Chee Mansion


The facades of old buildings along Heeren Street in Malacca generally share a number of common features: white lime-washed two-or three-storey structures, each with a gently sloping shed-like roof over a passageway forming either a private veranda or a five-foot passageway. The ancestral home of Tan Cheng Lock is a fine example of such a terrace house. Punctuating this harmonious succession of townhouse is a fanciful three-storey building that is set back from the street with a watchtower-like pinnacle atop it. While often called the Chee Mansion, the four characters across the doorway today proclaim that it is the Chee Family Ancestral Hal, commemorating a lineage whose ancestor, Chee Soo Sum, arrived in Malacca in the second half of the eighteenth century from Zhangzhou in China’s Fujian province. Ancestral halls of this type called by Peranakan rumah abu, a loan word from Malay. On the front gate there is four-letter monogram, CYCT, set within concentric circles, standing for “Chee Yam Chuan Temple”. These initials highlight the fact that the shrine does not reach back to the kaijizu or focal (founding) ancestor of the Chee lineage, Chee Soo Sum, but instead to his great-grandson, Chee Yam Chuan, the most notable forebear in the lineage.