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The Father of Modern China & Antong Coffee Mill in Taiping

This was years ago, most likely in 2021 or 2022. The article was originally published on CoffeeloversMY as part of its “Jalan-Jalan Cari Kopi” series, an express edition. Please visit CoffeeloversMY to learn more about what I do there.

So, I visited the oldest coffee mill in Malaysia, Antong Coffee Mill in Taiping. What drew me to include Antong Coffee Mill in the series is the backstory of what transpired years before the mill was founded.

This particular “Jalan-Jalan Cari Kopi” episode is the most interesting one I’ve covered so far. I’ll tell you why.

Antong Coffee Mill is a factory. In short, they roast coffee beans and grind them into soluble coffee powders, and Antong still makes their coffee the old-fashioned way, as they have since 1933. Every single stage of its coffee-making process thus remains the same.

“The House Where Chen Cuifen And Dr. Sun Yat-sen Stayed When They Were In Taiping,” read the sign at the gate of Antong Coffee Mill. This is where it gets interesting. Next to Antong Coffee Mill is the Changchun Pu villa.

Rumour has it that this villa used to belong to Chen Cuifen, popularly known as the Forgotten Revolutionary Female. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the man who played a pivotal role in the effort to overthrow the Qing dynasty during the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, was her lover. To my surprise, Wikipedia lists Chen Cuifen as a mere concubine. There were disputes, obviously.

A little bit more about Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He was indeed a doctor, but later became a revolutionary figure. He spent years in exile, co-founding the United League (which would become the Chinese Nationalist Party) while working to overthrow the Qing dynasty from abroad. Upon his return to China, he led various revolutions to unify the country.

Even among the descendants of the Sun family themselves, there are differing opinions. Some acknowledge the romantic relationship they both had, while others refuse to do so. Consequently, history doesn’t remember her name or her role in the revolution, hence the term Forgotten Revolutionary Female.

I find this article titled ‘Sun Yat-sen’s lover Cuifen and her Malaysia villa,’ published on www.thinkchina.sg, to be the most comprehensive article thus far on such a topic. What makes this anecdote particularly interesting is that Sun Yat-sen is not just anyone; he’s considered the father of modern China.

After the revolution, Chen Cuifen travelled alone and stayed in Malaya, in this villa in Taiping. There is speculation that Dr. Sun Yat-sen also came and stayed in this same villa with Chen Cuifen for a brief period. The statue that you see not far from the main door of the villa is indeed the statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

Lastly, before Chen Cuifen returned to China, she rented the villa to Tiah Ee Mooi, the founder of Antong Coffee Mill. Tiah Ee Mooi subsequently purchased the property and set up his Antong Coffee Mill.


References:

Wang, Y. C. (2023, September 6). Sun Yat-sen | Biography, achievements, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sun-Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen’s lover Cuifen and her Malaysia villa. (2019, October 16). ThinkChina – Big Reads, Opinion & Columns on China. https://www.thinkchina.sg/sun-yat-sens-lover-cuifen-and-her-malaysia-villa

Sun Yat-sen. (n.d.). https://sites.asiasociety.org/chinawealthpower/chapters/sun-yat-sen/

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