Goldsmith’s Guild (Ta Kam Hong) in George Town, Penang Island

Once upon a time in ancient China, there lived a talented goldsmith whose skill was second to none. His name was Wu Ching. To help his disfigured sister win the emperor’s heart, Wu Ching committed one of the worst crimes imaginable – deceiving the emperor!Because his sister had wanted so much to marry the ruler, he crafted a beautiful butterfly-shaped gold mask to hide the scar on her face so that she may have a chance to be with her beloved. But when the emperor removed the mask and saw the scar, he was furious and ordered that Wu Ching be put to death – an act he later regretted when he remembered the goldsmith’s magnificent mask and how China had now lost one of its most gifted craftsmen.

At the Goldsmiths’ Guild’s main altar, a statue of Wu Ching now sits – worshipped as the patron deity of goldsmiths. Clocked in a majestic yellow robe laden with gold leaves, he watches over the guild’s members, which currently stands at about 500.

Rows of ancestral tablets behind the main altar, an antique drum and bell, faded old photographs of the guild’s philanthropists and the guild’s senior members passing their time sipping tea and indulging in a game of mahjong remind visitors of a golden era.

Founded in 1832, the Goldsmiths’ Guild (or Ta Kam Hong, as it is locally known) is among the oldest and largest goldsmith guilds in Malaysia. However, the Muntri Street temple cum association building was only built in 1903. It was conferred the Malaysia Registration of Societies Department’s Quality Organisation (Penang) Award 2006 and was officially recognised by the department as among the country’s associations that have been registered for more than 50 years.

Like members of the Carpenters’ Guild, the artisans belonging to the Goldsmiths’ Guild hail from the Toi Shan district in China’s Guang Dong Province and speak the Sinling dialect.

Colourful dragons coiled around stone columns now welcome visitors to the newly restored building. A relatively new addition to the Cantonese-style architectural structure is a huge urn and two stone lions (presented to the guild in 2004).

Location of Goldsmith’s Guild (Ta Kam Hong)

41 Muntri Street, George Town, Penang Island.

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