IT was a night of merriment for more than 600 Khoo clansmen. Khoos of all ages turned up full force for the centennial celebration of Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi held last week in Penang.
The event which kicked off at around 8pm saw the young and old dressed in their best and ready to sit down to a sumptuous eight-course Chinese dinner under the canopies erected at the courtyard.
At the entrance of the Khoo Kongsi were two lions prancing around to the beat of drums and cymbals awaiting the arrival of Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
Red lanterns were hung at the entrance leading into the courtyard. Their beautiful glow lent a festive atmosphere to the night.
Also present were guests from a 20-man Muslim dele-gation from Ningxia province, China, led by Vice Governor of Ningxia province, Qi Tong-sheng.
During the grand dinner, 64 young Khoo graduates received a plaque each for completing their higher education.
The senior Khoos who were recipients of state awards also received a souvenir each.
”Khoo Kongsi is not only the icon and pride of the Khoo clan.
“The greatness of a community is not only reflected in their architecture but more importantly, in their contribution to society. These activities make the architecture more meaningful and beautiful,” he said.
The current temple is a rebuilt version scaled down in grandeur compared with an earlier magnificent original structure from 1894 to 1901 that was said be as ostentatious as an imperial palace.
The grand original 1894 structure completed by South Fujian master craftsmen in 1901 was destroyed in a “mysterious fire” the same year on Chinese New Year’s eve.
Khoo Kongsi’s reputation went international when in 1999, it became a location site for the shooting of the Holly-wood movie Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.
This contributed to the transition of Khoo Kongsi temple from a place for ancestral worship and clan solidarity to a heritage site and an inter-national tourist attraction
The Khoos migrated from Sin Kang Village in China to Penang from the late 18th century, and involved themselves in various trades.
They formed a close-knit community, took care of each other and gathered on the 5th day of the 5th moon every year to celebrate the birthday of Tua Sai Yah (their patron deity).
Although the clan cele- brated its centennial this year, Penang-based heritage conservation architect and researcher Tan Yeow Wooi said the Khoo Kongsi’s history dates back to 1835 when they founded the Ee Kok Tong as an early form of clan association.
Board of trustees presi- dent Datuk Khoo Keat Siew explained that “like other clan organisations in Penang, the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi was founded primarily to promote clan solidarity and to foster Confucian core values such as filial piety and respect for the elders.”
Leong San Tong and its subclans do not represent every Chinese with the surname Khoo.
Only those whose ancestral origin is from Sin Kang Seah, Sin Aun Village, Sam Toh District, Hai Teng County, Chiang Chew Prefecture and Hokkien Province in China are accepted as members.