The entire Taiping Market actually consists of two different buildings of equal dimension and design, located across the street from each other along Jalan Taming Sari (formerly Main Road) and Jalan Kota (formerly Kota Road) in the area once known as Market Square.
Both market buildings are large wooden buildings, 200 feet (60m) long and 60 feet (18m) wide. The first building was constructed in 1884 and served as a wet market, and the newer building was constructed in 1885, serving as a dry market. The wet market sells fish, fruits, and vegetables, while the dry market sells meat and poultry. An additional section was later added to the wet market and was called the pork market. In later years, an additional section was added to the wet market and served as a food court. Both markets were constructed by Cheah Boon Hean, a wealthy Chinese mining boss, out of his own pocket. He was later allowed by the British to collect rent from the tenants of the market. It was designed by the colonial Public Works Department (PWD) and was divided into different zones to provide to the various communities of different races living in Taiping. The front of the market used to have a fountain made of iron, which was donated by Mr. Ng Boo Bee, a prominent figure in Taiping’s early days. There is a road in Taiping named after Ng Boo Bee. This fountain no longer remains, and was replaced by a bell tower, which then later became a clock tower.
The market has thrived from its inception to this day, and some traders in the market now are third and fourth-generation market traders.
The market buildings are made out of wooden pillars, a concrete slab, and zinc roofing. The market has a very high ceiling with a central truss that creates a two-level effect to the building’s sloping roof by forming a clerestory. This design creates a draft that carries hot air from the ground level up to the roofs, where it then dissipates through the louvres built into the “second-level” of the roof. The markets are perfect examples of large 19th-century wooden buildings, and at the time were most probably the largest non-indigenous wooden buildings in the country.
The market, besides being a historical and architectural specimen, has been the focal point of the city for nearly 140 years now. A busy section of the dry market, popularly known locally as Siang Malam (i.e. Day and Night) is the most famous food court in Taiping. By day, there are stalls that sell fresh and roasted pork, noodles and other foodstuff, and at night, the entire area transforms into a vibrant food court with many hawker stalls. It has been one of the more popular places to eat for the Chinese community in Taiping since its very early days.
Present Day Taiping Market
The Taiping Market buildings are currently undergoing a restoration and transformation. The buildings are being refurbished, with restoration works carried out to repair and replace damaged portions. It is also to be transformed to be more of a cultural and commercial center, akin to that of Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market.
Currently the traders from the market have been relocated to a temporary building in Tupai. They are expected to return upon completion of the restoration of the markets.
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