Written by Shirley T
Thursday, 18 June 2009 05:46
Being the first of great five Hokkien clan association in Penang, Cheah association was founded in 1820 by Cheah Yam. Cheah or Xie (谢) is one of the popular Chinese surname among Penangites and their history had started as early as 19th century.
The Cheahs were originated from Sek Tong village of South China and hence a clan house was built and named after Cheah Si Sek Tek Tong or fondly known as Cheah Kongsi. Completed in 1873, it was established to take care of the Cheahs' welfare in Penang.
Located at No 8, Armenien Street in the hustle and bustle of George Town, Cheah Kongsi's entrance is less than 100 m away from Khoo Kongsi of the Armenian Street entrance. We had passed by the entrance several times without realizing it is Cheah Kongsi. If you are coming from Beach Street towards Cannon Street, put some attention on your right as soon as you are on Armenian Street. Look for red color pillars hanged with a pair of traditional lanterns and ornamented dragons on roof-top. It is Cheah Kongsi!
As you walk into the narrow entrance painted with maroon, you will surprise with a charming yet traditional double-storey bungalow. The architecture portrayed the influences of Straits Chinese (Peranakan), Malay, Chinese and European. Personally, the groundlevel looks similar to the Malay porch while the upstairs open balcony decorated with British lionheads seems adopting a European style. Connecting to the central building, both left and right premises have almost a symmetrical structure with courtyard, central hall, kitchen chamber and a fine wooden staircase each heading to upper level.
Before entering into the courtyard, there is a chamber housing a long table – I guess this the original 'Tok Panjang' (a Peranakan phrase, literally translated as long table) used for celebration or gathering to serve sumptuous culinary! If you are curious to learn about the traditional kitchen, explore their kitchen chamber.
The entrance fee is free but it would nice to get permission to enter from the friendly caretaker. As I made my steps up, I peeped into a chamber through a wide open window. To my surprise, a British Queen picture was hanged inside which also displayed some vintage communication system and type-writers. The next chamber displays a mahjong table with some of resting chairs – this must be the entertainment room! I believe all of these are the original furniture and artifacts inherited from centuries ago and this explains why these chambers are secured with locks.
Next, I explored the upper floor worship hall where they are sort of separated into three sections. Central section houses 'Khong Hui Seng Ong' whilst on the left is placed with 'Tua Peh Kong' (Da Bo Gong) side by side with 'Tai Sai Yeah' (Da Shi Ye). On the another end sits 'Hock Haw Kong'. All these deities were once human but owing to their great sacrifice and contribution, lay people prays to them and the tradition continues until today. This worship hall also houses Cheah families' ancestral tablets.
Seeing the green lawn somehow put me to feel at home. It is very well-kept and to get the best façade view of Cheah Kongsi, come nearer to the fish pond situated a few meters ahead from the porch. From here, take a good view of the roof that has elaborate sculptures of sirens, dogs, lions of stucco and shards of both Chinese and Dutch porcelain crockery. Beside it, there lies the administrative building. Clean washrooms are just next to it.
Deep in my heart, Cheah Kongsi premise is like a great home – an oasis that is quiet and tranquil!
Click here for Google Map. If you are putting up in George Town, hop on the free shuttle bus provided by Penang State Government.
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