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Chung Keng Quee, Cheang Keng Kwi, Cheng Ah Kwee, Zheng Jinggui
Posted by: Jeffery SEOW (ID *****5330) Date: April 17, 2007 at 19:50:29
  of 668

Chung, Keng Quee (Chinese:鄭景貴) (Zheng Jinggui 1827 to 13 December 1901) was a millionaire philanthropist and leader of a Chinese secret society in British Malaya. He was born into a peasant Hakka family in Xin Cun village, Cheng Sheng county (Zengcheng see Guangzhou), of Guangdong province, China.

He was 16 years of age when he came to British Malaya in 1843, sent by his mother, Madam Lai, to look for his father, Chung, Hsing Fah (Chung, Xingfa -- 鄭興發), an indentured labourer who had come to Malaya in order to make a living, during a time of great turbulence in China (see Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion).

His Name

His name has been spelt many different ways probably due to the dialect of the interpreter. Chung has also been spelt Chang, Chan, Cheng, Cheang. Keng has also been spelt Chin, Kung, King etc. Quee has also been spelt Kooi, Kwee, Kwi, Kuei and Kui. He has also been known as Ah Quee, Ah Kwi, Ah Kooi etc. Upon receiving his honorary title from the Chinese Imperial Court, he took to using the names Cheng Sheng Chih and Cheng Ssu-Wen.

The Larut Wars

According to Chung Keng Quee in his evidence provided to the Straits Government, the development of the Larut tin fields was initiated by Malay Chief 'Che Long Ja'afar by advancing money to the Chinese miners in his district to work the mines and it was only in his son's time (c. 1858-74) that the Chinese worked the mines with their own money (Evidence of Ah Kwee, Report of Larot Commissioners, 21 February 1874, Swettenham papers, No 72.)

At a time when Ngah Ibrahim was administrator of Larut the Chinese had increased in number and in early 1860 two large groups were formed by the Chinese, the "Five Associations" whose members worked in the mines of Klian Pauh and the "Four Associations" whose members worked in the mines of Klian Baharu.

Mining rights were given to the Hakka "Five Associations" or Go-Kuan (Chinese:五館 or 五群) and the Cantonese "Four Associations" or Si-Kuan (四館). Chung, Keng Quee (Chinese:鄭景貴) was leader of the Hakka Go-Kuan and the Hai San (Chinese:海山) society they belonged to and began to operate his tin mines in Larut (see Larut, Matang) in 1860.

Many Hakka fled China when the Taiping Rebellion broke out there and found work in the mines of Chung, Keng Quee establishing his position over the mining area in Larut as leader of the Hai San from 1860 to 1884.

Larut was destined to be plagued by four major wars between members of the Ghee Hin Society (Chinese:義興私會黨) that owned the Cantonese Si-Kuan on the one hand and the Hakka Hai San and Hokkien Tua Pek Kong societies on the other hand. While the first of the Larut wars broke out over land and water rights, the rivalry between the two groups already existed in Ujong Salang, Selangor, Penang, Singapore and Kwangtung itself where both groups fought with each other between 1855 and 1868.

It appeared that the trouble in Larut was merely a continuation of the trouble between the Ghee Hin and Tua Pek Kong societies in Ujong Salang in 1859 which later spread to Penang.

The First Larut War began in July 1861 when arguments over control of watercourse to their mines escalated and led members of the Hai San Society to drive the members of the Ghee Hin society out of Klian Bahru (now known as Kamunting). The Governor of Straits Settlement, Colonel Cavenagh intervened and the Mentri of Larut, Ngah Ibrahim, was made to compensate the Ghee Hin with $17,447 on behalf of the Sultan of Perak.

The Second Larut War took place in 1865 and was sparked off by a gambling quarrel in June of that year between members of the two opposing secret societies. According to Parkinson in his book British Intervention in Malaya 1867-1877 the "Hysan or Tokong" leader in Penang was "Chan Keng Kwi", with "Lew Ah Sam" as leader in Larut.

The Hai San members took 14 Ghee Hin as prisoners, 13 of whom were killed. The 14th escaped to inform his clan and the the Ghee Hin retaliated by attacking the Hai San village, razing it to the ground and killing 40 men in the process.

The battle continued back and forth and spread to Province Wellesley and the island of Penang and other secret societies joined the fray. Both sides, exhausted, finally came to terms. An official inquiry took place and both the Hai San and Ghee Hin societies were fined $5,000 each for violating the peace of Penang and their leaders, banished.

So Ah Chiang, leader of the Ghee Hin was captured by Ngah Ibrahim at Teluk Kertang (Port Weld) and executed.

By around 1870 there were a combined total of about 40,000 Hakka and Cantonese mine workers in the Larut district and the mining areas between the two groups were near to each other. It is this proximity that might explain how the next battle began.

The Third Larut War erupted in 1872 over a scandal involving the Lee Ah Kun, the attorney at Larut (for the Ghee Hin leader Ho Ghi Sui) and the wife of a nephew of the Hai San leader, Chung, Keng Quee. Upon discovery, the adulterous couple was caught, tortured, put into a pig basket (Chinese:豬籠) and thrown into a disused mining pond where they drowned.

Avenging the death of their leader, the Ghee Hin had 4,000 professional fighting men (imported from China via Penang) attack the Hai Sans and for the first time, the Hai Sans were driven out of Larut. About 10,000 Hai San men sought scantuary in Penang. In months, the Hai Sans, supported by Ngah Ibrahim recovered their Matang and Larut mines.

