Standing majestically in the middle of the Cannon Square, hidden from plain view of the surrounding shop houses is the historical clanhouse of Khoo Kongsi.
At first sight, I just stood there in the middle of the square staring at this beautifully restored building thinking how this place must have been more than 150 years ago.
There were originally 3 ways to access the clanhouse which is through Cannon Street, Beach Street and Armenian Street. However, with recent renovation the passage ways through Beach Street and Armenian Street were sealed off leaving the main entrance today through Cannon Street.
The Khoo forefathers came to Penang in the early 1800s from Hai Teng area, Chiang Chew prefecture of Hokkien Province, China. What started as a bungalow was converted into a clanhouse in 1851 and was named Leong Tan Seong which means ‘The Dragon Hall’.
Over the years the Khoo Kongsi prospers and in 1894 the Khoo Kongsi association decided to upgrade their current clanhouse to show their wealth and prosperity and it took them 8 years to complete their grand new building. However, not 29 days after the completion, the new clanhouse was almost burnt to the ground by fire on the eve of Chinese New Year.
A few years after the fire, new plans to rebuild Leong San Tong was set in motion. Finally in 1906, the new Khoo Kongsi temple as how we know it today was completed at the cost of one hundred thousand Straits Dollars.
The clan temple has two floors. The top floor is accessible by the staircase which are flanked by two monks. On the right side there is a Crying Monk and the other side is the Laughing Monk.
We were told that the reason the Monk is laughing is because if you look underneath the handrail there is a small copper coin embedded there, thus the reason he is laughing is because he is sitting on money!
Inside the temple there are three main halls with the Central Hall being the biggest and most grand. This is where they worship their ancestors. There are even ornaments, lanterns and other decorative items that has been around since 1906.
Walking around the clanshouse, we could see gold name plaques hanging on the wall, elaborate murals and carvings telling the rich history of culture, tradition and values.
The ground floor of the clanhouse now serve as the Khoo Kongsi Clan Museum.
Located across the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is the temple theater. This is the place where they will have performances for the patron saints, departed ancestors and of course the audience. . Today, the theater is used for cultural shows for the public to enjoy.
It is easy to get lost in time exploring the Khoo Kongsi. We love the feel standing in the middle of the Cannon Square. From what we’ve read, the courtyard got its name from a cannon which was fired here during the 1867 Penang Riots.
The Khoo Kongsi went through its second major restoration in 1999 – 2001 which cost a whopping RM4.2 million.
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi Opens Daily
Including Sunday and Public Holidays
From 9am – 5pm
Address: 18, Cannon Square, 10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-261 4609 Fax: +604-262 2591