*info form Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chung_Keng_Quee

Capitan China Chung Keng Quee was the founder and administrator of modern Taiping in Perak, Malaysia. Appointed “Capitan China” by the British in 1877, he was a millionaire philanthropist and known as an innovator in the mining of tin. He was involved in many other industries including farming, pawnbroking and logging. He was respected by both Chinese and European communities in the early colonial settlement. His survival in the chaotic era owes much to his standing as leader of the Hai San, a Chinese secret society in British Malaya during the time of the Larut Wars (1862–73). a position he is said to have held till early 1884 although in all probability he continued to remain a leading member. The old fort at Teluk Batu was built by him to safeguard the mine that he opened there. He was a member of the Commission for the Pacification of Larut and sat as one of six members of the Advisory Perak State Council appointed by the British. Commenting on the role of the Perak Council, Richard James Wilkinson wrote,

“It is for the reader, in the light of subsequent events, to judge how far the Councillors were right or wrong, and to see for himself who really did the pioneer work of building up the prosperity of Perak. In the published accounts of British rule in Malaya, sufficient prominence has not always been given to the efforts of these early pioneers; the reaper, intent on his own work, is apt to forget the man who sowed. These Council Minutes are the record of the work of the sowers. A study of that record will show how much the State owes to Sir Hugh Low and to his fellow-Councillors, especially Raja Dris (the present Sultan), Sir William Maxwell, and the Chinese towkays, Ah Kwi [Chung Keng Quee] and Ah Yam.”

Early history

Third among his father’s five sons, Chung Keng Quee was born into a peasant Hakka family in Xin Cun (新村) village, Cheng Sheng (Zengcheng 增城) county of Guangdong province, China. 
At the time of his death the Perak Pioneer & Native States Advertiser VOL VIII Taiping Saturday 14 December 1901 reports:

“Precise information as to the date of his arrival in Perak is difficult to obtain but it is apparently certain that he has passed over forty-five years in the State before he retired to Penang.”

It is believed that in 1841, he journeyed from China to British Malaya in a junk, sent by his mother, Madam Lai, to look for his father, Chung, Hsing Fah (Chung, Xingfa 郑兴发; Hakka: Chang Hin Fatt). He had left his wife (Madam Lin) in China to look after his elderly mother. He is thought to have been 20 years of age at that time. Chung Hsing Fa, had come to Malaya as an indentured labourer during a time of great turbulence in China to make a living and support his family in China (see First and Second Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion). After some time when Madam Lai received no news from her husband she sent Chung Keng Seng (鄭景勝 / 郑景胜), her second son. Still receiving no news, she then sent Keng Quee. When Keng Quee arrived in Perak, he discovered that both his father Hsing Fa and his brother Keng Seng were by that time well established in business. In fact, Keng Seng was so popular he was known as Lui Kong Seng (literally Thunder God Seng). His father, Hsing Fa was one of the early leaders of the Tseng Lung association on King Street. Keng Quee entered the mining business which his father and brother were engaged in. By 1860 he controlled the Penang-based Hai San Secret Society as well as the Larut tin-fields the Hai San were associated with. Information about his career before that time is generally unknown.

Pangkor Engagement

The need to restore law and order in Perak gave cause for a new British policy concerning intervention in the affairs of the Malay States which resulted in the Treaty of Pangkor.

On 20 January 1874, the Straits Settlements governor Sir Andrew Clarke convened a meeting aboard the H. M. S. Pluto anchored off Pangkor island. Documents were signed aboard the ship The Pluto at Pangkor Island to settle the Chinese dispute, clear the Sultan succession dispute and pave the way for the acceptance of British Residency – Captain Speedy was appointed to administer Larut as assistant to the British Resident. Abdullah was recognised as Sultan by the British and was to be installed on the throne of Perak in preference to his rival, Sultan Ismail.

In actuality there were two distinctive agreements made. The primary agreement was intended to ensure an end to the fighting between Ghee Hin and Hai San and pave the way for peaceful coexistence in future. The second, to settle the issue of succession in Perak.