At this time, Raja Abdullah a claimant to the throne of Perak and an enemy of Ngah Ibrahim, took sides against the Hai Sans and Ngah Ibrahim and the wars between the Chinese miners transformed into civil war involving the Malay chiefs of Perak.

On the 26th of September, 1872 Chung Keng Quee signed a petition together with 44 other Chinese leaders, seeking British interference following the attack of 12,000 men of Chung Shan by 2,000 men of Sen Ning.

The Fourth Larut War occurred in 1873, merely a year after the previous battle. Weeks after the Hai Sans regained Larut, the Ghee Hin, supported by Raja Abdullah, counter-attacked with arms and men from Singapore and China. Ngah Ibrahim's properties in Matang were destroyed. Local Malay residents were also killed and their property, destroyed. Trouble spread to Krian, Pangkor and Dindings.

The quarrelling Malay chiefs who had taken sides in the Larut Wars were now alarmed at the disorder created by the Chinese miners and secret societies. The Straits Settlement Penang Chinese seeing their investments destroyed in the Larut Wars sought intervention form British. Over 40,000 Chinese from the Go-Kuan and Si-Kuan were engaged in the fratricidal war involving the Perak royal family.

In August 1873, Anson the Lieutenant-Governor of Penang sought to bring about a ceasefire between the two parties and convened a meeting at the beginning of the month attended, apart from Anson, by Chung Keng Quee (Hai San), Ho Ghi Sui (Ghee Hin), Foo Tye Sin (pro-Hai San), Ngah Ibrahim (pro-Hai San), Abdullah (pro-Ghee Hin), Tengku Kudin (pro-Abdullah) and a British Naval Captain.

Both sides agreed to keep the peace pending British arbitration with Ngah Ibrahim taking responsibility for the Hai San and Abdullah taking responsibility for the Ghee Hin. Abdullah failed completely in his task in ensuring the Ghee Hin kept the peace that the British were prompted to back Ngah Ibrahim and the Hai San.

On the 3rd of September 1873 outgoing Straits Settlements Governor Sir Harry Ord recognised Ngah Ibrahim, through a proclamation, as the independent (i.e. independent of Perak rule) ruler of Larut. On 5th September he temporarily lifted an arms embargo (imposed since February) just long enough for the Hai San in Larut to receive munitions. In the middle of that month a British vessle got into an entanglement with some Ghee Hin junks and this led to British bombardment and capture of Ghee hin stockades at Matang and Kuala Selinsing.

Ngah Ibrahim's Penang residence was blown up and a week later Abdullah and his Ghee Hin cohorts were arrested at sea and brought back to Penang where they were eventually released but forbidden to return to Perak.

Sir Andrew Clarke Takes Charge

Parkinson tells us in British Intervention in Malaya 1867-1877 that Sir Andrew Clarke decided to summon the Chinese factions to a conference following a meeting on or about 9th January 1874 between Chung Keng Quee and Pickering (together with McNair and Dunlop) who had been sent to meet him.

In British Intervention in Malaya 1867-1877 Parkinson tells us that Sir Andrew Clarke, just weeks after his arrival in Singapore, had already found evidence of the continuing disturbances in Perak and Selangor. Apart from his executive council, he talked to Tan Kim Cheng.

Clarke decided that both the Hai San and Ghee Hin should have access to Larut with neither side being excluded, a complete reversal of the policy of his predecessor, Sir Henry Ord. Tan Kim Ching agreed and wrote to the Ghee Hin on Penang to put this to them and advocate peace.

Clarke then sent Pickering to Penang to talk to the respective headmen in Penang. Pickering gave Tan Kim Ching's letter to Chin Ah Yam. Twenty Ghee Hin headmen met through the night at the Ghee Hin Kongsi house considering Tan Kim Ching's letter. In the morning they met with Pickering and agreed to surrender their forces in seven days time.

Following that outcome and the outcome of a meeting with Chung Keng Quee whom Pickering also met, Sir Andrew Clarke then gathered the main Chinese leaders (principally Chung Keng Quee and Chin Ah Yam and some Malays – including Abdullah – at Pulau Pangkor where the ‘Pangkor Engagement’ was formulated and signed, recognising Abdullah as Sultan, and getting the Chinese to agree to settle their differences in Larut under British arbitration.

The Pangkor Engagement

The need to restore law and order in Perak gave cause for a new British policy concerning intervention in the affairs of the Malay States which resulted in the Treaty of Pangkor.

In 1874, on the 20th of January, the Straits Settlements governor Sir Andrew Clarke convened a meeting aboard the H. M. S. Pluto anchored off Pangkor island. Documents were signed on 20 January 1874 aboard the ship The Pluto at Pangkor Island to settle the Chinese dispute, clear the Sultan succession dispute and pave the way for the acceptance of British Residency - Captain Speedy was appointed to administer Larut as assistant to the British Resident. Abdullah was recognised as Sultan by the British and was to be installed on the throne of Perak in preference to his rival, Sultan Ismail.

In actuality there were two distinctive agreements made. The primary agreement was intended to ensure an end to the fighting between Ghee Hin and Hai San and pave the way for peaceful coexistence in future. The second, to settle the issue of succession in Perak.

Tate in The Making of Modern South-East Asia says of these that "the first one, which had been ready for over a week prior to the signing, concerned Larut and provided for a settlement between the Hai San and Ghee Ghin which both sides respected and carried out satisfactorily. The second (more recently drafted) agreement concerned the succession dispute around the Perak throne and was unsatisfactory from the very beginning."

