Saturday April 28, 2007

Last Kapitan's legacy lives on

Photos by SAMUEL ONG 

RIGHT in the heart of the city’s golden triangle is a road that abuzz with business executives during the day and food lovers during the night. 

Philanthropist: Yap moved to Malaya at the age of 18 and worked as a tin miner in Seremban.
Named after the last Kapitan of Malaya, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng houses many bungalows that have since been converted into offices while development of new residences is aplenty. 

Yap Kwan Seng, of Hakka descent, was born in 1846 in the Chak Kai district of China. He moved to Malaya at the age of 18 and worked as a tin miner in Seremban.  

In 1870, Yap packed his bags for Selangor where he began his hard work to help pioneer the tin mining industry. He also established a brick factory to meet the rapidly growing demand for construction materials in Kuala Lumpur.  

Using his own funds, Yap initiated Pooi Shin Thong providing free medical services to the poor.  

The center grew and was later renamed Tung Shin Hospital, located along Jalan Pudu. A compassionate leader, he also built Tai Wah Ward and Chak Kai Koong Kon in Jalan Sultan.  

Yap was elected the fifth Kapitan in 1890 and was also appointed a member of the State Legislative Assembly.  

He ran his own small police force that helped him manage his many business interests. Yap was also the first Chinese to serve on the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board.  

During the Pahang War in 1892 and the Boer War, Yap assisted the British by providing transportation, supplies and funds.  

Yap also helped introduced the Chinese system of mining in West Africa when he sent thirty of his miners to assist the governor Sir William Maxwell in establishing the mining industry.  

Yap passed away in 1902 and was remembered as a community leader who was greatly concerned with the welfare of the people and his charity initiatives. Other than Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Jalan Sin Chew Kee, which is located off Jalan Pudu, was also named in his honour after his tin mining business.  

Bustling street: Jalan Yap Kwan Seng today is a hive of activity during the day.
It is interesting to note that off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng is a small road named Jalan Liew Weng Chee, which pays tribute to another mining tycoon. 

Liew was one of the rich Chinese business traders during the early days of Malaya who dabbled in the mining industry as well as the development of various real estate. He was also involved in the pioneering of a bank with another partner.  

Trendy living: Residences like condos and serviced apartments are mushrooming in the area.
While Jalan Yap Kwan Seng used to be a quiet neighbourhood area with huge residences to cater to the rich and powerful, it is today a commercial district just like many other roads in the city center.  

The Australian High Commission sits at the helm of the road while Menara Ambank and adds the business edge to the vibe of the road.  

There are many restaurants along the road including Restoran Kg. Pandan, Murakata Japanese Restaurant and Stadium Negara Steamboat Restaurant. The steamboat establishment is a famous restaurant that had been operating for years at Stadium Negara and has now moved to Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. 


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