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Redoubtable Reformer: The life and times of Cheah Cheang Lim

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Growing up during the era of British colonial expansion in Malaya, Cheah Cheang Lim believed that economic progress should yield the fruit and flower of social progress. He was born to a Penang Hokkien family in Taiping and started out as a postal assistant on the Perak frontier. He was then recruited by his cousin Foo Choo Choon, the ‘Tin King’ of Tronoh Mines fame, who bankrolled Wu Lien-Teh’s anti-opium movement. Cheah himself became an owner of tin mines and rubber plantations. He endowed the Perak Maternity Hospital and provided leadership to the Hokkien community in Cantonese-speaking Ipoh. A federal councillor for two terms (1927–33), he lobbied for the restoration of the Queen’s Scholarship, calling upon the British Empire to live up to its promises. 

The gift of an unpublished c. 1935 manuscript about this man’s life, authored by Francis Cooray, a Ceylonese journalist with the Malay Mail, prompted Khoo Salma Nasution to write about Cheah in the context of his times. She has compiled a wealth of material, including speeches, letters and family photographs, to present a vivid impression of this ‘gentleman capitalist’ on the edge of empire – a Malayan patriot who contributed eagerly to social improvement in Perak, looked to England and China for inspiration, but considered Penang his ‘true home’. This biography explores the historical identity and complex cultural affiliations of the Straits Chinese in a nascent nation, illuminating the questions of ethnicity, citizenship and nationality, which continue to be debated in Malaysia today.

The life of Cheah Cheang Lim as a spokesman for change is an inseparable part of Anglo-Chinese Malayan history. In Francis Cooray’s story and Khoo Salma Nasution’s account of socioeconomic transitions in Perak and Penang, we are reminded of some of the transnational factors that laid the foundations of modern Malaysia. Both the outline of one man’s life and the well-researched study of what made him a tireless reformer deserve to be read by all who wonder about the country’s multifarious history. It is time for other such stories to be written in order that Malaysia’s rich past is not lost. 

– Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore

List of Illustrations
Message by Tan Sri Dr Cheah Cheng Kooi
Foreword by Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim
Preface by Khoo Salma Nasution 

The Life of Cheah Cheang Lim by Francis Cooray  
Chapter 1: Cheah Teah Migrates to Penang  
Chapter 2: Cheah Boon Hean on the Taiping Frontier  
Chapter 3: Cheah Cheang Lim’s Early Years
Chapter 4: Schooling in Taiping
Chapter 5: Working for the Perak Post and the Tin King
Chapter 6: The Anti-Opium Movement
Chapter 7: Good Works
Chapter 8: The Volunteers
Chapter 9: Federal Councillor
Chapter 10: A Life Well Lived

The Times of Cheah Cheang Lim by Khoo Salma Nasution
The Straits Chinese of Penang—Cheah Cheang Lim’s Family —Cheah’s Early Life—Working for the Tin King—Cutting the Queue—Confucian Revival and Social Reform—Literary and Debating Societies—Anti-Gambling, Anti-Opium—Moving Forward—The Nanyang Club, Beijing—A Home in Penang—The Cheah Kongsi—Volunteerism in Perak—Founder, British Chinese Association of Malaya—Representing the Chinese in the Federal Council—Clerical Union—A British Malayan Chinese Patriot

A Family Album 

Appendix 1: The Cheah Kongsi
Appendix 2: Cheah Cheang Lim’s Biographer
Appendix 3: Cheah Cheang Lim and Foo Choo Choon
Appendix 4: The Speeches of Cheah Cheang Lim
Appendix 5: Cheah Cheang Lim’s Letters to the Editor 

Glossary of Chinese Names

Iversen: Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya
Ruth Iversen Rollitt
2015. Areca Books
Hardcover. 24.13 cm x 24.13 cm, 240 pages
280+ colour photographs
ISBN 9789675719226

Perhaps more than any other architect of his generation, B.M. Iversen (1906–1976) introduced modern architecture to Malaya. From his award-winning Federal House and the landmark Loke Yew Building in Kuala Lumpur, to the 38 cinemas he designed for the Shaw Brothers and the Cathay Organisation, Iversen’s buildings remain icons of Malaysian Art Deco and Modernist architecture. Arriving in Malaya in 1928, the young Danish architect worked for Booty & Edwards and then Keys & Dowdeswell before moving to Ipoh. There, he settled down, founded his own practice and began to experiment with variants of tropical architecture. He was joined by his Dutch friend Henk van Sitteren after the war. By the time Iversen retired in 1966, the partnership of Iversen & van Sitteren had grown into a large firm with 14 architects of Danish, Dutch, British, and Malayan nationalities. The firm was responsible for the design of thousands of buildings in Penang, Perak, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Written by the architect’s daughter, Ruth Iversen Rollitt, this warm, richly illustrated biography sheds new light on the life and work of Iversen, whose career spanned almost four decades in Malaya.

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Jon Lim
Author's Preface
B.M. Iversen's Career Timeline

The Early Years
Chapter 1: Denmark 1906–1928
Werner, the Planter
Berthel's Turn

Chapter 2: Arrival and His First Job
Arrived in Penang, April 1928
With Booty & Edwards, Kuala Lumpur, 1928–1929
Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Chapter 3: Working with ‘Fully Fledged Architects’
With Keys & Dowdeswell, Singapore, 1929–1931
With Keys & Dowdeswell, Ipoh, 1931–1934

Chapter 4: On His Own in Ipoh
Independent, B.M. Iversen, Architect, Ipoh, 1934–1942
Cottages for the Camerons
The Pre-War Cinemas

Chapter 5: The War Years
Fleeing the War in Malaya
Evacuation from Singapore and Batavia
In Australia, 1942–1944
In New Guinea, 1944–1946

The Post-War Practice
Chapter 6: Post-War Malaya
B.M. Iversen, Architect, Ipoh & Penang, 1946–1950
Iversen of Ipoh
The Penang Office

Chapter 7: Architecture of the Federation
Iversen & van Sitteren, Ipoh, Penang & Kuala Lumpur, 1950–1962
Building for the Government
Van Sitteren in Singapore

Chapter 8: Merdeka and More Cinemas
Iversen’s Merdeka Portfolio
More Cinemas

Chapter 9: Partnerships and Transitions
Per and Ruth Iversen
Iversen, van Sitteren & Partners, Ipoh, Penang, Kuala Lumpur & Singapore, 1962–1966
Houses and Housing Estates
Retirement in Denmark, from 1966 

Epilogue by Lai Chee Kien


Redoubtable Reformer: The life and times of Cheah Cheang Lim

by Francis Cooray & Khoo Salma Nasution

Areca Books, 2015

Hardcover, 23.6 cm x 15.8 cm, 248 pages

50+ photographs in colour & black/white

ISBN 9789675719202

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