Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Capitan China Wee Chim Yean (Bukit Brown)

Wee Chim Yean (1885-1926) is the Capitan China or Kapitan China of Bengkalis. Bengkalis is a place is the Riau archipelago off east coast Sumatra Islands.  He is the youngest son of Wee Leong Tan alias Wee Tan (1833- May 1913), who was once also the Capitan China of Bengkalis and brother of Ann Kee (died 1914) and Kim Cheng of chop Kim Hock Hoe which later become a limited liability company of the same name (Kim Hock Hoe Ltd).

There are not many stories about Chim Yean but more stories about his father and there's where i will start with first and add on later if i discover more.

Wee Leong Tan and chop Kim Hock Hoe.
His father came down from Amoy region at a young age and became an opium farmer under his company called chop Kim Hock Hoe. In his 29 years of service to the Dutch government, he was given the title Capitan and later Major China. In 1900 he received an Imperial Order and Gold medal from Queen Wihelmina.

His business expanded to shipping and also being commissioning agents. He handed over his company officially to his sons to manage on 27th January 1911. His sons, Kim Cheng and Ann Kee made it a limited company and the shipping business was acquired and incorporated in 1908 under the name of Wee Brothers Steamship Co. Ltd.

He was buried at the family vault in Bengkalis when he died in 1913 at the age of 78 (His wife died in 1909). The steamship of Wee Brothers provided free transport for mourners and free loaders from Singapore to Bengkalis to attend the funeral. In the evening after the elaborate and grand burial ceremonies, the fleet provided firework displays and then set sail back to Singapore with "Will o the Wisp" taking lead.

The "Majoor" Wee Boon Teng connection
Another thing i discovered during my research was that Wee Leong Tan and Wee Leong Hee are brothers. Leong Hee had a son by the name of Wee Boon Teng (Majoor Wee) born in 1865, who later joined his uncle in Sumatra. He went on to be a "Liutnant" of a place in east coast Sumatra called Selat Panjang. Subsequent promotions made him Kapitan China and silver and gold medals. Majoor Wee died in 1939 and was also buried in Bukit Brown.

The Capitan China's of Malaya
Capitan China or Kapitan Cina are titles bestowed upon by native rulers (Sultan) with agreement of the Colonial ruler and usually given to a person of high standing in the local chinese community. Helping to keep the peace among the local and collect poll taxes on behalf of the colonial government, they usually were allowed to prosper by taking a cut of this and maintain their own "police" force (i.e. their mini army).

The first of the Capitan's was said to be Tin Kap of Malacca/Melaka. His grave is located in Bukit Cina and said to be 400 years old providing links of early Chinese settlers to Malaya. In Malaya, the ones that one can think of immediately are Yap Ah Loy (1864-1884), Yap Kwan Seng (of Selangor) and for Perak (Towkay Chung Keng Quee and his son, Chung Thye Phin(1879-1935) ). This title is sometimes passed down from father to son, but not always.The last of the Capitans for Malaya is said to be Tan Kim Seng. Born in Melaka, he gained his wealth in Singapore through his business Kim Seng and Co.

For Indonesia, the Netherland Indies government continued this tradition until 1945. It was said there are three grades of Capitan's -Lieutanant/Luitenant, Capitan/Kapitan and Major/Majoor China, each with their respective duties and roles.

Wee Chim Yean died in the residences of his sister in law (Mrs Wee Ann Kee). He was reported to have died from typhoid fever and pneumonia. He died on 13 Aug 1926, age 41 and was buried in Bukit Brown, Blk 2, Division D. On his grave are the inscriptions 甲政 = (Captain) and 和国 = Holland 

Wee Chim Yean 

Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
The Last Capitan China of Selangor. (1950, December 13). The Straits Times.
Capitan China. (1953, October 25). The Straits Times.
The Capitan China's of Malaya. (1936,February 12). The Straits Times.
The Linggi Timber Trade. (1912, September 23). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser.
Death.(1926, August 16). The Straits Times.
Social and Personal. (1926, August 14). The Straits Times.
Benkalis Note. (1909, August 2). The Straits Times.
"Majoor" Wee Boon Teng. (1939, May 2 ). The Straits Times.
Kapitan Cina from Wikipedia website

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