December 29, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Parcels for China

In the 1950's to the 1960's loving parents from Nang Chong village and other villages along the Rajang River would send food and clothing parcels to China.

Sad letters from China written in ink on very thin Chinese paper would arrive at some of the major shops in Sibu like Tung Lung, Hock Chiong, or Tai Sing. Sometimes parents who were anxious would come regularly to collect letters in this way. C/O or care of was a common mark that most illiterate Foochows could read. Their Chinese names would be very recognisable by them.

When sending these parcels from  Sibu, the senders would get the shop clerk to write on the cloth parcel. Each cloth wrapped parcel would be nicely stitched by the mother, or a sister. Sometimes the parents would send the parcels themselves at the Sibu post office, or for a small angpow, or even as a favour, the store clerks would send for them.

I found this photo which reminds me of my late grandmother and her parcels for China.

Most of these smaller parcels would cost around $4 to 6 to send all the way to China, and very often to Ming Ching District. The clerk would happily write " Via Singapore".

As a child I often accompanied my grandmother to buy the tins of Goldern Churn Butter in Kim Guan Siang and wrap them up with an extra pajamas and a piece of white muslin material. I remember my grandmother even slipped a man's watch into the pyjamas for my uncle. I never know if he received the watch or not.

My late father once sent three volumes of books by Bertrand Russell to his old classmate in China, similarly wrapped and stitched in cloth parcel. But they were "returned to sender", addressee unknown.

 A letter like this would arrive at Chop Hock Chiong in Sibu addressed to my grandmother. This photo  is from (It is a pity the family did not keep any of those old letters because they moved several times from Nang Chong)
Usually a month or two after my uncle received his Sarawak parcel, my grandmother would receive a letter from him saying that he had received the parcel. Very briefly. "Thinking of you and family. Thank you. Very touching." Nothing extra just in case he could be sent to labour camp.

Grandmother would shake her head and say, "Why so stupid! Why go away from home? Now suffer."

My uncle was supposed to study for an engineering degree. Instead he became a factory machinist until he passed away. However his son is a sports science graduate now and has visited Malaysia several times. But my grandmother never met my uncle again and not this grandson or daughter in law.)

Today, fifty years later, China is completely different. Letters, parcels, DHL, Fed Ex, China Post ..are .very common everyday utilities.

Christmas parcels, letters from grandmothers and relatives would always be meaningful universally. Although the trendy set today have Zalora, and e-bay, a personal parcel filled with goodies, is always from the heart of a person who loves you just as my grandmother loved her youngest son whom she might have scolded under her breath, but part of her heart went inside those parcels she sent. And I am sure, each letter from China from my uncle would contain a part of his heart too.


Anonymous said...

Remember the ink written on extra thin paper, exhancges of letters between my grandfather and his China relatives went on right into the 1970's. those must be hard times but nowadays when people in Sarawak visited their China relatives, they are so impressed of their wealth!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes indeed. Today,in Fuzhou city especially the dinners in restaurants can cost thousands. And angpows for overseas relatives can be just as big especially during weddings when the mainland Chinese are invited. Sometimes I just wonder how they managed to save so much or earn so much profit. And many drive big cars.

Ann said...

I recall my Mum stitching up the cloth parcels for my Ah Pak, dad's bro. our parcel was quite small. Tiger balm was a compulsory.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I wish I can have a photo of those cloth parcels. My mum sent pajamas and a few tins of Golden Churn Butter. Not so much medicine. Because my uncle was in the rural areas and he could get himself lots of herbs. He was already trained in Serdang together with young men like Ong Kee Hui who later became Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak.

Anonymous said...

Something sad and happy. I remembered my only uncle from my mother's side. He wrote very nice chinese characters but he could only be a farmer due to communism though he was a great scholar then.
however, those days, all mainland ppl r richer than us in Nanyong!.. ^^

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes indeed. I am glad that today many Mainland Chinese are very wealthy and gone are the times when people suffered so much.
Good to remember our uncles and aunties...

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