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YLCO Museum And Teluk Intan Chew Association-How They Were Connected

The delegation from Xiamen, Fujian, China at YLCO Museum for a group photo
Chew Boon Juan / Chew Boon Hong and brothers had been assisting their ancestral Heng Lim village since the early 1900’s and enabled the villages first ‘Private Xingyuan Primary School’ in 1921

By James Gough

In early May Ignatius Chew the curator of the  YLCO( Yeoh, Lim, Chew, Oh) Museum received a 60 strong delegation from Xiamen, Fujian province, China.

The delegation was attending the 150th anniversary of their Chew Association of Teluk Intan. They arrived into Penang and visited the Chew Jetty, Penang before proceeding to Teluk Intan with a 3 hour stopover to Ipoh to visit the YLCO Museum to learn about the Chew Brothers.

YLCO museum was of interest because the estate of Chew Boon Juan / Chew Boon Hong and brothers had assisted their Heng Lim ancestral village, Xiamen since the early 1900’s. Their assistance enabled the village to build their first school the ‘Private Xingyuan Primary School’ in 1921. 

YLCO Museum
The delegation was on a rushed schedule as they had to be at Teluk Intan for a dinner date. As such the museum team was well prepared to greet their guests with some refreshment and a tour of their museum.

The team at YLCO consisted of Ignatius Chew the curator and his team, Datin Janet Yeoh, mother of international actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh and David Chew Chin Hee, President of Nanyang University Alumni, Malaysia.

David Chew provided them with a welcoming speech, Datin Janet broke the ice with two songs where the guests showed their appreciation and the guests explored the museum and took more group photos. David Chew had relatives in the delegation from Xiamen and likewise too Ignatius Chew had friends from their recent trip to Xiamen, China.

The delegation arrived in the eveningand were quickly organised for a group photo
A second group photo with a 150th Anniversary for the TI Chew Association cake in the foreground
at the YLCO Museum looking at the recent YLCO team visit to Heng LIm village
..another group photo with Datin Janet Yeoh …
Datin Janet and the ladies from Xiamen
Seated l/r: Ignatius Chew, Chew Hong San (Heng Lim) Datin Janet Yeah, David Chew, Chew Hock Kee (Heng Lim) and Pauline Chew
David Chew wellcomes the delegation to Malaysia and YLCO Museum

David greets a fellow clansman …

Chew Hong San and wife together with Chew I Ching (great grand daughter of Chew Boon Juan) hold a bust of Chew Boon Juan.
Datin Janet with Chew Hong San, Ignatius and Chew I Ching…
…and part of the YLCO team

It was a welcoming detour as the villagers from Heng Lim got a quick tour to see and know of the Chew Brothers and their lifestyle since coming to Malaya. The visit would be well remembered for years to come by  Heng Lim village to Malaya.

Chew Seng Hian from Teluk Intan Chew Association searched for Chew Boon Hongs descendants.
In 2015 Chew Seng Hian, the deputy president of the Chew Association of Teluk Intan and some members were searching for the descendants of Chew Boon Hong the honoured trustee who donated generously towards the association. 

An old lady from Teluk Intan told him to go to the Honda showroom at Ban Hoe Seng in Ipoh. It was the place where Ignatius Chew worked.

Ignatius, then was the CEO of Ban Hoe Seng. Ignatius identified himself as the grandson of Chew Boon Juan. Chew Boon Hong was his uncle and the younger brother of Boon Juan . Seng Hian only wanted a photo of Chew Boon Hong. Ignatius brought him to the Chew museum located at another building within the premises of Ban Hoe Seng.

Chew Seng Hian visited the Chew Museum ‘searching’ for descendants of Chew Boon Hong…
..Seng Hian took many photos especially this damaged and faded photo of the 4 brothers together

According to Ignatius when Chew Seng Hian entered the Chew Museum, he was totally amazed with the collection of  the photos of the Chew brothers. The photos introduced Chew Boon Seong, Chew Boon Juan, Chew Boon San and Chew Boon Hong and their cousin Chew Boon Pitt together with their bungalows and families.

Seng Hian took many photos of the brothers. Most exciting amongst them was the portrait of the 4 Chew brothers together although it was damaged and faded .

Ignatius explained that Chew Boon Juan was the first of the brothers to come to Malaya. He had been doing his business with a clansman Chew Si Pian since the 1890’s. In that time he brought his 2 brothers Chew Boon Seong and Chew Boon San to help him as his business had grown.

When Boon Seong died in 1909 the last brother Chew Boon Hong came over to take his place.  In 1912 when Boon Hong had learnt the business Boon Juan took semi-retirement and left the running of his business to the young brother.   

The earliest known donation made by Chew Boon Juan, based on the Chew museum stories toward their ancestral village of Heng Lim, Xiamen was in the early 1900’s when he took a large sum of money back to his village. This regular village donation was subsequently followed up by Chew Boon Hong over the years till his death in 1965.

At a later date Seng Hian presented the Chew museum the Heng Lim Village Yellow Ancestral Book, compliments of the Heng Lim Village Association, Xiamen, China. In it were the tattered photos of the 4 brothers which were now touched up and had their names clearly printed.

Chew Seng Hian presented Ignatius with the yellow Heng Lim Ancestral Book

This year in 2024 when Ignatius’ visited Heng Lim Village, Xiamen he was shown photographs of the 4 brothers honoured and displayed in the old village temple. It was  together with the 10 benefactors who had made contributions to the village.The 4 brothers were first due their early contributions beginning from 1901 followed by another 6 benefactors who also made significant contributions to the village.

Chew Hock Kee, the Vice President of the Heng Lim Village, Xiamen informed Ignatius that based on their Yellow Ancestral Book Chew Boon Hong was very instrumental towards the early setup of the villages’ first school.

He explained that in the early years the villagers were all farmer and fishermen and generally illiterate. From time to time, overseas Chinese sent letters to the village but no one could reply to them. The village needed to change. A villager Zhou Maxi in 1916 wrote to Chew Boon Hong, the generous overseas Chinese living in Malaya requesting for funds to run a school.

Chew Boon Hong readily agreed and raised the needed funds and remitted the money back to his village.  With the positive news the village of farmers and fishermen established a school board of directors. Zhou Maxi was elected as Chairman.  

“In the 10th year of the Republic of China (AD 1921), on the first day of school, Zhou Maxi announced: “The first school in Xinglin Village was born today, and the name is ‘Private Xingyuan Primary School’. I hope that students will study hard, change the phenomenon of illiterate villages, and bring honor to their families.”

The portraits of the 4 brothers amongst the 1st of 10 sages that contributed to the development of Heng Lim village are displayed at the old temple
Yeoh Lam Swee taking a photograph of the brothers at the old temple…
(L) Ignatius and Pauline and the YLCO team at the Heng Lim village stone (R) with Chew Hock Kee presenting Ignatius with a yellow Heng Lim Ancestral book.
The current Private Xingyuan Primary School. It was rebuilt in 1956. Pic: Lam Swee. 2024

All this was made possible because a member Chew Seng Hian of the Teluk Intan Chew Association was determined to find the descendants of Chew Boon Hong. His interest has enabled a heritage discovery that spanned two countries and the catalyst that caused it was the rich bond of the four Chew brothers to their ancestral Heng Lim village.

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