Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Bowl of Mung / Green Beans (lu dou)

The practice of child bride was practised in China from time immemorial to post Republic days. And most pitifully and perhaps inhumanly, poor families also practised female infanticide, a practice which even the Emperor would turn a blind eye. When Sun Yet Sun came into power, many of the revolutionaries thought that a new age would come to China and the Chinese leaders would blaze a trail of new reforms and changes for the people especially for the women. But many disppointing years later, child brides who have grown into old ladies have stories to tell and according to many international media reports child brides are still available in the Carribean, Ethiopia, many African and Arab countries. China has changed especially after the One Child Policy. But the lessons from the Chinese experience have not been learnt.

My concern has been for female children who do not go to school, who do not know their rights, and who do not know what it is like to be treated like human beings.

My cousin, now 75 ,is a China- born child bride. This is her story. Although it is not a horror story, it is still a story of how much she has "LOST OUT" as a human being.

Her parents were poor farmers in Fujian, China, a little outside Foochow City in the sixth district. She was born a very small baby, hardly the size of a Milo tin, as she related her story to us.

At birth she was offered as a child bride to any family who would take her in as her mother was running out of energy and milk, in order to save her life.If no one could take her, her fate would be drowning in the river. And no one would raise an eye brow. Finally one family showed interested and , naked, she was given to the family which had come for her offering just a small piece of cloth to wrap her in. This was how poor the folks were at that time.

The distance between her parent's home and her new home was almost a day's walking journey. When she arrived, she was placed in a wooden bed. She was just so tiny that neighbours were wondering how she could survive as the new in-laws so to speak had already had two previous child brides who did not survive.She was likened to a kitten.

1932 -1950
Strangely she was a tough nut. She managed to survive infancy and grew into a very hardworking child, cutting wood, tilling the land, growing vegetables, looking for bamboo shoots. She looked after her mother in law as well as she could. By then her future husband had already "come out" to Sibu to look for a living. Then the second World War came and she survived the onslaught of the Japanese Occupation in China. She went through her teenage life with a lot of guts and laughter according to her. She learned the Foochow songs, riddles and traditional sayings and had them memeorieed. And as she was poor, she did not have even one day of school.

When word came to her, as she was approaching 18, that her future husband had enough to send for her to come out to Sibu, she was excited about the new future. She walked the day's journey home to pay her respects to her biological parents. Their lives were as bad if not worse than before. When she told them that she was going to Sarawak, her father went to the little shop, silently, to buy a small handful of green beans to cook for her, as a mark of farewell. After eating the green bean porridge, she left for her homeward journey. This was the last she saw of her parents alive. She said that she was duty bound to them, as she was a daughter. How could any one talk about love and bonding in a situation like this when love was almost an unknown word and affection was definitely non existent.She did not hug her parents and she did not even cry. They were so stone cold . Bidding farewell though painful to them, it had to be done. And with no feelings shown on their faces, they parted knowing that they would never see each other again.

Many years later, she heard that her father passed away and she sent some money to them for the burial rites from Sarawak. That was considered very filial of her even though she was given without a single stitch to her parents in law.

My cousin had been given away as a child bride. The parents felt no regret at that. And they could not feel anything for parting with their 18 year old daughter who had to make that long journey to a distant land. They could also not give any token, a small piece of gold , to her as a farewell gift. Such was the life of extremely poor Foochow farmers at that time.

1950 - 2007
When she came out from China she was still a tiny woman,hardly five foot tall, with small eyes but a lively attitude towards the tribulations of life. With her husband, Lau, she planted rubber trees, pepper vines and vegetables in Sarikei while raising three children, two boys and a girl.

Life did not deal her with a good hand. She tapped rubber and was once almost killed by a snake. She planted onions as a side line and earned enough to buy herself a motor bike. And when her husband was in prisoned for supporting the communists for 13 months in Kuching, she harvested enough pepper to build herself a new wooden house to welcome her husband home.

Even then with all the successes she had achieved she was still not highly regarded by her sister in law who was residing in Sibu, nor by her husband who was chauvinistic and too lacking in affection.

Marriage was a getting together of two persons, to regenerate. Love was perhaps not even found in their lives. Love making was a necessity to reproduce. She got pregnant, carried the child, while she and her husband went about tilling the land and coaxing a living out of it. She told us that life for her was one day at a time, one step at a time.

