International Research Group on wood (IRG) is a group of scientists and technologists focus on generating knowledge of wood deterioration and protection. Each year, hundreds of wood professionals from all over the world are all gathered to exchange ideas and information. In 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is chosen to be the place for this annual international conference.
Malaysia is located in the Southeast Asia where the weather is extremely hot and humid all year round; therefore, the country has planted a large number of unique tree species. Regardless of the aboriginals or immigrants, Malaysians have long been developing their own way of life to adapt to the climate.
Architecture is a great example. IWCS went to the capital city Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi and Kuching, hoping to discover Malaysian wood culture. From the west to the east, we visited and recorded different styles of wooden houses dated from various eras. Luckily, with the assistance of professional scholars, we had the chance to find out the subtle linkage between human and wood use in Malaysia.
Culture is another aspect should be emphasized. Let’s take traditional Malay wooden houses as an example. Houses building on stilts are to prevent flood and function as a watchtower. The structure of house is also carefully designed with details where cultural meanings are represented along with the structural function. The concept of main pillar and its relation with supernatural spirits is a perfect example. When it comes to the choice of wood, for the aristocrats, chengal wood is always chosen as the main material because of its strength.
Malaysia is close to the equator; hence, the country has abundant tropical forest resources. There are a lot of forest parks and natural reserves dedicating to the preservation and protection of forest.
Wood can be used in many ways. In the tribal ceremonies, masks play an important role. Different rituals require different kinds of masks. In general, a mask is a representation of ancestors or spirits. IWCS went to Carey Island to witness the traditional making process of Mah Meri wooden mask. During our 10-day stay in Malaysia, we came to comprehend the value of wood use for Malaysians.
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By RuAn Hsu