[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Tales of a Hakka town
There are many small towns and villages in West Malaysia in which majoirty
of the residents are Hakka. Towns like Siputeh, Chemor, Sungei Siput,
Layang Lanyang, Kaki Bukit, Kampar, Kuantan, Raub, Pulai and many others.
Majority of the residents of the more than 100 new villages in West
Malaysia are Hakka. In these Hakka towns and new villages the Hakka
tradition is very strong. If you ever go to these places and you don't
speak Hakka then you are lost. There are many, many Hakka stories in these
places awaiting to be written and Hakka mountain songs to be recorded
before they are all lost.
According to Dr Han Suyin's (韓素音) book "The Crippled Tree", I quote:
"Today the settlers of Chinese descent in Sarawak (in Malaysia) claim to
be one hundred per cent Hakkas."
I have so many books about our Hakka People, but they are all in Chinese.
If you are interested I shall send them to you in the form of photo copies
provided you pay for the expenses.
Tales of a Hakka town
First tale 第一個故事
The name of my hometown is Pusing (布先) which is sixteen kilometers south
of Ipoh (怡保), the capital of the State of Perak (霹靂) in Malaysia
(馬來西亞). Over ninety per cent of the residents in Pusing are Hakka
(客家), the offspring of the immigrants who came from Dongguan county
(東筦縣) in Guangdong province China (廣東省中國) during the ninetieth
century. These immigrants came to this area to work in the tin mines. They
built their settlement and called it Xi Di (錫地) which meant Tin Land.
Later a Malay penghulu (馬來酋長) or chieftain in Batu Gajah (華都那也),
four kilometers away, renamed it Pusing, ater a little stream near the
settlement because there was a shape bend of about ninety degrees on it.
Pusing in Malay means turn, rotate or whirl.
More and more Hakkas arrived from Dongguan at the turn of the twentieth
century. Due to the increment of the population Pusing prospered. Many new
shop houses were built and it became a small town. There is a saying in
Pusing that more than hundred per cent of the Pusing Chinese speak Hakka.
Why is it so? The answer is that the few Malay and Indian families in
Pusing speak Hakka too.
About three kilometers southwest of Pusing there is another little Kakka
town called Papan (甲板). Originally, in the mid nineteenth century, Papan
was called Jia Ban Chuan (甲板船) by Hakkas. The British had a wooden tin
dredger mining tin in that area. When the tin ore was depleted in that
area the wooden dredger was dismantled. People did not called that
settlement Jia Ban Chuan but just Jia Ban. Later it was given a Malay name
called Papan which meants wood.
The Hakkas in Pusing acquired a little hill near Papan. They used this hill as the burial ground for their deceased relatives and it became a cemetery. Before they began to use thier cemetery they first buried the things they brought along with them from
Dongguan. Things like clothing, soil, water, the golden urn containing their ancestors bones, and many other things. This grave was what they called Zong Fen (宗墳) or Main Grave which was to be the substitution for
their Hakka villages in Dongguan. Every year on the 14th day of the 7th
moon, according to the Lunar Calendar, the Hakkas in Pusing would go to
the Main Grave to pray. After the ceremony they would adjourn to a
restaurant for a grand feast.
I recalled an occasion when my father invited an Indian Sikh who was a
bullock cart owner to the feast. In order to create a harmonious
enviourment in the town sometimes non-Hakkas were invited to the feast.
This Sikh spoke Hakka as if he was from Dongguan. My father used to hire
his bullock cart to carry tin ore from the mine to Pusing to sell to a
British company called Eastern Smelting Company. During the feast this
Sikh jokingly told the dinners that he was a Dongguan Punjabi. This made
every one roared. From then on he was nicknamed Dongguan Punjabi.
Second tale 第二個古事
Before the second world war there were many "Ah Fan" (亞番) in Pusing. "Ah
Fan" meant people of mixed race according to Pusing Hakka language. They
were the Australian born children of Hakka fathers and English mothers.
Their fathers were the gold diggers who had spent many years in Sin Kim
San (新金山 Melbourne, Australia). These gold diggers were originally from
Dongguan county in Guangdong province. They had made their little fortune
by digging gold and had married English women in Australia.
