Thursday, February 28, 2013

Methodist Secondary School, Sibu

This is Methodist Secondary School in Sibu.  Many of the Chan Clan have been nurtured by this school.

My Father John Chan taught there for many years until he went to England. 3 of his children went there, Elizabeth, Charles and myself. I went through the Methodist system for all my school education.

Uncle Fung Fei studied there, and his daughter Catherine Chan Meow Liang taught there and was the Senior Assistant until she retired.

Uncle Mark Wan Fei studied there when he came from China at age 14.

Cousin Ngieng Lee Lee.

Cousins Kim Sia and her siblings were students there.

Cousin Chok Dou and his wife Toh Teng Ping studied and taught there.

Cousin Kong Chui Yoke.

What a strong connection we have. If there was a function, we would occupy more than one table.

Step Grandmother aka Say Bo's 100th birthday

Sister Elizabeth gives a love gift/ hongbao to Say Bo.

The descendents of Father John Chan Hiu Fei above, all the family of Say Bo below.

In August 2012, Say Bo celebrated her 100th birthday. What a blessing. I wasn't in Sibu because I was in New Zealand.

I say it is a blessing, because back in 1968, Say Bo almost didn't make it.

Say Bo had kidney stones on both her kidneys. She went up to Kapit with 4th Aunt Yok Ing. Kapit is a small town up river, a day’s motor launch trip away.  This surgeon agreed to operate on the bigger stone first, but there was no blood bank. 
The Chinese at that time did not believe in donating blood, it must be some sort of Feng Shui beliefs. They believed that part of the donor’s aura will be passed to the recipient and hence affect his wellbeing.
In 1977, I told 3rd Aunty Siew Ying that I donated blood in Canada and continued to do so in Sarawak, she scolded me.
To get blood then, one has to find an agent who would find someone willing to “donate” blood for a fee. In Say Bo’s case, he found two trishaw cyclists. We had to pay for their return fares from Sibu to Kapit, their hotel rates, food and a “small” token of appreciation. This small token was by no means small; it was about a hundred dollars per pint.  One of the “donors” was a seasoned old hand, but the other was a novice.
Before this novice went to face the music, he went to see Say Bo.
He said, “Grand Ma, I am doing this for you.” He was very frightened as he was very pale and holding onto Say Bo’s hands tightly.
The surgery was a success but it left her very weak. She came to out house to recuperate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Motor launches of Rejang River

(Photos Courtesy Francis Chen)
To the children growing up in Sarawak, Borneo, along the 350 miles long Rejang River, "Sing Hai Ching" will give a pang of nostalgia. These river queens used to ply up and down the river, picking up passengers and goods. 

According to the boat owner, it is around 60 years old. That was not the original boat. The one I recalled when I was in lower secondary was very different. The owner might have upgraded a few times though retaining the name

Ah Tai had a boat like this. She had a rice mill. Her boat plied up and down on both sides of the Rejang River collecting unpolished rice from the farmers, and she took the rice back to her mill to process the rice. As kids, we were very proud of what an astute a business woman Ah Tai was.

             Great grandma Kong nee Lai aka Ah Tai aka Ah Siew Soh

Mom and Dad's hobby, Orchids

This is my Dad's favourite flower. It gives me warm fuzzy feeling every time I see this flower. Dad used to grow this from little saplings from North Borneo. They didn't bloom as frequently as the hybrids grown these days. The beauty of this plant is the waiting is paid off. The blooms remain beautiful for three months on the plant.

 The leaves are longish oval. I think I was so engrossed with the beauty of the flower I didn't think of photographing the whole plant. The spray of flowers shoot up about 18 inches.

 Mom and Dad use a toothbrush and soapy water and carefully removing the aphids. Seeing them together doing it on one plant now warms our heart. It was truly a symbol of their love for each other.

Mom and Dad were not child hood sweet hearts. They did not even know each other when they married. They had met only once and were chaperoned. It was during World War 2. Their parents had to get them married, so Mom won't be taken by the Japanese to be their sex slave, and Dad to be conscripted to their army.

On the day of my oldest sister Rose's wedding, he cut it and I wrote to her children and their spouses today. This was the beautiful orchids that Grand Pa cut to make your mum's wedding bouquet. Grandma said she was surprised that he did it. His heart probably hurt as he cut it. It even hurt her heart though she wasn't so attached to it.


