June 19, 2013

Salty Grass Straw from China

The Foochows of Sibu depended on a simple grass straw for tying things when they arrived in Sibu in 1903.
One bundle for l ringgit. Keng Chow from Fujian Province of China sold in my cousin's shop, Ing Kong Drug Store in Miri. These are very versatile organic strings. It can be woven, it can be used as strings. Pig's heart was often hung with this kind of string at the butchers. And in the past, theFoochows would always say, "Go andcarry a kati of pork.."By that they meant you have to buy and carry home a kati of meat strung in a salty grass (string). How material culture has slipped into our dialect and then slipped away with time...

This simple grass straw was plentiful in the Fujian river Min estuarine area and the other Fujian coastal flats. Called Salty Grass Straws or strings, it is exactly what the name means. It is grown on wetlands surrounded by salty sea water.

I have always been interested in getting a photo of photos of these salty grass growing wild over there in my grandparents and great grandparents' original home.

Today, I can still buy this Keng Chow or straws used for tying rice dumplings, for making straw sandals, and for tying things together. One very significant image in my mind is how Kompian or Foochow bagels were strung together with these straws and grandpa(TiongKung Ping) would happily carry a "string of kompian" when visiting his sister Chang Yuk Ging in the Methodist Primary School, where my siblings and I were studying.

I like to think that Grandpa was very proud of his sister who was a Kindergarten teacher. Goo Poh's place was a very central point for many relatives to come together and have a great bonding time.The common living room had two rattan chairs for elders to sit and others would sit on the wooden Foochow stools.

Those were the "old days" when even the furniture were made from plain wood and rattan from the Sarawak jungle.


Anonymous said...

Didnt realise the grass straw is from Fujian, China. There is also a local species (Cyperuss malaccensis) which local called bundung or tali bundung. In Africa, there is Cyperus textilis and in Egypt Cyperus papyrus. The grass straw from China is probably Cyperus alternifolius.

Stenographer said...

Thank you for your input.I really appreciate it...God bless.

Anonymous said...

Always remind my late mum who would wrap up rice dumplings in hundreds form! We siblings would consume them for weeks!

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

do they still u it? I thought the raffia plastic strings had repleaced it. My sisters use banana stems to make chung.

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