December 25, 2011

Miss Tourism International visit Blue Mansion

During their visit to historical George Town in Penang, the beauties of Miss Tourism International 2011 had the chance to witness the fascinating Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, also known as “the Blue Mansion”.  The mansion was originally built with careful attention to the principles of Feng Shui.
This grand house was built in the 1890s for Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1917), the preeminent Chinese businessman of his era. Born in the small village of Tai Pu in the Teochew district of China, Cheong Fatt Tze showed little promise in his youth, and a spiteful uncle joked that he would hang lanterns in front of his house upside down (an unforgivable act) if Cheong ever achieved fame. The uncle was forced to carry this out when Cheong became rich.

Cheong Fatt Tze's almost burdensome treasure trove of occupational hats - financier, tycoon, diplomat, politician, philanthropist and minister - not to mention his numerous, calling-card cramping unofficial monikers - 'Rockefeller of the East', 'J.P Morgan of China' and 'Last Mandarin & First Capitalist of China' - belie his decidedly unencumbered beginnings.

As a 16 year-old Hakka in 1856, Cheong followed the route of many Chinese fortune seekers, heading to the Southeast Asian region known as Nanyang, or 'Land of Opportunity'. Penniless, armed only with determination and a driving need to prove himself, Cheong struggled through sheer hard work and enterprise to epitomize the typical rags-to-riches story. Rising from being a 'bearer of river water' in his early years to a 'one-man multinational conglomerate', Cheong's ascent was aided by a merchant father-in-law who perceived potential in the young man, whom he helped establish in the business world.

Captain Of Captains Of Industry
Throwing himself headlong into the world of business and finance, Cheong Fatt Tze invested in banks, glassworks, cattle and textiles - almost all of which proved to be lucrative ventures. As his empire grew, he began operating steamships, eventually inaugurating a trans-Pacific shipping line between China and the United States. His was certainly a success story of which legends are made.

And the legend could certainly afford to 'toast' his tremendous successes, as, after developing a passion for European wines, Cheong Fatt Tze went on to establish his very own winery in 1892. Founded in China's Shantung province, Chang Yu Winery specialized in producing the very Western wines Cheong Fatt Tze adored. Still in operation today, the winery supplies up to 25% of all Western wines consumed in the founder's homeland, making it the county's most successful Western wine producer. A virtual household name, Chang Yu Winery also produces popular brands of Chinese herbal wines.

Though a voracious globetrotter, Cheong Fatt Tze was still very much a nationalist at heart - as demonstrated by chairing of the Nanyang movement to China - which helped in the establishment of modern banks, to the realization of capital for funding railroads and technical institutions in his motherland. His efforts were recognized by the Manchu Empress Dowager, who promoted him to Mandarin of the Highest Order and Special Trade Commissioner for Southeast Asia.

In 1896, he established several Chinese banks before returning to China to handle the ministry of Commerce, as well as the railway services of the country. In 1901, Cheong was promoted to Deputy Minister, rising to be a full minister a year later. In 1911, he became a senator in parliament and advised the Chinese government on administrative and trade matters.

Candid Cheong
Displaying an apparent comfortable ease in both Asian traditions and the Western world, Cheong Fatt Tze surrounded himself with manifestation of his success. Splendid mansions were dotted around Asia - along with (8 officially acknowledged) wives, concubines and hand-maidens to meet his needs. The number of children he fathered during his lifetime is unclear, though he officially acknowledged 8 sons and 6 daughters.

He died of pneumonia in Jakarta on September 11th, 1916 - an event which occasioned the British and Dutch authorities to order the lowering of flags to half-mast.

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