Peranakan Mansion Museum in Penang


The Peranakan Mansion and Museum in Penang is one of those must visit places when you are traveling around this former British ruled island.Located in the core Unesco World Heritage Zone along Church Street or locally known as Lebuh Gereja, this very old building has an interesting story to it. As it was left to rot many years ago, a property developer purchased the place from the descendants and refurbished the entire place. Carefully putting it back to its original Straits Eclectic look and feel, the museum now is a masterpiece for the Baba Nyonya culture and heritage of the north.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion in the old white wall color

As I visited this place back in 2009, the building which was once known as 'Hai Kee Chan Museum' has now been painted where the white color has been replaced with a bright green color. The iron intricate balconies and fittings have a tinge of influence by the early European and British times. A beautiful mix showcases this one-of-a-kind museum with Scottish ironwork, Chinese carved wooden panels and traditional English tiles.


As you walk in the main entrance, you will step into the main courtyard of the building which serves as a covered air well. Rooms are in three directions while a grand staircase leads you to the first floor. On the first floor, you see beautiful iron work on four sides of the inner balcony. The wooden flooring leads you into multiple rooms here which showcase many different Baba-Nyonya artifacts and relics.

Baba Nyonya Antique Dressing Table

In one of the rooms upstairs, you see an actual Baba Nyonya wedding bedroom with complete traditional bed and dresser. Intricately carved and refurbished, these priceless items show how lavish the Peranakans used to live back in the day. Inspecting around, I saw many unique items spread around the bedroom.


Penang Peranakan Museum first floor

On the other end of the first floor, a tiger rug sits on the wooden flooring among some antique Peranakan silverware and ornaments housed in multiple antique glass casings. You will not find detailed description on each of the items but the premises offers guided tours twice a day so if you want to find out more, you should go for the tours.

Vintage standing camera in Penang

Baba Nyonya clothing and accessories

Exploring further on this level was very interesting as there was a room filled with traditional Baba Nyonya apparels and accessories. Some of the unique Peranakan Kebayas are more than 50 years old while an antique cabinet houses more of these clothing.  Walking out, I could not help notice a very old 19th century vintage standing camera in perfect condition.

Kitchen with complete collection of pots and pans



 Moving downstairs, I headed to the back of the main mansion where the Baba kitchen was housed. Here, you could actually see a replica set up of how they used to cook and eat. A vast collection of pots, pans and dinnerware filled up antique cupboards and racks. These pieces have been collected over the years to make it one of the most complete collection of a Peranakan Kitchen.

Baba Nyonya Kandar Basket

 A truly amazing collection, they even had an antique Baba Kandar Basket. This intricate designed kandar basket was used in the early days for selling food along the streets. The person would carry this over his or her shoulder and walk by foot. If you ask me, this is a very rare item which is hardly seen around these days. It was more commonly used by the Mamaks (Indian Muslims) of Penang to sell Nasi Kandar back then too.

 Mortar and Pestles in various shapes

China bowls laid out for lunch setting

Peranakan Tiffin Carriers

A collection of Tiffin Carriers caught my attention. About 18 different tiffin carriers were placed on top of an antique wooden display cabinet. They were an important household item in the early days where the enamel based carriers donned flowery and animal designs. Usually in tiers of three to four, I saw some 10 tier tiffin carriers on display. Each of the tiers would house a food dish and one main to hold the rice.  

English room at the Peranakan Museum

After scouting the entire kitchen area, I made my way round the back through what is now an English room. Here, traditional English furniture is juxtaposed alongside oriental paintings. Apparently the English had a very strong influence on them back then therefore there the well-heeled people would mix their furniture with English or European styles for their homes.

 Alleyway towards the temple area


As I continued my way towards the ancestral area or Peranakan Temple, the alleyway led into a side door of the main court yard here. Looking more like a Chinese temple, I was told that this was in fact a proper ancestral hall where prayers were conducted to the past generations of ancestors. 

Temple wooden doors

 The main doorway which leads back to the main road was fitted with two beautifully painted doors donning a Chinese warrior on each of the doors. Two giant brass door knockers in the shape of a lion holding a ring was ever prominent. Once you walked in the main entrance and looked up, you would see an antique European glass chandelier above you. Walking straight in would lead you to the open aired air well where it looks like an old Chinese movie set. 
 
Peranakan Chinese Courtyard 

Apparently this ancestral hall was once used by the famous Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee who resided here. He was not a Peranakan but enjoyed the eclectic mix of designs for the place back then. Throughout the court yard, there were many paintings, plants and carvings. One of the unique items which lay hidden from the common eye was a antique love-making wooden chair. If you are on the guided tour, do ask about this item as the story behind this is very interesting.

Antique Rickshaw which is hand pulled

A Penang Beca or Trishaw on display outside the ancestral hall

Overall, a visit to this place would be very educational and interesting to know how the Peranakans used to live back then. There are over 1000 items from the Baba Nyonya era which are displayed here making this the largest museum dedicated to this unique culture in the north. Also, there are CCTV cameras throughout the museum so please do not touch anything in there as they are very strict about it. If you are bringing kids here, please keep an eye on them too.

Pinang Peranakan Museum
29 Church Street, 10200 Penang
Telephone: +60 4 2642929
email: rmhbaba@streamyx.com

Opening Hours
Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm
Daily Tours at 11.30am and 3.30pm

Ticket Prices
Adults (Ages 12 and above) : RM10.00
Children (below 12) : Free
School children (in uniform) : RM5.00
Complimentary tours are only available with prior arrangements for a group of 5 persons and above. Discounts are available to school bookings and other large groups.

Visit the Pinang Peranakan Museum Website for more information. Alternatively, you can also visit the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum website in Melaka and also the Singapore Peranakan Museum Website.

For those who are visiting the Pearl of the Orient, you will most definitely take a walk around Georgetown which is a Unesco Heritage Site and is one of the most popular places to do a site seeing walk. There are many famous areas like backpacker paradise Chulia Street and Little India to explore. Apart from the old pre-war buildings, temples and churches found here, you can also head to Church Street where the Peranakan Mansion and Museum in Penang is found.

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