REGAL: It sits majestically atop a hill, as if guarding the little town at the foothill. Jaspal Singh discovers the stories behind the iconic hill
IT is not the river or snail that is the noticeable sight in Sungai Siput, as the town's name suggests, but an eye-catching hill standing erect on the town's edge.
Like the Sphinx that guards over the pharaohs' pyramids, the lion atop the iconic hill -- a landmark that has become Sungai Siput's ubiquitous monument -- sits in the same squatting position with its posterior facing the town and its anterior looking out towards Kuala Kangsar in the north.
Hundreds of thousands of travellers who have used the old Ipoh-Kuala Kangsar route would not have missed this hill.
In fact, Si Chi San (literally meaning Lion Hill) has always been the landmark that chronicled the arrival of the traveller into the town of Sungai Siput Utara.
The name Si Chi San, although used for the Lion Hill, is also the name by which the town is known among the Chinese community.
"The Chinese community, whether in Sungai Siput or from other places, has always called this town 'Si Chi San', and not Sungai Siput.
"There is only one Si Chi San in the country and it is this town," said sundry shop owner Lai Ah Tak.
Lai, 63, who hails from Kuala Kangsar, said locals believed that the position of the lion's posterior and anterior was good feng shui for the people of Sungai Siput.
"Its face is looking at Kuala Kangsar while its tail is facing Sungai Siput. So the Si Chi (lion) is 'eating' Kuala Kangsar and 'excreting' towards Sungai Siput.
"So the luck is taken from Kuala Kangsar and dumped in Sungai Siput," he said, adding that that was the story he had heard from the locals.
Lai, who operates his shop in Jalan Lintang, said although his shop faces the hill, he was not particularly superstitious about the feng shui folklore of the locals.
"I can't really say I believe deeply in it, but I respect what the locals believe".
However, for Sungai-Siput born Chan Hong, the Si Chi San is not merely a hill with a ferocious name and a peculiar look.
The 55-year-old welder believes the folklore surrounding the hill should be turned into a tourist attraction to draw more people to Sungai Siput.
While acknowledging the story of the lion hill's positive feng shui, Chan said there was another story that formed part of the local folklore about the hill.
"The locals believe that some British officers, unhappy with the rising economic power of the Chinese in Sungai Siput and their increasing numbers in the town, decided to 'disable' the good feng shui of the Si Chi San.
"According to the tale I heard, the British officers climbed the hill right to the top of the lion's head and hammered two nails in it to disrupt the flow of the good feng shui.
"Of course, this is part of the local folklore but it sure is interesting enough to be retold to get tourists to visit Sungai Siput and the Si Chi San," he said, adding that many tourists from as far as Singapore and Hong Kong had come to the town to see the hill.
However, Chan said, the hill could not be accessed by the public as it was located within a private oil palm plantation.
There seems to be another interesting perspective to the hill folklore.
According to Chan, long ago, a devout Hindu man set up a small shrine on the hill which he reached using a ladder.
"No one knows if the small shrine or even the ladder is still there. Some old folk believe these two things are no longer there.
"Whatever it is, Si Chi San is certainly a very interesting and beautiful hill to look at."