Tag Archives: Heritage

Teochew Puppet and Opera House Penang

Every time I went back to Penang, I will made it a point to walk around the old part of George Town. There is always something new to discover – whether it is a street art, cafe or shop. This time, there is no difference. I found a few new places. It was only 4 months ago since I walked around the old town. It is easy to walk around the little streets and back lanes of old town. Some streets are busier than others. The motor vehicles usually moves at a slow pace due to the narrow streets. It is quite safe to walk or to cycle.

There were many local and interstate tourists, Chinese and Malay alike, when I was there. I was told it was the school holiday. People were walking slowly and some were on hired bicycles. Most of them were looking for Penang’s famous street arts. It’s like playing a “hide and seek” find me if you can. In the hot and humid weather, it is not ideal for those who cannot take the heat. Some Chinese women were holding an umbrella sheltering from the heat. Their thinking is that “dark” is not “beautiful”. Fair skin is “nice” and perceived as an educated and refined lady. Dark skin is associated with “hard life” doing hard labour work underneath the sun. To me, that is nonsense. Some were born with a darker complexion that others. Some prefer to sun-bathed and have a nicer tone to their skin colour. After all, some sun is good with a bit of vitamin D.

Yesterday I walked around the old town for almost 3 hours. I took my time to explore the area with a little break now and then for a refreshment and snack. I found a nice traditional Cantonese pastry shop where they make a variety of “piah” (chinese biscuits) filled with sweet and savoury ingredients, “pau” (dumplings) and Chinese herbal drinks. All freshly made on the premise. I found some street arts that I have missed previously. But, the most interesting find of all has to be the Teochew museum located at 122 Armenian Street, George Town. The place is called Teochew Puppet and Opera House. It has a wide collection of iron rod teochew puppets, full dress costumes and head gears, musical instruments and an opera stage for scheduled live performance.

Teochew opera is extremely popular in olden days of Penang and usually performed at an outdoor mock-up stage to coincide with some religious festivals. The performances are not only for the human but for the Chinese deities and the “after life”. I am glad to see a place like the Teochew Puppet and Opera House, which brings back the culture and heritage to the main stream, housed in a prewar terraced double storey shophouse in a heritage protected zone area gazetted by UNESCO. It is privately owned and operated by the the 5th generation of the Kim Giak Low Choon (KGLC) Teochew Opera Troupe. All the collections in the museum were privately owned by the Goh’s family over the generations.

Ling Goh, the current owner, learnt her art forms from the age of 8. She learnt the art of opera and puppetry from her mother, who has performed in puppet show for over 50 years. She is passionate about her culture, heritage and art performances that spurred her into opening this wonderful place to share with the public. There is a small entrance fee to keep her business viable and going. I am not sure if there is any fundings from the government. I suspected there is none as this is a privately owned business driven by passion and love to preserve the art forms. However, I wish the state government, especially the tourism and cultural minister, will support and encourage a place like this.

The Teochew opera or Chinese opera is one of the oldest dramatic art forms, combines literature, music and drama with elaborate costumes and lots of make-up. The singing and music have high-pitched notes. The performance comes with stories that were told and retold for centuries – A General frames a minister and has every first-born in a village killed. A jilted lover poisons the person she holds responsible for her misery. A poor farmer gets caught up, unwittingly, in the state’s secret affairs and corruption.

Ling Goh usually plays the main character. Her skills are very versatile – she can performs as a woman, a man, an elderly – all of which were done elaborately through the costume, headgear and facial make-up. Her story is usually told through iron-rod puppets controlled by skilled puppeteers – truly a family event as Goh’s parents, brothers, nieces and sister-in-law are involved, their ages ranging from 12 to 71 years old. Her niece is now learning the art forms to carry on the Goh’s tradition into the 6th Generation! This is incredible and deserves an accolade of awards.

I was very lucky to have met Ling Goh and her staff and volunteers. They are very passionate and happy to share their knowledge and history. Every single piece of the collections in the museum has a story to tell. It is worth the visit and take some time to relax and have a chat with either one of them, including a guided tour of the collections.

They have a Facebook Page, which you can Like to find out of their latest news and scheduled performance.

The Teochew Puppet and Opera House is located at 122 Armenian Street, George Town, Penang.