A baby swap? My sister Margaret

This was when Margaret was awarded with her PhD from the University of Christchurch. She did her studies in Lincoln College.

Mother’s been fretting and worrying. She has given birth to a child when her husband was away and the baby looked different from the rest of the brood. The nurse had brought a baby who was dark, and had big eyes. She was too different from the others. They all had fair skin, and smallish eyes, especially Ann, whose eyes were so small that they seemed perpetually closed. Call it maternal instincts; Mother wasn’t convinced that this baby was hers. 

This caused Mother a lot of heart ache. Thinking that we had a baby swap.  You have to read the book to see what happened.

Margaret has been teaching at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak.
On Sarawak Governor's birthday in 2010, on this occasion he gave honours to prominent people in the society. Margaret was awarded with a Pingat Bintang Kenyalang (Gold) on the occasion of the Governor's (TYT) birthday. This is the highest level for a government servant for that level. The next level is the Datuk category.

Father in England

Father made 2 very good friends from Gibraltar, John Sciaculga and Albert Traverso. Their friendship lasted their lifetime. (Most of out early days photos were eaten by termites after Mum and dad went to live in Australia).

About thirty years later, Father went to England and visited John Sciaculga. He was accompanied by Brother Joseph and Sister in law Audrey Tiong.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Father goes to England 陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞


This photo is my pride and joy. It had  been posted only once.  I was 20 months old. It was the day my Dad, John Chan Hiu Fei, aka Chen Yaw Fei, flew in a plane to go to study in England in 1956. The Chan Clan and the Kong Clan were in the airport to farewell him. It was a very proud moment. Dad was among the few and earliest students to go to England on a scholarship.
I was the baby in the family then. Dad's Cousin Uncle Hung Fei, tells me this when ever I see him, even when I was an adult. " I was carrying you, and when I asked you where is Dad? You answered, Ah Pa FLOOOO and you would move your hand showing how the plane flew." At that time, there was no aero-bridge. You can actually see the passengers go inside the belly of the plane.

When I was 20 months all, we became the proudest kid in Sibu Town. Father goes a Scholarship from the Government of Sarawak to study in London. The Chan Clan and the Kong Clan and Father’s friends were there to farewell him. Ah Tai went round telling everyone that Father had today all because of her effort. If it wasn’t her, Father would have become a Communist country bumpkin. Grandfather Chan was seething; Ah Tai had stolen his thunder as the father of the boy going to London. But he could not say anything without incurring an ugly scene. He was a gentleman and he wasn’t going to fight with a woman. He couldn’t deny that indeed Father would have gone back to China if Ah Tai didn’t cause all the commotion, and he would be a communist.
I have a photograph of Father carrying me taken just before he boarded the plane to Singapore. Each time I look at the photo, I am reminded of Uncle Hong Fei. Whenever he sees me, he tells his favourite story.

Methodist Secondary School

Photo: Thanks to Chang Yi

Dad seated right 2.

After the war, Dad went to study in Singapore, Mum remained in Sibu, a grass widow.

Father agreed and they rented a room at Archer road. Father went to teach in Methodist Secondary School. He was friendly with the students. He didn’t teach the Chinese school, but took care of the volleyball team. Father also taught in Tung Hua, Chung Hua and Sacred school. How he managed, I do not know.
I met some of these students on Father’s death bed in February 2006. They were his first batch of students in Kuching. They said he was a very good teacher, strict but good. He was a very brave man, he only had a Senior Cambridge Certificate and he took the challenge to teach the same level in a premium school. At that time, most of the English teachers were missionaries from USA.  Methodist school is my alma mata. Many of my teachers were his students. 

My Parents 陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞

 A Young Father, John Chan Hiu Fei, 陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞
My parents were married during the World War 2, (Japanese War), they didn't take a wedding photo. This photo was taken in 1976, my Dad's last entitlement for a world trip as a senior servant. They went to to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. Dad chose Taiwan because that was nearest to China he could take Mother to. At that time, Malaysians were not allowed to go to China. They went to New Zealand to attend my brother Charles Chok Kwong's graduation. Charles was capped with an LLB.

