Author: CHUNG Yoon Ngan
Date: 01-02-12 17:48
My Family in the British Colonial Malaya - 1858 to 1960 (4)
071. School days - 1946
A four-sided shape square table,
Yearly, when I studied I needed it.
You had studied for three year yet you knew not a word,
I had studied for three years and I was a scholar.
春天不是讀書天,---Chun tian bu4 shi4 du2 shu tian,
夏日炎炎正好眠,---Xia4 ri4 yan2 yan2 zheng4 hao4 mian2,
秋天一過冬來到,---Qiu tian yi guo dong lai2 dao4.
收拾書包好過年.---Shou shi2 shu bao hao4 guo nian2.
Spring time is not the time for studying.
Hot summer time is good for sleeping.
When autumn is over comes the winter.
Pack up your school bags and get ready for the New Year
A lazy student
After the war all the schools in Malaya were reopened. All the kids of school
age, in our village, Kampong Sayap, were enrolled in the Overseas Chinese
Primary School Siputeh (埔地華僑小學) which was about two kilometers from
All the students walked to school. First Elder Brother was in the Upper
Primary class because he was 16 years old, much older than other students.
Like other students, who were in his age group in the whole country, had
wasted four precious years in schooling, during the Japanese occupation
of 3 years and 8 months. First Elder Brother and a few older students were
appointed by the principal of the school to be the leaders of all the students
from Kampong Sayap. Their responsibilities were to look after the younger
students who were attending the same school. Second Elder Brother was in
Standard Three, Third Elder Brother and I were in Standard One.
Every morning, we assembled in front of Father's grocery shop before we
walked together to the school. We walked by the old railroad which was nearer
to the school, about two kilometers away. None of the students wore shoes
because parents could not afford to buy any for us. Besides kids never wore
shoes at those time. It was the school's regulation that all the students
must washed their feet from the school water tap before they entered the
classrooms. Most of the students had dirty feet by the time they arrived
at the school.
The school was built next to a rubber plantation, about half a kilometer
from the town of Siputeh. It was the owner of this rubber plantation who
donated the land for the school to be built next to his plantation. There
was a little stream in front of the school next to the school basketball
field. To get to the school one had to cross a little cement bridge.
At noon, most of the students had to walk back to their villages for lunch
because their parents had no money to give them for lunch. Besides the was
no canteen in the school. Students from other villages also attended the
same school and they also walked back to their villages for lunch. After
lunch they had to walk back to the school again for the afternoon section.
When the school was over they walked home. All the kids could remember were
walking to school and home.
The Standard One students started their lessons like this:
手 Shou3 (hand),
拍手 Pai Shou3 ( clap hands),
拍拍手 Pai Pai Shou3 (clap clap hands).
手一拍 Shou3 Yi Pai (the hand gives a pat),
球一跳 Qiu2 Yi Tiao4 (the ball bounces).
哥哥大 Ge Ge Da4 (elder brother is big),
拍大球 Pai Da4 Qiu (pats big ball),
弟弟小 Di4 Di4 Xiao3 (little brother is little),
拍小球 Pai Xiao3 Qiu (pats little ball).
來, 來, 來拍球.
Lai2, Lai2, Lai2 Pai Qiu
(come, come, come and pat ball),
不來, 不來, 我不會拍球.
Bu4 Lai2, Bu Lai2, Wo3 Bu4 Hui4 Pai Qiu.
(no, no I don't know how to pat ball).
小妹妹, 走來, 走來, 大哥抱抱你.
Xiao3 Mei4 Mei4, Zou3 Lai2, Zou3 Lai2, Da4 Ge Bao4 Bao4 Nin2.
(Little sister, come here, come here, let elder brother carry you)
I can recite the whole book.
Because of lesson 5 many boys received canning by the teachers. At that
time the boys were very naughty and they loved to tease the girls by reciting
lesson 5 - little sister, come here, come here, let elder brother embrace
you. Instead of carrying you. The boys emphasized it, in front of the girls
by action of embracing the girls. The girls were angry and reported to the
teachers that the boys molested them verbally. The teachers were on the girls
side and the boys received the cane. Many a time, the girls, without any
provocation, lied to the teachers that the boys were reciting lesson 5 in
front of them. The end result was that the boys received more cane. Due
to this sexism the boys hated lesson 5.
