Picture shows my grandfather in his langkau before the brickyard was completed in Sg. Aup. My grandfather's last pioneering endeavour - brick making. Kiong Ang Brickyard was the first Sibu mechanized brickyard
Arriving in Sibu with Wong Nai Siong in 1901, with very little in his pocket, my grandfather Tiong Kung Ping, was eager to make his dream come true. He had been told by a Fuzhou street fortune teller that he had to go to Nanyang where his fortune would be made. Indeed, he rolled up his sleeves, he walked the marshes, he camped in the jungles, he got lost in the depths of the swamps looking for jelutong. He did almost everything the new pioneers did. He cleared the land for his rubber trees, he slashed hillslopes for his banana trees.
In 1911, because he was already one of the business leaders of Sibu, he was appointed by Reverend Hoover to pioneer in the opening up of lands for Foochows in Bintangor (Binatang)with several other Foochow leaders like Yao Siew King, under a new grant by the Second Rajah. He expanded his land acquisition in Bintangor and built another rice mill called Mee Ang (Beautiful Peace) at the confluence of Binatang River and Rejang River. Our family still owns this piece of land.
By 1935, he had acquired large tracts of rubber land in Sungei Merah, started rice mills in Bukit Lan and an ice mill called Hua Hong Ice Factory (Chinese Prosperity and Honour) across the river from Sibu.
During the Japanese Occupation the family found a haven in Sungei Bidut,living amongst my grandfather's cousins, Tiong Kung Chiing and Tiong Kung Liing. However he continued courageously to operate his ice mill and rice mill to help the fishermen and farmers. He and several others under the leadership of Wong King Huo, formed a taskforce to protect the Foochow Methodists from the atrocities of war and even lifted the banning of Snday Worship by the Japanese. the Special Task Force planned and strategized well to negotiate with the terrifying Japanese Imperial Army to be ceded that important allowance for freedom of workship. It also looked after the welfare of the pastors and missionaries during that time. Methodist evangelism continued to be carried out by pastors like Rev. Ho Siew Leong.
It was during this war period that he showed great love for his children, especially my father who was wrongly accused of being a western spy by the Japanese. My father was inprisoned and my grandfather used his influence as one of the Chinese headmen to have my father released. Grandfather was a very peaceloving man and would fight for that peace and freedom to live in peace.
He humbly went to find a Mr.Lu who could speak and write Japanese to write an introductory letter to the Japanese Commandant to explain about the status of my father, his education and his role as a "teacher", which was why he had so many books and English black vinyl records in the house.
I believe, rather painfully, that my father was tortured in the cell by the Japanese soldiers. This according to many relatives and friends led to my father's premature death. My grandfather was very heartbroken by the arrest of his oldest son,my father, so he went to great lengths to help my father get a release, which he did, and to the applause of the Sibu Foochows.
My grandfather continued to acquire greater wealth in the subsequent years. He started the Hock Hua Bank with a few other Foochow headmen but decided to sell out after some disagreement with management styles.
He had by then built a very nice mansion for himself in Sungei Merah, on top of a hill a little further in from the Kwong Ann Primary School. My grandfather was a man of good taste. His garden had beautiful bouganvilleas and ylang ylang (bai yu lan) besides alamanda and new fruit trees. He believed in growing guavas, and durians. And one of his favourite was the precious and sweet mu tong bamboo shoots. On the shoulders of the hill owned by my grandfather were a few acres of banana trees which supplied a lot of fruits the whole year through.
This was home to my uncles and aunties. And every year, on the first day of Chinese New year, we would visit grandpa and grandma, and received our New Year Red Packets almost reverrently. Visiting my esteemed grandfather was like visiting a Lord who was holding court. It was all very big family kind of occasion,with photograph taking and small chat. The ladies would be wearing their wide skirts with wired under skirts which held up the skirts for the more fashionable aunts.
And naturally, when the tight mini skirts came in, my aunts wore their tight mini skirts too. So Chinese new year was like a fashion parade too.
The gentlemen were more sedate and serene. They wore their white shirts and trousers. My grandfather's favourite was a white long sleeved shirt and a good pair of loose grey tailored trousers. I would always remember that he wore very good black leather shoes which Aunty Yong, our adopted aunt, would polish until they shimmered in the sun. The neck tie was part of good grooming of that time. At grandfather's birthdays, all the uncles would sport a tie. When they wore their sunglasses, they looked very handsome , suave and western.
My grandfather was a great visionary when he acquired a large tract of land alongside the Igan River just below Bukit Aup. He started a huge modern , mechanised brickyard . With brand new machinery from England, he, my father and my uncles started a new industry for Sibu. At that time, bricks were just beginning to be used for construction and slowly wooden buildings were making way for concrete ones. This was the beginning of concrete housing in the history of Sibu.
It was a family pride to recognise my grandfather's hardworking model of a Foochow and that he was solely in charge of this brickyard until his death in 1963.
He had called his new company, Building Peace or Kiong Ann. Peace and harmony had always been his greatest values as a very stern man who instil patience, discipline, good management and honesty in his family. Though he was a man of few words, he had exuded great sincerity and congeniality in his public relations with others especially amongst the less endowed.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 6:56 AM