Heritage buildings in Penang

Acheen Street Mosque

Also known as Mesjid Melayu, the mosque was built on land donated by Syed Sheriff Tengku Syed Hussain Aidid an Arab merchant-prince who came from Acheh in Sumatra. The vernacular style mosque from 1808 remains basically unmodified except for the Moorish arcade added at the turn of the century.

The mosque features a small window halfway up the minaret, which is said to have originally been a hole made by a cannonball fired during the 1867 triad riots. The minaret was struck by lightning in 1997, and the mosque was recently restored with French technical assistance. The compound houses around the mosque are part of the mid-19th century Arab village. Click here for full story.

Cheong Fatt Tze

The breathtaking indigo of its exterior walls harmonizing perfectly with the cerulean blue of the sky behind it might seem to some to be 'feng shui perfection.' The observation is not far from the truth, because indeed many other feng shui symbols are to be found meticulously incorporated into the architecture of this courtyard mansion, if you know where to look.

Built by Cheong Fatt Tze in the 1880s, the stately mansion (located in present day Leith Street) was built by master craftsmen from China using building materials imported from the West. Tour guides will be pleased to tell you about the building's 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, seven staircases and 220 windows.

The mansion fell from grace a few years after the passing of its owner and was for a while even used as a tenement house.It wasn't until 1990 when a group of heritage preservationists rushed to its rescue. Ten years later, restoration of the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion deservedly won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award 2000. Click here for full story.

Fort Cornwallis

This star-shaped fort was built at the site where Francis Light and his crew landed in 1786. Star-shaped forts were popular at the time especially for small scale works. The original purpose of the fort was to defend the harbour entrances. In 1977, the Malaysian Government listed the fort under the Antiquities Act 1976 for the purposes of conservation and preservation.

In March 2000, the Malaysian Government through the Department of Museums and Antiquity granted a total sum of RM1.9 million for the restoration project of the Fort Cornwallis. Restoration was completed in March 2001. Today, an open-air ampi theatre, history gallery and a handicraft and souvenir centre occupies the interior. Click here for full story.

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Also called the Kwan Yin Teng, it is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. Built in 1801 by early immigrant settlers from China, the building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which are said to be its guardians. Undoubtedly the most popular Chinese temple in Penang, the Kuan Yin Teng, is flocked by pilgrims and followers all year round, particularly on the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month.

There is a lovely square where puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days. The square is always a centre of bustling activity, and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Built in the early 19th century, it was named after the Indian Muslim merchant Caudeer Mohudeen, who was also the Kapitan Keling (headman). It is the most prominent historic mosque in Penang and features a dome-shaped minaret reflecting Moorish Islamic influence. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is the place of worship of the Indian Muslim community who have lived and worked around the mosque for over two hundred years.

Unlike modern mosques which are mainly frequented on Fridays, the Kapitan Keling Mosque is used by worshipers five times a day, seven days a week. Click here to for full story

Kek Lok Si Temple (Temple of Supreme Bliss)

This magnificent 110 year-old temple stands majestically on a 'feng-shui perfect' hill in Air Itam. Construction of the temple started in 1893, but it was only in 1930 that the Pagoda of Rama VI, named after the Thai king who laid the foundation stone, but better known as the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, was completed. This pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown, reflecting the temple's embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

The latest addition to the temple complex is the 30.2 m bronze statue of the Avalokitesvara – Goddess of Mercy or Kuan Yin - on the hillside above the pagoda. This RM70 m statue was completed and open to the public at the end of 2002.

Steps leading to the temple are lined with souvenir shops selling a mishmash of goods ranging from clothes and preserved fruits to curios and joke items. Within the temple grounds are a vegetarian restaurant, tortoise pond, prayer halls, awe-inspiring deities, sleeping quarters and gardens. Click here for full story

Khoo Kongsi

The famous Khoo Kongsi is the grandest clan temple in the country. It is also the city's greatest historic attraction.The clan temple has retained its authentic historic setting, which includes an association building, a traditional theatre and the late 19th century row houses for clan members, all clustered around a granite-paved square.

The forefathers of the Khoo family who emigrated from South China built it as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family in 1851. It was burnt down in 1894, allegedly struck by lightning, and the Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. Even so, the complex boasts a magnificent hall embellished with intricate carvings and richly ornamented beams of the finest wood bearing the mark of master craftsmen from China.

The clan temple is dedicated to the clan's patron deities and also houses a collection of ancestral tablets. Chinese opera is still staged at the theatre during the seventh lunar month.

Mahamariamman Temple

Built in 1833, the temple features fascinating sculptures of the Hindu goddess Mariamman in her many incarnations. The complexity of Hindu mythology is reflected in 'gopuram' (sculpture), which is over 23 feet high and features 38 statues of gods and goddesses and four swans, over the entrance. Housed within its ornately decorated interior is the priceless statue of the Goddess Mariamman, who is taken out in a decorated wooden chariot on a tour of Little India during the Navarithri festival.

Located in the heart of Little India, the street surface at the entrance is usually painted with a traditional kolam (pattern made with rice flour) diagram. Click here for full story

Nagore Shrine

Constructed in the early 1880s, the Nagore Shrine is a memorial to Syed Shahul Hamid, the famous 13th century Muslim Saint Nagore, the most celebrated saint of South India.

The Shrine was founded by the Mericans from Tamilnadu. This is the earliest Indian Muslim shrine in Penang which survives in its original condition. The tradition of the city saint was brought to Penang by the Tamil Muslim traders. Feast days are still observed with flag-raising and distribution of food, and faithful devotees may be seen visiting the shrine to seek favours on Thursdays.

St. George's Church

This stately church was named after the patron saint of England. Built with convict labour in 1818, it is one of the oldest landmarks in the city of George Town, and the oldest Anglican Church in Malaysia. The building was designed by Captain Robert Smith, a military engineer whose oil paintings of early Penang can be seen in the Penang Museum.

A memorial in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab dedicated to Captain Francis Light, stands in the grounds of the St. George's Church.

Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram

One of the world's longest reclining Buddhas (33 meters) resides within this Thai-styled temple which was founded in 1845. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to four women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.

Just across the street from Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram is another spectacular temple called Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple, built in 1805. A pair of elephants (sacred beasts in Buddhism) guard the entrance while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.