Visit Penang: to reconnect the connection between South China, Hong Kong and Penang
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Posted by: jlpt69 ®
07/08/2008, 23:26:11

Visit Penang: to reconnect the connection between South China, Hong Kong and Penang

For most tourists, Penang is a good place to taste different kinds of recipes, to go shopping and to enjoy the beautiful and peaceful resorts at good valued prices and services. These reasons themselves are sufficient to allure tourists and holidaymakers from every corner of the world. I would gladly like to share my feelings with readers why I love this city so much so that allured me to visit this place again in July.

Educated in Hong Kong and working as a history teacher, I find there is no reason not to visit Penang for several reasons. The ambience of Georgetown is a very Chinese place, harmoniously mixed with Malay and Indian influences, that one is like going back to what it was like a century ago. I like the rows of shophouses very much since they make me remind of what it was when our forefathers worked, made fortunates, settled and finally integrated into the locals there. Strolling the rows of five-feet shophouses along the narrow streets in Georgetown is a must for any history lovers and tourists!

Penang shares one common point with Hong Kong: both cities were administered by the British. The Fort Cornwallis, with its model of British flags and tents sampling what it was like when Francis Light landed at Penang in 1786, is a place of interest marking the British legacy. I do appreciate the designer(s) of this scene, who shows a strong sense of history and his/her respect for it.

Penang plays an important role in modern Chinese history. With the back up of his supporters, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, who had been educated in America and Hong Kong, used Penang as a base to disseminate the revolutionary ideas to strive for financial supports from Chinese. By 1908-09, they moved the Tung Men Hui southeast Asia headquarters from Wan Ching Yuen in Singapore to Penang where the revolutionaries staged the famous Canton Uprising in April 1911. A few even sacrificed their lives to the foundation of the first Chinese Republic in Canton. The shophouse at 120, Armenian Street witnesses this influential moment in modern Chinese history and certainly the long-lasting friendship between south China and Penang.

Penang is a place for Chinese reformists when they were in exile at the turn of the last century. For example, Kong Youwei (±d¦³¬°) left a few words:¤Å§Ñ¬G°ê(don¡¦t forget your motherland) on a stone at Kek Lok Si Temple(·¥¼Ö¦x), built in 1886. Kong¡¦s visit adds a piece of legendary component to the temple. So, try to find these Chinese characters when you are inside the temple!

A tycoon, Cheong Fatt Tze in Penang, contributed a lot of money to the foundation of University of Hong Kong. He raised $90,000 for HKU Endowmenet Fund by 1910 and donated further $76000 to develop studies in the Faculty of Arts between 1913 and 1919. He himself was a foundation life member of the University Court by 1911. His well preserved mansion is also a marker showing a slice of history of Hong Kong and Penang.

The familiarity with Cantonese and hospitality among Penang Chinese is an additional reason for coming back to Penang again after the last visit 6 years ago. Although Hokkien is dominantly spoken in Georgetown among Penang Chinese, Cantonese is also easily understood and spoken. During my visit, I found most Penang Chinese are able to understand and at least speak a few phrases in Cantonese. It is probably because of the popularity of Hong Kong¡¦s Television Programmes in Malaysia. The people here are also very hospitable and friendly. When I once dined at a small stall, the stall owner chatted me in Cantonese, talking about the city¡¦s development and his family¡¦ connection with Hanian Island. I really enjoyed that friendly, hospitable ambience that I cannot easily come across in other cities.

I don¡¦t know when I will visit this beautiful Penang. But surely I will in my lifetime.
History shows that South China, Hong Kong and Penang have a long history of friendship and connections. May our connections continue to contribute to the well being of both cities, in a response to what our forefathers did a century ago.
DeBernardi, Jean Elizabeth. Rites of Belonging: memory, modernity, and identity in a Malaysian Chinese community. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Hoyt, Sarnia Hayes. Old Penang. KL: OUP, 1991.

Turnbull, CM. ¡§The Malayan Connection¡¨, in An impossible dream : Hong Kong University from foundation to re-establishment, 1910-1950. Edited by Chan Lau Kit-ching and Peter Cunich. New York: OUP, 2002.

Yen, Ching Hwang. Community and Politics: the Chinese in colonial Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1995.

Yen, Ching Hwang. The Overseas Chinese and the 1911 Revolution, with special reference to Singapore and Malaya. KL: OUP, 1976.

Lee Pak Tsun from Hong Kong
3 September 2006

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