what kind of existing structure possibly best represent ( should I use the word 'true' and 'authentic' ? ) traditional dwellings of the common Kelantanese ?

I was wondering and wondering, going through this and that, observing here and there, acquiring and losing ideas until a news popped out in a local newspaper about a month ago. Nothing out of this World but http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/7/7/nation/20090707173328&sec=nation&FORM=ZZNR2(an announcement, more like a promotional) attempt by http://www.pos.com.my/v1/(Pos Malaysia) on the then soon-to-be-released new set of postage stamps.

( Note : I used to be an avid stamps collector when I was way lot younger ... )

It features traditional dwellings of native Malaysians, houses that are said to represent the identity of each state in the Federation of Malaysia. A set of 16 postage stamps depicting traditional wooden Malay, Orang Asli and other Bumiputeras' houses of Malaysia, and as expected, a piece is dedicated to the state of Kelantan.

On it, a drawing of ' Rumah Tiang 12 ' of ' Kelantan ' :


* Edited image of the original, courtesy from http://smsphilatelic.blogspot.com/2009/07/malaysia-traditional-houses-issue-july.html(Smsphilatelic's Blog).

The piece somewhat confirmed on what I already hold onto,

that the ' Rumah Tiang 12 ' or ' Rumah Tiang Dua Belas ' *....

* tiang = pillar, altogether pronounced : Roo-mah Tee-young Doer Buh-last or anything close as long as not ' Rumah Tiang Twelve ' or ' Rumah Tiang Jyuu-Ni ' ! LOL

.... is exactly the type of house, which I strongly believed, were very common among native, ' keluaran / kebanyakan ' Kelantanese before World War II !

The construction is simple and rather straightforward but nevertheless, of brilliant design.
While the main frame was usually of hardwood timber joined merely by wooden pegs ( pasak ) of similar quality, the wall can range from as simple as " kajang / buluh sasak " ( woven bamboo strips ), to the intricately put-up, high taste " Janda Berhias " ( paneled wall ), and even to non-conventional corrugated iron sheet ! *

* Kajang : - Abdullah Munshi mentioned many times about ' kajang ' walled houses in Kelantan in http://www.sabrizain.org/malaya/library/munshi2.pdf(his travel journal), on his journey to Kelantan in 1837.

* Corrugated Iron : - described in detail under ' additional supplements ' below ...

Though it is quite ironic when the image on the stamp itself doesn't seem to portray a house with 12 pillars ( .. emmm ... well, it looks instead like a Rumah Tiang 16 to me ), the basic concept is there and well presented. In other words, the distinctive pillar placements, the signature long roof and the single living space it created, are typical to many timber dwellings from that period, as can be seen through some examples which I managed to identify in Kota Bharu.

For easier reference, I posted up here several photos of some existing very old Kelantanese Malay timber dwellings which somehow fit the above mentioned concept, houses that I strongly believed were erected around the end of the 19th century ( maybe much earlier ) or early 20th century, up to the few years before the start of World War II. Of course, there is also another type known as Rumah Bumbung Perabung Lima to look into. However, since the latter appeared in Kelantan later than the Rumah Tiang 12 or 16, I shall not discuss about here. At least, not now.

( Above all, it is really sad to know that only a mere handful of such remarkable, old and distinctively traditional Kelantanese timber dwellings still left in Kelantan. Most are in bad shape, dilapidated, deteriorating structures that are very probably despised by their own owners, waiting to be bulldozed, to give way to newer, modern ones ~ )

So, if you ask me what common Kelantanese ( ore keluaran/kebanyakan ) in our pre-colonial past might had picked up for their homes, that is my opinion.

To be honest, I am no expert in this field and what stated here are all based on my own observations, topped with rough research and readings.

Well Mr. Iruasta, what say you ?

* Kampung Penambang, August 2009.

* Kampung Banggol, July 2009.

* Jalan Post Office Lama, August 2009.

* Jalan Post Office Lama, August 2009.

* Jalan Post Office Lama, August 2009.



* Outside the Raja Muda's house, Kota Bharu.

A street scene, just outside the high walled residence of the ' Raja Muda ' in 1905.

The photo was taken by W.A. Graham, a Bangkok appointed British officer who served
in Kelantan in the early 1900s. This photo, along with quite a number of other photos of
Kelantan from the time, appeared in Graham's Kelantan : A State of The Malay
Peninsular, first published in Glasgow, in 1908.

I will touch on the ' Raja Muda ' later.

First, what I really would like to point out from the above 100 years old shot is the two
storey building on the left hand side. Notice the rectangular window with vertical wooden
bars, partly hidden by the roof of a much lower structure. The wall where it is attached to
is made out of corrugated iron-zinc sheet. Likewise, even the wall ( lower one ) seen on
the right seems to be made from the same material.

It might be hard to tell through this resolution alone but judging from the original, a much
higher resolution image in my possession, it appeared ( obviously ) to be so. Even the
author himself did admit to it, on page 28 - Chapter IV Towns and Villages :


So it proves that pre-colonial Kelantan was not entirely of wood.

At least, we know that, beginning from the late 19th century, corrugated iron ( probably
introduced into Kelantan from Singapore ) started to gain popularity and come into wide
use in the state, as observed by Graham, for the " construction of houses ". Not sure
what he meant by " construction of houses ", but I strongly believe ( plus, judging from
the above image ) that it was not just for the roof.

So, the next time you see a seemingly century old house with corrugated iron for walls
( or even for roofing ) instead of the usually anticipated ( also much romanticized )
" Dinding Janda Berhias ", don't simply dismiss or overlook it as you are very much
probably looking at the real deal from that period.

Here, in this entry, I posted some images of pre-War and ( what I strongly believed
to be ) century old houses with corrugated iron walls. Also notice the signature window
from the period, the rectangular, small windows with wooden frame and poles.
Luckily, in Kota Bharu alone, houses with such walls and windows are still there to be
found along Jalan Post Office Lama and Kampung China, albeit in fewer numbers.

Now for the " Raja Muda " part.

( I know it is not related to our current topic but believe me, it is equally noteworthy ~ )

I did my own research and http://www.royalark.net/Malaysia/kelant7.htm(through royalark.net) , have a good reason to believe that the
Raja Muda as referred to by W.A. Graham in the above photo caption was no other but
Tengku Long Zainal Abidin ibni Sultan Muhammad III ( b. 1875 ~ d. 1945 ) who was also
known as either Tuan Zainal Abidin or Tengku Zainal Abidin, but better known as Raja
Dewa. Simply put, the house belonged to Raja Muda aka Raja Dewa.

When his brother, Tengku Long Senik took to the throne as Sultan Muhammad IV
( reign. 1900 ~ 1920 ), Tengku Zainal Abidin was bestowed the title of Raja Muda
( the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heir_presumptive(Heir Presumptive) ) of Kelantan. Not to be confused with the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heir_apparent(Heir Apparent) who
was Tengku Ismail, the eldest son of Sultan Muhammad IV who at the time was in his
early 20s, and carried the title Tengku Sri Indra Mahkota ( 1901 ). Tengku Ismail
later succeeded his father in 1920 as Sultan Ismail and with the new Sultan in power,
Tengku Zainal Abidin found himself ' promoted ' from Raja Muda to the title of Raja Dewa,
according to the same site, in 1944. Thus explaining why he was better known today by
the name Raja Dewa instead of Raja Muda.

So, what's up with Raja Dewa ?

First, the present day Jalan Raja Dewa was named after the man.
Secondly and most importantly, Raja Dewa was the ' first-hand owner ' of the newly
restored, historical Masjid Lama Mulong, the structure which before being turned into a
mosque for the people of Mulong in the 1950s, was his Balairong Seri ( meeting hall ),
which was built in the early 1900s - presumably, behind those very walls as seen from
the above photo.

For those who wish to ' know ' Tengku / Tuan Zainal Abidin better, he could be seen
here, in this rare shot taken during a visit by the then British Straits Settlements Governor,
Sir John Anderson to Kelantan in July 1909 :


Unfortunately, I have no idea where in modern day Kelantan, the shot ( of the house ) was taken.
If only I could be assured of the real location, it could be easier for me to prove the original
location of Balairong Seri Raja Dewa before being moved to Mulong.

An old map of Kota Bharu that I came across at work, revealed that there was a road
by the name Jalan Raja Muda at what is now Pelangi Mall Condo and Shops, next to
Jalan Post Office Lama, close to the Kelantan River, not far from Istana Balai Besar.
Perhaps it was somewhere there hence the name.

