It was a loan that created his wealth – a true story of rags to riches that is the history behind one of Georgetown’s most prominent heritage buildings…the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, also known as the Blue Mansion in Penang.
Its vibrant indigo blue walls and décor is enough of a photographer’s dream…but why stop there? To truly appreciate this beautiful building is to learn all about the fascinating history and restoration project that essentially put Georgetown Penang on the map.
Tours are held daily, and the tour guides are vibrant and ohhh so interesting to listen to. I have done this tour twice now, and both times I listened with such curiosity and interest, because the way in which the tour guides tell the story is with great passion and love for the Blue Mansion.
The Tour of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Penang
We all gathered in the lobby area awaiting the start of the tour. 11am on the dot, our friendly guide Teri appeared with a clip-on microphone in hand to make sure everyone could hear her loud and clear.
As soon as Teri started sharing the story of Cheong Fatt Tze, we knew we were in for a good one – she was passionate and articulate, and she really knew her stuff.
She began to share the story of the man who created the Blue Mansion in Georgetown. Cheong Fatt Tze was his name, and he was an extremely wealthy man originally from China. But he didn’t grow up wealthy.
In the mid 1800’s, Cheong Fatt Tze left China for Jakarta in hopes to earn himself a better life. He became a water carrier, but unfortunately this was not the career that was going to make him rich. And so he switched tactics and found a job in a paper mill, where here he found the solution to his get rich scheme – he married the boss’ daughter.
While marrying the boss’ daughter did help…it was actually a loan from his father-in-law that changed his life. With the loan, he purchased a range of metals and opium to trade, and this is what made him rich very quickly.
It was then in 1886 when Cheong Fatt Tze made his way to Penang where he built the now famous Blue Mansion. It became not only his home, but also his place of business.
The story of Cheong Fatt Tze and his mansion is a fascinating one, and Teri is so animated in the way she shares its history. There isn’t ever a dull moment, because every detail she shares has its purpose in the overall tour and what we get to see.
She shares not only stories of his success in business, but also the many wives he had – 8 in total – one in every port some might say. He had 3 wives in Penang, 2 in Singapore, 1 in Shanghai and 1 in Hong Kong.
Seeing the Smaller Things
Learning about the fascinating history of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is amazing, and it makes you really see the smaller things in the space. Not only did Teri share the story about the man who created the building, but she also detailed the immense restoration project that started in the early 1990’s by Mr Lawrence Loh – a real advocate to preserve the heritage history of Penang, and whose passion for such project essentially put Georgetown on the map.
The restoration project took over 6 years, and Loh was extremely meticulous with the project. So meticulous that UNESCO awarded the Blue Mansion with the prestigious Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2000 – the first of its kind in Malaysia.
Every nook and cranny of the restoration was thought about, and it was ever so important that the mansion was restored to its original condition – the way that Cheong Fatt Tze himself would have seen the mansion. For instance, upon entering the lobby, you are welcomed with a grandeur wall divider that is intricately designed… Teri explains that resorting this wall divider alone took over 26 hours PER PANEL.
We also learn that the restoration project would bring in skilled workers from China as many of the skills needed to fix the Blue Mansion didn’t exist in Penang.
A total must-do when you are visiting Georgetown in Penang. The tour of the Blue Mansion is fascinating, because they give you such an in-depth story behind the history of this beautiful heritage.
I have done a few tours at the different museums in Georgetown and I have to say that the tour of the Blue Mansion has been my favorite. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve done this tour twice already and have loved it both times. The first time I did the tour was over 2 years ago, and I still remembered many of the details because the tour guides here do such a great job keeping everyone’s interest awake.
Tours are held daily in three-time slots – 11am, 2pm, and 3:30pm. There is a small fee to pay if you are not a guest of the Blue Mansion (RM17 | A$5.6 | U$4.3 ) and the tour takes approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour in total.
No compensation was received for this review, however we were guests of the Blue Mansion in Georgetown Penang. All opinions remains my own and I only promote products/services that I love.
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