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OHM – Open House Melbourne Day 2

I thought I will be more prepared for my day 2 OHM after yesterday viewing of two of the newest office buildings in Melbourne – Aurecon Centre with its occupants moved in just a month ago, and the Lifestyle Working Collins Street which is very new and yet to be occupied by its tenants. Both of these new buildings are eco-friendly with stunning architectural design, and strategically located in front a Tram stop.

Before I left my apartment, I surfed the OHM 2013 website to see which buildings are opened in Day 2. I narrowed down to the following buildings;

The first 3 buildings are within the vicinity of each other on the eastern side of the CBD. The fourth buidling Southbank theatre is across the south side of the Yarra River and finally the last building Forte is across the Yarra River from where I live. The plan is to “Go East” first, then south across the Yarra River and then back across north side of the river and “Go West” of the CBD on the way home. Sounds like a good plan.

An early start to the morning will be good. But nothing stay to plan. By the time I finished ironing all our shirts for the week – yes, included my partner’s shirts – it was almost late morning. I quickly got changed, left the apartment and headed east on the city tram, and got off at the Collins Street / Spring Street intersection. Directly across Spring Street is the Old Treasury Building. I saw the familiar sky blue teardrop with a middle white dot symbol of OHM outside The Old Treasury Building and people were walking into the building. This building was outside the scope of my itinerary. The organised side of me was telling me to stick to my itinerary. But, the inquisitive side was telling me to seek and explore the history behind this old historical building built between 1858 and 1862.P1120618As I walked up the stairs to the entrance, I could hear someone beside me asking a OHM volunteer if the lower ground floor Gold Vaults is opened for viewing.  He was excited when told that it was opened. He got me excited as well. I was glad that my impromptu visit to this building was not regretted.

The lower ground floor Gold Vaults has a very long and narrow corridor with its brick wall painted white. The gold bullion was once stored in here. There are several individual rooms hosting a multimedia exhibition, Built on Gold, which follows the journey of gold from the Victorian diggings, as it passed through the hands of gold buyers, escort troopers and occasional bushrangers.P1120628P1120635 P1120630The gold bullion encased on the ground covered with glass. I wonder if they are real gold.P1120636Next was the Parliament building – a short 2-3 minutes walk on the same side of the road. Directly across from the Parliament building is the heritage listed Hotel Windsor.P1120643

There was a long queue when I got to the Parliament building. It was an hour wait in the queue. The OHM included a 1-hour guided tour taking through the Queen’s Hall, Upper House, Lower House and the Library. It was my first experience visiting a parliament, sat in the Upper and Lower House chamber, listened to our guide explaining the running of each of the House, and the librarian explaining the function of the parliament’s library and collections. It was also fascinating listening to the history of the Queen Victoria in the Queen’s Hall.P1120656 P1120650P1120713 P1120701I was getting hungry by the time I finished at the Parliament Building. It was almost 2pm. I went searching for a place to eat. Something Asian. The Parliament building overlooks the east end of Bourke Street.P1120666I walked down Bourke Street. There is the Midtown Arcade with a few small Asian cafes – there is Sichuan, Japanese, Chinese and the most well known dumpling place raved by food bloggers and food critics called Shandong Mama. I have been there once but I still prefer my “Shanghai Street” dumplings on Little Bourke Street. The thing with foodies and bloggers and food critics is that if one of them started raving about a new place, the others have to follow. It is like a swamp of ants or bees attracted to some honey. Across from Shandong Mama in the small arcade is the Pancake Dessert House.  I am not sure why it’s called a “pancake” or a “dessert”. The food is nothing like the name. I have looked at the shop a few times and the menu on the window. I have also noticed each time I walked past, it was always busy. I have decided to try it this time, and I was very hungry. The menu is a street style food ranging from stir fried noodles, soup noodles, fried rice to small dishes to accompany steamed rice. I chose the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup for $9.60. It was as expected delicious for a cold winter day. I will definitely go back again to try the stir fried noodle dishes.P1120725 P1120724 P1120723By the time I finished my bowl of noodle soup, I have enough of the OHM and decided to head home. I was exhausted by the time I finished at the Parliament Building and the long 1 hour wait standing in the cold winter weather. There is always next year for the other buildings.