July 24, 2010

Chinese Classical Scholars of Sibu

I had an opportunity this year to visit  Sibu's annual Borneo Cultural Festival which is always held in  July.

There was a good photographic exhibition organised by the Sibu Photographic Society. However this year it was also held in conjunction with exhibitions by the  local Chinese Calligraphic society and the Art Society.

This kind of exhibition would draw many like minded people and those with a curious mind. And after the opening ceremony I was delighted to meet up with an old Methodist School Colleague Mr. Hii Lik Kwong.

He has so many former students from Chung Cheng coming up to take photographs with him. Mr. Hii is a good Chinese scholar. And he also has a keen mind to learn about everything. Mr. Hii taught in the Methodist Secondary School until he retired not too long ago.

Although Mr. Ting Lik Hie did not teach me (He was a teacher in the Methodist Chinese Primary School ) I remember him as a man whose calligraphy is world famous. He and my uncles and aunts were good friends and colleagues. Here he stands next to his friend Mr. Hii.

Although Sibu is fairly large we can still cross paths with lots of former teachers and colleagues. It has been a great honour to meet up with them and chat with them about old times.

It is now more and more difficult to find classical scholars like these two who embraced Confucian way of learning and teaching.  Both had come from the old Chinese system of learning in the early days of Sibu and had lived through the difficult days of the Japanese occupation when all education stopped and learning was just a few hours of Japanese language learning  Japanese- run temporary schools. Besides holding calligraphy brushes and pens they also held rubber tapping knives and axes in their younger days.

Struggling Chinese scholars then went to Taiwan for an overseas education only to come back to the then Colonial Sarawak to earn a small pittance. Later they had to retrain in Sarawak Teacher's Training College in Sibu to be certified  as "trained" teachers. Their starting salary was $180.00 with the then Teacher's Provident Fund. And yet they have been able to send their children for higher education overseas very much on their own effort. Today they have a small pension from the Federal Government.

We must seize this kind of opportunity to be gracious and warm towards them. Often people forget to show gratitude to these  teachers who in their humble ways sacrifice their whole life for the love of teaching and especially in instilling good values and virtues amongst several generations of students.


wenn said...

ya, honor and respect them..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

thanks Wenn....Yes they have to be honoured.

Anonymous said...

Why only at the Borneo Festival? Let's have the Art Museum for these people so that it will be available all year round.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thank you for your good question. Many of the events have golitical motives. May be one day soon Sibu will get a huge endowment for a good Art Museum. In the history of Malaysia the Palace has a strong influence on the promotion of art and crafts. What will the 21st Century be like?

Anonymous said...

Meng Lei's old house may be turned into a museum? with the display of this nice piece of work (including the house itself).

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
This is a very interesting comment....But good art work must be displayed in rooms built with very solid construction materials etc.....

Anonymous said...

Hi, May i know how i can contact the calligraphy society in Sibu?