Her husband was obviously not a loving man who showed his expressions well. And she herself being uneducated probably did not know what else to do.

What is love? To her it is more or less respect for her husband, meeting his needs, bearing and raising his children and standing by him until he died from stomach cancer, even though by then she had known all along that he had many women outside their marriage. Everything she did was out of duty and her beliefs in her own worth as a woman from China. She had held her head high, she had been faithful, she had been forebearing. And she had not done anything that was inappropriate.

I feel that she has really done a lot for her family and that she deserves a better life that she is having now. But instead, her eldest son has his own family, her eldest daughter has her own life to lead. She is having a small room in her second son's house for which she has a monetary share of RM70,000, hard earned money from her farming days. Even her grandson does not know her pains as a child bride, or as a mother who has sacrificed all.

Had she wanted something else? Yes, definitely. She would want more than all these. But how could she? Who would help her? How could she have a better quality of life? She still owns a red Malaysian IC after she had lived in Sarawak since 1950. One of her greatest wish is to be able to vote in an election. So how could she get her blue IC, to become a true Malaysian. I think she deserves one. She has served the nation more than most people.

She will accept all, bear all. Typical old fashioned Chinese child bride. A brave and admirable soul to me. A good woman.


Mung beans are commonly used in Chinese cuisine, where they are called lǜ dòu (绿豆, literally "green bean"), as well as in Japan, Korea, India, Thailand and Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, they are called đậu xanh (again, literally "green bean"). They are generally eaten either whole (with or without skins) or as bean sprouts, or used to make the dessert "green bean soup". The starch of mung beans is also separated from the ground beans to make jellies and noodles.

Whole mung beans are generally prepared from dried beans by boiling until they are soft. In Chinese cuisine, whole mung beans are used to make a tong sui, or sweet soup, called lǜdòu tāng, which is served either warm or chilled. In Indonesia, they are made into a popular dessert snack called es kacang hijau, which has the consistency of a porridge. The beans are cooked with sugar, coconut milk, and a little ginger. Although whole mung beans are also occasionally used in Indian cuisine, beans without skins are more commonly used.

6 memories:

David Chin said...

Equality among the sexes is still not quite a reality today in Sarawak. In NZ man and woman are considered equal by the law; but there are other things to consider as well. Is it a real advantage to be equal to the men?

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Thank you for your comments. Good question too.
There can be lots of advantages to be given equal opportunities to men. Firstly, pay wise, we deserve the same pay. Secondly, we deserve the same promotional opportunities. Thirdly, if we are equal to men, we won't be physically abused. And fourthly, we women do not have to suffer so much living in an extended family. etc,etc. But as you say, equality among the sexes is stillnot quite a reality today in Sarawak. And the most painful part is that women do not recognise their fellow women as good enough.....e.g. mother in law can beat up a daughter in primitive yet still existing...

Unknown said...

The correct word for green beans should be "mungbean"!!!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

thnak you.

For as long as we remember as Foochows, we would have green beans, red beans,soy beans in our diet.

thank you for your correction and your comments.

And thank you for dropping by.


Unknown said...

Kom piang is always refered to as "Foochow burger" but I think the appropriate word should be "Foochow bagel". Bagel in western country is just like Kom piang or its equivalent!

A bagel is a bread product traditionally made of yeasted wheat dough in the form of a roughly hand-sized ring which is first boiled in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked onto the outer crust with the most traditional being poppy or sesame seeds. Some have salt sprinkled on the bagel.

It has become a popular bread product in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom especially in cities with large Jewish populations, such as Montreal, New York, Toronto and London, each with different ways of making the bagel.

Bagels are distinct from the similarly shaped doughnuts and from the similarly textured bialys, primarily because of the cooking method amongst other differences. Russian bubliks are very similar to bagels, but are somewhat bigger, have a wider hole, and are drier and chewier. Pretzels, especially the large soft ones, are also very much like bagels, the main exceptions being the shape and the alkaline water bath that makes the surface dark and glossy.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Thanks. Bagels are available in Singapore supermarkets. And most of us from Sarawak can buy them in the frozen form.

Bagels with salmon as filling are delicious.

I agree kompiang is very similar to bagels.

In Sitiawan there are basically two kinds of kompiang: a fluffy one and a flatter one with onions and minced pork. Both are terribly appetising and one cannot eat enough of them. Chewy but comforting.


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