April 7, 2012

In Search of Heng Hua Pioneering Families of Sibu

One of my "TREATS" in Sibu is to do some field work with my good friend local historian and writer Mr. Wong Meng Lei.

He is now writing more history on the development of the Heng Hua Methodist Churches and the history of the  pioneering Heng Hua Methodists.

I went along for some interviews with the Lu Family - one of the first Heng Hua Families of Sibu.

This is the Lu Family Book of Record (Genealogy)- which includes both  Foochows and Heng Huas  - a nice  book produced by the Lu  Association of Sarawak. The cover may be a little misleading because it says Fujian Ming Ching  (Ref to page 399ff for the Heng Hua Lu surnamed families)
The Pioneer Mr. Lu Ging Ge - Ming Seng's grandfather who arrived in 1912

Mr. Lu Ming Seng (the man we interviewed) carefully took down the photos (from the living room walls upstairs) of his elders (his two grandmothers) for us to re- photograph.

She was amongst the first batch to arrive in Sibu as  a married woman  she was brave and willing to suffer all the  hardship of the early days.- there were 30 women amongst the 101 Heng huas who arrived.

One of my favourite interview questions is "Does she have bound feet?". These two ladies indeed have bound feet. They had found it hard to walk on the plank walks and they just had to be very careful.

When the first Mrs. Lu passed away Mr. Lu sent for a mail order bride many years later.  

Mr. Lu has a good memory of the history of the Heng Huas and the Foochows too. He remembers paddling a small boat from the Igan to Kerto with his father to have their rice milled by the Hua Hong Rice and Ice Mill. He knew my grandfather well and he is full of respect for all those who have passed on. He indeed has a "book" in his mind . He is a treasury of knowledge.

Here Meng Lei and Mr. Lu are looking at the name lists of people who are children of the first families of the Heng Huas.

The Heng Huas will be celebrating their Centenary in Sibu...how much do you know of their history and contribution to our society and country?


When teaching in the Methodist School I would do one local survey project per year. Most students enjoyed it. And of course some were very critical (they would comment like "moh noh sei.." No use."). But I am not daunted at all for I have continued to work on local geography and history over the years. Local history is very interesting and we need plenty of time to do initial work and follow up work nothwithanding certain hazards!! Like literature local history is also not a lucrative business but at the end of the day we are happy with what we can put down on paper for our future generations. I do hope more people will consider joining our small group of volunteer writers and photographers.

Here is one example of a small project you can do - take photographs of the old wooden houses standing on stilts of Sibu and write about them......

There are not many houses in Sibu with stilts left. Mr. Lu's house along Igan road is one of them.

The architecture of this kind of wooden house was popular during the 40's and 50's in Sarawak. In view of impending flooding situation all houses along the Rejang were built in this style.

The Foochow term for the empty space was not GROUND FLOOR but low pang nga or space below the floor. Most people would entertain strangers at the space called low pang nga. This space then becomes an entertaining area and also a place where children could play their games and where womenfolk could do their work. Bicycles would be kept here too. A rich family would have a ping pong table in this space and neighbours' kids would come to play. I remember some houses next to Methodist Churches in Sibu were used as Sunday School classes a long time ago.

Close relatives and friends were taken upstairs to see the house and have tea at a typical marble table.

When population exploded in Sibu all these spaces were walled up and rooms were rented out to whole families. Houses on stilts became a thing of the past in the 1980's. However I am glad a few can still be found.


Ann said...

I know a Ning Choon Sui, which is Ling.

Daniel Yiek said...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Ning or Nee or Ling...or also LAM...different dialects..same surname.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Daniel...Will be doing more of this in the next few months...

Anonymous said...

If you go back to the family history, Ling actually originated from Putian. At the end of Tang Dynasty, there were instabilities in the north and the people (warriors and high-class families) started to flee to the south. That was when the southern provinces of Fujian and Guandong became occupied by the Hans.

So Foochow Ling was once Heng Hua, until the ancestors started to migrate to other villages in Foochow. Chinese always migrated. We knew about the rivalry between Heng Hua and Foochow in Sibu, and by not knowing the history, Foochow Ling could have also been involved in fighting against Heng Hua. That is, the brothers were fighting each other because that kind of history was not taught. I had several Heng Hua Ling classmates, but we did not seem to know about this part of history, until I recently went deeply into this subject at my own interest.

This was a sad history and fortunately these days we all live in peace.

14-doo boy

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thank you 14 Doo Boy..what a revelation!!

The Lings (especially the Kutiens) have been know for in fighting e.g. Ling Brothers.

Yes I am glad to know that today people like the Rev. Ling Kai and his descendants and olther Heng huas have contributed so much to Sibu.

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