The House That Chan Wing Built For The Kings

Chan Wing in 1933. Taken from “From Poor Migrant to Millionaire” by Chan King Nui.KUALA LUMPUR: Most of us know of Yap Ah Loy, the man who helped found Kuala Lumpur and (Wong) Loke Yew, who helped develop the city in infancy. But what about Chan Wing?
Chan Wing was Loke Yew’s employee and founder of the Kwong Yik Bank. But he may well have become a forgotten man but for the house he built.
His was a typical rags to riches story. Born to a poor family in 1873, he was the fourth child among six boys and two girls who were raised by their mother.
Schooling was a luxury that they could not afford. At 14, he was sent to Malaya where he worked as a shopkeeper for Loke Yew in Sungai Besi.
The National Palace now a breathtaking Royal MuseumAfter 10 years, he and four others formed a ‘kongsi’ (syndicate) to mine tin ore in the Sungai Besi mine where he finally, after more than nine months, managed to spot some darkish patch in one of the boxes of sand that he was washing.
The rest was history, says royal museum director Miti Fateema Sherzeella Mohd Yusoff.
Chan Wing was a man who liked his women. He had eight or nine wives with 26 children living at different locations and he decided to place them all under one roof.
The main throne for the King and Queen.This is when he bought 13 acres of land and built his house on it. In 1929, the family moved into the big house – the house that Malaysians have known for a long time as Istana Negara.
It was the biggest bungalow in Klang Valley, says Miti Fateema.
But Chen Wang’s dream about his new big house started to unravel during the Japanese occupation in 1941. He was separated from his family and escaped to Australia while his family was evacuated to India.
The small audience room with the King.He was reunited with his family after the war but was diagnosed with cancer and in 1947, he died at the age of 74.
During the Japanese occupation, his dream home housed the Japanese Governor and after the war, the British forces.
In 1950, the Selangor state government rented the home and it became the palace for the Sultan until 1957 when the federal government bought the property from the owners.
The office where His Majesty performs official dutiesMiti Fateema told FMT the place was acquired by the federal government in 1957 for a princely sum of RM2 million.
She adds part of the original mansion still stands but it has undergone extensive renovation before being turned into the National Palace from 1957 to 2011.
With the building of a new, bigger palace at Jalan Duta, what was once Chan Wing’s house is now the royal museum.
First-time visitors to the house hoping to indulge in a royal fantasy will not be disappointed.
The Royal bedroomThe journey starts with the grand ornate wrought iron black-and-gold gates far outside the two-storey Istana Negara.
Walking along the long driveway, there is a breathtaking royal garden on the right and the splendour of the palace complex on the left.
The entrance of the palace is where the dining hall was once located, decorated with dining sets.
According to Miti, the dining area was divided into three sections, the main area for Chan Wing and his older sons, the second division on the right was for his wives and elder daughters while the far left of the hall was reserved for the younger children.
The private cinema where his Majesty and the royals spend time watching movies.“There were no walls in between, just that their dining tables were placed, according to the family members and status, ” she said.
After the mansion was converted into the Istana, the renovated dining area was turned into a waiting area for guests. Guests would be greeted with exquisite crystal chandeliers and intricately designed ceilings.
Walking inside, there is a smaller audience hall where the King and Queen used to receive dignitaries.
Miti says they did not change the layout and the decoration of the palace so that people would be able to see the actual decorations of the Istana.
The Rulers of Conference meeting room.Visitors will also be able to see the royal dining area and the grand dining table with cutlery and dinnerware on the table – just next to a smaller audience hall.
The King also had his own private theatre screening his favourite movies, The theatre could accommodate about 20 to 30 people.
At the opposite room is the King’s private clinic, equipped with a dental chair and other medical equipment. This is where a doctor would attend to His Majesty during his weekly checkups.
Upstairs, on the first floor, the King’s office is where His Majesty would conduct his official duties, from looking through parliament bills to other official papers.
The Royal Ballot box used for Sultans to cast their votes for the next king.From the office, a long corridor leads to the Royal Chambers where their majesties and royal family retire for the night.
There is also a library equipped with a ladder on rails to access the 5m tall bookcase by the wall.
Miti says there are about 20 bedrooms in the palace.
The special receptacle used to destroy the ballots that have been countedAlong the walls of the long aisle, there are pictures of dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana, Yasser Arafat, among other famous dignitaries.
There is also a photo of the first King Tuanku Abdul Rahman Tuanku Muhammad and the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
After the royal bedrooms for the children and family members, museum visitors will come to a new wing with marbled bathrooms, soft carpets and plush furniture.
The first King Tuanku Abdul Rahman Tuanku Muhammad with the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1955.Visitors will also get to see the royal private bedroom with ceilings adorned with hand painted fresco depicting the sky.
The Chinese New Year holidays are here. And now, Miti says, would be a good time for Malaysians and foreigners to drop by to visit the grand old mansion of a Chinese tin miner which became the seat of the Malaysian royal institution. - FMT

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