Heritage museum sheds light on influential kapitans

Museum director Chin Soon Kead (left) explaining to Lee the origins of Seng Meng Lee’s sword during a tour of the museum. Seng was the first Kapitan of Sungei Ujong.

SEREMBAN now has a new attraction following the opening of Negeri Sembilan Chinese Heritage Museum, which boasts stories of the people’s arrival to the state two centuries ago.

It also tells the story of the Chinese’s involvement in tin mining and rubber industries as well as their famous and powerful kapitan.

The 2,200sq m museum, housed within the Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH) premises, is also a repository of information on early Chinese education in the state and provides insights into the community’s involvement in politics and political upheavals, places of worship and pre-independence history.

A 330-page book titled A Pictorial History of the Chinese in Negeri Sembilan was also launched during the soft opening of the museum by NSCAH advisor Datuk Lee Tian Hock.

The book gives readers insights into the economic activities carried out by the Chinese in small towns like Rasah, Titi, Broga, Mantin, Lukut and Kuala Pilah, which were once bustling tin-mining areas and the state’s four “influential” miners Kapitan Lee Sam (1838-1905), Kapitan Tam Yong (1859-1917), Teng Ce Yu@Tung Yen (1869-1934), who was briefly Republic of China Finance Minister in 1925, and Titi Towkay Siow Kon Chia (1864-1929).

Lee, who donated RM750,000 for the project, said the museum and book would be excellent reference points for those who wished to know more about the origins of the early Chinese and their contributions to the state.

A copy of ‘A Pictorial History of The Chinese in Negeri Sembilan’ book handed over to Lee.A copy of ‘A Pictorial History of The Chinese in Negeri Sembilan’ book handed over to Lee.

“The museum and the book has lots of information on the pioneers, who came from southern China and were initially in the tin-mining industry.

“Through lots of hard work, we managed to get historical documents, letters and other information from places as far as Singapore so that our younger generation will know about their ancestors and heritage, ” he said, adding that it took NSCAH more than two years to gather all material for the project.

He said Negri Sembilan was the second state to have a Chinese heritage museum and this would be further expanded if there was more historical material to be displayed.

Lee thanked the descendants of some of the influential personalities for handing over some of their possessions to the museum.

Apart from pictures, both the museum and the books have old photographs of mining licences, maps, notifications, invoices, goods transport permit, temporary occupation land receipt, records of movement and minutes of association meetings on the early Chinese.

Also featured is Datuk Wong Yik Tong (1859-1942), the first Chinese community leader to be awarded Datukship before World War II.

Wong, who was also a Justice of Peace and founder of several Chinese schools here, was a friend of the first president of the Republic of China as well as a key leader who supported China’s anti-Japanese war. Wong also founded the Negeri Sembilan Chinese Maternity Hospital in 1932, which provided free service to the poor.

The book also speaks about the slaying of some 4,500 Chinese in the state by the Japanese in 1942 and the Ee Long Long massacre, where 1,474 Chinese were killed in Titi.

Both the museum and book have early photographs of several roads such as Carew Street, Cameron Street, Singapore Street, River Road and Birch Road in Seremban, which more than a century ago was known as Sungei Ujong.

There is also mention of Kapitan Seng Meng Lee (1823-1860), who was the first kapitan of Sungei Ujong; prominent figures in Chinese culture such as Wu Tai Shan (1896-1986), Khoo Kek Wee (1900-1969) and Lee Fong Yee, who in 1948 was appointed the community’s representative in the state legislative council.

Visitors to the museum will learn that the first Chinese political party in the state was a branch of the Kuomintang formed in 1920. However, the British deregistered it in the 1940s as the setting up of foreign political parties was prohibited.

Information on the involvement of the early Chinese in other economic sectors such as transportation, their early schools and places of worship as well as contribution during the golden era of cinema is also available.

Pictures of old theatres such as Zhong Hua, originally a Cantonese Opera theatre, Golden City, Victory Cinema, Majestic, Sapphire, Cathay, Rex, Plaza, Odeon, Capitol, Metropole and Ruby, which have all closed can also be viewed.

Lee said due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum would only allow group tours for now.

“Although we had exceeded the budget for the project, the NSCAH is proud to have completed it.

“We will eventually charge RM10 for adults and RM5 per child for entry to the museum but the visit will be an eye-opener and a learning experience for everyone, ” he said, adding that the book was being sold for RM100 per copy.

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