yew family

Loke Yew

Loke Yew CMG, LL.D. (1845-1917) was a famous businessman and philanthropist during the British Malaya era. He played a significant role in the growth of Kuala Lumpur town and was one of the founding fathers of Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur.

Early life

His actual name was Wong Loke Yew and born of humble parentage in the village of Dong Jiang in the district of he shan, in the Guangdong Province of China in 1845. He was the only son in a family of four children, and spent his childhood working as a farm hand before he decided to set sail to Malaya to seek his fortune. He was only 13 years old then. The young Wong dropped his surname Wong upon arriving in Singapore, and changed his middle name to 陸(Lù) as he thought the new name sounded more auspicious. His relatives recommended him for his first job at Kwong Man General Store, a provision shop in Market Street and earned $20 a month. The young Loke scrimped and managed to save $99 after 4 years' of hard work. With the money, he started his own provision store called Tong Hing Loong. His business grew gradually , and Loke left his staff in charge of the store while he travelled to northern Malaya, particularly Perak to explore the tin mining business.


The ambitious young man took great risks in his new venture in Perak, and lost nearly $60,000 in his first four years. But he persisted in keeping the business going until he found a rich tin deposit in Kelian Bahru in Perak. His tin-mining business suddenly took an upswing, and Loke then went on to acquire and own many more tin mines, and rubber and coconut plantations in Perak. He also ventured into supplying provisions to British troops during the Perak War, running a pawnbroking business, and even obtained monopoly for liquor sales, gambling licences and other privileges from the colonial government.

Loke's other assets include several hundred hectares of land, real estate and properties in both Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong and China. Loke Yew was the largest shareholder in Pahang Motor Car Service, owned shares in the Raub Straits Trading Company, Straits Steamship and Federal Engineers, partly owned Burmah Rice Mill, made investments in properties all over Singapore and Malaya. He played a leading role in establishing Kwong Yik Bank, which opened in July 1915.

Loke also went into partnership with Thamboosamy Pillai in managing the New Tin Mining Company in Rawang. They were the first to use electric pumps for mining in Malaya.

His son, Loke Wan Tho, along with his fourth wife, Lim Cheng Kim established Associated Theatres Ltd in 1936, and later renamed the Cathay Organisation. In 1939 the Loke conglomerate built Singapore's first skyscraper, the Cathay Building.

Family life

Loke married four times and his fourth wife, Lim Cheng Kim, whom he married in 1914 bore him three children – Wan Tho, Loke Yuen Theng and Loke Yuen Peng. In total the elder Loke had 11 children from all 4 marriages.

The Loke Mansion situated at No. 273A,Jalan Medan Tuanku, was built by Loke Yew over 12 years from 1892, the year he bought over the residence of tin miner and leader of the Cantonese community, Mr Cheow Ah Yoke. The Loke Mansion in its present form was completed in 1904 and was part of the former sprawling 11 acre Loke Estate. The Cheow home which was built between 1860 and 1862 with the famous Ching dynasty "Painted Gate" has been incorporated into the rear portion of the current Loke Mansion. Loke made sure his mansion became one of the most prestigious residences in Asia and was reputedly the first residence in Malaya to receive electricity. Loke's family lived there until the 1930s.

The Loke Mansion was renovated and partially restored in late 2007 by the law firm Cheang and Ariff, who have leased the property from its owner. Managing Partner, Dato' Loh Siew Cheang, hopes to be able to restore the mansion to its full glory in the course of time.

The Loke Mansion should not be confused with Loke Hall, Kuala Lumpur (which is now occupied by Persatuan Arkitek Malaysia or PAM) or Loke Villa at Gurney Drive in Penang.

Loke Wan Yat, one of his less mentioned sons, was a real estate developer and the co-owner of the Penang Realty Ltd based in Penang.


Loke Yew was a canny businessman, who was excessively cautious with petty expenditure. Despite his wealth he was least expensively dressed man in his own office, owned second-hand motorcars and often went to work by rickshaw instead. There is a story that one rainy day his wife went in their car to fetch him home from their estate and found him soaking wet, with a hoe in hand showing a coolie how to dig. This showed his humility, and willingness to help others in need.