Having had enough hard lives in Australia they returned to live in their
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. They had no
intention of going back to Australia either. Eventually they took their
Anglo-Chinese children and migrated to the Tin Land (錫地 Pusing) and
worked in the British tin mines. The Hakkas in Pusing nicknamed these
Anglo-Chinese children "Ah Fan" . The time was in the 1910s and 1920s.
My grandfather and his younger brother left their Hakka village in
Dongguan in around 1878 and went to Australia to seek for their
fortunes.They spent many years there digging gold. Eventually, my
granduncle married an English girl and grandpa was quite happy to remain
single. However, after ten years of marriage they remained childless.
Great grandparents summoned grandpa back to the village to get marry.
Grandpa married a Chinese girl. Under the White Australian Policy grandpa
was not allowed to return to Australia because he had married a Chinese
girl. Finally, grandparents ended up in Pusing working in a British tin
mine. Although grandpa was from Australia Pusing Hakka did not nickname
his children "Ah Fan" because they were pure Hakka.
In 1941 the Japanese were preparing to conquer Malaya. Many rich men from
Ipoh came to Pusing to buy the birth certificates belonging to these
Anglo-Chinese men, as they had grown up by then. Many of them had sold
their Australian birth certificates for a small fortune. With the
Australian birth certificates these rich men could enter Australia and
become permanent residents.
I don't think there are any more "Ah Fan" left in Pusing. If they have not
died of old age by now they must be very old. I remembered 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". The name "Ah Fan" has become history in Pusing.
Third tale 第三個古事
There was an old couple in this Hakka town. The surname of the old man was
Cao (曹), nicknamed Lao Lei Gong (老雷公) or old thunder grandpa. Kong
(孔)was the surname of his wife and we kids called her Lao Kong Po
(老孔婆) or old grandma Kong. There were very unkind to kids and therefore
we regarded them as a fierce old couple. Kids, in this small town, were
afraid of them and they composed a rhyme to tease this couple. The rhyme
went like this:
早上雞喔喔喔 In the morning the rooster crows cock-a-doo-dle-doo.
布先有個老孔婆 There is an old grandma Kong in Pusing
打個電話去和豐 Make a telephone call to He Feng (Sungei Siput, another
Hakka town where their married daughter lived)
布先有個老雷公 Pusing has an old grandpa thunder
We did not know what it meant, but we knew that the old couple did not
like it. Every time when they heard the rhyme they became furious.
They had a few rambutan (紅毛丹 tropical lychee) trees near their house.
When the rambutans were in season we used to steal from them. There was
one night we climbed up a tree to help ourselves with the sweet and tasty
rambutans. Somehow the old couple knew we were up in the tree. Like
previous times we remained up in the tree and refused to come down. They
used to scold and curse us. After sometime the couples were tired and they
went back to bed. Then we would come down and run home. But this time they
did not say a word. Suddenly they screamed out:
"There is a ghost. There is a ghost up in the rambutan tree."
We kids were very afraid of ghost. Quickly we came down. The old couples,
each one of them holding a cane, spanked us like mad while we were coming
down. In pain we ran away singing:
" Zai Shang Gai Gong O O O
Bu Xian You Ge Lao Kong Po
Da Ge Dian Hua Qu He Feng
Bu Xian You Ge Lao Lei Gong"
Fourth tale 第四個古事
The Hakkas, living in the area between the two small towns of Pusing and
Siputeh which are about four kilometers apart, were mostly immigrated from
Dongguan county in Guagdong province. They were either rubber tappers or
tin mine workers. They called their little Hakka village Sayap (沙葉)
which had about 100 families.
All the babies born in this village were home delivery and none of them
was born in a hospital. This custom was common among the Hakkas. Therefore
the babies were not registered in the hospital. Although the birth of a
baby could be registered in any police station yet none of the Hakkas did
so because it required a token fee for the registration. They argued that
they never registered their babies with any authority in Tang Shan (唐山)
or China. So why should they bother themselves and besides they could save
the little registration fee.
In 1941 the Japanese cpnquered Malaya and occupied it for three years and
eight months. The Japanese surrendered in August 1945 and the British came
back to Malaya. All the schools were reopened in 1946. Most of the
children in Sayap village went to enroll in the Siputeh Primary Chinese
school which was about two kilometers away..
