Before coming to Georgetown, I did not know anything about the Clan Jetties in Penang. It was only on my first day of visit that I began to understand a little bit more about this settlement. I walked straight down the Lebuh Chulia road in Georgetown’s UNESCO heritage area until the end at Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay) where these early 20th century-old Chinese settlements are situated.
The settlements are actually houses on stilts by the waterfront, and they are homes to various Chinese clans. The community is divided into several clusters or jetty areas, and each community consists of families of the same clan surname. For example, those staying at Chew Jetty will all have the surname ‘Chew”. Likewise, families staying at Lim Jetty will all have the surname “Lim”. The family surnames of the Clan Jetties are “Chew”, “Lee”, “Lim”, “Tan” and “Yeoh”.
Traditionally, the people had lived there because they could not afford to buy land to build homes as they were port labourers and coolies. The squatters grew into clan jetty settlements, and today there are only 7 major clan jetties remaining along this waterfront. Majority of the descendants have moved out from settlements for better job prospects and opportunities. Apparently, families of young and old gather at their ancestral jetty homes during festivals to celebrate together.
And by the way, the residents of Clan Jetties do not pay tax for their homes since they do not live on land 🙂