Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lau King Howe Hospital - a brief history

This is an early photo of the Lau King Howe Hospital of Sibu. Later it expanded to become a bigger hospital. But in the 80's the Sibu General Hospital was built in Oya Road and this hospital which saved many lives slowly disappeared into oblivion and disuse. Only a small part of the building is left to become a mini museum. A huge piece of the original land has been used up for urban development of Sibu.

This is a portrait of Lau King Howe who donated a large part of his own money to build a modern for his beloved people of Sibu with the help of Rev. J. Hoover and Rev. Ling Kai Cheng. A few years after his hospital was built he went back to China where he soon departed from this life.

The Methodist Mission has indeed been attributed for a very solid initial development of Sibu since 1901.

It built more than 41 churches and as many schools from 1901 to 1960.

But one of the most significant contributions is the innovative idea of getting a modern western hospital built with money mainly donated by Dr. Lau King Howe. The idea came from none other than Lau King Howe himself.

Dr. Lau King Howe should be considered a legend to all the Foochow settlers and their descendents in Sibu. Obliterating him from our written history can be considered akin to a historical crime. So efforts to commemorate his contribution and the worthiness of a modern first hospital in Sibu should be commended.

Lau King Howe was born in Fuzhou City and studied at the Fuzhou Anglo Chinese College. He was trained at the Manila Teachers' TRaining College, Manila, The Philippines. He soon became the Principal of a Chinese school in Manila. But after a few years he returned to China and was Secretary General of Szechuan Inland Transport Department. Later he was an entrepreneur in Shanghai.

Lau King Howe came to Sibu in 1915 to help develop the rubber plantation activities. He was a very committed Christian and had a father who was a Methodist pastor. Coming from a very Christian family background, he was touched when he saw the great medical needs of the people of Sibu. He was very burdened with the high mortality rate of the Sibu Foochows at that time. So he apporached Rev. Hoover , who was head of the Methodist Mission at that time, to discuss the possibility of setting up a fund for a hospital and to get a grant of land from the Government. Reverend Hoover had the ear of the Rajah. Lau King Howe and Rev Hoover approached the Resident C.D. Adams first. The Resident was happy to forward the appeal and consulted with the Rajah immediately. The Rajah's secretary, T.C. Swayne wrote to the Methodist Mission that the Rajah agreed with the project and the hospital was also to be named "Lau King Howe Hospital".

On 7th March 1931 (in the words of Rev Ling Kai Cheng, "50 Years in Reminiscence" written in Chinese, 1965)

"The Resident of Sibu, Adams, Lau King Howe, Rev. Hoover and Rev Ling Kai Cheng, witnessed laying of the foundation stone for the new hospital. By 1936,the concrete and steel structured hospital was finally declared opened with maternity ward, children's ward, First Class, Second Class and Ordinary Class Wards." There were also outpatient ward, nurses' hostels ,etc. Lau King Howe was indeed a great philanthropist!"

"In May 1936, Lau King Howe returned to China to live the life of a retired gentleman scholar and finally passed away a few years later."

For many years the Sibu community did not do much about the abandoned hospital building after the Sibu hospital was moved to Oya Road. Recently,the local branch of the Malaysian Medical Association has decided to renovate the old and very diminished building as a museum " designed to remember, perpetuate and propogate the spirit of Lau King Howe, his sincerety, benevolence, generosity and his profound love for the sick, poor and disadvantaged."

Like any other person from Sibu, with a love for our ancestry, I definitely wish to support in spirit this new endeavour. Heroic actions, great teachings,legends, great acts of philanthrophy should not ever be erased - these are the basic teachings of the Chinese civilization.

Note: On Aug 31, 1994, when the new government hospital at Oya Road was completed and began operations, Lau King Howe Hospital ceased operations.

The Methodist Mission continued to be instrumental in upgrading the quality of lives of the settlers of Sibu and the people of its vicinity. In the 50's and 60's before the Malaysian Government took over all medical treatments, clinics and hospitals, the Methodist Mission actually operated clinics in Tulai, Bukit Lan, Nanga Mujong,Sg. Teku and a huge hospital in Kapit, called the Christ Hospital at Pantu which started operation in 1960 and had a great reputation as a spiritual and medical healing centre, again a first in Sarawak. The Methodist Mission also sponsored medical scholarships for quite a number of doctors and nurses, sending them to Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.

4 memories:

Unknown said...


Thank you very much for the information. Sometimes I wonder why not a single road or at least a ward or building at the new Sibu Hopsital is named after the late Mr. Lau King Howe. It is even insulting why I read in the newspaper many years back that the Ministry of Health in KualaLumpur always write to the Hopsital Director to erase the name form the hospital as they claimed that the Health Ministry contribution is far more than what waas originally contributed by thelate lau!! Perhaps UNIMAS medical faculty should even set up a LauKing howe chair of medical studies like the Chair for chinese studies. The hospital actually contributed immersely topeople of all racesnot just Foochow!!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

I do agree with you. the hospital provided a lot of jobs for the kampong people I remember. Lots of becha drivers also queued up to sell their blood, pardon me for revealing this. The orderlies, and some of the first nurses in Sibu were my Malay friends. They have really contributed a lot to our welfare, regardless of race, creed and beliefs.

I am inclined to think that KL government has been too far away to feel the pulses of our people and our genuine contributions, although I do appreciate their modern contribution in building up our nation.

Somewhere tucked in the archives of the Methodist Church will bemore information on Lau King Howe. He will always remain in our hearts a benefactor. He gave a grand sum of money actually. I do not think anyone can be as selfless as he.

Unknown said...


Perhaps someone should publish a book on the Late Lau with Sarawakiana as the author or editor.

Hope that will materialise. Hope it will have an English version too.

The Quartet of El Dorado said...

It would be good if more books could be written by local writers from realistic perspective.

Books which smell of political apple polishing would never go down well with any discerning readers.


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