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Old Uncle And Aunt Comes-A-Visiting ("Chinese Story" Blog Contest)

Popularity 2Viewed 4198 times 2016-10-24 22:32 |System category:Life| Chinese, Story, Blog, Contest, 2016

My elderly uncle and aunt from China's Yuxi in Yunnan Province, have just visited my family who are currently living on the beautiful island of Penang, in Malaysia. It was such a pleasure to see them again after my last visit to their home and I was honored to show my favorite uncle and aunt around Penang Island, which is my old hometown. A brief history of the Island is abstracted from wikipedia, and some photographs will bring back old history to life, if you are so inclined to imagine it!

(Source: Wikipedia)

The State of Penang in Malaysia is named after Penang Island, which was named after the areca nut palm translated as Pinang in Malay. The Siamese, then the overlord of the Kedah Sultanate, referred to the island as Koh Maak in Thai, meaning areca nut palm island. In the 15th century, admiral Zheng He of Ming China called the island Binláng Yù in his navigational drawings. At the time, Ming China was launching naval expeditions that would eventually sail all the way to Africa.

In 1786, under the instructions of the British East India Company, which was seeking to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade in South-east Asia and to establish trade relations in the Malay Peninsula, the adventurer/entrepreneur Captain Francis Light landed on the island of Penang on July 17. Light saw Penang Island as a "convenient magazine for trade", and its strategic location could be utilized by the Royal Navy as a repair base. Furthermore, by gaining control of the island, the British would be able to check Dutch and French territorial gains in South-east Asia. At that point, Penang Island was part of the Kedah Sultanate, which faced Siamese and Burmese threats. Taking advantage of the situation, Light brokered with the Sultan of Kedah regarding the cession of Penang Island to the British East India Company in exchange for British military protection. Once an agreement was signed between Light and the Sultan, Light returned to Penang Island on 11 August. The Union Jack was then raised, signifying the formal possession of the island by the British East India Company "in the name of His Britannic Majesty, King George III". Penang Island was renamed the Prince of Wales Island after the heir to the British throne, while a new settlement, named George Town in honor of King George III, was created at the island's north-eastern tip. 

The new settlement of George Town was built out of a swamp. As Fort Cornwallis was being constructed, Light also encouraged immigrants by promising them as much land as they could clear and by reportedly firing silver dollars from his ship's cannons deep into the jungle. Many early settlers, including Light himself in 1794, succumbed to malaria, earning early Penang the epithet "the white man's grave". He also introduced George Town as a free port, enticing traders from Dutch ports in the region. The number of incoming vessels rose from 85 in 1786 to 3,569 in 1802; George Town's population had also increased to 10,000 by 1792. Francis Light is honored as the founding father of Penang, and at Fort Cornwallis built at the spot where Light had first set foot, a statue of him stands in his honor.

At the start of World War I in 1914, an Imperial German Navy cruiser sank two Allied warships off the northern coast of Penang Island. 147 French and Russian sailors were killed, while the others were rescued by local Malay fishermen. The Cenotaph in George Town was built in honor of fallen Allied servicemen of World War I.
World War II, on the other hand, brought unprecedented social and political upheaval to Penang. Japanese warplanes indiscriminately strafed and bombed George Town. Penang Island fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on 19 December 1941, marking the start of a brutal period of Japanese occupation. This period was especially renowned for the Imperial Japanese Army's massacres of Penang's Chinese populace, also known as Sook Ching to the locals. 

At the turn of the century, George Town, with her large population of Chinese immigrants, was a natural place for the Chinese nationalist Sun Yat-sen to raise funds for his revolutionary efforts in Qing China. These frequent visits culminated in the famous 1910 Penang conference which paved the way to the ultimately triumphant Wuchang uprising that overthrew the Manchu government. The 1910 Penang conference was a meeting held in Penang 404 Dato' Kramat road on November 13, 1910 by Sun Yat-sen to stage a major revolt to take place in Guangzhou. A financial goal was set to raise at least $100,000 among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia Nanyang. The new army of Guangdong was to be the main force of the revolt. After this meeting, Sun would leave Penang for North America, United States. There are multiple possible causes on why he was banned. One reason was that he was ordered by the British colonial authorities to leave Penang because of his public criticism of British colonial rule. Another reason was that Straits administrator John Anderson ordered him to be banned because of inflammatory speech to incite support for his anti-Manchu revolutions on November 26, 1910 at a Chinese club.

Today, George Town along with Malacca City in Malacca State, has been accorded jointly in 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a recognition of the conservation efforts to protect the "unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia". The subsequent sprucing up of George Town and strict measures to improve traffic flow, pedestrianisation and environmental aspects by the state government also led to George Town being ranked the 8th most livable city in Asia by ECA International in 2010.

George Town has also received numerous international accolades, further putting the city on the world stage. In 2016, George Town was recommended as one of the 16 must-see destinations by the Los Angeles Times, as well as one of the top ten by the Lonely Planet. Forbes has also listed George Town as one of the best budget tourist destinations in 2016. These are in addition to Penang Island's reputation as a gastronomic haven, with the CNN placing the city as one of Asia's best street food cities.


Tropical Spice Garden

Butterfly Farm

Fort Cornwallis

Francis Light Statue

Fort Cornwallis

Bom Shelter

Georgetown Old Street

The 1910 Penang Conference was held in this town house (now Sun Yat-Sen Muzeum). Former President Hu Jing Tao of China visited this Muzeum in 2002.

Gurney Drive

Kek Lok Si Pagoda. (Photo taken by my friend Lynn)

Former funicular railway station base to Penang Hill, now modernized. (Photo taken by my friend Lynn)

View from Penang Hill. (Photo taken by my friend Lynn)

View of sunset from western hill of island.

Penang Marina. (Photo taken by my friend Lynn)

Colonial building lights up at night. (Photo taken by my friend Lynn)

A Chinese temple.

Thai eclining Buddha.

Snake temple

Areca nut palm tree in background, from which Penang Island is named.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (4 comments)

Reply Report voice_cd 2016-10-26 09:03
thanks for sharing here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report snowipine 2016-10-26 09:41
I used half an hour to access this page, it makes me think I should get a new computer soon after.

Have been knowing penang long ago, but it's first time i know its histroy connecting with Mr Sun Zhongshan, it is also the first time i have a closer look about the Penang virtually presented by your photos, thanks.
Reply Report waterdroplets 2016-10-26 19:47
Thank you, voice_cd,
Reply Report waterdroplets 2016-10-26 19:48
snowipine, you're welcome!

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