PEOPLE often wonder how did the name
Ipoh, the capital of Perak, came about
and why some locals still refer to it as Pa
Loh in their conversation.
Dr Ho Tak Ming, author of Ipoh When Tin
Was King, said JWW Birch, the first Perak
British Resident (1874-1875), had marked the
town as Epau on a map he sketched in his journal.
“Major JF McNair named it Epu on a 1878
map in the book Perak and the Malays while
Hugh Low, the British Resident, called it Epoh
in his annual report for 1879, stating that it
was the chief village in the district.
“A map drawn by French mining prospector
Jacques de Morgan in 1884 marked Ipoh as
Sakai or Malay village,” he said, adding the
name Ipoh came from the pohon upas (antiaris
toxicaria), which the Malays called pokok
“The orang asli used poisonous latex found
on the pohon upas on their blowpipe darts to
hunt,” said Dr Ho.
In his research for the book, he found
Kampung Ipoh and Kampung Paloh were two
early settlements located on the banks of the
“The word Pa Loh meaning pools formed by
fishing traps set up by the villagers. When the
Chinese came to mine for tin and created
numerous mining pools in the area, they called
the town such,” said Dr Ho.
Author Chung Yoon Ngan who penned A
Chinese Family In Colonial Malaya 1858-1960
said in the early 1870s, Hakka tin mine workers
built a temple called Baluo on the southern
bank of the Kinta River.
“Many wooden and attap huts sprouted
around the temple. It became a little settlement
for the workers who worked in the vicinity. The
settlement subsequently became a large village
and took its name after the temple.
“Ba was a Hakka slang for Lanba, meaning
swamp, and Luo was a kind of wild weed used
for making ropes during that time.
“A lot of Luo weeds grew on the swamp near
the Kinta River bank,” said Chung, who runs a
popular website Asiawind.com that discusses
Chinese history and culture.
Chung said Baluo grew into a town as more
Hakkas arrived from China and settled there.
He added the British officially changed Baluo
to Ipoh after the signing of the Pangkor
Engagement in January 1874 but the Hakkas
continued to call the town Baluo until today.
Most of the Ipoh trees had been cut down
except for one found in front of the Ipoh railway
station and another in Taman DR.
The Paloh Koo Miu also known as the Ipoh
Tai Pak Koong Temple built in 1872 beside the
Kinta River remains a popular place of worship
by the locals today.
Kampung Paloh still exists and Masjid
Kampong Paloh, one of the oldest mosques in
Ipoh located at Jalan Datoh nearby, is still
being used for prayers.
The mosque was built in 1912 by Wan
Muhammad Saleh, a former superintendent of
Penghulus and assistant collector of Land
The present structure has been extensively
renovated but the original five-tiered minaret
and mausoleum of its founder still remain in
their original form.