Han Chin Pet Soo
Last edited on January 8, 2020 | by wikipedia.org
Han Chin Pet Soo (闲真别墅) is Malaysia’s first Hakka tin mining museum managed by Ipoh World Sdn. Bhd. Located on the edge of Ipoh’s Old Town, close to the Kinta River. Within walking distance of the well-known Panglima Lane (Concubine Lane), it is the #1 attraction in Ipoh on TripAdvisor.
Originally the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893. The building was rebuilt in 1929 to replace the earlier double-storey club house on the same site. This unique museum encompasses approximately 5000 square feet over three floors. On display are artifacts, collectibles, ephemeras and also photographs from the 19th and 20th century. True to life murals painted by local students of the Perak Institute of Art (PIA) provides the experience of a tin mine.
Opening in February 2015, the museum attracted more than 6000 visitors in the first six months and is steadily increasing. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday but visitors are required to make bookings online or in person prior to their visit.
The story of Han Chin Pet Soo starts in 1876 when a young man, Leong Fee, aged 19, and 16 other immigrants, arrived at a gathering of Malay huts, between the river and the jungle, then called Epoh. Here they settled to make their way in life. It is said they were “the only Chinamen in Ipoh”, Leong Fee, also known as Liang Pi Joo, was born in Meixian District, Guangdong Province, China, in 1857, arriving in an old freighter at Weld Quay, Penang in 1876 to seek his fortune in Nanyang (the Southern Seas) as Malaya was known to the Chinese. Here he worked, as a cook and hawker for some 6 months before moving to Epoh the same year. He came by river from Penang, via Telok Mak Intan (now Teluk Intan). He brought with him the spiritual tablet of the deity Tua Pek Kong and first founded the Tai Pak Koong or God of Prosperity Temple alongside the Kinta River, to give thanks for their safe arrival, for the journey had been arduous and at times dangerous.
While prospecting for tin he initially worked as a clerk, becoming a well-known and successful miner by the late 1880s, with sufficient money from his Ipoh mine at Ampang to make a trip back to China. He returned to Ipoh in 1889. In 1893, in the wake of 1 June 1892, “Great Fire of Ipoh” he erected some of the first brick houses in Leech Street. That same year, on the 5th day of the 5th moon, he formed the Han Chin Tin Miners’ Club in a double-storey shophouse where the Villa stands today. The club membership was restricted to Hakka miners and it was a place where they could connect with their colleagues and friends from home or have a meal. Lodging house facilities were also available where relatives and friends could stay. They could also legally play mahjong as in 1897 they received a copy of a memo from the District Magistrate, Kinta to the Assistant Magistrate Ipoh, dated 1 February 1897. It reads: “The members of the Chinese Club, Ipoh have permission to gamble in their house pending the issue of a formal licence. Sd/- Cecil P. Villy”.
The club was run at Leong’s expense until his death in April 1912, when his son Leong Yin Khean aka Liang En-Chuen, together with Lim Chang Jiu, Leong Jin Yuen, Leong Moon Chow, Leong Rui Dian, Pan Jing Ting and Sze Hua continued to sponsor the club In 1927 Leong Yin Khean purposely devalued the land and sold the house to the club members at less than the market price.
In 1929 the building was renovated and extended into a three-storey villa with an added balcony and it stood proud among its neighbours just as it does today. On 5 May 1930, the 37th anniversary of the club the members held a house-warming party for their revamped building. It was lit and decorated by electricity, probably the first time that this had been done as electrical distribution only came to Ipoh that same year.
All went well until 1941 when the Japanese invaded and in the confusion the building was illegally sold without the knowledge of the members and the villa was lost to them until 1945 when they were able to prove they were the rightful owners and the building was returned. In the 1960s another small renovation took place when the front windows were changed and air conditioning was installed therein. The elegantly curved bay windows had gone forever.
As the great tin mining era came to an end, the number of miners gradually reduced and in 2012 there were insufficient members to be able to maintain the building. Consequently, the white ants took over the timbers while the pigeons made the balconies and bedrooms their home. The famous buildings’ future was therefore in doubt. But there was good news for the club members recently voted to lease the building to ipohWorld, a heritage group dedicated to restore it, with a view to making it a tourist attraction. Today you will see their mission is complete including those curved bay windows. NB Historical details about the club prior to 1959 are taken from the adjacent club history, in Chinese characters, dated 5 May 1959, and written by club member Leong Kok An.
With tin mining playing a prominent role in the development of Ipoh and the Kinta Valley, this section that uses original tin mining equipment highlights the process of mining for tin from prospecting for tin to the drying of tin ore. This section includes a historic video explaining the process of tin mining in the 1940s.
To serve the function of providing meals for the club members, a well-stocked kitchen would have played an important role. Restored it to its 1929 / 1930 standard, the kitchen has a three charcoal and one wood-fired stove, kitchen utensils and tins appropriate to the period.
The backyard has been transformed into a town square, ideal for photography the area includes a mural of a tin dredge, a street in Ipoh and a tin shop to complete the story of tin.
Activities of the club
The first floor of the building is dedicated to activities of the club members over the 122 years of its history. Dubbed as the four evils; gambling, opium smoking, prostitution and triads (secret societies). Full sized dioramas demonstrate how the club would have looked in its heyday.
Moving on to the second floor is the guest floor where the club housed guests with the condition; they were Hakka males that were friends’ of a member of the club. Coincidentally, Hakka means guest in English, seizing the opportunity, it was set up to illustrate the 1000 year long history of the Hakka people.
The museum caters to guests who by prior arrangement would like to enjoy a Hakka themed dinner at the Hakka Tin Miners Club. Although the museum is not completely wheelchair-friendly as there are no lifts to the upper floors, the ground floor however may be accessed by those who uses a wheelchair. The museum also has restrooms on the ground floor, unfortunately they are not disabled-friendly.
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