After street art, our next stop was Penang Perankan Mansion.

Penang perankan mansion too is located in George town. The mansion is a museum offering the glimpses of wealthy, opulent life style of Perankan and their many customs and traditions.  Glimpses... oh no, what you encounter there is a dazzling show of affluence- furniture, crockery, attires, jewelry, decorative pieces, antique items and what not and besides these, is the magnificent architecture.

Perankans, to whom does the term refer to. Frankly speaking before visiting this mansion I had no inkling of even the existence of this community. The perankans was a unique and prominent community of Chinese migrants from their homeland to Straits Settlements of which Penang is a part. They married local Malay women, adopted their traditions and customs too and when these territories became British colonies , Perankans imbibed some of their life style also. So perankans came to be a unique blend of Chinese, local Malays and European ways of life style.  Their extravagant life- style carved out of the amalgamation of different cultures and customs is an extraordinarily rich legacy of the region. The head of the family was termed Baba[ man] and the lady of the house was called Nonya.

This mansion was originally built by  Chung Keng Quee, popularly known as Captain China., a very prominent local personality. He was a wealthy businessman, invested into various kinds of industries and businesses. He was also very influential politically, had amicable relations with British during their regime and later on came to be known as a great charitable personality. He donated lavishly for local causes and to various institutions too.

This mansion was built in 1894 and was used as a regular family home. eventually passed on through the generations. However it was in disarray for some time in the mid. Then in 2000 it was purchased by a wealthy antique collector, who restored it to it’s former glory and then it was opened to public in 2004 as a tourist destination.

It is not possible to capture in words the charismatic personality of the mansion in all it’s glory . However I will try to touch few aspects, yes , only glimpses of the rich heritages can be shown here. It is to be seen to encompass the enormity and depth.

 

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The entrance itself appeared to be an unique example of blend of the three cultures, the Victorian style balcony, windows, sparkling golden and red colour paint of Chinese origin while two bright coloured cycle rickshaws placed on either side of entrance resemble those beautiful rickshaws running on Penang streets even now.

 

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Crossing the gate we faced an open courtyard with covered verandahs on the four sides. Few benches were lying there and it felt good to enter the cool place after the scorching heat outside. Sitting on the bench there, when you start taking in the rich sight of beautiful carved doors, curved staircases and embellished balcony fences while the sky peeps down from the rectangular open court yard,[ though now the courtyard is covered with transparent sheets yet sky can be seen and felt] you feel like entering into some different era.  The heart fills with mixed feelings of anticipation of what lies beyond the courtyard.

 

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In the verandah on one side of courtyard was laid a big dining table. There were various wooden partitions and mirrors placed at different angles. Heard a guide telling a group of European tourists that the mirrors were placed in such a way that Baba sitting at the head of the table could watch all the entrance points of mansions reflected in the mirrors, all at the same time.

 

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The mansion is two storeyed building. Before climbing the stairs leading to first floor , one is required to take off one’s shoes. This floor has unbelievably beautiful collection of crockery, other porcelain wares, bed rooms , bride chambers, traditional attires on display, beautiful writing tables, dressing tables, an antique camera piece.

 

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The ceremonial marriage bed of the newly-weds all decked up in bright red colours with exotic , intricate carving. Each room has unique pieces of furniture and each one is ornately carved.

 

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One of the side doors of the mansion lead you to a small open space with a water fountain. On the wall behind fountain are some Chinese wall hangings and green plants are kept in this open space. I think running water fountains are considered very auspicious by Chinese. Few chairs were laid down there. It sure must have been a very cozy, private resting nook for may be Nonya and other ladies of the family.

After this fountain we entered the portion where halls after halls were glittering with gold. It felt like venturing into Some Midas land. Perankans opulent life style at it’s peak. from pins and anklets to purses, from rings, earnings to headgear, You imagine it  and it is there , glittering, resplendent . enjoy only a fraction here…

 

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head gears, hair pins….Nonya used to put more than hundred special kind of pins on her hair on wedding day .

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A side alley leads you to the family temple, private temple of captain China. It is said that the temple was used as entertainment area by Captain. the temple is definitely of quite different type. It has no deity. statue of captain is exposed in the temple and no deity is there. It is quite interesting.

 

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These scenes carved on the walls of temple tell stories

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The door of the temple opening towards main road

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We visited the temple at the end of our tour of museum. Sitting there I was thinking where has all the members , descendants must be at present. I read when Captain China left for his heavenly abode the roads of Penang turned into as if sea of people. His opulence, power, people around of him…. Ah! it all comes to an end. The wheel of time move on relentlessly sparing no one. Yet, history must be preserved. History is our inseparable part .

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Just prior to leaving the premises I rested on the inner side verandah of the ground floor, taking in it all .

Pics copyright- Sunder Iyer

#photography#travel#travelogue#malaysia#penang#pinangperankanmansion#museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

the museum is open for the visitors daily from 9.30 A.M. to 17P.M.

Admission fee for adults is 20 ringet per person, children below 12 are free.

guided tours are available.

 

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