The Japanese came, at fifteen, Mother gave up her dreams of studying in the big city and became a candidate for a child bride match making session. Ah Tai promised her that she would choose a young man of fine character, educated and from a good family. Ah Tai went out to reconnoiter with her cousin Lai Siong who was a match maker. She must have loved her granddaughter so much to travel during the perilous war time in a little canoe. Together they scoured fifty miles of both sides of Rejang River, and the whole of Sibu town. Word came that five miles upriver was that fine young man who fitted the bill. He was unfortunately not a Hakka but a Kwong Ning boy and a Chan.
Traditionally the Hakka Kongs married only the Hakka Lais, and vice versa. The Cantonese Chans married only the Cantonese Lees, and vice versa. But then beggars cannot be choosers.
 Was Father a willing partner? Father had to be practical and quickly find a wife. For him, it was the fear of forcefully conscripted to the Japanese army. 

People of Sarawak

There are many racial groups in Sarawak, Ibans, Bidayu, Kelabit, Malays, Melanau, Belawan, kayans, Kenya, Belawan, and the nomadic Penans, and the Chinese.

Here is Sam greeted by the beautiful dancers at the Wildflower Restaurant in Mulu, where a buffet dinner and show was part of our package. The Wildflower Restaurant is home to their own, well known dance group, the "Seri Melinau Dance Group", performing traditional dances from the region every evening at 8:00pm. I lalughed when the natives danced the traditional Chinese lion dance.

The Chans and the Kongs boast of a rich heritage. In our family, runs the blood of Iban, Bidayu, Kelabit and Orange Ulu.

There is another custom which is not commonly known. It is the concept of Apai and Amei.

Grandfather Kong was smart in his own way, he befriended the Sea Dayaks and observed the culture of the Sea Dayaks. He was very proficient in their language and he spoke like one of them.
(I guess my little brother Henry who is an anthropologist had inherited a lot of genes from Grandfather Kong.  Henry was comfortable living in the jungles among various natives in Borneo.) 
            When Mother and her siblings were born, Grandfather Kong invited the Sea Dayak chieftains to be their adopted parents[1]. There was a big ceremony with much feasting and dining. These chieftains became Mother and her sibling’s Apai (Dad) and Amei (Mum). In so doing, the Sea Dayak chieftains and all those living in that particular longhouse pledged to treat Mother and her siblings as their own. Should any Sea Dayak from another long house come to attack the Kongs, their adopted longhouse would come and protect them. This is an interesting ceremony as we are unaware of other families doing the same.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grandma Kong and I

This is my maternal Grand Ma. She loved making all sorts of Chinese cakes. She made them from scratch, grinding her own flour from rice grains. Dr Mercola would approve.

We called her Wai Po, her real name is Lai Yee.

In this pix, I was visiting her from New Zealand.

She wanted to make some of her special cakes for the water engineer, one of her new grandson in law from West Malaysia. Alas she was too old to turn the stone and she didn't make cakes much any more  she needed my muscles to turn the heavy stone. I have good memories of this because she would guide me along, not too fast or not too slow. She would spoon little spoons of rice into a hole in the middle of the stone. If I went too fast, I would knock her with the long pole handle. It was hard work. I forgot what cake she made, but the memories of this grinding rice to flour forever remain in my mind.

Grandma wore her Traditional Chinese pants and top with frog buttons. She wore her long hair in a bun.

When I came back from abroad a second time, to my displeasure, Grandma cut her hair and had it permed,
This is my BO DAI or Wai PO or Maternal Grandma Kong.
 I am glad I got some of her genes. Her handiwork is impeccable, the best is quilting. There is a photo of us spending quality time using the Chinese grinding stone. 

I went abroad with the image of her etched in my mind. She had a traditional hair bun. She wore traditional back pants and light blush Chinese top, and a jade bangle. When I came back after 11 years,  I didn't like her hair, she cut it off and permed it. I asked her, "Why???? "sort of accusing her that she had changed. 

She said " Ah Suet, I spent 80 years as a slave of that bun. Now I am emancipated."

 " But Wai Po, watching you groom yourself at night,  was the best bonding we had." 

Now, I am glad she had lopped her hair, free of that feudal slavery. Woman in her generation and those before that were first slaves of her father, then husband, children and grand children.

Grandma, I am glad you were a true blue Hakka woman, an Amazon who matched to war with their husband.
I am glad I got some of her genes. Her handiwork is impeccable, the best is quilting. There is a photo of us spending quality time using the Chinese grinding stone. 

I went abroad with the image of her etched in my mind. She had a traditional hair bun. She wore traditional back pants and light blush Chinese top, and a jade bangle. When I came back after 11 years, I didn't like her hair, she cut it off and permed it. I asked her, "Why???? "sort of accusing her that she had changed. 

