Penanag Heritage Houses


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The Strait Chinese or Peranakan Chinese or Baba Nyonya is an unique culture, fused with elements from the Chinese, European and Malay influences. Although they are mostly ethnical Chinese (mainly from Guangdong & Fujian), with some Malay blood. They speak a varieties of languages, Chinese dialect, mainly Cantonese and Hokkien but also Malay and English. Today, they are distinctive and differ from other Chinese cultural groups like the mainland Chinese, the Hong Kong Chinese or the Taiwanese Chinese. This is achieved primarily by preserving the older traditional Chinese culture of Southern China together with influences from European and Malay. This is in contrast to other overseas Chinese immigrant groups living in North America and Europe, which tends to be absorbed into the general Western culture as their offspring, move out into the wider society. If the Peranakan or Baba Nyonya is to keep their unique identity then it is important to maintain and to develop their own cultural traits, amongst an ocean of global cultural diversity. They have been doing this for the last several hundred years, there is no reason why they would not succeed in doing so in the future. As time past their uniqueness will be strengthen as their culture diverge from their roots, which are also evolving.

In reality the picture is mixed, their community, excluding Singapore is under pressure from political and social discriminations. In Malaysia, their proportion of the total population in their country of birth is in declining at a rate about 2% per decade. In Indonesia, the Chinese cannot even use their own Chinese sounding names, since 1966. Many professionals, the young and the brightest are leaving for wealthier countries like Singapore, Australia, England, USA and Canada, that offer more equal job opportunity for them or for their children. Malaysia and Indonesia is a country rich in natural resources but in recently years it has being left behind. The 2012 figures from the IMF on GDP (PPP basis) per capita listed Singapore as the third highest ($60,799), Hong Kong ($50,936 equal with the US) in the 6th place, with Taiwan ($38,400), Japan ($35,855), South Korea ($31,950), whilst Malaysia ($16,794) and Indonesia ($4923) are trailing behind.

Published in: Travel, Entertainment & Humor
  • I have been in KL only, very interesting and informative work
    Congrats from Argentina
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  • Thanks for sharing your fantastic works dear Jerry !
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  • Congrats..very beautiful and amazing art...
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  • splendid !it is extraordinary presentation
    images very nice - thank
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  • Thank John and Sardanas. I was in Penang just over a year ago. I was not able to find the time to do this Powerpoint until now. I am glad that I did. It clear bring back god memory. Like Sardanas said, most people under-appreciated the art contents of these buildings. Their tend art can only be found in museum. What I said go for the Chinese temple as well. What more than just art is the cultural content, How people see themselves and how we have changed. John I think the music goes well with the Powerpoint. It brings out the contrast between an old house and modern guitar music. Happy to talk to you two. Thank you. Jerry
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Penanag Heritage Houses

  1. 1. Penang Heritage Houses Baba-nyonya or Peranakan of Malaysia All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. First created 31 Mar 2014. Version 1.0 - 8 Apr 2014. Jerry Tse. London. Peranakan Architecture Three Heritage Houses in Penang
  2. 2. Baba Nyonya Culture Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of the 15th through 17th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (inc Singapore). Source : Wikipedia. Their culture is primarily Chinese but fused with elements from the Malay and European cultures, giving them an unique identity. The Heritage Houses of Penang are good examples of this. Other examples include their cuisines, costumes, dresses, jewellery etc. A modern Nyonya dress called Kebaya - combining a Javanese blouse & Malay sarong (skirt) with Chinese motif. This is a Singapore’s Laksa. There are numerous varieties of laksa. According to Wikipedia Laksa is made up of a curry soup with coconut milk and the Asam version has no coconut milk but with a tamarind based soup.
  3. 3. Cheong Fatt Tze Cheong Tatt Tze – The House (1880s) The building was constructed around 1880s by the successful businessman Cheong Fatt Tze. In 1989 it was sold and the building was restored. Today it is operated as a hotel as well as a museum.
  4. 4. Cheong Tatt Tze – The Owner The mansion was built by the industrialist and mandarin, Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1916), who was born in Guangdong Province. He was made Consul-General in Singapore and economic advisor to Empress Dowager. He came from a poor Hakka family and started life at an cowherd in the village. Photo : Cheong Fatt Tze and his wife.
