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  • Syiva Zahra

The Blueprint to Tjong A Fie's Success

Indonesia has a lot of remaining houses of heritage, one of them being the Tjong A Fie mansion. This mansion was originally owned by Tjong A Fie, a successful businessperson, banker, and captain who immigrated from China. A historical tourist destination in Medan, this house was built with the art-deco, Chinese, European, Malay, and Malay architectural styles. Through photographs, paintings, and household items used by his family, visitors can discover the history of Tjong A Fie's life in this home and learn more about Malay-Chinese culture. Built in 1895, the 35-room, 2-story mansion, referred to as "a historical jewel in Medan," is often thought to be the secret behind the success of its owner.

Tjong A Fie was named Majoor der Chineezen in 1911 to guide the expanding Chinese community in Medan in place of his deceased brother, Tjong Yong Hian. At that time, Tjong Yong Hian was already fairly established in Medan, receiving several royal distinctions from the Dutch Royal government, including the Orde van de Oranje-Nassau honor, for his keen ability to work with and bring much peace to the community. The Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen was also founded by him.

The two brothers saw tremendous success in their respective businesses. As they forged close ties with the Dutch authorities at the time, they were also gaining influence between the Sultanate of Deli, Chinese businessmen in Sumatra and elsewhere. The ChaoChow and Sukow Railway was the first railroad in China to be financed and constructed by overseas Chinese. It was built in 1906 by Tjong A Fie, his brother Tjong Yong Hian, and Cheong Fatt Tze (of Penang). The Tjong brothers received numerous awards from the Chinese Imperial Government as a result of their numerous contributions to charitable causes in Guangdong. The Tjong brothers were promoted by Empress Dowager CiXi to the rank of Mandarin. Hong Kong University awarded Tjong A Fie an honorary doctorate in 1907.

It is thought that Tjong A Fie's success is a result of the building being built according to feng shui principles. The technique used was called "Ba Zhai," which means "Eight Houses" or "Eight Mansions" in English. This is in accordance with Tjong A Fie mansion because Ba Zhai refers to eight houses, each of which has a distinct location on a map (e.g., north, north east, north west, etc.), and Tjong A Fie's mansion has numerous rooms and is divided into a few wings. Unfortunately, it's no longer in use because the furniture is constantly moved around the house and the room's layout no longer follows the original Feng Shui principles.

Through the main huge wooden door, Tjong A Fie welcomed honored guests on the ground floor of the mansion. The floor to ceiling gilded wood paneled wall in the Main Hall is exquisitely carved in Chinese style and is ornately decorated. The side rooms on the main hall are the Malay room and the Chinese room. One can see into the inner sanctum and out towards the family temple from beyond the "Well of Heaven" courtyard's open air space. On the first and fifteenth days of the lunar month, the descendants of Tjong A Fie still pray for their ancestors in this courtyard.

There are two large, long rooms on the sides of the ancestral temple. One is the late Tjong A Fie's bedroom, which features his actual, intricately carved mahogany bed, silk attire, and period artifacts. The 1910s are easily evoked in this tastefully decorated room. The family's dining room with its large table is found beyond these two rooms and the ancestral temple. Off to the side of the dining room, in the back corner of the mansion, is the spacious kitchen with its period-authentic pestle and mortar stones.

The Kwan Ti Kong temple and the Ballroom are located in the mansion's public area on the second floor. These carefully planned spaces feature artistic architectural details. The family of Tjong A Fie lived in the two side wings of the mansion most of the time. One side wing is still being used as a private residence at the moment. The other side-wing is a portion of the museum area where old and Peranakan artifacts are displayed.

The United States Government, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, and the U.S. Consulates in Medan are proud to support its preservation through a grant given to the Mansion by The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). Nowadays, this mansion gained a lot of attention due to the emergence of digital promotions, and their authenticity. This is a great place to visit, especially those who are interested in history and architecture because if you observe closely, this mansion holds more than just heritage, but also a blueprint to its owner’s abundance of success.


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