May 30, 2012

Heng Hua Moo with TEN DAUGHTERS

(This post is dedicated to my dear Ah Moo of Airport Lane 7 - one day I will be able to post her photo here..and for my daughters who grew up not forget the lessons we learned from Ah Moo and Huong.....).

In 1913 a group of Heng Huas arrived in Sibu as the Second batch of Heng Hua Pioneers to settle down in Heng Hua Bah (Now Igan Road in Sungei Merah). this group of 40 souls included Huang Sai Nguiik the mother of Ah Huong ..whom we affectionately called Ah Moo (Old Aunty wife of an older uncle).

Both Sai Nguiik and Ah Huong became my neighbours from 1983 onwards. Ah Huong and her mother live in 4A and our house is 2A (Airport Lane 7).Ah Moo was always caring and affectionate. More often then not we would get free vegetables from her in return for things we send over to their house. There was a lot of goings on between 2A and 4A besides story telling (a.k.a.gossip).

Brought over by her mother-in-law as a child bride Ah Huong's mother - known to many  also as Ah Moo - was only 8 years old then with flat and big feet. Her mother in-law was Ngu (Goh) King Loong's mother (on the name list). Ah huong is proud that her mother's name is on the plaque set up in the Heng Hua Memorial Garden near the Zion Church in Seduan Road (Sibu).

Chatting with Ah Huong would always bring our days  in Sungei Merah in the 60's and 70's  back to life!! She remembers very vividly the cows owned by Ting Kah Ong who raised many near the Teku Road. These cows would come running after them when they went home from school!! She recalloed she was always scared when the cows started to put their heads on the ground and kick their hind legs...and the boys and girls would take off  running down the hill and up to the road...
Her mother and the Ngu(Goh)  family owned some land in Middle Heng Hua Bah and later they were persuaded to sell at only $120 000 She took the sale rather fatalistically and said.."What to do...someone wanted to buy and we did not have any men in the family to develop...". Today the land there is worth more than a million per acre.
Ah Huong's mother was very hard working. Ah Moo grew up  with her mother in law who loved her very much. She spoke Iban very well and traded with the Ibans. Ah Huong remembers her mother buying kampong pigs from the Iban longhouses and selling them in the market. Besides that Ah Moo also grew a lot of Changkok Manis for sale. Thus she was a popular Iban-Heng Hua trader.  Furthermore Ah Huong's father who was Ah Moo's second husband was a cook. And so fairly often he was able to use a lot of the meat from the kampong pigs and the vegetables grown by his own wife and  the Ibans in the Teku areas for the feasts he prepared.

Ah Moo's first husband Ngu King Loong passed away very early. So her mother in law arranged a second marriage for Ah Moo in the hope of getting a grandson. This was an acceptable idea in those olden days. With an arrangement the new bride groom would "come into the family as a son" and so subsequent children would adopt the Ngu (Goh) surname) The new husband Mr. Sii was a good and obedient man. As a God fearing man Mr. Sii was well loved by all.

Altogether Ah Moo gave birth to TEN  DAUGHTERS!!

This is not a common happening today. So I really think that it is something worth recording.

Ah Huong is Number six in the family. And she accepted with grace her Ngu surname like her father had to accept the fact that all his children would be surnamed Ngu. Grandmother Ngu and Ah Moo felt that  that should be the way.

 After Mr. Sii (hii)  passed away the ten daughters bought a cemetery plot for their parents..Ah Moo was thus  later buried with her second husband. And the ten daughters and an adopted son put their names on the grave.  So there is a grave in Sibu where the father has a different surname from his ten daughters and one adopted son. This again is not common amongst the Chinese especially amongst the Foochows. I asked Ah Huong about this...she enthusiastically replied.."No problem...we are happy  to do it that way!!" According to her his father did once say that "he has no children but his wife has..."

Picture above shows Ah Huong talking animately with Meng Lei - famous Sibu historian. Mrs. Wong is second on the right. Yang Yi fang is first from left.

Huang Sai Nguik's  Ten Daughters:

1.  Nurse - Singapore (deceased)
2. Pastor -  Singapore -( Deceased)
3. Brilliant scholar in Beijing
4.  Nurse - Australia
5 Scholar - . Tientsin
6. Home maker and carer - ah Huong
7. Singapore
8. Singapore
9. Sibu
10. Nurse -  Australia - deceased

We wish Ah Huong happiness always.....

(p/s a bit of confusion here...which will be corrected at a later date regarding triple surnames of this family because of lack of male heirs)

May 29, 2012

Stories from Nang Chong : Ferns and Snakes during Japanese Occupation F

Do you know why my mother does want to eat Meedin or fern tops today?

When my mother's family and almost all the other Chinese families in Sarawak were in dire straits during the Japanese occupation the women folks took to the field to look for food from any source possible. My mother was still in her teens and together with her sister in law took to the jungle behind their riverine village in Nang Chong  They had to be careful because there were huge snakes lurking about. She had never seen so many snakes in her life!! I suppose snakes in those days were also running away from human disturbance...and some miss read their routes and slithered into human settlements.

The ladies had to rise early. As the saying goes the early bird catches the worm...They had to be early to get the best of the meedin.Any late comers might not gather any meedin at all.

.It was a very difficult period of time in Sarawak. The Japanese considered the Chinese their traditional sworn enemies who had to be "subjugated". The natives and Malays and Melanaus were spared the torture and inhuman treatment.

Few people would dare to plant rice because they would be in the field and exposed to any Japanese gun at any time.Chickens and any other farm animals would also be "arrested" by soldiers whenever they dropped by. So to be safe the Foochows kept a very low profile and kept their farm houses looking as empty as possible. Girls had to hide in jars and the huge rice bins at times. Any sound of a motor boat would give my mother goosebumps today. In those days it was really hard for the girls especially.

 God was provident at all times and looked after every one in those days. Prayers often helped and in his special provision food just popped up in the proverbial backyard!!

However malnutrition was rife because the people were not eating the right kind of food. Civil security in the rural areas was unheard of and padi farming (the Foochows were allowed to settle in Sarawak because the Rajah had planned to make the Rajang the Rice Bowl of Sarawak) was almost at a standstill. However the natives continued to practise their subsistence farming away from the threats of the Japanese. Indeed one of the causes of my maternal grandfather's early and untimely demise was malnutrition. With his health conditions he was not getting the right food for those three years and 8 months and even before the dropping of the Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki he passed away...It was just so tragic!!

My mother and her sister in law (Hii Ngiik Giu) would start out early in the morning as the sun rose on the eastern banks of the Rajang to look for meedin with their Sibu made aluminium buckets. They had to work hard to get the freely growing meedin before other women got to them!!

 Mother used to tell us that if we woke up early we would never be afraid of starvation. (meh gian moh sieh) Within a few hours both of them after harvesting the quick growing and never ending supply of meedin from the footpath leading behind the house to the primary school....would come back with two bucket full of meedin and that was food for the day. Meedin would be made into soup for the whole family of more than 10 accompanied by boiled sweet potatoes . The 3 years 8 months of Japanese Occupation saw my mother and her family having this kind of food every day.

The sons of my eldest uncle Pang Ping were still very young and they too had these supplemented by their mother's milk. My late cousin ah Jiew was born during this time. Before him were two older brothers and a sister Kiing Huong (Mrs. Tie Chi Hua).

This is a lovely spoonful of the pink soup of the meedin which is enhanced by adding some Foochow red wine too.

Recently I visited my mother in Kuching and took the opportunity to gather some meedin to cook in the morning  for my sisters. We enjoyed a special Foochow soup and talked about old days!! She on the other hand sat there reminiscing in her quiet ways and shook her head saying life was really tough in those days especially for her brothers Pang Sing and Pang Teck. My maternal grandmother was stranded in China with another son Pang Kui. They were to be absent at my maternal grandfather's funeral.

These memories might be very sad but once my mother got talking we really enjoyed the session. Food is a way to get an old lady talking about old days and  it also strengthened her whole being spiritually and physically!!

She is now 88 and continues to have an excellent mental state. Praise God!!

But meedin is  now not her "food" ...even though we would even order it in the best restaurant in town....It just brings too much painful memories...

Suggested recipe:
1 knob of ginger (smashed)
some garlic
a drop or two of cooking oil
a handful of meedin (better if gathered in the jungle)(1 ringgit worth)
some water
a drop or two of Foochow red wine
some salt

1. heat up the oil and stir fry the aromatics
2. stir fry the cleaned meedin (two inch long)
3. Add hot water to make enough soup for five people
4. Add some wine and salt to taste.

Japanese Occupation Meedin Soup is ready!!

May 28, 2012

Old Police Station of Sungei Merah (Sibu)

How many hills are there in Sibu? Do you know any which brings you lots of memories and happiness?

Sibu is an island formed out of mud flats from sediments brought by the Mighty Rajang for hundreds of years. In the 1800's the island was not occupied. Next to the island was a Malay-Melanau settlement..probably not even called Sibu in those days. In 1862 the Rajah Brooke erected a Fort Brooke at the confluence of the Igan and the Rajang just in case the Marauding Ibans could cause havoc. That could have initiated the beginnings of Sibu. Perhaps even by then some Chinese had already established a small bazaar at the mouth of the Lembangan River which cuts the Sibu island from the mainland. So it can be said that at one end of the island was a bazaar and at the other end of the island a Fort.

Opposite the Sibu Island is Pulau Kerto where there is a cemetery called Kwang Foo Cemetery which can reveal the burial dates of many of the early settlers of Sibu.

Interestingly hills can also tell tales in the past. Some of the best historical remnants are hill stations owned by planters and colonialists like in the Peninsular Malaya and India. Many famous forts have stood the test of times on top of hills. Some of the most ancient castles in Europe of course were built on strategic hills.

In Sibu one remarkable hill is the hill on which one of the oldest police stations in Sarawak is built - the Sungei Merah Police Station. Other famous hills in Sibu are  Bukit Aup and the few rolling hills between Sungei Merah and Bukit Aup which have been snapped by for burial purposes. Further inland the rolling hills today have been tamed by oil palm plantations or flattened for residential development.

Old Police Station of Sungei Merah

Unfortunately this beautiful police station has been moved to another place in Sungei Merah and a huge Police Complex has been built. The Malaysian Government has modernised the Police Department. Many have said that this 19th century" post" must be demolished...and a new site for the police established to created "transformation"

the Police towards the end of the 20th century had a makeover - new dark blue uniforms with brilliant silver buttons. The Bush Jacket style has replaced the ordinary tropical cotton shirts of navy blue. The higher officers' KHAKI look is completely wiped out by the navy blue of the force.

