During the fifteenth century, the Minangkabau tribes from Sumatra established themselves in what is now the Malay state of Negeri Sembilan. While the modern-day capital is Seremban, 67km south of Kuala Lumpur, the cultural heart of the state lies 30km east in the royal town of Sri Menanti. Both towns showcase traditional Minangkabau architecture, with its distinctive, saddle-shaped roofs.
The modern state of Negeri Sembilan is based on an old confederacy of nine districts (hence its name – sembilan is Malay for “nine”). By the middle of the nineteenth century, the thriving tin trade and British control over the area were well established, with colonial authority administered from Sungai Ujong (today’s Seremban). Rival Malay and Minangkabau groups fought several wars for control over the mining and transport of tin, with Chinese secret societies (triads) manipulating the situation to gain local influence, before a treaty was eventually signed in 1895.