The Masjid Kampong Kling, built in 1748, is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia. The mosque is located on Malacca's busy north-south running Jalan Hang Lekiu, on the corner of Jalan Tanjong, or Temple Street, both filled with Chinese shop-houses. However, when Masjid Kampong Kling was erected, the neighborhood of Kampong Kling, which runs along the coast to the west of the Malacca River, was still primarily inhabited by South Indians or Klings. The multiple styles revealed in this mosque attest to the synchratic building tradition that flourished in Malacca, a major trading port in the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries.
Like most Southeast Asian mosques, Masjid Kampong Kling is built on a square plan rather than the rectangular or hexagonal plan of most Middle Eastern mosques. Corinthian columns both define the arcaded verandah that wraps around the prayer hall and also separate the minbar space from the central prayer hall within the mosque.
Supported by timber post-and-beam construction, Kampong Kling's triple-tiered hipped roof is particularly indicative of a Malaccan mosque. The mosque's flared pyramidal upper roof is raised by four columns placed in the center of the mosque. These four great central columns are mimicked by two further quartets of columns placed further apart to support each of the two lower and wider roofs. The concentric squareness of this plan is only disrupted by the extension of the steps to the porch area, or iwan, from which access to the mosque is raised on a low perimeter wall. This upper roof is suspended over a second, middle roof, with a gap left between them to allow for ventilation and subdued natural lighting, particularly suitable for the humid and rainy climate. Each of these two roofs is covered with tiles. The lowest roof has a much more shallow pitch, practically horizontal and is covered by red clay shingles.
A courtyard behind the mosque contains a fountain-like pool for ablutions that is raised a few steps above ground level and circumambulated by a similarly raised and covered walkway. The commanding minaret was built entirely of masonry in contrast to the accompanying timber mosque. Likened to a Chinese pagoda or stupa form, this type of minaret has become characteristic of Malacca. Renaissance embellishments include the use of engaged columns as well as the arched windows and piping that traces them. Minarets are not traditional to Malay Islamic architecture, though they have become increasingly more prevalent and are useful in demarcating the mosque in dense urban areas. In 1868 the mosque and its minaret were enclosed by a high wall to protect it from the street.
Chinese ceramic tiles were imported to adorn the roof, the floor and the lower walls of the mosque. Furthermore, decorative motifs such as those applied to the doors and windows and ornamentation such as the curved eaves terminating in sculptural finials on the roof are attributed to an Oriental influence, as is the rooftop ornament, or mastaka. Built during the Dutch occupation that followed the period of Portuguese rule, European touches reveal themselves in the mosque in such elements as rendered plaster on the internal masonry walls.
Ed. Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan. 1994. The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity. London: Thames and Hudson, 237-238.
Chen Voon Fee, ed. 1998. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Volume 5: Architecture.. Archipelago Press, 43.
Vlatseas, S. 1990. A History of Malaysian Architecture. Singapore: Longman Singapore Publishers, 44-45.