The Chinese Engagement

Chung, Keng Quee was one of the two main signatories to the treaty known as the Pangkor Engagement entered into aboard the H.M.S. Pluto at Pangkor Island by twenty-six headmen of the Chinese Secret Societies. Chung, Keng Quee and Chin, Ah Yam, leaders of the Hai San and Ghee Hin, respectively, were ennobled by the British with the title of Kapitan China (華人甲必丹 or the leader of the Chinese community) and the town of Larut was renamed Taiping ("太平" in Chinese, meaning “everlasting peace”) as a confirmation of the new state of truce.

The Malay Engagement

There were three possibilities for the Perak throne and of these only one was present at the meeting - Abdullah. Sultan Ismail who was the crowned ruler, had refused to attend. The British did not appear to know of the existence of the third possible claimant, Raja Yusof, who was naturally not invited.

The agreement that was signed recognised Abdullah as Sultan giving Ismail the status of Sultan Muda, and provided for a British officer called Resident whose advice must be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching on Malay Religion and Custom. Ngah Ibrahim's position in Larut as granted by Sultan Ja'afar and confirmed by Sultan Ali was recognised.

However, as far as the chiefs of Perak (who were not present) were concerned (with this agreement made between the British and Abdullah or the British's recognition of Abdullah as Sultan) - the issue of succession was settled three years earlier with the election of Sultan Ismail. To these Chiefs the British nay have proclaimed Abdullah Sultan but his accession was not valid in their eyes and indeed in Malay eyes if he did not hold the (royal) regalia which was at that time in the hands of Sultan Ismail, all attempts at recovering these from him having failed.

The Pacification Commission

Three days afterwards, Chung, Keng Quee was appointed a member of the Pacification Commission headed by Captain S. Dunlop and Messrs. Frank Swettenham and W. A. Pickering, whose terms of reference, among others, was to arrange for an amicable settlement relating to the Larut tin mines.

The Commissioners after due investigation and deliberation decided to hand the mines in Klian Pauh (Taiping) over to the Hai Sans and the mines in Klian Bharu (Kamunting) to the Ghee Hins.

The Perak Council

Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee was appointed a member of the State Council of Perak (there were six members of the council, four Malays and two Chinese) which held its first meeting at Kuala Kangsar on 10th September, 1877. His magnanimity is manifestly clear from the Council Minutes of Perak in "Papers on Malay Subjects" by R. J. Wilkinson, F. M. S. (Federation of Malay States) Government Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1908.

An Anecdote

Chung Keng Kwee, when reminded of the Larut Wars by an inquiring visitor, dismissed the subject with an expression of distaste - 'Banyak rugi!' (meaning 'Big loss!) -- vide The Protected Malay States: 1874-1895.

Sir Hugh Low's Letter Vindicates Chung, Keng Quee

In their September 1891 issue of their monthly magazine (Volume 83, Issue 489) Harper's carried an article on Chinese Secret Societies and credited Chung Keng Quee with wealth amounting to two million Sterling. The article also stated that Chung, Keng Quee was tried for murder an accusation that was refuted following the publication of a letter to the editor from Sir Hugh Low, British Resident at Perak, in the December issue (Volume 84, Issue 499) of the same magazine.

In his letter Sir Hugh refers to Chung, Keng Quee as "my friend Captain Chang Ah Kwi, of Perak" and "my old friend" and urges the editor to take steps to correct the inaccuracies published earlier which he says do great injustice to his friend.

Sir Hugh Low acknowledged that Chung, Keng Quee was leader of the "Go Kwan faction" in the disturbances that preceeded the British intervention under Sir Andrew Clarke, in 1874. He also acknowledges that long after that time when Chung, Keng Quee visited China he was accused of piracy by his rivals in the tin mining business and while he was initially arrested and brought before the mandarins in Canton he was triumphantly acquitted of the charge.

Sir Hugh goes on to state categorically that "Captain Ah Kwi" who was at that time a long standing member of the State Council, had never ever been "arrested on criminal charges where British influence prevailed", and had in fact from the very beginning "been a strenuous supporter of the settlement of the State of Perak".

The insertion ended with an apology from the editor of Harper's Magazine, Frederick Boyle.

The relationship between Sir Hugh Low and Chung Keng Quee goes all the way back to Sir Hugh's arrival in Perak. At that time Chung Keng Quee was getting frustrated with the management of the revenue farm that had been given over to him and it was Sir Hugh Low who, as he recalls in his journal

"laughed him out of the nonsense about giving up the farm" (Hugh Low Journal Entry 15th May 1877).

The two of them had many long and frank discussions about the mining business in general as well as revenue farming and the system of "advancers".

On May 15th 1877 in a casual meeting between the two, Chung Keng Quee advocated the granting of land leases for the mines for periods of 21 years arguing that this would make it easier for miners to raise money. On the 11th of September the same year, Sir Hugh Low made this so (PCM, 11 September 1877).

For Sir Hugh Low, Chung Keng Quee represented a stabilizing factor in mining communities that had yet to settle down following the Larut Wars. His was the voice of reason, admonishing the towkays who had stirred up a riot in 1879 and it was a voice that Sir Hugh trusted and backed up.

