Khoo Kongsi is one of Georgetown’s most interesting attractions. Built some 650 years ago, it is part of the goh tai seh (five big clans) that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in olden-days Penang. One of Penang’s most lavishly decorated kongsis, it is located on Jalan Acheh, off Lebuh Pitt.
A kongsi (clan house) is a building in which Chinese families of the same surname gather to worship their ancestors. Representing a family’s social and spiritual commitments between extended relations, ancestors and the outside community, the kongsi also acts as an important means of solidarity. These days the primary functions of kongsis are supportive roles: they help with the educations of members’ children, settle disputes and advance loans.
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Penang Khoo Kongsi History
The kongsis were initially developed as a way for 19th-century immigrants to band together according to their respective districts. Unsurprisingly, as a result of this clan-centric bias, hostile sentiments developed between the different clan houses resulting in rivalry and eventually violence.
Many of the kongsis in Penang are more than 100 years old; the Khoo Kongsi, once known as one of the most prominent Chinese lineages in Malaysia, is probably the most famous clan house in Penang. Founded by the Leong San Tong clan from the Sin Kang clan village in Hokkien Province, the clan house was built primarily to showcase the success of the Khoo family.
Khoo Kongsi remains till this day an impressive architectural feat that exemplifies good luck and prosperity. The other big clans during the time of its inception were the Cheah, Yeoh, Lim and Tan families who also have clan houses erected to act as a central point of their respective communities. However none were as magnificent as the Leong San Tong (Khoo Kongsi) which was said to be the most impressive in Southeast Asia.
Penang Khoo Kongsi Design
At the height of the Khoo family’s prominence, craftsmen from China were commissioned to build this architectural masterpiece. Also known as Dragon Mountain Hall, Khoo Kongsi is an ornate structure standing on a square of granite with stone carvings that adorn the entrance hall.
Additionally, there are pavilions, murals portraying birthdays, weddings and 36 divine guardian-statues sprinkled throughout its interior. Meanwhile, massive overhead paper lamps bathe the interior in an orange glow and stunning ceramic sculptures of immortals, carp fish and dragons line the roof ridges.
Penang Khoo Kongsi
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Address: 18 Cannon Square, Georgetown
- Tel: +604 261 4609