The Kongsi houses in George Town, Malaysia

George Town welcomed a lot of Chinese immigrants from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s and during this time the Kongsi houses boomed. They provided much needed shelter, connections to find employment, and a social community for the newly arrived.

In case you are wondering what Kongsi means, it’s a Chinese term for a business. But in the historical sense it also signifies a partnership or social organizations. So at a time when the Chinese left their country because they needed to make their luck somewhere else, a Kongsi house represented a home away from home.

I went to Cheah Kongsi first, and it was also the first in George Town. The buildings are a mix of Malay, Chinese and European design. Already from the street you can it is something special.

Cheah Kongsi @George Town

Of course the entrance was not over the lawn but through a small side street. Kind of interesting how ‘modern’ architecture surrounded the old buildings. But this is the same in every town I guess which has been around for a couple of centuries.

the main building of Cheah Kongsi @George Town

The Kongsi underwent a renovation process which started in 2013. It’s not all done but so far it looks amazing. Especially where it is finished.

inside Cheah Kongsi @George Town

The second Kongsi I visited was a little harder to find. Although around the corner from Cheah Kongsi I passed the entrance for the Khoo Kongsi probably five times. In the end I walked into a store and asked for directions. I am really not a prodigy when it comes to map reading.

Khoo Kongsi is a really large building conglomerate. There is a huge temple, and there are side temples and then you have an exhibition floor which must have been sleeping halls.

the main temple of Khoo Kongsi @George Town

The close-up details from the temple are amazing. And they are all over the place. I wonder how long it took to build this Kongsi. And more, how money it took to show this level of craftsmanship.

detail from Khoo Kongsi @George Town

more details from the temple of Khoo Kongsi @George Town

There is a lot more to see in George Town, so this will come up in the following days. Yours, Pollybert

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.