Chung Keng Quee's Business

Tin Mining

By 1879 there were 80 mines in operation in Larut, owned by 40 firms, with an average of nearly 86 men per mine. The largest mine of all in the country was owned by the Kong Loon Kongsi, directed by Chung Keng Quee whom Doyle in Mining In Larut describes as:

an enterprising Chinese gentleman... ...whose appreciation of European appliances is envinced by a centrifugal pump and engine, in supercession of the cumbrous and comparatively useless, Chinese water-wheel.

The Kong Loon mine employed 300 coolies, more than any other mine at that time.

In "Generations: The Story of Batu Gajah" By Ho, Tak Ming (Published 2005 by Ho, Tak Ming ISBN 983405565X) Chung, Keng Quee is described as a wealthy miner who (circa 1889 - 1895) was granted big mining consessions including 1,000 acres in Kinta (page 105).

By 1887 Chung Keng Quee was the largest tin producer in Perak accounting for almost 29,000 pikuls or 1,700 tons out of a total state output of about 220,000 pikuls or about 13,000 tons -- larger than the total out put of all foriegn mines.

Innovating And Leading The Way

Chung Keng Quee was the first miner to experiment with hydraulic machinery. He was a progressive miner, farsighted and innovative and this together with his close relationship with Sir Hugh Low helped spur on the economic development of the territory.

On a visit to Larut, Secretary of State, Sir William Robinson was impressed to see that steam pump, installed by the Perak Government at Chung Keng Quee's request on the undertaking that if successful it would be taken over and rented by the mine (Robinson Secretary of State, No 78 of 26 March 1878).

In A History of the Peninsular Malays with Chapters on Perak & Selangor we are told how Sir Hugh Low introduced the portable steam pump for draining mines in the the protected states in 1887 by first demonstrating its usefulness in Chung Keng Quee's mines. Convinced by the practical results of a real demonstration, owners of large mines in Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong soon had similar pumps installed, overcoming the periodic problem of flooding that used to bring work at the mines to a virtual standstill.

Revenue Farming

In 1889, after the Pangkor settlement of 1874, Sir Hugh Low, British Resident at Perak, gave over most of the Larut and Kurau opium, gambling, spirits, pawnbroking and tobacco farms to Chung, Keng Quee and his business partner, Khoo, Thean Teik. In Penang, Chung, Keng Quee and his friends and relatives made up one of three similar syndicate groups that dominated the Opium Farms there.

Chung Keng Quee apart from being a man of vision was also a great risk-taker. Sir Hugh Low in his own notes describing negotiations over the leasing out of the Perak revenue farms compares Chung Keng Quee and Khoo Thian Teik. Chung Keng Quee had told him that he needed five thousand more coolies in order to make the venture successful while Khoo Thian Teik had talked of two or three hundred more. (A History of the Peninsular Malays with Chapters on Perak & Selangor)

His exceptional management of the revenue farms entrusted to him helped bring fresh capital into Perak and helped him to become, by 1886, the largest financier in Larut.

While he obviously was making a lot of money from revenue farming, in 1897 Sir Hugh Low, then the Resident, negotiated with Chung, Keng Quee, who was at that time owner of the largest mine in the country and probably the most influential financier of tin mines in the country, to abolish the supply of opium in return for greater protection of tin mine employers from their absconding coolies and for longer working hours.

His Reputation For Business Success

Chung Keng Quee formed close relationships with the many British Residents of Perak and built a reputation for making mining operations a success. E. W. Birch (Ernest Woodford Birch), seventh British Resident to Perak, left in February 1897 to take up the post of Acting British Resident, Negeri Sembilan and on March 15 1897, while paying visits of inspection to various parts of the Negri Sembilan, recorded in his papers "I wish we could induce Captain Ah Kwi, of Perak, to enter Lukut and Labu" (The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present, Vol V, Page 254).

Chung, Keng Quee And Khoo, Thean Teik

Chung, Keng Quee and Khoo, Thean Teik were connected both politically and commercially, the politics of the day being commercially motivated in any case. Apart from the the monopolies for tobacco, liquor, opium and gambling revenue farming in Perak that these two jointly obtained from Sir Hugh Low, British Resident at Perak in 1889, they were both heads of their respective secret societies which were allied against their common foe, the Ghee Hin. While Chung, Keng Quee was head of the Hai San his ally Khoo, Thean Teik was head of the Tua Pek Kong or Kien Tek Society. Chung, Keng Quee and Khoo, Thean Teik together represented the allied Haisan-Khianteik group of Perak Hakkas and Penang Hockiens.

Both Chung and Khoo were in the business of procuring, supplying or employing coolies. Khoo, Thean Teik aided by Koh, Seang Thye on one occasion supplied goods, money and ammunition to Chung, Keng Quee and Tan, Yit Hoon for their mining activities and for their military activities against the Ghee Hin in return for seven-tenths of the percentage of the tin they produced.

The Sri Sarawak

Chung Keng Quee had a screw steamer, the Sri Sarawak, that plied a route between the Larut river and Penang. This vessel is mentioned in various documents of the time including personal journals. Emily Sadka in the Journal of Sir Hugh Low, Perak, 1877, remarks about an unflattering description of the craft given in Isabella Bird's The Golden Chersonese (and the way thither) p 277 but Bird's description is actually about the pier and not the boat.

Chung, Keng Quee The Man

Supporting Poor Scholars In China

In the absence of Malayan citizenship laws during that time, Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee occasionally visited his home village in China.

