Small towns in Hulu Selangor

by Eric Lim

The late Rehman Rashid wrote the book Small town’, his personal tribute to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB). He spent his last few years nestling in this small town located in the Hulu Selangor district. For this article, I am going to pen some snippets on other small towns in the Hulu Selangor district, specifically Kerling, Rasa, Batang Kali and Serendah. I would also like to draw your attention to two articles previously published on this blog, discussing two other towns located in Hulu Selangor: KKB and Kalumpang.

Kerling

The early development of Kerling can be attributed to Syed Mashhor, who hailed from Kalimantan. He moved to Sarawak during the time of James Brooke, where he proved his prowess as a fighter. He then came to Selangor and served loyally under Raja Mahadi during the Klang War. He was twice beaten by Tengku Kudin and Yap Ah Loy, at the Battle of Ampang (September-October 1870) and Battle of Rawang (March-June 1871) but finally succeeded in capturing Kuala Lumpur in 1872. It was a short-lived victory as Tengku Kudin and Yap Ah Loy mounted an attack in February 1873 and recaptured Kuala Lumpur. Outside Kuala Lumpur, Pahang forces continued their onslaught on Syed Mashhor’s camps at Kanching and Ulu Yam; the civil war ended when the stronghold at Kuala Selangor fell on 8 November 1873. Syed Mashhor retreated to Perak and served under the British during the Perak War. He was pardoned by Sultan Abdul Samad and, on 12 December 1883, he was appointed as the Penghulu of Ulu Kerling. He developed Kerling by opening up lands for tin mining. He died in 1917 and he was buried at the local Islamic cemetery.

Syed Mashhor, standing third from the right.
Photo source – Syed Masahor becomes Head of Kerling 23/06/2015 / pekhabar.com

Rasa

Rasa started as a small mining settlement and grew in the 1900s. At its peak, it had 20 open mines and 5 tin dredge mines, with the population reaching 4000. The constant flooding in nearby Kuala Kubu was getting very serious, prompting the British government to move its district headquarters to Rasa in 1921. They also shifted the railway track away from Kuala Kubu town and built the station at Kuala Kubu road with the track ending at Rasa. This station was opened in 1924.

The most influential tin miner in Rasa was Tan Boon Chia (Chen Wensheng in Mandarin).Unlike the majority of the townsfolk who were Hui Zhou (Fei Chow) from Guangdong, Boon Chia was a Hokkien from the Penglai township in the Anxi Province, China. His was a typical rags-to-riches tale, and in 1918, when he was just 26, he built the largest structure in the township, a huge mansion with 51 rooms on a five-hectare land. When he died in October 1931, his two sons took over his business. The Tan family’s good fortune was abruptly disrupted during the Japanese Occupation. They left hurriedly and never returned to Rasa. There was talk of converting the mansion into a museum but hitherto, nothing concrete has come out of it.

Batang Kali

An event that happened in 1948 has placed Batang Kali in the history books. The event was dubbed Batang Kali massacre’and it took place at Sungai Remok Estate, just outside of Batang Kali. On the weekend of 11 and 12 December, the Second Battalion of the Scots Guards composed of National Servicemen in their late teens and led by a 22- year-old Sergeant raided the rubber estate in a counter-insurgency operation against Chinese Malayan communists. On the morning of 12 December, 24 Chinese estate workers were killed. Those killed had been unarmed and they had not tried to escape. In addition, the ‘kongsi’ houses were burnt to the ground. Chin Peng stated in his book, ‘My side of history’, that no one in the village was linked to the guerrillas. In 1970, an inquiry was launched in Britain but it was terminated. Likewise in 1990’s, investigations in Malaysia was aborted when Foreign Office officials intervened. It then went up to the European Court of Human Rights and ended at this court on 4 October 2018, when the Court delivered its decision to uphold the refusal of the British Government to hold an inquiry.

Signboard along Federal Route 1 / Photo source – Eric Lim

Serendah


In the Malay language, ‘serendah’ means ‘low’. This aptly describes Serendah, a township situated in a low-lying landscape surrounded by hills. The Sumatrans were the earliest settlers here, arriving in the 1870’s, and they built their homes along Sungai Telachi and Sungai Serendah. After the end of the Klang War, Sultan Abdul Samad started to open mines in Ulu Selangor and that saw an influx of migrant Chinese miners in Serendah in the 1880s.

By the 1890s, rapid developments within the town centre saw the construction of a hospital, rest house, post office, police station and a market. It had a clubhouse called the Bowing Club and a rifle range used by the Ulu Selangor Rifle Club, which was formed in October 1897. Concurrently, places of worship were built: a Sikh Gudwara in 1897; the Sze Si Ya Temple in 1898; a Hokkien temple, Hock Leng Keng, in 1899; and in that same year, a new mosque, Masjid Sultan, replaced the old one with funds for its construction coming from Sultan Abdul Samad, Foong Wah and Tok Pinang. A small Chinese school was set up in 1895. Then in 1900, Loke Chow Thye proposed the establishment of an English school; the British Resident approved it but the school was not built because the local community preferred Chinese education. A piece of land requested for a Chinese school was gazetted in 1924, and the school still exists at the present site, now known as SRJK (C) Serendah.

As with many mining towns, floods were major issues and in 1932, the bunds guiding Sungai Serendah broke causing massive flooding to the trunk road. A Committee was set up and, in 1934, it approved the construction of a dam. This dam has seven abutments, which are fed by water through seven spillways/sinkholes. It has been effective in preventing floods in Serendah. The site is now a major attraction, popularly known as ‘The Seven Wells’.

During World War II, the Japanese army arrived at Serendah on 10 January 1942 and the next day, they overwhelmed Kuala Lumpur. Two incidents were recorded during the Emergency. On 13 December 1948 (one day after the Batang Kali massacre), the communist burnt down Serendah Boys Home (now known as Pusat Perkembangan Kemahiran Kebangsaan / PPKK) and the home of the headmaster. The charred body of the headmaster was found inside. On 25 January 1949, two European miners were killed at a tin mine.

References

Syed Masahor becomes Head of Kerling 23/06/2015 / www. Pekhabar.com

The Selangor Civil war – The history of Yap Ah Loy / yapahloy.tripod.com

Chinese houses of SEA : The eclectic architecture of sojourners and settlers by Ronald G. Knapp / books.google.com.my

Batang Kali Massacre 1948 – the lesson of truth by Dato Quek Ngee Meng / nhq.com.my > social > bkm 1948

Revealed : How Britain tried to legitimise Batang Kali Massacre / www.theguardian.com > world

Serendah. Then & Now by Ee Yoke Chan

History of Kajang

by Eric Lim

Kajang, the capital of the Hulu Langat district, is located around 21 km south from Kuala Lumpur. There are a number of theories on how the name Kajang came about. The Malay dictionary defines kajang as ‘stuffed objects from leaves of nipah (bamboo, mengkuang or palm leaves) that are used as rooftop or awning’. The Temuan had already been exploring the area since at least the 16th century and they found an abundance of bamboo and palm leaves, which they folded to make rooftops. Thus, they called the place Kajang. Two other theories date from the time of the Austronesian migration. We look at the word as used by two different ethnic groups –for the Mandailing, berkajang means ‘to take shelter’; and for the Bugis, it means ‘to stab / to fight’. Raja Alang, a Mandailing, was cruising along the Langat River with his followers when half way they decided to stop and berkajang. He then called the place Kajang. The Mandailing and Bugis were trying to escape from the Selangor Civil War and both arrived near Kajang. They then fought each other because of the misunderstanding of the meaning of the word to them. After the event, the place was called Kajang.

In 1848, Raja Berayun, a Mandailing, wanted to claim ‘blood money’ from Datoh Klana Sendeng, a Rawa, for the killing of one of his friends. He brought 500 men and invaded Sungai Ujong but they were defeated and they retreated to the north of the Langat River where they established a village called Rekoh. The current name for Rekoh is Sungai Tangkas; it is about 4 km from Kajang. It was to be the earliest settlement around Kajang.

Kajang, like many towns on the west coast of the Peninsular, started as a mining settlement. An American prospector started a tin mine at Rekoh in 1855. However, the locals objected as he did not possess any consent and the venture was abandoned. The tin boom in the district occurred in the middle of 1890’s, when Chinese businessmen made huge investments in the district. One of the Chinese miners was Goh Ah Ngee,who was active in Balau (Broga today). He even built a church for a small group of Chinese Christians in the area. The first mine at Semenyih was opened by a Hokkien named Cheah King. Other Chinese miners were Khoo Seah, who had mines at Sungai Cheow (Sungai Chua today) Road (1896), Loke Yew at Sungai Merbau in Hulu Langat (1896) and Sungai Kachau in Semenyih (1897), Low Boon Kim at Sungai Jebat (1897) and Chan Yoke who operated a mine at Kajang (present Metro Kajang site). Tin was also found just outside of Kajang where Hakka coolies called it Xi Mi Shan (Tin Ore Hill).This site is the only mining pool left in Kajang. Recently, the Kajang Municipal Council converted the site into a recreational park.

Only mining pool left in Kajang (at Sungai Chua) converted into a recreational park

Tin mining industry in the district turned out to be a relatively minor enterprise, paling in comparison to other towns in the state. This prompted the District Office to suggest moving to agriculture. Tobacco had been planted in 1890 on a trial basis in Semenyih but the project failed. Coffee was next and it gained interest amongst European planters who were applying for land for coffee planting. Chinese businessmen were equally interested and joined in the demand for land. However, at the turn of the 20th century, faced with strong competition from Brazilian coffee producers, fluctuation of coffee prices and the appearance of a fungal disease called H. vastatrix and further assisted by the outbreaks of Cephonodes hylas moth that threatened to cripple the local coffee production, the industry soon vanished from the scene.

Rubberwas the next big crop. The Inch Kenneth Estate located just outside Kajang became the first estate to plant rubber on a commercial scale in Malaya. Among the Chinese planters who obtained land in Kajang for rubber plantation were Choo Kia Peng with 182ha in 1910, Loke Yew with 41ha in 1912 and Low Ti Kok with 24ha. Goh Ah Ngee, who had tin mines in Balau, also ventured into rubber plantation in Semenyih after his failed ventures in coffee planting. The development of the rubber industry was also helped by the extension of the railway track southwards from Kuala Lumpur to Kajang in 1897. Before that, Kajang was connected to Kuala Lumpur via a cart road built in 1888.

Inch Kenneth Estate sign near Kajang

A prominent person in Kajang was Raja Alang, son of Raja Berayun. He attended Malay schools in Malacca and Singapore and, upon his return, worked as a Forest Ranger in 1883. When Raja Alang ended his working career, he was made an aide to the District Officer and was his right hand man in Malay affairs. He rose to become a very influential man in Kajang. In his honour, two roads in the town were named after him but both roads have since been expunged. He also became very rich; in fact, it is said that he was the richest man in Selangor in the early 20th century. He built a mosque in Beranang, which is named after him. In his later years, he moved to Kuala Lumpur and stayed at his residence at 13, Jalan Raja Laut (present day Jalan Ipoh Kecil), in front of the former Capitol and Federal cinemas. Raja Alang died on 11 December 1927 and he was buried at the Ampang Islamic Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. His dream of a road to be named after him became a reality when his son, Raja Muhammad was the given the privilege to rename Perkins Road in recognition for his services in the struggle to achieve independence for the Federation of Malaya. Raja Muhammad chose to rename the road after his father.

Kajang Town

A sketch of Kajang Town, adapted from the map at Kajang Heritage Centre

Ulu Langat District Office was set up in 1883 and records of that time show that the Ulu Langat village was the largest settlement in the district but Kajang was chosen as the district capital because of its central location. An early census of Kajang is interesting – one police clerk (indicating that the police station was already established), one ranger (most definitely Raja Alang), twenty-two shopkeepers (of which sixteen were Sumatrans) and one gambler (most likely a Chinese!). The district office building was built in the 1910s and was in operations until it was demolished and a new building (Bangunan Dato Nazir) constructed in 1970. Situated nearby, across Jalan Cheras, is the Police Station, which was established in 1875, after the British succeeded in crushing Sutan Puasa’s suspected uprising. Across Jalan Hishammudin is the Post Office, which was also built at about the same time as the former Ulu Langat District Office; it is still in operation until today.

Old Ulu Langat District Office. Photo source bebasnews.my.

Located between Jalan Tukang and Jalan Mendaling is the Sin Sze Si Ya temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Kajang. The temple was initially located at Rekoh but was later moved to its current site in Kajang in 1892. It went through some construction work in 1898 and a grand ceremony was held in 1899. Today, the temple is among thirteen Sin Sze Si Ya temples that can be found in major tin mining towns in Perak, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

Kajang Police Station

Rev. Fr. Francois Terrein MEP started a Catholic mission in Kajang and a church was built on a former rubber estate donated by Goh Ah Nee. The Church of the Holy Family was consecrated on 24 February 1901and it had a bell and three stained glass windows each depicting a member of the Holy Family. Goh Ah Nee also donated a piece of land for the purpose of a burial ground in 1903, which is still in existence. Later, the parish administrator allowed the Infant Jesus Sisters to start a girl’s school in Kajang. In 1939, the new Convent School (present site of SK Convent Kajang) was ready for the school year. During the Japanese Occupation, Japanese warplanes bombed Kajang on 12 January 1942; their target was the old railway station but unfortunately the bombs landed on the church and school compound. The church was damaged but somehow the three stained glass window panels suffered only minor damage. Today, the panels can be seen at the back of the altar. 

 Church of the Holy Family

The first English school in Kajang was opened by Reverend William Edward Horley in 1905. It was to be a private school and limited only to residents in Kajang. Since then, there were no further records of the school. Thanks to the efforts of a group of local community leaders, saw the resumption of English education in the district with the setting up of the Kajang Government English School, which was officially opened on 1 April 1919. The old Rest House building at Jalan Semenyih had been converted to accommodate the school premises. The school started with an enrolment of 100 students and grew to 129 the following year, with 10 female students. When Ng Seo Buck became the first Malayan Headmaster of the school in 1923, he was forced to turn the kitchen of the old Rest House into a classroom. By 1926, the school was overcrowded and the building had dilapidated. Ng left the school in 1927 and started a campaign to seek a new site and building for a new school. He was joined by Low Ti Kok, Raja Muhammad (son of Raja Alang), Haji Abdul Jalil and Ronald CM Kindersley (of Inch Kenneth Estate) and they succeeded in securing a site, which was a hillock along Jalan Semenyih. The school was named Kajang High School. Sultan Sir Alaiddin Sulaiman Shah officiated at the opening ceremony on 19 March 1930. Among the first batch of students was Tan Chee Koon, who went on to become a major figure in our country’s politics and was nicknamed ‘Mr Opposition’. The first Headmaster for the new school was C.E. Gates and he turned out to be a great inspiration to the students. When he returned to England in 1936, the Kajang Town Board named the road near his residence Gates Road. During the Japanese Occupation, the school became the headquarters of the Japanese army and it was called Toa Seinan Gakko. After the war, the boys from the school made two interesting discoveries – they found a skull and skeleton, which were later used as authentic visual aid during Biology classes, and they discovered a tunnel linking the school to the nearby cemetery!

Kajang High School opening ceremony by Sultan Sir Alaidin Sulaiman Shah on 19 March 1930.
Photo credit: hanafiahlubis.blogspot.com

Chinese education came at about the same time as English education. Boon Hua Chinese School started in the 1910s and, by 1917, the school was attached to the Merchant Club at a shop lot located at Main Street. It then shifted to two shop lots at No.2 & 4, Sulaiman Street when enrolment increased. The Chairman of the school, Low Ti Kok, and the Headmaster, Tan Yi Hoh, had applied for a piece of land in town as a site for the school. It was granted and works to build the school started in 1918; by the following year, the school operated from the new site. The school was renamed Yu Hua School. The school acquired the adjoining land in 1935 for its expansion. In 1958, the school was separated into Yu Hua Middle School and Yu Hua Primary School. To honour the contributions of Low Ti Kok to education in Kajang, the road in front of Yu Hua School is named after him. Low Ti Kok died during the war in 1943 and his residence, which is located near Yu Hua School, has been converted into the Hulu Langat Hokkien Association. 

Another site that brings back fond memories to the people of Kajang is Stadium Kajang. It was built in the 1970s and, over the years, the stadium was the training ground for football legends such as Arumugam, Santokh Singh, Soh Chin Aun and Mokhtar Dahari. In 2014, it was turned into a public area called Kajang Square. Finally yet importantly, when one mentions ‘satay’, Kajang automatically springs to mind. Satay Kajang was first introduced by Wak Tasmin Bin Saiban who came from Java in the 1910s. Haji Samuri who married the granddaughter of Wak Tasmin, took Satay Kajang to new heights by expanding outside of Kajang and started operating a satay factory. Today, Haji Samuri satay restaurant is housed at the former site of Ulu Langat District Office. In front of the restaurant is the Stadium Kajang MRT station. The MRT line to Kajang was opened on 17 July 2017 and it has greatly improved public transportation and accessibility to KL city centre and beyond.

Stadium Kajang

To end this article, here is a look at some current street names that still carry the names of people linked to the history of Kajang.

References

The peopling of Ulu Langat – David Radcliffe – https://core.ac.uk/reader/127607722

A short history of Ulu Langat – www.jstor.org

Chinese pioneers in the Ulu Langat district of Selangor – Voon Phin Keong / www.newera.edu.my

Migration, settlement and the rise of a middle class in Chinese society : a case study of Kajang -Diana Wong, Lin Chew Mun and Tan Pok Suan / www.newera.edu.my

Some old forgotten things about Kajang High School – hanafiahlubis.blogspot.com

Parish history – hfckajang.org.my

Lee Kim Sin – Kajang Heritage Centre – Facebook and Blog

On the trail of the Chams

by Annie Chuah Siew Yen

Once lords over a great empire known as Champa, the Chams have been relegated to ethnic minority status in the very lands over which they once lorded. Today, they inhabit parts of southern Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Chams are an Austronesian group and the history of Champa begins with their migration to mainland South East Asia. Patterns and chronology of migration suggest that the Cham arrived via Borneo (this assumption is still being debated) in the early centuries CE. What is today the South China Sea was known to ancient navigators as the Champa Sea, named for the great empire that controlled the seas off central and south Vietnam. Existing between the 2nd and 15th century CE, Champa was actually a collection of polities; at the peak of its power, Champa lands included parts of eastern Cambodia and Laos.

Champa and its neighbours around c. 1100 CE. Champa is shaded in green, the Khmer Empire in violet, and Dai-Viet in yellow. Major polities are marked. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Their culture was heavily influenced by Hinduism, mainly Shaivism, represented by a linga with temple carvings depicting Hindu deities. Later, Hindu doctrines were blended with local beliefs and Buddhism.

The Chams have left traces of their existence in the lands they occupied. Archaeologists have identified Cham citadels and temple sites along Vietnam’s coast. Recent explorations suggest that hundreds of ruined sites may line rivers leading into the Central Highlands and beyond, to eastern Cambodia.

I have always been fascinated by lost kingdoms and ancient civilisations. I first came across the Chams when I was travelling in central Vietnam in 2006, and again in 2007. Although most Chams now live in Cambodia, the kingdom of Champa flourished in southern Vietnam and this is where the architectural legacy of the Cham people is located.

A tower at the Champa complex at My Son. Image credit: http://architecturalmoleskine.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-son-in-vietnam.html

The Chams were greatly influenced by Funan (precursor to the Khmer Empire) from whom they adopted the Hindu religion and art. Sandstone pillars and red brick flooring of temples and royal burial sites are features of Cham architecture. The oldest artefacts with these distinct characteristics found together with pottery in Tra Kieu, date to the 2nd century CE.

The people of Champa kept written records in Sanskrit and the old Cham language. They wrote on palm leaves and inscribed on stone steles. Their records on perishable materials are all gone but numerous stone inscriptions have been preserved and transcribed.

Cham culture is believed to have started thriving from the 4th century CE. Its spiritual centre was at My Son, which was established by King Bhadravarman. Over 70 temples – red brick structures – have been excavated here. The buildings within the My Son temple complex were constructed over a period of 1000 years, from the 4th to 14th century CE, making this complex one of the longest-occupied archaeological sites in the world. My Son is located about 70 kilometres southwest of Da Nang and close to Champa’s ancient capitals Simhapura (Tra Kieu) and Indrapura (close to Dong Duong). Within these three locations, more than 30 stelas dated between the 5th to 12th centuries CE have been discovered. The stele inscriptions focus mainly on political and religious topics, written from the perspective of kings to affirm their legitimacy and their relationship with the divine.

My Son complex – the largest collection of Cham ruins are located here. Image credit: https://kyotoreview.org/wp-content/uploads/ChamRemains.jpg

My Son was discovered during the construction of telegraph lines in Central Vietnam in 1889 when Camille Paris stumbled upon its ruins. Decades of research revealed it as the religious centre of the long-forgotten Champa Kingdom. Sadly, much of this site was devastated by B52 bombing from 1969 to 1972 during the Vietnam War as the Viet Cong had set up base there. What is left was saved when President Nixon declared the area off-limits on the advice and urging of a Chan art expert, Philippe Stern. Bomb craters still punctuate the monument grounds, and land mines lurk beneath the surrounding jungle. However, many structures have been restored, giving visitors a glimpse into the spiritual life of the ancient Chams.

2006 – crumbled structures awaiting restoration. Image: from author’s collection

My Son Sanctuary, the ancient architectural ruins in the middle of a forest near Hoi An, is preserved as a World Cultural Heritage site. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999, it is worth visiting for those seeking the exotic, away from mainstream Asian tourist destinations. During my visit in 2006, a ride in an archaic military vehicle, a war relic left behind by the Americans after the Vietnam War, took us through rough terrain to the lush valley, overshadowed by the holy mountain, Mount Mahaparvata (known to the locals as Cat’s Tooth Mountain). Visitors today can now expect easier access – it has been more than a decade since my visit. ­

During my visit in 2006, the ride in an archaic military vehicle brought me to the entrance of the complex; the ruins were about 1.5 km from this entrance. Images: from author’s collection

Several international organisations have backed restoration projects, painstakingly re-assembling the bombed-out monuments and planning for increased on-site security. Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (EFEO) of which Henri Parmentier, a prominent archaeologist was a member, was responsible for the establishment of the Danang Museum of Champa Sculpture, which opened in 1919. This museum, though small, has the best collection of Cham art that survived looting and decay. These masterpieces are a wonderful complement to My Son and Po Nager.

Inside the Museum of Cham Sculpture at Da Nang. Image: from author’s collection

My travels in 2007 across Indo-China, approximately along the 18th parallel, took me from Nong Khai in northeast Thailand to Hue in Central Vietnam and back to Thailand, to Mukdahan in Nakhon Phanom, crossing the then completed Thai-Laos Friendship Bridges across the Mekong. Along the journey were pockets of Cham villages and ruins, the most significant being Wat Phu in Champasak in southern Laos.

Between the first and ninth centuries CE, Champasak Province was part of Funan (which influenced early Champa) and then the Chenla Kingdoms before falling to the Khmers. Archaeological research has identified the ancient city as Shrestrapura, a 5th-century CE, pre-Khmer site. The city was at one time the capital of the Chenla and Champa Kingdoms.

Aerial view of Wat Phu as seen from mid-level. Image: from author’s collection

Although Wat Phu is considered Khmer, elements of Champa art, culture and architecture are recognisable within the temple complex. The UNESCO site includes Phu Kao mountain and the remains of the ancient cities of Lingapura and Shrestrapura. Wat Phu, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 was an important Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. During the 13th century CE, it became a centre of Theravada Buddhism and remains so until today.

The final annihilation of Champa by Minh Mang’s troops in 1835 marked the end of two millennia of continuous Champ existence. The remnants of Champa in Kauthara (Nha Trang) and nearby Panduranga were fully incorporated into the Vietnamese realm. The marginalised Cham communities of Indo-China today are the last vestiges of Champa.

During the purge by Minh Mang, large groups of mainly Muslim Chams fled to Cambodia where they were given refuge. They settled around the area now known as Kampong/Kompong Cham and along the shores of the Tonle Sap. However, they struggled to retain their culture and language. The Chams were again severely persecuted, this time by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. It is estimated that as many as half a million Chams were murdered to ‘ethnically cleanse Cambodia’.

Kampong Cham market, French colonial architecture. Photo credit: flickr (Keith Kelly) https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithkelly/4529785741/in/photostream/

In Phnom Penh, a small community of Chams still live on boats and stilted houses but with rapid land development in Cambodia’s capital, they are under constant threat of eviction. Today, there is a small Cham Muslim (some practising a blend of Hindu-Buddhist practices) community in Thailand and in Laos as well.

Cambodian Chams. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, attribution: Sorinchan Suzana

The majority of the 120,000 Chams who remained in Vietnam retained their Hindu faith but those who later converted to Islam still worship their gods at Po Nagar Cham Towers in Nha Trang during the religious festival of Thap Ba, which falls around April/May. The two major enclaves of Chams in Vietnam are in Nha Trang (ancient Cham city of Kauthara) and the highlands around Da Nang.

In the 8th century CE, the political centre of Champa moved from My Son south to Kauthara. At the site of modern Nha Trang, a temple was built in honour of Po Nagar, the indigenous Earth Goddess whom the Chams believed was the ‘Mother of the Country’ who taught agricultural and weaving skills to the Chams. Later historians identified Po Nagar with the Hindu goddesses Bhagavati, wife of Shiva, and with Durga, the buffalo-demon slayer.

Central stairway, for monks only, on mandapa leading to the main shrine of Po Nagar Temple

Pirates from Java burned the temple of Po Nagar and carried off the image of Shiva. Cham king Satyavarman pursued the raiders and defeated them in a naval battle in 781. This victory over the ‘dark-skinned savages who feed on cadavers’ was recorded on a stele erected by Satyavarman at Po Nagar. The Chams continued building – the tallest tower was completed in 817 CE. Further expansion continued until the 17th century CE when the Chams were gradually displaced by the Viets.

The building techniques from 8th century to 13th century remain a mystery. Scholars still do not understand how the Cham people placed 20×20 cm bricks in close proximity without any adhesive. This unique feature attracts interest in the towers. My guide drew my attention to the Chams’ ingenuous use of red bricks without any binding mortar in the construction of these octagonal pillars, a technique that still baffles engineers and archaeologists.

Free standing red brick columns in artistic arrangement on the mandapa

The kalan was the brick sanctuary, typically in the form of a tower, used to house the deity. The religious life of the Chams is evident from these extant monuments, which have syncretized elements of Shaivism, Buddhism and indigenous religious practices.

There were once ten towers, each dedicated to a different deity, but today only four remain to provide a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past and the locals’ present-day spiritual beliefs as pilgrims still come here to pray and offer incense.

I spent half a day at this site in December 2019, admiring the temples, wandering around and finally sitting in the shadows of the soaring temple towers. I felt the serenity of the hillock   and the greatness of antiquity while pondering over the past splendour of the Cham culture, much of it long lost to the world … but comforted by the thought that I had ventured on the trail of the Chams.

References

https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/ancient-kingdom-champa-enduring-power-lasted-over-1500-years-southern-vietnam-020598

https://etc.ancient.eu/interviews/deciphering-ancient-cham-art/

https://cm.sicham.org/index.php/en/blog/a-glimpse-into-the-lost-kingdom-of-champa-po-nagar-cham-temples-of-nah-trang-vietnam-1

Hidden Gems: the Jinrickshaw

by V. Jegatheesan

Jin – Man

Riki – Power

Sha – Vehicle

Man powered vehicle

Nestled almost out of sight with attention diverted to the tin dredge in Gallery C, is a Jinrickshaw. Today, it may get passing mention during a guided tour but this solitary artefact used to be an institution in early Malaya. Known also as Jinricksha or simply as rickshaw, it was a key mode of transportation for many decades until it was literally ‘overtaken’ and ‘driven off the road’ by faster vehicles.

The rickshaw was a two-wheeled buggy-like cart pulled by a runner with the passenger seated in the cart. It was ubiquitous in Kuala Lumpur up to the late fifties, as it was cheap, easily available and comfortable. They could be seen plying the streets of old central Kuala Lumpur rain or shine, day and night catering to many users throughout the day.

A jinrickshaw on display at Gallery C, National Museum, Malaysia. The backdrop features a number of rickshaws, some being pulled and some (on the right) awaiting fares. The photographer has managed to capture the energy and the effort of the rickshaw pullers. Image source: https://www.planetware.com/malaysia/top-rated-tourist-attractions-in-kuala-lumpur-mal-1-2.htm

It seems that a form of the rickshaw was actually developed in France as far back as the 17th century. However, it is generally accepted that around 1869, the Japanese developed the rickshaw, giving it the name through which we know it today. Others have also laid claim to having invented it. After all, it is not a complicated vehicle and specific needs would have led a simple handcart evolving to this type of vehicle. Nevertheless, the form that we know today is from Japan.

Outside of Japan, the rickshaw was used in many parts of the world including China and parts of Africa. It could be seen in India and it became iconic in Kolkata. Over the years, the rickshaw were either motorised or just phased out, with pockets remaining particularly for tourism. This article focuses on Kuala Lumpur although it was common in many of the other larger towns in Malaysia as well.

Source: Cheah Jin Seng (2011) Selangor: 300 Early Postcards, Singapore: EDM.

The rickshaw consists of a buggy-like cart with a seat resting on two thin wheels. Two long shafts, of around 1.5 metres, extended from the sides of the cart. The ends of the shafts were connected by a bar, used as a handle. The puller, or Rickshaw man, stood between the shafts and ran pushing the bar and therefore pulling the cart. The wheels were thin and made originally of iron; rubber-tyres came later.

The seat itself could have either been a simple wooden one or cushioned and it seated two at a time. It extended down to form a footrest, on which packages could also be placed. Some rickshaws had a cubbyhole under the seat that was used as storage. Attached to the back of the seat was an adjustable hood that could be lifted to provide protection against the scorching sun or rain; it lay collapsed otherwise. In addition, if it rained, a canvas sheet would be used to cover the front. Although simple and basic, some rickshaws were highly decorated with designs on the sides of the cart. They were generally clean and comfortable.

A rickshaw puller posing with his fare. Note the shoes worn by the puller. These were pieces of rubber tied with strings. The rickshaw has its hood expanded. Image source: https://twitter.com/potretlawas/status/928500368253730816/photo/1

Before World War 1, the rickshaws were imported from Japan. After the war, with the advent of Depression, they were locally made. Cost of these rickshaws is not found. In most cases, an individual owned the rickshaws and hired them out to pullers. Rates of hire are available for Singapore – it was 35 cents per day in 1938. Well-to-do people are said to have owed their own rickshaws with hired pullers if they did not keep a carriage.

It is uncertain when the rickshaw was first imported into Malaya but by 1912, the rubber-tyre rickshaw was reported to be in use in Kuala Lumpur together with the iron-wheeled type. However, by the mid-1920s only the former was in common use. These operated in what was known as central Kuala Lumpur, which covered Petaling Street, Sultan Street, Central Market and extended around three kilometres outward. This is a flat area, easy for the puller to navigate. Many people lived within the city in those days.

Anyone and almost everyone used the rickshaw. Ladies and men used it to get around town. Children went to school on a contracted rickshaw, much like school buses today. Women went to the market and back in these. Even the British officers would use them, perhaps more as a novelty. Later in the evening, rickshaw pullers had certain ladies as customers who would sit in the rickshaw in certain parts of town, waiting for their own customers. In fact I was told that ladies and young girls never used the rickshaw alone at night. If they had to, they were accompanied by a male, even a young boy if need be.

The fare paid, of course, varied by distance but the figures for Kuala Lumpur are not known – it is simply stated as a few cents for short trips. A 1914 schedule of jinrikisha fares for the Straits Settlements, show fares of 3 cents for every half mile, 20 cents for an hour and detention (waiting) fee of 5 cents per hour. These fees are for the second class. First class fares were double. These first class rickshaws had superior ‘English wooden seating’ and rubber tyres. First class rickshaws also had a runner trotting behind the rickshaw for the safety of passengers. These runners were rare, if any, in Kuala Lumpur.

Fares of course went up in time. For comparison, the fare in 1920 in Singapore was set at 15 cents a mile (1.6 km.). The industry in Singapore was regulated – there was a Registrar of Rickshaws as well as a union.

The rickshaw pullers were a breed apart. They were mostly immigrants from China and they lived in lodging houses, which were popular then as many immigrants came alone. Most, if not all, smoked opium supplied by the lodging houses or in opium dens. Opium was made illegal after World War II but hard-core addicts still managed to get their supply. Some pullers only wore shorts while others wore dark shin-length shorts with, perhaps, a shirt. Almost all wore a hat made of matted straw or palm leaf. Some did not wear shoes. For those who did, old rubber tyres were cut to fit and tied to the feet with string. While waiting for fares, they would squat between the shafts or sit on the footrest.

This rickshaw has its hood collapsed. Note that the rickshaw puller is bare-footed and bare-chested. Image source: https://twitter.com/potretlawas/status/928597899524444160/photo/1

In their day, rickshaws ruled the roads. They would weave in and out of traffic, pulling out to the centre of the road when they felt necessary; the passengers sat coolly in their seats, being used to this. When looking for passengers, they would dash from one side of the road to the other to grab the passenger before another rickshaw did. Other vehicles had to look out for them.

They faced many risks – being scolded by passengers, arguments on the fare, accidents, drunken night passengers and passengers running off without paying. Many suffered bad health; there are reported cases of some collapsing and dying on the road while pulling. Despite the rickshaw being looked back on as a novelty, the pullers led a hard life for meagre earnings. They did not seem to be able to break out of rickshaw pulling, unlike some Chinese mining coolies who managed to move out into starting small businesses.

In our younger days, it was common for parents or teachers to scold us when we sat sloppily “sit up straight, don’t sit like a rickshaw puller!” Or, “you better study hard or you will end up being a rickshaw puller.”

The rickshaw pullers drew some sympathy and attention from travellers to Malaya as can be seen with the below two references.

“The jinricksha, pulled by Chinese coolies, is the conveyance usually hired for short runs in and around the neighbourhood of the towns. They are comfortable, and usually fairly clean, but as the coolie who pulls it seldom understands any language but his own dialect, and is as a rule supremely ignorant of the rule of the road, it is well to keep a wary eye on his movements.”

The Handbook of the Federated Malay States, compiled by H. Conway Belfield

“Chinese coolies toiling in the shafts of jinrickshas occupied by fares sitting inside, and quite unconcerned at the efforts of these human horses, who are often sickly, and always striving to reach the end of their journey as quickly as possible, mopping their faces as they run along, and audibly panting from their exertions.”

Ambrose B. Rathborne in Camping and Tramping in Malaya
In the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Image source: https://collections.lib.uwm.edu/digital/collection/agsphoto/id/29436/

By the mid-1950s, trishaws started replacing the rickshaws. The trishaw is a tricycle with the passenger cart placed on its side. Some, particularly in Penang, had the passenger cart in front. The advent of buses, as well as growing affluence that afforded people cars and taxis sounded the death knell for both the rickshaw and the trishaw. By the mid-sixties, both had almost disappeared, although the Penang trishaws ruled the roads until the eighties.

While trishaws can still be seen on the streets today in places like Melaka, catering to the tourist industry, the jinrickshas are only found in museums. However, they are a part of our history and the stories they tell should not be forgotten.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulled_rickshaw

https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_932_2005-01-24.html

Jan van der Putten and Mary Kilcline Cody (2009) Lost Times and Untold Tales from the Malay World, First Edition. Singapore: NUS Press.

https://great-railway-journeys-malaysia.weebly.com/jinrikisha-station.html

H. Conway Belfield. Handbook of the Federated Malay States. London. Edward Stanford, 12-14 Long Acre W. C.

Ambrose B. Rathborne F. R. G. S. (1898). Camping and Tramping in Malaya, Fifteen Years Pioneering in the Native States of the Malay Peninsula. London. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.

Jim Warren (1984) Living on the Razor’s Edge: The Rickshawmen Of Singapore Between Two Wars, 1919–1939. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 16:4, 38-51, DOI: 10.1080/14672715.1984.10412623

Warren, James Francis. (2003/05). Rickshaw Coolie: A People’s History of Singapore 1880 -1940 [Paperback]. Singapore University Press (US).

Relatives and friends – too many to name individually

How Explorers Communicated with Locals

by V. Jegatheesan

Now and then, I get questions from visitors to the Museum on how, in the past, explorers, travellers, and others communicated with the peoples of the places they visited. Going to a country with a different language in today’s world is not a problem – with dictionaries available literally at your fingertips, with Google Translate, or even with applications on smartphones that translate one language to another on the fly. In any case, English is the universal language these days.

However, how about Christopher Columbus, Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and so many others during earlier times – how did they communicate with the locals they encountered? …………. read more

Time Pieces at the National Planetarium

by Maganjeet Kaur

The simplest method to study the heavens is to stick a stick into the ground and observe its shadow at different times of day. This is the basis of sundials and the ‘stick’ is known as a gnomon. Apart from telling time of day, the resulting sun angles can also be used to tell the time of year.

Residing in a serene corner on the grounds of the National Planetarium are miniaturised replicas of three famous astronomical observatories from different parts of the world together with Malaysia’s own iconic timepiece. These are more sophisticated than the stick but they function essentially as gnomons. The four timepieces tell different stories, each compelling in its own way. The mysterious Stonehenge continues to hide its secrets, defying the hundreds of researchers bent on probing its depths. As you walk the grounds, gaze at the Guo Shou Jing Observatory and be amazed at the astronomer that conceived this marvel. Imagine the intellectual discourses that would have taken place at the Jai Singh Observatory, not only among local astronomers but also among those from afar as Bavaria, France, and Portugal. Recapture the excitement of Merdeka at the Merdeka Sun Clock.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge replica at the National Planetarium, Malaysia

Stonehenge, one of England’s most visited sites, was once sold at an auction for £6600! On 21 September 1915, Cecil Chubb, a barrister, was sent to an auction by his wife, Mary, to buy dining chairs; he returned home, instead, as the proud owner of a few acres of ruins, much to Mary’s chagrin. Fortunately, Chubb’s intentions were to protect the monument and, three years later, he donated Stonehenge to the nation, receiving a knighthood in exchange.

While the experts agree that Stonehenge was built in different phases by different groups of people, possibly for different functions, there is no common consensus on the constitution of the phases and the functions of the stones. The structure dates to around 3000 BCE, reaching its present shape around 1800-1500 BCE. The original structure was a henge, a circular flat area surrounded by a ditch, with the only difference from other henges being in its size – a whopping 100 metres across. Outer and inner banks surrounded the ditch and 56 circular cavities ran along the inner bank. Named Aubrey holes after the person who first noticed them, the cavities were believed to have initially contained bluestones but were used in a later period for cremation burials.

Stonehenge Phase 1 (around 3000 BCE). Image credit: http://arthistoryresources.net/stonehenge/stonehenge.html

The stones at the centre of the circle started being erected in different phases from around 2500 BCE, possibly beginning with the five trilithons. These were followed by the other stones including the bluestones, sarsen circle, heel stone, slaughter stone, and the four station stones. Attempts to link Stonehenge with observations of the heavenly bodies have mostly been refuted. It has been pointed out that it was not necessary to build a huge stone structure in order to make astronomical observations that could easily have be done using simpler tools. However, researchers acknowledge that Stonehenge is aligned on its northeast to southwest axis with the occurrences of solstices. There is also an interesting link between the heel stone and the midsummer solstice. There are a number of other connections with astronomy but a detailed discussion on the astronomical functions of the various stones, while fascinating, is outside the scope of this article.

The heel stone with Stonehenge in the background. This is a solitary piece of stone 4.7 metres tall with a tapered top. It sits outside the Stonehenge circle, at the start of an avenue that leads to Stonehenge. Image credit: Flicker (attribution: diamond geezer)

Guo Shou Jing Observatory

Replica of the Guo Shou Jing Observatory (Dengfeng Observatory) at the National Planetarium, Malaysia

This observatory was built in 1276 under orders by Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty in China. The observatory measures the sun’s shadow at noon and its variation throughout the year. It was named after the observatory’s creator, the renowned astronomer Guo Shoujing. The observatory lies near Gaocheng town, southeast of Dengfeng city in the Henan Province in China. Today, it is known as the Gaocheng Observatory or, more popularly, as the Dengfeng Observatory.

The observatory has two components: a platform formed by a truncated pyramid and a horizontal scale known as shigui.

The observatory at Gaocheng. Note the two components of the observatory: the large truncated platform and the horizontal scale in front of it. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (attribution: Siyuwj, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The platform is 9.45 metres above ground level. Two staircases run up to the platform, on which has been built two rooms, joined by a single roof. The rooms raise the height of the structure to 12.62 metres. Each room has a window facing north and overlooking the horizontal scale below. The rooms also have a second window facing each other; a horizontal rod connects the two rooms through these windows. This rod acts as the gnomon. The height of the structure from the base to this horizontal rod is 9.75 metres, which is exactly 40 chi, a standard unit of measure in ancient China. A typical Chinese gnomon at the time was 8-chi tall (1.98 metres) – an example is the Tang period gnomon close to the vicinity of the Dengfeng Observatory. However, Guo Shoujing recognised a link between the height of the gnomon and the accuracy of the measurements; the resultant 40-chi gnomon at Gaocheng was thus innovative. It is said that Guo Shoujing’s move to a 40-chi gnomon was inspired by Middle Eastern astronomy, which had innovated large instruments, e.g. the Maragheh Observatory (1259 CE) in Iran.

The horizontal scale extended to the north of the large platform. The horizontal rod (gnomon) installed on the platform cast a shadow on the scale and this was the basis of the astronomical measurements. The horizontal scale, poetically known as the ‘sky-measuring ruler’, measures 31.19 metres in length or 128 chi. Two parallel troughs, linked at the ends, would have held water to check its level.

The two rooms above the platform. Their windows look out to the north. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (attribution: Siyuwj, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Dengfeng Observatory became the first of 27 observatories built by Guo Shoujing in various places in China. He used his observatories to develop a new Shoushi (season-granting) calendar. However, most of the information on the length of the sun’s shadow for this calendar came from another 40-chi gnomon he built in Dadu. The calendar, which started in 1281, would continue to be used for 364 years – until the end of the Ming dynasty.

Jai Singh Observatory

Replica of the Samrat Yantra (from the Jai Singh Observatory) at the National Planetarium, Malaysia

Pur means ‘city’ in Sanskrit and hence Jaipur, the breath-taking ‘pink city’, capital of Rajasthan, can be translated as the ‘City of Jai’. More specifically, it is the city of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who founded the city in 1726. Maharaja Jai Singh was an avid astronomer and he made a detailed study of Indian astronomical treatises. These go as far back as the Vedic texts (c. 1500-900 BCE), in which the study of stars and planets was known as Nakstravidya. He also studied Aryabhata’s famous treatise, Aryabhatiya (c. 476 CE), Varahmihira (c. 500 CE) and Brahmagupta (c. 598 CE). During the time that Jai Singh was carrying out his research, Middle Eastern and European knowledge of astronomy was very advanced and Jai Singh had their treatises translated into Sanskrit for his studies.

Sawar Jai Singh’s studies led him to recognise errors in the ephemerides, i.e. the trajectory of astronomical objects, used to calculate the imperial calendar and the astronomical tables. However, his existing brass instruments were not good enough for him to carry out the recalculations needed to correct the errors. Hence, he commissioned the construction of a jantar mantar (astronomical observatory) in Delhi. This would become the first of five observatories he would establish between circa 1721 and 1743. The others were at Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura. The observatory at Jaipur was the largest, in keeping with Jai Singh’s vision of his capital city having state-of-the-art architectural and astronomical edifices. With the exception of the observatory at Mathura, these observatories still exist and are heritage sites.

The information board at the planetarium specifies that the replica on its grounds is the Samrat Yantra (King of Instruments) from the Delhi Observatory. A Samrat Yantra is essentially a sundial usually with a triangular pyramid as its gnomon. It is flanked by two quadrants and the shadow of the gnomon on these quadrants measures the sun’s movement.

This drawing of the Delhi Samrat Yantra provides a good indication of its size. Illustrated by Thomas Daniell in 1815, currently in the collection of Wellcome Collection (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

The Samrat Yantra in Delhi has a colossal pyramid, measuring 21.3 metres in height. The hypotenuse of this right-angled triangular pyramid is parallel to the Earth’s rotation axis and the angle made by the hypotenuse and the horizontal is equal to the latitude of Delhi. The gnomon is flanked by two large quadrants, which lie on the plane of the equator. Their scales are graduated in a manner that allows the instrument to measure local time, right ascension, and declination. The Samrat Yantra allows measurements to a very high level of precision; both the Samrat Yantra at Delhi and Jaipur can measure time to an accuracy of two seconds.

Apart from the Samrat Yantra, the Observatory at Delhi has three other key instruments, each measuring different aspects of the movements of the heavenly bodies. These are: Misra Yantra, Jaya Prakasa Yantra and Rama Yantra. The Misra Yantra was built by Madho Singh, Jai Singh’s son. It is a compendium of five instruments including a Samrat Yantra.

