Learn About the Unique Architecture and History of Pinang Peranakan Mansion

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Penang is a beautiful place to visit. Visitors can choose between old and new attractions. There is something to cater for everyone’s tastes. If you like history, a visit to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a must! Here, you can learn more about the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, what it is, where it is, its history and what you can see while visiting this house museum.

You can also read more about the best things to do in Singapore or what we did while visiting Malaysia.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

What is the Pinang Pernakan Mansion?

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a house museum in Penang, Malaysia. The Pinang Peranakan Mansion depicts a typical home of a rich Baba of the 19th century to give visitors a peek into their luxurious lifestyle, customs and traditions. It houses thousands of Peranakan antiques.

The Peranakan Mansion is a key attraction in Penang.

It has been used as a filming location for several shows, including the Amazing Race and Little Nyonya.

What does Peranakan mean?

The Peranakans were Babas and Nyonyas, a community of acculturated Chinese who could only be found in the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang and Malacca. Another name for them was the Straits Chinese. These Chinese adopted aspects of Malay culture and later British culture, but maintained their unique culture. They influenced Penang’s cuisine and language.

Where is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion?

You can find this distinctive green-hued mansion at 29 Church Street, George Town, 10200 George Town, Penang. This Google map shows its location:

Information for visitors to the Penang Peranakan Mansion

The entrance fee is RM25 for adults. Children aged 6 to 12 pay RM12, and children under six can enter for free.

Address: 29 Church Street, George Town, 10200 George Town, Penang

Opening hours: The mansion is open daily between 9:30 am to 5 pm. It is open on public holidays

Telephone number: 604-264 2929

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email: rmhbaba@gmail.com

Visitors can do a complimentary guided tour in English or Mandarin. A tour guide leads these tours, which are held at 11.30 am and 3.30 pm. The tour takes about 45 minutes.

History of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

The Pinang Peranakan Museum is over a century old. A Chinese tycoon, Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee or Chung Keng Quee, emigrated to Penang from China. He became the leader of the Hai San (a Chinese secret society) and the wealthiest man on Penang island. He was also an innovator in the mining of tin.

In 1893, he purchased two adjacent properties on Church street and decided to build a house in the Peranakan style despite not being a baba. He completed the building of the mansion in the 1890s and named it “Hai Kee Chan”, or Sea Remembrance Hall. The building resembles a Chinese courtyard house with Scottish ironworks and full-length French windows. The building also features many European furnishings.

The kitchen area in the mansion
The kitchen area in the mansion

Kapitan Chung died in 1901 when his descendants inherited the mansion. Unfortunately, the family lost their wealth in the second world war and abandoned the house.

Over the years, the house became neglected. In the 1990s, a Baba and native Peranakan architect, Peter Soon, bought and restored the house. He also added his extensive collection of over 1000 Peranakan artefacts, antiques and other collectables to the house. It took over five years to refurbish the house to turn it into a Baba-Nyonya Museum.

The Penang Peranakan Mansion is one of the best Peranakan museums in Asia.

What can you see in the Pinang Peranakan Mansion?

Pinang Peranakan Mansion
The main entrance to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

The green mansion has two floors with many themed rooms visitors can explore. Most of the exhibits have written explanations near them. You can also get a free brochure with additional information when you enter the mansion.

The first floor

The Straits eclectic-style mansion has a unique layout. The mansion’s first floor features a central courtyard branching into an elegant traditional main hall, a dining hall, and four other themed rooms. These rooms are all decorated in the Peranakan culture and style.

The central courtyard as seen from the upper floor
The central courtyard as seen from the upper floor

You’ll immediately see the central courtyard through the main entrance. From here, visitors can explore the central atrium and hallway, the rooms on the floor or go to the upper floor.

The Ladies Quarters

The ladies quarters are on the first floor. At the end of the 19th century, women were not treated as men’s equals. In Chung’s household, the ladies had luxurious but secluded living quarters. Chung had four wives, and they and his daughters spent their days playing the Peranakan card game cheki or relaxing in their quarters.

