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Ren i Tang - My Indie World

Ren i Tang

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Ren i Tang

Eat & Shop • Penang • Owner: Eu Yeok Siew & Low Teng Lei

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The name “Ren i Tang” is the phonetic spelling in Mandarin of South East Asia’s oldest Chinese Medical Hall Wholesaler, Yin Oi Tong which is translated as The Hall of Benevolence. Yin Oi Tong was established in 1796 by Koo Suk Chuan, who arrived in Penang 10 years after Captain Francis Light founded the British Colony. He quickly established his business as an herbalist in a small shop on Pitt Street. In 1885, Koo moved his growing business into a larger premise on Penang Street and Yin Oi Tong Chinese Medical Hall continued trading here until its move in 2009. Its history and influence still resonates through the walls of the building that housed it for 124 years. For over 120 years, the family leased the property from the esteemed clan association, Cheah Kong Si.

In 2009, when Yin Oi Tong relocated, a treasure trove of intriguing artifacts was left behind. Among these fascinating relics were gunny sacks brimming with herbs, old lipstick paste once cherished by women in the early 1900s, and packets of “Wong Lo Kat,” a herbal concoction packaged in recycled newspapers from the 1950s. The collection also included monkeys’ bones, deer antlers, old glass syringes, porcelain pill pots, and newspaper cuttings dating back to the 1930s.

To provide visitors with insights into the workings of Yin Oi Tong, the hotel features a museum showcasing the items they manufactured, packaged, and sold. From cough syrups to spices and herbs, the museum displays an array of fascinating artifacts, as well as the tools of the trade.

Today, guests can explore the remnants of Yin Oi Tong’s past displayed within the hotel. Among these historical treasures are an accounts ledger, herbal storage jars, and even the original Chinese characters that once adorned the shop sign. These valuable relics were meticulously found, cleaned, and preserved by the current proprietors of the hotel, Eu Yeok Siew and Low Teng Lei.

Made With Love

Ren i Tang’s journey from a humble Chinese medicine shophouse to a charming boutique hotel is a testament to the heartfelt passion of its proprietors, Eu Yeok Siew and Low Teng Lei. Driven by their deep love for preserving history, they embarked on a remarkable project to breathe new life into the dilapidated building. Their dedication and vision allowed them to uncover hidden treasures and carefully restore the original features, such as the accounts ledger, herbal storage jars, and the cherished Chinese shop sign.


Fuelled With Passion

Yeok and Teng Lei, despite not being Penang natives or experienced hoteliers, approached the project with an immense passion for creating something remarkable. Coming from a media background, they relied on advice from local friends and the expertise of their contractor. The renovation process took two years and was funded by their personal savings. Their passion for conserving the old and embracing the building’s charm is evident in the little touches of history found throughout the hotel. From the original cupboards filled with books to the rescued medicine jars hanging with plants in the courtyard garden, every detail reflects their passion for creating a unique and memorable experience for guests.


Driven by Purpose

Ren i Tang is not just a hotel; it is a symbol of George Town’s past and future. Yeok and Teng Lei recognized the importance of conserving the heritage of the neighborhood and worked closely with community organizations, including the Cheah association and Penang Heritage Trust, to gain support and approval for their project. By transforming the building into a boutique hotel, they contribute to the revitalization of the area and help sustain its cultural legacy. Ren i Tang serves as a testament to the power of purpose-driven endeavors that go beyond business to make a positive impact on the community.

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