In commemoration of the birthday of his mother, Madam Lai, Chung, Keng Quee founded and endowed a big scholarship fund for poor Chinese scholars preparing themselves for the time-honoured civil service examinations.

He erected a memorial arch (Men fang) for his mother, Madam Lai, in 1886.

Donating His Property For The Good Of All

When the Lim Ancestral Temple building on Beach Street was completed in 1866, the Kew Leong Tong (Hall of Nine Dragons) Lim Kongsi, one of the three Lim Clan Associations in Penang, moved its office there. The address was 234 Beach Street. Later, Ah Quee Street was established when Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee donated his Beach Street shophouse to be demolished to create the street that bears his name. Ah Quee Street runs beside 164 Beach Street which also happens to be the longest shophouse in Penang. (Source: Timothy Tye)

Supporting Temples, Associations & Schools

Tua Pek Kong Temples in Tanjung Tokong and King Street

Chung, Keng Quee was a principle donor to the Haichu-yu (Sea Pearl) Tua Pek Kong Temple (1865 and 1868) in Tanjung Tokong, Penang. Chung Keng Quee's donation of 150 yuan for the restoration of the temple is inscribed in a stone set up on the occasion, dated 1865 or early 1866 and kept at the Tua Pek Kong Temple in King Street, Penang, which the Tanjung Tokong temple is connected to. The lowest amount recorded is 2 yuan and the highest is 250 yuan.

His donation of 30 yuan is inscribed in a stone (1868) set up by board members of the King Street Tua Pek kong Temple to commemorate the gilding and varnishing of the temple. On the stone he is referred to as Chou T'ung, First Class Assistant Department Magistrate (Rank 6B; Brunnert 851A). Two other donors are called Kung-yuan, Senior Licentiate (Brunnert 629A).

Penang Chinese Town Hall

He became the prominent president (1881-1883) of the Penang Chinese Town Hall (also known as P'ing-chang hui-kuan P'I'I, P'ing-chang kung-kuan or it's current official Chinese name,Hua-jen ta-hui-t'ang). Chung Keng Quee was a major donor towards the founding of the town hall (600 yuan) according to the inscription on a stone dated 1886 kept within the town hall.

Kwangtung and Teochew Cemeteries

He was the primary benefector of the Guangdong/Kwangtung and Tingchou/Teochew Cemeteries (1885 and 1901) and Kek Lok Si Temple (1906).

At the Kwangtung and Tingchou Cemeteries (Kuang-tung chi T'ing-chou i-shan cemetery for Kuangtung and T'ing-chou Prefecture of Fukien is located in Mounted Erskine Road) Chung Keng Quee's donation of 600 yuan towards the construction of a hall for funeral ceremonies is inscribed in a stone dated 1885.

Donations ranged from 600 yuan to 10 yuan. A donation of land to the cemetery by Chung Keng Quee and his daughter Kang Neoh (also spelt Keng-niang and Huang Jiang) is recorded in one of two similar stones. One one of a set of three stone inscriptions dated 1901 records the 600 yuan donation of Chung Keng Quee (made during the period from 1898 to 1900)as well as the position of secretary held under the name of Hye Kee Chan (Hai-chi chan), his company.

Chung Keng Quee headed the list of over 250 donors most of whom donated amounts ranging from 100 yuan to 5 yuan.

Kek Lok Si

At Kek Lok Si or Chi-lo ssu, the Temple of Supreme Happiness, on an inscription in stone dated 1906 listing the particulars of donors it is recorded that Cheng Ssu-wen (Chung Keng Quee) with honorary second rank, donated 6,000 yuan.

Another stone inscription, this one dated 1907 recording the origin and development of the temple, shows that Cheng Ssu-wen (Chung Keng Quee) was one of the six senior secretaries of the temple at that time.

Founder Of The Cantonese Association In Taiping

The Kwantung hui-kuan (Cantonese Association) along Temple Street in Taiping was founded in 1887 by Chung, Keng Quee and others as an association of people from Kuangtung (Canton) province in South China.

Supporting European Engineers In Penang

On March 5, 1888, an institute was opened for the recreation and general convenience of European mechanical engineers. For some time membership was confined exclusively to engineers and mechanics but was so popular that before long the regulations were altered so as to include deck officers, and certain longshoremen.

The growth and development of the institute proceeded so rapidly that larger buildings were soon required, and, by arrangement with Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee, a new two storey headquarters building was at the junction of Leith and Farquhar streets.

Upon the staircase was a beautiful stained-glass window presented by Chung, Keng Quee, and bearing the inscription, "Erected by Captain Cheng Kheng Kwi, Perak and Pinang, 1901". Near at hand was a portrait of the donor.

Five Luck Villa, A School For Chinese Of All Dialect Groups

Chung Keng Quee was a principal director of Ng Fook Hsu Yin in Penang. In 1893, Chung, Keng Quee, already a millionaire, built a Chinese school in Penang, for all the Chinese children irrespective of their dialects.

Having bought over the property in Church Street where the school (the Five Luck Villa also called Goh Hock Tong, Ng Fook Tong and the United Association of Cantonese Districts)was originally located, Chung Keng Quee identified a new site for the school in Chulia Street.

The board membership was made up of four secretaries and 209 assistant secretaries. Chung Keng Quee was its chief secretary. There were nearly 1,300 donors who gave between 5760 to 1 yuan. The largest amount, as well as the building site were donated by Chung Keng Quee. On top of his donations, Chung Keng Quee also gave a loan of 20,000 yuan towards the construction of the new building.

