A Description of Yap Ah Loy

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How was Yap Ah Loy as a person?


Yap Ah Loy's family name is Yap. His father's name was Yap Luan Hoi, and his mother's name was Fan Shi.

Yap Ah Loy's official name given at birth was Yap Tet Loy. His other names Yap Mao Lan and Yap Ah Loy were informal names used by his family and peers. According to records, he used the name Yap Tet Loy in his correspondence.

Yap Ah Loy

Kok Kang Kweon, wife of Yap Ah Loy 


Yap Ah Loy in Official Qing costume

Yap Ah Loy was physically described as of medium height but was exceptionally strong. He had a scar between his eyebrows like the Chinese character "man" which was the result of a childhood incident.

He was the third and most prominent Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur. Under his administration, Kuala Lumpur grew from a collection of attap houses to become a major town in Malaya. After his death, the power of the next two Kapitan Cinas was further cut back by the British to the extent that the Kapitan no longer had overall authority in Kuala Lumpur, but was merely a figurehead of the local Chinese population. 

Yap Ah Loy was known for his indefatigable energy, his generous hospitality and his adventurous spirit. He seemed to be genuinely liked by people who knew him.

Swettenham, the Resident of Selangor, who on a visit to Kuala Lumpur in the last months of Yap Ah Loy's administration of Kuala Lumpur reported to Singapore as follows:

Sir Frank Swettenham

"The Capitan China, Ah Loi, is still the leading spirit in Selangor, his energy and enterprise are extraordinary. During the disturbances before the inauguration of the Residential System, this town was three times burnt down by the Malays and rebuilt by the Capitan China, who in spite of disaster held the place at the earnest request of Tunku Dia Udin. The Capitan China has connected the chief mines with Kuala Lumpur by long roads, his perseverance alone, I believe, has kept the Chinese in the country, and until quite recently, his exertions have kept the peace in Kuala Lumpur and the vicinity without, the Superintendent of Police informs me, one single serious crime being committed. He has provided the sick with an Asylum, administered justice to the satisfaction of his countrymen, opened a brickfield where he is doing excellent work and planted a tapioca estate larger than any in the Colony (i.e. Straits Settlement), the flour being obtained by machinery put up at Kuala Lumpur and now under the supervision of an English engineer.

I have mentioned these matters to show that there is prosperity and progress in Kuala Lumpur, to show to whose efforts this is mainly due, and to record the past history of the place......"

He was a leader of the local Hai San gang, which had members in major Chinese settlements in Malaya. This part of his history has remained controversial in that he was a member of a secret society, however his contributions to the building of Kuala Lumpur remained undisputed despite his shady background.

At Yap Ah Loy's death, the then acting Resident, Rodger, reported to Singapore that:

"by his death the Government has lost one of its most able and faithful officers; personally I have lost a friend for whom I had the most sincere liking and esteem."


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The History of Yap Ah Loy
This page was last modified on September 12, 2000