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A feng shui tour of the Klang Valley #20

HEYDAYS OF CHINATOWN

In our last article, we covered a little of Kuala Lumpur’s history and how the early town centre originated from trading outposts which now form Chinatown. The personification of Chinatown, as promulgated by the Tourism Ministry, is Jalan Petaling.

The original Chinatown was actually located around Medan Pasar Besar where the main wet market was sited. This was a large square comprising two roads – Macao Street and Hokkien Street – with a traffic island in the middle. Back in the 1880s and 1890s, this “Old Market Square” was a recreation area and commercial centre. Today, we only see remnants of its glory days in Medan Pasar.
The significance of this area began to diminish as far back as 1888 when the British administration moved the market to the present Central Market site. The British gained a foothold into Selangor in 1875, thanks to the Selangor Civil War or Klang War.

The war was essentially fought between Raja Abdullah and Raja Mahadi in 1870. To strengthen each other’s position in the power tussle, the Chinese labourers were roped in. The unrest disrupted the tin trade and it made the British uneasy. Selangor was then one of the world’s major tin producers.

In 1873, a ship from Penang was attacked by pirates in Selangor. Sultan Abdul Samad requested assistance from British Governor Sir Andrew Clarke and in 1875, J.G. Davidson was appointed Selangor’s first British Resident. Raja Mahadi was forced to step down.

KAPITAN YAP
When the war ended, the miners returned to work but discovered that the abandoned tin mines were flooded and unworkable. They were dissuaded from leaving Kuala Lumpur by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy. He convinced them to work in farms and grow rice and other produce, such as tapioca and opium.

Yap opened a tapioca mill in Jalan Petaling where tapioca tubers from these farms were processed into flour. Hence to this day, the street is still known as “chee cheong kai” in Cantonese, which literally means “starch factory street”.

Jalan Petaling runs from the now-defunct Bulatan Merdeka in front of the Chinese Assembly Hall and goes all the way to Lebuh Pasar Besar. A large tract of this road, between Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Jalan Sultan, has been converted into a pedestrian mall.

Driving through this short stretch used to be a nightmare as drivers needed to be careful to avoid the numerous pedestrians criss-crossing the street. By night, this section was converted into a night market, famous for imitation watches, leather goods, pirated videos, knick-knacks and Chinese delicacies.

In 2003, this section was permanently made into a pedestrian mall. Two Chinese arches were placed at both ends and high-tech polycarbonate roofing was installed for the shoppers’ comfort.

OPEN STALLS
In the middle of the pedestrian mall, there are now semi-permanent stalls. As non-permanent fixtures, would they be subject to geomantic forces? So far, our discussion centres on buildings, which technically has four walls and a roof. This enables us to define a building’s entrance or facing direction.

A roadside stall has no such structure and no definition of “front” or “back”. In such a case, the “fortunes” of the stall would likely depend on the person’s favourable directions, based on his Gua number.
The street itself is littered with more stalls than ever and now, it is the pedestrians turn to inch their way forward gingerly, and avoid the attention of pick-pockets!

According to ancient feng shui texts, earth energy flows from high land to low; it is stopped, reflected and deflected by bodies of water; and it is dissipated by winds. Where pools of gentle, harmonious energy are collected, the area is known to be prosperous. It attracts life and people tend to congregate there.
Buildings that face the river’s embrace enjoy the best energy, while those with their backs to the river do not. In fact, they may experience negative effects.

EMBRACING SIDE
Jalan Petaling sits on the embracing concave side of the Klang River in the big picture. This could explain the longevity and prosperity of Chinatown. This segment of Jalan Petaling runs parallel to the river on its west; to the east, there is a hill where Methodist and Confucian schools, and Chin Woo Stadium are located.

That means, there is a dichotomy of fortunes along this segment of Jalan Petaling. West-facing buildings here would enjoy enormously good energy and prosperity. East-facing buildings will experience more challenges. Businesses located on this side may go through drastic ups and downs, change owners often or experience single-generational wealth.
Parallel to Jalan Petaling in Chinatown is Lorong Bandar 26, an alley where a huge car park is located. This used to belong to Madras Cinema, which is no longer in business. East-facing buildings on Jalan Petaling would probably do better if they converted their rear into shop fronts facing this alley. This would work well on two levels: it would enjoy better energy, and by converting this into yet another pedestrian shopping mall, there will more opportunities to lure tourists and shoppers.

