A Link To World History
The historic city of George Town has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its architectural heritage and townscape, cultural diversity and multilayered history, its living heritage communities and intangible heritage. Immerse yourself in our shared past. Discover how this important house pre-eminently connects global and local history.
A permanent exhibition and guided tour offer a window onto the extraordinary history of the house. In 1910 Sun Yat Sen (1866–1925) moved the Southeast Asian headquarters of the Tongmenghui party to Penang because he found renewed support among the Overseas Chinese here for the overthrow of China’s Qing dynasty. In the same year, when Sun Yat Sen lived in Penang with his family for over four months, the house at 120 Armenian Street was where:
- The Penang Philomatic Union – a reading club – was based, providing a cover for Sun’s political party.
- The world’s oldest Chinese newspaper Kwong Wah Yit Poh was founded by Sun Yat Sen in 1910.
- Sun Yat Sen convened the celebrated Penang Conference and delivered his famous speech to plan the Huanghuagang Uprising, an important milestone leading to the Chinese revolution of 1911.
A Nanyang Architectural Gem
Built around 1880 as a residential townhouse, the building is a very fine example of a Straits Settlements merchant’s home. Unusually long at over 130 feet (40 metres) it retains many of its original features – an intimate courtyard garden, a handsome timber staircase, geometric floor tiles, and large beams spanning lime plaster walls. The interior displays original blackwood Straits Chinese furniture and ornately carved wooden screens. The old-fashioned Nyonya kitchen preserves the original firewood stove and kitchen utensils.
From 1926 the house was owned by a Hokkien merchant, Ch’ng Teong Swee. His granddaughter, the writer and heritage advocate, Khoo Su Nin also known as Khoo Salma Nasution, is custodian of the house today. In 2010–11 the house underwent extensive renovation to its façade and roof, drawing on the time-honoured skills of craftsmen from Quanzhou, southern China.