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Nutcote Images - temples in Penang, Malaysia

A Hindu temple

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A Thai Buddhist temple (top) and a Burmese Buddhist temple (bottom)

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A guardian statue outside a Thai Buddhist temple (top) and a Chinese clanhouse (bottom).

When large Chinese communities came to south-east Asia for trade and work, they organised themselves by clan name, or family - for example, Chang, Wang, Li, and so on. Each clan had its own clanhouse, which would protect the interests of members of the clan. Whilst not exactly temples, these clanhouses were and in some places still are important places for gatherings and festivals. The clanhouse was a meeting point for the extended family, and also served as its 'guild' by looking after family members' interests, as well as keeping a quasi-religious function by maintaining Chinese traditions far away from the motherland. Many of the finest clanhouses stand in countries where the Chinese influence was strongest, such as Malaysia and Singapore.