August 3, 2014

The Valley of the White Lily : A Lost Story

This blog post is written with the help of Steve Ling who was in China for his journalistic work on Fuzhou Archive work with Wong Meng Lei. Upon his return, he visited Tai Tung School to find out more. He had written his newspaper report in Chinese for the United Daily Newspapers.

My interest in Empawah history and other parts of the Rajang continues thus with another gem.


In every Chinese village in the Rajang Valley, there would be a small primary school established either by the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church or a group of well intentioned Chinese who had accumulted some money earned from the exciting new cash crop, rubber in the 1910 - 1950 period.

Oen of the extraordinary founders of a Chinese Primary School is this story which only surfaced recently written by my friend and fellow blogger Steve Ling (Going Places). Since I am trying my best to document the oral stories and history of the Foochows of the Rajang, I am writing the story in English here.

Mr. Sia Yu Wu ( 謝佑伍) cam from Fuzhou, China and lived in Empawah from 1912 to 1920 helped to establish a primary school

1951 School Entrance - which is no longer being used. The new school building is along the main road.
During the Second World War the schools were closed for 5 years.

Tai Tung No 2, a very pleasant  wooden primary school in Empawah today.

Mr. Sia's son, Professor Sia , 73 years old and Professor's  daughter , Associate Professor, Sia Chung Rong, interviewed by United Daily Newspaper of Sibu in China. Photo by Steve Ling.

Today, 2014 Tai Tung Primary School has about 70 students, from Kindergarten to Primary Six, 15 teaching and non teaching staff. It is interesting to find why Tai Tung School is registered as Tai Tung No.2 Primary School. And who were the actual founders of the school?

By 1916, there were three separate schools in this progressive village.  Hwa Yong Primary School, founded in 1916 by the Catholic Church  became the earliest Chinese primary school in Empawah. This school was rebuilt three times and it became the Tai Tung Primary School no.1It was founded by Hii Seng Chiong, Hii Koh Kwong, Yong Ing Tah, Hii Yiik Nguok, Hii Doh Keng, Chiong How Poh and others. The Chairman of the Board was Hii Koh Kwang許高匡 and the Headmaster was Wong Kwong Yii黃廣譽 .

 The second school, Hwa Yuk Primary Schoo was established in 1936 . However it was only registered in 1948. The school founders were Wong Dak Gii,Wong Ming Hui, Hii Wong Chiew, Ling Hie Ling, Wong Bik Kii. The Chairman of the board was Wong Dak Gii and the Headmaster was Ting Ding Ming.
 The Chairman of the Board was Hii Koh Kwang許高匡 and the Headmaster was Wong Kwong Yii黃廣譽 .

The third school,Hwa Ming Primary School, was established in 1952. However in 1954 the school board applied to the Education Department to have its name changed to Tai Tung School no.3. It was during this time that the Education Department and the locals decided to amalgamate all the three primary schools to form one school to consolidate human and financial resources.

During an interview in Fuzhou, China, the son of the late Sia  Yu Wu,Professor Sia TeckYew, stated that unknown to many people his father had gone to work in Sarawak and even helped to establish a primary school in the village where he was living.  The late Sia had told his children many times about his stay in Sarawak, which was the period  before he got married. He eventually, like many other migrant Foochows, had to return to China because of urgent family matters. Although Professor Sia  knew that his father had little or no contact with Sarawak during the "Revolutionary Period" in China, his father must have some news from his friends about the change of name of the school to Tai Tung.

In 1958 his father was imprisoned for counter revolutionary activities for 8 years which he served fully. However he was not released from prison and he passed away in the prison in 1969.The late Mr. Sia is survived today by 2 sons.

This is an amazing story which has been revealed by the reportage skills of Steve Ling Leh Tiong who was fortunate in meeting up with the son of Sia Yu Wu in Fuzhou, China.

 Ref :

(a) Foochow Settlement 50th Anniversary Magazine 1901-1950))
(b) Interview with Prof Sia Teck Yew in Fuzhou, China  by 聯合日報記者)

All names are in Foochow Pinyin. 

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