I used to really enjoy the morning drills performed by the Police..As the sun got hotter we were quite happy to stay a little longer to watch the Drill Sargeant shouting out his commands. 

A show of drilling and fancy footworks every morning does make the commoner have slightly more respect for a well trained police force.

Many people would miss visiting the Sungei Merah Police Station on the hill..I used to enjoy the walk up the hill and saying hello to one or two of the POLICEWOMEN there. Manned mainly by locals then (1990's) the Police in the station did their duties as well as they should and with only three or four of them it was really quite interesting. You sort of feel that " problem in Sungei Merah.."

But a few cases did reinforcement had to be brought in from the Sibu Central Police Station..

I believe in the future even the word Station would become obsolete. because at the present moment terms like HQ/Opis/Pusat/etc have been in use by the younger generation..

Back to the main point of hills....Sibu is flat as far as the eye can see now because a lot of the other smaller hills have been removed to provide building materials for housing development.

My relatives used to own a hill is like owning a gold mountain.

The Police Station should be considered Gold Mountain for the people of Sbiu..and if the Mini Museum takes off and a beautiful park can be will be good for the community...Hills bring in good spirits. They help people to "look up to the hills and cry out to God from when help will come..."

Hills are alive with music..(from the film "The Sound of Music")...and in fact some of the best musicians in the world are mountain people. Thinkers would go up into the hills and mountains for retreats and come back refreshed.

Yes..if you are tired of walking and working on flat the evenings walk up to the old Police Station in Sunger Merah ...... sit on the blue steps and watch the sunset..and think of all those people in the past who helped Sungei Merah and Sibu develop into what they are today......It would be a marvellous experience..which money cannot buy.

May 27, 2012

Chastity Arch

East Gate Arch in  Putien (Fujian)

If in Sarawak there are children who can put up arches to commemorate the chastity of their widowed mothers I wonder how many would there be?

Many women in Sarawak in the past suffered tremendously in different ways before and after marriage. And some even more after the deaths of their husbands.

"May be there should be some kind of recognition for women who suffer from domestic violence etc " a friend once said during a seminar..Lots of laughter afterwards..a woman stood up and say..."There will be as many plaques as there are ferns in the jungle..." more laughter ensued..

Humour aside...many of our Putien friends in East Gate of Putien who have lived in this village pass the East Gate Arch every day.

Even in the 21st century people who pass by look at this arch with awe!!

This special arch in the photo is a PaiFang..- a Pai is a symbol or a badge or a plaque......and Fang is a construction..the two words together make the term Arch. This special arch was built for the sons of this widowed mother to honour her dutiful and chaste life after she became a widow. She would have served the generation above her as a good daughter-in-law and the generations below her as Mother- Mother-in-law and grandmother and grandmother-in-law.

Her wisdom must have been appreciated by four or five generations  she served.

"Paifang can be divided into three types according to their different functions. 'Loyalty'  Paifang is used to record a person's merit or great deeds. For example, Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) once ordered a loyalty Paifang to be built for Wang Xiangqian to honor his contribution to the country. If a person passed the imperial examinations, his family members would erect a Paifang because he brought honor to their ancestors. The 'Chastity' arch is built to honor a woman's loyalty to her husband. Other Paifang may contain little deep meaning; serving only as a symbol of a street or a village.
Each Paifang has its own cultural connotation and symbolization which are expressed in the beautiful colored patterns. The common designs on Paifang include dragon and phoenix, bat, deer and fish. The Paifang decorated with dragons and phoenix must belong to a royal family, because the dragon is the king of beasts and represent the emperor, while the phoenix is the queen of birds and represents the empress. 'Bat', in  Chinese, is 'bianfu', with pronunciation similar to 'fu' (blessing); so the bat is regarded as a symbol of good luck and happiness. Deer sounds similar to 'lu' (salary), signifying promotion. Fish are carved on Paifang to represent the passing of an important test, an imperial examination, for example. Additionally, cypress, tortoise, water lily, peony and lotus leaf are often painted on Paifang to express the rich cultural connotation such as longevity, healthy, luck, happiness and so on." (Wikipedia)

This  village  we visited is quite ancient as one can see that the banyan trees look very ancient and most of the buildings are being demolished for reconstruction. The temple nearby could be 800 years old or more.

This natural green stone (granite?) monument constructed by grateful children remains as a monument to their widowed mother and life continues under the watchful arch!!

May 26, 2012

Swallow Tails Roof in Fujian

Every where we went in search of the the Heng Hua Pioneers' original home villages we would detect here and there the remnants of old houses built in the 1800's. I was particularly interested in Qing architectural designs as I have watched so many TV drama series in the past - a luxury which I no longer indulge in these days.
And the special roofs I looked at were the swallow tail roofs.

 The swallow tails stick out on both ends of the roof. Some roofs have five parts and hence they have five pairs of swallow tails like in my photo below. Huge mansions would have many roofs. Some huge mansions cover more than 2 acres of land e.g. the size of a football field. Some could have been bigger.

I am sure many people would find these roofs interesting. However some would think that they should be demolished to make way for modern designs. While others couldn't care less. I would  think that if there are such structures around they should by all means be preserved to remind us of the past historical achievements of our ancestors. Very often "Hallmarks of excellence" have been thrown out politically but others are thrown out because of the significant land value..they could be in the way of MASS TRANSPORT SYSTEM!! or the family themselves might want to have a multi storeyed building up ...

