Yap Ah Loy

name = Yap Ah Loy

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birth_date = birth date|1837|3|14|df=y
birth_place = Huizhou, Guangdong, China
residence = Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
death_date = 15 April, 1885
death_place = Kuala Lumpur
office = Kapitan
term_start = 1868
term_end = 1885
predecessor = Kapitan Liu Ngim Kong
successor = Kapitan Yap Ah Shak
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occupation = Kapitan
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Yap Ah Loy (Chinese: 葉亞來, Pinyin: Yè Yă Lái), also known as Yap Tet Loy and Yap Mao Lan, started the development of Kuala Lumpur as a commercial and mining centre during the mid 1800s. Yap Ah Loy became a Kapitan Cina (Chinese Kapitan) and the headman of a settlement of Chinese inhabitants. After the Formation of Malaysia in 1963 Kuala Lumpur became the capital of Malaysia. Today, there is a street named after him in the heart of Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, known as 'Jalan Yap Ah Loy' (Yap Ah Loy Road).


Yap Ah Loy was born in the Guangdong Province (Chinese:廣東省, Pinyin: Gǔang Dōng Shěng) of southern China on the 14 March 1837. His parents lived in the village of Tam Shui (Chinese:淡水鎮, Pinyin: Dàn Shǔi Zhèn) in the Kwai Yap district of the Fui Chiu prefecture. He was therefore by descent a Hakka (Chinese:客家, Pinyin: Kè Jiā) of the Fui Chiu clan. Yap Ah Loy left China via Macau (Chinese:澳門 , Pinyin: Aò Mén) for the Malaya in 1854. On his arrival in Malaya, he found that the place was very much different from China. The scenery, with tall coconut and betel palms, and the small atap houses was a new and fascinating experience to him. Atap is a Malay word and it is a house of traditional design that uses wood and straw to build the walls and roof respectively.

On his arrival at Malacca (Chinese:馬六甲, Pinyin: Mǎ Liù Jiǎ) Yap Ah Loy was given shelter by one of his clansman called Yap Ket Si. He was then taken to a tin mine in Durian Tunggal, where he stayed for 4 months. At the end of that period he left for Kesang where he found work in the shop of a relative named Yap Ng. He remained there for a year before arrangements were made to send him back to China via Singapore. Misfortune befell him when he lost all his money while waiting for the junk to set sail in Singapore for China. Instead of going back to Malacca he and another of his relatives named Yap Fook traveled on foot to Lukut in Selangor.


Yap Ah Loy arrived in Lukut, in the state of Selangor, in 1856 at the age of 19. He spent his early years in the peninsula as a miner and petty trader, but in 1862 his fortunes improved when his friend Liu Ngim Kong (Chinese:劉壬光, Pinyin: Liú Rèn Guāng) succeeded Hiew Siew to became the second Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur, a position not only of leadership within the Chinese community but also of liaison with the Malay political system and, after British intervention in 1874, with British officials as well. He served as Liu's trusted lieutenant and became the third Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur after Liu's death in 1869, after which he began to put together a sound administration and a strong fighting force.

When civil war broke out in Selangor in 1870, Yap Ah Loy was faced with internecine fighting among dissident Chinese groups as well as attacks from Malay factions. His decisive victory at Kuala Lumpur in 1873 proved to be the turning point in the war and left him in a strong political position. Until 1879 he was almost supreme in the interior of the state. As the acknowledged leader of the Chinese community he had been given the powers of a Malay ruling chief by the British except for the right to tax, a restriction he easily evaded. He achieved a striking post-war recovery in the mining industry and established Kuala Lumpur as the economic centre of the peninsula. Through his control of the tin market, his ownership of local "farms" (monopolies on the sale of items such as opium and exclusive control of activities such as gambling), and his diverse business interests, he amassed a considerable personal fortune.

In 1879, the first British resident (government advisor) was assigned to Kuala Lumpur, and from that time the power of the Kapitan began to be undermined. None of Yap Ah Loy's successors approached his power and independence of action.

In 1884, Yap Ah Loy began to plan a visit to China. He proposed to appoint Yap Ah Shak (Chinese:葉亞石, Pinyin: Yè Yǎ Shí) and Chow Yuk to manage his property in his absence. For some reasons the plan was postponed. On the 1 September 1884, natural catastrophes caused widespread damage to property in Kuala Lumpur. The violent storm blew down 14 houses and a wing of the newly built Police barracks. The storm also damaged the barrack's residential area and the flagstaff.


At the end of 1884, Yap Ah Loy fell ill with bronchitis and an abscess of the left lung. In March 1885, he made little recovery before but he passed away on 15 April 1885. The doctor examined Yap's body and later confirmed that his death was either due to heart failure or poisoning by the fumes of the charcoal brazier. The doctor also noticed the exceptional brightness of his eyes.

ignificant contributions

*Founder of Kuala Lumpur.
*Built the Sze Si Yeah Temple
*Introduced the first steam pump into Malaya.
*Kept peace among the 10,000 Chinese in town with the aid of only 6 policemen.
*He founded the first Chinese school in Kuala Lumpur, in 1884.

The founder of Kuala Lumpur

During his post as the Kapitan, he started the development of Kuala Lumpur, which has been the modern capital city of Malaysia since 1963. His contribution changed Kuala Lumpur from a undeveloped estate into a famous city, especially concerning the upgrade in the condition of the roads. Even today, Kuala Lumpur owes much to his leadership due to his efforts on its behalf.

Little honorable recognition from the Malaysian government

Yap Ah Loy had contributed so much to the development of Kuala Lumpur in the past, but the current government did very little to honor him. His name is hardly mentioned elsewhere, and only one of the small roads in the area has been named after him. The local Chinese community also express their frustration that the great man would be forgotten in the future.

Kuala Lumpur's Kapitan

* 1858-1861: Kapitan Hiu Siew
* 1862-1868: Kapitan Liu Ngim Kong
* 1868-1885: Kapitan Yap Ah Loy
* 1885-1889: Kapitan Yap Ah Shak
* 1889-1902: Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng

The post of Kapitan was later abolished after the death of Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng.

ee also

* Sin Sze Si Ya Temple

External links

* [http://yapahloy.tripod.com/index1.htm] , The History of Yap Ah Loy
* [http://sejarahmalaysia.pnm.my/portalBI/detail.php?section=sm02&spesifik_id=15&ttl_id=3 Yap Ah Loy] , Sejarah Malaysia
* [http://feature.hibiscusrealm.net/~archi/Articles/Article02/text02.htm The Beginning] , The Introduction of Kuala Lumpur Urban History
* [http://www.asiawind.com/forums/read.php?f=4&i=3630&t=3629 Yap Ah Loy (葉亞來 1837 to 1885)] , The Chinese in Malaya/Malaysia (02)

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