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Wednesday August 29, 2012

Yap Kongsi plays a big part in Penang Chinese history

IN the days when China was struck with famine and war, many left the country to seek greener pastures and came to regard the Lum Yeong Tong Yap Kongsi in Penang as home.

Yap Kongsi executive advisor Datuk Yap Ching Chau said the Yap Kongsi, as the clan house is commonly known, helped the Yap clansmen to find jobs, although most of them started out as labourers in Penang.

“It offered support in a foreign land. Those bearing the Yap surname or its various derivatives such as Yeap, Yip or Ye were represented by the Yap Kongsi,” he said.

Ching Chau said most of the Yap clansmen hailed from the Fujian (Hokkien) province in China but there were also those of Hainan, Cantonese and Teochew origins in Penang.

He said the history of the Yap surname can be traced back to 439 BC, when warrior Shen Zhu Liang defeated an armed rebellion, restoring the throne to Xiong Zhang of the Chu Kingdom.

“In return, Shen was awarded a title and a piece of land called Ye Xian or the Ye District.

“The Ye clan began when Shen adopted the district’s name as his new surname,” he said.

Ching Chau also said the double-storey Yap Kongsi, also known as the Yap Temple, was completed in 1924.

Two more buildings — the Choo Chay Keong Temple completed in 1954 and a three-storey multi-purpose hall built in 2009 — joined the main Yap Kongsi building.

Yap Kongsi chairman Datuk Corry Yeap Beow Chong said the Choo Chay Keong temple was built on a piece of land donated by the late Yeap Chor Ee, who was one of the most prominent members of the Yap clansmen in Penang.

The temple underwent a RM277,000 restoration project in 1992 on its exterior.

Yap Kongsi is also a place for ancestral worship during occasions such as the Qing Ming and Winter Solstice festivals as well as on the eve of Chinese New Year.

“The Yap temple currently houses about 2,000 ancestral tablets on the ground floor and 400 upstairs,” said Ching Chau.

English tourist Umar Choudhury, 19, who was visiting the Yap Kongsi with his brother and friends, said he found the building to be rich in heritage and educational.

Located at the junction of Armenian Street and Cannon Street, the 88-year-old historic building is painted green to symbolise the colour of leaves (the Chinese character for Yap means leaf).

The Yap Kongsi will be one of the heritage sites that will be passed by non-competition Starwalkers in the 6km route.

Other landmarks include Fort Cornwallis, St George’s Church, the Goddess of Mercy Temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque and Sri Mahamariamman Temple.

Penang Starwalk 2012 will be flagged off at Birch House, Penang Times Square, at 6.30am on Sept 17, a replacement public holiday for Malaysia Day that falls on Sunday.

Other new sites which will be passed by Starwalkers include Sia Boey Market, Tan Kongsi, Chew/Lee Jetties, Wisma Yeap Chor Ee, Customs Building (formerly Malayan Railway Building), Logan Heritage, The Whiteaways Arcade, Pinang Peranakan Mansion and Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh.

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