A restored old house which still serves a good purpose like symbolizing the dignity of a nation. Preservation of old artifacts is part of one's love for our nation. Today in many parts of China people use the term "Ai Kuo" love our nation as a key term to propel development to a very high level. Landscaping and making the country side attractive with greens is also "ai kuo". Environmental movement is also "ai kuo".

I found a Taiwanese blogger Della Chung so inspired by the swallow tail roof (Lots in Taiwan)that she wrote a poem:

Green with the drip of dew and rain,

the moss address itself like art on the roof

with curved swallow tail ridge ends.



fujian has always been a wealthy province. Its history is rich and the people are forward looking. Some of the best private  Chinese homes are found in fujian in the past. The swallow tail roofs are quite well preserved by "ai kuo" developers.

In a way we as people from the Nanyang would definitely stand in awe of the elaborate roof style in Kinmen or in other  parts of the fujian province. The Qing Dynasty had only allowed higher status officials like Siew Cai (National Scholars) and temples to have this kind of roof.

I am wondering what would happen to Malaysia if Datuks and Tan Sris etc. were allowed to have one type of roof and we the commoners have ordinary roofs.

May 25, 2012

Sharks' Fin Melon

Sharks' Fin Melon sold in Miri Muhibbah Tamu or Market

Just in case - the above sign is new to many people. Often many people do not notice the No Sharks' Fin Soup sign in some places overseas. In a few separate occasions some well suited and obviously rolling with money Asians did not notice the sign and they started to order their "favourite soup" rather loudly...and of course many eye brows were raised and you could literally hear a "spoon" drop on the marble table or glass table or see a jaw (!!!!?) drop..

Sharks' fins melons are sold all over Sarawak and Sabah now and many are actually seizing the opportunity to revert to vegetables and other edibles and giving up meat and especially sharks' fins....Don't be worried if people comment that it is poor man's sharks' fact nutrition wise it might even been better than the real sharks' fin (which by the way might be made from something else now that manufacturers can create anything in a certain country I won't mention its name.) I would rather eat the sharks' fin melon than some plastic....
Sharks' Fin Melons are really a good replacement for sharks' fin. According to Wikipedia this melon is called by other names like spaghetti squah or noodle squash. In the UK it is called the Spaghetti Marrow.

Sharks' Fin Melon  (鱼翅瓜) is quite popular in Miri . I find it refreshing as a soup.

Portion of the sharks' fin melon soup...the melon looks really like the real sharks' fin.

You can use 1/8th  of the melon for a whole family.

ingredients - for 4 people
1. 2 -3 tablespoons of wolf berries
2. some dried mushrooms
3. 1 egg - beaten
4. 200 gms minced pork/chicken
5. some slivers of old ginger
6. salt to taste
7. a dash or two of white pepper
8. some cooking oil of your choice or sesame oil (which I used)
9. scrape the slice of melon with a spoon and you get nice natural pieces of the melon which look like sharks' fins.
10. 10 bowls of water
11. wine vinegar for extra taste

1. Heat up some oil and saute the ginger. Add the minced pork and cook until well done.
2. Add 10 bowls of water and bring to the boil
3. Add wolf berries and the sliced soaked mushrooms and the melon
4. boil for about half hour or more until all the aroma comes out of the pot.
5. Before serving dribble the beaten egg and cover the pot for a few minutes. Give the soup in the  pot a good stir.
6. Add salt and pepper.
7. Add wine vinegar if desired.

Personally I have cooked this soup in the long house as well as in Miri to great success. the melon by itself is a sweet soup and very little else is needed. Tahai a dried fish from Limbang and Lawas makes a good base for the melon.

Hope you will take a chance an buy half a melon if the vendor allows it and cook your own Sharks' fin melon soup!!
A recent bowl of Sharks' Fin Soup - as I did not find any fin I said to was really good Mock fin soup but it was not sharks fin melon soup.

May 24, 2012

Kampong Hilir of Sibu

For those in their 50's and living in Sibu you can see the tremendous development in the Malay kampong area. This year Kampong Hilir is beginning to see lots of changes in terms of demolition of old wooden houses and the construction of shops.

After 50 years of Malaysia the b eloved kampong is moving away!!

Perhaps only memories and good old photos will be left those who can remember Kampong Hilir.

In a kampong there no fence between houses.

"Most houses are not locked when owners go shopping because there would be eyes every where " I was told this sometime by a friend from a kampong.
Kampong houses used to be single storey on stilts. With population explostion  rooms started to be built "below" the house and two storeyed buildings came into being...but later most families would build two storeys ahead of family enlargement. Many elders had already foreseen this phenomena...Good families tend to stay together and it is a "done" thing. I remember how hurt one parent was when her son decided to build his home about three miles away. She could not be comforted for years! I realise the true meaning of "Lamentations" by observing her. Others would just brush her emotions aside by saying "emotion lah" But it is really hard to finally cut off the imaginary umbilical cord!!
Kampong houses get so congested that little attachments like these are built and some just touch the roadsides....
During the fasting months beautiful lights would be placed on  home made ledges all the way (on both sides) to the house from the main road. It was a lovely sight.
I do remember those days when electricity first came to the kampong...and now people take public utilities (no longer public but privatized now) for granted. We used to pay $3.00 per month. A few cents more our parents would complain already!!

"Hilir" in Bahasa Malaysia means "lower river". It is the opposite of "Ulu" which means "upper". This kampong is "below" the Kampong Datu along the Lembangan River and the Igan River.

