Located at a corner along Cannon Street, you may end up missing the Khoo Kongsi as you walk along the road. If you have done so, you would have probably missed out on an opportunity to appreciate this clan’s history and the beautiful architecture found beyond its inconspicuous gates.
Passing through the Chinese-style entrance gate, you will walk past what used to be a row of community houses where entire families lived and communicated with each other, before reaching the ticketing area and gift shop. It’s RM10 to enter for adults and RM1 for kids. After getting presented with your entrance sticker and a free Khoo Kongsi postcard, you’re ready to go.
Upon entrance, the first thing you would notice would be the main ancestral temple, where the main museum and ancestral hall was. Sitting majestically, behind an empty but wide courtyard, the main was surrounded by the old living quarters, and two other Chinese-style buildings – one of which was a performance stage, and the other, another ancestral hall.
The main museum is located on the lower floors of the main ancestral hall, with exhibits and pictures on the history of the Khoo clan, their family tree, and their journey to Southeast Asia. It also provided a brief history of how life was during the early settlements, and the relationships between families in the clan.
One panel which did set me off was the panel featuring Khoo Teck Puat, known for being the man behind Goodwood Park Hotel, and whose family started the Khoo Teck Puat hospital. To paraphrase the Tiger, the familial lines between Penang and Singapore because it’s pretty much from one island to another.
Regardless, my exclamation of “Khoo Teck Puat?!” was one of the highlights of our visit there.
The upper hall was mainly their ancestral hall, with memorial tablets stacked up behind glass panels. However, what was exceptionally beautiful about the place was the many intricate carvings of Chinese mythology and folklore – mythical dragons, powerful tigers, majestic fish, playful fairies, and wise immortals. Despite their slightly faded appearance, the carvings enhanced the outer aura of the main hall itself.
All in all, it was a different kind of museum for me – one which focussed and honoured the contributions of a single Chinese clan, which turned into a tourist spot for many people in Penang. While the exhibits in the main museum were simple, they told a story that was personal, and these are the stories which will carry on with the generations.
This is a place I would recommend going. To find out more about the Khoo Kongsi, click here.