Monday, October 17, 2011

The Khoo Kongsi: A Clan Citadel

More than a month ago, on September 11, I visited the Khoo Kongsi with my two friends. Ah Yang the little sheep went with us, too, although he stayed in the car upon arrival. Haha!

Ah Yang checking out Khoo Kongsi in the book Penang Through Gilded Doors.

Here's what I found out about the famous Khoo Kongsi on Cannon Square, which is very close to Armenian Street (see We Need to Talk About Armenian Street).
  • Cannon Square was where a cannon shot was fired during the secret society fights known as the Penang Riots of 1867.
  • Khoo Thean Teik, who was convicted for instigating the riots, was the secret society's "Elder Brother", and he's also a director of the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. He was sentenced to death but the sentence was changed to life imprisonment. He was released after only seven years. The former criminal established himself as a businessman and prospered.
  • Khoo Kongsi was built as a permanent monument and became the grandest clan temple in the country. It is meant only for members of the Leong San Tong (Dragon Mountain Hall) clan, whose forefathers came from Sin Kang clan village in Hokkien province.
  • The clan kongsi is the best expression of the traditional social system that the Hokkien clans created in the Straits Settlement. It was in fact a miniature clan village with rowhouses, offices, and the square for social activities and festivals.
  • The clan had a board of directors for management and a senate of elders who drew the rules and settled internal disputes. The clan kongsi also provides for children's schooling, paid funeral expenses for those who died impecunious, and took care of widows and orphans. It functioned as the clan incorporated - loaned money for business ventures and invested in real estate. Today, the Khoo Kongsi is one of the richest social organizations in Penang, amply endowed with rentable properties.
Source: Streets of Georgetown Penang by Khoo Su Nin

I will be sharing pictures I took of the Khoo Kongsi in this week's Wordless Wednesday, so please stay tuned. Meanwhile, Ah Yang the little sheep reads on...