November 11, 2013

12 Pound Red Blanket

In the earlier days in Sibu, a bride's family would be busy planning for her dowry. She could get 3 or 6 or even 12 kinds of gifts, namely, sewing machine, bicycle, a bed, wardrobe,dressing table, mattress and pillow set TOGETHER with a red blanket, table, two German made chairs with lanterns, etc. All these will be carried each on two bamboo poles, around the town or village for all to see. The public would comment how good the parents were to provide so much for the bride!!

One of the biggest dowries sent out with a bride was my Third Aunt, Pearl Tiong. My mother used to tell us that she was really loved and well sent off.

My father's third brother, Uncle Hua King, married my Third Aunt, Lu Kie Kee and she also came to the Tiong family with many "tang" of bridal gifts.

Photo from e-bay (Sharland and Lewis) This blanket is priced more than US$ 100.00 now.



Made by Sharland and Lewis of Dorset, England, this woollen blanket was imported by Singapore and later retailed to shops in Sibu like Ta Sing and Ta Hing (still in High Street ,Sibu). The Foochows believe that this blanket would bring a lot of good luck to the bride and it would last her from her wedding day , see her through her confinements, old age sickness and then to her grave.

There have been lots of tales related to the RED BLANKET.

Any one interested in old time bridal practices, can write in to me. We should actually document all these stories in book form for future generation to read.

I hope a blanket like this can be exhibited in the Fuzhou History and Gallery in Upper Lanang in Sibu.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grandpa passed away at an old age. He had a 12-pound blanket only when he became sick, a month before he died. Until then, he slept on a simple bed made of few wooden planks and two long stools by himself. It was an era when one did not have a good life at all.

I would guess his 12-pound blanket must have become smelly because he fell ill and thus was difficult to control his urination. The doctor described his illness as old-man illness, quite commonly heard of in Sibu for old people when the doctor could not tell you exactly what happened. There was no checking of blood, etc., like that of nowadays.

Several days after he died, the uncles and father put his blanket together with his clothing and burnt them all near a rubber tree. I could only remember of a pole of fire going up straight into the sky at night. This was the mentality of first generation Chinese immigrants. They are Christians, but the brain was still traditional Chinese. The burning of belongings was to give it to the grandpa. That is why the Chinese burnt paper money (and now more, including houses, cars, etc.).... Was this too superstition? Look at Taiwan with those high tech people worshiping in front of the temples, either at home or outside .

The church warned the people not to burn paper money, but we still see it being done at the grave. Should the religion be interfering and eliminating the traditions of the people? I think it should not. Like the Ibans, much of their invaluable traditions have disappeared because of the teaching by the church. Those traditions of the natives around the world would never be recovered.

By the way, I saw my father writing down the address of my grandpa's village in China on a piece of paper sent to the local ground God. Then he started burning the paper money and we helped him. Because of that, I remembered the address, and that led me to visit my grandpa's village 40 years after his death, and perhaps nearly a century after his no-return trip to Sibu.

Some Chinese immigrants would glue a big boat made of bamboo and paper for the deceased, usually by the daughter(s), so that he/she could sail back to the Tang Kingdom (Tangshan). In fact, it was very common in those days to say that one returned to Tangshan when he/she passed away.

I wished we did not burn my grandpa's belongings, and the clothing and 12-pound blanket would stay until these days!

14-do boy

Ensurai said...

Dear 14 Do Boy, you have such a heart for your elders. Commendable. I read your comments with sadness because I feel the same way too. Yes if we actually follow the Christian way, the blanket would still be with you, after a good wash and a good drying in the sun!! Can I put your comment on my facebook to share with others? Thank you for writing.

Ensurai said...

Pl tell me about your trip to visit your China Village...It is really incredible. You have such a good memory.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please share it with others. Thank you

Ensurai said...

thanks. Done.

Anonymous said...

I have seen a case that when the wife died, everything related to her was either burnt or thrown away. The act seems to send the message that everything needs to be cut off, have a new start. I felt so sad in seeing that. The husband remarried later. My opinion is of that of anonymous - do we really need to burn everything of the deceased, not leaving some for remembrance of the loved one or the deceased was to be forgotten and not worth to be remembered? Seemed pathetic? Just my opinion! (Teresa)

Anonymous said...

Memories of sanba days, the wooden house in Sg. Baji Sarikei, my parents and my 7 siblings, wooden beds with mats of weed ( chao sik), mosquito nets and the 12 pound red blankets. My childhood. Thanks Chang Yi.

Anonymous said...

Mom says during the Japanese Occupation when they hear the drones of the Jap planes the 1st thing to do is to pull in this blanket that they put to air on the window sills.

Anonymous said...

Foochow families always have one in the house. WE buried this red blanket together with him when my Dad passed away in 1979. A real thick wool blanket.

Anonymous said...

Didnt know it is made in England! Thought all these while it is made in china like morning towel! Anyway, thanks for the story!

Anonymous said...

Ya, but I remember there are also some people who gave those away to very poor people! Which is ggood!

Anonymous said...

There was another story about the 12-pound blanket. My father told me that when he was small, he had one from my grandpa (now I wondered why my grandpa could afford it for the kid, whereas he himself did not own one). However, my great uncle was on his trip to attend a high school in Shanghai (so you could guess the time when this happened). Grandpa took the 12-pound blanket from my dad and gave it to the eldest son. As you could imagine, pillow and blanket were probably among our most precious belongings as a kid. We would hold them in our arms, smell them, chew them at the corner, and never let others take them. I could guess my dad was quite sad, and that is why he could still remember it until these days.

However, this eldest uncle was adopted as a little boy in China and came with our grand parents to Sibu. And yet grandpa never discriminated the adopted son. A few years before passing away, my grandpa gave the piece of land to the sons, including this adopted son but not his only daughter (though he has more than one daughter; one was given for adoption and another one died while young. I did write about the daughter given for adoption some where in this blog).

14-do boy

Ensurai said...

Thanks for this comment. It is painful yet sweet to remember. God bless.

Ensurai said...

I just found out the brand actually, although a long time ago my grandmother told me that many people had to buy the blanket from Singapore . In fact most Foochows with some money would order their bridal gifts from Singapore in order "to give the best". I did not look at labels in those early days.

Ensurai said...

Yes, you are right. Some people though cover the coffin with the red blanket. That was why many Foochows were quite terrified of the red blanket.

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