Monday, 19 May 2008

Shih Chung Branch School, Penang

While driving down from Tanjung Tokong towards the ferry terminal today, I had an irresistible urge to visit the Shih Chung Branch School. So, I swung my Avanza around the City Bayview Hotel and drove up Northam Road again, and turned into the school's compound just before the junction with Transfer Road.

In case you don't known, the Shih Chung Branch School is an old, abandoned building that had seen better days.

It was - still is - an imposing building. It was originally a unique Anglo-Chinese mansion belonging to Cheah Tek Soon (Tek Soon Street was named after him, so he must have been someone quite important in old Penang) in the 1880s.

The building was the first five-storey residence in the Straits Settlements and local Hokkiens called it goh chan lau (five storey bungalow). Later, it was named the Chinese Residency when Tek Soon’s brother lived there in the 1900s. Much later again, the Tye brothers turned it into the Raffles-by-the-Sea hotel in the 1910s. Again, much much later, it became the P’i Joo Girls’ School (named after another old towkay, Leong Fee or Liang P'i Joo), the Government English School and finally, the Shih Chung Branch School.

About six or seven years ago, the building was at the centre of a storm of controversy when some association wanted to turn it into a Buddhist centre-cum-columbarium. I guess nobody would have minded a Buddhist centre there along Northam Road but a columbarium? Nobody wanted that in their midst, protests were raised and the idea was dropped like a hot potato.

Here are various views of the building's exterior:

And finally, the location of the Shih Chung Branch School as seen through the eyes of Google Maps. It's the isolated building in the lower left quadrant of the picture:


Thomas Cheah said...

Any idea who and where are the descendents of Cheah Tek Soon. I would like to contact them.

Quah, Seng-Sun said...

Thomas, sorry. Absolutely no idea at all. But perhaps you can get in touch with the Cheah Kongsi in Penang. The association is somewhere in Pangkor Road.

Thomas Cheah said...

Thanks. Will give a try when I am back in Penang.

Ong Choon How said...

This is for Thomas Cheah,
I happen to come across this site:,192145/364/record.html

According to the guy, KENSON, he is the descendants of Cheak Tek Soon.

SS, I don't know how to contact Thomas. Please help past the message.

penang guy said...

hi,i am lee
now this land owner has been change to asia green group was belong to Asia Plywood Company.

Anonymous said...

i m glad to find out tis building online...i m been searching bout detail information bout it. as part of my researches in fifth yr architecture.
is there any ways to get the floor plans of the house. cause i need it urgently before going back to australia next month. hope to hear from u guys soon. and thanks for ur help
please send me an email if anyone came across to know, thanks

albatross said...

Hi there Thomas and anyone keen about Penang Heritage, I'm Kenson Cheah, and I discovered a bit about our beloved Penang in the colonial hey-days. It seems my great-great grandfather, Cheah Chen Eok and Cheah Tek Soon did some ship chandling and insurance business together, big time. E-mail me at and I'll get for you the website for Penang Heritage sites as well as the US university that keeps a comprehensive record of our ancestors. Happy digging.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Cheah , kenson cheah and Cheah family. Other than Cheah kongsi, there is one raad which is significance to Cheah family. You know Bankok Lane, off road of Burma Road, it is the road belong to Cheah family, build by Cheah Leong Kah in 1928. I heard Cheah and Kee family can stay there.
May be you are belong to the family. But please join Cheah Kongsi to know your root. As Penang guy who love Penang history, we should join our clan house, otherwise another cultural heritage will be lost soon.

Thanks for your interest in your root.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,
This is kp Cheah, in case you were wondering, there are 2 Cheah Kong Si in Penang. The older one is in Armenian street, and the second one is located in Pangkor lane near Burma road. Both are friendly to each other and often have functions together. I happened to be one of the legal advisors for one of the Kongsi.

As for the ownership of the building, Penang Guy Lee (one of the commentators)is right to say that it had changed hand(s), and i do feel strongly about preserving the origin of the building......

It is architectually one of the most beautiful building in Penang, let alone carrying one of the most extra-ordinary historical romance of our time (or rather our grandparents' time), the building was, as i was told, the dowry of the only daughter of a very rich Mr. Cheah, Ms Cheah (the daughter) subsequently allowed her husband to part ownership just to collect enough fund for Mr Sun Yet Sen to liberate China from Qing dynasty in 1911.

Mr Sun Yet Sen was in the building (and often moving around the vincinity hiding from spies & kidnappers sent by Qing Emperess)before it was sold to collect revolutionary fund for New China.

This building was the one of the foundation for Malaysia & China's history, it would really make a good museum or ambassy to commemorate the sacrifies of the Malayan people for Malaysia and interestingly, for China.

I can be contacted if anyone is seriously interested in saving this building from ruin, but your participation must be practical. My email as below:

Anonymous said...

Shih Chung is my school .... but the new one in Bayan Baru. Great to see the old photos of my school at Georgetown

Christopher Cheah said...

Hi All,

For those who really want to know our great great ancestors, you are welcome visit our Cheah Si Hock Haw Kong Kongsi at:
No.8, Armenian Street,
10200 Penang.

Should you need an assist, you can contact 04-261 3837

At there, you are able to know the name of the founder of the Association and more details.

Weng said...

Was it ever used as a kindergarten. I remembered going to one some time in 1950s..called Stamford school. Later it became a private cum commercial school. Maybe I got the wrong building, perhaps another bungalow nearby but on the same road which was known as "Um loh" (dark road) or road of mistresses.

yean said...

anyone know when was the Shih Chung Branch School abandoned??izzit during the urbanisation of Penang Island in year 2000 or?

Patch and Crack Collections said...

To Weng,
Actuall is called Ang Mo Lor (American Road).

To Yean,
For further info, pls visit

dr.danny said...

Hello, my mother is Cheah Phaik Cheng, and i was told,my grandfather was cheah chen eok, Cheah Tek Soon (of Tek Soon Street) was probably my granduncle..i am currently living in the US. I don't know if this info will help. I vaguely remember my mother showing me the old family mansion on kalawei road also.
Dr. K.L. Lim

Quah, Seng-Sun said...

Greetings to everyone who had commented in this thread. As the writer of this blog, I would like to ask whether anyone knows who was the wife of Cheah Chen Eok. I would be very interested to learn of her full name. All that I know so far is that she was a daughter of Foo Thye Sin.