Melaka Shophouses

To a large extent, the attraction of Melaka's Chinatown is the architectural fabric of the area itself. Like Penang and Singapore, the traditional shophouse evolved from a utilitarian commercial structure into sometimes ornate residential terrace houses. Chinese elements blended with classical European decorations, so in one building you can see Chinese dragons prancing along a frieze underneath Palladian windows. In Melaka you also see a lot of Malay touches as well, such as wooden screens - often used in place of walls to facilitate air circulation - carved with Islamic-inspired themes.

The Cheng Hoon Teng temple A typical Chinese buisness shophouse Nicely restored shophouses around Chinatown

Common features of the shophouse include a five-foot recess on the ground floor, which helped to shade the entry from the strong sun, and sometimes provided a dry place for pedestrians (although in Melaka it's less common to find these set-backs linked). These 'five-foot ways' are often ornately tiled. Traditionally, the room over the five-foot way would have one or more peepholes to allow residents to see who was at the door (and empty the chamber pot on them if need be). Inside the buildings, which can be quite deep relative to their width, the buildings will have one or more air wells to let light and air into the interior of the building.

One of the more colorful examples One of the more colorful examples Another colorful example with painted plaster work Another colorful example with painted plaster work

You can of course see lots of different examples of the outside of the shophouses by just wandering around Chinatown, but to see how the insides looked in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, the best place is the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum.