According to earlier history Sitiawan’s name comes from the story of four elephants passing through a village. When one of them was stuck in the mud of the Dinding river, another from the herd tried to help but became similarly immobilized by the river bed. Eventually the two elephants drowned in the rising river water.
In the 19th Century, the village, together with the district of Dinding where it was located, was opened up to British colonial rule and the trade and mining and agricultural economy administered by the Straits Settlements government from Penang.
Initially named Kampung Gajah Mati (Dead Elephant Village) from the folklore, the name was changed to Kampung Setia Kawan (Loyal Friend Village) or Setiawan and eventually to Sitiawan in the 1890s. Formal recognition of the name was accorded by Huge Low, the British Resident of Perak at that time
Economic development had begun in Perak and the Dindings area a few years after the signing of the Pangkor Treaty in 1874, and was further boosted by immigration. Many Achinese made Dindings their home and planted pepper and other cash crops as well as padi. The Malays formed the majority in the district until the influx of Foochow immigrants from southern China at the turn of the century.
A key impetus to the town’s development came from a large group of Foochow migrants settlers led by Christian missionaries who migrated to Sitiawan in 1903 as part of a project by the colonial government to establish a rice growing settlement.
The hope was that the Foochows, a group distinct from the Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew and Hainanese, would concentrate on rice cultivation and help meet the food needs of the Malay states. For that purpose, Sitiawan appeared an ideal site for the colonial administration, being far from the tin-mining areas of Perak.
An American-German missionary with the Methodist Episcopal Mission, Dr H.L.E. Luering was appointed to bring 1,000 Foochows to Sitiawan. An extraordinary missionary-adventurer, Luering had undertaken pioneering missionary activity in north Borneo and north Fujian, and also among the aborigines in Perak.
Accompanied by a Chinese missionary, Reverend Ling Ching Mi, they left in May 1903 for the Southern China region of Minhou, Kutien and Fuching, and encouraged members of the local Methodist churches there to migrate to a “Southern Canaan”.
The emigration was a gradual process. While the first batch consisted of only 363 people, the aftermath of the Boxer Uprising prompted further migration. The majority of the Foochows were Christians who desired to evade persecution and practice Christianity.
Sitiawan was seen as their Promised Land but it was a difficult one. The first batch of migrants lived in nine attap cottages housing 40-50 dwellers each. It was claimed that one could easily wash one’s feet in water by the bedside during rainy days.
The second batch of 200 migrants added to the overcrowding and inevitable toll on life in a relatively harsh new environment. It was not until by the end of the year that they were granted their apportioned lands which was only half the size of what they apparently were originally promised: the Kutien group was given the Kampung Koh area; the Minhous the area adjoining it; and the Fuchings the land bordering the sea. Three acres of land were allocated to each planter.
Thus began the agriculture and livestock-based economy in Sitiawan. According to local historian Reverend Liew Kek Ming the settlers, after failing in their initial padi planting attempts, switched to rubber. This change in crop proved pivotal to the growth of Sitiawan as world rubber prices were increasing at the time. It provided the basis for the subsequent development and prosperity of the town and its population.
The remarkable profits generated by the rubber boom by 1915 transformed many settlers into smallholders with wealth and social positions. Despite the rubber slump after the First World War, Sitiawan’s growth continued steadily with the construction of roads, linking it to bigger towns such as Taiping and Ipoh. By 1918 Sitiawan had its own police station in Simpang Ampat and a hospital and administrative offices were also set up.
As with other town’s Sitiawan’s development was shattered by the Second World War and the subsequent Japanese Occupation. The town’s subsequent peace and development was also disrupted when it was caught in the middle of the Malayan emergency pitting the British against the Malayan Communist Party for control over post war Malaya.
Sitiawan was the hometown of several key leaders of the MCP, including the party’s leader, Ong Boon Hwa aka Chin Peng. It was not until the granting of independence and the end of the communist insurgency in 1960 that the town was able to resume normal development
Sitiawan’s population in 2000 was estimated at 96,000. Since then it’s population has grown rapidly. In 2015, Sitiawan’s population was estimated to be 156,234 comprising 45.6% Chinese, 37.3% Malay and 16.9% Indian and 0.2% others. The district of Manjung had a population of 240,000 in 2010 and a young population with a median age of 26.4.
The Chinese in Sitiawan are mainly descended from Foochow settlers and are also referred to as Hockchiu in other parts of the country. The town community not only represents the largest Foochow settlement in the Peninsular but also has the highest proportion of Christians among the country’s urban centers.
Especially prominent in the town’s social and cultural development is its strong educational heritage. SMK Methodist ACS Sitiawan, formerly an English school, was founded by Christian missionaries back in 1903. SMJK Nan Hwa, previously a private Chinese school but now a partially subsidised government school which uses the Chinese medium was was founded in 1935.
Among prominent leaders in the field of education in Perak and the country, the name of Ong Seok KIm (1884-1964) stands out. Besides doing business in Perak, he was a trader based in Sitiawan. Drawing on wealth built from diverse sources, he became an educationist, social worker and philanthropist, generously funding charity and education projects in Manjung district and especially Sitiawan.
Of the 24 Chinese primary schools and 5 Chinese secondary schools in the district, 5 schools alone were founded by Ong Seok Kim.They are SJK (C) Chung Cheng, Sitiawan in 1920, SMJK Nan Hwa (which split into Sekolah Tinggi Nan Hwa, Ayer Tawar Road in 1984) in 1935, SJK (C) Ping Min, Lumut in 1951 and SMJK Dindings, Lumut in 1953.
