January 31, 2012

The Transistor Radio - in Rural Sarawak

 A transister radio is a small portable radio receiver that uses transistor based circuitry. It was first introduced in 1954. It changed the world of music. Youths started to listen to popular music, having the pocket transistor radio in their pockets, while moving about. In SArawak, the Ibans enjoyed a long standing Radio Iban since the 1950's.

This is Mr. Umpang the skilled craftsman of Rh Aling who is fashioning a parang handle. The transistor radio is his good companion...rather like our city coffee mornings..his daughter will soon bring out biscuits and a cup of coffee for him..(I took this photo at 10:50 and we shared coffee together and listened to the Iban radio on Gawai day...Numpang works even though it is Gawai...it is just another day!! But the radio tells him that there so be some celebration!!
Looking at him...I wish I have legs and joints like him. He is almost 90 years old..

I really think Radio Sarawak did a fantastic job in helping all of us . We had a marvellous childhood listening to the radio...and we were "connected" to the outside world..even though we are on the island of Borneo and state of Sarawak we heard news and stories from all of the world..which prepared us to be world citizens. Globalisation was already on its march then. The transistor radio is still very important in the lives of the longhouse people of Sarawak.

And also in Chinese homes and camps where generators are only in operation at night. On the other hand I have been reminded of the 1960's period in the Foochow villages of the Rajang where no electricity supply was available and the Japanese electricity generator was not a known utility. Only Lee Hua sawmills and Hua Hong Ice Factory had power generators. and that was really a luxury. (It also meant that was a refrigerator for day time use) In my grandmother's house in Nang Chong my uncles each had a transistor radio in their unit. Foochow news and Chinese songs were the highlights of the day.

The transistor radion was placed on a ledge high above a kid's head and only the elders could change the channels. No kids were allowed to finddle with the treasureed radio - our connectivity with the rest of the world! And by the way even the record player (with a Lion's Head) was battery run. When it was time for the announcement of the rubber prices on the radio every one would stop whatever they were doing and sit around the radio...RSS1 is 50 dollars per ton..."chiew nen RSS 1 mui tan se 50 doi ".The voice of the late Lau Kiing Hiing or the pleasant  voice of Hsiung Kwo Hua can still ring in my head every now and then......

Also Eveready Batteries were the favourite. I was far too young to understand the graphic significance of a cat jumping through the figure 9!! Cat has 9 lives!! Now whenever I see the Eveready batteries I would smile and think of the past.

In the same way the longhouse people knew about rubber cloning and oil palm seedlings today via the transistor radio. Rh Aling and folks like Numpang do not have 24/7 electricity even in the 21st century....so visiting Rh Aling has always been like a time warp for me...being hurtled back to a strange 1950's kind of lifestyle yet there would also be trappings of 21 century lifestyle like Hilux...iPhone...netbook...and the latest Crocs!! Not to mention dyed hair!

January 30, 2012

Nang Chong and Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are usually not the favourite part of chicken for the Foochows not in the past and perhaps not even today...
Pic from http://sotongcooks.blogspot.com
These are the pieces we Foochows would distribute amongst the family members in the traditional way:
1. Drumsticks - one for the father (if he is at home) and one for the boys who would take turn to get it.
2. wings - for the girls - who would "fly away" when they get married. There are four portions here. The girls would get their drumsticks/thighs on their birthdays.
3. breasts - for those who ate later or lesser members of the family like relatives who had come to work as househelp
4. backbone and necks and legs - mother usually would have these pieces

In my family my mother(after my father passed away)would decide who should get the better pieces. Without her telling me I would always pick the backbone and I would take time to savour the flesh. On my birthday I would always get the expected drumstick which would really taste just so good. In those early formative years I felt that it was really worth waiting for the drumstick and I really felt like a princess having just that beautiful piece of chicken in my bowl of noodles.

But those were the days when frozen food was unheard of and KFC had not come to the shores of Borneo and Sarawak. And I sort knew from my girl cousins that they did not quite like the idea of getting chicken wings only.

Today time and people have changed a lot. In fact there are too many ways of cooking chicken wings to make people forget that these were not the favoured parts of the chicken. Many people are shocked and even choked by the prices of chicken wings today. They are priced at RM12.00 per kg. Drumsticks are RM9.00 per kg. I wonder now if the Foochow world has been turned upside down If my grandmother were alive today she would not be able to believe her eyes. I have lots of foochow friends who love chicken wings. Some of them would go out for BBQ chicken wings in Permyjaya or elsewhere in Miri. I think a friend can even eat 5 honeyed BBQ chicken wings at one sitting!! He would not think that he would become one of the family to "fly away".

In the 1950's a cousin of mine was married to a large family and she was given the chicken wing with her rice by her mother in law. And later she told us that marriage had short changed her "she not only had to do lots of chores but she was rewarded with a chicken wing!!" To her it was a social demotion because when at home she could have drumsticks. But later in her humourous ways of telling stories..she could have the whole chicken to herself because she was a working woman..well if her mother in law insisted on giving her the wings only  she could always buy her own chicken!! She fought a courageous fight and she brought up her sons and daughters equally...When her daughter did well in her exams my cousin double steamed one whole kampong chicken for her daughter. I thought that was very very nice of her. She did the same for her son whenever he did well in his studies. One whole chicken as a reward!!

Another cousin would always remember how my grandmother would share part of her chicken drumstick and wings with her . My aunt (Yiing Chiong ah Ging) who was always loving towards my maternal grandmother would especially rear a chicken to honour my grandmother on her birthday. This was a kind of great respect for an elder in a village. In the olden days in the village this was a great way to show respect and filial piety . The honoured elder was called to the house on his or her birthday and a chicken was slaughtered straightaway...The chicken would be fresh and very tasty..I think today some chefs all over the world would boast that their food come from within 15 km of their restaurants to measure the freshness of their food! Well in Nang Chong food came from just the backyard..within 10 meters!!

Indeed neighbours some how could always tell how good a daughter in law was when chickens were fattened in the farm yard and the children were told not to disturb one particular chicken which was "reserved" for grandmother or grandfather's birthday.

If a snake did come to do some damage there would be lots of tears in the home. I remember that well.

And I really appreciated it when my mother's sister in law reared a chicken just for my mother's birthday!! For my mother to reciprocate all the kind gestures she would buy chickens from the market in Sibu.

(Another way of remember an elder's birthday is to bring a life chicken and a tray of eggs as a birthday gift.)

I had once asked my grandmother "If you send a whole chicken for someone's birthday..and only a drumstick is given to the birthday girl...why don't people rear only drumsticks?" Perhaps I was already thinking of food re-engineering.

Back to chicken wings for girls

Well in my mother's words..."so many of you girls have flown the nest of Nang Chong!!To America..to Australia...to New Zealand and to the UK.... May be heavens had really destined you to leave...you had eaten too many chicken wings."

(Dedicated to my girl cousins who have "flown" far away....I know one of you will be reading this!! Cheers)

January 27, 2012

Calling for AB blood group

We have a church member who is urgently in need of AB blood for blood transfusion.

If anybody would like to come to her rescue,

pls contact Rev Yii Kah Ching. Tel: 0143953430.

Pls spread the news.

Thanks very much. God bless.

 From Pastor Law Hui Seng.

Tian Ma 天麻

Tian ma is a common herb used by Chinese mothers to help ease their children's headaches and anxieties before examinations.

A few slices of tian ma steamed with some meat is often a good soup for children and adult as well.

According to some Taiwanese scientists it might possess anti-depresent effect. This study will be published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

tin-ma.jpgThe study will be published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

 is a common psychiatric disorder with a high morbidity and mortality rate. The pharmacotherapy used in clinic today is not suitable for all patients and causes certain side-effects. Thus, looking for alternative treatments with antidepressant effect and minimal side-effect is impotant.

Gastrodia elata Bl. (tian ma, 天麻) is a famous Chinese traditional medicine used for centuries.

 The earliest account of tian ma was recorded in Shennong Bencao Jing (神農本草經, “The Herbal Encyclopedia of Shennong”), which is considered the oldest Chinese medicine text in history. The name(s) of author(s) have been lost through time but the book is believed to be at least 2200 years old.

Personally I enjoy having this soup once in a while. I just pop down to my cousin's shop "Ing Kong" in Miri and buy a bit usually RM10.00 worth and that's good enough for the whole family. But I do not know whether this is the reason why I don't have as many headaches as before. Nowadays I do not take Panadol at all which I used to consume quite regularly when I had very stressful teaching load.

Besides I am not as anxiety prone as before.

however this is just my own experience with Tian Ma....so you do need to experiment with it yourself. The rule of Traditional Medicine is never to take too much and too often.

All the best.

January 26, 2012

Rubber Sheets and Number 12.

Photo by Juray - rubber sheets smoking in a smoke house

Now that we have Ah Jib Gor and An Hwa Gor I am delighted to write stories about Foochow relatives with similar names.....

The Rajang Foochow settlements had many people with names like Ah Kai Gor - Ah Sek Gor etc. There's another one called Muk Gor (Wood Brother) who has 10 beautiful daughters.

What about Number 12 as a name? Sek Ni or No.12 was a bachelor for years. His older brothers were No.10 - Ah Sek and he also had a brother called Sek Yik or No. 11.

In Sarikei there is one man called Number One. (Go to Sarikei Time Capsule).

Now Lady Gaga must have found out that there were lots of Gaga's in Sibu while searching for a fancy name for herself....Well in the Foochow community we have lots of Gaga's.

Pang Nga Ga Ga (Dumb Uncle). Each time I see the name Gaga (as in Lady Gaga) I think of all my Gaga..or uncles in Foochow. There was Buong King Gaga...Pang Hung Gaga..Pang Teik Gaga...I think my friend Meng Lei is also Meng Lei Gaga to all his nephews and nieces...
Maternal uncles are QQ. So I do have a lot of QQs...e.g. Pang Sing QQ and Pang Hung QQ.

Foochow names can bring back a lot of memories to us these days.

Here's one story realted to No. 12 or Sek Ni.

My shy uncle went to Sibu to sell his rubber sheets. His family depended on the sale for the household expenditure badly since he was out of job at the moment and Sarawak was in a chaotic state after the Second World War.

But being very gentle and shy he was always very timid with relatives.

He met a cousin called No.12 who wanted to borrow some money. My uncle had $120 in his pocket after selling his rubber sheets and that was a big sum of money in those days!!

Any way he lent the money to No.12 who promised to pay back immediately when he returned to the village (the money was with his wife he said) and being so trusting my uncle was willing to part with his hard earned money...a Foochow man's word is HIS HONOR!!

So No.12 bought his rice with the money and went back by motor launch with my uncle..

As you have guessed...my uncle never saw his money again even though he met No.12 again and again..and my aunt cried for days because life was hard for her and her new born child. Today such memories can really keep one awake at night!!

But my uncle continued to be a very honourable and respected man until his dying days. God blessed his his children who grew up to be brilliant and successful.

I often wonder what happened to Number 12 or Sek Ni and his descendants.

January 24, 2012

Nang Chong Stories :Shelter from Rain in Nang Chong Village

The heavy deluge yesterday brought a lot to my mind as I watched people trying to get out of the rain looking for shelter in the darkened and deserted shops and lonely and even eerie five foot way. Miri was fairly quiet during the first day of the Chinese new year but a few shops were open to serve the non-Chinese population in some corners of the town especially the one and only 7-11 shop in Miri.

Sheltering from rain is not just something in passing. When one gives shelter to another person it will long be remembered. When one has been sheltered like during the Communist Insurgency with lives at stake one can remember how fragile life could be and at any one time one bullet could end it all.  When one is wet from the rain and a warm watery porridge is offered every nerve in the body is thankful and that can be remembered for ever by a grateful soul. Shelter is such an important word to me in my life!!

My mind was on my grandmother's concept of Open House 24/7...not just for Chinese New Year!!

My grandmother and her five pretty daughters. They are lined with No.1 on the far left to  the youngest on the right. My grandmother loved her rattan chair ...my son also happens to love that particular style of rattan chair and owns one. This photo was probably taken in 1953 shortly before my third aunt passed away at child birth which still had a high mortality rate in the early 50's in Sarawak.
Firstly I thought of my late grandmother (Tiong Lien Tie) whose kitchen was always a welcoming place for passers-by.who had to stay away from the rain which often came suddenly in the afternoon. Grandma and my aunts would always have some food ready for relatives usually and even for some strangers who might be visiting their friends in the Nang Chong Village. Folks would stop by to say hello to my very generous grandmother. The house was "open" every day" 24/7.. What is that for Chinese Open House concept?

A double decker motor launch...this type plied between Sarikei and Sibu..and also between Kapit and Sibu.
Smoke house for rubber sheets. When I was young I was very amazed by these ..and the activities which surrounded rubber tapping. I continue to love the smell of smoking rubber. The aroma gives me great comfort...like the warm arms of my grandmother when I needed comfort .....
The rubber smokehouse owned by my grandmother and uncles would also welcome neighbours to smoke their rubber sheets perhaps four times a year. And that was when there would be a beehive of activities. My third uncle would even slaughter a pig for every one to share and food would be cooked in a large kuali set up espeically in the open.

Many Ibans used to live beyond the hill (aw sang) in Nang Chong and sometimes they even stayed the night under my grandmother's smokehouse. They had their parang and cooking pot and in no time they would be cooking their meals. At times they would buy some extra supplies from Uncle Tien Ching's shop like salted fish. In fact I never saw them cooking with bamboos. After a night's stay they would push off in the long boats .Some fishermen would also come to sell freshly caught fish and might even ask to stay the night in the smoke house which when not in use was a nice sleeping place in fact. The outhouse was just next door to it.

The little sundry shop was owned by an uncle Wong tien - ching. He kept that shop running until he was too old in his seventies!! Each day he would come  to the shop (the first apartment of my grandmother's large wooden house). My grandmother's house was divided into four apartments - one for each of her sons. The upstairs was for her and for storing rice (which was in one huge wooden container - it must have been 15 feet cross in diameter!!)

Tien Ching Goo Oo was a very patient shop keeper...and when it rained and he could not go home..he would just sleep on top of his wooden cashier desk!! He had a secret slot in the desk where he slipped his money into a top drawer. He held all his keys in a chain which was tied to his waist with a cotton "rope" and he wore his blue cotton trousers every day. Whenever he wore his Ern Moh Koo (Western Red Haired Trousers or Xi Juan) we woujld know that he was going to Sibu to get supplies for his shop. There was no refrigerator or freezer...but his shop was the best "happening place" in those days in our village. I often tried my best to catch up with him and learn about world news. He had a small radio he would listen too...and especially at five oclcok when there was the Foochow news from Radio Sarawak.

And then there was the lovely "landor" or the special " bridging" verandah where people could sit and enjoy the fresh river breeze. This was where kids and grandmother would sit while aunts and uncles were doing washing in the Chia Pan (open platform adjacent to the house) or tending to the garden. This was a vantage point where we could see the motor launches stopping to let passagers off the Pang Sing Jetty. More than 200 people used this jetty which was maintained by my uncles for the convenience of the villages. No fees were ever mentioned. It was all good will and good neighbourliness of those days.landor
There were four kitchens in this house...so as kids we could scramble around and tried food cooked by the different aunts. We would not sit at their tables of course..but we could get a few slices of meat when offered. But the aroma of aunts' cooking would always be in my mind...the aroma of Chinese Nien Gao cooking or the steaming of yam cakes...I think my vaourite smell from those days would be the bao steaming in the huge kuali in the evenings. Whenever I spent my holidays with my grandmother ...I would be eating from Third Uncle's kitchen....In Foochow household management my grandmother chose to "be with her third son" and that would be "shared living". Each of her sons had already gotten their share of property in terms of rubber gardens etc....while my grandmother still kept some for her old age. That was a good arrangement and every one was happy. Later she did try the circuit method but it was not as happy as the Nang Chong Household management...

It is strange that a heavy rain can bring so much memories back to me...and I felt as if my grandmother had called out...please go and ask those people to come in from the rain..."We have so much space here...and there is warm food in the kuali for all..."

In Foochow coming into a place for shelter from the rain is called "Dor Yu"..a term which may be very very ancient or unheard of...That kind of hospitality may be construed as antiquated..especially after 9/11 and lack insecurities in our land.Philanthropists in the past would build a special TING/pergola to provide a shelter for travellers along the road.

By the way  today bus stops CAN provide such a shelter but very unfortunately most bus stops have been torn by vandals or used for small trading. And people have to wait for their buses in the rain....one misfortune over another!! Layers and layers of misery....

50 years have changed many things...I am still in close contact with my cousins like Lau Kung Meu from the next house...and my cousins who lived in the big house like Mee Gee and Kung Sieng.....and now I have some cousins living in China..the children and grandchildren of my mother's youngest brother who went "back to China in 1954"....I have some cousins in England who used to stay in that big house and had a share in jumping amongst the smoked rubber sheets!! Such happy memories....and such lovely good food from the huge kuali...And such hospitality from uncles and aunties and especially grandmother!!

Happy Dragon Year!!

January 22, 2012

What is your first dish for first day of Chinese Lunar New Year?

My son asked me what to cook for first day of Chinese New Year?

What is your answer? The Foochow would answer : Mee Sua and Chicken Soup

cny 126.JPG
Mee Sua and Chicken Soup (Photo by Kate Chang)

There are so many dishes we can choose from...but I think I will do this dish....make jiaozi for the first day of Chinese New Year..(although it is not a Foochow custom.) There is a lot of fun doing this together with family and friends. And the great satisfaction lies in the eating at the end of a fun time.

This is a photo from my friend Sunflower Food Galore  Blog...

And there is a lovely story to go with it too.....
Dumplings for the New Year's Day
In China, people have a custom to stay up at the New Year's Eve till midnight, and then the well-prepared food, Jiaozi in Chinese, or the so called dumpling, is served as soon as it is cooked in the boiling water.
Jiaozi is perhaps the most especial food in people's life. First, it is served at a particular time, right after the midnight. Second, it is served barely with only some garlic-soy sauce. Third, usually a coin is hidden in one of the dumplings. The person who find or bite the coin will be the luckiest one in the new year. But that has been tested to work even more efficiently on break away the poor teeth of an old man. My grandpa was once lucky enough to bite the coin in one of the dumplings. The moment he became the lucky winner, the only tooth he had said good-bye to him. Perhaps he had no pity despite that for he was supposed to be the luckiest one that year in our family. Nevertheless, it has been the custom to have dumplings for the breakfast at the New Year's Day.
It's hard to say when the custom began, but there are many tales telling how it began. One of them said it got spread from a poor farmer's family. One year, terrible famine took place and many people died of hunger. It was the New Year's Eve when the farmer's family had nothing to cook. And they were even out of firewood. All the family members were too hungry to fall asleep at the New Year's Eve. Just when they thought hard in vain, there came the sound of drum telling the high point of a new year had come. And at the moment both the daughter-in-laws hinted to each other to make a joke over their husbands' poor father; so the elder daughter-in-law said first to him, "Father, what shall we have for the first meal of the new year?" The old man was quite ready to answer, "gold cornu." "And what shall we have to burn in order to boil the GOLD cornu?" the younger daughter-in-law asked. "Of course, gold bars." That was the answers of the humorous father. But he wouldn't stop the joke here. So he ordered the two daughter-in-laws: "Go and cook by the recipe I just ordered, would you?" This time both the daughter-in-laws were cornered badly. How could they cook such a meal! Finally they thought of an idea. "Well, I'll wipe off what is left in the flour jar and you have to get some frozen vegetables in the garden. So they managed to make some cornu-like food. "But what about firewood?" the other asked worriedly. "That is easy. Parts of the fence in the garden will do." So the first breakfast of the year was being made like that.
The god in charge of treasure happened to see the poor but interesting family, and he felt sorry for them. So he dropped some real gold cornua into their jar and some real gold bars over the firewood secretly. As soon as the able women found the treasure, they cried out happily, which caused all the neighbors to come to see what was happening. When people heard the whole story, they all came to recognize it was the cornu-like dumplings that brought the gold. So people began to do the same as the family for the first meal of a new year as early as they could intending to catch more opportunity for treasure from Heaven. That is perhaps the reason why Chinese people show more interest in having Jiaozi at the New Year's Day.

The Joy Luck Club

Quoting from Amy Tan...

Hope is all we can have...

I see you...that bad crab only you want to take it...you took worst...because you have best quality heart...

So to all who take the worst in life....my best wishes for this new year...no one can take what is in your heart away from you....

You are not a loser if you have quality in your heart....

There is a dragon out that which takes the worst quality (crab) but has a good quality heart...and he is waiting for you....too

May you have a great dinner...whether alone..or with a big family...or with a good friend....

January 21, 2012

Heavy Machinery in Sarawak - Past and Present

"When is your father coming back from the timber camp?"
This was a question often asked in the 1960's and 70's in Sibu. Fathers who had to leave home for months and even a year...and I remember how my cousins would wait for their fathers to come home for the Chinese New Year....

These two photos are treasures...for without these we would not know how tough it was for their fathers to work and just earn a bit of money .....

And home coming for the Chinese New Year was just so good!!

This is an old photo from Sarawak to show how big a tropical tree is.
This huge truck transports logs from the interior of Sarawak to a log pond ready to be tied into a raft and floated down the  river to Tanjong Manis. Roads built by timber companies criss crossed Sarawak like arteries and veins in our bodies. Without these timber tracks many indigenous people would not have been exposed to the newer development of the state.

It was tough for mothers and children to be separated by job opportunities. It was tough for them when fathers have to seek employment far away because of poor education ....Some times children grow up in tough conditions like these...and like weeds they grow up fast..and like bamboos they grow up tough....

The society in general must help all to upkeep norms and values so that a stronger generation can be brought about....

God's providence has helped many families to achieve great success in spite of huge obstacles in Sarawak.

Now the era of fathers working in the timber camps has gone...and our generation is different already...

But coming home for the Chinese New Year is still important..may be fathers do not have to leave their families for too long because of better communication and fathers are now better educated...times have changed.

To one and all...Happy Reunion for the Lunar New Year....

January 20, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year from Sibu and Foochow Bloggers

It is time of the year again to reflect on our Foochow roots and customs.

While I started off writing about Chun Lian this morning.... (Chun Lian has the same purpose as the Christmas wreath)which is a special Chinese New Year couplet used to decorate the doors of a Chinese home during Chinese New Year....I suddenly realised that there are many points to touch on.

Firstly Chun Lian is a temporary decoration to be placed on the entrance of the house - just for the lunar new year.

Secondly I remember that my grandmother (Tiong Lian Tie) would paste them the two pieces of decoration on the wooden door frames of our Nang Chong house in Sibu.

Thirdly in the olden days whenever some artists or calligraphers came  around  we all got very excited because that was the only decoration we had for the Chinese New Year. In those days we could not buy any red lanterns to ring in the new year like nowadays.

In retrospect during those long ago days in Sibu our Chinese Lunar New Year was welcomed very simply and in frugal ways. No open houses. Friends and relatvies visited each other and the best the host or hostess could give would be sunflower seeds (qua chi) both white and black. We would spend hours cracking those lovely seeds. 

I remember with great love the Foochow housewives who would be busy making  Tong Kui or nian gow..this steaming took  many hours and a few families actually burnt down their kitchen while preparing for this cake. Luckily the traditional Foochow kitchen was separated from the main house by a small verandah or  landor where in the evenings we would sit and chat with the lovely breezes cooling us down...and when the sun set the aroma of kerosene for the lamps and the fragrance of cooking sugar and rice flour warmed our hearts. As kids we could not wait for the sweet cakes to cook which would usually be very late at night or very early in the morning. We kids did not know that our rubber tapper aunts or mothers would have to work on these cakes after they had finished their chores to bring us these goodies..and they had to tend the stoves carefully to regulate the low heat.

We must see a double feature/film show (two movies for the price of one) on first day of Chinese New Year...
I remember we loved and savoured this type of aerated water came in wooden boxes like these - 72 in a box.

