|Penang Heritage | Pinang Peranakan Museum - Hai Kee Chan Mansion|
If you are a fan of The Little Nyonya (like me!), pay a visit to Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Step into this charming mansion and get the feel like the crews. When I arrived at the entrance, the pale green facade
looked familiar. Yes, many scenes in 'The Little Nyonya' were made here as Chen's family house.
At the gate of this historic mansion, there are a pair of metal crowns to welcome us. The crowns signify the glory of British era in Penang. I was impressed with the grand balcony of a Straits eclectic design. The
pillars resembled a European influence whereas the gold colored floral designed iron arts of the balcony looks similar to Malays crafting. This rich Baba home has faithfully stood here since late 19th century and managed through many hands!
Compiling almost everything a typical Peranakan family house used to have, Pinang Peranakan Mansion or formerly known as 'Hai Kee Chan' is tucked away in Church Street of the George Town Heritage Zone. The
mansion symbolizes the legacies of Peranakan and herald the preservation of one-of-its kind architecture.
Baba Nyonya or Peranakan is a term used to describe the descendants of 15th or 16th century Chinese immigrants to Nusantara during the colonial era. With the current population about 7 million, they are mainly dispersed in the region of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Record stated that the Chinese immigrants back then married the local Malays women and as a result this community is more or less adopting or assimilating into the local cultures especially in their dressing, cooking and language. However, the Peranakans do worship their ancestral and common faiths are Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism or Confucianism. Some younger generations of Peranakan have also embraced Christianity resulted from English education.
At present, this ethnic group is almost reaching the vulnerable stage, whereby modernization does not go and in hand with Peranakan style of living anymore! In fact, very few Peranakan communities in Penang, Malacca or Singapore do retain their lifestyle and even identity. Nowadays, they are usually mistakenly referred as Malaysian Chinese or Singaporean Chinese instead.
Coming back to Pinang Peranakan Mansion, this building was once served as the residence and office to Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. The architecture of this building is very unique as it incorporates Chinese carved-wood panels with English floor tiles and Scottish iron-works.
As one stroll inside the building, there is a square concrete bowl that is looking upon the sky. No roof, it
is exposed to both rain and sun. When sun shines, the nearby area is brighten under natural light. And as
rain pouring, it works to trap the water and funnel to the underneath drainage.
The wing that is closer to the main road (Church Street) is designed for business discussion among the gentlemen. Whilst the smaller chamber beside is the lady's room that the Nyonyas could gather to play cherki (card game) and enjoy eating betel nut.
Of the opposite end, it is the guest dining hall occupying by 'tok panjang'. 'Tok panjang' or literally translated as 'long table' is used by the Peranakan family to prepare feast for their guests. If you notice,
this term 'tok panjang' is an example of the unique Baba Nyonya's dialect. It combines 'tok' that is a Hokkien dialect for 'table' and 'panjang' is a Malays word for 'long'.
For western guests, the rich Baba would usually prepare a special room with European cutlery, teapot set and dining style.
As I ascended on the rustic wooden staircase, it led me to the upper floor whereby all the antiques are on displayed. A huge vintage standing camera, brooches (keronsang), hair pins (cucuk sanggul), covered jars (kamcheng), metal belts, gold bracelets and many other woman accessories are among the exhibits showcased at first floor.
Enter some of the chambers that features the traditional bridal room and various vanity tables. Sewing room was the venue where the Nyonyas spent to make long shirts ('baju panjang'), embroideries and beaded shoes ('kasut manik').
That's not about it. Kitchen was a must in every Peranakan family as all the nyonyas must be the culinary experts before marriage. Giving a chance to view the kitchen, I would say the kitchen of this mansion is relatively the largest compares to any typical kitchen in Penang. From making dishes to desserts, they has
every mold and tool to serve the best Nyonya delicacy!
I personally would not called this place a mansion, it deserves the name as Pinang Peranakan Museum. Each
item in this mansion speaks for itself. You have to come and see by yourself this amazing heritage!
29 Church Street,
10200 George Town,
Visiting hours: Monday to Sunday & Public Holiday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Admission fee: Adult: RM6 & free for children below 6 years old (subject to change without notice)
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