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China Town, the original Chinatown centred on Market Square. Jalan Tun H.S. Lee or High Street. The High Street was popular as it was higher than the rest of the town and was therefore less prone to floods, and the wealthier population were inclined to build their shophouses here. As a result, the more ornate shop houses were built north of Jalan Cheng Lock, and closer to the High Street business centre.
Kuala Lumpur was a typical "pioneer" town around the start of the 20th century. The population was largely male and they were typical of the rough and tough pioneers of those times.
The men were mainly Cantonese and Hakkas who had come to the city because of the tin trade, working as coolies in the mines. They were governed by a Chinese Kapitan or headman. The most famous Chinese Kapitan was Yap Ah Loy, a Hakka.
In 1870, civil war erupted within the Chinese community. This was split along partisan lines between the Hokkien Ghee Hin and the Hakka Hai San secret societies. The British realizing that the war is disrupting their economy and chain of supply, decided to enter the war. As a result of the long civil war, many buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.
During this Selangor Civil War, the tin mines were abandoned. The neglect during this time caused them to become flooded. When the war was over, and when the miners returned after the war, they found that the mines were now unworkable due to flooding. Yap Ah Loy managed to persuade the miners and coolies to remain in KL and also persuaded the Malays in surrounding districts to grow rice and other garden products. He opened a Tapioca Mill in Petaling Street where the tubers from his farms were brought to be ground into flour. Petaling Street is fondly called ‘Chee Cheong Kai’ in Cantonese which means Starch Factory Street.