With Feng Shui perfection, this magnificent dwelling that fused aesthetics and opulence was built with the doors fronting the sea and its posterior on a mountain slope, the Penang Hill, described as “house on the back of a dragon” figuratively.
Its front doors have Chinese inscriptions that read, “Dancing Phoenix and Flying Dragons” which, according to Chinese beliefs can only be found in Heaven. These and more enticed me and my family to listen and enjoy the very engaging one-hour-guided tour at The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion also known as The Blue Mansion.
23 July 2011. Saturday. My initial plan was to bring my family to the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia located in Penang but I guess it had to be rescheduled some other weekend thus, one thing led to another.
The suggestion to pay the Blue Mansion a visit came from one of the Tsinoys I admire, who described himself in his website as “a self-designated life-long citizen and ambassador of Manila”, Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks when he left a comment on my post about our beautiful experience in Yeng Keng Hotel.
With my parents, wife and our son in tow, I arrived with them at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion with ample time to take photos of its exteriors, prior to our scheduled 1:30PM guided tour.
Located in Lebuh Leith or Leith Street, the mansion site stretches 56,000 sq ft (5,202.4 sq meters) with a total floor area of 33,000 sq ft (3065.7 sq meters). What’s amazing with Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion isn’t its expectedly vast than usual land coverage but its other remarkable uniqueness. For instance, its lot and its neighbors do not follow the alignment of Leith Street which runs in a North-East to South-West direction. This unusual construction was believed to be guided by Feng Shui or geomancy as preferred by Cheong Fatt Tze himself.
With my almost a year of being an expat in Penang, I’d say it is hard to miss this indigo blue structure that can be seen along George Town’s main thoroughfares such as Jalan Penang (Penang Road) and Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street). However, I didn’t have any idea of its cultural and historic significance until my family and I set foot on its courtyard.
with Komtar, the tallest building in George Town at its backdrop.
The entire tour of the Cheng Fatt Tze Mansion was truly worth indulging! The RM 12 (USD 4.03 or PhP 171) per pax rate of fee was nothing compared to the fascination and amazement we’ve experienced. Imagine stepping on the same venue where the 1992 notable Academy-award winning (1993 Best Foreign Language Film) French movie, Indochine that starred Catherine Deneuve and Vincent Perez was filmed. The Blue Mansion is equally interesting as the man who built it.
In Tuxedo and in Chinese Mandarin Suit. The New York Times called him “The Rockefeller of the East”. Having rags to riches story, with perseverance in his pocket, he conquered himself and had engaged in businesses dealing with pepper, rubber, tea, coffee, tobacco, rice and even opium; eventually became an investor in banks, trader of glassworks, cattle and textiles. He became philantropist and had abundant wives of 8 (of whom wife #7 was the favorite), concubines and hand-maidens. He had his last will and testament that ordered the Mansion would only be available for selling after the death of his son (1989). Photo sourced via www.penang-vacations.com
CHEONG FATT TZE
“Arriving penniless from Guandong province, China,to this part of the world at the age of 16, Cheong Fatt Tze grew to become one of the most historic and colorful personalities of the era. “One of China’s last Mandarins and 1st Capitalists”, such was his aura and fame that the Dutch and British authorities ordered that flags be flown at half mast throughout their colonies when he passed away in 1916. Of his vast empire, Cheong Fatt Tze chose Penang to build the most elaborate of his homes and to raise his sons. It is reputed to be one of two such buildings of this size, outside China and certainly the most perfected. While the Mansion’s floorplan is essentially Chinese, the overall effect is ecclectic and typical of 19th Century Straights Settlements architecture. Gothic louvered windows, Chinese cut-and-paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles, Scottish cast iron works and Art Nouveau stained glass are among the features to be found in this inspired work of art. The aura and “chi” of the man pervades the entire edifice.
The dilapidated Mansion was acquired in 1990 with the prime intention of achieving a return to an authentic original form. Traditional materials and methods have been utilized and the end result has been nationally and internationally acclaimed. Winner of “Most Excellent Project” Award at the UNESCO Heritage Awards 2000, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has earned its place as one of Penang’s foremost tourist destinations, a historical reminder of a past era and a man whose dream will live on it the majesty of his home.” *Sourced from the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown bookmark giveaway at the gate.*
Couplets, such as this door found at the side of the Mansion after its restoration are symbolic as the proverbs, “There is permanence in the rising of the sun and moon.”
The only disappointment I had was the fact that photography’s forbidden inside the Mansion. Nonetheless, I confirmed from our excellent tour guide, Ms. Lyn Fong a.k.a Sally, that once a guest checks in in one of the 16 rooms for a bed and breakfast (or any room or event package preferred), –yes, The Blue Mansion is one the gorgeous boutique hotels in Penang) taking of photos is allowed except during tour hours (11AM, 1:30PM and 3PM).
Chien Nien, or the technique of porcelain cut and paste shard works of art were very prominent in every corner of the house. The process entails the use of small and colored porcelain bowls, each intricately cut to form a 3D effect on the designs that tells Chinese tales; piece by piece -the work was tedious but wonderfully restored!
We absolutely marveled at these features : The center of the mansion has the greatest “chi” according to Feng Shui experts. That beautiful spot was surrounded by 4 metal pillars with intricate designs, made by Macfarlanes in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Mansion also has timber filgree paneling with gold leaf gilding which was also painstakingly restored to its full glory.
The walls and the ceilings were perfectly built in such a way that water collected from rain will be running quickly (water in feng shui means MONEY!) and the basin which has 2 openings in the center of the Mansion will let it run out slowly.
In the middle Ms. Lyn Fong’s tour guiding when we were at the center of the mansion and while she was discussing about water and money, I had my widest smile when she told me that I am sitting in one the luckiest spots of the Mansion which is one of the water openings.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has all the essential elements : Metal, Wood, Air, Water, Fire (fire represented in the house by its generous oil lamps). Its stairs are made of 28 steps (28 in Chinese is good luck) of which the first 3 are made of granite, a good foundation to swiftly bring wealth.
The Mansion has fantastic glass stained windows with pineapple and fan designs to fan-in wealth inside the house. Windows have wooden shutters without nails but close and open with its Yin and Yang designs.
The tiles at the floor of the entire house came from Europe.
Obviously, red is auspicious color in Chinese and not blue. We learned that the Mansion was only painted indigo blue because at that time, almost entire George Town, Malacca and Singapore were painted with the same hue.
The beautiful day is incomplete without souvenir shots even only from its courtyard…
Gabby’s paternal lola and lolo.
If you’re planning a trip to George Town and a pit stop at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, make sure your tour will be flawlessly guided by Ms. Lyn Fong (a.k.a Sally) whose passion to her work emanates to what she does best. Thank you, Ms. Lyn! We hope to see you again in the near future!
Once again, I am impressed with what Penang has to offer. It seems almost every weekend is a surprise! George Town has been consistent in drowning me and (now) my family in its diverse cultures and colors but one thing is definite, we are not complaining! 🙂
Tina and I hope that with Gabby’s smiles, he will soon appreciate his early exposures to the influences of this multicultural state, and may his inevitable immersion to such diversities contribute to his being positively.
Visit their website at *The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion