The heritage building in Negri Sembilan that I admire most is none other than the Old Palace of Seri Menanti. The majestic grand timber palace oozes charm and character. It is the living proof of the mastery of carpentry, craftsmanship and architectural skills of Malay carpenters and craftsmen a century ago.
This magnificent five-storey palace was designed and built by two skillful local carpenters known only as Tukang Kahar and Tukang Taib (Tukang in Malay literally means carpenter or craftsman but when it becomes a proper name and a title it indicates a highly skillful one). Its construction was started in 1902 and completed in 1908. The timber palace was built using tropical hardwood called chengal which was harvested from a forest in Bukit Pergai, Jelebu and transported about 64km to Seri Menanti. No wonder it took 6 years to be completed.
The entire structure was raised on 99 chengal pillars including four main pillars rising up to 20 meter. Each pillar represents a warrior belonging in various groups or clans in Negeri Sembilan at that time. Whereas the roof was made of ironwood. More remarkable however is that the pillars are delicately and intricately carved with stylized images of flowers, holy verses from the Quran, geometric shapes and other abstract designs. The carving is noteworthy because the pillars are made of cengal wood, which is extremely tough to carve, easily dulling even the sharpest of blades. One can only marvel at the patience and dedication of the craftsmen who had to deal with such a difficult material.
Another factor that makes this structure unique is it was constructed without using a single piece of metal nail or screw! The construction method adopted especially in jointing the main frame of the building is called tebuk pasak in Malay (mortise and tenon) while the wooden panels were pieced together using dowels and rivets instead of metal nails or screws.
Upon completion in 1908, the palace served as the official...
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