Sunday, 25 December 2011

Chan Sow Lin 陳秀連

CHAN SOW LIN 陳秀連, JP

Chan Sow Lin was born in 1845 in China. His name is undeniable to associate in the history of Perak and Selangor, and was the man who responsible for restoring peace after the Larut Wars and was one of the founding fathers of modern Kuala Lumpur. 

Chan Sow Lin migrated to Taiping, Perak in 1867 and worked for Low Sam in tin mining interest. His capability in managing tin mines was proven no ordinary, within few months, he was appointed to supervise the tin mines at Assam Kumbang, Taiping. And a year later, he was given full authority by Low Sam to take charge in all his mining interests in Larut district. 

Chan Sow Lin was notably known as the inventor of Nai Chiang mining system, a system that later adopted by most tin miners for almost 100 years old before the invention of tin dredge. He had also engaged in the Larut Wars, waged between the Si Yap and Chung Loong groups, and seriously wounded and was treated in Penang. When the war ended, Taiping was captured by the British troops. However, there were some unsatisfied members who wanted to wage another war. In an immediate act, Chan Sow Lin offered to arrange a dinner for keeping the interests of both groups in win-win situation. It incurred that the wars had brought disaster to the business interests of both parties. In spite of the cordial call by Chan Sow Lin, the opponents had doubt over his sincerity. Thus, Chan Sow Lin allowed himself to the opponents’ captive as to prove his sincerity. The dinner went on, and both parties agreed that peace shall come first. 

In extend, Chan Sow Lin was praised and thanked for his whiz act. After the war, Chan Sow Lin joined Low Sam again, but shortly afterwards he ceased his position and commenced tin mining on his own capacity. It was in Taiping he had known Loke Yew, a man who later claimed to be the richest man in British Malaya. Loke Yew who had suffered financial loss due to the war decided to move to Kinta before Selangor. Loke Yew’s tin mining interests in Taiping who had brought him the fortune and wealth had also made him down to earth and almost penniless. 

In 1883, together, Chan Sow Lin and Loke Yew moved to Selangor. Due to the war in Perak, Selangor’s economy also severed. As to speedy cure its loss, the Selangor Government welcomed fresh investments and barren lands and tin mines were leased at very low remunerations. Both men were the pioneers in the Selangor General Farm and were known as the largest tin mine owners. 

 In 1893, Chan Sow Lin under his firm, Chop Tan Kee leased two rich mine lands at Serdang and Sungei Besi from Loke Yew. Later, he leased from the government, mining lands at Simpah, Sungei Puteh, Kuala Kubu, Setapak, Kepong and Petaling. One of his prominent establishments was an engineering firm, the Chan Sow Lin & Co. Ltd., with its Chinese name Chop Mee Lee at Kuala Lumpur. His firm was the first Chinese established engineering consultant, where he was the Managing Director. He employed Chinese engineers and labours and proved a success in par with its European counterparts. 

Chan Sow Lin was the first Chinese to use tin dredge in tin mines and he was the pioneer in iron works in Selangor. Chan Sow Lin was then known as father of iron works and owned large foundry at today’s Chan Sow Lin Road, Kuala Lumpur. In 1906, under the decree of the Emperor of China, Viceroy of Guangdong sent a Special Commissioner on Education to the Malay States. The Commissioner made their visit to the Chinese owned companies and tin mines, and had written a report to the Viceroy praising Chan Sow Lin’s efforts in promoting Chinese culture, knowledge and technology in his business in the Malay States. In return, the Viceroy awarded him a medal. Chan Sow Lin’s ability was viewed as the pride of China, he was awarded another medal by His Excellency Wong, the Chinese Ambassador to England for his philanthropic work. 

Chan Sow Lin was the Chairman of the Selangor Anti-Opium Society and the Selangor Chuan Hong Chinese School, the Vice-President of the Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and co-founder of Tung Shin Hospital and Chan She Shu Yuen (Chan Clan Temple) at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur. He was also an appointed member of the Selangor State Council (1902 – 1921), a member of Visiting Committee of the Selangor Goal, the Lunatic Asylum and the Selangor General Hospital. Chan Sow Lin died on 8 June 1927 at his residence at 20 Klyne Street, Kuala Lumpur and buried at the Guangdong Cemetery, Sungei Besi. He had four sons.

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