About 100 meters west of the school there was a unused mining pond. One
day, during lunch break, a group of pupils went swimming in the pond and
one of them was drowned. In order to stop the students from going to the
pond to swim during lunch break, the teachers, by using the black ink and
brush, wrote the name on the left hand palm of every student. When classes
resumed after lunch the students had to show to the teacher that the names
on the students' palms were still there. A student, who had his name disappeared
on his palm, would be punished. It had been going on like that for a long
time until the school changed the time tables by starting school early and
finishing off early in order to get rid of the hour that students had to
walk back to their villages for lunch.
Most of the school students were Hakka Chinese, but the medium of instruction
in the school was Guoyu (國語) or Mandarin (now called Huayu 華語). Most
of the teachers were also Hakka Chinese too. The teachers themselves could
not pronounce the characters properly in Guoyu. The lessons were more or
less taught in Hakka dialect.
Then, the school had a new teacher who was from Tang Shan (唐山 China).
His surname was Tang (湯) and I could not remember his full name. He spoke
perfect Guoyu. The whole school worshiped him like Confucius. The teachers
at the school had to learn from him how to speak standard Guoyu. He used
Zhuyin (注音) system to teach the students how to pronounce Chinese words
properly. It started with Bo (博), Po (潑), Mo (莫), Fo (佛) etc. Luckily,
Hakka dialect is quite similar to Guoyu and it was quite easy for the students
to pick up Guoyu
Every Monday morning, the school performed the ceremony of flag raising
and the singing of the national anthem. The flag the school raised was the
Nationalist flag of 12 crescents on the background of blue and red [青天
白日滿地紅]. The national anthem was the Song of the Peoples' Three Principles
[三民主義, 武昌起義]. After that Master Tang would talk about what he knew
about China. It was very interesting and curious for the students to know
something about the Old Mountain of their Ancestors as all the students were
born in Malaya. He also told the students many interesting Chinese stories
which were strange to them.
The name of the school's Principal was Zeng Shuiqing (曾水清) who was a
Hakka Chinese and lived in a village called Hongmaolu (紅毛路 or Red Hair
Road) near the British Army barracks in Batu Gajah. [It was believed that
Village Hongmaolu was near a road built by the British Army as a short cut
to the town of Lumut, a small jetty in the south coast of Perak State near
Pangkor Island. The British did not give a name to the road. So the Hakka
people living there called the road Hongmaolu]. Some people said the Principal
obtained a degree from a Chinese university and others said that he bought
a degree from a university in China before the Second World War. There were
all kinds of stories about him. He was neither a member of the Kuomintang
國民黨 nor the Communist Party 共產黨. He stayed neutral in politics. However,
during the Emergency one of his children, a daughter, joined the "Hill-People
山頂老" (Malayan Communist Party). One night, his daughter was killed by
the British soldiers when she tried to sneak into Hongmaolu village (by
then it was renamed Bemban New Village 民萬新村) to obtain provisions.
One day, the Principal announced that the Chinese Ambassador to Malaya was
coming to visit the school the following week. The Chinese Ambassador was
called Ma Tianying (馬天英), a Chinese Muslim originally from Yunnan province
(雲南省). Years later, after China was liberated Ambassador Ma Tianying
did not go to live in Taiwan but became a Malayan citizen. He was a good
friend of the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Ex-Ambassador
Ma was employed by Radio Malaya to preach Muslim religion to the Malayan
Chinese Muslim community. He preached in Mandarin. Later he was called Haji
Ambassador Ma Tianying came and paid a brief visit to the school. He spoke
to the students in Mandarin and Master Tang, representing the school, thanked
the Ambassador for visiting the school. Shortly after the Ambassador's visit
and before the Emergency (a war between the Malayan Communist Party and
the British Colonial Authorities in Malaya) started in June 1948, Master
Tang resigned and went to live in Singapore. Later, people said that Master
Tang was a Kuomintang (國民黨) army officer who fled from the civil war in
China. The reason behind his leaving the school was that he reckoned there
were too many Communists in the area. Anyway the school thanked him for
raising the standard of speaking Guoyu.