She said " Ah Suet, I spent 80 years as a slave of that bun. Now I am emancipated."

" But Wai Po, watching you groom yourself at night, was the best bonding we had."

Now, I am glad she had lopped her hair, free of that feudal slavery. Woman in her generation and those before that were first slaves of her father, then husband, children and grand children.

Grandma, I am glad you were a true blue Hakka woman, an Amazon who matched to war with their husband.

***All Chinese women her era wore jade bangles. It is not a cosmetic jewellery  The Chinese believe that Jades have protective elements. Tales have been spun that the jade bangles have protected them.***

Kong Villa in Durin

My cousin Cecila and I dub the ancestral home the Kong Villa. This is not the original house but the current one.  In the old house, the best part was the sundry shop attached to the house. There were fruit trees, a jetty, and a fish pond. It was Utopia.

When we visited either Grandfather Kong we would invade the sundry shops as though everything was free. We took pencils, rubber bands, colored pencils, erasers, rulers, exercise books, art blocks, sweets, biscuits, fishing hooks, lines and sinkers and the whole shebang. It was always a great bonanza and we had goodies galore both in our stomachs and in bags. Grandmother Kong never told us off but we were sure they were glad we did not come too frequently.
Grandmother Kong never complained, instead they always said, “Take, take, take as much as you like.”

Grandmother Kong Nee Lai Yii

         Grandmother Kong aka Lai Yii aka Bodai

Grandmother Kong aka Lai Yii came from the Kwang Si province. Her father was a traveling Medicine man and she was a proud woman. In the past, a medicine man could cure simple ailments with his medicine. The people even called him Doctor or master. Grandmother Kong claimed her father was a doctor and hence a class higher than the other villagers. The women would answer back that he was just a drug peddler. She was less than ten years old when she came to Sarawak at the same time as Ah Tai and Grandfather Kong. Her parents made the match with Ah Tai to marry her to Grandfather.

Bodai was the only of my three grandmas I had interaction a lot. She did what most girls her generation did, cook, made cakes and sew. And I proudly claim that I am the only grand daughter of her who learned quilting from her.

We didn't live with my maternal Grandma, she came to visit frequently and to help Mum when she gave birth to my younger siblings. She came to cook for Mum's confinement month, that is the whole month after a woman had her baby.

Grandma made one patchwork quilt for each of her three daughters. As a kid, my immediate younger sister Margaret and I had fun looking for her Chinese stars. Her stars were very unusual. It has 21 pieces of tiny squares and triangles cleverly stitched together. She didn't make many stars as it was very difficult to make.

In 1975, my nephew Wayne was born. Grandma came to visit. Sister Elizabeth requested her to make a patchwork for her first great grand son. Grandma was hesitant. Her heart wanted to make this, but her head told her that she was in her 80s, it would be impossible to make one as she was just visiting.

I told her, " I will help you."

So we did, grandma and grand daughter pair. She did the cutting and supervision, and I went on my mum's old manual Singer machine.

"Not so fast, Not so fast"

But I went went ziz, ziz, ziz, ziz as I pedaled along. She admonished my 'fast hand, fast leg'. I committed myself to help her, I didn't have 6 months to help her. Times I made a mistake, she wanted me to unpick it.

I said," No way, it is only for a baby."

We finished the quilt in a matter of days. I blackmailed Wayne, because he is the only great grand child that Grandma made a quilt for.

Despite the hectic time, I learn an invaluable skill. I could make a Chinese patchwork quilt. At that time, I vowed that I will never make another one, too old fashion. Now, I am glad, because I am probably the only grand daughter of hers who has inherited her skill.

Fast forward to 1990, I saw my good friend Owlyn Dickson's light blue quilt on her bed. It was so beautiful, I am reminded of my grandma's quilts. I came home, and made a quilt for D. I made nine Chinese stars, and the rest, I basically used squares. I made this queen size Chinese quilt in 3 days over the weekend. I didn't have much sleep. This time ziz, ziz, ziz, ziz on my electric Janome machine was reminiscent of the time with grandma.

The water engineer was a gem, he babysat D 5, and G 2. He took the girls shopping at Farmers for D to choose a backing for her quilt. She chose a lemon colour and I asked her why she didn't choose a pink.