Interestingly the following news articles ( http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/info.asp?y=2009&dt=0718&pub=Utusan_Malaysia&sec=Timur&pg=wt_01.htm(HERE) and http://www.kosmo.com.my/kosmo/content.asp?y=2009&dt=0808&pub=Kosmo&sec=Rencana_Utama&pg=ru_02.htm(HERE) ) on Masjid Lama Mulong seems to support my belief.

* An old but well maintained structure by Jalan Post Office Lama.

Not sure about the real age but I am attracted to what seemingly features of Rumah
Tiang 12 and the verandah that is much resembling the http://2.srv.fotopages.com/2/7425490.jpg(Kelantanese shop houses of the 1900s.)

( see also : http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=1358989(KELATÉ & PRE-WAR SHOPHOUSES : Hunting For The Remnants) )

Note that the walls and verandah are made of corrugated iron sheet.


* Century old Kelantanese Chinese Traditional Family Homes

Top :

A presumably century old, local Kelantanese Chinese Family home, by the
roadside in Kampung China ( Jalan Pantai Cahaya Bulan ) in Jajahan Kota Bharu.

Bottom :

A presumably century old, local Kelantanese Chinese Family home, by the
Kelantan River in Jajahan Tanah Merah. Click the image to get to the real source.

Note that the house in the top image used corrugated iron sheet for its walls, not a
recent addition but from the farthest past.

Suggested Reading :

* http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=1072944(ORGHAE CHINO KITO : The Kelantanese Chinese)

* http://svarnabhumi.blogspot.com/2009/05/rumah-cina-kelantan.html(Rumah Cina Kelantan : A marriage of traditions)

* http://hisommudin.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/keunikan-cina-natif-kelantan/(Keunikan Cina Natif Kelantan)

* A century old shop houses of Jalan Post Office Lama

Notice the corrugated iron in use.

Note also the old style window frames and the ornamental but practical ' sisip angin ' ( air inlet ) carvings.

* Image from past entry : ' http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=566454(A Tribute to Kota Bharu Old Quarters ~) '


* An old timber house in Kuala Besar

Notice the " Janda Berhias " panelled wall and the " kajang " ( woven bamboo strips ) wall, on this Rumah Tiang 12 house in Pulau Panjang, Kuala Besar, in Jajahan Kota Bharu.

Shot in the 1970s, this remarkable piece is a long gone. Its fate unknown.

* Image taken from :

Abdul Halim Nasir's ' Panduan ke Tempat Tempat Bersejarah di Negeri Kelantan '
( Guides to Historical Sites in Kelantan ), Malaysia National Museum - Kuala Lumpur ( 1979 ).

A bilingual ( Malay & English ) guide book to historical places in Kelantan ....

..... through http://adiatsauri.blogspot.com/2009/07/kelantanese-house-part-1.html(Adi Atsauri's blog).



* The House of A Malay Noble

Photographed by W.A.Graham in 1905, in Kota Bharu Kelantan.

Notice the applied ' perabung lima ' and the tiered, long roof concept.

Singhorra tiles for the roof and a luxurious coat of cement for the base and roof sealant.

Even in the early 1900s, houses are not entirely of wood, especially among the nobles.

I wonder whose house was this and where it was located ?


* UTM INSTITUTIONAL REPOSITORY : http://eprints.utm.my/6817/1/IsmailSaid2009_CarvingMotifsInTimberHouses.pdf(Carving Motifs in Timber Houses Of Kelantan and Terengganu)

* http://shahrulazrie.blogspot.com/2009/07/seni-bina-rumah-melayu.html(SHAHRULAZRIE : Seni Bina Rumah Melayu)

* http://desaukirankayu.blogspot.com/2008/08/rumah-potong-belanda.html(DESAUKIRANKAYU : Rumah Potong Belanda)

* Google Search : http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=%22rumah+potong+belanda%22(Rumah Potong Belanda)

* Google Search : http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&um=1&c2coff=1&q=%22perabung%20lima%22(Rumah Perabung Lima)

* Google Search : http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=%22rumah+bumbung+perak%22(Rumah Bumbung Perak)

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