Khoo Salma Nasution

Khoo Su Nin 邱思妮 @ Khoo Salma Nasution

Author, publisher, social historian, heritage advocate and cultural entrepreneur.


Short resume

I am a fifth generation Penang peranakan and an author, publisher and heritage advocate. I have written or co-written more than a dozen books on Penang and Perak, on the subjects of social history, cultural heritage and sustainable development. Some of them are published under my publishing house, Areca Books ( I was president of Penang Heritage Trust and am currently custodian of the Sun Yat Sen Museum, Penang, at 120 Armenian Street. I have been involved in sustainability initiatives, cultural entrepreneurship and capacity building for heritage networks in Southeast Asia.


Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

1981 A.B. Duke Scholarship, Duke University, 1981

2001 UNESCO–LEAP Special Achievement Award

2003 Certificate of Exceptional Accomplishment, World Monuments Fund

2004 Asian Public Intellectual (API) Fellow awarded by the Nippon Foundation

2011 Nominated to Malaysian Women’s Weekly Great Women of Our Time award (based on sms poll) and won ‘Most Inspiring Woman 2011’ as a ‘social historian’.

2015 ICAS Book Prize, Colleague’s Choice Award for her book The Chulia in Penang: Patronage and Place-Making around the Kapitan Kling Mosque 1786-1857, Penang; Areca Books, 2014



As a heritage advocate (see below)

As a publisher and author (see below)



Penang Heritage Trust

Khoo Salma is past president of the Penang Heritage Trust, a non-profit non-governmental organisation with tax-exempt status for heritage preservation. She has been involved with the organisation as Honorary Secretary (1989–2003) and then as President (2009–2015). George Town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site after a 10 year campaign by the Penang Heritage Trust.


Penang Story
From 2001, spearheaded Penang Heritage Trust’s successful ‘Penang Story’ project to showcase the local histories of Penang. This culminated in an international conference in 2002. Since 2010, the new chapter of this project features a series of Penang Story Lectures highlighting Penang’s role in regional and global history, with a special focus on Penang and the Indian Ocean.


Hands-On Conservation Projects

1993–1994,  Project Manager, Syed Alatas Mansion pilot restoration supported by federal, Penang state, MPPP and French Embassy, working with Didier Repellin, chief architect of historic monuments, Lyon. The restoration was recognized with an award from Badan Warisan Malaysia.

1993–present, Custodian, Sun Yat Sen Penang Base, 120 Armenian Street, involved in progressive restoration from 1993 to present. She mobilized the family to save her maternal grandfather’s ‘dwelling house’ (like a shophouse, but for residential use) at 120 Armenian Street, which is linked to the history of Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Coordinated the restoration, which was completed in January 1994, and was perhaps the first restoration projects undertaken in Penang local traditional artisans and traditional materials. In 2010, this house was further conserved with a Think City grant to restore the façade using craftsmen from China to carry out the traditional painting and cut-and-paste shardwork, and renewing the roof.


Asian Heritage Network

In 1991, she co-founded of Asia & West Pacific Network for Urban Conservation (AWPNUC) and organised a number of international workshops. The network was reconvened in an international symposium in January in 2013 and is now called the Asian Heritage Network.


Lestari Heritage Network

Partner of Lestari Heritage Network founded in 2004, as a consultant for cultural heritage projects and as a pro-bono facilitator for furthering heritage networking in Asia.  Asian Heritage Network:

With the Penang Heritage Trust, Lestari undertook a project called Revitalizing Intangible Cultural Heritage (RICH) for George Town World Heritage Incorporated, to compile an intangible cultural heritage (ICH) inventory for the George Town World Heritage Site in 2012 (arts, crafts and traditional trades) and 2013 (traditional cultural and religious festivals).


Sun Yat Sen Museum

Custodian of the Sun Yat Sen Museum (formerly called the Sun Yat Sen Penang Base), a historic house associated with the ‘founder of the modern China’. She started restoring this house in 1993. The importance of this house has gained international recognition over the years. Famous visitors: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Hu Jintao, Gareth Evans, Peter Carey, Gurmit Singh (Phua Chu Kang), Winston Zhao, Victor Sun and Leland Sun (leaders of Sun clan), and the Governor of Bangkok M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra.


Little Penang Street Market

Co-founder and committee member of the Little Penang Street Market (under Penang Arts Council), a day-long arts and crafts market which takes place on the last Sunday of each month, bringing creative arts and performers to their market and their audience. Little Penang Street Market.



Founding coordinator, Sustainable Penang Initative: Creating State–Society Partnerships for Sustainable Development, 1997–1999.

Founding coordinator, Penang Global Ethic Project, 2006.  This project helped to establish the ‘Street of Harmony’ in George Town, Penang, which was celebrated in a poem by Dr. Abdul Kalam, former president of India, entitled ‘The great city of Harmony’.