The reason why I sewed frantically was I had to vacate my sewing room. Our friend J was coming to stay with us. He was our very good friend, and was an Engineering post graduate student with the water engineer at Auckland University.

D still has that quilt. I told her not to use it. It is unlikely that I will ever make another one. (Who knows, may be when I become a grandma, I may do it.) She wanted to frame it, I told her it was too big, not until she was successful in her career and has her own big house.

***This is the quilt I made for D, you have to look carefully for the stars. You will understand when my sister Margaret and I had fun looking for them.***

Grandfather Kong Siaw Yan

                          Grandfather Kong Siaw Yan 

Grandfather Kong suffered when his father death when he was only eleven. It was not easy for him, on one hand everyone was telling him that he was now the man of the house. It was his responsibility to take care of his widowed mother and four younger siblings, yet on the other hand, his domineering Mother vetoed every decision he made. Grandfather Kong had very beautiful handwriting.  He told me that when he was young, they were too poor to buy paper and ink. Ah Tai taught him to use water and brush and write on the floor. That was how enterprising Ah Tai was. Grandfather Kong’s handwriting was so good, that when people have invitations cards to address, and letters to write, they came to him as most labourers were illiterate at that time. Nobody knew he had not step even one step into school.

My Maternal Great-grand Mother, Kong nee Lai

             Great grandma Kong nee Lai aka Ah Tai aka Ah Siew Soh

                                               Widowed at 29 in a harsh new frontier

Ah Tai, was very able and single handedly took care of her four children.  Her relatives were flabbergasted how she had overcome her grief. Great-grandfather Kong’s death became a catalyst bringing out her leadership qualities. Ah Tai became a willful woman, and one not to be trifled with. She had to; otherwise she would be bullied by ruthless men. Ah Tai had charisma, and she got people working for her and they listened to her. 

In Sibu, there was an unusual practice presenting gifts to prominent members of society to announce the birth of a child.  These people always asked a famous woman to do the job. This person was none other than my Ah Tai. A very high ranking police chief from Perak, Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong was one of her many fostered sons. So was the manager of Lido theatre. When the VIPs in Sibu held dinner parties, Ah Tai was sure to be invited. Ah Tai was a socialite, the Kai ma (fostered mum) of Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Say Bo my step grandma

My Stepgrandmother Wong Sam Ying aka Say Bo

At 17, Say Bo travelled from China with two young girls. She was arranged to marry a man she didn't know. The marriage was not consummated, He was an invalid and died shortly. She was forced to marry Grandfather and become a subsidiary wife. The wheels of the Confucian Paternalistic Society is grinding again and again.

By protocol, we have to call her Say Bo, but this is now a term of endearment.

Grandma Chan

Grandmother Chan Fung Dai nee Lee

Grandma was born at a wrong place and wrong time as were most of the Chinese woman of her era.

In a paternalistic society, males was favoured over females, thus girls in poor families were sold for a pittance so that they would not starve. This poor girl became a mui zai and was to serve her mistress all her life. 

Grandmother Chan  had mui zais all her life. Her parents were relatively well off. They gave her a mui Zai. There was talk that the British government in Malaya and Singapore was going to pass an emancipation of slaves, and those not releasing the slaves would be punished.
To preempt this, when this mui zai was 16, a marriageable age, Grandfather Kee Seng arranged for a suitable mate and married her off. This was much to the aghast of Grandmother. Grandmother whined that this mui zai was paid for by her parents; therefore she was her property. This mui zai was her slave for life.  Grandfather Chan had no right to sell her property. But Grandfather would not have any part of this old feudal slavery system. They married her off to someone up the Rejang River.
The emancipation law was never passed.

Why I wrote my book:Chan Kee Seng

                       Grandfather Chan Kee Seng aka Ah Kung.

In the 1970s, Grandfather  Kee Seng wrote our first genealogy. It was difficult as half of the family was in China and the other half in Borneo. It was a daunting job, but he completed a family tree, with details of birthdays. He encountered opposition from some that it was a futile exercise.

They grumbled, "Who cares for a family tree."

Grandfather was unfazed. Even back then, some of us had gone abroad. He explained that it was for the  future generations to know who they are and who their relatives are. He said his aim was so that relatives would not pass each other in the street and not know each other.

In this how true this is, I left Borneo in 1975, and I have not met half of my younger relatives. My Grandfather has foresight.

