August 1, 2013

Great Grandfather : Tiong King Kee

My great grandfather Tiong King Kee came to Sibu with the second batch of Foochow pioneers in 1901, led by Wong Nai Siong.

Photo is loading
Photo taken in 1937 in Hua Hong Ice Factory House. Great Grandparents sitting in front (Rattan Chairs), three aunties at the back . They came home for their holidays.

He and his two sons, Tiong Kung Ping and Tiong Kung Eng quickly got to work and being enterprising, they were soon  well established in the community. All three were baptised Methodists. Great Grandfather was a barefoot herbalist who was able to read patients' pulses and practised a little acupunture. He was good in recommending herbs for basic cures.

As a result, he was able to earn slightly more than others. He also ventured into construction work, and  he was able to do contract work together with his eldest son, who became our grandfather.

My grandfather was a very filial son and by 1910 my great grand father, my grandfather and grand uncle were able to build their first home and establish an Ice Factory across the Rajang River, opposite Sibu town. This was made possible because Rev James Hoover believed in putting as many Foochow men on their financial feet as soon as possible.

By then, my great grandfather who had been widowed since his early days in China,had married our step great grandmother who was a Chinese lady with bound feet. Great Grandmother was considered a very good match for great grandfather because she came from the educated class,had bound feet, and was a genteel lady.

Great grandfather and my grandfather believed in helping the poor and destitute families . One of the ways my grandfather did for poor people was to "buy"  or "boh" which actually meant adopted, their daughters who would otherwise be drowned. My grandparents thus "adopted " several daughters, including Tiong Yew Ping, who was raised by my Great Grandmother. Yew Ping later married into a good family in Bintangor. She is now a grandmother and a great grandmother herself!!

Now in her 80's she continues the Tiong family tradition of going to the Methodist Church and bringing up her children as God fearing and good and honest Christians. Yew Ping learned to read basic words during the Japanese Occupation. She was married into the Lau family in 1954, in Bintangor through a match maker.

According to her, she wore a white gown, had flower girls for her wedding. Her bridegroom wore a western suit and it was all very impressive and proper in the Methodist tradition. The flower girls carried paper roses which were patterned from designs brought from the US by Mrs. Hoover.
crepe paper roses carried by bride's maid and flower girls. We used to make these in primary school. According to an elder these flowers were made and sold to raise funds for China War Fund before the Japanese Occupation. Madam Luk Soon Ping in her book wrote an account of the girls making these flowers.

One of her best memories of my great grandfather was the Bible he owned. And because he was quite wealthy already, his Bible had "gold letters". Many Chinese Bibles had red letters (for words Jesus spoke) and black letters. But having gold letters, that Bible must have been very unique. She said that later after she was married, she came back several times after Great Grandpa passed away, she did not see that Bible any more.

Another great memory she had of our great grandparents was the little tin of goodies Great Grandpa kept in his bed room. When the kids came visiting him , he would pull the rope and pulley system and the tin would come down. Every child would be given a Manga Sweet or a biscuit. That was really a good treat from him. Although he was very stern and not so chatty, the grandchildren loved him. John, and  Richard were very young then, and together with Aunties Pick Sieng, Greta and Hong Sieng, during school holidays, they had a good time with their grand parents.

As we cousins conversed, we shared our Horlicks, the favourite drink of Great Grand father and Great Grand mother. In Foochow we call the Horlicks - Hor Lik Kek. That reminded me too, when later I visited Great Grandmother in Sg. Merah (probably 1956), she would always made a special cup of Horlicks for me, in her upstairs room.

Because Great Grandmother was a bound feet lady, she could not walk far. During the Japanese Occupation, the family had to find refuge in Bintangor and Sg. Merah. When the family moved to Bintangor, Yew Ping was the "maid" who had to bring food to Great Grandmother. When they hid in Sg. Merah , below the hills in the rubber tapper's house, Yew Ping had to make sure that Great Grandmother was safe and food was delivered to her. Life was hard then because Yew Ping was only 14 years old and she was a small sized girl too. She was quite terrified that she had to carry Great Grandmother, but fortunately my Grandfather was often at hand, and he was the one who carried his own step mother when the sirens sounded and they had to hide from bombs.

(Snippets are from the conversations shared by Yew Ping, Rosie and Changyi on 2nd August 2013 in Miri)

No comments:

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). ...