What Goes In To A Datuk House?

Malaysians like to respect the Datuk by building him a house. There are so many interesting versions of a Datuk house, a place that gives him cover and provides a place for worship. Sometimes the houses look a lot like local housing. Sometimes they are given Muslim features, like domes and other geometric shapes. Many have a set of stairs, not unlike a traditional Malay house. Datuk shrines are usually placed outside homes and temples, not in them. In some towns there are streets lined with little houses for the Datuk.

How the Datuk is represented in those shrines and temples varies quite dramatically. We usually see the small statues, which have distinct facial features and clothing styles and colours. There are plaques, with the name of the Datuk, written in Chinese characters. Sometimes there are pictures of the Datuk, the most interesting being block printed or hand painted. There are rocks that symbolize the Datuk and those rocks sometimes sit in chairs! Some of those rocks are wrapped in sarongs and wear songkok. The most intriguing representations of Datuks are the Termite Hills. In Chinese culture, the termite hill is regarded as a symbol of growing wealth. Datuk houses are built over these and even when the termites are inactive, the space is still revered and treated as a symbol of the Datuk’s generosity.