Labu sayong is a traditional Malay clay pitcher that originated from the village of Sayong, Perak. It is a part of Malay pottery history and is known for its unique qualities. The water stored inside a labu sayong becomes colder than usual, and some people believe that drinking this water can help refresh the body.
Labu sayong was originally made using a pinching technique, where women would skillfully create the pitchers by hand under their elevated houses on stilts. This approach was quite inefficient, as skilled artisans could only produce a few pieces daily.
In 1986, a Japanese ceramic researcher from Malaysia’s Standards and Industrial Research Institute (SIRIM) introduced a revolutionary technique during a visit to Koperasi Kg. Kepala Bendang.
This technique, known as slip casting or moulding, was shared with labu sayong artisans and instructors at the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC). The locals call these moulds labu acu. It turned out to be an easy-to-learn method that quickly produced many pieces of labu sayong in a short time.
This innovation resulted in a transition from crafting under houses to using workshops equipped with modern tools. Six other villages in the Sayong district also participated in this transformation: Kg. Talang Ulu, Kg. Sayong Lembah, Kg. Temiang, Kg. Pauh, Kg. Sayong Sekolah, Kg. Bukit Lada, and Kg. Padang Serai.
Within these workshops, modern machines and tools have simplified the crafting process, marking a departure from the traditional stilted houses that were once synonymous with labu sayong production.
Arguably, innovation can help preserve and pass on these age-old skills to future generations. This is true for labu sayong as well – without innovation, the tradition of pottery-making in Perak might fade away someday.
Research has shown that in the 1980s, only six local families were still making these clay pitchers using traditional methods. By 2010, only two of them continued this practice.
We certainly hope that labu sayong will not disappear like the traditional Malay pottery that was lost in 1995 – Pasu Kechur from Perlis. MHDC said that it went extinct because no one learned how to make it.
Labu Sayong is a Malaysian heritage that embodies Malay history and culture. It has evolved and adapted over the years, transitioning from traditional methods to contemporary techniques
Innovation has played a dual role in preserving and advancing this art form, yet it also raises questions about authenticity and identity.
Striking a harmonious balance between innovation and tradition is vital, as is passing down the skills and knowledge of labu sayong. Beyond its practicality, labu sayong stands as a symbol of Malay culture and history.
Haron, H., Yunos, N., Zainal Amri, N. H., & Ali Yasin, S. M. (2018). Labu ACU: an innovation for commercialization of Malaysian pottery heritage. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Technology (IJMET), 9(7), 1494-1502.
Haron, H., Noh, L. M. M., Ismail, N. H., Manan, S. A., & Mutalib, N. A. (2014). Aesthetic aspects of moulded clay pitcher. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, 21(8), 1264-1275.
Arifin, A. (2015). TRADITIONAL MALAY POTTERY OF KUALA KANGSAR: ITS HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT. Kajian Malaysia: Journal of Malaysian Studies, 33.