Penang’s oldest Hokkien Kongsi
The Cheah Kongsi, or formerly the tongue-twisting, Sek Tong Cheah Si Seh Tek Tong Hock Haw Kong Kongsi, is one of the oldest Hokkien clan associations in Penang, established in 1810 by immigrants from China’s Fujian Province.
As with all of Penang’s Kongsi, the clan house serves as both an ancestral temple and community club for descents of the Cheah clan who came to seek their fortunes in Penang. The original narrow portal on Lebuh Armenian is squeezed between shophouses and crowded out by selfie-stick wielding tourists photographing the nearby “kids on a bike” street art (actually painted on the outer walls of the Kongsi), but is still worth seeking out to admire the intricately carved and painted gateway.
A major renovation completed in 2015 moved the main access to its more prominent current location on Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street). The new entrance somehow has a very colonial British feel to it with lofty iron gates, topiaried trees and a wide manicured lawn that could quite happily entertain a round of cricket, perhaps a nod to the early Straits Chinese loyalty to the British crown.
The building itself was constructed in the mid-19th century in the style of a double-storey bungalow with wide porches and the main worship hall located on the upper level. A 1930s renovation added (again) British-style lions to the lower pillars. The most recent restoration involved removing previous historically inappropriate alterations and additions, and employing skilled traditional artisans from Fujian and the resulting authentic heritage features include beautiful chien nien (Chinese cut-and-paste ceramic work) dragons and other smaller symbolic animals decorating the roof, along with outstanding intricate paintings and gold-leaf work, making it one of Penang’s most beautiful heritage sites.
The Kongsi is free to enter and (reportedly) opens daily 09:00–17:00, but unfortunately the gates remained shut at the time of research, with no explanation nor information of when it may open again to the public—their Facebook page offers an apology, but also no date, although you are still able to appreciate the facade.
If you need a break from sightseeing, head across the Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street) to China House for coffee and a choice of 75 cakes!
Address: Lebuh Armenian and Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), Georgetown
T: (0426) 13 837;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º20'16.62" E, 5º24'53.55" N
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These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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