Here I quote from his book:
1:  In order to commemorate and to commend my father's noble and adventurous spirit as a Pioneer to a wilderness
2:  To enable the younger generations to understand and realise the hardships and experiences of their remarkable ancestor, so that they can follow his example and emulate his achievement, whenever they read this.

Indeed, those of us who were fortunate to be growing up with Grandfather were blessed with the knowledge of our ancestors. We were told constantly to remember our Great Grand father Kwong Kuok was a Siew Cai in the early 1900s. A remarkable feat for some one from a small village at the time and age. * A Siew Cai is an equivalent of a university degree. This was very important because other Chinese settlers to Borneo looked down on us the Kwong Ning people as uncouth, uneducated country bumpkins.

Grandfather died in 1976, I was in Canada.

(I forget to add this in my book. In my next edition, I will)

Grandfather Chan Kee Seng.

Grandfather aka Ah Kung with Grace. He was around 80 years old.

Grandfather wore traditional Chinese Clothes and canvas slip on shoes. The clothes were the high collar, and buttoned down the front with clothed buttons. His pants were humongous fisherman pants with no elasticize top, but held up with his leather belt. His under pant were blue boxer pants with no elastic; instead he folds it smartly that it would not drop no matter how one would tug it. He had a special wallet attached to his belt and kept out of sight to the right of his front torso. When we were growing up, he was the last of the people in Sibu dressed in his attire. We asked why he did not change like our Maternal Grandfather. 
He said, “Nobody will rob an old poor China man.”
He was also very proud of Bruce Lee. Bruce was a Hong Kong actor and he wore the same Kung Fu clothing. Bruce to him was the epitome of a Chinese person. When he went to town,teenagers mistook him to be a kung fu master and pestered him to teach them. One day, he got tired of them, and pretended to take out his umbrella. The kids thought it was his martial arts step.

Our pioneering forefathers.

 Cantonese Pioneer leader Mr. Then Kung Suk.
Hakka Pioneer leader Mr. Kong Yit Khim.

Photos taken at the Vui Ning Memorial Garden at Upper Lanang Road near where the Chans used to live and farm. There is a Then Kung Suk road. It was first built as a community project led by Grandfather Chan Kee Seng and Uncle Chan Hung Fei.

In 1902, from our family records, the Cantonese[1] came under the leadership of Then Kung Suk and his assistant Kong Yit Khim[2]. In this first group, there were 70 Cantonese and Hakkas or the Vui Ning group. They arrived in Sibu. As the Foochows and the Vui Ning groups were as spoke different dialects, there were conflicts. The Vui Ning group called the Foochow Lo (Foochows) and regarded them as arrogant because they had arrived a little earlier and had embraced a white man’s religion. The feuds went up to the White Administrators of Rajah Brooke. By a swift of a stroke of a pen, a demarcation was divided; the Cantonese were given land upriver from Lanang Road to Kanowit. These 20,000 acres was called Guang Dong Bar (Kwong Dong Settlement.) Between 1902 and 1917 six hundred and seventy six Vui Ning came to Sibu.

[1] The Cantonese Settlers
Not much written historical record was available about the Cantonese settlers in Sibu. What is known was that two Cantonese pioneers were Chiang Cho Shiong and Then Kung Suk. After signing a contract with Rajah Charles Brooke to bring in Cantonese settlers, Then Kung Suk returned to China and recruited prospective settlers from Guangning, Sanshui, Qingyuan, Sihui, Fanyi, Dongguan and Chonghua to open the Sibu Kwangtung Settlement at Lanang area. In 1904, Jiang Yiqing established a farm at Salim. Latter settlements were established at Sungai Stabau, Lower Naman, Sungai Naman, Upper Naman, Sungai Nibong, Durin, Sungai Pok Sungai Petai, Sungai Pak and Tanjung Lukut. By 1917, the Cantonese were settled as far up as Kanowit. Source: -Fong Hon Kah,
A history of the development of Rajang Basin in Sarawak and
- Kiu Mee Kuok
The Diffusion of Foochow Settlement
[2] Teng Kung Suk and Kong Yik Khim were among the Cantonese pioneers who brought the first batch of 676 settlers to Sibu in 1902.

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.”

Foreword by Charles Chan Chok Kwong.

