The Clan Jetties will be one of the first thing you see if you arrive Penang island by the ferry. These water villages are over a century old and is in the UNESCO heritage core zone. Each jetty is named after a Chinese clan – the Chew Jetty is the most tourist-friendly with the most stilt-houses and the longest walkway.
The Clan Jetties is used to be eight jetties until one was demolished by fire and one was demolished to make way for the flats with that now six remain. This waterfront society is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans. Each individual jetty is named after their surname (last name). The remaining jetties are Lim jetty, Chew jetty, Tan jetty, Lee jetty, Mixed clan jetty and Yeoh jetty.
The history of the Clan Jetties is linked to the history of Penang. The jetties were established at a time when Penang’s port trade was booming. These wooden houses were built by the Chinese immigrants who work near to the port as coolies and boat operators ferrying passengers in the early 19th century.
The settlers of these jetties all hailed from China’s Fujian province. As more and more of their kinsmen arrived from China. The oldest jetty, the Chew jetty was established in the mid 19th century while the newest jetty, the Mixed Clan jetty were established in the 1960s.
Chew Jetty is the biggest and most visited water village amongst the Clan Jetties. The closed-knit Chew community played an important role in settling the Chew clan immigrants from the same hometown in the old days.
One of the biggest event in Penang is celebrated here on the eve of the 9th day of the Lunar New Year which is the annual prayer ceremony of ‘Thi Kong Seh’ held to commemorate the Jade Emperor God’s birthday is particularly celebrated on a grand scale and remains one of the highlights in Penang’s calendar of festivals.
Resident would prepare their offering of food like roast pigs, pastries and fruits and lay them on a 30 meter long altar by the side of the main road. The table sides are tied together with sugarcane and at the stroke of midnight fireworks are let off, turning the street into a magical sight.
There are two temples found on both ends of the Chew Jetty. Chao Yuan Kong (Temple of Good Health) at the entrance of the Jetty is dedicated mainly to the Baosheng God of Health who protects the clansmen from sickness and diseases. Kang Thean Kong (Temple of God’s Blessings), which faces the sea venerates Xuantian, the North Polar God in charge of water and fire safety. In every Jetty lives one clan, and every village has their own temple.
Till today the jetty offers boat shuttle service for the public to reach the ships parked in the middle of sea lanes and one can also get a ride to witness the sunset out at the sea or going for a fishing outing.
As people still live in this area be mindful when you take pictures during your visit. The Clan jetties is one of the must visit place when you are in Penang. It is located at Weld Quay in George Town, Penang.