The Ch'ien-i bank-society was set up by leading members of the community for this purpose and members of the society invested at least 30 cents a month for 36 months and the interest on these deposits as on the capital were used to repay the Chung Keng Quee's loan. 175 people deposited amounts from 816 yuan (from Chung Keng Quee himself) to 15 yuan. The new building was completed in 1898.

Tseng Lung Association

Chung, Keng Quee founded the Tseng Lung Association in Taiping and Gopeng in 1895, and in the following year, in Penang (檳城增龍會館).

The Chong Wen She Institute

In March 1901, just months before passed away, Chung, Keng Quee and several other members of the Hakka Associations in Penang established an Educational Institution called Chong Wen She. The Educational Institution organized campaigns to encourage the Chinese in Penang to respect for education.

The motto of the campaigns was "Jing Xi Zi Zhi" or to respect the words written on the paper. The Educational Institution established a free of charge private school for all the children irrespective of their dialects. The school also enrolled the locally born Chinese children with the intention of giving them a classical education so that they would not forget about their roots.

Principle Donor To International Charities

In 1897 the British establishment tried to drum up support for an India famine-relief drive. Penang millionaire and Deli Bank director Hsieh Yung-kuan, then Chinese vice-consul, contributed $200 and Chung, Keng Kwee gave $300 more, completely dwarfing His Excellency the Governor who managed only $100.

When another campaign was launched in March 1900, Chung Keng Quee is reported to have handed over $15,000 to assure the effort's success.

On many other occasions he also contributed to various other charities including the War Relief Fund arising from the Franco-Annam war (see Sino-French War) under the command of Viceroy Li Hongzhang.

Host To China's Admiral Ting

In 1894, Chung, Keng Quee hosted in his gardens, in the name of Vice Consul Chang, Pi Shih, a dinner to welcome Admiral Ting (see Battle of Yalu River (1894) and Battle of Weihaiwei) and the Chinese Imperial Fleet of warships that he commanded.

Recognised And Rewarded By The Manchu Imperial Government, China

For his many acts of greatness the Manchu Imperial Government in 1894 conferred on him the title of "Mandarin, Second Rank" retrospectively for three generations.

This meant that Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee, his father, Chung, Hsing Fah, and his grandfather, Chung, Tung Lin, the last two posthumously, simultaneously became Mandarins of the Second Rank.

In line with his elevation he then adopted the fancy name of "Sheng Chih".

The Townhouse And Temple On Church Street

In Georgetown, Penang Chung, Keng Quee became known as the city's great connoiseur of architecture. In 1893, Chung, Keng Quee acquired two adjacent properties along Church Street on Penang Island. The first was the former headquarters of the Ghee Hin - the Hai San had ousted them in the 1890s. The second was a Chinese school, the Goh Hock Tong (or Ng Fook Tong in Cantonese) meaning Five Luck Villa. He offered the school an alternative site in Chulia Street, where a new building was completed on 1898.

Chung, Keng Quee then converted the former Ghee Hin headquarters into his townhouse and office and named this, Hye Kee Chan, or Sea Remembrance Store. It has interior fittings including Victorian cast iron columns from Walter Macfarlane & Co of Glasglow (also known as The Saracen Foundry).

Macfarlane was also responsible for the beautiful iron gates and fencing of the former Five Luck Villa building which was converted into a personal temple (Shen-chih hsueh-shu where Shen-chih was his fancy name and hsueh-shu means a traditional-style private family school). Today, his home is open to the public, showcasing the lifestyle, customs and traditions of the Peranakans or Straits Chinese - an example of adaptive reuse.

Roads In His Name

Chung, Keng Quee died as a very rich man in Penang by 1898, leaving behind very extensive real estate in Penang, Hongkong and Perak. Two streets in Penang were named after him, Keng Kwee Street and Ah Quee Street.

English name: Ah Quee Street Malay (current official) name: Lebuh Ah Quee Hokkien name: 阿貴街 a-kui-ke Hokkien meaning: Ah Quee street

English name: Keng Kwee Street Malay (current official) name: Lebuh Keng Kwee Hokkien name: 景貴街 keng-kui-ke Hokkien meaning: Keng Kwee street

His Progeny

Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee had ten (10) sons, the 4th and best known of whom was Chung Thye Phin.

Chung, Keng Quee had two official wives, Lim Ah Chen and Tan Gek Im. They bore him 8 sons and 5 daughters. He also had a child (Cheang, Thye Gan) by a woman named Tye Thye. His eldest son, Thye Yong, was adopted.


大養 - da yang - Thye Yong (Also known as Kon Yong, Adopted)
大仁 - da ren - Thye Yen
大日 - da ri - Thye Jit (2nd Son of China Wife)
大昌 - da ch - Thye Cheong
大平 - da ping - Thye Phin (See Chung Thye Phin)
大金 - da jin - Thye Kim
大釁 - da xin - Thye Hin
大六 - da liu - Thye Phat?
大詳 - da xiang - Thye Siong (Thye Seong/Thye Shiong)

Chung Thye Yong (大養 - da yang) was educated at Doveton College, Calcutta, and was the first Chinese in the country to play rugby (Tanjong, Hilir Perak, Larut And Kinta: The Penang-Perak Nexus in History by Prof. Emeritus Dato’ Dr. Khoo Kay Kim, Department of History, University of Malaya).

