The Blue Mansion’s (also known as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion), indigo-blue outer wall makes it one of the most distinctive buildings in George Town.
The mansion, built by the merchant Cheong Fatt Tze at the end of 19th century, has 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases & 220 vernacular timber louvre windows. The architecture of the mansion however originates from the Su Chow Dynasty Period in China. Other features of the house include Gothic louvred windows, Chinese cut and paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles made of encaustic clay in geometric pieces all shaped to fit to a perfect square, Glasgow cast iron works by MacFarlane’s & Co. and Art Nouveau stained glass windows.
The mansion was originally built with careful attention to the principles of Feng Shui that can be seen by the domestic annexe at the front to prevent any road being built and to create a T-Junction. There is also water running through a meandering network of pipes that begin from the eaves of the roof, channelled through the upper ceiling, down the walls collecting in the central courtyard before being channelled away from the property via a similar network of pipes, in this case, underneath the entire flooring system and includes a step in the middle of the central courtyard to create a slope (to ride on the dragons back).
The distinctive blue colour of the mansion is the result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant. The blue was very popular in the Colonial period and the dye was imported from India to Penang by the British. The lime-wash was very effective in a tropical weather as it absorbed moisture and cooled the house whilst dispelling moisture without damage to the structural integrity of the walls. Though white was the most easily available colour, the indigo-blue was chosen as white is synonymous with death for the Chinese.
The mansion was purchased from Cheong Fatt Tze’s descendants in 1989 by a group of local Penang individuals to save the building from encroaching development and possible demolition. While it remains until now, a private-residence, the property operates as a 16 Room Bed & Breakfast-cum-museum. The wonderful restoration project has won awards from UNESCO.
The mansion has been featured in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning French film “Indochine” starring Catherine Deneuve, “The Red Kebaya”, “Road to Dawn’, “3rd Generation” and the critically acclaimed “The Blue Mansion” in 2009 by Singapore Director Glen Goei of “Forever Fever” fame.
We took one of the tours, offered in English three times a day, to central parts of the house. The lady we had taking our tour was very informative, providing wonderful anecdotes, fun facts and interesting tales of the mansion’s history and occupants along the way.
The Blue Mansion is a fabulous blend of Colonial and Eastern architecture and design from the outside and within. And, not to forget the wonderful garden and plants. There were some amazing Bonsai-style plants that were just stunning.
The Blue Mansion is located at 14 Leith Street, George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
(Thanks to wikipedia for some supplementary background information)