|Kuala Lumpur came
into being in the late 1860s when a band of prospectors in
search of tin landed at the meeting point of the Klang and
Gombak rivers and imaginatively named the place Kuala Lumpur
means 'Muddy Convergence'. More than half of those first
arrivals died of malaria and other tropical diseases, but the
tin they discovered in Ampang attracted more miners and KL
quickly became a noisy, brawling, violent boom town.
As in other parts of Malaysia,
the local sultan appointed a 'Kapitan China' to bring the unruly
Chinese fortune-seekers and their secret societies into line- a
problem that Yap Ah Loy jumped at with such ruthless relish that
he became known as the founder of KL.
In the 1880s successful miners
and merchants began to build fine homes along Jalan Ampang.
British Resident Frank Swettenham pushed through a far-reaching
new town-plan, which transferred the central government here
In the 1881 the entire town was destroyed by fire and a
subsequent flood, but it quickly got back on its feet: By 1886 a
railway line linked KL to Klang; by 1887 several thousand brick
buildings had been built; and in 1896 the city became the
capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States.
KL has never looked back. After
occupation by Japanese forces during WW II (during which many
Chinese were tortured and killed and many Indians sent to work
on Burma's 'Death Railway'), the British temporarily returned,
only to be ousted when Malaysia finally declared its
independence here in 1957 in Dataran Merdeka (Freedom Square).
The city officially became the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
when it was ceded by the sultan of Selangor state in 1974.
Today KL is not only Malaysia's
political and commercial capital but also its most populous and