During the Japanese Occupation, life was difficult for every one especially in the Chinese villages. The Japanese hated the Chinese and would love to kill them if possible. But usually, most of the Japanese would just slap them when they had a chance. This enmity between the Japanese and the Chinese was from ancient history.
When the Japanese arrived in Sibu, they were very much into taking over the town and running their government as they liked.
Food was scarce, people were scared and there was lots of bitterness too.
Girls were quickly married off for fear of rape and being forced to become comfort women.
My mother and her younger sister chose to be dressed up as boys and worked in the padi fields, with blackened face.
They worked hard but food was scarce.
One of the food on the table was the fermented shrimps which we Foochows called har chien. Cincaluk in Bahasa Malaysia. They had to be very frugal with even this dish.
They could only dip their chopstick into the sauce and ate some sweet potatoes. Sometimes when the har chien was gone, or had gone bad, it was only salt and sweet potatoes.
However after 3 years and 8 months, the Allied came and the Japanese surrendered.
March 24, 2017
February 27, 2017
I was born in Pulau Kerto. The birth was attended to by a local trained midwife, whom my father fetched from Sibu . He took the small boat across the River Rajang when my first time mother said that it was time and it was confirmed by the Confinement Lady, Sixth Aunt, or Sixth Sister to Mother.
Mum was brought up in the Foochow village of Ah Nang Chong, about 2 hours boat ride from Sibu. So she was used to riverine village life and the rearing of domestic fowls and animals. She was best in rearing pigs according to her.
When she married my father, then manager of the rice and ice mill (Hua Hong Ice Factory), she was all ready to raise her own domesticated animals and poultry for food. Living with a Grandmother in law also helped her gain confidence in an extended family life. She learned fast from Great Grandmother as they got along very well. That pleased both my grandparents, and my maternal grandmother.
My father was happy that his wife was a a capable one. She raised ducks, chickens and even goats.
Mum was most happy in the evening when she could call all the ducks home to the cage, below the house. Her "deee, deee,deee, deee" resonated ...During low tide, the ducks were dirty and during high tide they were very clean.
Mum would cluck her tongue and laughingly tell us, "See, we love our ducks by giving them food...and they are so obedient!!"
I suppose we kids grew up very obedient because we wanted to eat all the nice food she prepared. She continues till today to give us the best food, to show us love. <3 p="">
As kids we enjoyed watching the ducks grow bigger and bigger and at times we were extremely happy when mum called out how many eggs the ducks had laid. Sometimes she would go around the river banks to find the duck eggs, as some mother ducks were not good at laying their eggs at "home".
Chickens were free range and they roosted on the trees around our house. The goats were also tied to the higher grounds and they munched on the grass. It was fun watching them chew and munch away.3>
February 24, 2017
|This is my friend Chermai doing laundry on our Kapuas Bandong, using water which is pumped up from the Kapuas.|
Whenever we visited the village of my maternal grandmother, we would also meet grandmother's tenant who owned a MANDONG boat, which was a Chinese motor launch doubling as a riverine, mobile, sundry or grocer's shop. That was more than 50 years ago.
The word Mandong in Foochow must have come from the Indonesian word Bandong meaning floating house.
Huo Ang was the name of the uncle who owned the mandong floating shop and his wife and children lived on land, renting a unit from my grandmother. They were treated like close relatives.
Whenever Uncle Huo Ang came back, every other evening, we would all go to his boat to buy the last of his ice popsicles or Ais Potong. Grandma supported his business by giving us a few cents to spend. It was lovely to buy things in the small boat.
As the lights faded, Aunty, the wife of Uncle Huo Ang, would wash all his clothes at the back of the boat, drawing water with a pail. She would hang the clothes to dry in the wind. It was all very convenient because in the next few days, Uncle Huo Ang would have freshly washed clothes to wear as he pom pom from one bank of the river to the other, or from one village to another.
I remember he did not have a fridge, but he had a box with ice blocks for fish which he would get from as far away as the river mouth (Rajang). He did not do Daro, Mukah or Dalat as he was not good in languages.
