April 5, 2010

The Passing of an Illustrious Son of a Foochow Pioneering Father in Sibu

What would you write about a local celebrity who had lived almost a hundred years! A centenarian?

What about "Ten Things people would remember about  Uncle Lau Pang Kwong" ?

1. My Third Aunt married him- the eldest son of the Foochow Community Leader Lau Kah Tii-in 1938 at what they called wedding of the century! All the invited guests attended the wedding ceremony at the Masland Church in Sibu wore their Methodist white Sunday best including my great grandfather. The Hoovers had taught the Foochows to wear white when attending church service. (And I remember when I was young my aunts made white dresses for all of us to wear when we attended church). That was memorable white wedding. And Uncle Lau and his father the then Kapitan generously gave the biggest dowry anyone had known of at that time which really made my aunt a very happy bride. According to an aunt it really amazed a lot of people when more than 10 items were carried on bamboo poles from the motor launch to the big house in Ensurai.

2. Having a Foochow Kapitan for a father my uncle was a scholarly and business savvy gentleman.

3. He was also one of the first Foochow men in Sibu to allow his wife(my third aunt) to work for another company.

4. I would agree with anyone who say that my uncle was the life and soul of any party being the articulate person that he was. Besides Uncle Lau was often the opinion leader amongst the Tiong siblings . He was always enthusiastic at any family gathering. He would be what the young people of today call humourously "party animal"!! I was never bored when he was around. He had lots of stories and jokes.

5. His office at 26 Central Road was "open" and the "usual meeting place" for family and friends and many great decisions were made there. Deals were made and counselling took place there. And I suppose even marriages were planned in that small office. Almost all the Laus and other relatives from downriver would pay him a visit and ask for his opinion. I remember very often even reporters would hang out at his office and seek his opinion. I believe he was fairly advance in those days regarding publicity and media.

6. His friends would consider him very loyal. I will always remember him speaking fondly of "eldest brother" or "second brother". He was even gracious and kind to people he did not like or people who were unlikeable! He served loyally and held offices in many Foochow related associations for many decades.

7. As a child I was impressed by his knowledge of famous artists like Zhang Ta Chien (calligraphist). For example he already had paintings hanging in his office when no one else did. Perhaps his higher education in China had exposed him to the arts and culture of the world. Today having brush paintings in offices and halls is very fashionable and good for "feng shui" according to many.

8. My uncle and his friends were the earliest tourists or globe trekkers from Sibu to visit Taiwan and other places in the world. He was my second uncle's favourite brother-in-law and the two were quite inseparable in Sibu. They had holidays together overseas.

9. He was one of the first Foochows in Sibu to send all his daughters for university education without any hesitation. He held many offices in various Foochow and Methodist related School Boards and was concerned about education in the community.

10. A former teacher specifically commented that he and my aunt brought up their children successfully to be focussed and distinguished in their careers - to embody the Chinese values of integrity and steadfastness amongst many others.

Because he was regarded as an elder who had lived up to 100 years of age his photo was framed with a red cloth. (Sony Cybershot)

The house had a red cloth banner when normally for mourning white cloth would be used.(Sony Cybershot). Just 18 days ago this door was draped in white. All too suddenly my cousins were left behind by their parents in quick succession.

More red cloth for the coffin at Wesley Church Sibu. (Sony Cybershot)

The photo being taken out of the church. (Sony Cybershot)

1938 Wedding photo. (photo possibly by Wong Heng Kwong) Almost all my cousins take after their father : strong jawline and good looks. They inherit my aunt's great looking fair skin and strong personality.

Masland Church White Wedding. (Photo by Wong Heng Kwong?) My great grandfather was the only one seated. There were two flower girls and two bridesmaids.

1953 family photo.

Husband and wife having a holiday in Singapore 1950's.

At father-in-law's birthday with other in laws.

1958 - my aunt continued to be well poised (trained by Mrs. Mary Hoover) and looking terrific in her cheongsam.