Tate in The Making of Modern South-East Asia says of these that “the first one, which had been ready for over a week prior to the signing, concerned Larut and provided for a settlement between the Hai San and Ghee Ghin which both sides respected and carried out satisfactorily. The second (more recently drafted) agreement concerned the succession dispute around the Perak throne and was unsatisfactory from the very beginning.”

Chinese Engagement

Chung, Keng Quee was one of the two main signatories to the treaty known as the Pangkor Engagement (copy of treaty) entered into aboard the H.M.S. Pluto at Pangkor Island by twenty-six headmen of the Chinese Secret Societies. Chung, Keng Quee and Chin, Ah Yam, leaders of the Hai San and Ghee Hin, respectively, were ennobled by the British with the title of Kapitan China (leader of the Chinese community) and the town of Larut was renamed Taiping (“太平” in Chinese, meaning “everlasting peace”) as a confirmation of the new state of truce.

Malay Engagement

There were three possibilities for the Perak throne and of these only one was present at the meeting – Abdullah. Sultan Ismail who was the crowned ruler, had refused to attend. The British did not appear to know of the existence of the third possible claimant, Raja Yusof, who was naturally not invited.

The agreement that was signed recognised Abdullah as Sultan giving Ismail the status of Sultan Muda, and provided for a British officer called Resident whose advice must be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching on Malay Religion and Custom. Ngah Ibrahim’s position in Larut as granted by Sultan Ja’afar and confirmed by Sultan Ali was recognised.

However, as far as the chiefs of Perak (who were not present) were concerned (with this agreement made between the British and Abdullah or the British’s recognition of Abdullah as Sultan) – the issue of succession was settled three years earlier with the election of Sultan Ismail. To these Chiefs the British may have proclaimed Abdullah Sultan but his accession was not valid in their eyes and indeed in Malay eyes if he did not hold the (royal) regalia which was at that time in the hands of Sultan Ismail, all attempts at recovering these from him having failed.

Pacification Commission

Three days afterwards, Chung, Keng Quee was appointed a member of Commission for the Pacification of Larut also comprising Captain S. Dunlop, John Frederick Adolphus McNair, Frank Swettenham, W. A. Pickering and Chin Seng Yam, whose terms of reference, among others, was to arrange for an amicable settlement relating to the Larut tin mines. The Commissioners after due investigation and deliberation decided to hand the mines in Klian Pauh (Taiping) over to the Hai Sans and the mines in Klian Bharu (Kamunting) to the Ghee Hins.

Perak Council

Sir Hugh Low established the Perak State Council in 1877. Kapitan Chung, Keng Quee was appointed a member of the State Council of Perak (there were six members of the council, four Malays and two Chinese) which held its first meeting at Kuala Kangsar on 10 September 1877. The other members of the Council present were Raja Yussof (the Raja Muda), Sir Hugh Low (Resident), Captain Tristram Speedy (Assistant Resident), Raja Dris’, Orang Kaya Temenggong, and Kapitan Chin Seng yam, Che Karim of Selama being absent.[63][64] His magnanimity is manifestly clear from the Council Minutes of Perak in “Papers on Malay Subjects” by Richard James Wilkinson, F. M. S. (Federation of Malay States) Government Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1908. He was the first of three generations to serve on the Council, his son Chung Thye Phin and his grandson Chung Kok Ming following in his footsteps.[65]


  • Chung Keng Kwee, when reminded of the Larut Wars by an inquiring visitor, dismissed the subject with an expression of distaste – ‘Banyak rugi!’ (meaning ‘Big loss!) — see The Protected Malay States: 1874-1895.
  • Chung Keng Quee and Chin Seng Yam (Chin Ah Yam) having made peace with each other became fast friends, going so far as to have Ah Yam become the Ch’ Yeh or godfather of Keng Quee’s fourth son, Chung Thye Phin.

Sir Hugh Low’s letter of vindication

The September 1891 issue of Harpers’s New Monthly Magazine (Volume 83, Issue 489) carried an article on Chinese Secret Societies and credited Chung Keng Quee with wealth amounting to two million Sterling. The article also stated that Chung, Keng Quee was tried for murder an accusation that was refuted following the publication of a letter to the editor from Sir Hugh Low, British Resident at Perak, in the December issue (Volume 84, Issue 499) of the same magazine.