After his death in 1964, the Manjung community established the Ong Seok Kim Memorial Education Fund in his honour. The Fund offers scholarships and loans to students in the Manjung District, irrespective of ethnicity.
Other prominent schools include Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Ahmad Boestamam, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tok Perdana. The first mentioned school is named after Ahmad Boestamam, a pioneering political figure who helped the country to gain independence from the British and was the first president of Parti Rakyat Malaysia.
Although relatively prosperous as a town after its headstart as the center of a lucrative rubber producing region, Sitiawan’s recent economic development really took off after the establishment in 1984 of the Lumut naval base, Malaysia’s largest naval dock.
This resulted in an increase in commercial activities at Seri Manjung, the new district capital but with Sitiawan which is located alongside well-positioned to reap the spill-over effects. Today the town is no longer rubber-based – 80% of estate land around it is used for palm oil cultivation and housing development, contract supplies to the naval base, fishing, prawn farming and shipbuilding activities and they have spurred a diversified urban economy.
State-driven projects and the multiplier effects of tourism and transportation developments have also generated prosperity for the town’s original community of Foochow who have a reputation for hard work and thrift.
With progress has also come social challenges as the growth experienced in the town and district has not been sufficient to retain the younger generation.
Many leave after completing their secondary education, for Penang and Kuala Lumpur and overseas to pursue their tertiary education and career development. Nevertheless, Sitiawan city which consists of the original town, Seri Manjung, Lumut and Lumut Port is still the center of Manjung district, the most developed region in Perak, next to Ipoh..
Sitiawan cuisine is known for its strong Fuzhou heritage. Chinese restaurants will feature local dishes of rice red wine, vermicelli and “Go-row” (a thick sweet and sour broth cooked with fish maw).
Proximity to coastal waters ensures freshness of sea catches whilst the nearby naval base and Pangkor island clientele ensure a cosmopolitan food variety is easily available.
Perhaps the most well known food sauce in the nation comes from Sitaiwan’s Kampung Koh’s chilI sauce export.
Restoran Boon Hong
31, Jalan Mohamad, 32000 Sitiawan, Perak
Restaurant Chai Chin
76, Taman Aman Muhibbah, Jalan Haji Mohd Ali, Sitiawan, 32000, Sitiawan, Perak, 32000
+6 011-3608 8221
Nan Wah Kopitiam
32000 Sitiawan, Perak
No:66, Persiaran Pm 2/4, Pusat Bandar Seri Manjung Seksyen 2, 32040 Seri Manjung, Negeri Perak
+6 05-689 0820
Kedai Makanan Kuai Kuai Lai
47-65, Jalan 5, Kampung Koh, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
No. 37 & 38, Jalan Persiaran PM2/3, Pusat Perniagaan II, Perak, 32040 Seri Manjung
+6 05-688 6041
Restoran Yee Si
80, Jalan Lin Chen Mei Kampung Koh, 32000, Sitiawan, Perak
+6 05-691 7892
1, Jalan Ria Jaya 1, Taman Ria Jaya, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
Tan Ji Kopitiam
No 195, 3, Jalan Ppmp 6, Manjung Point Seksyen 3, 32040 Seri Manjung, Negeri Perak
+6 014-306 2328
Rong Yau Kopitiam
12, Jalan Raja Omar, Taman Tok Perdana, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
AEON Mall Seri Manjung
Pusat Perniagaan Manjung Point 3, Seri Manjung, 32040 Kampong, Perak
D’mara Bazar Lumut
Jalan Iskandar Shah, 32200 Lumut, Negeri Perak
TF Value Market, PT 10858 (Gudang Futsal), Belakang, 32040 Seri Manjung, Perak
+6 013-412 1041
123, Taman Bintang, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
+6 011-1316 6925
Pasaraya Sakan Manjung
Jalan Medan Sitiawan 1, Kampung Sitiawan, 32040 Seri Manjung, Negeri Perak
+6 012-478 1054
Manjaku Baby Mall Sitiawan
No.198-199, Jalan Leo, Taman Desa Bintang, Perak, 32000 Sitiawan
+6 05-691 4218
Billion Shopping Centre (Seri Manjung)
32200 Seri Manjung, Perak
+6 05-688 8823
Manjung toys and Hobby
13, 2, Jalan Lumut, Taman Sentosa, 32000 Sitiawan, Perak
+6 016-521 9472
Tua Pek Kong Temple
Jalan Pasir Panjang, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
+6 016-633 5001
Sitiawan Settlement Museum
K6, Jalan Lin Chen Mei, Kampung Koh, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
+6 05-692 0612
Pantai Tanjung Kepah
(Batu 9, Lekir, Sitiawan, Perak) 32000 Sitiawan, Perak
Kampung Serdang, 32000 Sitiawan, Perak
Segari Turtle Sanctuary
34900 Lumut, Perak
+6 016-497 9542
Ladang Anggur Saloma 2
Lot 1392, Kampung Darat Jelutong Batu 7 1/2, 32020 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
+6 017-568 8642
Lumut Waterfront Jetty Wing
2200 Lumut, Perak
Hock Chew So Mee Shua (Konpian)福州面线寿
117, Kampung China, 32000 Sitiawan, Negeri Perak
+6 012-564 9061
Kayu Bakau Pasir Panjang
32000 Sitiawan, Perak
Lumut Waterfront Marina Wing
Jalan Titi Panjang, 32200 Lumut, Negeri Perak