Spearheaded the planting of 10 Penaga Laut trees (Callophyllum inophyllum) along the Esplanade to mark the UNESCO world heritage listing of George Town.



Areca Books

Partner of a publishing enterprise called Areca Books founded in 2005. Areca Books has six titles listed on the National Book Council’s ‘50 Best Malaysian Titles’ – four books in 2011 and two books in 2013.



Books & Journals (for book reviews, please see website

Author or co-author of 15 books, most of them on Penang, a few on Perak, on the subjects of social history, cultural heritage and sustainable development.

Khoo Su Nin (2004, first published 1993). Author and photographer of Streets of George Town, Penang: A Guide to Penang’s Historic & Cultural Attractions. Penang: Areca Books (fourth edition).

Khoo Salma Nasution (1997). Heritage Habitat: A Source Book for The Urban Conservation Movement in Asia & The Pacific, Penang: Asia & West Pacific Network for Urban Conservation.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1998). Author & photographer for pilot edition only, The Real Guide: Penang Complete Visitor Handbook. Penang: Coda Designs.

Khoo Salma Nasution, (1999) Anonymous compiler and editor, The Sustainable Penang Initiative: Penang People’s Report. Penang: Socio-Economic & Environmental Research Intitute (SERI), 1999, and drafted the vision statements for Ecological Sustainability, Social Justice, Economic Productivity, Cultural Vibrancy and Ecological Sustainability reproduced in the report.

Abdur-Razzaq Lubis & Khoo Salma Nasution (2003). Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak, 1875–1911 Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS monograph).

Khoo Salma Nasution & Malcolm Wade (2006, first published 2003). Penang Postcard Collection 1899–1930s. Penang: Areca Books (second edition).

Khoo Salma Nasution & Abdur-Razzaq Lubis (2005). Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia’s Modern Development.Ipoh: Perak Academy.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2006). More Than Merchants: A History of the German-Speaking Community in Penang, 1800s–1940s. Penang: Areca Books.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2008). Sun Yat Sen in Penang. Penang: Areca Books. (Also Chinese versions, translated by Tan Yau Chong).

Khoo Salma Nasution (2009), Heritage Houses of Penang. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish.

Yeoh Seng Guan, Loh Wei Leng, Khoo Salma Nasution & Neil Khor (2009). Editors, Penang and Its Region. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Khoo Salma Nasution, Alison Hayes & Sehra Yeap Zimbulis, (2010). Giving Our Best: The Story of St George’sGirls’ School, Penang, 1885–2010. Penang: Areca Books.

Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Malcolm Wade & Khoo Salma Nasution (2010). Perak Postcards 1890s–1940s. Penang, Areca Books.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2014). The Chulia in Penang, Patronage and Place-making around the Kapitan Kling Mosque, 17861957. Penang: Areca Books.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2015). Redoubtable Reformer: The Life and Times of Cheah Cheang Lim. Penang: Areca Books.


Book Chapters

Chapters in both popular and academic books. Some articles are downloadable at

Khoo Salma Nasution, (2002). ‘The Rich Legacy of the Jawi Pekans’ in Khor, Neil (writer) and Das, Malini (editor), Glimpses of Old Penang. Petaling Jaya: Star Publications, pp. 43–47.

Khoo Salma Nasution, (2002). ‘The Tamil Muslims – Weaving a Tale of Success’ in Khor, Neil (writer) and Das, Malini (editor), Glimpses of Old Penang. Petaling Jaya: Star Publications, pp. 67–69.
Khoo Salma Nasution and Gwynn Jenkins (2002). ‘George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia: Development Strategies and Community Realities’ in William S. Logan (editor), The Disappearing ‘Asian’ City: Protecting Asia’s Urban Heritage in a Globalizing World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2009). ‘The Tamil Muslims in Early Penang: Networks for a Global Frontier’, in Straits Muslims: Diasporas of the Northern Passage of the Straits of Malacca. George Town: Straits G.T. of Intersocietal and Scientific (INAS), pp 97–120.

Khoo Salma Nasution, (2010). ‘Curating the Sun Yat Sen Penang Base’, in Leo Suryadinata (editor), Peranakan Chinese in a Globalizing Southeast Asia, Singapore: Chinese Heritage Centre, pp. 170–184.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2010). ‘The “Street of Harmony” in the George Town World Heritage Site’, in Francois Ruegg, Andrea Boscoboinik (editors), From Palermo to Penang: A Journey into Political Anthropology. Berlin: Lit Verlag, pp. 283–295.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2012), ‘George Town, Penang: Managing a Multicultural World Heritage Site’, in Francis E. Hutchinson & Johan Saravanamuttu, Catching the Wind: Penang in a Rising Asia (Penang Studies Series), Penang: Penang Institute and Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp 20–41.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2013). ‘Exploring Shared Histories, Preserving Shared Heritage: Penang’s Links to a Siamese Past’, in Chris Baker (editor), Protecting Siam’s Heritage. Chiang Mai: The Siam Society/Silkworm Books, pp. 295–322.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2014). ‘George Town: The Discreet Charm of Rejuvenated Heritage’, in Winter, Tim and Logan, William (eds), Australia Icomos Historic Environment, Vol 26, No 3, pp. 40–49.


