Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1917), once dubbed "China's Rockefeller" by the New York Times, built a vast commercial empire in Southeast Asia, first in Indonesia, then in Singapore. He came to Penang in 1890 and continued his success, giving some of his spoils to build schools throughout the region. His mansion, where he lived with his eight wives, was built between 1896 and 1904.

The mansion is a sight to behold. Cheong spent lavishly for Chinese detail that reflects the spirit of his heritage and the fashion of the day, as well as the rules of traditional feng shui. Every corner is dripping with ambience, kitted throughout with stained glass, carved moldings, gilded wood-carved doors, ceramic ornaments, lovely courtyard and gardens, plus seven staircases.

In 2000, the mansion won UNESCO's Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Conservation, so lovingly has this historic treasure been preserved. Guided tours explain the history, personalities, and culture behind the home, plus the details of the conservation efforts. If you're really hooked, accommodation is available.

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