All this while, our main focus has been major cities around Malaysia. But cities like Gopeng and Papan are also rich in history. In fact, they are older than Ipoh or Kuala Lumpur. During my recent trip to Perak, we visited Gopeng Heritage Museum. It is just the right place to learn about the history of Gopeng. Famous for its tin mining glory, imagine people from all walks of life flocking this tiny town left slowly abandoned. Even Dr Sun Yat Sen, the leader of the historic Chinese revolutionary leader, stayed in Gopeng briefly between 1909-1911.
Gopeng Heritage Museum is a new addition to places of interest in Gopeng. The museum is the brainchild of Bernard Yaw with support from the locals. I admire the efforts put in by Gopeng locals to share the rich legacies of Gopeng.
The origin of Gopeng is attributed to a Chinese man by the name of Mo Peng and his passionate love for cock-fighting. Cock fighting was then one of the favourite pastimes in the country. Mo Peng and Sultan Jaffar who had the passion for the game fought in cock-fighting. Mo Peng having lost severely staked all of his mines in Jangka Valley in his best cock. Sultan Jaffar put up his best cock to secure the victory and all of his mines.
He was left with a large army of coolies but with no lands to work. He marched his coolies some twenty five miles away where he had heard there was a tin ore mine to be found. Truthfully, it turned out to be one of the richest tin propositions in the world.
Gopeng was one of the important towns in Kinta before it was overshadowed by Ipoh. Originally, Gopeng was a Chinese Settlement area for it was reported there were about 1,000 miners working at 5 large mines. One of the prominent feature of Gopeng houses was titled roof. Due to secret society fueds for which Perak was known of, there was always a risk for fire (arson). In April 1887, a fire destroyed 68 houses constructed of wood with tilted roof. After that incident, a system was set up in Gopeng whereby 30 cents was collected from shopkeepers to hire Sikh watchmen to patrol the village. During this period, tin ore were brought in from neighbouring mines using elephants.
By 1915, Gopeng had grown to its optimum growth. The High Street was the most important street with the Straits Trading Company, the Eu Yang Sang medical shops and the Chinese associations. Both the High Street and Eu Kong Street had the finest Chinese shophouses from the late 19th century.
Apart from Ipoh, the rise of Kampar as tin rush town had eclipsed the importance of Gopeng. Since Gopeng was one of the areas which was first mined, the rich sources were depleting to exhaustion. More and more Chinese tin mines were leased to European Mining Company. Consequently, Gopeng was no longer an attraction to Chinese population who had by then moved to Kampar and Ipoh for tin rush.
The museum is in 28, Jalan Eu Kong, a double-storey brick shophouses built in 1882 by Eu Kong, founder of Eu Yan Sang.
To reach Gopeng Heritage Museum, exit the North South Expressway at the Gopeng exit and follow the signs into town. You will do fine if you depend on Waze! Because I did the same and it worked out for me.
Since it is a locally-manned museum, the museum is open on Saturday and Sunday; from 9am to 3pm.
There is no entrance fee but some donations are appreciated.
At the entrance of Gopeng Heritage Museum, there was a tin ore being on display. What more relevant to Gopeng than a tin ore.
Not far from the tin ore display, there is a traditional baby weight which I first thought a tin ore weight.
This fan was introduced in Gopeng by the British during 1920s. It could rotate 360 degrees with three rotation speed.
Sempoa / Abacus
Kitchen displayed is similar to traditional Malay kitchen except for the China set in the cupboard.
At the dining area, there are octagonal marble tables used in old kopitiam. And hey, it is now a cafe for which you could engage with discussions with family and friends over cups of coffee.
Second floor is where the resting areas, bedrooms, verandahs are! At the attic, there is European themed living room.
The caretaker of Gopeng Heritage Museum told about the two murals which had just completed across the road. After we finished our tour around Gopeng Heritage Museum, we walked in search for the murals. It was only 3 minutes walk to the kopitiam’s wall.
Row of shophouses we passed by.
New murals of Gopeng:-
For further reading:-1. Kinta Valley : Pioneering Malaysia’s Modern Development by Salma Nasution Khoo, Abdur-Razzaq Lubis