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Taiping giant joss maker continues to fulfil orders for CNY after 40 years

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PETALING JAYA, Jan 16 — Chinese New Year is a busy time for people like joss stick maker, Tan Ah Han from the Han Professional Dragon Joss Stick Specialist.

Tan, 62 runs the factory in Matang, Taiping and is assisted by several workers.

The sounds of air brushes and wood cutting fill the air as they diligently start work at 8am to fulfil orders, with Tan saying that orders for this year was comparable to previous years.

“I have been in the giant stick making business for about 40 years. We focus on making medium- or big-sized joss sticks only,” he added.

“Sizes of the joss sticks depends on how big the factories are. Most of them choose to make smaller joss sticks as they are easier to make.”

He said an eight-foot joss stick normally took four months to complete its basic structure.

“This does not include decorating and colouring it. The basic structure needs to be built layer by layer and needs to be dried properly,” he said.

“It takes a long time because everything is done by hand and we have to be careful.”

Tan admitted that the art of making giant joss sticks by hand was diminishing as the younger generation was less interested to learn how to make them.

Joss sticks are made from a mixture of agarwood and sawdust.

It is a significant part of various celebrations.

“The size depends on how great someone’s wish is. Most times, they will pray for long life, that their family is safe and good livelihood,” he added.

Below are photos of how the joss sticks are produced.

A worker working on a 16-ft joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A worker working on a 16-ft joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

A worker working on a 16-ft joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks being dried. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Joss sticks being dried. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks being dried. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks all ready to be painted. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Joss sticks all ready to be painted. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks all ready to be painted. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

A worker painting the base of a joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A worker painting the base of a joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

A worker painting the base of a joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Templates are used to give consistency. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Templates are used to give consistency. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Templates are used to give consistency. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Dragon heads are used in the motif of joss sticks. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Dragon heads are used in the motif of joss sticks. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Dragon heads are used in the motif of joss sticks. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Bright colours are used for each joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Bright colours are used for each joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Bright colours are used for each joss stick. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Joss sticks ready to be sent out to customers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon