Nestled in the lush hills of Malaysia’s northwest Perak state is the sleepy town of Ipoh, once the centre of one of the world’s biggest tin mining communities.
The most prominent, and a de facto ancestral home of the Hakka Miners’ Club, is the Han Chin Pet Soo building, which is now a museum that seeks to bring the town’s past back to life.
The museum is operated by a heritage preservation charity called Ipoh World, founded by British Royal Navy commander-turned-archivist Ian Anderson.
As news of the project spread, photos, artefacts and documents poured in. Anderson’s project grew into an archive of about 8,000 articles and 14,000 digital documents, including photos and scanned archival resources, all of which can be found on his website. The materials have been a source of several exhibitions at Han Chin Pet Soo.
The museum also tells the story of the building itself, starting with the founding of the Hakka Miners’ Club in 1893 by an immigrant from China known as “Towkay” Leong Fee (also known as Liang Pi Joo). Leong, a native of Guangdong province’s Meixian district, arrived in Malay in 1875, according to Ipoh World’s archives.
Leong crossed paths with some of the most important figures in Ipoh’s economic and social history: Yau Tat Shin, widely credited as a key developer of the city; the aristocratic Dato Panglima Kinta Yusuff, who helped steer the growth of Ipoh in the 1880s; and various European businessmen and tycoons who passed through the Straits Settlements.
Han Chin Pet Soo played an important role in the everyday lives of the Hakka miners. It not only offered them a place to socialise but also to indulge in any of the “four vices” of the time: drinking, gambling, opium smoking and prostitution. (Han Chin Pet Soo was one of only a few establishments at the time to receive an exemption from the Registrar of Societies, and magisterial certification for legal gambling activities.)
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Support and fund Ipoh’s heritage IpohWorld: www.IpohWorld.org
Ipoh is my beloved hometown.
I am 5th Generation Hakka from Tsang Sing ancestral village near Guangzhou, Southern China. Now I’m simply a Malaysian.
I left my parent’s Ipoh den to further my studies at St. Kevin’s College, Toorak, Melbourne.
I have many fond memories of Ipoh and my alma mater St. Michael’s Institution, Ipoh, and the crazy antics of my Michaelian Standard 6B primary school classmates (we created a wonderful super-active Whatsapp group 2 years ago).
I treasure my extracurricular activities with the Valiant Vanguard Movement. I loved the weekend Vanguard Training Camps in various towns. Those were the days of old-fashion pen pals, innocent teenage puppy love romances and crushes, accompanying and walking a cute girl home while pushing my bicycle along, a few hours long fixed-line phone conversations (‘bou teen wah chuk’) with my girl friend… yeah, no internet distractions, texting, or mobile phone Phubbing.
Ipoh will always be ‘EATpoh’ for me as Ipoh has the best and famous:
Ipoh White Coffee,
Ipoh Chicken Rice,
Ipoh Kai See Hor Fun (chicken & rice noodle),
Ipoh Golden Char Koay Teow,
Ipoh Big Tree noodles,
Nasi Kandar Ayam Merah Ganga Rice (Yong Suan),
tau foo fah (beancurd dessert),
Kaya Puff & biscuits,
Menglembu groundnuts, etc.