Friday, March 27, 2015

Jindo Sea Parting - before the event

The first venue on my spring break stared with a very early morning bus trip from Seoul all the way down to Jindo in the very southern part of Korea. Here I would partake with around 400,000 expats and locals alike in this annual event which is considered the spot where the most people assemble to see a temporary happening
It was already later in the afternoon by the time we arrived, due to stops at a few rest areas for bathroom (gosh, were those lines long!) and coffee, along with lunch in Mokpo.
Our first task was buying rubber boots. Thankfully they had a selection of sizes, including those large enough for foreigner big feet such as mine. 

In addition to buying cotton candy, rice-based treats, and other snacks, one could also buy dried fish and seaweed.



 While waiting for the sea parting to occur, equipped locals used small garden-like tools to find crabs and other critters to eat. Others simply liked playing on the slippery rocks. At this point, the sea looked very normal.


The meetup group all sporting their colorful boots, next to Grandma Ppong statue (part of a legend about the sea parting)



Monday, March 23, 2015

The Blue Mansion

Another museum we visited in Penang was the Cheong Fatt Tzee Mansion, otherwise known as "The Blue Mansion." With only two daily tours a day (otherwise closed to the public), we had to cut short our meanderings in order to arrive on time. 
The periwinkle blue stood out from modern hotels and skyscrapers behind it, making it an easy building to spot. Made from natural indigo dye mixed with lime, the lime wash helped keep the building cool and repel moisture.

The size of this 19th century Straits building was also quite remarkable; 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases, and 220 windows. From the guarded gates, it looked quite Chinese (it is one of only two such buildings of this size outside China) and its floor plan was essentially Chinese. Typical of so many Chinese buildings I saw in Malaysia, its style was quite eclectic, incorporating both European and Chinese elements. The mansion was carefully planned and constructed according to feng shui principles.

The Blue Mansion was one of several homes in Asia owned by Cheong Fatt Tze, a self-made millionaire who arrived penniless from China at the age of 16. Starting out as a water carrier, Cheong Fatt Tze applied hard work and diligence as he branched out from trade in rubber, coffee, wine and tea to banking. At the time of his death in 1916, flags throughout the British and Dutch colonies were flown at half mast for this "Rockefeller of the East."
Artisans were brought from China (along with their tools) to complete this masterpiece. Tze had hoped that 9 generations would be housed in this massive building. It was the command center for his capitalist ventures as well as being the home of his favored 7th wife. Those family members with higher status lived in the central portion of the mansion, while lesser relatives and those who had fallen out of favor lived in the wings. A row of outhouses, bathrooms and stables were built behind the mansion; the main house actually had no indoor plumbing. 


Our excellent tour guide explained that the mansion had fallen into severe disrepair and at the time of acquisition in 1990, it had squatters in it. Provisions of Tze's will stipulated that the mansion stay in the family and not be sold until their death. After the death of the last son in 1989, a group of Penang conservationists purchased it and began the painstaking conservation to return the building to its original form. Artisans, master craftsmen and materials were brought in to complete the restoration. The Cheong Fatt Tze Museum received several conservation distinctions, including the winner of the "Most Excellent Project" UNESCO Heritage Conservation award.


A portion of the mansion is now a boutique hotel.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wedding Photos at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

While wandering through the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, we spotted this newlywed couple posing for photos in a bedroom. I read that you could rent the mansion and grounds for venues - certainly an ornate, unique location!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lifestyle of the Babas and Nyonyas - Penang

One of many period photos of the Baba-Nyonyas
Within the many rooms of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, visitors were given a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle of the Baba-Nyonyas particularly unique to Penang and Malacca. Artifacts from these Straights Chinese settlers filled every nook and cranny of the museum, to the point of visual overload. No minimalistic neutral decorating here! One cupboard would have ornate Chinese-style jewelry; another was filled with a large collection of British porcelain dinnerware, and yet another displaying colorful hand-blown glass vases. In the bedroom were neatly folded or hung contrasting batik and embroidered clothing worn by the Nonya women. 

Embroidery and textiles decoration on a bridal chamber bed

Such lovely textile work
Bridal chamber bed and other ornate bedroom accessories
One of three bridal chambers from three different eras from the 1900's - 1950's

Decorative fan and jewelry

Enormous painting of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee's grandmother - one of several commissioned paintings of his family

Detail of a  large ceramic vase


Heavy mother-of-pearl embedded teak furniture on English floor tiles

Ornamental casket perfumer

Wedding basket and porcelain

Detail of a portrait painting

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grandeur of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

A "not to be missed" destination in the historical Georgetown area of Penang, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion is well worth the admission cost (20RM - approx $5.40). Built at the end of the 19th century, this mansion is an excellent example of the eclectic Baba-Nyonyas incorporating Chinese, Malay, and British architecture. After suffering from decades of neglect, the mansion was fully restored and is now a museum that recreates the traditions, lifestyle and culture of the wealthy Baba residents. In addition to the beautifully restored interior, it overflows with antiques and collectibles of the era. Unlike some of the other Baba-Nyonya museum/homes I had visited in both Penang and Malacca that required a guided tour, we were free to explore the two floors, adjoining ancestral temple, and a special jewelry museum. 

For more information, visit the museum's website.

English floor tiles

Central courtyard with an open airwell and stairs leading up to the second level. This allowed for air and light to freely circulate and rainwater to be collected.

Ornate carved wooden doors leading to a room with heavy teak furniture and an altar

Tranquil room with bamboo and a small pond

Carved wooden screens gilded in gold and flecked with mother-of-pearl

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ancestral Tablets of the Khoo Kongsi Temple

Ancestral Tablets at the Khoo Kongsi Temple in Penang, Malaysia
An important part of any Chinese clan temple are the ancestral tablets. Following the belief that the spirit of the deceased continue to have influence on the living relatives, the ancestors are worshiped. This practice shows deep commemorative respect for the ancestors and is an act of filial piety. 
During special days, special ceremonies take place for worship as well as enshrinement. Ancestral tablets are arranged according to position within the clan.

Jongmyo Daeje Ceremony in Seoul
In Korea, the Confucian philosophy of ancestral worship is present in various levels. Annual Daeje ceremonies are held at the Jongmyo Royal Shrine in Seoul. Here, the ancestral tablets of royalty are enshrined. The ceremony with its rites and music is now a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity designation. Read about my visits to the Jongmyo Shrine and the Daeje ceremony.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Murals of the Khoo Kongsi Temple

Filling both the left and right walls of the temple are the murals depicting Celestial Guardians. Each wall portrays 18 of these message carriers - a common Fujian theme. Of both male and female genders, the detailed figures each ride an animal and carry a unique weapon.   

The artist known as Yeoh Boon Ngah the Hermit also painted several other murals in the temple, including the one above (detail shown), entitled "Hundred Sons and Thousand Grandsons." The level of preservation of these highly detailed murals painted over a century ago is quite impressive.

Read more about the murals at the Khoo Kongsi Temple.