To everything there is a season: a time for sowing, a time for growing, a time for reaping -- then rest and regeneration -- winter will blossom into the spring of a new beginning. Each rite of passage is in effect the death of the "old" and a birth of the "new.
When the Foochows first arrived in Sibu in 1901 they were settled first in Sg. Merah and then in Ensurai. The beginnings were not comfortable days at all. There were three original batches of pioneers led by Wong Nai Siong under contract with the then Rajah Charles Brooke.
Death came with a vengeance in 1901 when the second batch arrived with 500 Foochows (200 Kutiens and 300 Ming Ching). A sort of plague came upon them just like in the days of Moses. One would die every few days and then suddenly about 8 would die on the same day so there was a lot of pain and grief!! The dead were hurriedly buried in a fairly high rise area next to the river. It is hard to ascertain the causes of these deaths. Perhaps it was due to the water supply or the wild animals they ate. But most certainly they did not have adequate medical help. About 100 died in a very short time.
Fear was in the heart of every Foochow at that time. There was a saying related to this tragic event: "I may be carrying my relative for burial today. It might be my turn to be carried tomorrow."
An old signpost to mark the cemetery.
This must be one of the oldest graves here.
This is a new one or a "refurbished" grave .
This is the original entrance from the riverside. The Chinese characters are "Sibu Joy Charitable Trust Cemetery" written in old style or traditional Chinese.
As I stood at the main entrance with the jetty long gone from the scene I saw a barge carrying sand going "up" the river towards Sibu. To the right is "down the river" to Bawang Assan and Bukit Lan. Opposite is Li Hua area and slightly below is Chung Cheng School Jetty.
This is a photo which shows soil erosion just next to the old entrance. The jetty of this cemetery has long been washed away. Time and Tide wait for no man. Erosion has no mercy on the living and the dead.
Here is a picture to show the old stumps of the foundation of the jetty. Mud and old decaying wood pieces are found on the bank.
Visiting this cemetery brought back a lot of memories of my maternal grandmother who had experienced the good and the bad of different periods of political changes. (My maternal grandfather came with his brother Lau Kah Tii in this second batch of 500.) I remember my uncles who supported the economy by working hard in planting more and more rubber trees. I remember my aunts who planted padi alongside Iban women to put rice on the table. And I remember the huge 10 foot in diameter and 10 foot in height wooden barrels of unmilled rice on the first floor of my grandmother's big house. I used to jump into the rice and play until Third Aunt would come and reprimand me. And I remember my cousins who swam in the river and washed clothes on the jetties with me as I grew up. It was wonderful to know that I was embraced by the whole loving riverine community.
As the vivid scenes from the past flashed before me I think of the Mighty Rejang and its future. What will it be like in another 50 years' time?
I just cannot help by echo Hilary Clinton's message from her book "It takes a village to raise a child". Many children brought up in these villages have indeed been "good people" and have contributed in many ways not only to their own people and community but but to different parts of the world.
And a final thought : like their pioneering grandfathers the third generation has moved out to Australia and New Zealand and other continents to continue the Foochow diaspora. They have their Red Sea to cross and they have their Canaan to find. As from the first sermon preached by Bishop Warne in Sg Merah in 1901 "Be ye the salt of the earth"...many are still living up to this cry.....
I truly believe our forefathers have not died in vain.
(Source : Wong Nai Siong and New Foochow by Lau Tze Cheng p.22)