|District of Malaysia|
|State||Perak Darul Ridzuan|
The region covers an area of 331.5 square kilometers (128.0 sq mi) and as of year 2000, its population was 95,920. Sitiawan town, the principal town of Sitiawan sub-district (mukim), is located at .
Folklore mentions Sitiawan as Kampung Sungai Gajah Mati. It became a thriving settlement for industrious migrants from Foochow (Chinese: Fuzhou). They were mostly from the district of Kutien in Fuzhou, China.
According to legend, Kampung Sungai Gajah Mati (literally: "Dead Elephant River Village") was the place where two large elephants drowned after one of them, overladen with tin ore, got stuck in the mud of the Dinding River at low tide. Efforts to save the elephant were in vain and eventually, everyone gave up and left. However, the second elephant refused to budge and hung on to its friend, resulting in them drowning together in the rising tide. Thus the setia kawan (loyal friend) name was derived.
In the late 19th century, tin, together with rubber sheets, formed the main commodities of commerce. They were often carried by elephants and loaded onto waiting steamships destined for Penang. In the 1870s, when an outbreak of smallpox struck the settlement, and in line with the Chinese belief of naming a place to enhance its feng-shui, the locals chose to name the locality Setia Kawan—the "loyal friend" -- to harmonise with nature and appease the dead elephants. The name eventually became shortened to Sitiawan.
In September 1903, the settlement got a boost with the arrival of more than 360 Christian Foochows desperate to escape the violence against the Qings Dynasty.The Chinese Christians were attacked by the Boxer party also known as Yihetuan in Chinese 义和团 and the Qing Dynasty government support the cause causing mess in Fujian in 1901 also known as Boxer Rebellion. They were led by two Chinese pastors and settled down in what is today known as Kampung Koh. Most of these immigrants worked in rubber plantations in Sitiawan. The Foochows also built four wells, two in the 1930s and another two in the 1950s. These heritage wells still exist but are no longer used.
Sitiawan is one of the driest places after Kuala Klawang Town (Jelebu), Malacca City (Malacca) and Lubok Merbau (Perak) in Malaysia with average annual rainfall just a bit below 2,000 mm (79 in). Most of the time, the average rainfall is just above 100 mm (3.9 in) with October - November being wetter months while June is the driest month of the year.
Sitiawan grew from a small settlement with rubber tapping and latex processing as its main economic activities. The town was flanked by various Chinese settlements composed mostly of the descendants of immigrants from the Kutien district of Fuzhou, China. The original settlers were encouraged by the British to plant rice. The settlers, however, found that paddy-planting is not suited to the soil of the region and so they switched to livestock farming before discovering that the land was much better suited for rubber plantations.
The rapid development of urban settlements saw the plantation and estate areas develop, and eventually converted into residential and commercial areas. In the 1980s, a large remainder of the rubber estates underwent mass conversions into oil palm plantations, due to better yield and profits compared to rubber sheets and latex. Oil palm is also a much less labour-intensive crop when compared to rubber, as rubber needs to be tapped regularly.
Tourism has not been a major economic activity, but the town centre derives some economic advantages from its close proximity to Pangkor Island which is a famous niche tourist destination.
The development of the town had been rapid in the 1990s. One of the main reasons was the establishment of the Royal Malaysian Navy's Naval Base in Lumut, approximately 10 km from the town centre. The Naval Base is currently the largest in Malaysia. The base has acted as a catalyst for the development of commercial activities in the town, serving both the residents of the base and sailors visiting from other countries.
There are many schools in Sitiawan, such as Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Ahmad Boestamam, Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan Nan Hwa,Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent Sitiawan, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan ACS (Anglo Chinese School) Sitiawan. The first mentioned school is named after Ahmad Boestamam, an historical figure who helped to gain independence from the British.
SMJK Nan Hwa was previously a private Chinese school which had been converted into a partially subsidised government school which uses the Chinese medium. Nan Hwa was founded in 1935 from the amalgamation of the High School section of 4 Chinese primary schools (Chung Cheng Primary School, Kuok Min Primary School, Uk Dih Primary School and Uk Ing Primary School) in the Sitiawan area. Ong Seok Kim was elected as first Chairman of the School Board in 1936 and again in 1946 to 1947. Its 70th anniversary was celebrated on 1 September 2006 in SMJK Nan Hwa school hall. A thousand-person dinner was held at the Ku Tien Association Hall to commemorate that auspicious day.
There are 24 Chinese primary schools and 5 Chinese secondary schools in the district. Of these, 5 schools were founded by Ong Seok Kim. They are SJK (C) Chung Cheng, Sitiawan in 1920, SMJK Nan Hwa (which split into Sekolah Tinggi Nan Hwa, Ayer Tawar Road in 1984) in 1935, SJK (C) Ping Min, Lumut in 1951 and SMJK Dindings, Lumut in 1953. Ong Seok Kim died in 1964. The following year, the Manjung community established the Ong Seok Kim Memorial Education Fund in his honour. The Fund offers scholarships and loans to students in the Manjung District, irrespective of ethnicity.
SMK Methodist ACS Sitiawan, formerly an English school, was founded by Christian missionaries back in 1903. It is currently a national school under Malaysian education system and subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia. Its 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2003 and it is also the oldest secondary school in Sitiawan. ACS is the first school in Manjung to set up a scout troop.
Sitiawan is known for its strong Foochow heritage. Various traditional Foochow dishes such as Red Rice Wine Vermicelli, "Kompiang" or "Kong Piang" (traditional Foochow buns made with a type of unleavened flatbread stuffed with seasoned pork and baked in a clay oven), as well as "Goroow" (a thick sweet and sour broth cooked with fish maw) are served in Sitiawan restaurants and households alike. Traditional local produce such as red rice wine, and Foochow vermicelli continue to play a vital part in the livelihood of some families from Kampung Koh.
Recent intense development on transportation routes between Lumut, Seri Manjung and Sitiawan along the Dindings river have brought both prosperity and pollution to what was once a relatively quiet town. The primary industries within Sitiawan are rubber, palm oil, mineral ore, fishing, prawn farming and ship building. Sitiawan is known for it Vietnam Farms, where patrons can enjoy some beer with the company of Vietnam lasses.
Around the year 2000, Sitiawan residents began to be involved in swiftlet bird breeding activities. This activity was partly attributed to the development of 2 major roads which indirectly "disconnect" Kampung Koh and Simpang Empat from traffics travelling to Lumut. All traffics were directed to the planned township of Sri Manjung. All local government administrative offices were also relocated to Manjung in recent years. This development renders shop and small business owners in Kampung Koh and Simpang Empat obsolete and there were many closures. The empty shop lots were later converted to culture swiftlets and at its peak 8-10 years ago, drove property prices up through the roof. There were also many new independent buildings built on farm started to mushroom which can still be seen from major roads leading to Lumut.
- Nan Hwa High School, Official Site of Ong Seok Kim
- Wang Jianshi, Ong Eng-Joo: No Other Way Out - A Biography of Ong Seok Kim. PJ, Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2013, ISBN 978-967-5832-95-6 see also Official Site of Ong Seok Kim
- Memorial Education Fund, Official Site of Ong Seok Kim
- Majlis Perbandaran Manjung (Manjung Municipal Council) website in Bahasa Malaysia.
- Manjung Land and District Office website.
- Sitiawan pictures.
- List of Factory Outlets in Sitiawan
- Photos of Mangrove Swamp 'Venice of Perak' (in Bahasa Melayu: Taman Baya Bakau)
- Official Site of Ong Seok Kim