Category: My Hometown
My Hometown :: Bukit Bakri Barat produces quality joss sticks [峇吉里西區]
About 60%, or 8,000 people, of Bukit Bakri Barat’s population are Chinese. Its fist village head Du Pi Zhou, who is still in the office today, said that following the progress of the times, the housing industry booms, particularly in Aik Hwa Choon.
Tin was found at outskirts of Kampung Baru Bakri in the 1960s, attracting many mine operators from northern Peninsula to go south and as the amount of tin was small, the heat of mining activities subsided in the 1970s.
Some areas of the village were once known as “Indonesian villages” as many shops were leased to Indonesian workers.
Du pointed out that various crimes took place, prompting the police to make efforts in fighting local crimes. After a period of time, the crime rate in the Indonesian villages were finally under control. Today, the Indonesian villagers are turned into a residential area housing more than a hundred of households.
He pointed out that Kampung Baru Bakri consists of two villages with complete infrastructure, lacking only a Fire and Rescue station.
One of the villages, Aik Hwa Choon is an intensive small and medium industry (SMI) area.
Du said that the government declared the village a white area in 1956 and the fences around the village were demolished, giving villagers more freedom. Villagers later built houses in their vegetable gardens and some set up small factories to produce furniture and joss sticks, turning the village into a small industrial area.
The population grew in the 1970s and since Kampung Baru Bakri was too crowded, some villagers moved to neighbouring Aik Hwa Choon. It was established on September 5, 1979.
In addition to Aik Hwa Choon, there is another industrial area nearby and a number of manufacturers from Muar set up factories there. The industrial development has indeed driven the economy of Kampung Baru Bakri, offering more job opportunities and thus, villagers no longer need to seek employment in cities like they did in the 1960s and 1970s. Residential areas mushroomed and many houses in the village have been turned into mansions or shop houses.
Aik Hwa Choon was known for its joss stick industry in the 1970s and 1980s with more than 30 joss stick manufacturers in the village. However, the industry started to decline in late 1980s and currently, only three large-scale joss stick manufacturers survived and another six or seven processing plants remain.
Despite the age of technology, traditional dragon joss sticks still have their market and thus, Du believes that the joss stick industry still has room for development.
However, many young people refuse to join the industry due to rising labour and material costs, causing the industry face a succession problem.
Du said that more than 70% of the over 150 factories in Aik Hwa Choon today are furniture manufacturers.
Villager Chen Yan Lai, 66, has engaged in the joss stick industry for over 45 years and the business has now been taken over by his son.
Chen Jun Zong, who started joining the joss stick industry when he was 16 years old, said that 14-inch and above giant dragon joss sticks are all hand-made.
He said that all dragon joss sticks must be made based on feng shui. Like constructing a building, the design of dragon joss sticks must first be drafted to make sure their quality.
Facing the problem of labour scarcity, he exclaimed, “joss stick production is a traditional craft and it is now in its decline.”
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
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GPS Coordinates: 2.04336N, 102.66003E Show on map
Category: My Hometown