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Khoo Kongsi

"A visit well worth the entrance fee. The building itself is stunning. Catches your attention as soon as you see it. Take your time to look at all the exterior decoration pieces to marvel at their detail. A true testament to the Khoo clan."


Khoo is the family name. Kongsi means clan (family) house.
This clan house of the Khoo family reminds us of the very first period the Chinese came to Penang. The Khoo family that built this Kongsi came originally  from Sin Kang village in the Hokkien province of China. They actually began migrating overseas in the 16th century. They came to Penang sometime in the late 18th century. By 1835 their numbers were large enough that they formed a clan group and purchased the land and building for the first Kongsi.

The Khoos were among the the wealthy Straits Chinese traders of 17th century Malacca and early Penang.
The idea of a temple was first mooted in 1836 and was completed 8 years later. The Leong San Tong of the Khoo Kongsi in Cannon Square is the most picturesque clan-temple in Malaysia.
The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and is made from the finest wood. It was built as a clan-house for people with the same surname: Khoo.
In the 19th century, the clan complex resembled a miniature clan village, with its own self-government as well as educational, financial, welfare and social organisations.

It burnt down in 1894 and some believed it was due of its resemblance to the Emperor's palace. A reduced version was later built in 1902 which features a magnificent hall embellished with intricate carvings and richly ornamented beams of finest wood bearing the mark of master craftsmen from China.

The temple building is in three parts: The two storey temple is fronted by a mid-level porch called the prayer pavilion. On the left side of the building is a single-storey kitchen originally built to serve meals to those gathered for special events. The ground floor of the temple building is now a museum. You enter to the right of the prayer pavilion and end up in the old kitchen, which has been converted into a sort of snack bar.

Entry to the prayer pavilion is guarded at the top of the stairs by statues of turbaned men appearing to be Sikhs. In a stand on the pavilion several 'spears' are displayed that were used to lead parades and control crowds.

Taking the central stairway up from the pavilion brings you to the open veranda which fronts the three halls of the temple. The central hall is the largest and the main place of worship. The two incense burners are dedicated to two great heroes of 4th century China, Ong Soon Yah and Tua Sai Yai. Other statues are meant to depict Kuan Im, the Goddess of Mercy, Poh Seng Tai Tay, the God of Medicine, and Mah Chor Pho, the Goddess of the Sea. The walls and ceiling of the main hall are richly decorated. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck!

To the left of the main hall (as you face the building) is the main ancestral hall, Ee Kok Tong. The alter of this small hall contains many gold and black tablets of the Khoo ancestors appropriately arranged top-down in order of their ranking in the family. Along the sides of the hall are a number of large plaques displaying the names of various Khoo ancestors and the high rank they achieved or been awarded. You'll note that even graduating from university is considered a high honour for the clan.

The hall on the other side of the central hall is called the Hock Teik Soo and is dedicated to the deity Hock Teik, the God of Prosperity. The walls of this hall are also lined with plaques, but as the size of the clan has increased, along with a higher percentage graduating from college, the size of the plaques have been downsized considerably to make sure there is room for the honours of future generations. You will however note that one thing hasn't changed: Only male members of the clan are honoured.

In the large courtyard, facing the temple, is an ornate stage for Chinese Opera. Performances are usually held around Chinese New Year and other important holidays. The stage is also available for special events.


The beautiful roof of the Khoo Kongsi

Ong Soon and Tua Sai

Beautiful ornaments

The principle of "ghee" or brotherhood is highly revered within the clan. Every year a few selected members of the Khoo clan are honoured either for their services to community or for their academic achievements.

During the Second World War, bombings by invading Japanese forces partially destroyed portions of the roof of the Dragon Mountain Hall, as well as over 20 clan houses in the courtyard. After the war, repair works were done to fully restore the temple to its former glory.

The entrance is in Lebuh Cannon. You will recognize the entrance by this signboard (photo right). You walk in this street. At you left and right you'll the old clan houses.
At the end of the street you have to buy a ticket (RM5.-). After that you may continue to the Khoo Kongsi. 

How to get to Lebuh Cannon?
Penang Street is the very busy road with the shop.
Halfway you see "Lebuh Campbell". Also very beautiful road with all kind of shops. Now you have to walk till the very end. At the left you'll se the Kapitan Kling Mosque.
Go to the right and you'll see Lebuh Cannon.
Look for the signboard.






   Ben van Wijnen





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