Pinang Peranakan Mansion – A showcase of Penang’s Baba Nyonya Legacy
The mansion belongs to Chung Keng Quee (Kapitan) from China who made his fortunes over here. Although he was an immigrant from China, he was greatly influence by the Straits Chinese (called the “Peranakan”) culture. He commissioned his stately mansion to be built incorporating the strong Peranakan architectural design. It was lavishly furbished with elegant ceramic floor tiles from England, beautiful iron casted art work from Scotland for the balconies and railings and elegant carved-wood panels and screen for the doors and walls from China.
The building was refurnished and turned into a “Baba Nyonya” Museum to showcase the lifestyle and culture of the eclectic Chinese Straits Settlement in Penang called the Peranakan. The gentlemen were known as “Baba” and the ladies as “Nyonya”. The Peranakan is a unique community that have blended Chinese and Malay customs, language, fashion and cuisine, over centuries.
The mansion sits on a land belonging to the headquarters of the Ghee Hin Clan which in fact was his rival. The ancestral temple which he built next to the mansion was formerly a Chinese school. At that time, this two building was very near the seashore and hence he named the place “Hai Kee Chan” (Sea Remembrance Store).
Kapitan Chung Keng Quee was also the founder of modern Taiping and was credited for some of the innovative tin mining methods. Being a millionaire philanthropist he was highly respected by both Chinese and European communities in the early colonial settlement. Not only was he a leader of the Hai San Clan, he was also a member of the Commission for the Pacification of Larut. He sat as one of the six members of the Advisory Perak State Council appointed by the British which all gave him strong influence over administrative matters of Chinese community in the early years after the founding of Penang.
At the main entrance of the mansion, one will be greeted by a pair of elaborated and highly intricately carved Chinese wooden panel painted in gold. The open carving all over the panel is meant to create a delicate oblique view of the interior of the mansion from the exterior. Beside the main entrance, there are two side entrances with ornamental wrought iron gate which is hinged on to a concrete pillar. A metal crown sits on top of each side of the pillar which signify the glory of the British Empire era in Penang. The right hand side entrance opens up to a court yard. From here you will notice gold painted floral designed cast iron railing with designs from the Victorian extravagance era on the veranda. The other side entrance lead into the ancestral temple with its roof decorated with ornate ceramic colourful sculptures.
The inside of the building is filled with artefacts display and thousands of antiques and collectables. The building itself is divided into several wings. The wing closer to the main road was meant for gatherings, while the smaller chamber was the place for the ladies to enjoy their card game and chewing of betel nuts. The main entrance will lead you first to the waiting lounge and the central air well. These two chambers are separated by a majestic wooden Chinese archaizing carved filigree screen called “pingfeng”. It is believe that the screen will break the flow of the “evil spirit” and prevent it from flowing into the house from the main entrance and at the same time conceal the seductive charm of beautiful women of the house from the male visitors. The screen is definitely a striking interest whether view from afar or up close.
In the western style formal dining hall is the grand long dining table (called the “tok panjang”) where lavish feast are held for their guests. It is complemented with European designed side tables, hubs and wooden casing mirrors running the parameter of the hall. All the wooden furniture in this hall is made of teak wood.
Right to the back will be the kitchen which is an important part of the Peranakan culture. This is evident by the fact that the kitchen here is relatively larger and is filled to the rim with all sorts of cooking utensils to dish out the elaborate and flavourful Peranakan dishes.
The upper floor showcase the family living hall, bedrooms, traditional bridal room with typical Nyonya matrimonial bed and sewing room. Here is where all the antiques are displayed including artistic brooches (“keronsang”), hair pins (“cuck sanggal”), metal belts, bracelets and other women accessories. Other interesting artefacts displayed are the huge vintage standing camera, an antique barber chair, Nyonya long blouses, embroideries and beaded shoes.
The floors are connected by a grand and lovely stairs case with each step as wide as three feet in width. The balustrades guarding the stairs are decorative cast iron with the distinctive elegant European designed which came from the Macfarlanes foundry in Glasgow, Scotland.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion is truly built with a strong affluent of the Straits Chinese culture and symbolises the colourful legacy of the few rich Peranakan families in the past. It is now fully refurbished and restored to its former glory and is a showcase of the bygone days of this community lifestyle and their many customs and traditions. The beautiful mansion was one of the locations for the filming of the Little Nyonya, a 34 episode drama series by Singapore MediaCrop TV Channel 8.
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is located at Church Street just across the Penang Heritage Trust’s office. It is a recommended place to visit when you’re in Penang.
Address of Pinang Peranakan Mansion
29 Church Street
10200 George Town
Visiting Hours: 9.30am to 5pm
Monday to Sunday including Public Holidays
Entrance Fees: RM10.00 for adult and free for children below 6 years
Web Site: http://www.pinangperanakanmansion.com.my/