The Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion ~ Part 1Posted on Oct 20 in Malaysia Exploration, Penang Islandby ShelynPrint
You can’t say no to an exquisitely dazzling blue mansion, even if you might not have heard about it. It’s so eye-catching that it needs a lot of effort for one to resist it. Especially blue mansion for Chinese, how rare, let alone it happened in 1880.
Colors carry different meanings to Chinese, especially ancient Chinese. Red symbolizes happiness and auspicious; yellow signifies neutrality; white represents gold and symbolizes brightness, purity, and fulfillment.
What colors do mourners wear during Chinese funeral? Black and Blue in older days, the colors of mourning. It explains why blue mansion is rare in Chinese culture.
Even though blue represented mourning, I love blue. To me, it symbolizes purity, neutrality and freedom, simply because I love ocean. I love blue color clothes, I fall for man who wears blue. But I never know blue can be as charming on houses.
Tell me how could I resist the charming blue mansion, like this!
This blue mansion is found in Penang, Georgetown. I’ve been to Georgetown for several times mainly for business trips. Whenever I passed by the blue mansion, ‘Wow… so blue’ was screaming in my head. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to visit it until last weekend, which was also Deepavali holiday, when Don and I decided to chill out in Penang. The very first thing that flashed into my mind was food BLUE MANSION.
I love Indian blue so much. It adds color to the colorless town. Imagine if the buildings in the town are composed of red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, gold, silver, turquoise, etc etc, how lively the town would be!
Oh… before that, let me introduce you of the UNESCO Heritage Awards winner of ‘Most Excellent Project’ – CHEONG FATT TZE MANSION.
The visit of Blue Mansion was unexpectedly interesting than what I expected. Initially I thought the visit would probably just take walk-around-a-house time, but we ended up taking more than an hour to appreciate the house. As shown in the signage above, there are only 2 tours each day and the tour starts at 11a.m. and 3p.m. sharp. Our tour guide is a Chinese lady who claimed that she knows only English and hence she couldn’t explain in other dialects for the tourists who couldn’t understand English. So the advice is for those who prefer to have a private tour in other languages, advance booking for necessary arrangement is required.
I haven’t followed any tour with tour guide for long, so I actually felt quite excited, as if I was on a school trip with a group of students and a teacher explaining history and cultural heritage. The lady guide was a well trained guide. When she told the history, she narrated vividly and humorously, making witty remarks. Everyone seemed to enjoy it despite it being a full hour tour by the talking guide.
*Since it was a full hour tour, I can actually write an hour story about the tour. But would you want to spend an hour in a single post? I bet you wouldn’t. So let’s make it a Part 1 post.*
The only downside about the tour is that PHOTOGRAPHY IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED inside the mansion. It’s like a killing weapon to a blogger or a photographer.
~*~ Blue Mansion’s Owner’s Profile ~*~
The tour guide started with a bit of biography of Cheong Fatt Tze, original owner of the Blue mansion, which piqued my curiosity to pay full attention to the entire full hour stories. Cheong Fatt Tze was born in a poor family in Guandong province, China. When he was a little boy, he told his father he wants to be a successful man. So in age 16, he followed the route of many Chinese fortune seekers, heading towards Southeast Asian region known as ‘Nanyang’ or ‘Land of Opportunity’. He then worked as a water carrier for an affluent merchant family. His job was to carry water from the river to his boss’ house whole day everyday until one day he was instructed not to carry water anymore. It was the day when he married his boss’ daughter. Let me repeat, He Married His Boss’ Daughter.
For those who know very little about Chinese culture, let me teach you a Chinese Idiom – 门当户对 (men dang hu dui), literally “the door must match with the door of the opposite party”. *I love Chinese Idioms*
In ancient times, the traditional practice is to find someone with the similar family background, in terms of wealth, especially WEALTH, culture, dialect and ethnic groups. So if the door in your house is built with wood, you shall marry someone with the wooden door; if your door is built with bamboo, you shall marry only those with bamboo door. So now what’s up with wood and bamboo?? In ancient days, only rich people can afford wooden door (just an analogy), whereas poor can only afford bamboo. That’s how ‘men dang hu dui’ was derived. Cool huh?
So back to Cheong Fatt Tze, he was just a water carrier, isn’t it amazing that he was allowed to marry his boss’ daughter? Don guessed he must be a lengchai (handsome boy), well, I have no comment, you tell me… by the way, he’s just slightly taller than me, according to the guide.
This is Cheong Fatt Tze
Then we guessed he must be very smart, can’t be just fortunate enough to marry a wealthy man’s daughter.
~*~ Captain of Captains of Industry ~*~
Cheong Fatt Tze’s father-in-law was a businessman, he wouldn’t invest his daughter on someone ordinary. His father-in-law perceived potential in him, and helped him established in the business world.
Cheong Fatt Tze then traded in everything he could get his hands on: pepper, rubber, tea, coffee, tobacco, coconut, wine, rice and (my jaw dropped when the guide still continued listing the trade items, so I can’t remember anymore). His investment is just as diverse, from textile to glassworks to cattle and to banks. As his empire grew, he began operating steamships, eventually inaugurating a trans-Pacific shipping line between China and the United States.
Does his biography scare you already? He’s such a brilliant with the most historic and colorful personalities of the era.
Continue reading Part 2 – Details of the house.