The successful businessman also strongly believed in the importance of education and was one of the founders, together with Thamboosamy Pillai, who established Victoria Institution and even donated a large sum of money to Methodist Boys' School Kuala Lumpur for them to build a field. His compassionate nature also led to him lending help to many charitable causes including the establishment of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore. Loke also collected $55,000 for the endowment fund in 1912 for Hong Kong University and made a loan of $500,000 to the university interest-free for 25 years from 1915 the Loke Hall in HKU was named after him.


Loke Yew's many contributions to education and the growth of Kuala Lumpur earned him many honours. As Loke Yew was one of the pioneers of the developing Kuala Lumpur town, he was conferred the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) from the British Government, for his efforts and contributions on helping the people and the government of British Malaya.

Loke Yew was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) by the University of Hong Kong , for his generous contribution and steadfast belief in the value of education.

In tribute to the man's enormous contributions to the society, the name Loke Yew has become identifiable with street names such as Loke Yew Street in Singapore, and (Jalan Loke Yew(Malay); English: Loke Yew Road) in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and the name also appeared in several towns in Malaysia. This road together with Jalan Cheras makes up the Cheras Highway, built by Metramac Corporation and maintained and managed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall. This road in KL is also known for its high traffic volume and congestions especially during peak hours, for its low-cost flats and the the UE3 Shopping Megaplex ().

Loke Yew Professorship in Pathology

In the spirit of continuing education, The University of Hong Kong (HKU) celebrated its Third Inauguration of Endowed Professorships on April 17 2008, with the inception of the Loke Yew Professorship in Pathology. This Professorship was established through the generosity of Mr Loke Yew's grandchildren, Ms Ruby Loke Yuen-Kin and Professor Loke Yung-Wai, as a testimony of the strong ties between the Hong Kong university and the Loke Family.


Loke Yew passed away on 24 February 1917 from malaria and his funeral was one of the grandest of those times. He was buried at Hawthornden Estate (a rubber estate he owned), presently close to where army quarters of the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) are located, and a bronze statue of him was erected in front of his grave. Loke Yew also contributed to the Chinese communities in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. Loke Yew left an estate estimated at over ₤10 million a business empire composed of rubber plantations, factories and banks.

Loke Yew Family Graveyard

The Loke Yew Family Graveyard was built in 1910. The graveyard was originally located at what was known as Hawthornden Estate and today it is surrounded by Jalan Jelatek and Jalan Semarak, near the Desa Tun Hussein Onn (a housing complex for army personnel) where it is difficult for civilians to access the site. The Loke Yew Tombs complex comprise of two buildings: The grand Tsui Lan Memorial Hall built with timber pavilions with its eclectic blend of Chinese and Western styles and the impressive larger-than-life bronze statue of Loke Yew erected inline with his tomb. The statue was designed by Mr. Frederick J. Wilcoxson. It is currently in less than ideal condition.

The tomb complex is oriented to the West, the vertical axis of Loke Yew's tomb and bronze statue are inline, while the other three tombs (Lim Shuk Kwei, Alan Loke Wan Wye and Loke Wan Tho) are slightly off with this line to its right. This is the traditional Chinese way of showing respect to the husband or father. The Loke tombs follow the traditional Fujian style of a square front courtyard with granite carved Imperial guardian lions for the purpose of "guarding" the graves (the Chinese strongly believe that lions are the guardian of buildings). Within this courtyard, the altar itself is protected by a circular concrete fence. The Tsui Lan Memorial Hall is a rare and uncommon building, the style of which is not found elsewhere.

See also


External links

  1. The Demise of the Revenue Farm System in the Federated Malay States
  2. When the `towkay' reigned
  3. Honoree: Choo Meileen
  4. The original media man, INVESTOR DIGEST
  5. The original media man
  6. Interview with the grandson of Loke Yew and Reproductive Immunologist Dr. Charlie Loke Yung Wai by Alan Macfarlane, 22nd February 2007 - Interview provides into his grandfather Loke Yew and the family.

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