Photo: An early starter.

Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi

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The Tans are regarded as one of Penang’s “big five” Hokkien clans, and although there are no records confirming the fact, the general consensus is that they may have formed the first clan association in Penang.

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After moving premises a couple of times in the early- to mid-19th century, they have stayed put in the Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi near Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street) since 1878, which has had a couple of facelifts in the meantime, most recently in 1992.

Intricate decorations. Photo taken in or around Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Intricate decorations. Photo: Sally Arnold

The single storey building is not as impressive as their Hokkien brethren, the Khoo’s or the Cheah’s Kongsi, but if you pass by it’s certainly worth sticking your nose in, especially if your surname is Tan (one of the more common Chinese surnames) as you’ll be treated as part of the family.

Set in its own cul-de-sac, the temple sits sentinel-like facing the short laneway from Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), the road then splitting around it and by all accounts, many Tan families still live in the surrounding houses. The modern-looking gateway was added in the early 1950s, but the curved roofline and cut ceramic work echo the temple itself for a cohesive look.

Just hanging out. Photo taken in or around Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Just hanging out. Photo: Sally Arnold

Beyond the gate, a red painted forecourt contrasts with the grey granite facade of the temple and twisting dragons both on the rooftop and curling around the font pillars protect the Kongsi from the unseen. The paintings of the door guardians seem a little more crude than in some other temples about town, but at the same time more modern with a heavy use of black outline, almost tattoo-like, yet the ornate gold filigree altar is as impressive as any.

The Tan’s patron deities sit red-faced and golden cloaked at the main altar, and in the ancestral hall behind, another altar houses the family tablets. Interestingly, as with the Khoo Kongsi, the Tan Kongsi displays wooden plaques highlighting the prowess and achievements of fellow Tans, several who have joined Malaysia’s parliament ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi
28 Seh Tan Court, Georgetown (off Beach Street)
Mo–Fr: 08:30–16:30 & Sa–Su: 08:30–12:00

Location map for Eng Chuan Tan Kongsi

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