The town of Taiping, was born out of the
wars over the tin-fields of Larut district in the State of Perak.
Larut was first promoted as mining area by a young adventurer named
Long Ja'afar, who reportedly found tin while bathing in a stream.
Realising the tremendous potential in the area, he brought the first
group of Chinese Miners from Penang to help him work the mines in
Not long after, another group of
miners migrated to a nearby area called Klian Baru, Literally
meaning "New Mines". Folklore has it taht the first
deposits were discovered when a runaway elephant which strayed into
the area was found with its hooves covered in tin-rich mud. In 1861,
a flight broke out between the miners of Klian Pauh and Klian Baru.
This was only the start of what was to be a prolonged feud between
several groups of miners, from various Chinese secret societies, for
control of mining trade.
In 1873, Ngah
Ibrahim, who had succeeded
his father Long Ja'afar, engaged Captain Speedy, a former Superintendent
of Police in Penang, and his Indian soldiers of fortune to quell the
"Larut Wars". From being an employee of Ngah Ibrahim, Captain
Speedy soon become the Assistant Resident stationed at Larut when the
historic Pangkor Treaty of 1874 was signed. The new Governor of the
Straits Settlement, Pressured by Chinese Merchants who had invested
heavily in the tin mines, negotiated a treaty with Raja Abdullah and
several other Malay chiefs. The Treaty Obliged the British-appointed
Sultan to accept the "advice" of a colonial officer, and became
the starting of British intervention into the Malay States. At the same
time, a separate agreement was signed with the headmen of the warring
Chinese secret societies to keep the peace.
Captain Speedy, in his new capacity,
planned for the establishment of two towns, one called Taiping, for the
Klian Pauh miners, and another called Kamunting, for the rival group. It
was Speedy who gave the name to Taiping, which he regarded as a happy omen
for the future. With this new found peace, miners and shopkeeper flocked
to Taiping and by 1877, several important institutions were established,
including the gaol (jail), the hospital, the police force, and the survey
office. it is no wonder that Taiping soon became the administrative center
of Perak But by the 1890's, the Kinta Vally had superceded Larut as the
principal tin mining area in the peninsula, and talk had already begun of
relocating the administrative centre to Ipoh. However this situation was
left unchanged until after World War II when Ipoh replaced Taiping as the
capital of Perak.
Despite being replaced as the state's
administrative centre, Taiping a town of many firsts, is still one of
Perak's foremost historic attractions. Its built environment, consisting
of colonial buildings, public gardens, and shophouse ensembles, tells the
story of the town's development from 1874 to the present. and for anyone
interested in knowing more about Taiping, the best way to acquaint oneself
with the town is by taking a heritage tour, either on foot or by car.
A good place to start your tour would be at
the Post and Telegraph Office, located on Station Road. Built in 1884,
this is the first Post Office in the Federated Malay State (FMS),
comprising of Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan. The Post Office
that we see today was built Negeri Sembilan. The Post Office that we see
today was initially carried by a relay of runners and ponies, before
motorised vehicles were invented.
A short drive from the post office, along
Main Road, you will come to the famous Perak Museum. This is the country's
first museum, and was started in 1883 in the former government offices.
The museum was developed in stages from 1886 to 1903. The first curator
was Leonard Wray, who built up the much admired natural history and
ethnological collections, including a section on the aboriginal peoples.
Assembled on ground s is a stone marking the site of Maharaja Lela's Fort
and the statue of Colonel Walker, the man who was known as the
"Father of the Malay States Guides."
Across the road from the museum is the
Taiping Goal. Established in 1879, the Perak Prison was the main prison
for long-sentenced convicts of the FMS. It housed the Government Printing
Office, a bakery and a laundry, where the prisoners did some light work.
Today, it is the country best example of a 19th century goal complex.
Recently, it has been proposed for a prison museum.
From the Taiping Goal, if you take a
drive along Circular Road, you will be able to view the famous Taiping
Lake Gardens. In 1884, a large area of Land Chiefly swamp and abandoned
mines, was drained, leveled, planted and fenced for a public garden. in
its heyday early in the century, it was regarded as perhaps the most
beautiful of any gardens in the FMS.
For those with time to Spare, other places
of interest worth visiting include: the Keling Mosque on Kota Mosque on
Kota Road , the Taiping Convent, the Old Kota Mosque, the Taiping Market
in Market Square, and the Malay States Guides Barracks, which is
considered the most intact and historically important military complex of
its kind in Malaysia.
Taiping, as anybody who has been there will
attest, has the heaviest rainfall of any town in Malaysia. While this is
unfortunate for devotees of tennis, it makes walking exceedingly pleasant
after the dairy showers have fallen. The town's exceptional climate and
Tranquil surroundings, together with its remarkable heritage, continues to
earn Taiping its reputation as the town of everlasting peace.