2007 - Canadian cruise. Uncle Lau was every inch a world traveller.

One of the last photos taken of him - 2009 - still enjoying good food.

And I truly believe that those who knew him would remember him. And his family and descendants would have lots of family photos to look at and remember him.

The skies broke open and rain fell just before his coffin was placed in the tomb in the Lau Clan Cemetery in Oya Road.

A final farewell and a final prayer.

God speed.


Photos from Tiong Family Albums.
Information from friends and relatives.
With thanks.


fufu said...

he was a handsome man... right?
anyway RIP...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Fufu
Good looking couple.
He was in Shanghai in his 20's and enjoyed life as depicted in Shanghai Bund...I asked him questions about that time. He enjoyed three years of college life there before 1937. He married in 1938 after coming back from Shanghai!! That's really a wow!

Oh yea...he was one of the first in Sibu to own a record player....

Ann said...

100 years old, VERY HO MING, 100 years old, no need to mourn, people should laugh and rejoice, In some Chinese dialect, no need to wear mourning clothes. Every one wears red. When the cortege pass by, people will say that is one very HO MING person.

Give my condolence to Peter and Dolly. It seem only yesterday they buried their mum.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
It is exactly 18 days apart...and the poor uncle was so aware of his partner having left the world...he was caught sobbing too...
Dolly and hubby came back for funeral. She is still like before.
Yeah...they had red sashes and red cloth every where...and the table cloth for the lou puon was red too....
Will let them know..

Ann said...


My Dad's old house at Embang Road, my Ah Kung would sit at the balcony every day. He read the newspaper at 6am when the newspaper is delivered. At breakfast, he would tell us, so and so died. From the balcony of our house, he could see straight to Queensway, and see all the corteges that went pass. When we came back from school, he would say, so and so, very VIP, there were how many lorries and buses.

My youngest bro, once teased him." Ah Kung, when you die, you pass the same route too?" We were horrified, but Ah Kung was philosophical, he said yes, I will have lots of GEE SHUN aka sons and grandsons. He died at 84, in the land of the Foochows, and his GEE SHUN wore the colours of Foochow mourning clothes. I wasn't there. I was in Canada.

Ann said...

You guess what I remember your Uncle Personally. It was my friend Shirley Ling's birthday at Hing Yu park. Your uncle was sort of the MC for the party.

After 40 years of separation, I saw Shirley for the first time last year when she came to Auckland. Funny, how I suddenly remembered this, wonder if Shirley remembers. I remembered because he was my dad's friend.

Anonymous said...

The funeral costume has indeed changed. Foochows are now too westernised.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
I can empathise with your Ah Kung...reading obituaries etc. I know of several people who do that now. But your Ah Kung was very humourous about his own funeral!! It is amusing to remember a Cantonese burial being Foochow. I suppose it can only happen in Sibu!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
Yes Shirley's family and my aunt's family are very close indeed. I will let Shirley and Nancy know through Facebook. Fancy you remember that!
when we were young anything the adult did was magnified!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...
Funeral or mourning costumes have changed for simplicity and efficiency in management. Westernisation is also part of the reason because of religion.
Other Chinese religions might not have done away with the old style of mourning and funeral e.g.wearing of sack cloth and canvas shoes with patches of sack cloth.

Superman said...

Hope they rest in peace and meet again in heaven. It is only two weeks after the wife went to heaven and now the husband...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Superman for the kind words...

It is amazing how two would be married for so long 1938-2010 and died almost at the same time. They might be holders of Sibu record for the longest marriage..but have yet to find out.

May God bless their souls. Surely they would meet in heaven.

I think your parents know them?

Anonymous said...

this is a nice thing to write about the passing of a dear relative....many students would not think like this today...perhaps not much content..

You are a nice relative to have!


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Kay
Uncles and aunties form a very important part of our upbringing.

As seniors and adults they would often give us good advice and help us whenever possible.

Aunts are usually treasures....like you are to your niecesand nephews!!


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