Jantar Mantar at Delhi. Image credit: https://twitter.com/meissatech/status/481380967018287104 (modified to include labels)

Merdeka Sun Clock

Originally installed at Merdeka Park, the Merdeka Sun Clock was moved to the National Planetarium in 1997. The Merdeka Park, a public park opened on 20 April 1958, was located outside Merdeka Stadium, venue of the declaration of Independence on 21 August 1957.

The Sun Clock at its original location at Merdeka Park. Image credit: https://reclaimmerdekapark.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/memories-of-merdeka-park-part-2/

This sundial was the brainchild of Dato’ Stanley E. Jewkes, who had designed the Merdeka Stadium, Merdeka Park and, later, the National Stadium. His decision to include a sundial in the park was inspired by the solar clocks in India and by Stonehenge.

Malayan symbols have been weaved into both the gnomon and the bowl onto which the gnomon’s shadow is cast – the bowl is in the shape of a crescent and the pointer of the gnomon is an 11-pointed gold star representing the 11 states of Malaya (Sabah and Sarawak were not part of Malaya at that time). The clock measures time of year with zodiac signs used to represent months. Hour lines on a sundial are normally straight. However, the shape of the crescent bowl made this difficult and Jewkes compensated by building an equation of time into the lines. Two intersecting lines were drawn, differentiated by colour – one followed the sun as it moved north and the other as it moved south. An information board provides detailed instructions on measuring time using this solar clock.

Bibliography

Castleden, Rodney (2004) The Making of Stonehenge, Taylor & Francis e-Library.

Johnson-Roehr, Susan N. (2015) Observatories of Sawai Jai Singh II in C.L.N. Ruggles (ed.) Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, New York: Springer, pp. 2018-2028.

Lai Chee Kien and Ang Chee Cheong (2018) The Merdeka Interviews: Architects, Engineers and Artists of Malaysia’s Independence, Kuala Lumpur: Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia.

Pearson, Mike Parker (2013) Stonehenge – A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument, New York: The Experiment.

Powell, Jonathan (2019) From Cave Art to Hubble: A History of Astronomical Record Keeping, Springer ebook: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-31688-4

Pramod Kumar (1981) Sawai Jai Singh’s Observatories, Arts of Asia, Vol. 11 (5), pp. 127-134.

Xu Fengxian (2015) Dengfeng Large Gnomon in C.L.N. Ruggles (ed.) Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, New York: Springer, pp. 2111-2116.

Mamoru Shinozaki in Syonan-To

by Eric Lim

It was December 1941. The British in Malaya knew that the Japanese invasion was imminent. However, they had a secret plan in place, known as Operation Matador.The plan was to destroy the landing bays at Songkhla and Pattani in Thailand so that the Japanese could not land there. However, that plan failed to be activated.

On ‘Blue Monday’ 8 December 1941, just after midnight, the Japanese army landed at Kota Bharu and two other towns in Thailand, namely Pattani and Singora (a.k.a Songkhla). Approximately seventy minutes after the landing in Kota Bharu, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbour. These two attacks marked the start of the Pacific War and World War II in Asia.

Source: The Star Online

Japanese forces took two routes – one from the north at Jitra, making their way down the west coast, and the other from Kota Bharu, taking the east coast. They fought Allied Forces, comprising British, Indian and Australian armies, all the way down to the south, to their final destination ‘Fortress Singapore’, also nicknamed ‘Gibraltar of the East’.

In less than two months, Japanese forces had invaded the whole of the Malay Peninsula and made landfall in Singapore on 7 February 1942. The Battle of Singapore came to a halt after a week of fighting when British Lieutenant General Arthur Percival surrendered the island to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. It came as a great shock to PM Winston Churchill as it is recorded to be the largest British surrender in its history.

Immediately, Japanese Military Administration took over control and, on the very next day, Singapore was renamed Syonan-To (Light of the South). Less than a week later, Japanese forces started Operation Sook Ching (Chinese term meaning ‘purge through cleansing’). The Japanese term for the operation was ‘Dai Kensho’ meaning ‘great inspection’. Chinese males aged 18 to 50 were rounded up and brought to screening centres set up around the island. They were inspected by the Kempeitai (Japanese military police) and Imperial Guards Division; those suspected of being anti-Japanese were taken away to killing sites and executed, their bodies thrown into the sea. The operation was initially planned from 21 to 23 February 1942 but it was extended to 4 March 1942.

Mamoru Shinozaki

Source: Wikipedia

Mamoru Shinozaki started work in a Japanese news agency and was posted to Shanghai in 1934. Two years later, he joined the Japanese Foreign Office as press attaché. In 1938, he was transferred to the Japanese Consulate General in Singapore and his job was to report on local conditions and British military defence. In September of 1940, he brought two Japanese military officers to various locations on the island as well as in Malaya to survey military installations and study British defence capability.

His activities did not escape the eyes of the Special Branch and he was put on surveillance. On 21 September 1940, Shinozaki was arrested and convicted of espionage and sentenced to three and a half years of rigorous imprisonment. He was incarcerated in Changi prison. With the fall of Singapore, Shinozaki was released and he was appointed Adviser of Defence Headquarters. He was tasked to reassemble the documents of the Japanese Consulate and issue protection cards to diplomats and other foreigners from neutral countries.

It was during the Sook Ching massacre that Shinozaki used his good connection with the Japanese chief and his position to issue personal protection cards to thousands of Chinese thus sparing their lives from execution. One of the men that he saved was Lim Boon Keng. Lim was a medical doctor and a strong advocate of social and educational reforms in Singapore. He was the president of the Xiamen University in China. He co-founded the first locally owned insurance firm in Singapore and the Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) Bank. He was well known in the Chinese community.

In the midst of the Sook Ching operation, Shinozaki had asked Lim to be the leader of the Overseas Chinese Association (OCA). The OCA was the brainchild of Shinozaki; its function was to mediate between the Japanese Military administration and the local Chinese community. After much persuasion, Lim finally accepted the post and, at the same time, Shinozaki became its Adviser. It was formed on 2 March 1942. As soon as OCA was formed, Shinozaki was removed from his post and replaced by Toru Takase who used the Association to demand 50 Million dollars from the Chinese community. It was extremely difficult to meet the demand, even after two extensions. This prompted the Japanese administration to include Chinese communities from the states of Malaya into the Association. After another three extensions, the Association only managed to collect 28 Million dollars. Eventually, Takase allowed the Association to take a loan of 22 Million dollars from the Yokohama Specie Bank. The cheque of 50 Million dollars was presented to the Japanese by Lim and 57 Chinese leaders on 25 June 1942.

With that episode over, Shinozaki returned to OCA in August and again took the post as Adviser. In the same month, he was appointed as the Chief Welfare Officer and he helped in the setting up of the Eurasian Welfare Association (EWA). Similar to the OCA, EWA was the representative of the Eurasian community to the Japanese administration. A prominent surgeon in Singapore at that time, Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar, was appointed as the President of EWA.

Japanese authorities foresee an eventual shortage of food to feed the island’s population of a million people. Hence, they immediately embarked on the promotion of the Grow More Food Campaign. People from all walks of life including school children and Government servants, were encouraged to grow their own food and be self-sufficient. However, the campaign failed to produce results. Moving forward, Japanese authorities took a tougher stance and one of the plans was the setting up of agricultural settlements outside the city. Again, the services of Shinozaki were required and he was tasked to oversee the resettlement project.

Shinozaki turned to the OCA and persuaded them to take up the offer. OCA was coaxed into the plan when Shinozaki made several promises to them – the settlement would be self-governing, the Japanese would not interfere, and the settlement was assured of constant rice supply until they become self-sufficient. With that assurance, a committee was formed and headed by Lim. A team was dispatched to survey a suitable site in Malaya. After much consideration, Endau in Johor was selected as the site for the new settlement. Endau was the choice because of the accessible supply of fresh water and arable land that was ideal for agriculture.

Endau

Endau is located on the northern tip of east Johor and close to the border with Pahang. The location of the town was already in the maps published by the British as early as 1793 and 1805. However, it was then known as Blair’s Harbour, named after Archibald Blair who was working for the Bombay Marine (Bombay Marine evolved into the Royal Indian Navy of today). He came to the South China Sea, did a survey, and reported that the site of Endau was potentially a ‘good harbour’. He did a similar survey of the Andaman Islands during that time and, today, the capital city of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is named after him, Port Blair.

The Endau settlement was also known as the New Syonan Model Farm and it was entirely for the Chinese community. Japanese authorities had targeted to evacuate 300,000 Chinese to the settlement. As the next step, OCA made efforts to raise money for the project and managed to raise one million dollars. This was followed by construction work – clearing the jungle, and building roads and houses. OCA also assigned suitable candidates to head the various departments set up to help the settlers. The departments were agricultural, medical and health, supply, public works, timber mill, and public peace and order. With all these in place, the pioneer settlers arrived in September 1943. The population grew and by the end of the first year, Endau attracted 12,000 settlers. Progressively, the settlement saw the establishment of a bank, school, paper factory, sawmill, and several restaurants. It was becoming a successful self-sufficient scheme and it attracted the attention of anti-Japanese guerrillas in Malaya, the Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). They attacked the settlement and claimed the lives of several settlers. Again, Shinozaki came to the rescue when he managed to enter into a secret pact with the MPAJA guerrillas by offering rice in exchange for peace. The Endau settlement continued until 1945 when the Japanese Occupation ended.