Scholarly Journal Articles & Published Papers

Contributed articles published in scholarly journals or as conference proceedings.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Dec 2001). The Sustainable Penang Initiative, Creating State–Society Partnerships for Sustainable Development. London: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Download

Khoo Salma Nasution (2002). ‘Colonial Intervention and Transformation of Muslims Waqf Settlements in Urban Penang: The Role of the Endowments Board’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 2, October 2002, pp. 266–315. This article was based on a paper presented at the Malaysian Studies Conference in 1999.

Khoo Su Nin (Salma) Nasution. ‘Once Upon a Time in Phuket: Changing Identities Among the Baba Chinese and Thai Muslims in a Tourist Paradise’. Reflections on the Human Condition: Change, Conflict and Modernity, The Work of the 2004/2005 API Fellows, pp. 24–38. Published on the API website

Khoo Salma Nasution (2008). ‘George Town as an Open Museum?: Community Efforts in Conservation and Interpretation’ in RARC International Conference 2008: Knowledge Infrastructure Management for Tourism,Penang, Malaysia 3–4 November 2008. Niiza-City: RIKKYO Amusement Research Centre, Tourism Project Research Series

Khoo Salma Nasution (2009). ‘Hokkien Chinese on the Phuket Mining Frontier: The Penang Connection and the Emergence of the Phuket Baba Community’, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JMBRAS) Vol. 82, Part 2, pp. 81–112.

Khoo Salma Nasution (September 2011). ‘Tamil Muslims in the Penang Port, 1900–1940’, paper presented at the Penang & the Indian Ocean: An International conference. Published on the Think City website.


Magazines & Newsletters

Editor of Pulau Pinang Magazine in the early part of her career and continues to contribute to magazines and newsletters.

Khoo Su Nin (1989–1992). Editor, photographer, researcher, feature writer, Pulau Pinang Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 1–6; Vol 2. No. 1–6; Vol 3. No. 1, published by Georgetown Printers, Penang, 1989–1992.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1997). The 5th Column: The Soul of Cities, Far Eastern Economic Review.

Khoo Salma Nasution, (1997–2000). Editor, Asia & West Pacific Network for Urban Conservation (AWPNUC) Newsletter.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1998–2000, 2002). Editor, Penang Heritage Trust Newsletter.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Autumn 1999). ‘Social Integration: Penang – Creating A City For All’, Asia Urbs Magazine, Brussels, No. 2.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Oct 2000). ‘George Town at a Historic Crossroads’, International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Newsletter No. 23.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Oct–Dec 2008) ‘The Challenge of World Heritage Listing’, in Heritage Asia, pp. 26–33.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Jan 2010). ‘Studying Others and Staying Unique’, Penang Economic Monthly, pp. 32–36.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Jul 2010). ‘Baba Nyonya Culture in Penang and Phuket’, Penang Economic Monthly. pp. 50–53.

Khoo Salma Nasution (Summer 2011). ‘George Town: A Historic Urban Landscape in Southeast Asia’. International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Newsletter No. 57. p 43.


Heritage Maps & Brochures

Pioneered the production of heritage maps in Malaysia, producing the first one in 1992 and the most recent in 2010.

Khoo Su Nin (1992). Author & designer, Penang’s Historic Melting Pot heritage map published by MPPP, Penang.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1994). Author, American Express Heritage Trail, signage and brochure, Penang.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1997). Co-author & designer, Taiping: Town of Everlasting Peace, heritage map, Taiping Municipal Council, Taiping.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1999). Author, American Express Heritage Trail 2.

Khoo Salma Nasution (1999). Co-author & designer, Ipoh, Perak: The City That Tin Built, heritage map, Perak State Government, Ipoh.

Khoo Salma Nasution, (2000). Co-author & designer, Lebuh Acheh & Lebuh Armenian, Wadah Tumpuan Warisan Budaya, published by Pusat Warisan Pulau Pinang. Penang Heritage Trust edition 2002.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2006). Author, World Religions Walk, published by Lestari Heritage Network. Republished as Street of Harmony, 2008.

Khoo Salma Nasution (2009). Author, George Town Heritage Map, designed by Panca Designs and published by Areca Books. Reprinted 2010.



Married to Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, with three children, one dog and one cat.