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The Sin Sze Si Ya Temple

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The Sin Sze Si Ya Temple of Kuala Lumpur!

The Sin Sze Si Ya Temple is one of the few remaining buildings or monuments that still remind people of the trials and tribulations that Yap Ah Loy faced during the early history of Kuala Lumpur.

The interior of the temple.

The effigies of Shin Kap (R) 
and Chong Piang (L).

The temple was first built by Yap Ah Loy in the 1864 in honour of the famous Kapitan Shin Kap of Sungei Ujong (present day Seremban) whom Yap Ah Loy had worked for before and during the Sungei Ujong conflict in 1859. During this conflict, Kapitan Shin’s hurriedly assembled force was defeated and Kapitan Shin himself was beheaded after being captured by the opposing Malay forces. His death was extraordinary in that the blood that gushed out after his head was chopped off was white and not red. In Malay belief, the spilling of white blood by a dying person indicates that the person is a saint. When the Malays saw this, they begged for forgiveness and allowed the Chinese to retrieve his body for burial. As a result of Kapitan Shin’s miraculous death, the local Chinese began to worship him as a deity and he became the guardian deity for Chinese miners in Malaya.

It was said that Kapitan Shin had appeared to Yap Ah Loy in a dream telling him to go to Kuala Lumpur where he would have better prospects. Perhaps it was due to this dream or that Yap Ah Loy had heard stories that Kuala Lumpur possessed large tin reserves, that he finally decided to foresake the Sungei Ujong Kapitanship that he had inherited, and take up Liu Ngim Kong’s (the then Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur) offer of a position in his business.

When Yap Ah Loy succeeded Liu Ngim Kong to become the third Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur, he relocated Kapitan Shin’s temple from its original site in Sungei Ujong to a house in Kuala Lumpur in 1864.

In 1885, after he had made a fortune from the soaring tin prices, he relocated the temple to its present site at the north end of Jalan Petaling in Kuala Lumpur. It was said that during the Civil War, Kapitan Shin had appeared several times to Yap Ah Loy in his dreams to give him advice. He advised Yap Ah Loy to train archers, and that there was a man among his soldiers who knew how to make rockets with bamboo and gunpowder.

The identity of the second effigy is less certain. The temple's  version of the story says that subsequent to the civil war, Yap Ah Loy added the effigy of Chong Piang (also known as Chong Sze) alongside Kapitan Shin’s, as well as tablets of soldiers who perished in the war, so that people may pay respects to them. 

Chong Piang was Yap Ah Loy's chief general during the Civil War, he had repeatedly defeated the opposing forces, including Syed Mashhor, the famous warrior whom he had beaten twice. At one time, Syed Mashhor was so distressed with the fact that he was defeated despite well-planned war preparations that he attempted to commit suicide. After the war, before Yap Ah Loy could reward him for the liberation of Kuala Lumpur, Chong Piang had died.

The other version says that the effigy represented Yap Ah Sze, who was murdered in Kanching. Yap Ah Loy probably considered Yap Ah Sze as a benefactor, as he had declined the offer to succeed Liu Ngim Kong as the next Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur after Liu Ngim Kong's death, which paved the way for Yap Ah Loy's ascension to be the next Kapitan Cina. He, together with Hiu Siew, were first traders in Kuala Lumpur, and was already a wealthy merchant, hence he would have been more favoured for the position. 

The present site of the temple was chosen after a Chinese medium was consulted, a deity possessed and spoke through the medium, and promised prosperity and wealth if a temple were built on the present site. The site of the temple is reportedly to be a place of good fengshui.

The temple was the Chinese religious and community center of Kuala Lumpur at that time. It was the place where the leadership of the Chinese community held meetings and made important decisions about the administration of Kuala Lumpur. 

The temple is unique in that the two main deities worshipped were not traditional deities originating from China, instead two local persons were elevated to the status of deities based on their merit. Hence, the two deities can be considered patron deities of the local population of Kuala Lumpur. 

The peak of the popularity of this cult was in the twenty years after Yap Ah Loy’s death, from 1885 to 1905. To commemorate Kapitan Shin's accession to become a deity, a procession was held annually through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, a larger procession was held every 7 years. In the procession of 1902, the Catholic priest, Father Letissier estimated the procession to have cost over $100,000 and that the procession took up to an hour and a half to pass by. The Chinese clans often vied with each other in their contributions to the procession, and their leaders would walk at the front of the procession clad in their finest attire. The original purpose of the cult was no doubt to reassure the immigrant Chinese that they were protected against diseases and other insecurities that plagued them in a foreign land.

1956: The procession weaves through the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Even today, festivals related to this past era are still celebrated by devotees in the temple. On the 15th day of the third moon of the Chinese lunar calendar, the procession of the deities is observed, but the procession no longer parades through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, and is only celebrated within the temple's compounds. Likewise, remembrance ceremonies for Shin Kap, Chong Sze (or Chong Piang) and Yap Ah Loy are held annually in the temple, as well as the paying of respects to the brave soldiers of the civil war.

The temple is also known for ite charity work. Since 1907, the temple has been giving out two thirds of its income as charity to educational purposes and to hospitals. 

 

Please send your questions or comments about the website to yapahloy@hotmail.com
The History of Yap Ah Loy
This page was last modified on September 12, 2000