Monday, March 17, 2008

Sworn Blood Brothers - Ten Brothers of Sibu

I started very early in life my hobby of people watching. I watched people at work. I watched people chopping wood. I watched mothers beating their children. It has been a life long hobby. From the day my uncle married my youngest maternal aunt , I have never been wrong in saying that he is a good man. Such a thought from a young child was laughed off then.

But my sixth sense is of course not often accurate. But with this uncle of ours, I can always tell relatives,"See, I was right then."

But indeed he is very ethical, very upright and a very disciplined man. As a teacher, he is the best of mentors. As an uncle, he is blameless. As a father, he is strict but most loving. As a brother-in-law, he is more than a brother. And as a son-in-law, he is more than a son. As a son, he is probably more filial than any Chinese son ever written about in Chinese literature. And as a friend, his nine sworn blood brothers will give evidence that he is one of the best men who ever walked on this earth.

He belongs to a fraternity of ten brothers. In Foochow they are the Ten Ngie Hing Deh. He is not the eldest of the blood brothers. They call each other Eldest Brother Second, Eldest Brother and so on until the youngest or the tenth.

I have never doubted that the relationship amongst them has always merry and excellent. They started off the brotherhood when they were in their teens having known each other and recognising that their poverty could only be overcome by the banding together. Hunger would not have to be so unbearable if they could get together to talk about their dreams and their hopes. Thus amidst poverty there grew this wonderful band of blood brothers who vowed not with the traditional bowl of blood but by their sheer determination to support each other in times of adversity and to share the joy of success together. By being a band of brothers they were also offering each other protection from town bullies or even school bullies.

When each had their turn to get married they shared the event and helped out in every way possible. In times of their children's birth they shared their knowledge of bringing up of children. When celebrations came they would get together for better or for worse. They had often gone of for Ching Ming together in a large band. When it was the turn of their children to go overseas for further studies they even pulled their financial resources together.

Theirs is an enviable group. The sisters in law too have shared great times together and helped each other in times of need. I had seen them making more than twenty bowls of mee sua together. It was not an easy task. When they got together in the past it was really a noisy time with every one wanting to say something or to share something.

With this kind of relationship they have never too far away from each other in all these sixty years or more.

Recently the youngest brother Tiong Tai Poh passed away.

Uncle Tiong was a cheerful man a service provider. He would be every ready with his service with the best smile in Sibu. He would not sneeze at a small job of repairing just a small kitchen or a small hole in a wall.

I have often wondered why this kind of "tukang" or service man has gone out of fashion? He did not bother if the owner of the house was an Iban or an Indian. He would do his very best and he would never be at a loss to say something or coming out with the wrong word.

The spirit of the ten blood brothers is still around. Those remaining continue to help and save the day for each other especially now that they are in their old age. The kindness they have shown each other will always be there for as long as they live.

Most of them are beyond sixty years old now. They have been successful in their ways.
But they are most successful in leaving behind great examples of Foochow fraternity and everlasting friendship. I see no reason why the Foochow community cannot carry on such a wonderful institution.

Cheers to blood brothers. Cheers to blood uncles!! And thanks for making me feel hopeful that all men can still be brothers.

Note : Sample of an oath from Romance of the three Kingdoms

A variety of oaths were used, but all were modeled after the famous oath sworn in the Peach Garden by Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu and described in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and all stressed the same essential virtues of loyalty to one's sworn brothers and commitment to righteousness (yi):

"We three, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty, and we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts, and if we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness may Heaven and man smite us! "

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