Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang
Cheong Fatt Tze's almost burdensome treasure trove of occupational hats - financier, tycoon, diplomat, politician, philanthropist and minister - not to mention his numerous, calling-card cramping unofficial monikers - 'Rockefeller of the East', 'J.P Morgan of China' and 'Last Mandarin & First Capitalist of China' - belie his decidedly unencumbered beginnings.
As a 16 year-old Hakka in 1856, Cheong followed the route of many Chinese fortune seekers, heading to the Southeast Asian region known as Nanyang, or 'Land of Opportunity'. Penniless, armed only with determination and a driving need to prove himself, Cheong struggled through sheer hard work and enterprise to epitomize the typical rags-to-riches story. Rising from being a 'bearer of river water' in his early years to a 'one-man multinational conglomerate', Cheong's ascent was aided by a merchant father-in-law who perceived potential in the young man, whom he helped establish in the business world.