RM3.5m makeover for Cheah Kongsi

4th April 2013

THE 203-year-old Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi or better known as Cheah Kongsi temple held a special groundbreaking ceremony recently to embark on a RM3.5 million restoration plan to return it to its former glory.

GEORGE TOWN: The Cheah clansmen held a centuries-old ritual practiced by their forefathers to kick start the major reconstruction of the temple since it was built in 1873.

A Taoist monk blew a horn trumpet and performed ceremonial rites, “axing” corners of statues and arches with a gold axe amid the beating of drums and cymbals to represent the start of construction work.

The rituals are performed before the altars, idols of deities, urns and candle stands can be removed to make way for the construction.

The temple committee has engaged the services of a restoration contractor who has recruited 15 artisans from China. The workers are awaiting immigration clearance before starting work on the intricate design job.

It would take about 15 months to complete the entire restoration project.

The beautiful clan temple, featuring a mix of Malay and Straits architecture, is built on a 1,500sq m ground, accessible via an archway from Lebuh Armenian, and a main entrance through Lebuh Pantai.

The temple’s main hall houses three altars — Tua Pek Kong, Tai Sai Yeah and its patron saint Hock Haw Kong and ancestral tablets.

Some of the areas to be restored to its former glory are the roofs, walls, murals and the dragon ornaments on the roof.

Cheah Kongsi was formed in 1810 by the Cheah clansmen of Fujian, China, who settled down in Penang.

The kongsi served as conveyor of traditional patriarchal clan rule, promoting rational social order of mutuality and harmony among its clansmen and accumulating collective material wealth.

Also present were State Local Government and Traffic committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, Think City programme director Suraya Ismail and other committee members.

Think City, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional, awarded a partial grant worth RM400,000 to the kongsi as part of its efforts to rehabilitate and promote conservation efforts in George Town.

Thanks to the grant, the kongsi has embarked on the restoration of two old houses next to the temple and the main entrance arch on Lebuh Armenian, ancestral temple building, administrative building and the cataloguing and archival of century-old documents.

Kongsi chairman Cheah Swee Huat said the administrative building would be turned into an interpretive centre to showcase the catalogued 500-odd documents dating back to the early 1800s which were found in an old cast iron safe.

“I had a vision to make the kongsi more open and accessible to the public when I broke open the old safe,” he said.

Cheah said the discovery was of great significance as it revealed the social structures of their forefathers. He felt it was important to share it with the public.

“This marks a new phase in the history of the Cheah Kongsi and we want to showcase its rich history in a unique and engaging way,” he said.

Ground breaking ceremony

Guests at the groundbreaking ceremony pose for a group photo in front of the Cheah Kongsi. Pix by Ramdzan Masiam

Source : NST