February 12, 2016

Foochow Roots : Dream Mountains

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My Chong uncles and aunties were an important part of my life when I was growing up in Sibu. Uncle Chong Chong Sing played the church piano in a sorrowful mournful way. We often wondered who taught him the piano. His daughter Dolly became our Wesley Church pianist too.

When we heard that the Chongs originated from Fuqing, China, we thought that it was very very far away from Minqing, and especially from Sibu. But we did not note any difference at all. Except that Grandmother Chong was every inch a Nyonya.

The Chongs are very academic and part of the family was Roman Catholic.

We never learned much about the Chongs because my father lost his mother when he was only 16. And he seldom talked about his mother's family any where. And we had few photos of the family from that period.

In later years I found out more through the grapevine.

I learned more when I visited Fuqing myself.

The county of Fuqing is a lovely place. It has a special mountain called Mr. Shizhu which is 10 km to the west of the Fuqing City. Made up of a series of mountain peaks it is now a very famous tourist place. Its highest peak, Zhuangyuan Peak rises 534 meters above sea level.

"The stones on the mountain can retain traces and are frequented by cranes, and its bamboos seem as if they scrape the sky and transform into dragons."

Fuqing is also famous for some very important award dishes like Noodles, seafood soups and other snacks.

Mt. Shizhu Taoist Temple looks like a castle in the air, with a special pink colourization which is very unique in this world. The temple is a shrine to 9 brothers who first practised Dao in Fuzhou. These nine brothers attained immortality, rode on a dragon and manifested themselves on Mt. Shizhu. Many people continue to come to this stone mountain and pray for immortality.

"Quite a number of scholars leisurely visited Mt. Shizhu in the past dynasties. Numerous carved stones on cliffs are still kept on the mountain at present. Zhu Xi of the Song dynasty, Ye Xianggao, Wang Shimao, and Xie Zhaozhe of the Ming dynasty, and Chen Baochen towards the end of the Qing dynasty all left behind precious inscriptions or poetical works. Xu Xiake, the great traveler and geographer of the Ming dynasty, sightsaw Mt. Shizhu out of admiration in middle June in the first Taichang year (1620). He called Mt. Shizhu "the most wonderful of cliffs".

Today, instead of climbing the long footpaths up the mountains for three or four hours, people can use the cable cars.

My paternal grandmother would have heard of Mt. Shuzhu from her parents and grandparents who migrated out of Fuqing but I hope that she is still looking out for her descendants, now spread all over New Zealand, Australia, the USA,Sarawak.

And I hope she would also smile knowing that her naughty grand daughter went up to Mt.Zhizhu to say a few prayers for the family on a very wet rainy day in 2015.


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