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Cheah Kongsi in Penang

Georgetown Attractions

Cheah Kongsi is the first of Penang’s five great Hokkien clan houses. Set in the block beside Khoo Kongsi, it resembles the grand temples and palaces usually seen in China. The ornate building is the only clan house in Penang that fuses Malay, traditional Straits Chinese and European design.

An elaborate sight along this street, the first thing visitors see when they visit this clan house are columns topped with British-style ‘lion head’ statues that support a large balcony with intricate iron railings. Topping it is a sweeping roof decorated with intricate Chinese and Dutch porcelain and stucco carvings of dogs and lions.

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History of Cheah Kongsi

Cheah Kongsi was established in 1873 by Cheah Yam, an immigrant who came from the Sek Tong village in South China. Upon Cheah Yam’s death, his widow Ong Sin Neoh took over management of the clan house: before her, women did not wield such direct influence over the local Hokkien clan associations. Her son, Cheah Choo Yew, and subsequently his descendants, have served as the presidents of the Cheah Kongsi ever since.

There is an office building on-site which houses the temple’s management office.

Design of Cheah Kongsi

The entrance to the double-storey Cheah Kongsi is through a narrow alleyway off Lebuh Armenian. The charming, perfectly-manicured front lawn leads you past a front door edged by etched black marble panels; the complex uniquely integrates a European double-storey plan and a distinctive Chinese courtyard layout. The temple’s porch was renovated in the 1930s and elaborate carvings were added: it also underwent extensive restoration work between 2003 and 2004.

The main building surrounds a quad with the altar room (supported by heavy foundation pillars) on the second floor: this is where the Cheah Kongsi is different from regular clan houses. Smaller rooms to the left and right of the courtyard are used for meetings, meals and socialising.

Good to Know

Cheah Kongsi also doubles as a museum: to exhibit the temple’s 183-year history, several pieces of original furniture and artefacts (well taken care of) are on display in the temple’s smaller rooms.

Though there is no entrance fee and you are free to wander around at leisure, it is considered polite to obtain permission from the office within the compounds.

Cheah Kongsi

  • Location: Armenian Street, George Town
  • Address: 14, Leith Street, 10200 Penang
  • Tel: +604 262 0006
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