Charming house of the Yaps

STANDING majestically at the start of the heritage enclave in Armenian Street is the Lum Yeong Tong Yap Kongsi. 

Even from afar, its straits eclectic-style exterior easily catches the eye of passers-by and motorists. 

This charming 82-year-old clan house, an integral component of the Yaps' social fabric, is located at the junction of Armenian Street and Cannon Street. 

It consists of two adjoining buildings - the Yap temple and the Choo Chay Keong Temple that is dedicated to the clan's patron deities. 

View of the Yap clanhouse buildings in Armenian Street.

Lum Yeong Tong Yap Kongsi chairman Datuk Yap Ching Chau said its ideal location beside a crossroad was good feng shui as three of the roads were heading towards its direction.  

“Although thousands of visitors, mostly tourists, flock here yearly, we don't want to push for donations. 

“Instead our small donation box is placed at the back of the temple hall. Still, we receive between RM6,000 and RM7,000 worth of foreign notes,” he said. 

The association's role is to unite all clansmen through maintaining the traditions, culture and ties of the clan. 

The origin of the Yap surname dates back to 439BC when warrior Shen Zhu Liang defeated the Qin army and helped restore the Chu Dynasty in China. 

His triumph earned him the reward of a title and a piece of land called the Yap District.  

Thus, Shen adopted “Yap” as his surname and it eventually evolved into an important clan name. 

Centuries later in Penang, two Yap clan associations - Tong Eng Siah Yap Kongsi and Hooi Teik Choon Ong Yap Kongsi - merged to signal the birth of the present Lum Yeong Tong Yap Kong in 1920. 

Thanks to Yap clansmen, both the clan buildings were completed in 1924 on a piece of land donated by the late Yeap Chor Ee, founder of the Ban Hin Lee Bank.  

It has undergone several restorations over the years, the latest of which was completed in 1998 at a cost of RM277,000. 

The chairman said: “In its heyday when Chinese migrants from our clan sailed to Penang in search of jobs, many used to sleep in these buildings.  

“At night, they would set up deck chairs to sleep in. In a way, they were the unofficial night watchmen for the temple.” 

Weddings were also held in the building because there were very few restaurants and halls in town at that time, he added. 

“Today, children would drop off their parents here and pick them up after work. Members often come here to read newspapers and interact with one another. 

“Our clansmen from China have also come here to trace their family linkage with long lost relatives who came to Penang,” he said. 

He also described the clan house as truly a work of art with intrinsically carved designs adorning its front walls and the four dragon-motive pillars at the entrance. 

“The carvings are imported from China and each of the designs tell a story,” he added. 

Currently, the clan has currently 700 members. 

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