It sits amongst a sea of pristinely white multistorey buildings. A drop of azure splendour and ornate regalia in Malaysia’s idyllic foodie hub or otherwise known as “Silicon Valley of the East”–Penang.
Perhaps you know it as the novel wedding venue and hotel-cum-museum. Or you’ve come to know it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Either way, architectural gem “Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion” has long been synonymous with Penang’s rich heritage and the fabric of the island’s economy.
For centuries, business mogul and trading tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze used the mansion as his seat of business affairs. At least, when he wasn’t advising the Empress Dowager of China and tending to his companies across the entirety of Asia, that is.
Also served as the grand abode of his third, sixth and seventh wives, the mansion might not hold masses of servants today, and you’d be hard-pressed to hear the neighing of horses in the stables anymore. What you’re more likely to find though?
Actors, actresses and an entire film crew at the ready, for the lavish mansion has become a favourite setting for filmmakers with an eye out for oriental charm.
That famously profound mahjong scene in “Crazy Rich Asians”? That was Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion! By far the mansion’s most internationally recognized feature in its myriad of movie roles, it spurred the creation of “One Night at the Mansion”–a package deal offering exclusive use of the entire mansion, complete with a Nyonya tea and mahjong session reminiscent of the iconic blockbuster scene. Just the thing for Asians who want to feel crazy rich!
The 1991 French film “Indochine” too, weaved the Blue Mansion into its plot of forlorn love and duty in colonial-era Vietnam.
Multimillion dollar movies aside, the mansion is also spotted in Malaysia’s very own “The Red Kebaya”, “3rd Generation” and Singaporean’s “The Blue Mansion”.
But the mansion is more than a beauty to behold. Behind its art nouveau windows and vibrant walls breathes the legacy of a self-made man who held no small role in shaping the economy of Southeast Asia and China. The rise to prominence of his mansion will also entail a surge of tourism and recognition for his legacy, and with it Penang too.
• During the restoration process, gold was found buried in auspicious corners of the mansion for Feng Shui purposes.
• Hong Kong Street in George Town, Penang was renamed Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze as an ode to the businessman.
Text by Ng Shen Lee • Photos courtesy of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion