February 27, 2010

60th Birthday Photo of Great Grandfather

This photo was taken in 1920 (?) when my dad was a bout 12 years old. My great grandparents were seated and the whole group was very well arranged. I am not too sure who the photographer was but it could be Wong Heng Kwong who owned Nan Kwong (the first shop on Blacksmith Road opposite Wan Hin). This is one of the earliest Foochow family photos in Sibu. It is a "second batch Foochow pioneering family" complete with three generations by that time.

The background is a rubber garden.

The original photo is very worm eaten unfortunately and my younger sister took it to a studio in Kuching to have it "recovered and reconstructed" and digitalized a few years ago. I am so glad we have this new  technology to help us retain our history and historical records. Now we have copies of it made in different sizes and distributed to several relatives who appreciate old photos.

The Chinese characters are important in this photo. My grand uncle and grandfather had put their name in the inscription for the Photo commemorating the  60th birthday of their father. The calendar used by the Foochow pioneers at that time was the Republic of China (Under Sun Yat Sen) Calendar or the Mingkuo Calendar. If it is Mingkuo Year  20 it would be 1911+20 or 1931 in our Georgian Calendar. Muslims would have to work it out by deducing from the Muslim calendar. The months and dates  however would be the same the normal/Georgian calendar. (It has been pointed out to me that the year is definitely missing in this photo).

This is one proof that my grandfather's brother (Tiong Kung Eng) truly existed. As there was no other photo of his in existence. What a pity! Grand Uncle Kung Eng's grave is in the Methodist Episcopal (Mee Yee Mee) Cemetery in Sungei Merah.

Interestingly  in the photo the whole family was wearing Republic of China costumes - Sun Yat Sen suit for my great grandfather and the normal Chinese cotton clothes for the others. All these clothes must have been sewn by my great grandmother (a well known seamestress then and had passed her sewing skill to my grand aunt Yuk Ging who later made cheongsams  and frocks by hand for almost every one in our family) and my grandmother who had to make so many clothes for so many children very frequently). But my great grandfather's suit was probably sewn by one of the  Sibu tailors. Cloth was bought in bales at 40 cents a Chinese yard (Chien).

Great Grandfather had leather shoes ( a mark of his wealth by then) and the others  wore white canvas or cotton shoes. Great Grandmother wore her bound feet leather shoes which she must have ordered from Singapore or China. Normally she would wear her own cloth made shoes. This was a time when most of the Foochow children did not wear shoes at all. I remember one of my relatives telling us that he did not wear shoes until the 1950's. When he went to school he was barefooted.

Photographs help people in many ways. For me it helps me reconstruct our historical background and help us learn more about the times our ancestors lived in. It makes me happy to see faces of loved ones whether they have passed on or are still alive.

I really love old photographs and will work harder to find  and digitalize them for the future generation.

We must be able to learn to respect our ancestors and bless them for shaping our present lives. God has a great purpose for all of us.


wenn said...

wow, interesting photo!

Jay said...

I appreciate photo nery much. It mean a lot to me esp to recall pass momories. What i do know is recapture my old photo using digital camera and save it digitally just to make sure it will last. Then save it into flickr phota as a backup copy. Hopefully nothing will hapen to flickr software,techno;ogy so that i can preserve my photo there. Offcourse i will pass it down to my future generation and hopefully they will appreciate it as what you did.

Cloudia said...

Thank you for the great photo and wise words.
I came here from wenn's blog.

Aloha, new Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Ah Ngao said...

you noticed something ?whenever we looks at old photographs of Chinese - especially the ones that migrated to South east Asia,their skin/complexion are quite tan and brown.now imagine,if they don the costumes of locals...,younno ?

Daniel Yiek said...

The pic was probably from 1911 (Ming Kuo) since it did not state the Ming Kuo year. At first I thought it was MingKuo + 12 = 1923

Sarawakiana@2 said...


There might be a mistake somewhere. Could the inscription be added later? And the writer made a mistake? It was not written by my granddad. My father was about 12 when the photograph was taken . My grandparents married in 1909.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Very interesting and very beloved photo...Thanks.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Nice of you to visit....yes we must love our photos....especially old ones...and then we must take new ones ...more than ever now!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Thanks for visiting!!!! Hope to hear from you again!

Aloha too...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes...my granddad was a little darkish but my grandmother was very very fair and so are all the Chongs. My father's siblings are all very fair. And my generation of cousins are also very fair....

May be when the pioneers first came to Sibu they worked very hard under the sun so they became very tanned. My grandfather had very big and deep set eyes.

Ikan Sembilang said...

What a great b&w photo! Old family photos are more than just images; they are memories! They bring back fond memories of the ones we love.
The caption in Chinese shows that the photo was taken on 18 December; the Minguo year seems to be missing.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thank you Ikan Sembilang.

I have been trying to figure out as the photo was "reconstructed" and I do think that the year is missing. The only uncles who are alive wwere not born then. So I don't think they can be of help. I am thus guessing the year by looking at the ages of the children in the photos.

Thank you so much for visiting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cikgu
How nice to see old photos like this one. I may have three generations now but I do not have three generations before me having photos taken..I suppose in Ulu Bintulu none of my Ah Kong had the idea to take photos. But I remember my father having a very old photo of my grandfather in black and white when he was young. Nowadays we take many photos of our grandmother. It is a pity he passed away young.

Also in those days none of them made travel documents...So I wonder how they naik haji last time.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Kay
Nice to hear from you!

In olden days people didn't have their photos taken if possible.

My own maternal grandmother had less then ten of her own personal photos taken in her earlier days. But she has taken a few family photos in her sixties...much later. Those were rare. Why didn't they?

Ann said...

Hi CY,

Your people were what we poor Cantonese call," BI HAI BOK BOK", leather shoes making the Bok Bok sound. That's why even now, we say the Rich FooChow Los.

Those Cheong Sums, did any one keep them?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Oh Yes! Ann ! I remember even the Foochows call the others...Wear shoes bok bok teng....very loud noise leather shoes...implying that they are rich...

I used to have one of my grandmother's samfoo top as "souvenir" hanging in my cupboard...but unknown to me someone must have discarded it...a relative or an amah?

Sad isn't it? In fact many Chinese keep some of their loved ones' clothes for good luck.


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