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Penang Heritage Joss Stick Maker - My Indie World

Penang Heritage Joss Stick Maker


Penang Heritage Joss Stick Maker

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*Mr. Lee Beng Chuan’s daughter-in-law, Khampan Buntuai, has taken on the role as the current successor, carrying forward his legacy.

In 1928, Lee Beng Chuan was born into a family that had been involved in joss stick sales. However, his father’s passing in 1935, when Lee was just seven years old, marked a turning point in his life.

At the age of 12, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and embark on the path of joss stick making. Through keen observation of a skilled joss stick maker from China, he acquired the artistry on his own. Despite facing numerous rejections when seeking apprenticeships, Mr. Lee remained undeterred and dedicated himself to watching the joss stick maker in action for six months.

For Lee Beng Chuan, joss-stick making was not merely a means of earning a livelihood; it was a profound passion that extended far beyond financial gains. His unwavering involvement in the craft, regardless of his age, was driven by his love for the art and a promise he made to his cherished wife.

Made With Love

Mr. Lee’s deep love for his late wife, Chong Chon Chiew, is evident in their shared journey.

She supported him in running the business and crafting joss sticks before her passing in 2015. Mr. Lee cherishes their 60 years together, remembering her beauty and kind spirit.

In an interview, he revealed his wife’s heartfelt wish for him: to continue making joss sticks of exceptional quality and distribute them as blessings to bring happiness and longevity to people’s lives. Touched by her words, Mr. Lee made a lifelong commitment to fulfill this promise, ensuring that his love and dedication are infused into every joss stick he creates.

Fuelled with Passion

Unlike joss sticks produced commercially using sawdust, Lee opts for imported sandalwood powder from Australia in his creations. This choice is not only for its healthier properties but also because it burns longer and emits a pleasant aroma. Additionally, his joss sticks are noticeably thicker compared to those made in factories.

The only downside is the higher production cost, but for Lee, financial gain is not the driving force. Despite his advanced age, he remains dedicated to his craft, propelled solely by his deep passion for joss stick making.

Mr Lee was honoured with the 2020 Special Living Heritage Treasures Award.

Driven by Purpose

Mr. Lee was aware that his retirement could mark the end of handmade joss stick making in Georgetown. However, he was resolute in his determination to carry on. In addition to selling his joss sticks to loyal customers, he generously shared his expertise with students and tourists who visited his shop.

During his classes, Mr. Lee would demonstrate the art of joss stick making, allowing his students to participate and try their hand at the craft. True to his promise to his late wife, he encouraged his students to take their creations home. This act served as his heartfelt blessing, aimed at bringing happiness, longevity, and prosperity to those around him.

By including various written blessings in Chinese, such as good health and great academic achievement, Mr. Lee not only shares his heartfelt wishes with students and tourists but also fulfills his promise to his late wife. It symbolizes his dedication to keeping his wife’s wishes alive and spreading happiness and prosperity to others.