November 27, 2015

My Maternal Cousins fro, Sibu,Sarikei and Kuching

Ah Ping and her husband Wong Sing Ai, Ah Hoo and his wife, Yuk Ong and his wife, Ing Kwong, Siew Kwong and her husband Ing Seng.

Lau Kiing Tuan, with Third Aunt and their children and grand children. Four generations here.

November 26, 2015

Sibu Tales : Ungrateful relatives

Most families are large amongst the Foochows of Sarawak.

This was because when the Foochows first came to Sarawak they brought with them their culture, values and agricultural practices from Fujian. In 1901, they settled in the delta of the Rajang, which was actually quite a lonely and prohibitive, mosquito and vermin infested area. The land needed drainage and the Rajah Brooke did not know any better, only hoping against hope that these Chinese agriculturists would come and develop that region and make it prosperous like the Yangtze region, which he had only heard about!!

The hardworking Foochows' reputation was further confirmed by people who introduced them to him. Hence Wong Nai Siong was given the green light to bring in 3 batches of Foochow farmers at the invitation of the Rajah, and promises of allowances were given in return for the land that they would "wake up from their deep slumbers".

Life was tough, flood was regular, many died from diseases, snake bites took many hundreds of lives. In fact in one way a plague like disease struck them until one Foochow man commented, "To day I carry many corpses for burial, tomorrow I would not know who will carry me to my grave."

It was in such hard times that a Foochow man brought out three of his distant relatives to work in his rubber estate. He gave them free board and food and treated them as his own for five years. the wife raised pigs, chickens and planted vegetables and padi for every one and there were easily four tables in their kitchen. To this man, it was good because every one was helping out. A small token salary was also given out the the relatives who were working for him. Food was any way fairly easy to come by.

The relatives got married and soon moved away and they prospered.

But in no time, they forgot about the man who vouched for them to land in Sarawak. They also forgot how he and his family provided fro them for five good years.

This was a common story amongst the Foochows in the 1920's and 1930's.

When the Second World War broke out this Foochow man was in need of medication, while his own sons were stranded in China and his wife had passed on  some years before the war.. His rubber garden was untapped and all his relatives had moved on. It was good that his only daughter came to help him out.

He told his daughter to forgive and to forget because the only factor of their dire straits was his ill health. He had exhausted himself. Time was hard for every one. And he blessed his daughter like any good Foochow father would. He then died peacefully in his sleep. He had tried his best to live 40 years in Sibu. And he had raised 3 educated children.

His two very educated sons returned to Sibu and inherited his land and slowly brought the rubber garden to life again, even though it was a big struggle.

His daughter had married a poor scholar and as soon as the war was over she "returned to China" and joined the Chinese revolution.

We must always remember those who have helped us along our life's journey. We have to bless them in return. This is the only way for God's kingdom to prosper.

November 23, 2015

Sibu Tales : Unhappy "Nail in the Eye" Ghost

There was once a very poor family in which a duaghter in law would do all the work like a slave, planting vegetables, reared ducks and chickens for both meat and eggs.

The mother in law ill treated her because she had four daughters and one son and the only one living with her. The other two sons and their wives were overseas being better educated.

This son worked in timber in Indonesia and was known to have another wife in Indonesia, as was a common practice in those days by most Foochow men. Some good Foochow men did not keep a secondary wife when they worked in the timber camps.

While the son was working away in Indonesia and coming home only for Chinese New Year, the mother in law Ill treated the daughter in law and her ill treatments were well known through out the town and villages.

Finally the health of this daughter in law suffered as she did not go to hospitals fo checkups after her five children were in their teenage. She kept working and selling duck and chicken eggs until one day she fainted in the market.

She was diagnosed with kidney failure and that actually would cost the family a lot of money. And indeed within a year, she died because she just gave up and did not wish for treatment. By then her eldest daughter was already working and life was slightly better, but she could not have good medical treatment, which was also not so readily available in Sibu in those days.

When her husband sent back money, it was to his mother's account and she any way did not get a single cent.

She then just died a slow death.

However after her death, her mother in law started seeing visions of her in the house, by the river side and especially in the chicken coops. She chose to move in with her richer sons in another city.

Perhaps the mother in law then felt that she had come back to haunt her. It was said by many people that the mother in law went to many temples to burn some joss sticks in her memory but the ghostly visits did not abate.

By then the children were already studying in boarding schools, as arranged by the local headmen and had government scholarships. Somehow their father also did not come back to Malaysia.

One day the ghost "travelled" to Indonesia and her unfaithful husband died while working in his office. The doctors found many bruises on his neck which looked like two hands which stranged him. The man was certified dead by the camp medical team.

The mother in law was put into a nursing home by her smarter sons and no one heard about her ranting and raving any more.

The local people had this to say about the mother-in-law : "She was never able to accept another woman in her life. This good daughter in law was like a nail in her eye."

The Chinese word Peace and Tranquility is denoted by ANG, which is made up at the top, Roof and at the bottom, Woman. So Ang is represented by One Woman under One Roof.

Sequel to the story:

My cousin moved to Miri about ten years ago and she told me the end of the story.

Fast forward to 1970's . My cousin was already an aging lady when she passed by a small little house which had a shrine somewhere in the kampong. Apparently, the villagers claimed that a lady ghost came to the dream of one of the "good women" of the village and told her to burn joss sticks under a certain tree in the village.

When this lady woke up, she was speaking in tongues and the local medium was called. The whole incident was interpreted as a gift from an unhappy ghost. The villagers must build a shrine to the ghost. The medium also said that the shrine should be dedicated to this Sieng Goo because she wanted more people to burn joss sticks for her to redeem all the agonies she suffered while alive.