Chinese New Year is not exactly a time for collecting of Ang Pows but a time when our parents give us some token of money to help us grow a year older..it is a time for us to renew our sense of filial piety and to re-establish kinship and neighbourliness. It is a time for us to say good words to others so that the new year would be blessed by the goodness of the earth and the skies. It is a time for elders to feel that they have a place in the society and they play a significant in bringing up a new generation.... It is a time for us to reflect upon the blessings we receive from God. And most important of all ..it is a time for us to realise how meaningful it is to be alive and live life as best as we can!!

nowadays shops are just so full of new clothes for the Chinese New Year. The wearing of new clothes epitomises the significance of renewing our lives...and start afresh again..Throw out the old bad ways and make room for new and better ways!! Get rid of evil and welcome goodness!! Nor did we have kam quats or other new year decorations.
Although we wore western frocks for Chinese New Year my grandmother/aunts wore a more modern version of these sam foos...these ladies were photographed in the 1900's (Yi Soh and Yi Mui) in Fuzhou City. (Old photo)

the passing of the year and the welcoming of the new year  was most obviously heralded by new calendars hanging on the wall. Grandparents would have the honour of tearing the days piece by piece.By the middle of the year the kids had forgotten the novelty of the lunar calender until the next new year.
I also remember how we kids would pester our parents to take us to see the New Year Parade in Sibu...men and women walking on stilts and Foochow Opera near the Chinese Temple..a few lion dances too. But these and the Dragon Dance became a thing of the past when political instability came  to Sarawak and night events were not encouraged due to curfews. 
Oranges symbolising gold and wealth remain a must in most homes. A sign of Spring!!
Writing of couplets can be seen in the town with business men being the targets of the calligraphers

In Sibu calligraphers and artists have become quite a permanent fixture nowadays because they can pen the Chinese New Year Couplets for their friends and acquaintances. This makes the couplets very personal and endearing..

In the past older ladies and men would bring a basketful of these couplets and sell them from shop to shop and house to house to raise some pocket money for their new year. This practice seems to have gone out of our cultural system as more shops are selling Chinese new year goodies including home decorations imported from China!!

This year is different from previous years...and next year...there will be more changes....People change and culture is a dynamic element in our world!!

In Sibu many of my friends keep a special meaningful T and B time - Monday evenings happy hours to a group of friends in Sibu mean having tea and baos in Wong Meng Lei's office. Last week he invited Mr. Ting Huat Hu to write couplets in his office. These couplets were given as gifts to readers of the Methodist Message. What a nice new tradition to welcome the Chinese New Year!!

Below my friends Wong Meng Lei and Steve Ling with Mr. Ting Huat Hu who personalised couplets for his friends.This is just so meaningful in Sibu and it really makes me want to go back to my roots...but now after so many years away...can one find one's way HOME? and what is Hometown in the real sense?

Tony Hii (GM of Premier Hotel) waiting for his couplet!!
This is a photo by my friend Steve Ling (Blog = Going Places  http://stevelinglt.blogspot.com/2012/01/couplets-for-chinese-new-year.html?showComment=1326750350076#c4671859963833990732  ) of another friend Wong Meng Lei (Blog= Rajang Basin).

For Meng Lei...the calligrapher poemed " New Year New Age New Foochow /Sibu; Love God Love People Love Sibu"
This couplet summerizes Meng Lei's outlook also.

I hope all these pictures will help you remember what it was like to celebrate Chinese New Year  and what is happening in Sibu. Today people have changed and perhaps many celebrate in their privacy...others who are politicians and public figures would use the occasion to widen their contacts and establish business relationships or even garner more popularity. For many it is also a good time to prosper...make as much money as possible for the New Year!! Children only know that it is time to enjoy good food and merriment.

And I hope my fellow women would not be too stretched out making all sorts of goodies...have some relaxing time in a spa..perm your hair and wear a new dress...and like John Travolta...let's strut and have a nice Saturday Night Fever!!

And to those who welcome the new year and new season...my best wishes to you and all your loved ones....

 Happy and Wealthy Chinese New Year of the Dragon.

May all of you prosper in your endeavours
May all of you gain health and wisdom this coming year
May all your children achieve joy in whatever they do.
May your family grow in the love of God and spread Love all around
May you bring peace and harmony to your community and nation!!

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...