22 Mar Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
One building to check out while visiting George Town’s historic heritage site is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Built in the late 1800s, the famous Chinese courtyard house with a heavy shade of indigo blue was the residence of the eponymous Cheong Fatt Tze, once known as the “Rockefeller of the East”, who played a prominent role in the then-newly established Penang Straits Settlement.
The Mansion was built to reflect Cheong’s Hakka and Chinese heritage, its intricate architecture being proof of his immense passion for the craft of his birthplace. The mansion was completed in the 1880s and was constructed using traditional Chinese methods while adhering to Feng Shui principles. Cheong’s dedication speaks volumes when one takes into consideration the fact that he brought over master craftsmen all the way from China to help with the construction of the 38-room, seven-staircased, 220-windowed mansion that also has five granite courtyards.
When Cheong passed away in 1969, his descendants grappled with the property long enough for it to be dilapidated by 1989, when it was bought from them and painstakingly restored to its present-day condition. Cashing in on the Heritage Tourism craze, the Mansion has since been transformed into a 16-room boutique bed-and-breakfast hotel and museum, with a restaurant named “Indigo” opened last year, for patrons willing to splurge a bit of cash to relive life the way the 19th and 20th century Straits Chinese would back in the day.
The Mansion’s popularity has seen it being featured on various travel programmes and newsletters such as BBC, CNN and Discovery Channel; and even in theatrical motion pictures such as Road to Dawn, The Red Kebaya, the aptly titled The Blue Mansion and the Oscar-winning Indochine. But really, the Mansion’s greatest contribution is its role as a living testament to both Cheong’s ambition as well as a cornerstone in Penang’s cultural history.