Che Em Lane, within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an alley that holds the distinction of being one of the narrowest lanes in the city. It links Beach Street to the east with Penang Street to the west.
This quaint alleyway was also the first road in Penang to be named after an Asian. In the past, market activities from the nearby Market Street spilled into Che Em Lane, where poultry vendors were stationed.
Che Em Lane was named after a Chinese trader by the name of Che Eam, also known as Chu Yan. He was one of the first Chinese merchants on the Prince of Wales Island (as Penang Island was then named) soon after the founding of George Town in 1786 by Captain Francis Light. According to Light, in 1793, Che Eam Chinaman, with three shophouses worth $2,700 (Spanish dollar), was the biggest Chinese property owner on the island.
In the late 19th. century, as Che Em Lane was lined with poultry vendors, the alley was known as Lorong Ayam ('Chicken Alley' in Malay), Beh3 Kay3 Hang2 (Chicken-selling Alley in Penang Hokkien) and Koli Kadai Sandhu ('Poultry Market' in Tamil).
Che Em Lane, which has been in existence since at least the early 19th. century, was the first road on Penang Island to be named after an Asian, bucking the long-standing trend of naming streets after British or European personalities.
Within the first half of the 19th. century, affluent Chinese traders had their houses built with double frontages facing both Che Em Lane and China Street to the north.
Towards the end of the 19th. century, Che Em Lane took on a different role, as market activities from Market Street to the south spilled over to the alley. Poulterers would ply their trade along Che Em Lane, giving the alley its nickname - the Chicken Alley.
Over the centuries, as more Indians resided around the alley, Che Em Lane gradually became one of the sideroads leading to Little India.
The Duck wrought iron sculpture has been installed at the eastern junction between Che Em Lane and Beach Street. A reflection of the alley's past, its description is as follows.
Also known as "Chicken Alley", this lane was once used by poulterers.
Penang State Government
N.26 Padang Kota State Assemblyman : Chow Kon Yeow (Democratic Action Party)
Malaysian Federal Parliament
P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)
- Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.