Today I am going to write about "Three knives" which helped make all the difference to many of the lives of the pioneering Foochows who came to Sibu in 1903. This clear message from all our elders who came from Ming Ching district in Fujian Province in the 1900's came repeatedly to us when we were young. They reminded us that these three simple implements had "put food in many stomachs" and made lives easier. The three knives were scissors (ka toh),razor (tieh toh) and the Chinese chopper (chai toh ) . These three knives enabled our forefathers to be tailors (my maternal grandfather), barbers (my cousin) and cooks (many of my uncles) respectively. And in the same way, many other Chinese who migrated to many other parts of the world also brought these three knives with them to help them first to eke out a living and then help them prosper.
Wong Meng Lei in his book, " Pioneering Trails of the Foochow" mentioned this factor too.
My maternal grandfather was a good tailor and he managed to make ends meet when rubber prices fell. In fact, his skill in using the scissors helped him tremendously-he was able to send my grandmother to China for a holiday trip and my uncles and aunties for their further education in China.
A cousin as late as the 60's learned dress making and she found her life partner and together they have built a huge family fortune spreading to other parts of the world.
Another cousin was very good with the hair scissors and he started a barber's shop, instead of carrying on with rubber tapping,to help raise his wonderful family. Today his son has branched into agricultural machinery and is doing well, alongside his other family members.
Stories like these are heart warming. And indeed if we do look around, how lives have long changed for the better in this hot tropical land which was infested with snakes, mosquitoes and other disease-bearing worms and insects when our forefathers first stepped foot on it. With these three simple implements,besides others and the skills they brought with them from China, the pioneers initiated the economic progress of Sibu.
Today the same three knives have indeed enabled many to become very prosperous. They will continue to help any one prosper.