Friday, February 22, 2013

Synopsis Great-Grand Father Kwong Kwok comes to Borneo

                                                 Great-Grand Father Chan Kwong Kwok 
 At 18, Great-Grand Father Chan Kwong Kwok was a Xiu Cai (an equivalent of a bachelor’s degree). He was the only Xiu Cai in the village. Unfortunately, because the family was poor, he could not pursue his further studies to the ultimate the Zhuangyuan(状元), (the equivalent of a PhD).

Great-Grand Father was headhunted and offered the position of the “governor”, the head of this big company Kong Nan Seng Agricultural Co, in August, 1907. The directors of the company scouted Great-Grand Father because they found him well educated and an upright man of high calibre.  

When Great-Grand Father sailed, he left my Great-Grand Mother Lee Ngan Kiew back in Kwong Ning.  Great-Grand Mother Lee Ngan Kiew  remained a grass widow through out the time Great-Grand Father was in Borneo.


This is a journal of two families, the Chans and the Kongs. It traces the first movement in 1907 from Guangchou, China to the jungles of Borneo. It is a six generational record with the second wave of movement to England, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, USA and New Zealand. The journal begins from the author’s great Grand father Chan Kwong Kouk and centres on the life of the author’s father John Chan Hiu Fei until his demise in 2006.

The Opium War in China leads to the long and miserable ship journey to the South Seas. In Borneo the early immigrants survive in the virgin tropical jungle and plant rubber and pepper.

In 1940 to 1945, the families suffer the atrocities of the Japanese World War, It led to a marriage of convenience of a Cantonese, John Chan Hiu Fei and a Hakka, Kong Wah Kiew. For John, it was to avoid being conscripted into the Japanese Army. For Wah Kiew, it was to escape from being forced into a Comfort woman or unpaid sex worker for Japanese soldiers. A family feud ensued because of such a hurried liaison.

The families lived through colonial days, a revolution, a United Nations referendum, the merger of Sarawak to the formation of Malaysia, a “Konfrontasi” a secret war, a racial riot, and a  fight with the communist jungle rats.

John and Wah Kiew migrated to start a new life to Australia. Wah Kiew dies from a serious car accident in 1988. With a broken heart, John returned to Sarawak and lived for 18 years. In 2006, he died partially fulfilling a Chinese spouse’s pledge, “let us die on the same year, same month and same day.”

1 comment:

  1. Zhuangyuan 状元 referred to the candidate who came in first in the Imperial Examinations. Followed by Bang Yan 榜眼 (2nd) and Tan Hua 探花. Generally the successful candidates were called 進士, meaning these scholars were accredited as worthy to be presented to the emperor.
    S Y Chiew