  5. 5. Left – The mansion before restoration. Right – A doorway after restoration. The house was in a very poor state when sold for restoration in 1989. In 2000 the building received an Unesco Heritage Conservation Award. Cheong Tatt Tze – The Restoration
  6. 6. Cheong Tatt Tze – The Plan The mansion is based on a two-hall architectural plan, with a central sky-well (enclosed Chinese courtyard). Building-wings were added to the sides, with sky-wells in between.
  7. 7. Cheong Fatt Tze - Entrance A modest entrance to a mansion of luxury.
  8. 8. Cheong Fatt Tze - WindowsCheong Fatt Tze - Windows Top & Right - Art Nouveau stained glass windows. Bottom - Louvre windows, an European design.
  9. 9. Cheong Fatt Tze – Reception A very large reception for guests and business visitors to the mansion.
  10. 10. Cheong Fatt Tze – Wood Carvings Extensive use of carved wooden panels as screens and partitions. .
  11. 11. Cheong Fatt Tze – Iron work The cast iron works were made in Glasgow, Scotland. The iron cast pillars around the central sky-well provided supports. The upper floor are fenced with iron railing skirting.
  12. 12. Cheong Fatt Tze – Iron work The top of the pillars are decorated with exotic birds, animals, plants and flowers.
  13. 13. Cheong Fatt Tze – Sky-Well (enclosed courtyard) The sky-well is the focal point of the mansion. It keeps the building cool and ensures the interior is well lit. Many of Hakka houses have similar arrangements.
  14. 14. Cheong Fatt Tze – Floor tiles & Furniture The floor tiles were made in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The back of a Chinese hard wood chair, inlaid with mother of pearl.
  15. 15. Cheong Fatt Tze - Furniture A traditional Chinese hardwood settee inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl and marbles. Marbles are chosen for its markings, that resemble a picture.
  16. 16. Cheong Fatt Tze - Furniture A period Chinese settee made of cane, found mainly in southern China. The mansion is painted with indigo dye mixed with lime, giving it a distinctive blue colour.
  17. 17. Cheong Fatt Tze – European furniture Many of the smaller furnishing items like this chandelier, vases, mirror etc are European in origin.
  18. 18. Cheong Fatt Tze – Bridal Suite The bridal suite with its beautifully carved wooden canopy bed.
  19. 19. Cheong Fatt Tze – Shardwork The mansion is covered with Jiannian Panel or Cut-&-Paste Shard Art. Each picture is composed of broken pieces of ceramics put together. This art originated in Chaozhou, Guangdong c1600. Top panels on the balcony, left balcony support, right on the gable. The artist was Li WuCai from Chaozhou, in 1868.
  20. 20. Cheong Fatt Tze – Stairs There are several staircases to the upper floor. Note the use of iron work above the doorway into the office.
  21. 21. Cheong Fatt Tze – Stairs One of the smaller sky-wells in the wing of the mansion.
  22. 22. Cheong Fatt Tze – Stairs A wing to the main building. The design of the windows on the upper floor is almost church like.
  23. 23. Peranakan The building was completed in 1895. This is the courtyard entrance to the residential part of the mansion, whilst the street entrance was part of the business office, “Hai Kee Chan”. Today the mansion is part of the Peranakan Museum, which also includes the Strait Chinese Jewellery Museum and a clan temple. Peranakan – The House (1895)
  24. 24. On the left is a photo of Kapitan Chung Keng Qwee (1827-1901) dressed as a Second Rank Qing Official. It was he who built the mansion. He was born in a Hakka peasant family in Guangdong province. He went to Malaya in 1843 and became a businessman in many industries, including the mining business. He was also a leader of a secret society. On the right is a photo of his daughter-in-law (I think) dressed in the Nyonyas style.
  25. 25. Peranakan–Entrance Normally visitors come in through this side entrance in the car park.
  26. 26. Peranakan – Wood Carvings Rich and ornate Chinese carvings at the Chinese dining hall.
  27. 27. Cheong Fatt Tze - WindowsPeranakan - Windows Stained glass windows with mixed styles, two tall vases (Japanese?) and sculpted decorative Chinese lion.
  28. 28. Peranakan – European Dining An European dinning room with European decorations, like curtains, vases, sideboards, small figurines sculptures and an extendable dinning table & padded chairs.
