April 6, 2010

Thian Chin Primary School of Bukit Lan

 Photo by Wong Meng Lei : 47th Anniversary of Thian Chin school : 25.10.2000 (banner photo taken on April 3rd 2010)

Last weekend I had a rare opportunity to go down memory lane with Meng Lei (Rajang Basin) and Thomas Lau (Melbourne). We made a road trip. It has been too long for me. Meng Lei grew up in 24 Acres a village next to Bukit Lan. I used to visit my Uncle who was then a Chinese teacher in Thian Chin Primary school.

Thian Chin Primary School was started at 1953 by the local people. The school was under the supervision of the Roman Catholic Church at Bukit Lan --St Peter's Church. In 1955 a small but lovely hill property was acquired and more classrooms were built to make it a proper school.

In 2001 due to lack of students the school moved to Soon Hup Garden, opposite the Sibu General Hospital. In June 2002 the new school building was completed.

The names of the principals:
1. 1953-1974徐傳朝
2. 1974 - 1978林婆生
3. 1979   刘忠仪代校长
4. 1979-1981 黄笃平
5. 1981-1986徐傳朝 

6. 1987-1988張道順
7. 1989-2005田壽海
9. 2005-劉華新

It was always a great joy for me to be able to visit Uncle Lau Pang Kui and Aunt Ting Ing Nga . A visit to the down river settlement really appealed to me as I would get to sit in a slow motor launch for more than half a day. Upon arrival at the Kung Thai jetty we would walk to the school which was half an hour away from the river. In later years my grandmother would ride pillion on a Japanese motor bike. I also remember that it was common for people to "lumbang" others on their bicycles. The bicycle remains a very important mode of transport until today.

Till today I admire men who "lumbang" their old mothers on their bicycles. that was really a clear essence of filial piety. This image will forever remain in my mind.

The visits definitely helped me become determined to be good at maths and languages. I liked to look at the exercise books and how my aunt ticked the correct answers and signed her name. And I learned that it was important to keep our exercise books filled with class work and homework neatly. Some how I became really diligent in my class work in later years. May be that was why I became a school teacher and enjoy writing all the time.

My aunt was a good story teller and her stories are amazing. All her children and I would gather around her and listen to her telling stories I still remember them until today - more than 40 years later.

The school had quarters for my uncle's family and they were there for quite a number of years until my Uncle retired and then moved to Sibu in the 1980's. My cousins have become very prominent professionals and the two girls are wives of very important people in Sarawak.

This is the front portion of the school where a small open space would greet visitors. The school building is perched on a hill. The classrooms are still fine but the chairs and tables are all gone. A few bats are seen flying around. Next door a farmer is raising swiflets for birds' nests.

A Chinese saying still remains on one of the walls "Hard work will reward you...Fun will result in nothingness......"

A school assembly bench remains solitary at a corner....

A Foochow Stove is all that is left behind in the kitchen. My aunt used to cook great dishes....

Another view of the school...

The School name remains...no sign of English of Bahasa Malaysia ...


My uncle Lau Pang Kui passed away a few years ago. Being very philosophical he would only sigh if he could see this school being abandoned because of rural-urban migration.

My aunt is now long retired but is happy in Sibu where she is near her children.

Where have the laughter of children gone?
Bats greeted - winged across the empty hall.
Where fragrant flowers used to bloom
Weeds fill their space and climb the wall
Where sounds of cooking filled the room
Only spider webs can be seen hanging.
Even the family photos on the wall are gone.


Ann said...

"Hard work will reward you...Fun will result in nothingness......"


I chuckle to myself. How times have changed, and how different places place different emphasis in education. Now, I have to make my lessons fun for my students, otherwise they will not learn.

Ah Ngao said...

what are they going to do with this place in future? you heard of any plans? - like rebuilding them again?

Bengbeng said...

this rural urban migration is hotting up.. the Lanang bridge is a heavy toil on the ppl

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
I know....I know...how we have to get our teacher trainees to write lesson plans so that games and activities are built into learning. I even remember my Chinese subject teacher ever struck my head because I was smiling at something very funny (not his lesson) and he asked me to pay attention...
I think the value statement tells the pupils to love learning and not play too much outside...
But I do chuckle too....learning should be fun...and active.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ah Ngao
If I am not mistaken the property still belongs to the Tien Chin Management . The new school has been planted in Sibu and the same people are running the school there with funds from the government etc.

Sarawakiana@2 said...


The bridge is breaking the back of the farmers.......

Anonymous said...

I like to see the stove made of earth! It may not be found any more

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous...one day I would like to have that kind of stove in my kitchen besides an Italian one for making wonderful pizzas!

But then how many kinds of kitchen can a woman have?

The Foochow stove is a wonderful innovation.

Sarikeian said...

Hi CY,
What is your uncle Lau Pang Kui's Chinese name? If it is 劉邦魁, then your uncle was my teacher when I was in Primary 3 and 4. He taught for 2 or 3 years in Sarikei and then moved on to Sibu.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

That's his name!! It is lovely to know that...his wife is now in Sibu.

One of these days I will write about him and put up some photos of him in my blog. Stay tuned!


Ann said...


I think only us in Sarawak use the term "LUMBANG". My West Malaysian and Singaporeon friends don't use it.

Also the word, SONGBONG.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I am wondering about lumbang too.

Songbong is lawa too but I heard lawa is also "nice looking". The west Malaysians never use the B word as it is for you know...the other end. We used to say the B word to mean bump...e.g. you got a nice bump for wearing of kebaya....you got a nice b. like Serimah!

Hee Kang said...

You missed out 林婆生my principal ranging from 1974-1978, 刘忠仪代校长1979,黄笃平1979-1981 before徐传朝took over as principal again in till his retirement.

Your auntie was my teacher in Primary 1.

Nice to recall this history. May be I ought to write a history about Thian Ching which was formed by my late grandfather in 1953.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks...it is difficult to find the history of Thian Chin school. I think you should write the history..More historical documents to help support the real history of Sibu!!

I am sure my aunt would be very happy to kinow you are doing great!!

thanks...God bless.

Anonymous said...

I studied in Thian Chin Primary School from 1968-1973. I remembered Teacher Lau Pang Kui who used to teach children song using a cassette recorder. Teacher Ting Ing Nga taught me History and Chinese. In primary 4, my history get 100 mark. My Chinese name is 张泰煌,perhaps Teacher Ting Ing Nga 先生娘 could still remember me. I am now staying and working in Singapore.

Anthony said...

I must be getting old, your names could not trigger your faces! I was one of the student during Principal Lau and later Principal Ling. I knew them and they knew me very well. 陈亦雅先生娘teached History class!

Anthony Ling

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