Khoo or written as 邱 in Mandarin is one of the prominent surname of Han Chinese family in Malaysia originated from Sin Kang clan village in Fujian, China. If you happen to reach a house of Khoo family in Penang, usually there is a plaque hung above the main entrance that reads ‘Sin Kang‘ indicating their ancestral village.
Khoo Kongsi or Khoo clan house is the finest Chinese clan association house in Penang and Malaysia. In early 17th century, many Chinese emigrated from South China to Penang for greener pasture and Khoo clan house was founded in 1851 by the their forefathers to take care of Khoo family members. Located at Cannon Square, Khoo Kongsi entails three entrances connecting to Beach Street(rear entrance), Armenian Street (side entrance) and Cannon Street (main entrance). One can easily miss the main entrance at Cannon Street as it does not look attractive at all except bearing gold wordings read ‘Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi’ which literally means ‘Dragon Mountain Hall Khoo Clan House’.
When Khoo clan acquired the land of Cannon Square in 1851, a bungalow located at the site was converted into ancestor worship temple. Later, this clan temple was reconstructed with grand architecture in 1894. Unfortunately, in less than a month, it was burnt down as the Chinese believed the grandeur of this ancestral temple was resembling Emperor’s Palace which had provoked God’s anger. As a result, a scaled-down version was rebuilt and completed in 1906 portraying fine Chinese craftsmanship and still a masterpiece.
As you walk into the quiet alley from main entrance, both sides are a strech of unoccupied pre-war terrace houses. The far right corner house is the spot to get an entrance ticket. Oh..this is just the beginning. Indeed the so-called Khoo Kongsi was built up of relatively a huge compound and thus, some called it as Khoo Complex instead.
The pivotal building is Leong San Tong which is decorated with mythical beings on roof-top and a protruding courtyard at its facade. A grand staircase from courtyard leads to upstairs that features intricate stone carving along front corridor. Stands out as the most attractive spot on the granite-paved compound, Leong San Tong is covered with fishing net to prevent birds from entering and make nest inside the building and destroy the original architecture.
In fact Leong San Tong is a two-storey building made up from three main sections on the upstairs. The middle hall that reads ‘Leong San Tong’ in Chinese character is the prayer pavillion whereby the wooden beams here are richy ornamented and beautifully carved. Mural drawings were painted on the rear corridor wall share great Chinese literature, lifestyle and culture. One of them is featuring ‘The Eight Immortals’ which is considered as auspicious.
Move to the left hall (of the middle hall), Ee Kok Tong is a smaller hall housing the ancestral tablets. The right section is Tua Pek Kong hall as this deity is on the altar and the walls were hung with the Khoo family’s achievements.
Right opposite Leong San Tong, there is a majestic opera stage which I heard is still holding opera stage show during 7th Chinese Lunar month.
Sadly, the downstairs of Leong San Tong buidling is no longer open to public. It used be to a mini museum for Khoo family whereby genealogical poem or chart was shared. From Chinese middle name, one can trace back their generation sequence.
As heritage jewel of Penang and with entrance fee of RM5 per adult, it would be great if the working committee of Khoo Kongsi will print/distribute a brief pamplet featuring history and map of Khoo Complex to assist self-navigation. The staff are friendly and helpful, unfortunately they are not trained to share on the history and value of this distinctive Penang Heritage Trail.
Visiting hours: Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Entrance fee: RM5 per adult, RM1 for a child below 12 years old
Location: Click here for Google Map and zoom in for detail.
To learn more about Khoo Kongsi, refer here.