The ladies quarters with cheki cards
The ladies quarters with cheki cards

Visitors can see beautiful antiques from this ear, such as mirrors and furniture with mother-of-pearl inlays. You can also see what a deck of cheki cards looked like. Other items in the ladies’ quarters included a spittoon for betel nut chewers and traditional Peranakan food baskets.

The Chung Keng Kwee Temple

Chung built a private family temple to honour himself. They also used the temple as an ancestral hall and school. Inside the temple is a life-sized dark wood statue of Chung in a Mandarin robe with gold embellishments.

The temple at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion
The temple at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Be sure to look up when you are in the temple – the archways and roof have the most beautiful decorations in the form of intricate paints and ceramic figures.

Behind the temple is a secluded courtyard that you can only access by following a narrow path. The well here was (apparently) used to dispose of enemies.

The Family Hall

In the family hall, you can find portraits of Chung and his family on the walls. The hall is flanked by bridal chambers displaying the traditions and practices of newlyweds from different eras.

Galleries

There are several galleries on the first floor with displays of vintage treasures and collections. One of the unique displays is the exquisite glass epergnes display with many opulent and dazzling ornaments.

Beautiful and delicate ornaments
Beautiful and delicate ornaments

Another room features displays of vases, porcelains, Peranakan silverware and jewellery.

The embroidery gallery opened in 2015. It features an impressive collection of Peranakan embroidery and beadwork on shoes, wedding gowns, and handbags treasured by wealthy Nyonyas.

The other galleries show the lifestyle of the wealthy Peranakans.

Intricate details on the mansion’s doors

The doors to the ladies’ quarters have wooden panels with beautiful decorations, such as birds, shrubbery and intricate filigree work. Chung employed seven master wood carvers from Guangzhou for these doors. They left their names and marks on the doors.

“English” and “Chinese” Rooms in the Peranakan Mansion

Chung was a businessman who frequently worked with people from different communities. He did his best to make his guests feel at home.

The dining hall at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion
The dining hall at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Next to the dining hall are two rooms decorated in different styles representing the cultures of the businessmen Chung engaged with. The “English” room has European furnishings with Victorian cabinets and fine bone chinaware. Chung hosted British colonial administrators here, including William Pickering and Sir Andrew Clarke.

The room opposite this one is decorated with Chinese furnishings, including mother-of-pearl and blue Chinese vases.

The second floor of the Peranakan Museum

The second floor represents the living quarters of Chung and his household. On this floor, you’ll also see a few portraits of Chung, his wife, and his parents wearing traditional Chinese outfits.

There are two bedrooms on the second floor. The first bedroom has traditional Perananak furnishings, while the second is a bridal suite with more modern furnishings.

The traditional Peranakan bedroom

The traditional bedroom shows examples of Peranakan embroidery and kasot manek beadwork. For a Peranakan lady to be ready for marriage, she had to be skilled in cooking, embroidery and making the traditional beaded slippers (kasot manek)

The Bridal Suite

The bridal suite on the upper floor
The bridal suite on the upper floor

Visitors can find the bridal suite upstairs. There is a modern wedding gown in this suite. Peranakan weddings changed from traditional wedding wear to English-style wedding gowns and suits.

The Peranakan Mansion’s Jewelry Museum

Jewellery of the Peranakan culture
Jewellery of the Peranakan culture

Next to the Peranakan mansion is a building with displays of Peter Soon’s collection of Peranakan jewellery. The Peranakan culture holds jewellery in high esteem as it symbolises wealth and prosperity. The displays feature bracelets, tiaras, and traditional brooches (kerosang) used to hold the Peranakan kebaya or blouses together.

Interesting facts about the Peranakan Mansion

  • None of the rooms in the mansion had bathrooms. The masters of the house used chamberpots, which the servants had to clean in the toilets every morning.
  • There are rumours that Chung haunts the mansion. People have reported several sightings and unexplained noises in the mansion.
  • When you have visited all the rooms in the mansion, you can purchase souvenirs in a small store.
  • Visitors cannot touch any of the exhibits on display. As such, it may be best not to take small children there.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Other attractions near the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Several attractions are a short walk away from the mansion, namely, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion or the blue mansion, Fort Cornwallis and the Penang Interactive Museum.

Where to stay near the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

This map shows the accommodation options near the Mansion:

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