  29. 29. Peranakan– Sky Well (enclosed courtyard) Behind the wood carvings, is the main hall leading to the street. In the foreground is the sky-well (enclosed courtyard), showing the supporting iron pillars and a staircase to the upper floor, lined with iron balustrade.
  30. 30. Peranakan – Business Reception This is the reception leading to the street, for the business entrance. Above the street entrance there is a banner with the name “Hai Kee Chan” on it. An office was kept in the mansion for business..
  31. 31. Peranakan– Iron work On the left is the iron cast skirting railings on the upper floor. On the right is the grillwork on the window. The Victorian iron works were made in Glasgow, Scotland. Apart from the colour scheme they are identical to those in Cheong Fatt Tze.
  32. 32. Peranakan – Game Room This is the Game Room, it looks European, apart from the Chinese furniture.
  33. 33. Peranakan - Lights A Chinese lantern, an European chandelier and a Victorian lamp shades in the house.
  34. 34. Peranakan – Sky-well and Staircase The staircase lined with iron balustrade and underneath mother of pearl furniture. Beyond the window is the family temple.
  35. 35. Peranakan– Floor tiles & Ceremonial Carrier On the left are the floor tiles made in Stoke-on-Trent, England. On the right is the ceremonial carrier, used in formal occasions like weddings.
  36. 36. Peranakan– Bridal Suite The bed in the bridal suite is an European bed with iron railings, drapped with Chinese linens.
  37. 37. Peranakan - Furniture A Chinese marble table and chairs with an European crystal glass bowl. .
  38. 38. Khoo Kongsi It was constructed in 1906 as a clanhouse (or clan temple). Today the temple is called Leong San Tong and it belongs to the Khoo clan (Khoo Kongsi), from Hokkien (Fujian) province. The building is one of the most decorated with Cut-&-Paste Shardworks (Jian Nian) and wood carvings by master craftsmen. Khoo Kongsi – The House (1906).
  39. 39. Khoo Kongsi – The owners A photo of the members of the Khoo clan taken in 1949. The ancestry of the clan can be traced back to Fujian province in China, perhaps back to the Tang Dynasty. The clan was among the wealthy Straits Chinese traders of 17C, in Malacca and early Penang.
  40. 40. Khoo Kongsi – Community The clan lived together in a community, just as they would do so, in a fortified Chinese village. The clan house is situated in the centre surrounded on all sides by houses belonging to clan members.
  41. 41. Khoo Kongsi - Facade Khoo Kongsi is the most impressive of all the clan house in Malaysia. Unusually, the temple is built on a raised platform, as if it is sitting on the top of a hill. The Khoo Kongsi clan is an association of the Dragon Mountain Hall clan.
  42. 42. Khoo Kongsi - Roof The temple was built to impress, with its overbearing ornamented and extravagant decorations like the Cut-&-Paste Shardworks (Jiannian) on the roof.
  43. 43. Khoo Kongsi - Theatre This is the theatre for the clan. It is situation directly opposite to the clan house.
  44. 44. Khoo Kongsi – Porch Ceiling The entrance porch ceiling with every surface covered with wood or stone carvings, and hanging Chinese lanterns.
  45. 45. Khoo Kongsi – Entrance Ceiling The carvings and decorations are just mind bogglingly exuberant.
  46. 46. Khoo Kongsi – Carvings A large proportion of the surface area on the façade is covered with stone carvings. Note the hanging wax paper lanterns with the Chinese characters Khoo’s Residence written on them.
  47. 47. Khoo Kongsi – Stone Carvings A coloured stone carving of a Qilin, a mystical hooved beast covered with scales. It is a good omen bringing prosperity or serenity.
  48. 48. Khoo Kongsi – Ancestor Shrine Wooden plaques commemorate the death of ancestors. The front row is for the 21st generation behind is the 22nd generation.
  49. 49. Khoo Kongsi - Altar The main altar in the temple, for paying respects to their ancestors.
  50. 50. Khoo Kongsi – Ceiling construction A very typical arrangement for roof support in Chinese architecture, making up of beams and brackets.
  51. 51. Khoo Kongsi – Jiannian, Shardworks Detail of one of the several spectacular Cut-&-Paste Shardworks banners that decorates the rooftop.
  52. 52. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The End Music – Bridge over Trouble Waters by The Shadow. Houses of the Baba-nyonya or Peranakan Chinese Dedicated to my Malaysian friends.