Bahau

The Eurasian community also wanted to participate in the voluntary migration scheme primarily because the community felt that they were constantly being monitored by the Japanese Military Police and this created fear and insecurity. This prompted the Roman Catholic Bishop, Adrian Devals, and Herman De Souza Sr, a representative of the Eurasian community, to make the trip to Bahau in Negeri Sembilan to assess its suitability. The Eurasian community gave their thumbs up and it was reported to Shinozaki. However, Shinozaki had reservations about the new settlement. It was further away from Singapore and sending support from the island would be difficult – they would have to count on support from the Negeri Sembilan government. Furthermore, it was difficult to clear the vegetation and the land was unsuitable for agriculture.

The plan went ahead and the Japanese named the new settlement Fuji-go, which means Fuji village or ‘beautiful village’. The first group to arrive consisted mainly of bachelors. They were selected by the Japanese to help lay the foundation of the new settlement as well as to set up a model farm and transfer farming techniques to the settlers. Between December 1943 and April 1944, some 2,000 Eurasians arrived at Bahau, and they brought with them curtains and pianos to furnish their new homes. Shinozaki and Paglar made frequent visits to Bahau, bringing with them food and medicines for the settlers. Life in the new settlement was no bed of roses, as most of them did have farming knowledge. Many suffered from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria. At the end of the Japanese Occupation, it was reported that the number of settlers was estimated to be around 3,000. Besides the main groups of Eurasian and Chinese Roman Catholics, there were also a small group of European Protestants and neutrals from countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Romania, and Russia.

Piano brought to Bahau (Photo from The heartlander tourist / Lioncityboyzach)

At the end of Japanese Occupation in August 1945, the settlements were abandoned and the settlers returned to Singapore. Besides Endau and Bahau, the Japanese also created a settlement in Pulau Bintan (largest island in the Riau Province, Indonesia) for the Indians.

When the British returned to Singapore, Mamoru Shinozaki was interned in a Jurong camp but he was freed when the Chinese and Catholic communities petitioned the British for his release. He acted as a witness in a number of post-war trials in Singapore. He died in 1991.

Bibliography

Invasion of Malaya: First shot in the Pacific War – Rouwen Lin / The Star 8 Dec.2016. [https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/people/2016/12/08/invasion-of-malaya-the-japanese-arrive/]

The occupation of Singapore Part 3: The Bahau and Endau Settlements, The Heartlander Tourist, posted by Lioncityboyzach on 18 Feb 2014. [https://heartlandertourist.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-occupation-of-singapore-part-3-the-bahau-and-endau-settlements/]

Singapore Infopedia [https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/]:

  • Mamoru Shinozaki – Chua, Alvin
  • Operation Sook Ching – Ho, Stephanie
  • Oversea Chinese Association – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Grow More Food Campaign – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Endau Settlement – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
  • Bahau Settlement – Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia

Tales from the Malay Annals: A Brief Introduction

by Alvin Chua

The Malay Annals (known in Malay as Sejarah Melayu) is one of the most important works of traditional Malay literature. This work is known also as Sulalatus Salatin, which translates as Genealogy of Kings. This is an indication of the primary concern of the Malay Annals, i.e. the rulers of Melaka, the most famous kingdom in Malaysia’s history.

The extent of the Melakan Sultanate during the fifteenth century. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A fairly large number of manuscripts of the Malay Annals have survived till this day. Some of these are found in Malaysia, under the custodianship of either the Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (National Library of Malaysia) or the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Language and Literature). The majority of manuscripts, however, are kept in libraries or institutions outside Malaysia. According to a 1967 article by Roolvink, 11 manuscripts are held by the United Kingdom, 12 by the Netherlands, five by Indonesia, and one by Russia. Although the majority of the manuscripts are late copies dating to the nineteenth century, the fact that so many manuscripts were produced reflects the high regard in which the Malay Annals was held.

The Malay Annals was originally written in Classical Malay in the Old Jawi script (a script adapted from Arabic for the writing of the Malay language). Subsequently, the work has been Romanised, and translated. The first English translation of the Malay Annals, for example, was made by John Leyden, and was published posthumously in 1821. It may be mentioned that in addition to the better-known English translations of the Malay Annals, there is also an incomplete French one. It’s lengthy title, Le Sadjarah malayou (l’arbre généalogique malais), ou, Histoire des radjas et sultans malais : depuis les origines jusqu’à la conquête de Malaka par Alphonse d’Albuquerque, en 1511 translates as The Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Family Tree), Or, History of the Malay Rajas and Sultans: From the Origins to the Conquest of Melaka by Afonso de Albuquerque, in 1511.


Frontispiece of a Jawi edition of the Malay Annals. Image: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).  

There are a number of questions surrounding the Malay Annals that have yet to be fully answered. For instance, the exact date of the text’s composition is unknown. According to Winstedt, the oldest copy of the Malay Annals is the Raffles MS No. 18, dating to 1612. Winstedt goes on to argue that the Raffles MS No. 18 was rewritten and compiled from an older manuscript, which he believes dates to before 1536. This manuscript is also believed to be the one closest to the original version of the text. Incidentally, the Raffles MS No. 18 resides today in London, at the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society.

The identity of the author of the Malay Annals is another unsolved mystery. Winstedt believes that the author of the original text was a Melakan at the court of Sultan Mahmud Shah, who ruled Melaka when it was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511. Winstedt is of the opinion that the writer survived the fall of the city, and that he continued writing until 1535. It is generally agreed that in 1612, the Bendahara Paduka Raja of Johor, Tun Muhammad bin Tun Ahmad, better-known as Tun Sri Lanang, was commissioned by Raja Bongsu (the future Sultan Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah of Johor) to rewrite, revise, and edit the Malay Annals.

The Malay Annals (Raffles MS No. 18) contains 31 chapters, beginning with a brief preface praising Allah, the Prophet, and his companions, as well as detailing the circumstances in which the manuscript was written. The story proper begins with Iskandar Zulqarnain (commonly identified as Alexander the Great), to whom the rulers of Melaka trace their ancestry, and ends with ‘Alauddin Ri’ayat Shah, the first Sultan of Johor. Apart from the rulers of Melaka, the pages of the Malay Annals are filled with many colourful characters, some of whom have become household names in Malaysia.

An artist’s impression of Sultan Mansur Shah’s palace, displayed at Gallery B, National Museum, Malaysia. © Museum Volunteers, JMM. Photographed by Cheong Weng Onn.

Despite its focus on the Melakan rulers, the Malay Annals is much more than a mere royal genealogy. This work sheds light on various aspects of the Melakan Sultanate, including its administration, foreign relations, economy, as well as social norms and customs. Having said that, it should also be noted that the Malay Annals was not meant to be a faithful record of historical events, and that many of its stories ought to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Still, the Malay Annals is a significant piece of work, not only as a work of Malay literature, but also for the information about the Melakan Sultanate it contains, and the strong influence it has exerted on the development of the Malay civilisation. Therefore, in 2001, the Malay Annals, following its nomination by Dato’ Haji A. Aziz Deraman, the former Director-General of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka,was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The ‘Tales from the Malay Annals‘ series on this blog will look at some of the stories contained within this manuscript. Do look out for these articles.

References

Raslin, A. B. & Effah, I. Z. (2013) ‘Sulalatus Salatin: Karya Agung Melayu di Institusi Simpanan Dunia’ in Seminar 400 Tahun Sulalatus Salatin. Kuala Lumpur, 29-30 October 2013.

Roolvink, R. (1967) The Variant Versions of the Malay Annals. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 123(3), pp. 301-324.

Sejarah Melayu [Cheah, B. K. (comp.), Abdul Rahman, Hj. Ismail (transcr.), 2009. Sejarah Melayu. Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.]

UNESCO, Memory of the World, n.d.. Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals). [Online]
Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/memory-of-the-world/register/full-list-of-registered-heritage/registered-heritage-page-8/sejarah-melayu-the-malay-annals/
[Accessed 24 March 2020].

UNESCO, 2012. Memory of the World. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd..

Winstedt, R. O. (1938) The Malay Annals Or Sejarah Melayu. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 16(3), pp. 1-226.

Historical Societies in our Country

by Eric Lim

Historical societies in our country have existed since the time of the Straits Settlements. The earliest was the Straits Asiatic Society formed at a meeting on 4 November 1877 at the Raffles Library and Museum in Singapore with its parent organisation, the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

The Asiatic Society of Bengal was founded on 15 January 1784 by Sir William Jones who was a lawyer and Orientalist. When he came to Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 25 September 1783, he took up the post as a Supreme Court judge and five months later, he formed the society, receiving strong support and encouragement from the Governor General of Bengal at that time, Warren Hasting. The setting of the society was to encourage Oriental studies.

The meeting on the formation of the Straits Asiatic Society was chaired by Archdeacon George Frederick Hose, who later became Bishop. It was attended by prominent members from the  expatriate communities in the three Straits Settlements states including D.F.A. Hervey (Resident Councillor of Malacca), Charles John Irving (Lieutenant General of Penang), and William A. Pickering (first Protector of Chinese of the Chinese Protectorate based in Singapore). The society started with an enrolment of 150 members. The Society’s mission was ‘to produce the collection and record of information relating to the Straits Settlements and the neighbouring countries’. Its other aims included producing a journal and establishment of a library.

