Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

by Tan Poh Ling

Cheong Fatt Tze is a Penang foremost restoration project and heritage boutique homestay. The mansion is built by the famous merchant, Cheong FAtt Tze at the end of 19th century. Legendary in the history of Mansion, this place consists of 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 windows. Other special features of this mansion are Gothic louvered windows, Chinese cut and paste porcelain art work, Stoke on Trent floor tiles, Glasgow cast iron pillars and Art Nouveau stained glass.

The mansion was originally built with careful attention to the principles of Feng Shui. For instance, this mansion faces the sea and has Penang Hill behind it; the domestic block is built in front of it to prevent any road being built to create a T-junction in front of it and also it has water running through in the mansion. Besides, the mansion is built with a step in the middle to create a slope (to ride on the dragons back).

The entire mansion is painted with distinctive blue result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant. The blue was very popular in the Colonial period and the dye was imported from India. The lime wash was very effective in a tropical weather as it absorbed moisture and cooled the house. The house was originally painted white in the time of the owner, and the indigo was applied much later.

The mansion is currently used as a hotel-cum-museum as part of a restoration project. This mansion has been awarded the Most Excellent Heritage Conservation Award from the UNESCO. In addition, the mansion has been featured in various famous films including the 1993 Oscar-winning French film "Indochine" starring Catherine Deneuve, and has also been featured in programs broadcast on various international TV channels such as CNN and BCC.

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