Chung Thye Yong was a member of the Taiping Sanitary Board. He was also a member of racing clubs and employed an European trainer for his horses which were stabled and maintained his stables at 12,000 dollars a year (Laman Rasmi Majlis Perbandaran Taiping :: 2006 (PagEd) Laman Rasmi Majlis Perbandaran Taiping).

According to D.M. Ponnusamy (New Straits Times 27th March 2001) horse racing in the country began in Taiping in 1886 and the first race horse owner was none other than Chung Ah Yong.

Horseracing was a love shared by his other brothers including Chung Thye Siong (大詳 - da xiang) and Chung Thye Phin (大平 - da ping) who became the next and final Kapitan China of Perak.

Chung Thye Siong (1855-1907) was born in Penang, educated at both the Penang Free School and St. Xavier's Institution and went on to join together two important lineages by marrying (1893) Koh Chooi Peng, eldest daughter of Kaw Cheng Sian (辜禎善) who in turn was the son of Koh Seang Tat a descendant of Koh Lay Huan, the first Kapitan China of Penang.

He helped in the management of his father's estate and lived in his father's residence in Church Street (Twentieth Century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, by Arnold Wright, Published 1908 and Gangsters Into Gentlemen: The Breakup of Multiethnic Conglomerates and The Rise of A Straits Chinese Identity in Penang by Engseng Ho, Department of Anthropology, William James Hall, Harvard University Cambridge, MA 02138).


連心 - lian xin - Lin Sim
連英 - lian ying - LinYing
歡艱 - huan jian - Huan Kang
秀英 - xiu ying - Siew Ying
鳳英 - feng ying - Hong Ying

The Passing Of A Great Man

Kapitan China Chung Keng Quee passed away at the age of 74 on the 13th of December 1901 after an brief illness of only a few days.

The Perak Administrative Report for 1901 stated:

"The death of Captain Cheang Keng Kwi is announced. He held the title for 30 years. It is no longer required and is allowed to lapse as the Protector (of Chinese) working under the Federal Secretary for Chinese Affairs is the best intermediary between the Government and the Chinese."

He made his fortune early in his life in the tin mines and revenue farms of Perak, and while lost it all during the Larut Wars, he rebuilt his empire and died a rich man. At the time of his death:

* he had held the Perak Revenue Farms for twelve years
* he owned ten (10) mines employing an aggregate of 1,000 coolies
* his property in Hongkong was estimated at $10,000,000
* his property in Beach Street, Penang was valued at $1,500,000

He was a generous man given to acts of charity and besides Chinese educational institutions he had given money to the Free School ($12,000) and the Brother's School ($6,000).

He left behind a wife, ten sons and five daughters, 20 grand-children, and four great grand-children.

Chung, Keng Quee was buried in the Chung Family Burial Plot in Mount Erskine purchased beforehand by himself and his daughter Chung, Kang Neoh.

Although dated 1898, because his tomb was called "Region of Long Life", Franke (Chinese Epigraphy...) believed that it was built before he died and was probably set up on the occasion of his wife's demise. In his book published in 1985 Franke declared it was "the largest Chinese tomb in the whole of Malaysia. ..appropriate only to members to the imperial family or to the highest officials" and incorporating four man-sized statues (the only tomb in Malaysia with statues of this kind) "called weng-chung... ...permitted only for the tombs of officials of the first rank."

His headstone bears the inscription:

"Kapitan of Perak, Chung Keng Quee from Tseng-ch'eng, appointed by Imperial patent of the Ch'ing Emperor as Tzu-cheng ta-fu (Rank 2A; see Brunnert, 1912, No. 945), rewarded with the Peacock Feather, and Expectant Intendant of a Circuit of the fourth rank (see Brunnert, 1912, Nos. 838 and 844A), and of his wife Lady Cheng, nee Ch'en, with the personal name Yii-yin an the posthumous name Chao-i appointed by Imperial patent as Third Rank Shu-jen (see Brunnert, 1912, No. 945), set up by nine sons, six daughters, twelve grandsons, and six grand-daughters of the deceased." -- Chinese Epigraphic Materials in Malaysia (Volume 2) - collected, annotated, and edited by Wolfgang Frankie and Chen Tieh Fan published 1985 by University of Malaya Press, ISBN: 967-9940-00-4

Lee, Eng Kew (Ah Kew The Digger) named his book about Taiping and its historical figures, Yi Guo (which literally means “to move country”), words derived from the inscriptions on the grave of Chung, Keng Quee.

Taiping Lake Gardens

One of his mining pools was donated for public use by his son, Chung Thye Phin and is today the Taiping Lake Gardens. In 1884, a large area comprising swamps and abandoned mining pools was drained, levelled, planted and fenced for a public garden in Taiping. In 1911, it was considered to be perhaps the most beautiful of any gardens in the then Federated Malay States.



