Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Penang

We visited the Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Penang back in early July but I never had time to post any of the pictures here. This was definitely a highlight of our trip to Malaysia. It was also during the time that Richard was also visiting so my workload was a lot less!

"Peranakan" is a term used to describe the descendants of Chinese immigrants who married the local women in South East Asia. The immigrants were often rich businessmen who already had wives back in China so, many houses, like the one we visited, were for their second and subsequent wives. In Malaysia, these wives were often Malay so the children usually spoke Malay. However, their immigrant fathers held tight to many of the Chinese customs and they lived by many of the traditional Chinese ways. They had a fascinating culture but it was inherently too chauvinistic to last. Today, Peranakan food and clothing is popular but little of the other characteristics survive. I am of Peranakan descent and enjoy the whole fairytale of that era but am thankful not to be a female confined to the home and forced to do embroidery and cooking all day long. You can read more about the Peranakan culture here.

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion we visited had none of the original furniture remaining but the current owner has decorated it with his own set of antiques. I think the only original items mentioned by the tour guide were the tiles, from somewhere in the UK and the iron poles around the center courtyard, from Glasgow.

This center courtyard originally didn't have a roof over it so that rainwater could be collected. As a tourist attraction, this house has the area covered to protect the furniture that is now in the house. The door you see is the side entrance that is used only by family members. Guests enter from another door that fronts onto the road.

This is the women's room where wives and daughters would chat and play card games while the men sat in a different room. I think the West had this practice too with the women going to the drawing room while the men went to the parlor...or something like that.

The Nyonya women did not have bound feet but this display of shoes (for tiny bound feet) from China was still interesting!

The wooden carvings, painted gold, were shipped from China.

These Peranakan families ate from a different set of plates and bowls each night of the week! And there were special sets for special occasions too.

Opium smoking bed.

I think this was the wedding bed.

And finally, here is the kitchen where the wives supposedly toiled in their beautiful kebayas.

And thats all from the Peranakan Mansion. We spent nearly three hours wondering around this house, trying to feel what it was like if it was our home.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

That was a real treat to see. Thanks for the tour.

Bilbo said...

Great pictures! I really enjoy your travelogues, especially since you report from places I'm not likely ever to see myself.