August 31, 2009

Chicks from Another Era


Post card from Old Malaya showing a Chinese Coffee Shop with two-tone bamboo chicks or blinds. The post card scenery hasn't changed much over the years. It is a beautiful sight to reflect on : different races inter-mingling with each other. I love the small stalls which sell Malay original lekor or pisang goreng alongside other Chinese or Indian foodstalls on the five foot way. It is a harmonious way of life.

This post card inspires me to write my posting today.

I must say today the word chicks can conjure up different meanings to different people.

Guys would laugh when they see this word. Children would think that it is just a word for baby chickens. But this word brings me to another world and another era.


A very old( probably from the colonial days) shop in Penang advertising chicks and furniture. I took this photo while wandering in the old part of Penang one night with good friends recently. Haven't seen this kind of advertisement for a long time.


Pretty bamboo chicks or blinds to enhance a luxurious and airy balcony.


A nice way of maintaining privacy when it is desired.


Bamboo chicks or blinds have been around for centuries.

The first bamboo blinds that caught my youthful attention were those in the Sibu Recreation Club which shaded the club room from the evening setting sun in the 50's. Then there were many blinds for the Residency where the late Mr. Ignatius Angking and his family used to live. The Sibu Government Rest House also had long blinds protecting the rooms from strong sun light.

In my childhood's Sibu beautiful bungalows in Sibu had names! "Rumah Merah" for example or "Rose Cottage". "Lee Ling" and "Jasmine" the two houses for Methodist Missionaries also had bamboo blinds. My own house in Brooke Drive and later the flat we had in Lanang Road Lane 2 also used blinds to protect us from the sun and the rain. My mother was also fond of bamboo blinds. After we shifted from the shophouse she rolled the blinds up carefully and we put them up in our new home again.

Almost all government Third Class and Fourth Class quarters in Race Course Road and Upper Lanang Road Sibu would have a bamboo chick to cover their small balcony. Some people would like to use the bamboo chicks as a screen from their prying neighbour's eyes and to have what ever little privacy they could have. Some would like the coolness the chicks can provide.

Many people believe that the original idea of a blind came from the Egyptians. But as bamboo has its origin in China many attribute the origin of bamboo chicks to the Chinese who promoted the idea of blocking the sun rays. And because of their huge trade in the old Silk Road and the maritime sea routes bamboo chicks became a household name in most countries including European nations and later American southern states.

For a while the British colonial power garnered a lot of trade for themselves and one of their trading items was architectural materials for expansive and luxurious homes in the hill stations especially in India and Malaya. Even many of the British country homes in the UK boasted materials from the Far East.

Today the bamboo chicks or blinds have become part and parcel of good sensible green living.

Made very affordable the blinds can be rolled up and down conveniently and is truly a great invention. They may gain even more popularity in the near future.

15 comments:

Ah Ngao said...

i like the aesthetic feels from this bamboo chicks(hehe...)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao
On a recent drive I counted many shops still have bamboo blinds in Miri! The fashion is still there meaning that the functional aspect and the asthetic value of the bamboo chicks are still being appreciated even until now.

What about in Kuching. Do the stately bungalows still have them? They can be painted beautifully white.

Ah Ngao said...

yes,some of the governtment high rank directors concrete quarters still have them.i like those at the kopitiams - using depictings coffee or tea brands.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yeah I remember those beautiful government bungalows nestled amongst tree covered hills with the old but sturdy chicks. Yes Kopitiam chicks hsave 888 Ceylon Tea and Lipton Tea printed on them...

In Miri there are white ones and yellow ones. And of course all the various brands. Still very supportive of the good old idea of using bamboo blinds...Must be more than 100 years old idea!! Well done!

fufu said...

yeah the bamboo chicks to block the sun XD

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Fufu
Have you been resting well?
Saw your great photos....
Saw any nice photogenic bamboo chicks in KL? Ipoh?

Anonymous said...

Hello Sarawakiana@2
I don't usually comment when I read blogs. But this topic is really quite special. Nice to read about these bamboo chicks (and thus learning an old term).
I also think the two-toned bamboo blinds are beautiful in a special old time way. Reminds me of my parents and grandparents who are good people.
thanks.
Sibu Girl

Freebird said...

A shop selling Chicks and Furniture! Odd combination, it made us think it was some sort of "backdoor" business :p

It really was funny. Edward must have thought hard and long about it

Maybe we should head out and find those bamboo chicks to shield us from the neighbours? I think it would make our verandah look very homey.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Nope. Actually Edward knew the word. It is usually only the younger ones who are not familiar with the word.

I think bamboo chicks would make our house more "stately"...hehehe...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Sibu Girl
Most people would not notice the wooden blinds as they are just part of the shop house or home decor.
I am glad that bamboo chicks can conjure up warm feelings and nostalgia for you!!
Bamboo blinds remind me of my mother in particular and Sibu in general.

Thanks for dropping by.

Free Bird said...

Buy one chick, free one furniture.

Yea. Maybe we should get those dark bamboo chicks. It would make the house look a bit more cosy. Especially those hard wood ones. It should be sturdy against the sea breeze and rain.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahahah Free Bird
I may think you have something else in mind. One chick is now 300 ringgit or more depending on the size.

Yeah the hard wood ones are good...and may be good for a few generations. The ones in Sibu are still very sturdy...

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