Jan 2019 - Loke Yew Mansion Architecture Tour

Loke Yew Mansion Architecture Tour, 19th January, 2019


Around 15 people turned up for the architecture tour on Saturday, 19 January 2019. It was an interesting tour guided by Architect Steven Tang, a conservationist architect and Co-Chair of PAM Heritage and Conservation Committee. We gathered at half nine for a 10am start.

Loke Yew Mansion sits on a prime land of 11 acres downtown Kuala Lumpur built in the early 20th century. The tour started with the frontage of the Mansion with Steven explaining about the history of the man who owned the Mansion, Loke Yew. He was a man who grew from rags to riches. He was also a reputed philanthropist, contributing generously to the founding of Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur and Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore.

He was a typical rags to riches story where he was a peasant’s son born in Guangdong province, China, and who left home on a sailing ship to Singapore in 1860 when he was merely 13 years old.
The young Wong dropped his surname Wong upon arriving in Singapore, and changed his middle name to Yew he then adopted it as his surname as he thought new named sounded more auspicious.

His relatives recommended him for his first job at Kwong Man General Store, a provision shop in Market street where he 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 gradually grew and Loke left his staff in charge of the store while he travelled to northern Malaya, particularly Perak to explore the tin mining business.
He struck it big in the tin mining era and ventured into more tin mines, coconut and rubber plantations in Perak and eventually, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.  The grand mansion entertained guests, dignitaries and businessman for business network and parties. 

The building is now the home of the Cheang & Ariff law firm. Dato’ Loh Siew Cheang – managing partner of the law firm restored the mansion to its former grandeur in 2006.

We then entered inside the building where the reception is. The grand wooden entrance door was made from Cengal, explained Mr Steven. The lawyer, Dato' Loh Siew Cheang bought many antiques as part of his hobby collection and placed inside the building. The lawyers were in a meeting when we entered the reception.


Loke Mansion is constructed from an amalgam of dissonant yet harmonious  according to the 'feng shui' concept and architectural styles. The Chinese moongate and balustrades, the Dutch-style gables with a hint of Moorish splendour, and the Malay window shade designs were once shrouded in foot-high grass, overlooking a muddied compound, which has been turned into a carpark. It was a natural flood pond, a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well as a decaying ghost building colonized by drug addicts and the homeless.

We went into the back of the Mansion which had a fish pond, colonial white windows with louvre windows and weeping willow trees planted giving it a 'zen' feeling.

We proceed to the top of the building where Loke Yew was said to host parties in the balcony. It was considered a huge balcony back in 1920s. Today, many skyscrapers and buildings are built around the Mansion making it sometimes impossible to know where the building is. The place was beautiful which warranted a group photo by the red moongate.


We ended the tour next to the red moongate with calligraphy wordings around 11.30am. As a token of appreciation, we gave Mr Steven a book on Loke Yew Mansion. It was a memorable trip leaving us reflecting on the importance of history and architectural heritage. The future of Loke Mansion hangs in the balance because it is not gazetted as a heritage building and Cheang and Ariff’s tenure ends in 2020. 



Mei Yun