In his letter, Sir Hugh refers to Chung, Keng Quee as “my friend Captain Chang Ah Kwi, of Perak” and “my old friend” and urges the editor to take steps to correct the inaccuracies published earlier which he says do great injustice to his friend.

Sir Hugh Low acknowledged that Chung, Keng Quee was leader of the “Go Kwan faction” in the disturbances that preceded the British intervention under Sir Andrew Clarke, in 1874. He also acknowledged that long after that time when Chung, Keng Quee visited China he was accused of piracy by his rivals in the tin mining business and while he was initially arrested and brought before the mandarins in Canton he was triumphantly acquitted of the charge.

Sir Hugh goes on to state categorically that “Captain Ah Kwi” who was at that time a long-standing member of the State Council, had never ever been “arrested on criminal charges where British influence prevailed”, and had in fact from the very beginning “been a strenuous supporter of the settlement of the State of Perak”.

The insertion ended with an apology from the author, Frederick Boyle, to the editor of Harper’s Magazine.

The relationship between Sir Hugh Low and Chung Keng Quee goes all the way back to Sir Hugh’s arrival in Perak. At that time Chung Keng Quee was getting frustrated with the management of the revenue farm that had been given over to him and it was Sir Hugh Low who, as he recalls in his journal “laughed him out of the nonsense about giving up the farm”.

The two of them had many long and frank discussions about the mining business in general as well as revenue farming and the system of “advancers”. On 15 May 1877 in a casual meeting between the two, Chung Keng Quee advocated the granting of land leases for the mines for periods of 21 years arguing that this would make it easier for miners to raise money. On 11 September the same year, Sir Hugh Low made this so.

For Sir Hugh Low, Chung Keng Quee represented a stabilising factor in mining communities that had yet to settle down following the Larut Wars. His was the voice of reason, admonishing the towkays who had stirred up a riot in 1879 and it was a voice that Sir Hugh trusted and backed up.

Business interests

Chung Keng Quee was involved in many different businesses but he was first and foremost a tin man. Not only did he help his sons start out in the business, he was apt to support others as well. Between 1884 and 1889 Chung Keng Quee sublet a part the land granted to him for his mining activities to a young man starting out in the business, Foo Choo Choon.

Tin mining

By 1879 there were 80 mines in operation in Larut, owned by 40 firms, with an average of nearly 86 men per mine. The largest mine of all in the country was owned by the Kong Loon Kongsi, in Kamunting, directed by Chung Keng Quee whom Doyle in Mining In Larut describes as:

“an enterprising Chinese gentleman whose appreciation of European appliances is envinced by a centrifugal pump and engine, in supersession of the cumbrous and comparatively useless, Chinese water-wheel.”

The Kong Loon mine employed 300 coolies, more than any other mine at that time. Chung, Keng Quee was a wealthy miner who (circa 1889 – 1895) was granted big mining concessions including 1,000 acres (405 ha) (4 km²) in Kinta.

By 1887 Chung Keng Quee was the largest tin producer in Perak accounting for almost 29,000 pikuls or 1,700 tons out of a total state output of about 220,000 pikuls or about 13,000 tons—more than what all the foreign mines put together could produce.

In the early 1890s Chung Keng Quee was reported to own some of the finest tin mines in Sorakai (Kinta) and Kota (Larut). The Government of India sanctioned the grant of a large concession in Mergui for him to prospect for tin. According to the Calcutta Correspondent of The Times, this was “the first attempt to encourage, on a large scale, the mining industry in Mergui.”

According to the Ipoh Echo Chung Keng Quee owned the largest alluvial tin mine in the world, the Kwong Lee Mine, which employed 5,000 mining coolies.[82] The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser reported, “The largest mine in Perak is aboiut to be closed, the produce having become too limited to be payable. This is the Kwong Lee mine of Kota, the property of Captain Ah Kwi. This excavation has been a show place for some time, and has been visited by many persons out of curiosity because of the large scale on which it has been carried on. It was feared, some few months back, that the mine would give out, and a number of the men employed were discharged. Since then, instead of improving, the wash has diminished in value, and the owner is obliged to relinquish it. It paid remarkably well at one time.”

