Thursday, August 30, 2012

Duyong Old Fort. And tracing family roots.

My late MIL's family root can be traced back starting in Duyong Island, Terengganu. Mr O's great great great great grandfather is Tok Sheikh Duyong, a highly respected Muslim scholar and the founder of the island. OK, to be precise.... I dunno how many great great great actually. But I know their ancestors can be traced back to the man.
Anyway, some interesting info that I got from here. 

Their ancestors migrated from Champa to Pattani, in present-day Thailand, some time in the late 18th century. They were ethnic Chinese who converted to Islam. When Malay rule of Pattani came to an end in 1808, many Muslims moved south to Kelantan and Terengganu, including the then six-year-old Tok Sheikh Duyong with his father, a Muslim scholar and teacher.

The family settled on Pulau Duyong Kecil, on the estuary of Sungai Terengganu, where Tok Sheikh Duyong's father provided religious teaching. This was followed by Tok Sheikh Duyong, who became such a famous Muslim scholar, that Pulau Duyong Kecil became a centre of Islamic education, and was known as the "Tongue of Terengganu".

And if u still wonder why my kids (and most of Mr O's clan) look so Chinese or Siamese, reading their family history will help u understand why. And yes, I think that Siamese Chinese gene is mighty strong.
Duyong Old Fort @Kota Lama Duyong was built during 1919 and 1920 by Dato Biji Sura (Nik Mohamad Hitam) who was the great grandson of Tok Sheikh Duyong. 
Dato Biji Sura followed in the footsteps of his great grandfather Tok Sheikh Duyong. He was involved in both religious as well as administrative matters, and held three prominent positions: as a member of the Council of Ministers, Commissioner for Religious Affairs, and judge of the Syariah Court. He was married four times and fathered a total of 18 children. He died of fever in 1943 during the fasting month of Ramadhan.

I don't really know how many Dato Biji Sura were around. I used to think Dato Biji Sura was Mr O's grandfather coz that's how the uncles and the aunties refer to his late grandfather. Then I figured out there were many more Dato Biji Sura. It can be confusing as they were all referred as DBS. I think it's a title that is still given out until today.

After his death, the house slowly descended into disrepair. It was already in a dilapidated state when the massive flood of 1986 destroyed what was left of it. In the late 1990's, a committee was formed to restore the building. It received the blessing of Dato Biji Sura's descendants to carry out the job.
Despite its name, Old Fort Duyong was not a military fort. It was actually a residence. And a place where lots of students come to study the religion.
It's currently under the care of Terengganu State Museum. Entrance is FOC.
The reconstructed house is a mish-mash of architectural styles including Islamic, Chinese and Western. It resembles a traditional Malay palace but the design of the pillars and walls shows strong Corinthian and Egyptian influences. It boasts 9 roofs that cover several interconnected parts of the buildings.
Pictures of the restoration & reconstruction work in the ground floor.
Intricate carvings on the verandah gives the building the feel & look of several types of traditional Terengganu Malay homes known as "Bujang Berepeleh", "Lima Bungkus" and "Potong Belanda".

There are four entrances, for use by different classes of people. The main entrance is reserved for high-ranking officers. Womenfolk as well as relatives use the back entrance. Neighbours and peddlars use the western side entrance, while village folks use the eastern side entrance.
I love the windows ;-)

Mr O & the museum man. Tracing his family roots.
The man told us the plaster was a mix of clay, sand, eggs, honey and limestone (from cockle shells). There was no cement at that time. But it's definitely better than cement.
Despite its age, the white walls hardly showed any sign of wear. My kids were wondering...what happened to all the egg yolks?? 
A Cantonese sculptor from Singapore was hired to work on the masonry, arcades, columns and walls. Which explained the Corinthian & Egyptian influences on the designs.

Inside the house, there were some exhibitions on artifacts and things related to Duyong Island..

Inside of the house. There were lots of long corridors.

The kitchen area.
Room adjoining the kitchen. Pantry??
Outside the kitchen.

We learned that students those days will start their day with lifting water from the wells in the kitchen area to the wells in the front yard. Once the chore is done, they will begin their religious studies. They must work to earn knowledge. That is their "payment" to the teacher. Not fast easy cash from the parent's pocket like kids nowadays ;-)
 Duyong Island is also famous for boat building. We went here.
 But there was nobody there. Only boats. And some animals.
Not sure whether the place was closed for lunch or closed for the day as it was also the 6th day of Raya. Apparently, some people in Terengganu celebrate the day. Hopefully better luck next time.


  1. love the louvered windows and the kitchen!! omg I have always loved kitchens like that. Reminds me of my grandma's house.
    p/s Raya Nang (actually 7th day of raya coz ppl start fasting for 6days of syawal on the 2nd day of raya) is quite a big thing in the east coast, actually. Never knew your husband is orang tranung!

  2. oh yes Elisa, betul. 7th day of raya. What do they do on Raya 6?? My husband was born in Trg. So do I. But we are both Trg celuppppp!! ;-)

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