Friday, April 14, 2017

The Story behind Tangga Melaka (Melaka Staircase) | #ICYDKMelaka

A symbol of status, wealth and power has made Melaka house one of its kind. Reflected in their fancy and colourful staircase, aside from the fact that Melaka was the Malay trading center in the East; it is only natural that the beautiful 3D tiles is imported from China, Portuguese, Netherland and England, inspired by respective country motives. However. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that most of the colours being used are red and green despite that most houses are colourful in nature. According to the locals, usually the these fancy staircase houses are owned by the village chief or Datuk Penghulu, or Datuk Sidang as what the locals call them.

Melaka staircase is often built with odd number steps; 3, 5 and 7 steps, with the highest steps found in Melaka houses are 9. Having said that, usually a normal house steps is no higher that 9 steps. The favourite number of steps is 7, as found in many Melaka houses. Reason being, number 7 is significance in Islam; 7 means 7 layer of sky, 7 layer of earth, 7 days, 7 ambulations- to move around Ka’aba for ‘tawaaf’ among others.

Aside from the staircase, the architecture of a Melaka house is also significant versus other states in Malaysia, one will noticed that there are Bugis, Jambi, Riau and Kalimantan elements in terms of roof architecture, a verandah located at the front of the house are used for guest to sit on while waiting for their turns to meet the village chief. This is called as balai (open air living room/hall area) with benches. This balai is also used for kenduri (gathering) and family get-together. It is paired with the famous Melaka colourful tiled staircase. It is wide in nature to give a sense of host’s warmness in welcoming guest to their home.

The birth of local-foreign assimilation
The Strait of Malacca strategically located between Europe and China serves as the gateway and natural channel for trade to and from Asia, to the western world.

During the period 0f 17th -19th centuries many of the port-towns along the Indian Ocean–Southeast Asia–South China Sea route came under European control, Melaka included. Thus, since Dutch occupation of Melaka in 1641, the Dutch has established and marked Melaka as their base in order to tap into the India-Straits-China route.

The Portuguese, who were the earliest of the Europeans to set foot in many of these port-towns such as Melaka, Penang, Singapore and such, they were confronted by the Spanish, Dutch, English and French. The main commodities traded were spices, rice, cotton textiles  silks, ornaments such as porcelain and glass aside from medicinal herbs and forest products. As a Malay trading center and the main shipping route for west-east continent hence the ornamentation found in old Melaka house were either imported from eastern or western countries, this can be seen in the tiles decoration.

This has created fusion or cross culture of east meets west; local wooden home with three dimensional tiles from China in the east and fancy colourful tiles from Portuguese, Belgium, Netherland and England from the west. Due the cost of these tiles, one has to be of an influential family background or a successful merchant to be able to afford them, due to this reason a Melaka staircase is often associated with wealth and status.

It is always intriguing to find how one culture interfuse with another especially between 2 large continents with different heritage, custom and culture.

#ICYDKMelaka is made possible and is in collaboration with Tourism Melaka, Asia Urban Youth Assembly (AUYA) and all the sponsors with #GayaTravel as media coordinator.

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