Wednesday, 12 October 2011


                         The Zhou Mansion as how it looked in early 80s
                       The Mansion possessed the unmistakably distinctive
                         characteristics of Peranakan heritage design in its
                    fittings and fixtures. It exemplified the Nanyang features
                                     in its aesthetic outlook and values.        
              The side view of the 10 rooms old building

It was the Zhou clan's family  residence since the 1930s when the first immigrant of the Zhou clan - Chuan Heng bought the mansion from a rubber merchant whose business failed, probably due to over spending whilst building the mansion. Completed in 1923, The Zhou Mansion stood majestically along a straight road leading to the centre of one of the medium sized Towns named Maharani in Johore, with a front facade occupying the width of three shop lots, and a further half lot on the right side of the building as car porch. Two stone-carved lions sat atop each side of the heavy Iron Gate, gazing with protruding eye-balls at residents and visitors streaming in and out for over 70 years. Measuring about 6,000 sq. ft in its area and a height of 50 ft as a double storey structure, the Zhou Mansion was a conspicuous landmark in Maharani during those early years when high rise buildings were few and cars were scarce. The building stood there stoically through those difficult, pioneering years, withstood the onslaught of the Japanese occupation in Malaya, and witnessed the change of public administration from colonial to the birth of a new nation. During the warring years of the Japanese occupation, the invading force turned the mansion into their commanding quarter for the region. After their defeat and subsequent withdrawal, the building was in ruins. A few extensive repairs and renovations were carried out eventually to bring back some of its glorious outlook.
                      An unique design with a valuable and practical, 
                         large air well that provided natural lighting
As the town grew and prospered, shopping complex at the rear towered over the old looking building.
By the time 40 year old Andrew took over the helm of the family heirloom as head of the third generation of the Zhou Clan after the demise of his father, the Mansion looked old and run-down. Coupled with occasional flooding at the ground level due to its vicinity near the river, it smelled like a riverine warehouse twice a month during the high tides; its glorious hey-days were gone.  In late 90s the Zhou family had a meeting among the family members and they decided unanimously to have their mansion rebuilt to give it a modern, contemporary outlook. A loan and some overdraft facility were secured soon from a bank to finance the project. A building contractor was engaged to undertake the works and it should take about 9 months to complete.

Indonesian construction workers walked on scaffolding
                               precariously while carrying out their works
Steel and concrete are indispensable materials
to strengthen the structure of a new building

Mat and Din were among a group of Indonesian construction workers enlisted to do the initial demolition works. It was a hard, laborious, strenuous and dangerous job. They stood on horizontal beams to remove the roofing tiles, and sat on the beams to hammer the walls into broken pieces. With each falling brick going down, they were in even more precarious situation as their footing might give way. This went on for about a week; they considered themselves lucky as no one suffered major injury.

                                          A hand drawn portrait of the stout
                                      looking towkay of The Mansion

Then one night Mat gave a frightening wail in his nightmare, waking up the dead-tired sleeping fellow workers. As everybody was cursing Mat for his uncontrollable yell, Din was seen packing his belongings and leaving the worker quarters. He was pale with inexplicable horror, trembling with fear, staggering his way down the stairs. The next morning fellow workers including Mat found a dejected Din at the mamak stall nearby before they started work. With their Eastern Javanese and Flores dialects in exchange of words, they got to the bottom of what had transpired. It happened that Mat and Din had the same dream the night before, about the same time at 3 am. In the dream they saw a balding old Chinese man, looking very much a towkay in his Zhong Shan dress, rather big in his built, scolding them furiously. In a strong Fujian accent, they heard him saying:' ...apa lu buat kepada rumah saya…?' (What did you do to my house?) Still in his dream, Mat ran away from the approaching, angry towkay and fell from the beam he was standing on. That was the instant when everybody heard his haunting cry. Din had the similar dream except the towkay caught him tight and told him 'balik pulau!' After they had analysed the dream, the group decided to resign en masse; right now they wanted their wages from the contractor before their departure.
I was told that if a construction worker dreamt to have fallen from a height in his sleep, he would not go to work the next day.
        The townhall was silly to order property
                                  owners to paint their shop houses yellow
                                     Nicely lit up in the evening hours

Mansion owner Andrew was promptly informed and told of the incident. When shown a portrait of his grandfather to Mat and Din, both the Indonesians recognized him as the old Towkay accusing them in their dream. After consulting friends, relatives and local temple medium, Andrew brought the grand lady of the mansion, his mother to offer prayer, so as to appease the anger of his ancestor. Work resumed after a delay of a few days; Mat and Din left for a month to go elsewhere to 'cari makan'. They returned to join the work force and stayed till the completion of the project.
A typical Chinese offering for prayer to the ancestors.
It should include dishes of cooked fish, chicken and pork, rice and noodle etc.
For beverage, cans of beer and stout, Chinese Tea etc will make it perfect.

Today the Zhou Mansion stands proudly amid the uneven heights of the Maharani Town skyline; it is a handsome and stylish building, blended with modern and earlier traditional aesthetic features. It attracts lots of attention from motorists driving by. For most people entering the town, it is hard missing it a glance. It has gone through lots of tumultuous events; it withstands the test of time.

                        The front facade of the newly completed three storey
                             building they once called Zhou Mansion

A true story written by
Alan CY Kok           

1 comment:

  1. 这是一个真实的故事?the strory is interesting.Is it a real story? but ,it really attracted me.