Who was Cheong Fatt Tze?
Cheong Fatt Tze was one of the great characters of Penang’s Chinese elite in the early twentieth century. Today, his house in Penang, Malaysia, is both museum and a very comfortable 38-room guest house.
Cheong Fatt Tze rose from being a water carrier in Javanese mines to having a fleet of ships, eight wives, and several houses – of which his house in Penang was his favorite. His late nineteenth century rags-to-riches tale has led to him been described as ‘China’s last Mandarin and first capitalist’.
Architecture of La Maison Bleue
The Mansion is a superbly restored example of a paradigm Chinese Courtyard house and winner of a UNESCO conservation award. The architecture reflects Straits Settlements design and the eclecticism of its era – when the myths and magic of the Chinese Kingdom embraced the glory of the British Empire. The dazzling indigo-blue house, known as ‘La Maison Bleue‘ (the blue house) has been the location for several films including “Indochine” with Catherine Denueve.
Master craftsmen were imported from China in the 1880s and again in the restoration in the 1990s. The Mansion has been embellished with Chinese timber carvings and porcelain cut-and-paste decorative shard works as well as Gothic louvred windows, art nouveau stained glass panels, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles and Scottish cast iron works. It’s an extraordinary tribute to the construction and design skills of the past, evokes the age of wives, concubines and handmaidens aplenty, coyly hiding behind gilded Chinese lattice screens and gossamer silk curtains.
Staying in the Mansion and Visiting Georgetown
Located in the historic quarter of Georgetown, the Mansion incorporates 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, seven staircases, and 220 vernacular timber louvre windows. 110 years of history resonates within its cool, secluded, tropical spaces. To stay here is to discover the beauty of “Jian Nian“, “Feng Shui” and other ancient arts. Guests can stay in 16 generously proportioned and uniquely themed bedrooms echoing the interior architecture of various periods in Penang. All rooms are fully air-conditioned and come with an en-suite bathroom and a personal valet to allow for an exotic and luxuriant stay.
Georgetown is a gourmet paradise with authentic ethnic cuisine on every street, ranging fromNorthern Indian to Nonya-Baba delights, street hawkers’ fare to Hokkien, Hainanese, and Cantonese home cooking.
14 Leith Street, 10200, Penang, Malaysia
60 (0) 4 262 0006
You can join a tour of the house daily at 11.00 am or 3.00 pm.
The tour costs RM 10, a night’s stay starts from RM 250.