To me it is always a happy time for women to be able to do laundry with lots of water from the river, or from rainwater stored in tanks. I miss washing clothes by the river side.
February 11, 2017
Singapore actually invented the Chicken Rice business. And then it also invented the Yee Sang.
Yusheng, yee sang or yuu sahng (Chinese: 魚生; pinyin: yúshēng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hî-seⁿ or hû-siⁿ), or Prosperity Toss, also known as lo hei (Cantonese for 撈起 or 捞起) is a Cantonese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (sometimes salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Yusheng literally means "raw fish" but since "fish (魚)" is commonly conflated with its homophone "abundance (余)", Yúshēng (魚生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor. (Wikipedia)
It became very popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. Later it spread to even Hong Kong in the 1970's. When the demand for the dish exploded, super markets even promoted the whole package of Prosperity Toss in boxes, to be bought and given as Chinese New Year gifts.
The salad today can be home made. You need 7 different colours of raw fish, shredded vegetables with peanuts and other crispy biscuits. A pre mixed sauce should be prepared.
Credits should be given to chefs Lau Yoke Pui, Tham Yui Kai, Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai, together known as the “Four Heavenly Kings” in the Singapore restaurant scene.
VIPs are usually asked to TOSS the yee sang on stage to lots of applause from rest of the diners...if a Chinese New Year celebration is held in a huge hall.
That's one of the merry making item...besides lion dance, fire crackers etc.
Cultural rituals can be INVENTED.
January 24, 2017
The Chinese will stick a red piece of paper with two words written on it Chang Man or "always full" on rice barrels, ceramic rice containers, or wine canisters,and barrels as very auspicious labels.
This will make the God of Fortune smile on the owners.
When Chinese New Year comes around, all these containers and receptacles will have new paper stickers.
The stickers auger positivity in the homes especially.
This is the signboard of a Miri Chinese cafe. Its name is Chang Man, or Always Full.
January 8, 2017
this well has been recently "refurbished" for church use in Kwong Hua area. It was probably dug in 1903 when the Foochow pioneers first arrived.
Well water is often considered cleaning and tastier than river water. When the Rajang became very polluted this well continued to give forth good clean water.
We continue to believe in a God whose grace is sufficient for us.
January 7, 2017
In 1972 my mother was desperately in need of blood and my uncle arranged for her to buy 2 pints of blood. For her next operation a few years later, she was able to obtain free blood because another uncle of mine was a blood donor. Paying 700 dollars for a pint of blood was an astronomical sum in those days.
It was difficult to obtain blood in Sibu and many trishaw drivers who took patients to the Lau King Howe Hospital also made a few bucks from their blood. The non Bumi patients were only too willing to pay. In fact one man was even willing to provide blood either from himself or from his group of friends for a fee.
Several years later, Dr. Judson Sakai ensured that all Sarawakians should have free blood from Red Crescent Blood Bank. That also stopped hospitals calling up Dayak students in Upper Forms to donate blood. Even in 1974 my husband was called to donate a pint of blood to save a Chinese woman in Limbang from her death. He of course did not charge for his blood. Many students in Tanjong Lobang also were hauled by the hospital in Miri to give blood.
To encourage people to give blood, the hospital awarded the donor with a bottle of Guiness Stout or a bottle of Brand's Essence of Chicken and two eggs after the transfusion.
Our English Principal Mr. KV Wiltshire was very ahead of his time and he encouraged all of us his Sixth Form Students, above the age of 18 to give blood and to save lives. He also got his wife, Pauline to donate as often as possible. He was training us to be Socially Responsible.
This newspaper cutting from See Hua Daily News, reports Methodist School students donating blood. The donor is Datin Siti Zahrah b.Datuk Hussaini. Standing are from left, Tan Kui Chiang and Sheila Kang.
The photos are by Wong Meng Lei who has written much about the history of the Foochows in his blog, The Rajang Basin, SIBU
Here are some photos of 光華與丁興俊故居位置圖
The house was was built in 1936.
thank you Meng Lei for the lovely photos.