GEORGE TOWN, July 7 — Dating back to the late 19th century, intricately decorated covered pots known as the Kam Cheng have been the vessels that presided over important ceremonies of the Straits Chinese such as birthdays, weddings and funerals.
Now, though some Peranakan families may still use the Kam Cheng passed down from their ancestors, these covered pots are slowly being collected.
Antique collector and founder of George Town Heritage Hotels (GTHH), Chris Ong, said he has been buying up Kam Cheng to keep these porcelain pots in Penang.
He said the Kam Cheng is part of the gilded age of the Peranakan culture in Penang and it has been his life mission to educate the public on the history of the Peranakan culture.
“Penang is my hometown, I would rather do this in my hometown than in any other city where I have no emotional connection with,” he said during a preview of the exhibition.
A total 122 Kam Cheng from Ong’s collection will be displayed in glass cabinets and four opium beds at the reception area of Seven Terraces.
Ong said he wanted to share the stories behind his Peranakan collection in the exhibition, which was also held in conjunction with the George Town Heritage Day celebrations on July 7.
The Kam Cheng cache is the most important collection among his antiques that he felt most passionate about, he added.
The Kam Cheng were used as vessels to hold the longan and red date tea served to relatives by the newlyweds during the tea ceremony of Peranakan weddings and it was used to serve tang yuen or glutinous rice balls to the bride on the wedding eve.
The Kam Cheng was also used to serve bird’s nest soup to the groom from the bride’s family to welcome him especially if the groom marries into the bride’s family and accepts the use of the bride’s family name for their first offspring.
The Kam Cheng was then brought out again to serve nasi kunyit and chicken curry for the month-old celebrations of newborns.
The word Kam Cheng is also a homonym where it means covered pot in Hokkien and also can mean gratitude or love.
The Kam Cheng on display in the exhibition include the blue and white collection, the mini Kam Cheng collection and many more.
The Kam Cheng Cache exhibition at Seven Terraces in Stewart Lane is open to public from 12pm to 6pm on July 7 and 8.