Collection of keris started out of curiosity

Assorted blades: Leng talking about his collection of more than 20 keris, acquired from different parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: For Leng Teck Chiang, what started out as curiosity has turned into a passion for collecting the keris.

About nine years ago, he bought a keris from a police officer because it looked interesting to him.

“I asked around about the keris. Some people told me it was not a proper antique as its quality was not up to certain standards.

“I decided to find out more and discovered that there is so much to learn about it, including its history and culture, ” he said.

The keris can be found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, Leng said.

A connoisseur would be able to tell where a keris comes from by looking at the design and materials of the blade, hilt and sheath.

“To be a serious collector, you need to learn about the keris so you know what to look for.

“Sadly, in Sarawak there aren’t any keris exhibitions or talks. I learned by asking other collectors who are more knowledgeable than me.

“I also read books like Rahsia Keris dan Senjata Warisan Melayu by Zakaria Abdullah. It started out of curiosity but now I collect keris to study them, ” he added.

Leng, 46, a special officer to a politician, has collected more than 20 keris from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

He buys mostly antiques with rare or unique features in their designs and materials.

One of the items in his collection is a 20-inch-long keris penyalang, a type of blade once used to execute criminals.

Another keris has a hilt carved from rhinoceros horn, which Leng described as “hitting the jackpot” as it was quite rare.

His favourite is a straight-bladed keris saras from Thailand as he likes the feel of it.

“Some of the keris I buy are rusted or dirty due to their age so I would clean and restore them, ” Leng said.

If the keris is damaged, he sends it to craftsmen in Peninsular Malaysia to be repaired or to have a new hilt or sheath made.

“I want to support our local craftsmen. There are not many of them left, so it can take several months for the work to be done, ” he added.

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