The Lembangan River actually goes around Sibu town which was originally an island. Hence there is the main road called Island Road. The road running from Chung Hua Primary school to the Sibu Recreation Club (Now Sanyan Building was called "Pulau Road" So in Sibu there were two roads with the same meaning but in two different langauges. Today this unusual road naming system has been corrected by changing all the road names to Bahasa Malaysia Blacksmith road is now Jalan Tukang Besi. I wonder if we still have Coffin Road behind the Palace Cinema. It should be Jalan Keranda. Personally I feel that a lot of the character of a road in Sibu has been changed because of the change in language. Jalan Pasar instead of Market Road? Jalan Tinggi instead of High Street?

High Street in English usually refers to the best road in town where the best shops can be found..and people would like to go there to be seen and noted...But then that probably KUNO people go to the lepak.

Any way it would  really be nice if I could go back in time and lepak (sit on the wooden railings) with my friends in Jalan Kampong Hilir...and drink lovely green Pisang flavoured aerated water or the Krim Soda made in Sibu....and watch cyclists go by...and as the sun sets watch the lovely ladies all dressed in white walking gracefully and  slowly  to the mosque

May 23, 2012

Sibu Connections in May 2012

Highlights of my  latest Sibu Visit......

In a special service at Tien Dao Tang I met up with my old neighbour of No.4A Airport Lane 7  Ho Ah Huong who happens to be a descendant of one of the Heng Hua Pioneers..We should be calling them the First Families of the Heng Hua Clan of Sibu. Ah Huong has been a wonderful neigbhour for many years. ...she has so enriched the lives of my mother and her mother had conversations known as Duck and chicken dialogue one speaking in Heng Hua and one speaking in foochow but they both would walk way fully understanding each other and with happy memories. May Ah Moo's soul rest in peace...Ah Moo was a good Christian who would walk miles and miles to deliver Bible tracts and ask people to go to church..and she was a good bicycle rider in her young days. Ah Huong remains single to serve her mother all the days of her life. some of her sisters have settled overseas.

Attending the Centennial Anniversary Dinner of the Tien Dao Methodist Church of Sungei Merah at Kingwood Hotel..this was definitely the special moment..a 70+ year old lady was the star of the dance...every moment was rhythmic and full of joy. God is merciful and blessing the Heng Hua People....and especially this lady...(Photo by Meng Lei)
God answered my prayers - My Kingwood Duck stuffed with Glutinous Rice..this dish was served at the Centennial Anniversary Dinner. My newly found Tiong cousin sitting next to me exclaimed "You must surely like this dish!! or glutinous rice??" My friend Yi Fang made sure I had the biggest portion I ever had in my life!! Thank You Lord for your blessing...I can rightfully say that "I am afraid we don't have this quality duck dish in Miri..." the skin is crispy..the glutinous rice is full of mushrooms and chestnuts...and the duck extremely succulent and not too salty...furthermore it is hot!!" The next trip I will pre order this and my friends and I can savour this again...What about 2 ducks? Great Kingwood Duck...compliments to the chef.
Ida's house is a good base for me in Sibu mother and sisters have moved to  Kuching. "Aunty Ida "  or "Miss Ida" has always opened her house to friends and students is a wonderful place to relax and chat..surrounded by beautiful plants and lovely wall hangings and photos
Kompia is a must in Sibu - Civic Centre outlet
A highlight of any Sibu trip is often a visit to a dear friend. This trip Ida Mamora and I visited a good friend who  was preparing a basket of flowers for his special meeting....When people who share the same hobby of flower cultivation there is just so much joy in the garden.....(Photo by Sarawakiana)
Another highlight - Sharing a joyful moment in the Methodist Office for T and B...Meng Lei giving out Steve Ling's  95 year old mother's International Friends - Bishop James Kwang (second from left) from Australia and Lu Toh Ming (first on right) from the US...Ting Sing Kong is second from right. Meng Lei is a very hardworking blogger and outstanding Sibu historian and photographer. He has also written more than 10 significant books. He is very very energetic. If you want to go jungle trekking or mountain climbing with might not be able to catch up with him....(Photo by Sarawakiana)
Another highlight is the arrival of 7 Putien sisters to Sibu. This photo was taken by Meng Lei...100 years ago Rev Ling Kai Cheng set foot in Sibu with the Heng Hua Pioneers. Rev Ling Kai Cheng was the founder of The Methodist Message and the Methodist Book Room.

What a good trip home!! Hope you like my highlights.....

(P/s////Every small moment is a precious moment to me...actually.)

May 18, 2012

Seaweed Farming in Nanri Island (off Putien)

In recent years there has been a lot of media blitz promoting  seaweed as a miracle diet. Perhaps there is a lot of  truth in seaweed as a food which can provide good health. Look at the Japanese and Korean women who have been eating a lot of seaweed. Most of them are elegant and slim with good skin and good features.

My family has always liked seaweed soup for health reasons. Many years ago my mother had to eat seaweed soup twice a week to help her control her thyroid problems. She was unable to pay for any medical treatment in Singapore so she just had to make do with seaweed soup. And by God's grace she was cured. She did not have to go for any more treatment or even surgery . And as her children we were very worried about her health and the lump in her throat..but in the end every thing was fine thanks to  seaweed.