The enrolment required the birth certificate to prove the identification
of the child. This was a new regulation imposed by the British Military
Administration. Since in Sayap none of the children possessed a birth
certificate the teachers in the Chinese schools told the parents of these
kids to go and register them in the Pusing or the Siputeh police station.
The Mata Mata or policemen, most of them were Malays, were surprised to
find out that the children wanted to register their births after seven or
eights or even over ten years late. What the ingenious policemen did was
to enter in their registration books all the names of the children with
the same hour, the same day, same month, same place but seven years
before. In order words, according to their birth certificates all these
children were born at the same hour, same day, same month, same year and
in the same village. Worst still, some of the parents wanted to save the
few cents took up only one birth certificate for their children. It was
not unusual to see a brother and a sister or two or three brothers sharing
only one birth certificate. This created a hell lot of problems when they
grew up. This was the major problem for that generation in this small
I remembered my male relative called Chung Yu Ming was wrongly given a
birth certificate in the name of Yap Moi. Six years later when he was
about to enter high school then he discovered that his birth certificate
was not in his name. Worst still it was a female birth certificate. It
took him a long time to find Yap Moi and they exchanged their birth
There was another case. A mother gave birth to a baby girl. The husband
went to the police station register the baby. This husband's Malay
language was hopeless. When the policeman asked him what name he gave to
his baby. This husband thought the policeman was asking his name. So he
gave his name instead of the baby's name. During those time many of the
Malay policemen were semi-literate. When the policeman asked him about his
name he thought that the policeman was asking the baby's name. So he gave
the baby's name. According to the birth certificate the father was the
baby and the baby was the father. I did not what happened to this case in
Fifth tale 第五個古事
I started my education in a Chinese school called Overseas Chinese Primary
School Pusing. One of the text books for Standard One began like this:
Shou (手 hand),
Pai Shou (拍手 clap hands),
Pai Pai Shou (拍拍手 clap clap hands).
Shou Yi Pai (手一拍 hand gives a pat),
Qiu Yi Tiao ( 球一跳 the ball bounces).
Ge Ge Da (哥哥大 elder brother),
Pai Da Qiu (拍大球 pat big ball),
Di Di Xiao (弟弟小little brother),
Pai Xiao Qiu (拍小球pat small ball).
Lai, Lai, lai Pai Qiu (來﹐來﹐來拍球 come, come, come and pat ball),
Bu Lai, Bu Lai, Wo Bu Hui Pai Qiu (不來﹐ 不來﹐我不會拍球 no, no I don't
know how to pat ball).
Xiao Mei Mei, Zou Lai, Zou Lai, Da Ge Bao Bao Nin.
小妹妹﹐ 走來﹐ 走來﹐ 大哥抱抱您
(little sister, come here, come here, let elder brother carry you)
Because of lesson 5 many boys and I received many beltings from the
teachers. At that time we boys were very naughty. We used to tease the
girls by reciting lesson 5: little sister, come here, come here, let
elder brother embrace you. Instead of carry you, we emphasized it, in
front of them, by action to embrace you. The girls reported to the
teachers that we molested them verbally. The teachers were on their side
and we boys received the cane. Many a time, the girls, without any
provocation, lied to the teachers that we recited lesson 5 in front of
them. The end result was that we got the beating. Due to this sexism we
hated lesson 5.
About 100 meters west from the school there was a used mining pond. One
day a pupil from our school was drown in the pond during lunch break. In
order to stop the students from going to the pond to swim during the 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 we
had to show to the teacher that our names on the palms were still there.
If any student was found that his name on his palm disappeared he received
punishment. It had been going on for a long time and I could not recall
how many times I was being punished.
We were Hakkas and the medium of instruction in our school was Guo Yu
(國語 Mandarin). I could say that all our teachers were Hakkas. The
teachers themselves could not pronounced the characters properly in Guo
Yu. We were more or less learning our lessons in Hakka.
