May 1, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : How the Rubber Tappers arrived in Sibu after the Pioneers

The Foochow Pioneers first arrived in Sibu in 1901 led by the famous leader Wong Nai Siong. Within just a few years most of the first pioneers prospered and soon they were sending letters back to Fujian, to their various home villages to invite their relatives to come to Sibu.

In 1928 for example, my maternal grandfather was earning enough profits to build 2 or 3 coolie hostels to invite at least 4 families from his village in Sixth District, Ming Chiang (Min-cing) to come out and join him. One of them was my uncle Lau Yung Chiong, the father of lau Kiing Giu, Lau Kiing Nang and Lau Kiing Meu. His daughters are Kiing Leng, Kiing Kie, Kiing Ming and Kiing Siu. All these new relatives who arrived in those years had to be "applied for" officially by our grand uncle, Lau Kah Tii because he was the head man and he had a lot of power. These letters had to be sent to the Rajah Brooke for approval Those who came on their own had a harder time getting their landing certificate. This I suppose is equivalent to receiving a PR today , under "reunion of family " category.

The usual arrangement for "bringing out" relatives from Fujian in those days would require the "benefactor" to vouch for the good character of the "new pioneer'. Upon the completion of the "application" the benefactor would send over a letter to invite the beneficiary to leave Fujian, and usually at the same time, send over the boat fares and other sums of money to cover incidental expenditure. This letter would have an approval stamp of the Rajah Brooke. When the new Foochows landed they were given a "landing certificate"

In my uncle Yung Chiong's case, there was no one better than him in character. He was educated, and he taught in many schools before he retired. He was also a headmaster of Tiing Nang Primary School,a school established by my grandfather.

(Upon arrival in Kuching, the beneficiary would receive his "landing certificate", which would have their thumb print, a Sarawak stamp and amazingly it was written in Chinese, using the Chinese brush. Most of the Foochows in those days would look like this . This is a photo of Wong Nai Siong in his younger days.)

The original Foochow pioneers were very generous to the new comers especially if they were close relatives, called "Same House Hold", "suo loh chuo" and "gern boon nieh" (same room) It must be the same as the Iban way of reckoning, "sama bilik".

For example, my maternal grandfather received his nephew Lau Yung Chiong very well. Immediately he "cut out 10 acres of his own land" to be given to him and that was how he and his wife prospered and raised a good family. It was a common practice for uncles to give land to their nephews or a well to do cousin, to give land to another cousin. This was the "filial piety" and mutual respect of the Fujian culture, in the sense that they "looked out for each other". As a result of this act of affection, my uncle and his wife were always very kind and respectful towards my grandmother and my mother and her siblings.

I think it is quite rare to find this kind of affections in the modern world.

(My maternal grandfather opened up the land in lower Nang Chong village and was given 100 acres of rubber land by the Rajah. This was part of the agreement with the Brooke government in those days. In the same way, hundreds of hectare land are now given to oil palm companies in the 21st century by the Sarawak State Government!!)

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