October 20, 2015

Sibu Tales : Seller of Ginseng

The bian dang was a great lever used when the Foochows first came to Sibu in 1900's> Led by Wong Nai Siong and Lik Chiong, the Foochow pioneers were very honest people who worked hard and were very religious and disciplined.

Most Foochow men were glad they could cut many shoulder poles from the bamboos found along the river banks of the Rajang in the early days.

A shoulder pole or bian would help the men and the women carry more load as they walked from place to place. It was considered an earlier "vehicle" than the wheel barrow.

This photo from Google reminded me of the stories told by our teachers in school about the early days in Sibu . The late Mr. Lau Tieng Sing, Mr. Lu Yew Nieng, Mr. Eu How Chong and even Mr. Deng Wang Chiew, during more relaxed times like Sit-ins would regale us with stories of the pioneering days of the Foochows in Sibu.

One such story was about men and women who sold goods from village to village.

And this particular one was related to the man who sold ginseng and other herbs. He would obtain his supplies from Poh Nguong and then he would walk from house to house. Ginseng was not really affordable in those days, but Pak Ding (8 Treasures), Chow Yi Jar (Smelly Root) and Perillia were more affordable. Besides, it was cheaper to get from this kind of peddler than for a housewife to take a boat to go to Sibu. It would have really be a waste of a good day's labour!!

Why did he sell ginseng and herbs and walked from village to village? Probably he had no other skills like tailoring, or carpentry. And he claimed to earn just a few cents from each packet he sold. Cheap but good

And he would call out in his loud Foochow voice, " Seng", "Yong Seng", "Pau Seng", "Seng Di" AND SOMEtimes he would sing a few Foochow folk songs under the cool shady leaves of the rubber garden roads.

That was even before the coming of the bicycle to Sibu.

And then one day, he just did not come again to one village.

And the reason was because he accused one relative of stealing his ginseng. This ginseng seller would go from house to house and when night fell, he would get accomodation from a relative, where he would stay for the night, and of course get a free meal.

But one day he found he had some precious ginseng missing and he started to accuse his relative of stealing.

In those days, theft and telling lies were the worst sins any Foochow would commit. And it was very rare actually to find a thief amongst the early Foochows. Liars were often reprimanded by none other than Rev James Hoover himself!!

The social mores then were very strict Methodist culture.

Perhaps his accusation was wrongly directed and he was advised not to come any more. Or perhaps he got a new job or move some where else.

No body liked to be wrongly accused of stealing.

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