It was really admirable the way my mother would soak the seaweed in a tub and then later cut them into small pieces. We children would help her knot the pieces of seaweed and then put them into a pot to boil to get rid of the smell of the sea (sieng) and also the last bits of gritty sand. When boiled for a long time with some pork bones the soup was really excellent. We slowly grew to love the soup because it was something which would give our mother good health. And never mind the lousy greyish green looks.

Nanri Island today produces the best seaweed in the world. I was lucky tobe able to see the island's seaweed production first hand  together with friends from the island. It was a wonderful visit.
Pretty Assistant Pastor who showed us the width of the best seaweed.

This is the special boat which brings seaweed to the show. Very ingenious design.

A back breaking job under the sun. Owner and employee work together under the sun. In the misty  distance are more boats looking for seaweed and shrimps in the rich East China Sea.

This trip to Nanri Island only made more realise how important a clean sea is for us human beings. We have to keep our environment free from pollution. If the sea beaches are clean  seaweeds become more organic and more valueable. this is  how God has planned for us originally. Mankind must appreciate God's creation and keep our honour and value the earth more each day.

This was also the day we all had one fresh abalone each. We were given a big parcel of 22 abalones by a sister from a church. She was so friendly and helpful. And our leader  Meng Lei of  Chinese Methodist Message (Sibu) was made to eat THREE abalones because he worked the hardest.

If you have a chance to visit Putien or Xiamen...just spend one or two days touring Nanri Island and you can see how all the beautiful seafood  like abalone and sea cucumber are reared..And do buy some seaweed as gifts besides the abalone...

thanks to the Chow Hoo Church pastors and brothers and sisters for bringing us around. Our eyes were really opened!!

We should all appreciate seaweed soup even more from now on...

May 17, 2012

Tea Flower (Camelia Sinesis)

"Going to Fujian? Yes..make sure you photograph a tea flower there!! Your maternal grand father's family owned a tea garden...." my  86 year old mother reminded me before I left Malaysia for China.

I had the opportunity to look closely at Camelia Sinesis or ChaHua (Tea Flower) when I visited Cai Xi in Xian You. There was this little garden selling herbs and potted plants. It was a small business outlet but growing fast in the flourishing landscaping enterprise which is now taking off every where in China..

The pleasant and very surprised young lady in charge (I was speaking Pu tung hua with a strange accent) showed me around the garden and I caught sight of this lovely yellow flower - my first sight of a camelia maternal grandmother used to tell me how beautiful this flower was mother's family(Lau Kah Tii and brothers) in Fujian owned a small plot or tea garden behind their family home. Tea was their cash crop and  for generations my mother's ancestors were makers of Tea Oil or Tah Yiu. (This tea garden was later sold by an Uncle who went back to Fujian to wind up the family business. However the Lau  family home is still there)

Camellias are known as cháhuā (茶花) in Chinese, "flowering tea", an apt designation, as tsubaki (椿) in Japanese, as dongbaek-kkot (동백꽃) in Korean and as hoa trà or hoa chè in Vietnamese.(Wikipedia)

The oil extracted from the flower is used for cooking and also for medicinal purposes. A precious bottle of this expensive oil  today can last for a long time if we use it sparingly. We have used it to cure cuts and wounds. And very importantly to place a precious drop on the navel of a new born child is considered an auspicious act!! A young girl having her ears pierced would benefit from a small drop of tea oil...there will be no swelling at all..or any serious infection.
This is the tea flower photo I took for my family...on a rainy Saturday...A few droplets of rain making it  look so fresh and crisp.

My maternal grandmother used to tell us that when she was young she even took a small teaspoonful of tea oil whenever she had a the days when Breacol or Wood's were not even heard of. When Malaysia stopped political relationships with China many years ago..the tea oil supply stopped completely and we were definitely in need of alternatives (I remember Grandma used to say how effective it was for ear aches.)But it is hard to find tea oil alternative. In the same way I think it is difficult to find something to replace a traditional practice.

(picture from Wikipedia)

Tea flower will be a symbol for my maternal grandmother. I would like to wish her Happy Teacher's Day in Heaven. She taught my mother and her children...and their children so many old proverbs (all from memory) moral stories (GU YU) and even old rhymes and poems..We continue to miss her dearly in our lives...even though she has been gone for more than 30 years.

..........And I would like to give her a bouquet of Tea Flowers......

(The Lau Family -  My maternal great grandfather = Lau Kek Chung of Ming Chiang - 4 Doo Chieng San Yong..Please read the Lau family genealogy page  214 ff 2007 Edition)

May 16, 2012

How to Say Good Bye in Xianyou (Putien)

Welcoming Speech by Chen Bai Chai - Chairman of the Chinese Surname Research Centre
The Centre is a very busy place with many clansmen coming together very often to do research. We came on a Sunday when they were having a meeting. Fortunately they were able to squeeze in one hour to meet up with us.

Ling Clan Building in Xian You (Fujian)

Every one stood up to prepare for the guests to leave the hall after the dialogue session. (Meng has found more than 70 pioneers' villages and more than half have not been traced....Where did some of the Heng Hua Pioneers of Sibu come from? Each surname group would help to find the villages of those Heng Hua Pioneers.we have not been able to trace..with instructions from Chen Bai Chai..)
Standing up in the main hall - shaking hands and saying good bye. (first farewell)

One of the clan leaders had a personal talk with Steve Ling..asking more about our research. Standing up and ready for group photo taking (This group already know where they should stand.....Committee members of the Ling Clan and the members of the Surname Cultural Committee ..and their guests) Group photo courtesy of Steve Ling...

