The house that Kwan Kung built

A Chinese couple made their dream home the epitome of the modern — excepting the special shrine on the rooftop which they have dedicated to Kwan Kung, the God of War.

The brand new home of Mr and Mrs Chan Chee Chin in Eco Setia Park is thoroughly sleek and modern. There are no dragon coils on pillars, no life-sized Buddhas and no rose-wood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and yet they are traditional in their way and fervent worshippers of Kwan Kung.

The Chans say that their worldly possessions are the blessing of this popular deity. It all started two decades ago when their fledgling steel business, Yontai Hardware, was located in a communal factory.

“One owner moved and left a six-inch statuette of Kwan Kung,” recalls the ebullient Ivy Chan, 60. “My husband and I thought he looked rather forlorn and abandoned, so we took him in.”

Their business started to boom soon after, and perhaps this was due to Kwan Kung, who is also regarded as the God of Business. The Chans made enough that they were soon able to move to a large factory, and here, Kwan Kung was given the place of honour. However, after a brief period of success, their business began to encounter problems.

“Our sifu advised us to get a larger statue as befitted our big factory. We were seen as being ‘disrespectful’ as the statuette we had was too tiny to guard a large space. The Kwan Kung statue was also in a sitting position, which is better suited for the home rather than a factory. And so we installed a 0.9m standing Kwan Kung holding his weapon, the kwan dao (a kind of halberd).”

That, apparently, did the trick. The obstacles and staff problems evaporated and the cash register began ringing again. Then one day, the statue mysteriously fell and broke its arm!

“We were shocked as such things are considered ominous,” recalls Ivy.

“Our sifu said something must have happened to our family. Then we discovered that on the same morning my father-in-law had fallen off his bed. His doctor remarked that it was miraculous that he did not break his right arm despite landing on it — funnily enough, the Kwan Kung statue broke its right arm! We were convinced Kwan Kung absorbed the blow to prevent any harm to my father-in-law!”

The Chans replaced the damaged statue with an even bigger one.

“It’s over 1.2m tall and stands guard at our new factory in Kawasan Perindustrian Meru Timur in Klang. The broken one we gave to our sifu as we dared not throw it away.”

When they moved into their new home last August, the first thing the Chans did was to enshrine Kwan Kung.

“He is seated and not too big, as this is not a huge house like the one in Dream of the Red Mansion,” Ivy says.

The shrine on their flat rooftop is compact with Kwan Kung on the altar and the Earth God on the floor. An elongated garden with water feature and fountain add welcome greenery while another pavilion contains the gym. A barbecue pit allows the clan to gather during cool evenings.

The new house is quite a contrast to their old home.

“Our old home in Klang was decorated in the typical Chinese style. It was filled with ornate and heavy furniture, dark wooden chairs, carvings, vases, figurines and souvenirs,” Ivy points out.

Now they have gone in the opposite direction with a home that resembles a contemporary resort with wide, open spaces and a triple-floor foyer crowned by a spectacular chandelier.

Their main concession to chinoiserie is the study, where Chee Chin composes poems and writes calligraphy in his spare time. Their reception area also has a pair of huanghuali chairs, a side table and panels displaying Confucian sayings. The rest of the house is very much 21st century.

The couple invited top modernist interior designer Li Hui Yuan of Yuan Design for the makeover.

“They were receptive to modern ideas and accepted almost all my suggestions. They are very forward-thinking and sophisticated,” Li says.

Feng shui principles were, however, discreetly observed.

“The family dining room is important as wealth equals food,” observes Li, “so I installed a ceiling mirror directly above the dining table while another mirror hangs on the wall. This way, the plates of food are reflected from top and sideways, thus doubling what is on the table.

“The entire dining area is also elevated on glossy black marble about 6in above the floor. This signifies that whatever you eat today will get better tomorrow.”

Li also ensures that chi or the “universal breath” is allowed to flow smoothly by blending the outdoors and indoors with glass sliding doors.

“The chi enters and then meanders through the spacious reception under the chandelier before spreading to the rest of the house.” explains Li.

The entire makeover cost RM1.4mil and took five months. The built-up area is 9,000sq ft on 12,000sq ft of land. Today, family and friends lounge in the vast family room. Guests are entertained in the theatre room overlooking the elaborate, triple-tiered swimming pool.

“I love the open-air Jacuzzi tub and can soak in there for an hour with my grandchildren, enjoying life’s pleasures,” says Ivy.

There are two wet and one dry kitchen and even a lift, a luxury that contributes to the RM3,000 monthly maintenance bill!

“We are healthy but we are planning for the future as none of us are getting younger. This is only a two-storey house but the steps are many due to the high ceiling!” says the lady of the manor.

The Chans are convinced that all that have come to them is due to the generosity of Kwan Kung and are ever grateful to him.