There are those who argue that his were the first true capitalist Chinese enterprises in the country and not those of Yap Ah Loy.

Innovation and leadership

Chung Keng Quee was the first miner to experiment with hydraulic machinery. He was a progressive miner, farsighted and innovative and this together with his close relationship with Sir Hugh Low helped spur on the economic development of the territory.

In 1878 on a visit to his mines at Larut, Sir William Cleaver Francis Robinson the Governor of the Straits Settlements (1877–1879), was impressed to see a steam pump, installed by the Perak Government at Chung Keng Quee’s request on the undertaking that if successful it would be taken over and rented by the mine.

Sir Hugh Low introduced the portable steam pump for draining mines in the protected states in 1878 by first demonstrating its usefulness in Chung Keng Quee’s mines. Convinced by the practical results of a real demonstration, owners of large mines in Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong soon had similar pumps installed, overcoming the periodic problem of flooding that used to bring work at the mines to a virtual standstill.

Revenue farming

By 1888 he held the General Farm (taxes upon gambling, spirits and pawnbroking) of Kuala Kangsar, the North and South Larut Coast Farm and the Opium Farm of Lower Perak. In 1890 he obtained the Penang Opium Farm. By 1891 he had the Kinta General Farm and the General Farm and Opium Duty Farm of Kuala Kangsar and in 1895 he had the General Farm of Perak and the Coast and Opium Farms of Lower Perak. He acquired the Kinta General Farm in August 1890 at a considerably reduced price.

In 1889, after the Pangkor settlement of 1874, Sir Hugh Low, British Resident at Perak, gave over most of the Larut and Kurau opium, gambling, spirits, pawnbroking and tobacco farms to Chung, Keng Quee and his business partner, Khoo, Thean Teik. In Penang, Chung, Keng Quee and his friends and relatives made up one of three similar syndicate groups that dominated the Opium Farms there.

Chung Keng Quee apart from being a man of vision was also a great risk-taker. Sir Hugh Low in his own notes describing negotiations over the leasing out of the Perak revenue farms compares Chung Keng Quee and Khoo Thian Teik. Chung Keng Quee had told him that he needed five thousand more coolies to make the venture successful while Khoo Thian Teik had talked of two or three hundred more. Not only did he get his coolies from China, Ah Quee also employed coolies from India.

His exceptional management of the revenue farms entrusted to him helped bring fresh capital into Perak and helped him to become, by 1886, the largest financier in Larut.

While he obviously was making a lot of money from revenue farming, in 1897 Sir Hugh Low, then the Resident, negotiated with Chung, Keng Quee, who was at that time owner of the largest mine in the country and probably the most influential financier of tin mines in the country, to abolish the supply of opium in return for greater protection of tin mine employers from their absconding coolies and for longer working hours.

From 1880 to 1897, in partnership with the Tan, Yeoh, Lim, Cheah, and Khoo families, Chung Keng Quee invested over $2.8 million to dominate all the revenue farms from upper to lower Perak.

Tobacco farming

He had many tobacco farms in several areas in Perak, including Larut, Kuala Kangsar, Kerian and Selama。 Together with Chen Eok he held the Tobacco farms in Larut and Larut Coast between 1883 and 1885.

Reputation for business success

Chung Keng Quee formed close relationships with the many British Residents of Perak and built a reputation for making mining operations a success. E. W. Birch (Ernest Woodford Birch), seventh British Resident to Perak, left in February 1897 to take up the post of Acting British Resident, Negeri Sembilan and on 15 March 1897, while paying visits of inspection to various parts of the Negri Sembilan, recorded in his papers “I wish we could induce Captain Ah Kwi, of Perak, to enter Lukut and Labu” (The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present, Vol V, 1897 Page 254).


His son Chung Thye Phin (then only 22 years of age) was appointed to take over his seat on the Perak State Council in 1900, and upon his death in 1901, his business activities were managed by his son Chung Thye Phin.