Clan Jetties in Penang
Clan Jetties form part of the Penang Heritage Trail. There used to be seven jetties until one was demolished by fire and now six remain. Billed as one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island, this waterfront society is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans.
Located straight down from Lebuh Chulia (beside the Kapitan Kling Mosque) at Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay), these water villages are over a century old. Each jetty is named after a Chinese clan – the Chew Jetty is the most tourist-friendly with the most stilt-houses, the longest walkway, a temple that is worth stopping by and plenty of places for those Kodak moments.
History of Clan Jetties
Initially, the area where the Clan Jetties now lie was a char hionh (wood yard) littered with planks and firewood. After the construction of the Quay in 1882, the waterfront was developed with short public landing stages or jetties. Settlements grew on these foundations and they were used for the loading and unloading of goods and for the mooring of sampans (boats). Gradually, each jetty became identified and dominated by certain clans and over time more huts sprung up. Due to constant rivalry over access and monopoly of work consignments, relationships between the clans were very antagonistic and often led to bitter fights and disputes.
In the early 20th century, the jetty settlements expanded but as squatters, residents did not have basic amenities like water and electricity. It was only after the Penang municipal election in 1957 that the Clan Jetties began to join the modern era; before that they carried their water in kerosene tins from the main road.
When the government first developed the jetties, a shed was built to provide shelter and rest for those waiting for the arrival of the cargo sampans and when the clans took over the jetties, this shed was converted into a communal house. Seven different clans still reside at the Clan Jetties: the Lim, Chew, Tan and Yeoh jetties are the oldest and the Koay, Lee and Mixed Surname jetties were built afterward.
Good To Know
The Clan Jetties are situated close to the Penang ferry terminal, with the entrance to the jetties located through the temple on the quayside. Fun fact: to this day none of the families pay any tax as they are not living on land.
As people still live in this area be mindful when you take pictures: if you are wondering when or where to click, then wait for sunset – the splash of orange contrasts beautifully with the turquoise-blue sea and it makes for an even more spectacular shot when you can get a shot of a sampan in the foreground.
- Location: Weld Quay, Georgetown