Malaysia’s vibrant and multi-cultural history lends itself to a number of heritage buildings which can be of interest to people taking a holiday in Malaysia.
One such building is Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion at 14 Leith Street in George Town, one of the most popular architectural places to visit in Malaysia.
For people who want to know what to do in Malaysia and are interested in the country’s history, a heritage walking tour in Penang is often a special highlight and includes a visit to this property.
When visitors who travel to Penang walk through the front entrance of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, they are instantly taken back to a time where an elaborate and lavish lifestyle was once enjoyed by the wealthy merchant owner.
Although Cheong Fatt Tze also owned homes in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, his one in Penang was the most ostentatious and reflective of his wealth and high station. It is argued that it was his preferred property which was reflected by its sheer scale and luxurious furnishings.
Built at the end of the 19th Century, the house which is dubbed the ‘Blue Mansion’ has an impressive 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, seven staircases and 220 vernacular timber louvre windows.
The inspiration for the architecture of the mansion originates from the Su Chow Dynasty Period in China. Throughout the construction, careful attention was given to the principles of Feng Shui to give the mansion positive balance and energy.
The striking blue color of the mansion was achieved by mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant. Limewash was very popular during the Colonial period as it proved to be particularly effective in the tropical climate. It absorbed moisture while keeping the house cool without damaging the structure of the walls.
The dye was commonly imported from India to Penang by the British. Though white-wash was the most easily available color, the indigo-blue was chosen because in Chinese culture, the color white is synonymous with death.
Such is the reputation of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion as one of the most historical places to visit in Malaysia, it has appeared in many popular television programmes including BBC’s ‘The Travel Show’ and ‘Exploring Malaysia and Discovery Travel & Living. It has also appeared and been used as a location in many films including Indochina, the 3rd Generation, Road to Dawn, the Red Kabaya and Blue Mansion.
In order to protect the mansion from nearby development and possible demolition, it was purchased from Cheong Fatt Tze’s descendants in 1989 by a group of local Penang residents. The property remains a private-residence however it does operate as a 16 room Bed & Breakfast where visitors can stay. For people wanting to know what to do in Malaysia that promotes conservation efforts of heritage buildings, there is an on-site museum that shows the process of the restoration project that went on.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has received a number of plaudits and international recognition including UNESCO’s inaugural ‘Most Excellent’ Heritage Conservation Award (2000) and was selected as the ‘Most Excellent Project’ in the Asia Pacific Rim after its RM7.6 mil restoration was completed. It has also received the Malaysian National Architectural Award for Conservation (1995), ASEANTA Excellence Award (2004) and Best ASEAN Cultural Preservation Effort. Lonely Planet also named the residence as one of the ’10 Greatest Mansions in the World’ in 2011.
With all of these accolades, visiting the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion is a must for people taking a holiday in Malaysia.
For people who want to know what to do in Malaysia and travel to Penang, tours of Cheong Fatt Tze mansion are available each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
In light of recent efforts to protect Malaysia’s heritage treasures, visitors are encouraged to adopt responsible attitudes to travelling. By fostering respect for Malaysian history, taking only photos and leaving all cultural attractions of importance as you found them, they can be enjoyed by many more visitors to Malaysia for years to come.