In the heart of old town Ipoh along Jalan Bijeh Timah is one of the city’s heritage houses which used to be known as the Hakka Miners’ clubhouse but more recently converted into a museum called Han Chin Pet Soo.
The three-story building was built in 1893 by the Hakka Miners Clubhouse founder Leong Fee, who was a prominent tin miner then and it used to welcome only Hakka miners and the Hakka community.
His son, Leong Yin Khean, inherited the house from 1912 till 1927 before he sold it off and the property became a clubhouse for Hakka miners who later renovated and refurbished the building and its facade with a ribbed dome and geometric windows which was popular then.
The Hakka Miners Club was the place for its members to play ‘mahjong’ and smoke opium with company of concubines before tin price crashed, ending the fun and leisurely lifestyle after which the building was left to its own devices.
However, all is not lost as last year; the building was restored and turned into a museum through a community project headed by Royal Naval Commander Ian Anderson from IpohWorld which manage to get leasehold of the property.
According to Leong Meng Fai from IpohWorld, the organisation successfully transformed the building into museum with a lot of help from the local community which chipped in with various forms of support. Help came from various bodies and organisations such as Kinta Properties, PIA College of Art & Design, Tenby School, and Y Weng Thymes. Many of the tin mining memorabilia, old photographs and antiques were contributed by local collectors and IpohWorld.
Han Chin Pet Soo museum opened its doors to the public on February 5 last year and showcases the buildings’ architecture, original antiques from the building, a historical tour and of the life of tin miners at work and play as well.
Ancient day’s enamel furniture for parties and dinners are also on display and food props resembling the menu back in that era has been thoughtfully presented on the tables as well.
The history of tin mining in Perak is also depicted in one section where the process of tin mining and the lives of Hakka tin miners back then have been put on focus.
Perhaps the most amazing revelation at the museum is the fact that vices such as gambling, prostitution, opium and secret societies were not illegal back then and there was even a tax on opium and prostitution.
One section at the museum depicts an opium den with large opium beds and prostitutes, both locally and from Japan who were easily available to members at that time. Private gambling room, drinking sessions and entertainment from dancing and singing girls was part of the scene at the clubhouse back then.
Visitors will also learn during that era, membership certificates were given to candidates who were successfully initiated into secret societies after a ceremony of allegiance which involved among others, drinking a mixture of their own blood mixed with chicken blood.
All these revelations as well as some history of Hakka migration across the globe can be seen and learned at the Han Chin Pet Soo museum.
Entrance to the museum is free but visitors can only visit it by appointment through online reservation system at http://www.ipohworld.org/reservation/