111 Heeren Street is the ancestral home of two Malacca-born leaders who played pivotal roles in shaping Malaysia’s history. Detailed narratives accompanied by luscious watercolours provide for a highly enjoyable virtual tour of the house.
The Ancestral Home of Tun Tan Siew Sin – once known as 111 Heeren Street – is a veritable homage to Peranakan culture and a classic representation of a Malaccan Baba house. Every facet of the structure tells a story centered around Peranakan art, lifestyle and traditions, such as the Confucian ritual of ancestral remembrance, where it is still observed and clearly expressed. It’s location is in the heart of Malacca’s vibrant Heeren Street, which has since been renamed Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, in recognition of its most famous occupant. Both Tan Cheng Lock and his son Tun Tan Siew Sin played pivotal roles in the history of the nation and contributed greatly to its growth and development. Although the house is said to be ‘architecturally indistinguishable’ from its neighbours, its historical cachet alone makes it Malacca’s equivalent of London’s 10 Downing Street or Paris’s 31 Rue Cambon!
“Architecturally, the most distinctive feature of the house is the three courtyards” writes Tan Siok Choo. “Open to the sky, the courtyards break up the house into sections. Allowing light and air to enter the secluded space, the courtyards create a rhythm of light and shade inside the house.”
The mansion was purchased in 1875 by a family scion, Tan Choon Bock, the grandfather of Tan Cheng Lock, for 9,500 Straits dollars. Upon his death five years later, the house was bequeathed to his third son Keong Ann. Its present owner is Cheng Lock’s granddaughter, Tan Siok Choo, the co-author of Ancestral Home of Tun Tan Siew Sin. This, of course, is a quick gallop through the long and colourful history of the house – a more detailed account can be found in the third chapter of the book. Another chapter takes the reader on a virtual and intimate promenade of the house, from the façade to the covered porch, first hall, rooms, furniture and fittings, three courtyards, the Hall of Filial Remembrance and more. Extensive research by Chen Voon Fee highlights several Dutch architectural characteristics of the house. The most arresting feature of this book, however, are the stunning lifelike watercolours by artist Chin Kon Yit, which serve as the perfect accompaniment to the detailed narrative. Aesthetically pleasing, these paintings are also architecturally accurate and highlights some details often overlooked by visitors to the ancestral home.
About the authors: Ms. Tan Siok Choo is a lawyer by training, a columnist by inclination and currently chairperson of United Malacca Berhad. She worked for 10 years as a business and economic journalist and spent another 10 years in the financial sector. She is currently a columnist with The Sun. The late Chen Voon Fee was an architect by profession and one of the prime movers behind the founding of Badan Warisan Malaysia. He authored Malacca Sketchbook and edited The Encyclopedia of Malaysia Vol. 5: Architecture.