Words & Pictures by Joyce
The Peranakan Museum Penang
History & Culture
Background story :
Both my parents are originally from Penang, but my sister and I were born and raised in Kuching. However, we do make an effort to head back to Penang every year to visit my grandparents and the extended family. I've never got to meet my great grandparents but I know from stories that both my parents were from the 'baba-nyonya' lineage.
'Baba-Nyonya' = Chinese Peranakan
There are lots of fancy detailed definitions of what exactly does the term 'Peranakan' mean, but in my knowledge it meant that somewhere down the ancestral line, there were mixes of Malays. (I'm no expert, don't have to take my word for it; you can always google it)
my family and I made a trip to the Peranakan Museum this time round when we headed back to Penang for Chinese New Year. I think my dad recently became super passionate about culture and heritage, and just general Malaysian Tourism stuff. He says there's ought to be ways to really showcase our country's richness (like the Mulu Caves for example).
My sister keeps making little jokes on how he'd be up for being the CEO of the Malaysian Tourism Board.
Tbh, the mansion didn't look that grand from the outside. I did find the strange pale green colour quite pleasant in contrast to all the red lanterns and little red ornaments.
But once you step foot into the house, it is undoubtedly mesmerising! There are gold plated pieces, marbled furniture, timber panels. The signature marble chairs are exactly like the ones I grew up with in my grandparents house. Our tour guide explained that marble furniture was created during that time because there were no electricity a.k.a air conditioning, so the marble helped people keep cool.
*legit everytime you touch marble, even in hot weather... it's cold.
It was said that Baba-Nyonya began roughly 600-700 years ago. The pillars of the mansion originated from Scotland, Glasgow (1894). The centre of the house is open and they called it the air bell, where they collect rain water for daily uses. (pictured above, bottom right)
The entire was actually abandoned twice, once in 1934 and the second time when the first prime minister resigned. I felt like I really blended in with the oriental surrounding, considering I look like a chopstick....
I now have a mini obsession over their tiles and textiles.
How pretty are these!
The house is filled with stories, my personal favourite was the match making wind screen, where guys and girls would peek through to take a look at their potential 'husbands or wives'. I had a peeked through it myself... cheeky.
This was the floor above. The open-concept allows a great deal of natural lighting to fill the space, and because the house had high ceilings, the entire place felt really cool and breezy (hot air rises, science)
That lighting tho....
Every instagram lover would go crazy!
Pictured above, left
That is the owner's second wife. She lived till the ripe old age of 109 and according to the tour guide, she controlled everything.
The family was obviously very high profiled, it was considered an honour to marry into the family. To a point there was actually a few tasks ladies would need to do to get onto the 'potential-wives-list'.
One of the task was to make a beaded embroidery. This task takes an approximate 3 years......
I would've totally been single.