FAREWELL NO2...The whole group after saying a farewell at the main door walked the Overseas friends to the gate....

Farewell No. 3 - at the main entrance.Xian You Historians .Waving and Wishing good wishes to the VVIP  Overseas Visitors..

Here I include a poem by Li Bai who wrote it in 754 - 5 characters on each line and 8 lines in all. (now traaslated into English) It is amazing how Li Bai can capture the spirit of a touching farewell in 40 words and have them "kept in perfect state for us to appreciate 1300 years later!!)

 Would be nice if Li Bai were with us to describe this scene....Good bye to Nanyang friends...on a gentle rainy morning....
The dark hills stretch beyond the northern rampart,
White waters wind around the eastern wall1,
From this place where we do one deed of parting,
Tumbleweed has a thousand miles to sprawl.
A floating cloud: all that a wanderer thinks.
A setting sun: all an old friend can say.
It is goodbye, and as we wave our hands
Our parting horses cry and neigh, and neigh. 


May 15, 2012

Racial Harmony in Sibu 1950's

Once in a while you come across an old photo in your friend's album which reminds you of your childhood. It sort of makes your heart miss a beat and you exclaim..."Yes I remember pretty women wearing clothes like this for special occasions!! In those days you really wanted to grow up quick and wear clothes like them!!"

And I remember the faint fragrance they would leave behind them after they had passed you by - the Florida water for example. I also remember the nice talcum powder they would have put on after their bath. These scents just sort of float into your mind and warms up your soul.

But most importantly these were the women who had formed a great relationship  because of shared faith and they practised Godly ways. It would be wonderful if we could identify all of them in this photo. What kind of lives did they lead? How many grand children do they have now?

After more than 6 decades are we doing better in the arena of social and racial harmony?

Group photo of Methodist girl students

The Methodist Secondary School was founded in the 1949 in Sibu.

It was actually another phase of the older Yuk Ing School for Girls founded by the Hoovers. Because of the needs of the expanding population and the limited human resources it was decided to establish a secondary school for both boys and girls. the Methodist Primary School had already become co-ed since after the war. With funds available from the United States in memory of Rev Summers who died during the Japanese War the secondary school was established.

One  of the philosophies of the  instutition was to instil amongst the students the love of all mankind.
Here you see in this photo a very multi-racial presentation by the students. the fashion of that time was very similar to our fashion today!! And clearly these fresh faced students  were innocent and reaching out to each other without fear and favour.
This photo is very symbolic of the peace and harmony of Sibu in those days. I wish I could identify all these students.

(Photo from the collection of Rev. Ling Kai Cheng)

May 14, 2012

Worm Jelly Anyone?

A nice cold dish was first served to us in a special authentic Putien Seafood restaurant. the cold lamb is one dish that I am going to practise making until it is perfect like this. It would not be possible for me in Malaysia to make the worm jelly. (Photo by Sarawakiana)

- the lighting in the restaurant was dim and of varying quality. flickering fairy lights also did not help with so many reflecting surfaces of glass and chrome....I really need to improve my skills...but of course I am not apologising for my own faults..) It was a very very happy experience for my friends and I. It was to be a night of hard biscuits and 3 in 1 coffee. But out of the rain came 6 beautiful ladies who took us for a great authentic Heng Hua Dinner. Good rain season. Good people. God sent. Manna.
Photo from Google
Close up of the sandworm jelly (Photo by Sarawakiana)
side view of the jellied sandworm (Photo by Sarawakiana)
Photo from Google (Popular Sandworm jelly from Xiamen)
The sandworm is a kind of annelid ()Phascolosoma esculenta. Its body length is only one or two inches, but it has all the vital organs. Worm jelly is called the most delicious food in Xiamen. Actually, worm jelly also enjoys its reputation in Longhai, Zhangzhou and Anhai, Jinjiang.
( You can order this Ximen Worm Jelly西门土笋冻
at No. 33, Douxi Road, Siming District, Xiamen  - we had ours - once only in Putien)

It would be Interesting to note that the first species of this phylum was described in 1827 by the French zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville who named itSipunculus vulgaris

A related species was later described as Golfingia macintoshii by E. Ray Lankester. The specimen was provided by a friend of his Professor Mackintosh. The specimen was dissected by Lankester between rounds of golf at Saint Andrews golf club inScotland from which the species derives its name. Golfingia is now the genus name and Sipuncula the name of the phylum to which these worms belong.

To many it is known as "Xiamen's #1 specialty"

We had a good experience eating the jelly as our Putien sisters insisted on us trying their traditional food. I found it very tasty indeed. And would recommend friends to order this dish. However make sure that the outlet serves the genuine items (not just any agar agar!!)

May 12, 2012

Long House in Putien (Fujian Province of China)

We had been driving along the road for more than 2 hours when we saw this beautiful long house down in the valley!!

the mist was coming down fast and we had to get out of the van to take some photos as soon as possible. There were many bends in the highway so it was also not too safe to stop for too long. But our driver was very kind and obliged.
Another long house of"  red mud" walls and concrete floor. Here the doors are very obvious. However an additional characteristics = upper floor balconies which go around the front and sides. These are again divided by walls to delineate family units. 
A view of on of the longest longhouse we saw. A cement parth in the front...This longhouse was down in the valley.
We understand from some people that in the early 50's Chairman Mao encouraged many  provincial and local governments to construct these kinds of long houses to help increase the number of proper housing in the villages. People could live closer together and develop a strong communcal spirit. However  there is little reference or source to help further this discussion.