1. The Development of the Tin Mining Industry of Malaya by Yip, Yat Hoong, (1969) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: University of Malaya Press. Page 97
2. Calendar of Probate and Administration, Hongkong Supreme Court Returns for the year 1902 (No 11/1903) dated 13 March 1903, Page 73 by Registrar J. W. Norton-Keyne
3. Calendar of Probate and Administration, Hongkong Report to the Registrar of the Supreme Court for the year 1905 (No 8/1906), Page 77
4. The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present, Vol V, Published 1897, Selangor Government Printing Office
5. The China Mail (Hongkong, Estd 1845), Monday December 30, 1901, Page 2
6. Tin Mining In Larut by Doyle 1879 republished in 1963 in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
7. British Rule In Malaya: The Malayan Civil Service and its Predecessors, 1867 - 1942 by Robert Heussler, Clio Press, Oxford, England, 1981 -- ISBN 0903450496
8. Swettenham by H. S. Barlow published by Southdene Sdn Bhd KL 1995
9. Chinese Epigraphic Materials in Malaysia (Volume 2) - collected, annotated, and edited by Wolfgang Franke and Chen Tieh Fan published 1985 by University of Malaya Press, ISBN: 967-9940-00-4
10. Koh Seang Thye v Chung Ah Quee (1886) 4 Ky 136 — 3 [3155]
11. The Big Five Hokkien Families in Penang, 1830s–1890s by Yeetuan Wong
12. The Western Malay States 1850–1873: the Effects of Commercial Development on Malay Politics, p. 209 by Khoo Kay Kim
13. Xiao En E-Magazine 23/09/2002 & 24/09/2002
14. 中央 硏究院 民族學 硏究所 集刊 By Zhong yang yan jiu yuan Min zu xue yan jiu suo, 中央 硏究院 民族學 硏究所 Published 1956 中央 硏究院 民族學 硏究所 (Pages 93, 94 & 98)
15. "Generations: The Story of Batu Gajah" By Ho, Tak Ming Published 2005 by Ho, Tak Ming ISBN 983405565X
16. THE KAPITAN SYSTEM - XI Sunday Gazette, June 19, 1960, By Wu Liu (pen name of Mr. C. S. Wong/Wong, Choon San)
17. A gallery of Chinese kapitans. by Mr. C. S. Wong/Wong, Choon San; Published in Singapore: Ministry of Culture, 1963. 114p. [DS596 Won]
18. Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, by Arnold Wright, Published 1908 - Page 130, 203, 252, 262, 508, 509, 568
19. Record of Meritous Deeds of the Chung Family, op. cit., pp. 9-12
20. "Miscellaneous Chronicles of Penang", Kuang, Kuo-hsiang op. cit., pp. 112-113
21. The Case of the Chinese in Penang, 1890s-1910s | SHINOZAKI Kaori, Ph. D. student
22. 200 years of the Hakkas in Penang (檳城客家兩百年) By the Federation of Hakka Associations of Malaysia
23. Reveal the True Face of Secret Societies (揭開私會黨真面目) Written by Guo Rende (郭仁德) Published by the Malaysian Chinese Cultural Center
24. "The Luxuriant Tree" and "Chung Keng Kwee, the Hakka Kapitan" by CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元)
25. Heritage Road named in honour of Chung Thye Phin by Sita Ram, Stories Of Yesteryear, The Ipoh Echo 16 March - 31 March 2006
26. Timothy Tye who has been researching Chung Keng Quee for AsiaExplorers and historian Khoo Salma Nasution
27. Honoured in Penang for his generosity [on philanthropist Chung Keng Kwee, 1849-1901]. The Star, December 6, 2001 by Catherine Chong
28. Chung Keng Quee Temple Doors Opened, The Star July 5, 2000
29. Help From China To Restore Chung Keng Quee Temple, The Star, November 8, 2002
30. Turning Chung Keng Quee Temple Into A Museum, The Star January 16, 2003
31. Restoration of Hai Kee Chan, The Star, Friday October 3, 2003
32. Kapitan’s great-grandson By CHOONG KWEE KIM, The Star Thursday September 9, 2004
33. Producer hopes to make movie on Kapitan Cina of Perak By CHOONG KWEE KIM, THE STAR
34. The Star Online > Features Saturday, September 21, 2002 Taiping revived
35. Lee Eng Kew (AH Kew The Digger), self-taught field researcher
36. 66 Usahawan Malaysia (66 Malaysian Entrepreneurs) by Ashadi Zain, ISBN : 983-192-147-X Cerita 50 Mendiang Chung Keng Kwee
37. A History of Malaya by R.O. Winstedt Published in March 1935
38. The Chinese in Malaya by Victor Purcell C.M.C. Ph. D published in 1948
39. The Mandarin-Capitalists from Nanyang: Overseas Chinese Enterprise in the Modernisation of China... By Michael R. Godley Publisheed by Cambridge University Press Jul 25, 2002
40. Gangsters Into Gentlemen: The Breakup of Multiethnic Conglomerates and The Rise of A Straits Chinese Identity in Penang by Engseng Ho, Department of Anthropology, William James Hall, Harvard University Cambridge, MA 02138, presented at The Penang Story International Conference 2002, 18-21 April 2002, The City Bayview Hotel, Penang, Malaysia - Organiseed by The Penang Heritage Trust & Star Publications.
41. TANJONG, HILIR PERAK, LARUT AND KINTA -- THE PENANG-PERAK NEXUS IN HISTORY* by Prof. Emeritus Dato' Dr. Khoo Kay Kim, Department of History, University of Malaya
43. Perak Tourist Information Centre, Ipoh City Council
44. Taiping Town Council/Laman Rasmi Majlis Perbandaran Taiping
45. Will of Cheang Ah Quee 17 Jul 1894
46. Chinese Secret Societies. [Harper's new monthly magazine. / Volume 83, Issue 489, September, 1891]
47. Editor's Drawer. [Harper's new monthly magazine. / Volume 84, Issue 499, December, 1891]


Prose contains specific citations in source text which may be viewed in edit mode.

1. ^ (Researched by his great grandson, Jeffery Seow)

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