Kuala Lumpur ~ A Brief History
Kuala Lumpur Insights


The vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur as it is today began in 1857 as Chinese tin mining settlement. Despite pestilence that killed a large number of them, more Chinese miners arrived, attracting merchants and businesses.
Kuala Lumpur as it once was
The commercial area of tin trading was located in the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers. This ramshackle, thatched-roof settlement was named Kuala Lumpur (meaning "muddy confluence or estuary," in Malay).

Open cast tin mining 1980's Kuala LumpurThe greed and wealth for tin led to fierce rivalries and claim disputes. The Chinese miners soon organised themselves into clans and warring gangs called "secret societies." Without a centralised authority, keeping peace and order in the mining areas was nearly impossible.

In 1868, needing a solution to the chaos, the headmen of the local clans elected a man named Yap Ah Loy as "Kapitan China," or leader of the Chinese community.

'Kapitan China' - Yap Ah LoyConsidered as the founding father of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Ah Loy with the support of the local sultan, built prisons and quelched revolts, quickly establishing an infamous reign over the entire Kuala Lumpur mining area. Kuala Lumpur was made capital of Selangor in 1880, mainly due to Kapitan Yap's success.

Loy had barely established control, however, when the Malay Civil War broke out with local sultans fighting for the throne of Perak. KL being swept up in the conflict, was burnt to the ground in 1881

The merchants of the Straits Settlements, concerned that the war would ruin their prosperity, asked Britain to intervene. London sent in a new territorial governor, Andrew Clarke, to appraise the situation.

Sir Andrew ClarkeClarke gathered the feuding princes aboard his ship off the island of Pangkor, and convinced them to sign a document known as the 'Pangkor Agreement'. The Agreement ended the war, established a new Sultan of Perak, and most significantly, called for the presence of a British Resident "who must be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching Malay religion and custom.

With Kapitan Yap's able leadership, that Kuala Lumpur became Selangor's biggest city. He rebuilt Kuala Lumpur, which was devastated by the Civil War and repopulated it with Chinese miners from elsewhere in Selangor. He also encouraged Malay farmers to settle near Kuala Lumpur in order to have a steady and accessible source of food.

Petaling Street 'Chinatown' in its early daysWhen the Federated Malay States were incorporated with Frank Swettenham in charge in 1896, Kuala Lumpur was made the capital.

Most of central KL has grown without any central planning whatsoever, so the streets in the older parts of town are extremely narrow, winding and congested. The architecture in this section is a unique colonial type, a hybrid of European and Chinese forms.

World War II saw Kuala Lumpur occupied by Japanese from January 11, 1942 to August 15, 1945. In a period, called "3 years and 8 months", all English and Chinese schools were ordered to close down and every morning in schools, Kimigayo (the Japanese National Anthem) had to be sung to show loyalty to the Japanese Emperor.

Japanese Occupation ‘Banana Notes'
The Japanese Military Yen or commonly known as ‘Banana Notes’ were introduced. The currency issued without reserves and over printing led to hyper-inflation and food rationing became the norm of daily lives.

After the fall of Japanese, the British returned to Kuala Lumpur. In 1957, exactly 100 years since the founding of the city, Kuala Lumpur gained historical significance again when the first Malayan flag was raised on the grounds of the cricket field, in Merdeka Square, to mark the country's independence from British rule.

Today, KL is a modern and fast moving cityKuala Lumpur came of age in 1974, when it was formally detached from its mother state of Selangor and made into a unit of its own called the Federal Territory.

Today, Kuala Lumpur is the federal capital and most populous city in Malaysia covering an area of 243 square km (94 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1.6 million.  KL, as it is almost always called, is modern and fast moving city, a thriving metropolis that leads the nation's fast paced development.




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