Then, we had a new teacher who was from Tang Shan. He spoke beautiful Guo
Yu. We all worshiped him as if he was Confucius. In fact the whole school,
including our teachers, learned from him how to speak proper Guo Yu. I
remebered he used the Bo (博), Po (潑), Mo (莫), Fo (佛) Zhu Yi (注音)
system to teach us Guo Yu. Luckily, the pronunciations of Hakka and Guo Yu
were very close and we did not have much difficulty to master the new
Unfortunately, before the Emergency started he left our school and went to
live in Singapore. Later, the town people said that he was a Kuomintang
(國民黨) army officer who fled from the civil war in China. The reason
behind his leaving our school was that there were too many Communists in
Pusing. Anyway the school thanked him for raising the standard of speaking
Guo Yu in the school.
Sixth tale 第六個古事
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in July 1921. In 1924 the Chinese
Communists sent agents to Malaya, then a British Colony, to spread
Communism to the "Overseas Chinese". However, their political rival was
"Kuomintang," the Nationalist Party, which was founded in China by Dr Sun
Yat-sen who overthrew the Qing Dynasty. The influence of the Kuomintang
among the Overseas Chinese was very strong. Although Kuomintang had been
declared an illegal society by the British authority it had struck deep
roots among the Overseas Chinese.
The Communists achieved little success as there were no oppressed labour
force and downtrodden peasants in Malaya. The Overseas Chinese were too
busy working with the intention to make some money so that they could
return to their homes and families they left behind. Labour was quite well
paid after the Fisrt World War.
The Communists found out that the Khehs or Hakkas and the Hainanese were
ready to listen to the "freedoms in the future". In those days the
Hainanese were depised by other dialects who considered them people of
aboriginal blood with poor mentality. The Hainanese thought if they took
up Communism they could get even with other dialects. The Hakkas were
known in China as the revolutionists after the collasped of the Taiping
Heavengly Kingdom (太平天國) .The Hainanese monopolizied the food trade
like running restaurants, coffee shops and lodging-houses. The Hakkas were
mostly rubber tappers and tin mine workers.
In those days the majority of the new migrants from China were illiterate.
The Communists established night schools for them so that they could learn
a few Chinese characters. There, the Communists taught them Marxsim. Most
of them could not understand the creed of Marxism. However, when the
Communists preached the similarity of the Communist Revolution and the
Taiping Revolution the Hakkas took it seriously as they had lost in the
The Hakkas flocked to the Communist movements. Illigel trade unions and
craft guides were formed. The Malayan Comminist Party was formed in
Singapore in 1935.
Three months before the Japanese attacked Malaya the British Government in
England sent Lieutenant Colonel Spencer Chapman to Singapore with the
intention to train a special force called 136 to remain behind if Japan
overran Malaya. There were no well established organizations except the
Malayan Communist Party. As soon as the Japanese attcked Malaya the
Communists had been asking the British to train them, but the British
refused. Just ten days before the British surrendered to the Japanese the
British Colonial Authority finally accepted to train the Communists at the
101 Special Training School in Singapore. Altogether the British only
trained 165 Communists. One of them was from this little town Pusing.
Later when the Japanese had occupied the whole of Malaya these 165
Communist became the core of the Malayan People's Anti- Japanese-Army
(MPAJA). The first MPAJA base was established by the Hakkas from Pusing.
A formidable MPAJA force was formed in Pusing. For three years and eight
months the MPAJA gave the Japanese the headache.
Seventh tale 第七個古事
This Hakka boy called Yong Yuan (永源) was born in a little Hakka village
called Sayap. When the Emergency started Yong Yuan was only ten years old
and his family relocated themselves in a small Hakka town called Pusing
(布先). Actually the Emergency in Malaya was a war between the British and
the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). The best reference books about the
Emergency are Dr Han Suyin's "....And The Rain My Drink" and Harry
Miller's "Menance in Malaya" and the "Jungle War In Malaya".
When the Emergency started Yong Yuan was only ten years old. At the high
of the Emergency he was just in primary school. During this period his
hometown was nicknamed "Little Yanan" (小延安 Yanan was Mao Zedong's
headquarters from 1936 to 1947) by the British.
At the start of the Second World War, the Pusing Hakka Laos (客家老) were
the first in Malaya to organize "The Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army
(M.P.A.J.A. or 馬來亞人民抗日軍 see Shen Mi Lai Te by Guo Ren De 神秘萊特
by 郭仁德 : first book in Chinese about MCP published in 1999). When the
Japanese army were marching down from the north British retreated from
Ipoh. Our Hakka folks went to Ipoh (怡保) and collected some weapons
abandoned by the British. With these weapons these Hakka Laos established
the first M.P.A J.A. base in Malaya. Their base was not in their own
hometown but another little Hakka town called Chemor (朱毛) about 20
kilometers north of Pusing.
