Ghosts in Penang: Peranakan Museum

A trace of Baba & Nyonya at Peranakan Museum

After visiting the Blue Mansion, my friends didn’t join me when we visited the Pinang Peranakan Mansion except for one of them. Even though she has been inside this place but she didn’t mind going in again to marvel at the architecture beauty of this home which was located in the heart of George Town UNESCO Heritage Zone.

As we entered I couldn’t help but stare at the intricate details of the balconies, railings, pillars of the place which seemed intact even after all these years. I loved how the old & historical buildings in Penang are given a good restoration lift to preserve the authenticity of the place. The same should be done for other buildings around Malaysia!

This museum belonged to the Peranakans or what we also call the Baba and Nyonya clans. They are a prominent community made of Chinese but adopts certain Malay culture and ways. They are normally known in the Straits Settlements such as Penang, Melaka & Singapore. I have friends who are of Baba Nyonya descendants whose older generations in their family speaks fluent Malay language & Hokkien. They are also mostly comfortable in their Nyonya Kebaya wear even when at home.

This mansion portrays a typical home of a rich Baba which was later turned into a museum housing many pieces of antiques & collectibles from the era. It is also known as the ‘Hai Kee Chan’ or ‘Sea Rememberance Store’ and was once a home & office of the famous Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. He himself was not a Baba yet his house contains a lot of Baba ecletic style and furniture. The inner courtyard itself is something that it is very often seen in a Baba home. I often wondered if people nowadays would incorporate the same details in their home. I would love to as I love the sun shining into the middle area of the house giving it some natural warmth.

According to the info we got during the visit, the main staircase of the house uses both local and imported materials such as as the handrails which came from Scotland. So there is a little bit of European influence in the design and this can also be seen on the decorative ironworks that adorn the balconies and door panels.

The main entrance of the Pinang Peranakan Museum. You can't miss it.

The main entrance of the Pinang Peranakan Museum. You can’t miss it.

The carved ironworks had a mix of European & Baba influence.

The carved ironworks had a mix of European & Baba influence.

Every opening/walkway has an oriental feel to it.

Every opening/walkway has an oriental feel to it.

The rooms are just as beautiful. 

We entered the front hall or parlour which is normally separated from the rest of the house by a very beatiful carved wooden screen. This hall is normally facing the main door of the house but with the wooden screen acting as a protector to prevent the evil spirits from entering. Normally this is done constructing obstructions that would block their paths. These panels would also people from not peeping into the hall/room but it allows the women to peep from inside to see the visitors who enter the house.

Every room would open up to another room or space in the house. We went through the dining hall which had European-styled furniture, Victorian ceramic figures and glass which also had a certain Baba influence. Imagine entertaining your guests here and treating them to nice home cooked Baba dishes while chatting away into the night.

There is a business room where meetings or discussions would take place and there is also the gambling room where the ladies would play ‘Cherki’ or cards while chewing betel nut. I had no idea how the game was played but it could be similar to mahjong or chor tai tee?

In each room that we walked into there is every bit the Baba influence especially from its’ stained glass, the bed, the balconies, the sewing room with Nyonya clothes, embroideries & beaded shoes and kitchen. The chambers features the traditional bridal room together with various vanity tables. Jewelries such as brooches, necklaces, heavy bracelets and cucuk sanggul (hair pins) were also seen on display.

At the back of the house, we saw the place of worship which had dedicated altars to the ancestors. This was in another indoor courtyard area where the sun shone in to give light to the place.

Walking from the hall we found a walkway leading us to the Nyonya Kitchen. These walls turned from white to lime green and had a nice view of the sky. A particular dining hall at the back even had a large classical piano for entertainment purposes. I sat there hitting a few keys and suddenly regretted quitting piano lessons when I was 12 years old.

The bridal chamber with its heavy oriental design.

The bridal chamber with its heavy oriental design.

Fancy having your dinner here?

Fancy having your dinner here?

Pretending to see what it feels like to play 'Cherki' in a home like this.

Pretending to see what it feels like to play ‘Cherki’ in a home like this.

The Nyonya ware Porcelain sets were used for festive occasions.

The Nyonya ware Porcelain sets were used for festive occasions.

Large paintings of the Peranakan family line the high walls of the home.

Large paintings of the Peranakan family line the high walls of the home.

That's a pretty huge place to run around after breakfast. :)

That’s a pretty huge place to run around after breakfast. 🙂

Take your time to explore this home. 

It takes at least an hour for your to explore the entire house. To truly enjoy the place, try exploring each room and just sit or stand at the balcony and imagine yourself living there. This is what I do normally when I visit a historical place. Don’t forget to visit here for more cultural & heritage experience of Penang & Malaysia!

Where: Pinang Peranakan Museum, 29, Church Street, 10200 Penang.
What time: Everyday from 9:30am – 5:00pm
How much: Adults (RM1), Children below 6 (free)

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

2 Responses to Ghosts in Penang: Peranakan Museum

  1. Fie-Nuts says:

    It definitely was stunning. I loved the antiqueness of the entire building.

  2. The place is quite stunning. The beauty of antiquity fixated with the modern concept. Even the rails are stunning to look at.

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