In the Confucian Paternalistic Society, it was very important to have sons and grandsons. My eldest Uncle Chan Yok Ing was banished to Manchuria and he had no sons. My brother Charles became the number one grandson. My grandpa wore a fine Chinese Ming Dynasty ensemble. You normally only see this in movies.

Charles Chan Chok Kwong.

After Father’s sudden death, the siblings began to open up to each other their recollections and interpretations of the past events relating to our father from their individual perspective.
Whilst such need for reminiscent is normal to any family in similar circumstances, however with the ease of the internet and the passion and enthusiasm of siblings and their children, the depth of the colourful past events of generations of the Chan Clan became apparent. Such was the richness of our family history that it became clear that they should be recorded as a living book for the family.
Hence the birth of Ann’s book.
Ann received much encouragement to write the book from friends and colleagues.  Initially some siblings participated because it was therapeutic; others joined in for the fun.  With 6 generation of history recording is not only daunting, it was a mammoth task. Ann took the responsibility with much gusto.
Our family came from humble beginnings. We are spread over a wide area of the world. We include many races and cultures. We are proud of our culture that has assimilated with Kelabits, Ibans, Orang Ulus, Europeans, Bidayuhs, and various Chinese dialects. Yet, we could sit down and engage a discussion and enjoy a meal. All these because our ancestors from the Chans and the Kongs left China in the 1900s, and thus created our own brand.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Who is Ann Kit Suet Chin-Chan

我是 Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪
 In Sarawak my name was Kit Suet. The meaning is clean 


I am the writer of "Diary of a Bereaved Mother " 

丧儿记,: 丧失儿子的母亲的一本传记

"From China To Borneo and beyond" 

海外华人的中国魂: 从中国,到南洋,到更远

"Mail Order Bride."

Forward by : Pastor Jonathan Dove.

 My baby died 24 years ago. I have become a  spokes person for bereaved parents. I am a member of Sands and a parent advocate.

After the book was released,
My book was featured in the Aucklander.
I appeared in Television 1 Down Under program. It's ok to cry On baby bereavement.
I spoke in the Baptist Women's Annual Convention, North Island Chapter.

My book was exhibited  at the Peacock 
Art Gallery, Upton Country, Dorset, Park England.

I am going to present a workshop on Asian Infant Bereavement at the Sands National conference for Sands families and medical personnels for 200 attendees in September 2013

Available in New Zealand at: Women's Bookshop, University Bookshop, Auckland, Church of Christ Bookshop
Online orders: Wheeler books, Overseas order:
Bookworks <>


Third Edition, June 2012,  306 pages, 
categories: self help, inspiration, bereavement,


ISBN: 978-0-473-18709-5

First edition, February, 2013 310 pages
categories:Life Stories (Biographies,

 Autobiographies, Family Histories, 


ISBN: 978-0-473-23900-8

First edition: July 2013 Fiction

ISBN: 978-0-473-25414-8

This book is the embodiment of the darker side of today’s society. 

Published May 2014

Women face many kinds of oppression through the centuries. The author takes you to a journey of modern day oppression.
This story traces the life of Nadine, a girl born to Indian parents. It embodies the issues of a Kiwi girl, Nadine, growing up in conflicting cultures and getting lost in her environment.
Nadine grows up to overcome her problems to help women who suffered from physical and mental violence, domestic violence, rape, pornography, swinging, incest, bullying, sex with minors, sex slavery and human trafficking.

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Settling in Borneo

My Paternal Ancestors settled in the Lanang Road Region, and my Maternal ancestors up the Rejang River at Durin.

Friday, February 15, 2013

From China to Borneo and Beyond: The Chan Family 陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞

                         The Chan Family,

This is a hundred years old journal of two families, the Chans and the Kongs.

It traces the first movement in 1907 from GuangZhou 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 Grandfather 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, virgin tropical jungle, Japanese World War, colonial days, a revolution, a fight with the communists; These were harshness and the difficulties the families had to go through.

Photo taken, January 1970

Mother Mary Kong Wah Kiew, GrandFather Chan Kee Seng, Father John Chan Hiu Fei

Author and contributors of this book.

Back Row:
Dr Margaret Kit Yok , Ann Kit Suet, Charles Chok Kwong, Rose Kit Fong, Elizabeth Kit Pen.

Front Row:

Helen Kit Mei, Grace Kit Mui, Dr Henry Chok Khuang, Joseph Chan Chok Hiu.

categories:Life Stories (Biographies, Autobiographies, Family Histories, Memoirs)