The following year, the society was renamed Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society when its affiliation with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland or commonly known as Royal Asiatic Society, was confirmed on 6 May 1878. Bishop Hope was appointed as the first President of the Society and he went on to become one of the longest serving Presidents, from 1878 to 1908. The other founding members also took up appointments in the Society and contributed actively to its journal. The first journal was named Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society; it was dated July 1878 but it was published in September 1878.

The society then went through name-change on two occasions in accordance to the political situation of the time. In 1923, it was renamed Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society when the British influence went beyond the Straits Settlements; and in 1964, it was renamed Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, after the formation of Malaysia. The name remains until today. Its office was moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The name of the journal also changed in accordance to the renaming of the society. Some of its past illustrious members were Sir Hugh Clifford, Sir Frank Swettenham, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, Alfred Dent, and Henry Nicholas Ridley to name just a few. 

In 1930, of two more organisations were formed, namely the Malacca Historical Society and the Penang Historical Society. This was no coincidence as both states were under the Straits Settlements and had strong Western influence. Twenty-three years on, in 1953, the Malayan Historical Society (MHS) was formed, based in Kuala Lumpur. It was officially formed on 30 April 1953 at its first meeting held at the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall on Jalan Raja (the old City Hall). It was a grand inauguration attended by the British High Commissioner in Malaya, General Sir Gerald Templer, and the Malay Rulers – Sultan of Pahang, Yang DiPertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Sultan of Kedah, Sultan of Terengganu, Tengku Mahkota of Johor, Regent of Perak, and Deputy Raja of Perlis. Also in attendance were 200 local dignitaries – Datuk Onn Jaafar, Datuk Thuraisingam, Datuk Nik Ahmad Kamil, Datuk Tan Cheng Loke, and Tuan Za’aba, to name a few.

General Sir Gerald Templer in his speech emphasized that the Society is an effort to bring all the people of Malaya together to become a unified nation in the face of time and destiny of independence. He said ‘a nation which does not look back with pride upon its past, can never look forward with confidence towards its future’. He also tasked the Society ‘to ensure that things of beauty and historic value, old and new, find their way to a place where they’ll be properly cared for, and are not allowed to moulder, forgotten and unappreciated’. He also wanted the Society to work together with other organisations and the knowledge gathered about the history to be widely disseminated to the people: ‘This is not a Society for the Government, for the educated or for any class or section of the populations, it is for everybody, and everybody has something to contribute to it’.

At the end of the meeting, a Council was formed and it was headed by the first President, Datuk Mahmood Bin Mat. Its office was initially housed at the National Museum, but it was later moved to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. In 1976, the Government provided a Government house located at No.958, Jalan Hose, Kuala Lumpur to be utilised as MHS’s headquarters. Tun Hussein Onn, the then Prime Minister, officially opened the building on 31 August 1976. Later, Tun Hussein Onn managed to secure a plot of prime land in Kuala Lumpur and awarded it to MHS. On 1 December 2003, MHS officially relocated to its new headquarters at Wisma Sejarah, No.203, Jalan Tun Razak, opposite the Institut Jantung Negara/National Heart Institute. 

The first publication by MHS was entitled The Malayan Historical Journal; it was published in May 1954 and the editor was J.C. Bottoms. The annual subscription was twelve dollars and a single number (per issue) was priced at three dollars. In 1957, Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard took over from J.C. Bottoms and the journal was renamed Malaya in History. This journal went on for 15 years until April 1972, when Prof. Zainal Abidin Wahid took over, but from this time on (until today), the journal is produced in the Malay language and given a new name Malaysia dari segi Sejarah (Malaysia in History, in English). The late Prof. Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim was next in line to hold the editorial chair when he came on board in 1978 until 1989; he was then replaced by Prof. Dr. Nik Hassan Shuhaimi.

In addition to the journals, MHS also publishes books and monographs. Some of the bestsellers include Lembah Bujang (published in 1980), Historia (1984), Changi, the lost years (1989), Duri dalam daging (2001) and The Malay Civilization (2007). Today, the Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia in Malay) maintains branch offices in all the states.

References

Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society official website  [https://www.mbras.org.my/]

Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia / Malaysian Historical Society official website [http://www.psm.org.my/]

Singapore Infopedia website [https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/]

Fountain at Dataran Merdeka

by Eric Lim

In my last article, I wrote about two Colonial monuments that were initially located at the Government Offices, now renamed as Sultan Abdul Samad Building, at Dataran Merdeka. First, the King Edward VII bronze bust on a marble pedestal, which was positioned right in front of the building and unveiled on 16 April 1912. The second monument is the bronze statue of Sir Frank Swettenham, erected on the front right-hand corner of the building and facing Gombak River. It was announced publicly for the first time on 19 January 1921 and it was a grand occasion attended by the Rulers from the Federated Malay States and top ranking British officials at that time.

During the Japanese Occupation, both monuments were removed and hidden away. After the war, the monuments were returned to their original sites. Today, they are standing tall at the grounds of the National Museum. Besides these two monuments, which originated at Jalan Raja, another monument still exits at Jalan Raja – at Dataran Merdeka.

This only surviving monument is the Fountain, located at the southern end of Dataran Merdeka, close to the 95 metres tall flagpole and near the intersection between the old General Post Office, the current Textile Museum and the former National History Museum, which was closed in November 2007. Prior to becoming the museum, the building housed the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (today they are known as Standard Chartered Bank).

Information board next to the fountain

A close scrutiny of the information on the board next to the Fountain, facing Jalan Raja only provides a one line introduction – `At the corner of the square stands a fountain that was built in 1897`. It was no surprise with the absence of facts of its origin and history because since it was erected, it was already shrouded in mystery. This prompted the Malayan Historical Society in Kuala Lumpur to put the record right with the help of the National Archives. They published their findings in their half-yearly magazine called `Malaya in History` volume VIII / number 1 / December 1962 issue.

When the Fountain was completed, KLites believed it was built to commemorate the Chief Inspector of Police, Steve Harper of the Selangor Military Police who died at home in 1896. He was at his prime at the time of his passing. Steve was popularly known to the locals as `Tuan Steeb`. Steve was one of three brothers who were very popular and successful in Selangor. There was Alfred Harper who was the Chief Clerk of the Courts and it was reported that he died at about the same time as Steve. And the third brother, Archie Harper, who founded the well-known firm of A.C Harper & Co. Ltd., which were agents for the Straits Steamship Company and importer for Peter Dawson`s Scotch whisky. Archie was one of the early members of Selangor Club (now Royal Selangor Club) and he was the first and best three Honorary Secretaries of the club. Archie retired in 1906.

The fountain

The publication at that time, the Malay Mail (newspaper) and Selangor Journal (periodical), appeared to support this tradition. The former reported that a fund was started in January 1897 to commemorate the late Steve Harper and it went on to receive contributions from KLites. The newspaper also published the list of contributors from time to time and it further reported that the memorial should take the form of a drinking fountain to be erected at the central market (built in 1888, it is still called Central Market, located at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. However, it is no longer a wet market but now houses mostly arts and craft, and souvenir shops). The Fountain was finally completed later that year but it was constructed at the Padang (now Dataran Merdeka). KLites concluded that it was the cop’s fountain and believed it was moved from the central market to the present site at an earlier date.

A year later after the start of the collection of subscription for the Steve Harper memorial, the Malay Mail reported in its 18 April 1898 issue that Mr Bellamy, the Selangor State Deputy Superintending Engineer, had informed in a meeting that the Fountain at the Padang was built by the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board at a cost of four thousand dollars. He recommended that the contributions toward the Steve Harper memorial fund be used for other schemes. One of them was to buy school books for the underprivileged students attending the prestigious Victoria Institution.

The Malay Mail followed up on this pending issue and reported in its 2 May 1898 publication that a meeting was organized on 30 April and it was decided after a vote count that the scheme for the purchase of school books was adopted. The three who voted namely Towkay Loke Yew (wealthy businessman), Thambusamy Pillai (leader of the Tamil community and businessman) and Mr Shaw (Headmaster of the Victoria Institution) were appointed the trustees of the fund. (For the record, Towkay Loke Yew voted against the book scheme, instead proposed for another fountain to be erected).

The project to erect the Fountain was given out to an engineering firm Messrs Riley, Hargreaves & Co, which carried out the work in October and November 1897. The materials were imported from England. The company was also involved in the building of two bridges in Kuala Lumpur, on Market Street and High Street (today, they are Leboh Pasar Besar and Jalan Tun HS Lee respectively).

The Malayan Historical Society concluded that the Fountain was erected by the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board with their own funds and not erected to commemorate the late Steve Harper.

(The current location of the Fountain is not its original site. It was moved to the current position when the Dataran Merdeka project was completed in late 1989)

(The Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board was formed on 14 May 1890 and their responsibilities include sanitation, upkeep of roads, lighting of streets, planning and other functions. It would eventually become the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Kuala Lumpur) and now Kuala Lumpur City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur).

References

Three Memorials on Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur – A note on their History from the National Archives, Malaya in History, vol. VIII (1), December 1962, pp. 39-40.

Rimba (1922) Bygone Selangor: A Souvenir, Kuala Lumpur: Charles Grenier & Son.