Penang Heritage Tip :: Toi Shan clan hall gets a facelift

Photos by H.N. LEONG

ONE would gape in awe upon stepping into the amazingly serene Toi Shan ancestral hall and neighbouring temple.

After all, few would expect to see such a charming structure of unquestionable taste, right smack in bustling George Town.

At almost 180 years old, the Penang Toi Shan Ning Yang Wui Kwoon (district association hall) stands proud and strong but will soon bask in renewed glory upon completion of its restoration work.

The building’s management received a RM98,560 grant from the George Town Grants Programme for restoration and conservation purposes.

Started last December, the two-year programme is a RM20mil seed-funding initiative by Think City Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Federal Government’s investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, for urban rejuvenation projects within the George Town World Heritage Site.

Built in 1833 by the Toi Shan community who hails from the Guangdong province in China, the ancestral hall and its neighbouring temple on King Street began repair works and restoration in mid-June.

Workers are now using steel brushes to scrape off the paint from the outside brick walls.

Work in progress: The Toi Shan Ning Yang Wui Kwoon building in King Street, Penang, showing the temple (left) and ancestral hall.

Toi Shan community member Chor Teik Heng said the walls had been painted over some 30 years ago.

“The association committee at the time must have thought that painting over it would make the place look nicer, but we want to regain the authenticity of the façade.

“These bricks are special, as each was hand-sawed in China before being brought over to Penang,” said the 68-year-old project contractor, as he pointed out the bricks’ rough surfaces that showed ridges and lines made by the saws.

Chor added the original ‘paint’ used on the ancestral hall was actually a mix of shellac and powdered minerals.

“If you look at very old Chinese buildings, you will notice that the ‘paint’ does not fade,” said Chor.

To date, about 80% of restoration work has been completed and he expects the full job to be done in about a month.

Imposing gateway: The 'Scholar's Door' leading into the ancestral hall of the Penang Toi Shan Ning Yang Wui Kwoon.

Penang Toi Shan Ning Yang Wui Kwoon committee vice-chairman Guan Kak Heng said the restoration would bring back the former glory of the temple.

“Restoration work is expensive and money is hard to come by. We are very happy with the grant we received.

“Just as Think City has its role to play in restoring George Town, so does the Toi Shan association and we are glad it has helped us play our role in the community,” he said.

The ancestral hall and temple are frequently visited by the Toi Shan community all year round, especially on occasions such as Cheng Beng (Chinese All Souls Day), the Hungry Ghost Festival, Chinese New Year, and the Winter Solstice.

The temple is open daily (even through the restoration process) from 9am to 5pm.

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