Saturday, October 08, 2011
The Blue Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is located at 14 Leith Street, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The mansion's indigo-blue outer wall makes it a very distinct building in the area and is locally known as the Blue Mansion.
The Circa 1880s mansion built by the merchant Cheong Fatt Tze at the end of 19th century has 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases & 220 vernacular timber louvre windows. The architecture of the mansion however originates from the Su Chow Dynasty Period in China. Other features of the house include Gothic louvered windows, Chinese cut and paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles made of encaustic clay in geometric pieces all shaped to fit to form a perfect square, Glasgow cast iron works by MacFarlane's & Co. and Art Nouveau48 stained glass windows. The mansion was originally built with careful attention to the principles of Feng Shui. For example, it faces the sea and has Penang Hill behind it, a strategic placement boasting an un-imped view and a promontory at the rear for protection; the domestic annex is built in front of it to prevent any road being built to create a T-Junction in front of it; it has water running through a meandering network of pipes that begin from the eaves of the roof, channeled through the upper ceiling, down the walls collecting in the central courtyard before being channeled away from the property via a similar network of pipes, in this case, underneath the entire flooring system and is built with a step in the middle to create a slope (to ride on the dragons back).
The distinctive blue colour of the mansion is the result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant. The blue was very popular in the Colonial period and the dye was imported from India to Penang by the British. The lime-wash was very effective in a tropical weather as it absorbed moisture and cooled the house whilst dispelling moisture without damage to the structural integrity of the walls. Though white was the most easily-available colour, the indigo-blue was chosen as the former is a colour synonymous with death for the Chinese.
The mansion was purchased from Cheong Fatt Tze's descendants in 1989 by a group of local Penang individuals in order to save the edifice from encroaching development and possible demolition. While it remains until now, a private-residence, the property operates as a 16 Room Bed & Breakfast-cum-museum as part of the adaptive-reuse of an ongoing restoration project.
The mansion has been featured in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning French film "Indochine" starring Catherine Deneuve, 'The Red Kebaya', "Road to Dawn', '3rd Generation' and the critically acclaimed 'The Blue Mansion' in 2009 by Singapore Director Glen Goei of 'Forever Fever' fame. The mansion has also been featured in programs broadcast on various international tv channels (CNN, BCC, The History Channel, Discovery Travel & Living).