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Penang temples: Cheng Kon Sze

Of all Penang temples the Cheng Kon Sze is maybe one of the most spectacular and oldest ones. It is located further on the hill near the much more famous Kek Lok Si, the Temple of Supreme Bliss.

Cheng Kon Sze temple
Hoover your mouse over the photos I made in 2007
during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival to get a better view


At the entrance of the main prayer hall of Cheng Kon Sze The small temple just below the main temple hall Main prayer hall Inside the oil lamp
Prayers in front of the prayer hall Nine Emperor Gods prayers The Laughing Buddha Prayer Hall Cheng Kon Sze

The first time I visted the Cheng Kon Sze was during the Nine Emperor Gods festival. The temple, a Taoist, is 130 years old and is known as Cheng Jee Can or Cheng Kuan Soo, which means 1200 Steps Temple.

Because it was in the period of the Nine Emperor Gods festival time, it was busy. Many devotees came to the Penang temple to pray and pay respect to the Nine Emperor Gods and his Generals.

The Cheng Kon Sze has a magnificent view over Penang (though during my visit it was a little cloudy), which even shows Butterworth on the main land and on bright days you may see many kilometers further. When you walk up the first thing you see is the entrance gate. Further on the stairs there's a small temple before you reach the main temple.

Cheng Kon Sze
Either by road or by hiking path, it's a steep way up.
In March 2013, I cycled up. This is the lower gate to the temple

The magnificent oil lamp in Cheng Kon Sze temple in PenangLike in the Tow Boo Kon Temple in Butterworth it was a mix of young and old people praying and offering for good luck and prosperity. As I have said it to many people, in these both temples it was probably more Chinese then I have experienced in China itself.

During the Nine Emperor Gods festival many devotees choose to walk up. Because of time issues and the health of Mr. Chandra we choose to use a car but to be honest, next time I am in the opportunity to visit, I will hike up. The forest along the trek is dense and mostly unspoiled and extremely beautiful, wherever you look you see different trees, different colors and birds.

When you come closer to the entrance of the temple the views over Penang become more spectacular.

The main Prayer Hall

Inside it is an atmospheric ambiance. The first thing I saw was the old oil lamp, an amazingly beautiful piece of art which is almost as old as the temple itself: 130 years.

Inside the temple there are statues of the Nine Emperor Gods and his 9 generals. People offering joss sticks which added a special atmosphere.

Other people took two kidney shaped stones with a box of joss sticks and prayed for answers to the gods while shaking the box and throw down the stones.

Cheng Kon Sze

View to the Cheng Kon Sze temple from the lower gate

An interpreter would help them translate the answer given by the gods. You may or may not be a believer, it is impossible not to recognize you are on sacred ground.

View from Cheng Kon Sze

In 2013 I went up again, found the temple closed but it was still worth the effort.

Me at Cheng Kon Sze templeThe statues of the Nine Emperor Gods and his Generals are very old, like the oil lamp. It was a busy place.

After visiting the temple, we had a meal in the temple. Because of the Nine Emperor Gods festival, it was vegetarian and, as already expected, excellent.

I usually enjoy temples the best when it is quiet. This time I enjoyed the Cheng Kon Sze so much because it was so busy! Like in the Tow Boo Kongg Temple in Butterworth the serenity of the temple was once more accentuated by the devotees.

But I have to admit, being alone or with just a few people, would certainly add another dimension to the experience. I will come back.

Getting There

Take a taxi or bus to Air Itam. Follow the path to one of the most popular Penang temple: Kek Lok Si. Behind the Kek Lok Si there's a small road going up to the One Thousand Two Hundred Steps temple.

The road is at first good but soon changes in a pothole road and goes steep up. There are road signs everywhere so you won't get lost.

A hike up takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes depending on your health, it's about 3 km in length. Along the road you have some magnificent views over Penang island.

Cheng kon Sze


Although the temple might not be an essential visit when you come to Penang, it surely offers some spectacular views over the island and for that reason, and the cool air and wonderful atmposphere, this is a great additional visit after the Kek Lok Si.

View from Cheng Kon Sze

In 2013 I went up to the temple again and made this photo of the surrounding of Penang

See the map of Penang for location details

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