What we can observe in Chinatown today can be considered a testimony to the geomantic forces of nature at work. After all, there is over 130 years of history to verify our hypothesis!

The section of Jalan Petaling near the Merdeka “roundabout” enjoys good energy provided buildings here face West. Those on the opposite side are not likely to enjoy long-term prosperity. There used to be many coffin shops and undertakers here in this “outskirt” of Kuala Lumpur. They were near enough to the temples and the Chinese cemetery not far away. Today, most are out of business.

GOOD SPOT
There is a short stretch of road here, namely Jalan Balai Polis which curves into Jalan Panggung before joining Jalan Sultan. Buildings on these stretch enjoy very conducive geomantic energies. For example, along Jalan Balai Polis, properties here face south, in parallel with the Klang River’s flow. At the curve itself, the buildings enjoy the embrace of the road. Jalan Panggung shops all face the river.

Further north, Jalan Petaling passes Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and converges with Jalan Tun H.S. Lee near the Old Market Square. This used to be a busy place where minibuses converged. Since the orientation of the land is different here (the Merdeka hill is located southeast), properties along this road should face northwest to enjoy optimum conducive energy. However, the road’s direction does not allow that. So, facing southwest or south, such as Bangunan Fung Keong and Wisma Fui Chiu, would be the next best thing.

Jalan Tun H.S. Lee was formerly called Jalan Bandar, and before that, High Street. High Street is very commonly used name for the primary business streets of Britain (the equivalent of the many Main Street in the United States) and usually a focal point for retail shops in the city centre. It is most often used in reference to retailing. In fact, High Street is the most common street name in Britain, numbering at least 5,410!

Thus, this was a very important street that ran across old Kuala Lumpur. High Street began at the foot of Bukit Nanas, goes into the Old Market Square and straight out to Jalan Syed Putra –the beginning of the Federal Highway.
Its historical significance was somewhat preserved when it was renamed Jalan Bandar after Merdeka, in 1960. Alas, this is no longer the case with its present name, in honour of the nation’s first finance minister, Tun H.S. Lee. Nevertheless, Jalan Bandar is still commonly used, especially in reference to the Kuala Lumpur traffic police station located at one end of this road.

PARALLEL TO THE RIVER
Jalan Tun H.S. Lee has a unique feature of running parallel to the Klang River on its west. Whether it is by design or circumstance, the curved design of the road makes our job of observing geomantic forces at work easier. Buildings that face the Klang River are likely to enjoy the best conducive energy, while those on the opposite side would experience less than ideal business or living conditions.

Let us begin from the south at the police station at move north against the flow of traffic in this one-way street. The police quarters are on the right and face the river. Buildings here would enjoy tremendous energy provided they face West (where the river is located) or South (following the river’s flow).

The traffic section of the police is not as conducive, however, since the back is to the river. That could mean continuous unsettlement within the department or non-stop work and traffic woes to handle. Then again, in a city as busy as Kuala Lumpur, that should come as no surprise!
Further up, past the Jalan Sultan intersection, the same principle applies. Buildings on the right enjoy a more conducive environment than their opposite number. However, even on the right side, not everything is equal: the road actually curves and buildings on the outer convex may experience mixed fortunes.

The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam is located here facing East with its back to the river. This is quite acceptable as divinity has no need for geomantic energy pools. It is, in fact, quite common to find temples, monasteries and even churches on top of hills, mountains or other places that are normally considered not conducive from a feng shui perspective. The Almighty, we must say, supersedes everything and nature bends to His will. So, there!

OLDEST HINDU TEMPLE
This temple is the starting point for the annual procession by Hindu devotees to Batu Caves during Thaipusam. It is also thronged by thousands during Deepavali. Founded in 1873, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is also the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.

Built in the south Indian Dravidian style, this temple is most notable for its distinct and ornate Raja Gopuram tower. This rising tower at the entrance of the temple is exquisitely decorated with sculptures and carvings of Hindu deities, soldiers and floral decorations.

Once every 12 years, the temple is reconsecrated, in keeping with Hindu tradition. The temple is connected to Bangunan Mariamman at its rear. This building faces the Klang River, which makes it a very conducive building, geomancy-wise.

 
 
 
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