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Han Jiang Teochew Temple, Chulia Street, George Town, Penang

Han Jiang Teochew Temple at Chulia Street, George Town was built by Penang's Teochew community in the late 19th. century.

Han Jiang Teochew Temple is a Chinese Taoist temple at Chulia Street, within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Completed in 1870, it serves as the community temple of the Penang Teochew Association.

The temple houses the altars to the Teochew patron deity, the Taoist god of the north and ancestral tablets dedicated to the deceased. It was built in the form of si dian jing ('four-point gold' in Mandarin) and has one of the largest doors of all Chinese clan temples on Penang Island. In addition, the temple has three doors, instead of one in most other temples.

History

Chulia Street, George Town, Penang (1910)

Chulia Street in the 1910s, with the Teochew Kongsi (now Han Jiang Teochew Temple) visible at the centre.

Teochew immigration to Penang began in the mid-19th. century. Originating from Chaozhou prefecture in Guangdong Province, China, the first Teochew immigrants worked as plantation farmers in Province Wellesley (now Seberang Perai). Some later crossed the Penang Channel to George Town, where they were active in wholesale and dried foodstuff trades.

The Penang Teochew Association was founded in 1855 by six Teochew immigrants, who operated a lodging house for their fellow Teochew immigrants at Beach Street. In 1867, they raised enough funds to purchase a plot of land at Chulia Street, where the temple now stands.

Construction of the Teochew community temple soon began and was completed by 1870. At the time, it was named Teochew Kongsi. The temple was built in the form of si dian jing ('four-point gold' in Mandarin), a form of quadrangle around an inner atrium that is formed by the gables of the four hipped roofs.

Han Jiang Teochew Temple, Chulia Street, George Town, Penang (2)

Inside the Han Jiang Teochew Temple

The temple also houses the altars for the Teochew patron deity, the Taoist god of the north and ancestral tablets for the deceased. In recognition of the patron deity's high status, the temple comes with three doors, instead of one as is the norm in most other temples. Its interior is richly decorated with detailed examples of Teochew crafts, such as chien nien (decorative porcelain shard mosaic work), frescoes, vignette painting on wood and long cantilevered brackets with perforated wood carving.

Han Jiang Teochew Temple, George Town, Penang

Facing the back of the ornate gate building of the Han Jiang Teochew Temple.

An ornate gate building was added in 1890, reflecting the growing affluence of the Teochews at the time. It has one of the largest doors of all Chinese clan temples on Penang Island.

In the early 20th. century, the temple was used as the Han Chiang School. The panelled screen doors were removed to add space for classes. In 1935, a major renovation introduced more unsympathetic and inauthentic modifications. Porcelain tiles and terrazzo were used, and the side bays of the gate were turned into offices and staff rooms. The frontal section of the roof was also extended using a metal awning to replicate a Chinese-style roof.

More ad-hoc renovations using cheap, modern materials included the use of the courtyard as a badminton court and the overpainting of faded paintings such as the door god deities.

As a result of these modifications, wear and tear, and neglect, by 2000, the temple had several structural concerns, including a leaking roof caused by a crack in a roof verge. The neglected state of the temple was also a reflection of its decline in significance, as most Teochew families had by then moved out of the city centre to the suburbs and other areas on Penang Island.

The Penang Teochew Association, with the involvement of its 2,000 members and Teochew professionals, set up a restoration committee in 2002. RM900,000 (Malaysian Ringgit) was raised for the restoration of the temple, and meticulous research carried out in both Malaysia and the People's Republic of China to learn more about Teochew architecture, and source for materials and artisans.

Restoration works were completed in 2005, with the addition of sophisticated fibre optic lighting equipment that highlights the decorative detail of the building. Today, the temple is considered one of the best preserved examples of Teochew temple architecture in Southeast Asia and has been serving as the focal point of an unprecedented revival of Teochew culture in the region.

Travel Advice

Visitors can tour the temple between 0900 hours - 1800 hours daily. Admission is free.

In addition, on the sixth day of every Chinese New Year, the temple is one of the several within the city centre to open its doors for public celebrations.

Political Representation

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)

References

  1. Hockton, K., Howard Tan, 2012. Penang : An Inside Guide to Its Historic Homes, Buildings, Monuments and Parks. MPH Group, Kuala Lumpur.
  2. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books, Penang.
  3. Cheah J. S., 2013. Penang 500 Early Postcards. Editions Didier Millet.
  4. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/teochew-ancestral-temple.htm
  5. http://www.unescobkk.org/culture/wh/asia-pacific-heritage-awards/previous-heritage-awards-2000-2013/2006/award-winners/2006mr1/
  6. http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/01/19/public-invited-to-temples-and-clan-houses-on-feb-13/

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