As a result the shrine was built for this Sieng Goo and later, many women who burned joss sticks for her received the correct and winning 4D numbers.

Her fame spread.

(Note : But how true are all these stories, only that particular village people would know. My cousin is a believer of mediums, sieng goo and Kwang Ing.)

November 19, 2015

Sibu Tales : "Returning to the Homeland"

Before Malaysia was formed, Sarawakian Foochows were free to travel to China. The Pioneering Foochows came in 1901 and many actually went back to China for many reasons, for funerals, to tend to the aging parents and grand parents, to find wives for themselves and their son, for medical treatment, for further education and sometimes to spend their last days.

Hence "returning to the homeland" was a big deal.

Photos taken in those days would also have captions written at the bottom of the photo. This is a good way to help relatives to remember the occasion, and this particular photo would probably be taken back to China to Gutian, especially for the Tiong relatives and other friends. The message was also very clear, "We are doing fine in Sarawak."

Photos like these are very meaningful because they tell us what people were wearing, whether economically they were already stable etc. And this photo particularly tells us that the Foochows were still very God fearing. The caption says that the Church Sing Hook Tong's committee members bid farewell to Rev and Mrs. Wong Lee Huo. 1948 (May 11th)

God helps those who are faithful to prosper. One of our most fervent Methodists in the history of Sibu is Uncle Tiong Wang Ming.

November 18, 2015

Sibu Tales : Chopping of chicken Head in Temple

Have you ever heard of two women going to a temple to end a dispute by ordering a chopping off of  chicken head?

How did this practice originate among the Chinese? It was held fairly frequently in Sibu, at the various temples when I was a child.

There is a historical origin of this practice.

It was Qing legal system whi enabled both plaintiff and defendant to make a promise in the temple and write it along with a curse or punishment on a piece of yellow paper. Then they killed a chicken, chopped off its head, let its blood drip onto the  paper and burned the paper.

It was believed that because the promise was made before the gods, if an untruth had been told by one of the parties concerned, he/she would suffer the indicated punishment. 
Many Chinese were very willing to Chop of Chicken Heads at the temple....and also they did not trust the British Legal System of Sarawak then.
Quite often we hear of women asking for chopping off chicken headswhen they wanted justice to be done.

 That was as good as saying that they had told the truth, or that they wanted fair hearing of their case.

So if I tell you that I have told you the truth and you don't believe me, I would lead you to the temple, with a chicken under my arms, and then chop off its head...rather brutal isn't it? But it does prove a point.

Go figure it out....

November 10, 2015

Sibu Tales : Chicken Feet

When the cold storages started to open in Sibu, my family was so happy about one particular product : chicken feet.Image may contain: food

My mother would cook the chicken feet in several different ways : soup with old cucumber and red dates, braised chicken feet, dim sum style chicken feet with black beans...and later I added Thai style salad chicken feet (boneless).

Eating of chicken feet saved a lot of money for those budget conscious families.

And there were also many family stories related to chicken feet: mum would save the chicken feet from my confinment months and keep them for special meals of chicken feet, and quite often she would also buy chicken feet from the cold storage (Ah Huat) for my grandmother who lived in Ah Nang Chong.

We used to eat lots of chicken feet as snacks and swap stories. That would have been my favourite times with my cousins in Ah Nang Chong.

But the best were the wedding banquets that we had in Ah Nang Chong when so many chickens were slaughtered and the feet saved for Siak Pah Rang...meaning getting together to eat a specially prepared dish...and also not to waste food...

Siak Pah Rang is no longer practised I think....

November 5, 2015

Sibu Tales : First Cars

The first car in Sibu was probably the car which was driven by the District Officer, or the Resident.

No one now had ever seen it. It must have been 1920's when the first car arrived.

But the stories were amusing and of course awesome.

There were also no photographs of cars of those days in Sibu.

For example, how did my father learn to drive in the 1940's. Who did he learn from? Did he learn to drive in Kuching?

Here is an amusing story: When the first car was driveng by the D.O. people were scared that they would be knocked down and die and instant death.

So many people then, walking along the road woud jump into the bushes whenever they heard the car coming towards them or from behind.

An uncle remarked "We were young then. It did not matter if the bushes were thorny. We wanted to save our lives!! When the car passed, we would heave a sigh of relief and mind you, our hearts were really beating fast. We were scared to death!!"

November 2, 2015

Nang Chong Stories : Fish Eggs

In the olden days, fish eggs were given away with the fish one bought. Sometimes those eggs not taken by the consumers were also given free to those older people who needed the nutrition.

When my uncles caught fish, they would always reserve the fish eggs for my grandmother.

The fish eggs were usually steamed, sometimes separately, sometimes together with the fish. It was an act of filial piety.

A good fishmonger, of Sibu,our family knew would keep some fish eggs for a few older people, who were weak and sickly.

In those days, I thought he was very kind and generous. Genuinely good person.

It was a very nice gesture from this guy. I once noticed a poor old man coming by his stall and pointed out to the cheapest fish to buy less than a dollar of the fish.

"Enough for lunch and dinner ", the old man said.

And Ah Boon, bless his good heart, without saying anything, wrapped up some fish eggs and gave to him.

The purchase was less than 1 dollar then.

Later Ah Boon whispered to me that the poor man did not have much rice even.

But the scene remains in my memory. What a good man Ah Boon was. He was doing exactly what the Bible says, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38.

Praise God we have good people to be our role models.

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). ...