June 27, 2009
The Henghuas and Rev Brewster
It has been difficult to write about the history of Sibu as there are very few primary sources. Here's one digitalised old map of Kuching from a very old history book(Source :Google) written in Chinese. In order to do any research on Sibu history one has to know at least some Chinese and English. And historical records have been very scarce indeed. One of the greatest sources is the collection of books written by the late Mr. Lau Tze Cheng.
Below is part of one article I wrote in 2004.
THE HENGHUAS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SIBU FROM 1912 TILL PRESENT
On June 30th 1911, Charles Brooke signed a memorandum with Rev. Brewster, an American Methodist Missionary in Singapore, to provide Henghuas from China the opportunity to settle in Sarawak.
The memorandum was between the Rajah Brooke and the Henghuas. According to the memorandum only 300 Henghuas were allowed to settle in Sarawak. The Henghuas were to be given a reservation on the Igan River of Sarawak. Taxes were to be paid from the second year of their coming according to the individual holdings that had been surveyed. In addition, the American Methodist Mission in Igan was given a partial grant for an Industrial School building. Furthermore a yearly sum of $500 was also granted for the upkeep of industrial and agricultural experiments.
However only 101 Henghuas arrived on 22-5-1912 from Henghua, China. They were led by Rev.Ting Ping Chung instead of Rev. Brewster who remained in China and came to Sibu later.
The Henghua settlement started with two attap houses and 100 acres of land. Another batch of 40 pioneers arrived on 17 June in the same year.
With the help of Rev. Hoover, the American Missionary, the Henghuas started to plant rubber in Sungei Teku, which is not far from Sungei Merah and Sibu town. Another area, called Panasu, was also settled and rubber was cultivated.
The Henghuas established the Tiong Hing School and Sing Hin School in Sungei Merah and Panasu respectively.
During the Second World War the Japanese took away the rubber gardens of the Henghuas in Sungei Merah to build the Sibu airport whcih continued to be used until 2002!
The Henghuas continued to work on their rubber gardens and helped Sungei Merah and Sibu to prosper. Many Henghuas became wealthy and acquired more land in Sungei Merah and Sungei Teku.
Today, in the Third Division of Sarawak, the Henghuas have made a name for themselves as hardworking, God fearing people. They have created a strong community with an identity to be proud of.
Most of their rubber land in Sungei Merah has been converted to prime residential areas, while the land in Sungei Teku remain under rubber cultivation. In years to come, when Sibu sprawls over to Sungei Teku the rubber trees will make way for roads and houses.
Ninety years after they arrived in Sibu the Henghuas have established a strong foundation in education, business and agriculture. They have indeed helped Sarawak develop and progress into the twenty-first century.
(Based on interviews with Henghua women of Sungei Merah and Chinese articles found in the library of the Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association, Sibu - Chang Yi June 2004)
Additional Information for those who are interested in Heng Hua initiated bus companies of Sibu:
Lanang Road Bus Co Bhd
No. 8, 2nd Floor, Lrg Pahlawan 7, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak
Sungai Merah Bus Bhd
Jln Airport, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak
Teku Road Bus Co Sdn Bhd
No. 65, Ground Floor, Jln Mission, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak