While researching accommodation options in Penang, I quickly realised there was only one place I wanted to stay while there. Historic Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, also known as the Blue Mansion, is a 19th century mansion that has been restored to such a high standard that it received a UNESCO heritage conservation award. The rich blue walls and the intricate and colourful details make this heritage building absolutely beautiful, and a real treat for romantic souls and dreamers.
Cheong Fatt Tze was a Chinese merchant that arrived in Penang as a penniless teenager but established himself as a successful businessman and built the mansion as his family home in the 1880s. The two-storey building has 38 rooms, five courtyards, seven staircases and 200 windows. So particular was Cheong Fatt Tze that he imported master craftsmen from China to build his mansion. The design follows Feng Shui principles and combines a Chinese layout with architecture typical of the 19th century Straits settlements. Many buildings at this time were white but being the colour associated with death and mourning, according to Chinese culture, and just as I wouldn’t want my home to look morbid, neither did Cheong Fatt Tze, and the building was instead painted blue. The precise shade a result of mixing lime with indigo blue plant dye.
|Historic staircase in Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Blue Mansion, Penang, Malaysia|
A work of art
The phrase ‘a work of art’ could have been created to describe the mansion. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion features many little details that make the building really pretty. Tall gothic louvred windows invite light in and art nouveau stained glass windows add colour. Scottish cast ironwork on staircases and balconies adds elegance, and Chinese porcelain mosaics provide characterful details. Even the floors are a nod to perfectionist geometry, with floor tiles from Stoke-on-Trent installed in a design that creates a perfect square.
|Central courtyard, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Blue Mansion, Penang, Malaysia|
The Mansion as a hotel
Having run out of money, Cheong Fatt Tze’s descendants failed to maintain the property and it fell into disrepair. The mansion was purchased from the family in the late 1980s and restored. Today it operates as a boutique hotel offering 18 guest rooms, a restaurant and bar drinks are served on the front balcony. Guest rooms are furnished with antique furniture, some of it serving rather modern purposes (such as the cupboard housing a television). The rooms are spacious with welcome creature comforts such as air-conditioning and beautifully fitted ensuites. It is wonderful to explore the mansion, it feels like a privilege to climb the old spiral wrought-iron staircase and just appreciate the peace and stunning details of the building.
|Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Blue Mansion, Penang, Malaysia|
If you already have accommodation elsewhere you can still visit the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion for a tour. Tours of the building are conducted in English three times a day around the central parts of the mansion. Tours visit the entrance hall, the main courtyard, grand central staircases, and also provide the opportunity to peep a quick look through a doorway at the courtyards by the guest rooms. Among the rare collection of sculptures, tapestries and other antiques, historic everyday items are on display on the upper level of the main courtyard, including furniture, games and ceramics. While walking around the historic mansion introduces visitors to the story behind the building, the artefacts on display are things visitors can relate to, and they bring the history to life.
|Historic divan, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Blue Mansion, Penang, Malaysia|
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is located on the northern edge of Georgetown old town, at 14 Leith Street, Georgetown, Penang. The distinct blue walls make it easy to spot.
Have you ever stayed in a historic building? Where did you stay, and why?