We were to meet many of these long fact we did wonder if there were longhouses built before 1950's in China.

Does any one have any stories about longhouses in the Fujian Province in China?  Has any research be done regarding them?

May 10, 2012


"Remember the days of old. Consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you
Your elders and they will explain to you....." (Deuteronomy 32:7)

Look is the Americanised surname of the author of the book "The Saviour of Our  Hymns".

"Look at this book is amazing " would be the first comment any would have for its content upon reading it once and even twice or may be even thrice. As for me it would be a treasured reference book and a book to share with many others. For those who cannot read Chinese the English translation is in the offing..I am so honoured to be one of the first two to receive this newly published book in Sibu.

You can learn a lot about money stewardship and the importance of obedience to God in this book. She is a frugal Foochow woman who  since young would not even spare one cent to buy 2 pieces of kong bian (kompia) because she believed she had three meals already. If only today we don't spend money on snacks and other tit bits...we could not waste any money...She reminds us that our "earthly property" is our children whom we must nurture in God's ways and with his truths.

I will use figures to tell the amazing and precious gold nuggets I found in this book.....

Amazing years

1917 - the year the author was born in China which was then in political and economic turmoil. She did not make a sound for three days after she was born and the family could not believe it when they heard her first cry.
1920's - her father brought the whole family to settle down in Sibu (Sarawak)but her mother soon passed away.

1928 - She entered the Yuk Ing Methodist Schools for girls in Sibu. Although her real age was 11 the school authorities thought that she was as small as 8 year old. In the register she was 8 years old.

1938 - She graduated with a Junior Certificate and started teaching in the kindergarten with a salary of 15 dollars. Half of her salary was required to be returned as funds for the church mission and orphanage.

1939-1941 - she was transferred to another school to teach.

1941 - She came back to teach in Yuk Ing School

1943 - She married Ling Kwong King who was recommended by the Kwang Hua School principal with the following credentials : + intelligent + a good volley ball player + no father + many siblings + good family background.. Before her engagement she had only seen him twice. Actually on the second occasion she was not even sure it was him. She had wanted to dedicate her whole life to  working for God.

1937 - 1978 - She was a Sunday School teacher (except for those Japanese Occupation years)

1957 - they bought their own wooden house at the back of Tiong Hua Road. they had two bedrooms a living room and sky light. The chouse came with a kitchen and bathroom.

1962 - She voluntarily retired because the school had to reduce the staff by one...She did this so that her teaching post could go to her colleaqgue - a single mother with three children. She enjoyed her retirement days by planting orchids and serving the church in many different ministries.

1973 - The SCAC invited her to head the Methodist Women and Children's Ministry as a paid Chief Administrator.

1979- Her husband fell ill and soon passed away.

1980 - Her mother in law passed away

22.5.1980 - She first set foot in USA at the Los Angeles Airport. She was  She was 73 years old.


My contemporaries who studied in the Methodist Primary School would remember our beloved Mr. Ling Kwong  King.
the photo shows the author with her beloved husband.

Significant figures seem to float from the book towards me as I read it....

100 - Her sister-in-law took her to see a Brunei doctor to check on her lungs. Her x-ray came back and the doctor said "don't worry you will live up to 100 years!!"
95 - This is her age this year
94 -  She was 94 when she first started to write the book.
73 -  She came back to visit Sibu
63  She migrated to the USA
61 - She finally retired from Methodist Church work in order to look after her cancer stricken husband in the hospital
55- She was fully employed by the Methodist Church to head the Methodist Women's Ministry in Sibu
45 - She volunteered to retire because the school had to cut down on staff - to allow her colleague who was a single mother with three children to stay on. She found it very unreasonable for the government to let this poor lady go.
12 - When she first got married she had to make 12 new clothes for all members of her husband's family and her own children. She did all the sewing on top of her other chores.She did not make any new clothes for herself.
10 - Her husband made a passport in case of emergency but he never once travelled out of Sarawak because his mother was alive.None of his colleagues could make him go for a tour.  In fact his mother died one year after his passing. The author praised God for his humility and filial piety. She believes that now mother and son are reunited in Heaven
6 - she has 6 children - 3 girls and 3 boys
4 - In the book she confessed her 4 sins against her mother-in-law to reveal how her faith in God had moulded her into perfection as a woman and as a daughter -in - law.
3 - She wrote "May this book be an instrument for God's word to spread so that people will worship God. All glory and honour be to God. God in his Holy Trinity - the Father- the Son and the Holy Spirit.. Forever and Ever . Amen."
2 - She wrote " We have two ears to listen to the Scripture readings and at night to listen to God's voice."
   - Kompia (kwong ping) was
1 - She truly believes in ONE God who has blessed her and her days abundantly.

0 - this book is free for those who would like to have a copy. Her children funded the publication of the book in Sibu. Praise God indeed for her wonderful children.(Please contact Steve Ling for your free copies.)

We should all break into singing because an angel from Sibu has written such a wonderful book to inspire and encourage her readers now and in time to come. How mighty is her God!!

You can write to

S.P. Look
7367 West Park Way
California 95823

With my greatest respect to the author and her family I wrote this article to the best of my ability . As Chinese is my third language any mistakes above are all mine entirely.

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