Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, Penang. (28 February, 2004)
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi at Cannon Square is the finest Chinese clan temple outside China. It was was founded in 1835, on the 8th day of the 5th moon of the Chinese calendar, when 102 members of the Khoo clan gathered to form an association to look after the welfare of Khoo clansmen in the Nanyang. It was to be similar to another Khoo association in China, the Ee Kok Tong. One of the functions of the association was to keep records of the clan ancestors and descendents. The result of this meticulous exercise is that the Khoos have one of the most complete genealogical charts of all the clans in Penang.
Tale of the Dragon Mountain HallThe ancestors of the Khoos can be traced to a common progenitor, one Chan Chian Eng who ironically was given away to a Khoo family of another village, and hence took on his adopted surname. Chian Eng had a son who settled in the village of Sin Kang in the Chuan Chew state in Fujian Province, China. The Khoos of Khoo Kongsi can trace their ancestry back to the Sin Kang clan village.
Front view of Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. (28 February, 2004)
The Khoo Kongsi is in fact a miniature clan village set into the city of George Town. Many of the town houses surrounding the Khoo Kongsi clan temple bear the sign "Sin Kang", as do the gateways leading into Khoo Kongsi. Unfortunately, since the previous renovation of the temple complex, two of the passageways have been sealed off. These are the ones from Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenia), leaving only one single entranceway into Khoo Kongsi, and that's the main passageway from Cannon Square (Medan Cannon). Since the last renovation, a clan museum has also been installed on the ground floor of the clan temple, and entrance fees charged to visitors for the general upkeep.
The land to built Khoo Kongsi was acquired in 1851. It measures 97,035 sq feet. There was a bungalow on the site, and this was converted into a clan temple for ancestor worship. This temple was named Leong San Tong, in honour of their progenitor's village of Leong San in China. The name "Leong San" means "Dragon Mountain".
Lanterns and worship paraphernalia hangs from the ceiling. (28 February, 2004)
Over the years since the acquisition of the land in 1851, the Khoos propered and established themselves in Penang. However, as part of defending their rights against the Ghee Hin Secret Society, the Khoo clansmen under their leader Khoo Thean Teik, was involved in the Penang Riots of 1867, where they fought alongside the Muslim-based Red Flag Secret Society, whose leader was Syed Mohamad Al-Attas, against the Ghee Hins. In 1868, Khoo Thean Teik was arrested for his role in the fighting and was sentenced to death. However, he did not meet such a fate, instead was released from prison after seven years.
In 1894, an idea was mooted to construct a new clan temple to replace the existing structure. It was a highly ostentatious project to showcase their new-found wealth, and the grand new temple took eight years to complete. Strangely, just 29 days after its completion, on the eve of the Sin Chui Year, a fire broke up, destroying the whole temple. The only items salvaged from the inferno was a pair of carved bamboo couplets known as "teik lean". These are still on display today in the Tua Pek Kong Hall, to the right of the main hall of Khoo Kongsi.
The main altar at Khoo Kongsi (28 February, 2004)
The fire was explained as the wrath of the gods over a temple regarded too exquisite for ancestor worship. A few years after the first temple was destroyed, plans were afoot to built it again. In order to please the gods, the new temple is a scaled-down version of the original. Nevertheless materials were shipped from China, and master craftsmen, artists, artisans and sculptors were also brought in from China to complete the new temple, another masterpice. It was finally completed in 1906, at the cost of a hundred thousand Straits dollars.
Then came the Second World War. Bombings by the Japanese partially destroyed the roofing along with about 20 of the townhouses around its courtyard. The restoration effort took four years and costs sixty thousand Straits dollars.
The Tua Pek Kong altar at Khoo Kongsi (28 February, 2004)
The splendour of Khoo Kongsi lies in its highly detailed wood carvings, wall frescoes and roof decorations. The entire roof structure is said to weigh 25 to 50 tons, and is the best example of the cut-and-paste chien nien technique, where shards of ceramic bowls are used to form patterns, beasts and beings.
Layout of Leong San Tong Khoo KongsiThe clan temple consists of two floors, the ground floor and the top floor. The ground floor was previously occupied by the Toon Boon Tong, or the Parentage Society. Nowadays, it is used as the Khoo Kongsi Clan Museum. To the left of the museum is the giftshop.
Access to the Parentage Society of Khoo Clan at Khoo Kongsi (28 February, 2004)
The top floor is accessible by the grand staircase. Flanking the staircase are the Two Monks. The one on the right is the Crying Monk. On the other side is the Laughing Monk. Now why is the monk laughing? Look under him, and you will find that there is a small copper coin embedded beneath the handrail. The Laughing Monk is laughing because he is sitting on money!
There are three main halls on the top. They are the central hall, the ancestral hall, and the hall to the god of prosperity. The central hall is the most ornate. The ancestral hall and the hall to the god of prosperity carry plaques commemorating the awards and achievements by noted members of the Khoo clan.
Back portion of the museum level has rows of benches. (28 February, 2004)
Rather than walking, if you are coming from the Weld Quay Bus Terminal, take Rapid Penang buses 301, 302, 401 or 502 to Kampung Kolam. From there, walk to Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi (refer to the attached map).
The Happy Monk - happy because he is sitting on money (28 February, 2004)
What to see and do there
Enter Khoo Kongsi through the main entrance at Cannon Square. After paying for your admission, go around the temple stage. The Dragon Mountain Hall, or Leong San Tong, is in front of you. Visit the clan museum at the ground floor, and then proceed upstairs to admire the exquisite prayer halls. Remember to look for the Laughing Monk. If the back portion upstairs is open to the public, go and admire the ink frescoes on the wall.
The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi at night (7 July, 2012)
Associate Links: Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
Leong San Tong Photo GalleryLet AsiaExplorers take you on a virtual tour of the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi with our original photographs. Select from any of the galleries below.
Members of AsiaExplorers with Tim at Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. (28 February, 2004)
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