(This photo was probably taken in 1930 when my father, Chang Ta Kang (left) graduated from Junior Secondary School in Sibu. My Great Grand Father , Tiong King Sing,was in the middle and my Grandfather, Tiong Kung Ping on the right.)
It is difficult to start talking about my grandfather. Remembering him is like remembering everything about my wonderful childhood which happened in a warm,big family of uncles, aunties and cousins, brothers and sisters and my exceptional parents.
He was born in Min Ching district in Fujian Province, at the end of the ninteenth century. His father, my great grandfather was a Chinese Traditional doctor. My grandfather was the eldest of his two sons. Bright and very disciplined in every was my grandfather was once told by a fortune teller that his fortune was to be made "overseas in the south". And it was with this inspiration that he had great dreams of emigrating one day.
He was also a Methodist by birth as my great grandfather embraced Christianity when it first came to the Min River Valley or Min Chiang. It was this relationship with Methodism that brought my grandfather to Sarawak and help him develop a great friendship with Rev Hoover.
His childhood was fairly restricted and simple as China was still under the Ching Dynasty. Corruption was rife, banditry was the order of the day and not much was really done for the simple farming folks who lived far away from the main cities. It was said that it was good to have the Emperor far away in Beijing.
His education was therefore meagre, with a tutor coming to their home to teach the two brothers for a couple of years. Probably that was all that my great grandfather could afford.
Physically, my grandfather Tiong Kung Ping was a big sized man, fair skinned which could become quite tanned when he worked hard in his garden, with bright eyes and strong limbs. He was a man of strong character and was considered a very determined man in whatever he had to do.
Intelligent and good with his hands, he was well known as a mechanic when he first arrived in Sibu. But it was through his great hardwork and frugal outlook in life that he soon made a fortune through rubber planting, rice mills, ice mills and manufacture of bricks. People said this of him, "He turned water into money (ice) , he turned mud into money (bricks) and he turned trees into money (rubber).
As he was a strict disciplinarian and a man of few words most people held him in awe. Although he loved his children very much and even more so, his grandchildren,his every breath was taken seriously by every member of his family.
My great grandfather, Tiong King Sing, being fairly self sufficient although not well to do,as a traditional doctor,in retrospect, had agreed to let my grandfather could join Wong Nai Siong to venture out as a pioneer in Sibu. He thus let go of his elder son so that he could make his fortune. It must have been farsighted of him to do so. As a result of this decision, the Tiong family would never be the same again. It spread far and wide in the world today.
My great grandfather had a habit of wearing all white and was neat to boot! It is difficult now to explain how or why he became interested in Methodism which had come to this part of China bringing schools and hospitals. But this little missionary service was not enough as the population was increasing tremendously and furthermore,there was a famine and life had become terribly hard.
In retrospect, at a very young age my grandfather must have trained himself to be self sufficient and street wise. He was truly determined to follow his fortunes in Nanyang. Perhaps his stars were on the rise as just a few years later,the opportunity came and my grandfather went on board the ship belonging to Wong Nai Siong.
According to many of my relatives my grandfather was a very determined man who was very fearless whenever he had a task to do. He was definitely one of the best pioneers of his batch. First like every one else, he tried his hand at collecting jelutong and the first few months were very very hot for him. Food would suddenly turn sour after only a few hours and often he went hungry. The first year was truly difficult for all the pioneers who settled in Sungei Merah. But it was good enough that the Methodist Mission built a shelter for all of them.
There was no doubt that life for the first batch of pioneers was very tortuous. The group slashed and burned the surrounding jungles and often felt ill because they were not yet acclimatized to the extreme temperatures. But it was still better than starving in the harsh political and economical conditions of China. As Sibu was promising a lot of hope for all of them.
Every day my grandfather would be thinking of his father in China and how he would makie enough money to send for his father and brother.
Sometimes I wish that my grandfather was still alive to tell me how he lived, how he hoped and how he enjoyed himself in the impossible equatorial jungles. We of the third generation are very lucky to have a grandfather who sacrificed so much for both his father and for his own children and grandchildren. Had he too foreseen what we could have then?
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 6:19 PM