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Penniless man who made it big in Malaya


KUALA LUMPUR: Jalan Loke Yew was named after Loke Yew, a penniless shop assistant who became one of the richest men in KL.

He was born on  Oct 9, 1846, and spent his childhood in San Wei district, Guangdong, China.

Born in  a peasant family surnamed Wong,  he was adopted by  Loke Xian.

He left China  for Singapore, in 1858,  to  work as an assistant in  a sundry shop called Kwong Man in  Market Street. He  managed to save money to  set up his own sundry shop which was called Hing Loong in New Market Street.

After spending 11 years in Singapore, he went to Matang,  Larut, in Perak, which was then the centre of the tin mining industry in Malaya.

There, he worked for Chan Kam Chong and Ng Sow Swee. After accumulating enough capital, he opened his own tin mines in Kamunting.

He also invested in tin mining in Selangor. At the height of his mining activities, he employed 12,000 labourers in Serendah.

He adopted western technology in his mines.

To facilitate his mining activities, he undertook the construction of major roads.

He built the road from Kuala Lumpur to Sungai Besi and Kuala Lumpur to Bentong road across the Genting Pass.

In 1894, he also pioneered the use of  electricity in his mines in Rawang when he established the Rawang Electrical Company in  a joint venture with Thamboosamy Pillay.

In 1897, he applied for 8,090ha of land in Hulu Selangor for padi cultivation. He received waivers on premium duties and initial quit rent and  was also granted a  loan by Selangor state government.

Through his wealth, he become a leader of the Chinese community in KL. He was appointed to the Sanitary Board of Kuala Lumpur and the Public Gardens Committee and in 1904 was elected the first chairman of the Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce which he helped found.

He was noted for his philanthropic activities and was a founder member of Victoria Institution.

He was also a member of the Oriental Stand of Turf Club as well as the Rifle Club. He was fond of horse racing.

Today,  the 4.5 km stretch of Jalan Loke Yew  is surrounded by  residential  and  business properties such as Viva Homes shopping centre, CIDB Malaysia, Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Bhd and TMC College. 

The 4.5 km stretch of Jalan Loke Yew is surrounded by residential and business properties. Pic by Mior Azfar Mior Kamarulbaid

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