Back in the years of being a colony, businessmen around the area flocked to Southeast Asia, especially around the Dutch and British strongholds in present-day Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia. One of the most celebrated Mandarins of China and one of the pioneer capitalists in the East, Cheong Fatt Tze’s story carries on with the mansion he has left behind in Penang.
Born a Hakka in Taipu County, China, Cheong Fatt Tze came to Southeast Asia at the age of 16, first working and learning the ropes of business in Jakarta (then known as Batavia, Dutch East Indies) before gaining the trust of the colonialists and setting up business in Penang. The Blue Mansion was constructed as evidence to show that Cheong was not a fly-by-night merchant, but a serious businessman.
While much of the mansion was constructed with western influences, Cheong stood close to his Chinese roots, with the house built on a manmade slope and according to general fengshui practices. As explained by our lively guide, Pat, the general layout of the house was centered on harmony and wealth, to keep the family as peaceful and harmonious as possible.
The second level of the mansion focussed more on the restoration of the Mansion, together with Cheong’s achievements and personal life. It was also the entrance to the Chinese Fine Dining establishment which opened within the Mansion itself.
When the last living descendant (who lived in this mansion) of Cheong Fatt Tze died in 1989, the mansion was in disrepair. Soon purchased by a group of Chinese businessmen, they found out about its historical value and got the place restored for tourists. Historically, many of Cheong’s descendants have not been mentioned, as many of Cheong’s sons sold his assets and businesses so that they did not have to work.
Now restored to its glory, it was a filming location of French film “IndoChine” (among others), and is now a guest house, with daily tours, and a holder of the Most Excellent Project, UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards in 2000. To find out more about the Blue Mansion, click here.
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