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Khoo Kongsi

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The Khoo Kongsi is the jewel in the crown of Penang’s clan houses, if you see no other, join the throngs here.

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Penang’s early Chinese immigrants found strength by forming clan associations with members of extended family sharing a common surname. “Kongsi” or clan houses were established as a place to honour ancestral spirits, provided welfare and education for members as well as promoting and strengthening business interests. Certain Kongsi welded considerable influence in Penang’s early history, often controlling somewhat shady businesses, essentially the Triads of the day.

The classic approach. Photo taken in or around Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

The classic approach. Photo: Sally Arnold

The Khoo Kongsi was established by one of Penang’s five major Hokkien communities, among their ranks, some of the wealthiest and most powerful merchant pioneers. The 19th century complex takes the form of a traditional feudal village with the grand Chinese baroque-style temple taking pride of place within a paved courtyard and fortress-like surrounding offices and houses, accessed via three narrow laneways (two no longer in use). The lavish temple building or Leong San Tong, was not only for the benefit of the ancestral spirits, but also a very public display of wealth and power.

The magnificent structure you see today was completed in 1906, replacing a reputedly even more opulent edifice. The original made from wood took some eight years to build and just three weeks after completion burnt to the ground. Superstitions abound that the clan house was destroyed due to jealousy from the Gods as the house was too grandiose, rivalling the temple ... Travelfish members only (Around 600 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Khoo Kongsi
18 Medan Cannon, Georgetown
Mo–Su: 9:00–18:00
Admission: 5 ringgit

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