One day, there was a big fight among the boys at the school. Boys from the
villages of Hongmaolu (紅毛路 or Red Hai Road) and Menggong (孟公) were
fighting against those boys from the town of Siputeh. It was about the two
brothers from Hongmaolu, whom the boys nicknamed Dafanzai (大番仔 Big Foreigner)
and Xiaofanzai (小番仔 Small Foreigner). They were the children of an Anglo-
Chinese (英華) man. Their grandfather was Chinese and their grandmother
mother English. The two brothers accepted their nickname without much trouble
because they had light brown hair and fair skin. However, those boys from
Siputeh insulted their father by calling him Fangui (番鬼 or Foreign Devil)
and the elder brother, Dafangui (大番鬼 or Big Foreign Devil) and the younger
brother, Xiaofangui (小番鬼 or Small Foreign Devil). That made the two brothers
angry. The two brothers fought against the group of boys from Siputeh town.
Seeing their fellow village boys were being bullied by the town kids others
boys from Hongmaolu sided the two brothers and joined in the fight. Boys
from Manggong village sided the two brothers and joined in the fight too.
There were thirty or forty boys fighting in the basketball field. All the
teachers, with canes on their hands, came out to stop the fight. [Students
from Kampong Sayap were not involved although there were a few Ah Fan 亞
番 in the village).
After investigating the reason behind the fight, the Principal did not punish
any of the boys but he called the whole school to assemble in the school
hall and gave the them a lecture about how their ancestors had come to settle
in the area where they were living. The Principal also reminded the school
not to forget the sufferings they had gone through during the war. Finally
he reminded them that they were young Malayans. But the teachers and the
Principal knew that they were teaching the children how to be Chinese and
loved their country, China, and not Malaya. It was a dilemma for the Chinese
students in Malaya because they were no Chinese text books about Malaya.
All the Chinese schools text books in Malaya were imported from China. Actually
most of the young Chinese students did not know much about Malaya where
they were born and residing. Everything they learned was about China. [That
was before Malaya became an independent country].
This was how the phrase "Ah Fan" started. Before the Second World War there
were many "Ah Fan" (亞番) in the area. "Ah Fan" meant the people of mixed
blood. They were the children of the Australian born Hakka Chinese who had
married English women. These Hakka Chinese were the gold diggers who had
spent many years in Sin Kim San (新金山 New Gold Mountain - Melbourne, Australia)
. They were originally from Dongguan county (東莞縣) in Guangdong province
(廣東省). They made their little fortune by digging gold and some of them
married English women in Australia.
Having had enough hard lives in Australia they returned to live in their
ancestral villages in Dongguan with their families. Finding it hard to live
in the villages many of the English women left their husbands and children
behind and went back to Australia.
Some of the ex-gold diggers were unsettled in their old villages because
they did not want to work in the rice fields. They could not go into businesses
because they did not possess the know-how. Under the Australian White Policy
they could not go back to Australia since their wives had left them. Eventually
they took their Anglo-Chinese children and migrated to the Tin Land (錫地
Pusing) and worked in the tin mines. During those time the Britishers encouraged
the Chinese to go and develop Malaya. The Hakkas in the area nicknamed the
Anglo-Chinese children "Ah Fan". That was in the 1910s and 1920s.
In 1941, the Japanese were preparing to conquer Malaya. Many rich men from
Ipoh came to this area to buy the birth certificates belonging to these
Anglo-Chinese men, as they had grown up by then. Many of them sold their
Australian birth certificates for a small fortune. With Australian birth
certificates these rich men entered Australia and became permanent residents.
I don't think if there are any more "Ah Fan" left in the area. If they have
not died of old age by now they must be very old. I remember they were also
being called "Fong Mao Zi" ( 紅毛仔 Red Hair kids). However, their descendants,
some of them are my friends, are not being called the offspring of "Ah
Fan" because they look 100% Chinese. The name "Ah Fan" has become history
in the area.
Posted to Overseas Chinese Forum at asiawind.com
By CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元)
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