Yong Yuan's third uncle called Yue Rong (月榮) was not involved with the
M.P.A.J.A., but he was with the British. Eventually his third uncle
retreated with the British to Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). Yue Rong
joined the Force 136 (see The Jungle is Neutral by Colonel F. Spencer
After a few years training in jungle warfare, in 1944, with two British
Officers Yue Rong parachuted back to Malaya (Kampar). Their mission was to
train the M.P.A.J.A how to destroy the communication in Malaya before the
invasion of British under the command of Admiral Earl Mountbatten.
When they landed they could not contact the M.P.A.J.A. because the
guerillas knew that someone had informed the Japanese authority about
their dropping. Due to this advance information the M.P.A.J.A. were not in
the dropping zone to meet them. The M.P.A.J.A. had no ways to contact the
Force 136 headquarters in Ceylon. Yue Rong and the British officers tried
to trek to Pusing, about 45 kilometers west of Kampar area. They were
being pursued by the Japanese soldiers and eventually they were captured
near Gopeng about 10 kilometers east of Pusing. The two British officers
were treated as prisoners of war and sent to Changi Prison in Siangapore.
Yue Rong was treated as a traitor to his country. The Japanese announced
the date of the publicly execution of Yue Rong. Yue Rong's eldest brother
went to see the execution which was held in the market place in Kampar. No
one told Yong Yuan's poor grandmother.
When the war was over Yong Yuan's grandma was very happy because she
thought that her son could be home at any time. When she saw the
M.P.A.J.A. guerillas marching down from the hills she told people that it
would take sometime for her son to come home from Ceylon. Poor grandma
only discovered that her son had died when a British officer came to the
house and gave her a British flag with a cheque of few hundred dollars.
She did not receive the compensation personally from the British Officer
because she fainted on hearing the death of her younger son death.
When the emergency started Yong Yuan's eldest brother called Yong Long was
in the Malayan People's Anti British Army (M.P.A.B.A 馬來亞人民抗英軍).
Yong Yuan's father managed to convince Yong Long to go back to China to
fight for Mao Zedong. Yong Long agreed and went to China. However, when
he arrived in China the Chinese civil war was over. He studied for a few
years and later he volunteered to fight in Korea. He survived the Korean
War and became a government official in charge of the forest in Hui Lai
county in Guangdong province. He stayed worked there until he died a few
years ago. He had five children and occasionally one of them would visit
their father's birth place.
One day, in 1953, a young friend of Yong Yuan's family told his father
that his third son called Yuan Sheng (元勝), who was studying in Chung
Ling High School, Penang, was among a group of students who were on their
way going back to China. The students were leaving by train. Immediately
Yong Yuan's second uncle rush to Batu Gajah, about four kilometers from
Pusing, railway station to meet his third nephew. But the train already
passed Batu Gajah. So his second uncle drove to Kampar hoping he could
catch up with the train which carried the sudents. Indeed he caught up
with the train when he arrived in Kampar. He talked to Yuan Sheng in the
train and had convinced him to come home to say farewell to all the
relatives before he left. None of the family member tried to stop him from
going back to China.
The night before Yuan Sheng departure for China Yong Yuan's father
congregated all the members of the family including members from Yong Yuan
uncle's family in the shophouse. My father told us the family history.
Yong Yuan remembered every one cried when his father told them the history
of his parents, how they struggled bringing bring up their children. That
night everyone cried to sleep.
The next morning Yuan Sheng decided not to go back to China and he
promised that he would followed his father and became a tin-miner.
At the end of the Emergency (the Emergency ended in 1960) Yong Yuan was a
member of the Min Yuen (民運), a unit which fed, colthed and gave
information to the M.P.A.B.A. During those time the Pusing Hakka Laos were
the sympathizers of the M.P.A.B.A.. When the Emergency ended Yong Yuan had
finished his high school education and was working in his father's tin
Yoon-Ngan (The Hakka Lao).
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.