The First Traders in KL

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Hiu Siew and Yap Ah Sze set up shop in Kuala Lumpur.

Before Kuala Lumpur was successfully prospected for tin, the Selangor chiefs had been prospecting for tin in other parts of Selangor. They had seen Raja Jumaat's success at Lukut, and thus were keen to prospect in their own territories and have a share of the profits. Sultan Muhammad's attempts in the late 1840s to prospect the Klang River met little success. The ventures of Raja Abdul Samad (nephew and son-in-law of Sultan Muhammad) in the Kanching Hills were more successful. He was given the Selangor River to administer upon his marriage to the Sultan's youngest daughter. He had decided on the location after knowing that Chinese were also prospecting the area. Within a short time, many mines were opened and Kanching became a mining centre.

At this time, the Klang River was under the administration of Raja Abdullah, brother of the successful Raja Jumaat of Lukut, and husband of the Sultan's second daughter. The Klang River was originally under Raja Sulaiman's (the Sultan's eldest son and father of Raja Mahdi) administration. The gift was for life, but when Raja Sulaiman did nothing to develop his territory, the Sultan revoked the gift and gave the Klang River to Raja Abdullah, since the Sultan was entitled to a share of the profits of the mines.

Raja Abdullah was keen to prospect his Klang River, and in 1857 he partnered with Raja Jumaat and managed to borrow $30,000 from two Malaccan Chinese merchants, Chee Yam Chuan and Lim Say Hoe.

With this money, the two Rajas transferred 87 Chinese miners from the Lukut mines to prospect on a piece of land 40 miles from River Gombak, a tributary of Klang River, where tin was known to exist. The headman of the miners decided on a place called Ampang. The jungle was cleared and the ground searched for tin, but conditions were tough, and soon fever struck the miners and left 18 of them surviving. The Rajas were determined to carry on, and sent a further 150 Chinese men to Ampang. After 2 years, their determination paid off and the first tin was exported.

The success at Ampang attracted traders to the area, they sold provisions to the miners in exchange for tin. The first 2 traders to arrive were Hiu Siew and Yap Ah Sze They were mine owners at Lukut and had decided to supply provisions to these new mines. They set up a shop near the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers, on the right bank of the Klang River, where they could go no further inland to Ampang via the river. This spot is where Kuala Lumpur originated from, it is now known as Medan Pasar (formally known as Market Square).

Within a short time, Kuala Lumpur became a thriving settlement and a headman was needed to administer her. Hiu Siew was duly elected as her first Kapitan Cina.

The junction of the Klang (R) and Gombak Rivers (L). 
Hiu Siew and Yap Ah Sze's shop was on the right bank of the Klang River.

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