January 25, 2017

Nang Chong Stories : The Death of My Maternal Grandfather

translated from Uncle Lau Pang Hung's Article published in "Kapitan Lau Kah Tii's Memorial Book"



"My late uncle Lau Kah Chui was born in 1882,on the 8th day of the Sixth Month of the Lunar Calendar. He passed away in 1944, 23rd day of the Fifth Month, at 8 a.m. He was only 63.

I can specifically remember a lot about him because he was such a loving uncle.

When I got to know him as an uncle he was already 50_. He kept an unshaven chin and as a kid with the others we were most scared of his rough chin. He would tease us by rubbing his chin on our faces. We used to hide from him when he approached us.

He loved his water pipe. Using a rolled up piece of paper he would light his pipe. We loved listening to the  bubbling sounds of the water in his pipe, forgetting our fear of his beard!!

My "young" uncle was a man with a good heart and very mild nature. He loved all of us, his nephews especially from his older brother. I remember lazing around in the hot afternoons, using his lap as my pillow. And when he carried us around playfully we would begged him now to tickle us with his beard.

There were about 10 of us children, of about the same age in the big home, and we enjoyed listening to him singing Foochow folk songs. As a adult who had almost no education at all, he had a very good memory for folk lore and moral stories. Here is a folk poem I learned from ...we recited this every time he was with us and that was how we learn to memorize all the words

 (This is my Foochow Pinyin)

Hui nang nging
kWONG nang nang
pah tieh peng
pek loh pan
loh peng ah oo lung kung
au muong kuoh tii chong
chong mo wui

kuo jik buoh,
buoh mui wong
sien tii lan lak beh dui wong
Dui Wong hui tung sieh
bien kii siek
kii siek meh kii ong
bien hu liong
hoo lion meh nieng ging'
bien tiek ding
tiek ding meh ding char
bien yah mah
yeh mah meh siek chou
bien tongtou
tong tou meh tang soon
bien liong soon
lion soon eh ar moh being tie su
tie su meh jok erh
bien chow eh
chow eh meh gak tang
bien sing nang
sing nang meh gah chu
bien tu duh
tu duh meh giek wan
bien mi guong
mi guong meh liong me
bien la li
la li meh tuk too
bien wong ngu.
wong ngo meh song gek
bien gie gek
....(to be continued)

IN 1934 my uncle decided to build his separate house in Ah Nang Chong because his 200 acres of rubber land was helping him gain quite a fortune. His large house was in fact by today's reckoning as large as five double storeyed terrace houses  on stilts.

We were very reluctant to see him move away from Ensurai. The Rajang was a big river then. It would take an adult one hour to pedal a boat to see him if the tide was not in his favour.

When he moved away he was still a very strong man, able to carry a bag of rice weighing 180 katis. He could haul the bag onto his shoulders without any one helping him!! What a strong man!!
 However not long after he was afflicted with small intestine problems. He was operated on and he lost a lot of his original strength. In fact he had to wear a brace made by the doctor to stablize his stomach area, especially when he walked. In fact the doctor also placed a metal ball, the size of a small fist in this brace to uphold his small intestine. This internal ailment of his weakened his entire body until his dying days.

My uncle loved to sip a bit of his wine or brandy every evening. He liked glutinous rice wine, Ngu Ga Pui, Xiao Xin Wine, Ax brand Brandy, Martell, XO, Mou Tai, Napoleon Brandy etc.

The most unfortunate happened towards the end of the the 1930's. Our Foochow settlers faced once again another misfortune - the falling prices of rubber, our cash crop. Life became very harsh for everyone. The padi fields were not giving forth enough food for my uncle's family and he was ill, too weak to do much. The Japanese occupied Sarawak and medical services were not available at all, especially in the rural areas. Besides, my aunt, his wife and their second son were stranded in China due to the war.Image may contain: 1 person, glasses

Towards the end of the Japanese Occupation, his illness worsened and he called my father to his bed side, "My Second Older brother, I have to go first in this world." Every relative who was by the bedside started crying.

We all believed that he was going to live longer. However after returning from his A Nang Chong house we felt a discomfort. The next day, early in the morning, we decided to pedal our small boat across the river again to see him. However half way across the river, we heard the fire crackers and my father realised that it was too late to see his younger brother for the last time.

The solemnity of the firecrackers thus announced the end of the life of a remarkable but humble younger brother of the Foochow Headman."

Translated by Chang Yi.
Originally written in Chinese by Uncle Lau Pang Hung,1990.



January 24, 2017

Always Full

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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 21, 2017

Miri Stories : First Padi Scheme, Pujut

The Miri Resident , Mr. Gilbert, in the post war period (1946-1949) mooted the idea of developing the Pujut area into a padi scheme with more than 100 Iban families. Many Ibans from Rumah Jimbun responded which caused the Resident to be rather positive about a good harvest in 1949.

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Photo from Google. Gilbert Estate, named after the then Resident

Furthermore he recruited these Ibans from Sibuti and even as far away as Simanggang (now Sri Aman). In those days, these Iban settlers were referred to as  Kampars, which in modern translation is "indentured servants" who had to pay for their own passage and food after a certain period of time. In fact a lorry load of them came with the leader. According to a piece of news, the leader tried to catch his hat that was blown away by the wind. He jumped from the moving vehicle and was killed instantly. Saddened by this death, the "kampars" were not sure whether they should settle in Pujut under the rice production scheme. but without any further persuasion, they surprised the Resident that they would stay on and plant padi.

