Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
PENANG -- Three Buddhist monks from China arrived in Penang and settled down at Sungai Kluang in early 19th century. With their amazing medical skills and humble personality, many patients were cured of their sicknesses and the monks claimed it had been the blessings from the Patriarch of Clear Water.
Hokkien people worshipped Lord Patriarch, also known as the "black face patriarch." Legend has it that the Patriarch of Clear Water served the community compassionately by tasting the herbs himself in order to get a better understanding of the efficacy of herbal plants. His face turned black as a result of toxic herb overdose.
On the way from the city centre to Sungai Kluang, there used to be a famous Brown Estate owned by a British philanthropist named David Brown. When Brown was suffering from a mysterious sickness that no doctors had been able to heal, it was the three monks who cured him of his ailments.
Even then the three monks still reiterated that it was the Patriarch of Clear Water that did the miracle. Without further doubts and suspicion, Brown offered a piece of land for the monks to construct a temple.
The temple has later been known internationally and as many harmless green snakes have made the temple their home, the temple is also called the Snake Temple.
Snake Temple was originally known as Qing Yun Yan and later renamed Fu Xing Temple.
Temple historical records show that the Brown Estate owner offered the land for temple construction in 1873, but according to the inscriptions on the David Brown Cenotaph at Padang Dato Keramat, Brown had died on September 12, 1825 at the age of 49. There is a huge discrepancy of 48 years between the two records, but since the cenotaph was funded and constructed by local residents from all backgrounds, including Europeans, it is generally believed to have been a more reliable source of information.
The land where Padang Dato Keramat sits was also donated by David Brown and a cenotaph dedicated to him was erected. The former BN state administration has wanted to convert the field for other uses but has met with strong opposition from the people of Penang.
Padang Dato Keramat has two hawker centres, the bigger one next to the cenotaph being Penang's oldest. A plaque with engravings in Malay and English on either side was installed to commemorate the opening date of the hawker centre on April 26, 1966.
Interestingly, the plaque was erected by the "City Council of George Town," the earliest settlement in the country to have been accorded the city status, which Penang still retained as of 1966.
Penang's gluttons will tell you the "Lok Lok" stall here is the earliest one in Penang.
"Lok Lok" is actually a simple form of steamboat where the hawker would display many sticks of meat, seafood and fish balls skewed together for the customers to pick and dip into a pot of boiling water. The cooked or semi cooked food is then enjoyed with a selection of sauces.
In the local Hokkien dialect, "lok" means swinging as though swinging the skewers in the boiling water.
81-year-old Huang Li Zhen, owner of the Dato Keramat ais kacang stall, a popular iced dessert hangout for more than half a century, told Sin Chew Daily he is still helping out at the stall although the ais kacang business has already been inherited by his eldest son.
Established in 1954, the stall started off as a roadside operation beside the field. Ais kacang was sold at five cents for a small bowl and ten cents for a large bowl during those years.. Today, a regular bowl of ais kacang is sold for RM2.50.
Cradle of state footballers
Padang Brown was way larger then than today. Although the state government has called off the redevelopment plan for the field, the peripheral parts of it have been developed into various facilities.
The land used to be a training ground for many of the state's celebrated footballers, with members of the public crowding around the field to watch the football matches, a scene that is hardly seen nowadays.
The generous contributions of David Brown has been deeply appreciated by the residents of Penang.
You might not be aware that the two most generous compensations handed out to residents affected by development projects in the country have been associated with David Brown.
The first case was for the redevelopment of Sungai Ara in the Southwest district of Penang 25 years ago, when the affected residents were each compensated with a bungalow of at least 4,800 sq ft for each of their old wooden houses acquired.
The land belonged to a Dutch landowner called Watts, who acted as an agent for the Brown family, the original owner of the land in Sungai Ara.
The second case was a headline maker after the 2008 general elections pertaining to the disputes over the Kampung Buah Pala development. The developer finally agreed to one-for-one compensation to resolve the problem, each of the compensated house worth more than RM500,000 today.
Kampung Buah Pala used to house the dormitories for Brown family's Indian workers, and the family later offered the land for all the descendents of the workers who once lived there.