Penang’s last joss stick maker passes away

Beng Chuan (left) with his son Chin Poh making traditional joss sticks using sandalwood. — Filepic

PENANG’S last joss stick maker Lee Beng Chuan has died at 93.

He devoted his life to the production of joss sticks which are widely used as offerings for divine and ancestral worship.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated in a statement said he passed away on Saturday.

“He will be remembered as a generous and humble skilled craftsman. He will be missed, ” the statement read.

In July, Beng Chuan was awarded the one-time 2020 Special Living Heritage Treasures Award by Penang Heritage Trust.

The award was to identify Penangites who carry skills that need to be acknowledged, documented and transmitted.

Since George Town became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, Beng Chuan has been toasted as part of the enclave’s living heritage.

Tourists frequented his home-cum-shop along Lorong Muda off Stewart Lane almost every morning to watch him carry out his trade.

Considered the only traditional joss stick maker in Penang who made them by hand, Beng Chuan used ingredients such as Artemisia argyi commonly known as Chinese mugwort, agarwood, Tibet holy grass and frankincense.

To make sure that his trade was preserved, he held workshops.

His son Chin Poh, 59, said his father’s death came as a shock as he seemed to be recovering from a mild stroke.

Chin Poh said his father’s wake is being held at the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi funeral parlour in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam and the funeral will be on Wednesday.

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