In this way Pujut area of Miri was settled by Ibans who came with government help and encouragement. The padi settlement scheme was a success.

How it became a beautiful up market multi-racial residential area is another story in  this blog!!

January 20, 2017

Sibu Tales : Local Breweries

Breweries were very much favoured Foochow enterprises. they have always been profitable.

There are two famous breweries in Sibu, all situated along Lanang Road.
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Photo from Google


Cap Apek and Cap Langkau are the usual names used to describe the cheap liquors sold in Sibu.

It has always been a case of great concern when people over drink during the festive seasons and many actually die from alcoholic overdose.

However no matter how much the elders do to discourage youngsters from drinking locally brewed beverages or liquors, many continue to overdose and suffer the fatal  consequences.

January 12, 2017

Sibu Tales: Festive Lanterns


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My paternal grandfather was a very frugal man and he was not the type who had lanterns for occasions. Nor were my maternal uncles and aunties.

I don't remember any one in the 1950's have have decorative and festive lanterns in Sibu.

Decorative lanterns only came in when the commercial lanterns became available with the opening up of China and shops selling Chinese goods started to spring up every where.
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Chinese commercial festive lanterns have spread to the UK. Photo I took a few years ago.
Back to our Foochow customs, here is an interesting extract about lanterns:

On the fourth day of the lunar new year, the younger brother of a newly-married woman must send a huadeng (decorated lantern) to the house his sister joined.

In Fuzhou dialect, deng is the homonym of ding, which means family member in Chinese. The act of sending a lantern is seen as a favorable symbol of sending a newborn family member.

"At the day of sending the lantern, people can often see in the streets young boys dressed in brand-new clothes, shouldering a sugarcane with a lantern hung at one end of it," said Lin Yichai, another elderly Fuzhou native.
The errand of sending the lantern is quite remunerative for the young runner, as the child will be indulged to eat to his heart's content at the house and will receive a handsome yasuiqian (money given to children at Spring Festival as a gift).
But it also takes him some effort to earn the reward, as he has to endure the embarrassment and heckles from his peers on the way to the home.

January 11, 2017

Nang Chong Stories : Sourcing for Food during the Japanese Occupation

During the Japanese Occupation my mother often had to row her own boat, and sometimes with a group of friends, towards Sg. Assan, above Pulau Kerto, to collect "buckets of paku".



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The rowing of boats by Foochow women was a normal, daily chore. It was not surprising at all. It would be like driving a car or a motor cycle today.

The Foochow women would follow the timing of the tides. When the tide rose, they would pedal upriver to collect the paku or ferns. And after two or three hours, the tide would ebb and they quickly followed the flow of the river water back.

Going home was an easy task according to my mum. And it would often be just right for the evening meal. Sometimes it would be for the afternoon meal.

Mum said during that period of 3 years and 8 months, they had to be careful not to be seen by Japanese boats. But fortunately God protected them and very few Japanese soldiers would patrol along the rather remote part of that special area of the Rajang.

(Note: Sg Assan already had a small Foochow community. In the next few decades after the war,  a Methodist Church and a school were built led by my mother's cousin, Lau Tiew Nguong who was a great local evangelist.)


January 8, 2017

Sibu Tales : Wells

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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

Sarawakian Local Delights : The Making of Kuih Jala

The Ibans also call their Gawai kuih Sarang Semut (Ant's Nest). It is a nice, crunchy kuih made from rice flour, gula apong and a touch of salt.No automatic alt text available.

How a very special mould must be used. It is made from coconut shell and small holes are punched through the bottom of the "mould". The batter is pour into the mould and small trails of batter comes out like tiny strings. These are dropped into a small kuali with hot oil. Soon a small kuih is made. Very delicious.
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The making of the kuih jala in the longhouse is often a social and cultural act, when an elder passes on her skills of making this traditional kuih to younger ones in the family. Together the ladies would sit in the kitchen and share tips in the making of this kuih. Once the younger generation has learned how to make this kuih, the elders would beam with pride, knowing that a skill has been passed on.Image may contain: indoor

It is sad in some longhouses according to some senior ladies that many youngsters do not wish to learn this skill.
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The youngsters often comment, "We can buy them from the supermarket. So why should we learn how to make them?"

But the good news is, very often some girls and even some boys would like to learn from their elders. So the skill will not entirely die off.

January 5, 2017

Sibu Tales : Blood Donation



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.
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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.


January 3, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : 3 kg Grouper



He is a banker, working in Bank Bumiputra but he and his wife are also part time fisherfolks who work very hard.

With the help of handphones he can quickly sell his fish. His customers are always happy with his catch.

You cannot get fresher fish than this in Miri!! How blessed we are!!

January 2, 2017

Sibu Tales : The Oldest House in Sg. Sadit






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.

January 1, 2017

Hairdressing Service in Rumah Ugap


Short term mission of Grace Methodist Church, Miri. Hair dressing is a popular ministry.

Here at Rumah Ugap we enjoyed ourselves cutting hair!!



Sibu Tales : Water Chestnut

Fresh water chestnuts in Miri Years ago it was hard to get fresh water chestnuts in the market in Sibu. Usually mothers would desperat...