The Blue Mansion
We took the free shuttle, another nice touch from Le Dream Boutique Hotel, to the famed Blue Mansion.
The Blue Mansion was carefully planned and designed by the owner, Cheong Fatt Tze. Some of the original rickshaws and carriages were outside the building.
Even the courtyard stones were specially selected.
The woman who conducted the tour of the Blue Mansion (the Teong Fat Tze Mansion) was an extremely animated woman, and a fifth generation child of Cheong Fatt Tze.
Cheong Fatt Tze
Cheong Fatt Tze was a Chinese businessman, industrialist and politician in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was born in China to a poor family who later migrated to Malaysia. There he worked his way up from a water carrier to owning a trading company.
From humble beginnings Cheong Fatt Tze became the richest man in the world in the late 1800’s. His hard work and perseverance was rewarded. He was given an appointment as the Consul-General in Singapore and as economic advisor to the Empress Dowager.
The Blue Mansion was his residence in Penang, and it is a protected heritage building.
The 8 Wives
Cheong Fatt Tze had 8 wives. Wife 3, 6, and 7 lived in the Blue Mansion. Number 7 was his favourite wife and she gave him his last son. When Cheong Fatt Tze died, he left his son $250 dollars a month (a large sum at the time) for the maintenance of the mansion until the death of his son.
A Crumbling Mansion
After the money was not sufficient to maintain the house, the family began to let out rooms in 1916, as well as allowing box shacks in the yard.
Generations later, when the family decided to restore the mansion, there were 100 squatters living in various parts of the mansion. What’s more, they were open cooking in every corner.
The family restored the mansion to its absolute original state, including the intricate gold leaf gate off the grande foyer.
This delicately carved gate allowed the wives and concubines to see who was visiting in the grand front foyer and sitting in the chairs on each side of the hall. The visitors could not see the women who were observing them.
Before ever being allowed past the grand entrance hall, the women would have to know the visitors very well first.
These chairs in the grand front foyer were elaborately inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl. They were hard to stop staring at.
The entire Grand Foyer was indeed grande.
Inside the Blue Mansion
The mansion has five open-to-the-sky courtyards and 7 staircases.
An Open Courtyard Roof-Top Serenity Garden
A lovely garden oozed tranquility and quietude, a peaceful retreat open to the blue sky.
Feng Shui is “An ancient Chinese belief that the way your house is built or the way that you arrange objects affects your success, health, and happiness.” (Cambridge Dictionary)
To that end The Blue Mansion had to face the sea with the hills behind for protection. It also had to be on a slope going up at the back so that the stairs at the front of the step are two steps up while the back is 3 steps up. As you go up in the mansion, the back gets higher and higher.
A Master of Feng Shui found the Centre of Energy to be in the centre of the courtyard where two pillars and two trees stand.
Rumour has it that several people have hung jewellery or a key on a long chain dangling over the spot and after a few minutes, without any movement from the hand of the holder, they begin to swing out in a wide circle.
Finally, the best surprise – under the four corner posts of iron, imported from Ireland and brought over by ship, there is gold buried.
There is also a street in Penang named after Cheong Fatt Tze.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the story of the Blue Mansion, the legacy of Cheong Fatt Tze, in Penang, Malaysia.