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Penang Chinese Town Hall, George Town, Penang

Penang Chinese Town Hall at Pitt Street, George Town

The Penang Chinese Town Hall, housed in a 12-storey office block at Pitt Street within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a Chinese organisation that was established in 1881. It is located between St. George's Church to the north and Kuan Yin Teng Temple to the south.

Originally intended to resolve disputes between the Hokkien and Cantonese communities on Penang Island, as well as to take over the economic and social functions of the Kong Hock Keong (now Kuan Yin Teng Temple), it continues to play an active role today through its involvement in Chinese cultural events all over Penang.

History

Penang Chinese Town Hall, Pitt Street, George Town, Penang

Front façade of the Penang Chinese Town Hall

Until the late 19th. century, the Kong Hock Keong ('Canton-Hokkien Temple', now Kuan Yin Teng Temple) was in charge of looking after the interests and needs of the Chinese community on Penang Island. With both the Hokkiens and Cantonese having equal representation on the temple board, the Kong Hock Keong also served as the mediator looking after the spiritual and secular needs of the two disparate communities.

Kuan Yin Teng Temple, George Town, Penang

Prior to the 1880s, the adjacent Kuan Yin Teng Temple, then known as the Kong Hock Keong, looked after the interests of Penang's Chinese community.

However, the latter part of the 19th. century was characterised with incessant turf wars between rival Chinese secret societies on Penang Island, most of which were formed out of the different Chinese linguistic groups. In 1867, the Cantonese-dominated Hai San secret society fought against its Hokkien rival, the Ghee Hin secret society. This sparked the ten-day Penang Riots, and together with the Larut Wars in the neighbouring Sultanate of Perak, it highlighted Kong Hock Keong's failure in its role to mediate between the Hokkiens and the Cantonese.

As a result, the Penang Chinese Town Hall was established by Penang's Chinese merchants in 1881 to take over the economic and social functions of the Kong Hock Keong, as well as to settle disputes between the Hokkiens and the Cantonese. In addition, this decision to establish a Chinese Town Hall could be seen as a reaction to the construction of the 'European' Town Hall by the British in 1879.

One of the richest men on Penang Island at the time, Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, was the biggest donor to the establishment of the Penang Chinese Town Hall, donating 600 Qing Imperial Yuan. He subsequently became the first president of the Chinese Town Hall.

Meanwhile, the Kong Hock Keong was left with its spiritual role of safeguarding Chinese religious needs. It is now known as the Kuan Yin Teng Temple.

In the 1980s, the Penang Chinese Town Hall was rebuilt into its current 12-storey office block.

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. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.
  2. Leong H.K., 2009. Connecting and Distancing : Southeast Asia and China. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.
  3. Ooi K.G., 2010. The A to Z of Malaysia. Rowman & Littlefield, United States of America.
  4. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/penang-chinese-town-hall.htm

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