Since the beginning of the 18th century, mining activities had been started by the Malays and Chinese in the inland areas of Selangor. Labour demand had attracted the Chinese mainly from Guangdong and Fujian in China to travel south to the Nanyang (Southern Seas) as“Sinkheh”(new comers) looking for opportunities. As the mining areas expanded from Sungei Ujong, Lukut, to Ampang, Attap houses were built first as a place for workers to settle down, then became a collection and distribution centre for goods transportation, eventually changing the fate of the “muddy estuary” (what“Kuala Lumpur” literally means) at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers. The British colonial government moved its administrative hub from Klang (formerly known as “Kelang”) to Kuala Lumpur in 1880.
As Kuala Lumpur developed and grew, the Chinese migrants played a significant role in completing the main construction projects, including public infrastructure such as roads and railways; and in the mining, coal, logging and agriculture industries that had generated substantial income for the British government. Chinese Kapitan (leaders) such as Yap Ah Loy, Yap Ah Shak, Yap Kwan Seng who were reputable among the Chinese community were also appointed to ensure good governance as well as ensure the city’s prosperity.
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor would not have become what they are today without the years of hardship endured by the early Chinese immigrants who left their homeland and sailed across the ocean, before settling down in the still undeveloped Malaya with nothing more than the shirts on their backs. Through tremendous determination, courage, and sheer perseverance, they turned jungles and swamps into bustling towns. The thriving capital city today is a product of the toil of our ancestors inhabitants in a land they eventually chose to call home.