January 2, 2018
Nang Chong Stories : Child Bride from China
My maternal grandparents were still very conservative when they first came to Sibu as Pioneering Foochows in the first decade of the 20th century. My maternal grandmother herself was a child bride, bought for 5 silver dollars as she was purportedly 5 years old. In fact she was only 4 years and her biological father (Tiong) had wanted to earn an extra one silver dollar by upping her age by one year. Girls were being sold for a silver dollar for each year of their life.
Girls were regarded fairly worthless in the male dominant Fujian society in those days. According to my maternal grandmother, many baby girls were secretly killed (female infanticide) at birth by several methods - throwing into the river/well to drown, smother the new born in the fire place with the ashes, put the new born between the siblings and soon squashed to death in the night, or left in the hills to die or to be picked by someone. However the most humane way in those days was the raise the child for a few years and then sold as child bride, slave or to the brothels.
Those cruel acts resulted in many Christian orphanages for girls at the turn of the 19th century when the many women Christian missionaries came to China. Mrs. Muriel Pilley who served in China also had a mission to save girls from such tragic ends. She started the now famous Methodist Children's Home in Sibu in 1951.
My mother's eldest sister in law came to Sarawak with her family to settle down near Sarikei, at a place called Paloh. She might have been born in China but at a young age, her parents "sold" her to my maternal grandfather to help out with the family at first. She did go to school with the other children.
Years later during the Japanese occupation, when she was already married to my uncle, her biological brother did bring some sweet potatoes and rice to help out the family. By that time my maternal grandfather had passed away and my maternal grandmother was stranded in China. My eldest uncle and my aunt were the heads of the household.
During the Japanese Occupation, which was very trying and difficult, this child bride, all grown up, was a mother of three, was extremely capable in raising domesticated animals, carrying water from the river and planting padi besides looking after the 3 younger siblings of my uncle. My mother being the oldest unmarried sibling helped her in every way possible including baby sitting and padi planting.
My mother alone was able to harvest a lot of padi in the three years she cultivated the padi field behind the big house in Nang Chong.
My eldest aunt lived a long life and was able to see her children, especially her eldest daughter prosper. Her oldest daughter in law passed away in 2017.
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