Clan Jetties, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Pre-World War II Shophouse and the Dynamic Architecture of Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Georgetown is recognized for its unique architectural and cultural townscape, a distinct mixed of structures representing various period of the town history.

A British Straits Settlement in the late 18th century transformed into a successful trading port and together with change of time the city not only develop progressively but was successful on retaining a piece of each era and its settlers resulting into a multicultural town to explore.

The Historic City of Georgetown or the so called “Core Zone” is a delight for anyone who appreciates a throw back in time city vibe, where every windows and doors are representation of a certain era. Seeing two building standing side by side, how they were possibly built on a different time and survived same event is a remarkable thing to witness, to think that they are still standing to this day and somehow revealing the story of Penang is just the perfect reason to appreciate the city even more.

One of the most unique area in Penang is the Clan Jetties.

Part of the Heritage Trail and located at the end of Lebuh Chulia close to the ferry terminal, the century-old Clan Jetties are considered as the last bastion of the old Chinese settlement in the island.

With the construction of quay in 1882, part of the waterfront was developed into jetties for trading purpose and to berth boats. Consequently, each jetty was occupied and monopolized by certain clan for work consignments which eventually turn the jetties into their very own residential area that has been handed down to succeeding generations.

To this day each jetty is identified after the name of the Chinese clan living in the area. One of the most tourist friendly thus the most visited is the Chew Jetty.
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On the other end of Georgetown “Core Zone” is the distinctively blue outer wall of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion or popularly known as the “Blue Mansion”.
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)

With 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases & 220 vernacular timber louvre window, the mansion built in the late 19th century by the merchant Cheong Fatt Tze is a good example of Chinese architecture with a twist of Western style.

The mansion was built carefully according to the principle of Feng Shui however it is not the reason behind as to why the house was painted blue. Blue was a popular color during the Colonial period, achieved by mixing lime with natural dye imported from India by the British.

Apart from various accolades garnered by the mansion, one of its remarkable achievement was being awarded the 2000 UNESCO ‘Most Excellent’ Heritage Conservation Award for its magnificent restoration.
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)
cheong fatt tze mansion (blue mansion)

For me the best representation of Georgetown architectural heritage is the Shophouse. It is said that the city has the largest number of pre-Second World War shophouse compare to other cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
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Shophouse is usually two-storey multi-functional building where there is specific allocated space for business and rest. Usually, the ground floor are used as the shop together with the covered walkway called “five foot way”.
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“Five foot way” as the name suggests is a five foot pedestrian walkways indented on the ground floor of each house where the overhanging second floor provide convenience to passerby.
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The shophouse at Georgetown though some are dilapidated while some are upgraded to a semi-modern style provide the rustic charm that gives character to the city. The once colorful pastel walls and the ornamented tile floor showcase inspiration drawn from Malay, Chinese and Peranakan beginnings to the early European settlers.
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Georgetown the capital state of Penang, Malaysia named after Britain’s King George III and founded by Captain Francis Light, a trader for British East India Company has numerous structure as well that represents the influence of its European founder.
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Majority can be seen along Lebuh Light starting from the Fort Cornwallis to the Town Hall, the City Hall, The Cathedral of Assumption and St.George Church- all showcasing a neo-Palladian architecture.
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Within the area, a War Memorial can be seen as a poignant commemoration of brave soldiers who perished during the First World War.
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To navigate the core zone of Georgetown and see its architectural mix, walking is always the best option. The streets are marked properly and places to see are cluster in group like Little India, Chinatown, the medicine shops of Lebuh Cannon and the hostels at Love Lane.
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Komtar, the tallest building if not the only skyscraper in the city of Georgetown against the rows of old shophouse is one of the most significant view across town, as if the town itself will continue to be frozen in time despite every modern upgrades including broken-down shophouse with free Wifi.
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8 thoughts on “Clan Jetties, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Pre-World War II Shophouse and the Dynamic Architecture of Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

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