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Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

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Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, the former home of one of Georgetown’s most celebrated mercantile millionaires, both conceals the ghosts of a bygone era and stands out like the proverbial (blue) bruised digit among a 21st century expanse of ugly tarmac and concrete.

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Join the hoi polloi at one of the three daily tours to get a glimpse of what life must have been like when Penang’s Chinese elite lived out their lives of luxury among the shady tropical gardens that once existed here.

There is a reason it is called the Blue Mansion. Photo taken in or around Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

There is a reason it is called the Blue Mansion. Photo: Sally Arnold

In a rags-to-riches tale, Cheong Fatt Tze was born into poverty in China, fled his homeland in 1856 and arrived penniless in Southeast Asia at the age of 17 but by the end of the 1800s he had become Asia’s wealthiest businessman, known as the “Rockefeller of the East”. He made Penang his main home and the opulent “Blue Mansion” in Georgetown reflects his remarkable life, during which he traversed between east and west in the pursuit of wealth and success.

Sadly, after he died in 1916, much of the original furniture was removed from the house by subsequent generations of his family, who squandered the fortune that he bequeathed to them and let the house fall into ruin. By the end of the 20th century the building was full of squatters, but was bought by a group of conservationists who restored it to its former grandeur and in 2000 it won a UNESCO award for heritage conservation.

Gorgeous inner sanctum. Photo taken in or around Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Gorgeous inner sanctum. Photo: Sally Arnold

The mansion is an amalgam of Chinese and European architectural styles, known locally as the Straights Eclectic stlye. Outwardly, the building is more obviously Chinese and the arched colonnade at the front is reminiscent of the five-foot ways seen throughout Georgetown. Meanwhile, the kidney-shaped fan lights, carved gilded doors and louvred windows are typical of the traditional Chinese architectural form, while the chien nien cut-ceramic decorations on the upper walls and the roofs derive from temple architecture. The traditional bright blue walls, painted using lime wash mixed with natural dye from the indigo plant, are what now give the building its ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
14 Lebuh Leith, Georgetown
Guided tours at 11:00 and 14:00 and 15:00 daily
T: (0426) 20 006
Admission: 17 ringgit, 8.50 ringgit for kids

Location map for Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

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