on December 27, 2010
KHOO KONGSIKhoo Kongsi is one of several clan temples in Penang. When Chinese immigrants first migrated to Penang in the 17th Century from mainland China different families built their own family temples. Around the temples family homes were built building their own small enclave the most famous and ornate of these is Khoo Kongsi.Kongsi means Clan house and Khoo is the family name. There are four other clan temples in Georgetown, Penang. People with the family names Yim, Cheah, Yeoh and Tan. Any person with the same family name were able to worship in their namesake temple. Khoo Kongsi can be found in Cannon square which is quite easy to miss as it is down a very small side alley way and is quite easy to pass it by without noticing it. You can always jump on a trishaw and ask the guy to take you there. With a bit of determination to find the temple we walked there after stumbling on two other temples on the way. The map makes it fairly easy to find but in reality due to its hidden position you may miss it.The Khoo clan were very successful traders and as more people emigrated from Hokkien province, China they were welcomed into the enclave where housing was provided and a small community developed which provided support, education welfare and social organisations. A sense of belonging grew and around Khoo Kongsi a small village flourished.The Khoo family bought a piece of land and then they built the temple which is in the centre of the compound and houses were built around the perimeter. Originally the temple was built in 1836, it was made completely out of wood but burnt down in 1894 after which the present temple was rebuilt.Walking down the alley way there are further small alley ways leading off to the left and right where small houses backed onto a small drainage system. Further on at the corner of a row of buildings is a small shop which sells tickets for the visit. It cost 10 Ringgits to enter the temple complex which is equivalent to approximately £2.50. Once issued with a sticker you can then enter the compound.Rounding the corner you come into quite a large square and in front of you is the beautiful temple. In the square there are two statues of Lions as is familiar with most Chinese temples. Behind this is the temple. Chinese workmen were brought over from China to build the temple using traditional techniques of wood carving and painting and porcelain. Facing the temple is another large stage area where plays and Chinese opera performances take place during celebrations at the Chinese New Year and other auspicious occasions when members of the clan are honoured for their community work or success at university or in business.The temple is built in two stages. The lower part there was a meeting hall and to the left of the temple was the kitchen where meals were cooked for those attending meetings. This area has now been converted into a museum which describes the clanship over the years. There are two flights of stairs at the front and then a central flight of stairs leading up to the prayer hall. The temple is supposed to resemble the Emperors palace. There are six columns supporting the roof and on top of the roof there are intricate carvings. The masonry is delicately carved with dragons and beautifully painted in greens, blue hues and reds.Climbing up the central stairway you come to a veranda where there are incense burners and this then takes you into the temple proper. Inside the central hall there is a large altar with several small statues of saints and Dieties. The altar is surrounded by finely carved and painted woodwork with a mixture of gold and red paint. The walls and ceilings are beautifully painted and decorated in the most ornate way. You will develop a slight neck ache by continually looking up at the ceilings and paintings on the walls.To the rear of the altar there is a corridor that leads off to two side chambers. The room on the left is dedicated to the ancestors with plaques naming them and the positions they rose to. The Chinese believe that the ancestors who die are spirits and should be remembered and prayers said to them. The room on the right is dedicated to future to the God Hock Teik the God of prosperity and small plaques naming members of the clan.It is well worth the visit to Khoo Kongsi as it is one of the most beautiful Chinese clan temples outside China. The temple is set in the heritage quarter of Georgetown and I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in Penang. Expect to spend about one hour here.There is a website which is full of historical information about Khoo Kongsi including information about the trustees of the site. You can find it at :-http://www.khookongsi.com.my/Address:-Cannon Square.Penang.
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