In this age when everything is almost digital and largely anything is possible with just a flick of a finger, it’s amazing fact that there are still people who are drawn to heritage sites beyond the lure of beach resorts, kiddie theme parks, shopping malls and cinemas. There are still a volume of seasoned travelers and adventurous backpackers who go out of their ways just to experience and appreciate history, culture and the arts. Admittedly, I am far from these type of people several years back, as my exposure was limited to a few educational field trips to museums and commercial tourist spots back home but thankfully, my immersion in one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites after I became an expatriate in this part of Malaysia, gradually enticed me to explore these unique and charming places. They’re mostly a bus, a ferry and a stroll away from where I live as of present. And after going to a few of them, I believe indulging in these heritage sites once in a while, greatly nurtures the mind, delights the eyes and fuels the spirit.
One of the not-to-be-missed-heritage sites in George Town, Penang is the so-called,
“The Heritage Jewel of Penang”
The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi.
Khoo is this distinctive Chinese clan’s surname and Kongsi means clanhouses.
The ancestors of the Khoo clan who emigrated from Hokkien province in South China built this marvelous Chinese clanhouse with all creative artisan work that remains to be unparalleled anywhere in Malaysia. It was noted that the majestic temple was built surrounded by clanhouses in 19th century and was refurbished in 2001.
Despite nearly its closing time at 5PM during my visit one weekend, I was surprised to see a few volume of people, mostly Caucassians and some with chinky-eyes within the vicinity of one of the largest, if not the grandest compound of clanhouses in Penang, Malaysia. I felt a bit of excitement to humbly document the so called “The Heritage Jewel of Penang” with my lame photography skills. I have been to the compound of Khoo Kongsi more than a couple times in the recent past but I didn’t take the chance of savoring the interiors of the temple. The moment I stepped inside the temple, I was completely blown away with Khoo Kongsi’s grandeur!
There’s something about oriental lanterns that I find them so attractive, charming and poetic. My fascination was satisfied in a heart beat with what I saw at Khoo Kongsi.
The intricate details of almost everything inside the main shrine mesmerized me. For a moment, I felt I froze in gold! The interiors of this temple was simply awe-inspiring! I was lucky to take everything all in and had a quick but ample time to appreciate the opulent ambiance and the tranquil atmosphere.
And the facade’s equally impressive….
It’s impossible that the middle wooden structure would symbolize, “Rock On!” or “Rock and Roll!” With Chinese known to have various beliefs, its use must be to ward off evil spirits. Quite fascinating, eh?!
My gut’s telling me that there are a hundred and one interesting stories behind each concrete sculptures. There must be.
How could you not admire these details? In my eyes, these are stunning!
At the basement of the main hall, there’s a museum that further enlightens visitors with the history of Khoo Kongsi. There’s that genealogical tree showing respective names of the Khoo clan. I breezed through the museum and just captured whatever pleased my eyes.
The exteriors of Khoo Kongsi is equally magnificent. The temple is built facing a huge stage oftenly used as open-air-Opera theater; in between these structures is a spacious courtyard that can be rented for special events and dinners and banquets.
The traditional use of shards of broken colored porcelain made the Chinese roofs undeniably beautiful!
With Khoo Kongsi’s fantastic interiors and over-the-top architecture and detailed craftmanship, there’s so much more to see and absorb but unfortunately, I needed to leave at 5PM and so I didn’t get a chance to capture its grandiosity at dusk. However, I am ending this post with a photo I snapped inside the museum at the basement of the shrine. Enjoy!
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. 18 Cannon Square, 10200 Penang, Malaysia. Daily Opening Hours 9AM-5PM. Admission Rate : RM10 (PhP 140 or USD 3.28). Khoo Kongsi is accessible by car, or commute via Rapid Penang bus that passes by Lebuh Chulia, then stroll your way around from Pitt Street / Kapitan Keling Mosque to Cannon Street.