Friday, May 08, 2009

Chickens in the Central Market of Sibu

What thoughts do you have when you come face to face with a chicken all tied up ready for you to carry home or carry to a relative's home?

We Foochows continue to give chickens as gifts to honour and respect our elders. "I caught a chicken for you to eat." could be a nice greeting as you enter the door of your grandmother's house. And my grandmother Tiong Lien Tie would often insturct her third daughter in law to catch a chicken for the pastor Rev. Lau Ngo Kee and his family. Sometimes she would send a chicken or two to her sons-in-lau in Sibu. This was the way an elder express her love. I have always thought that it was a very nice practice of giving a love gift..

And of course in the olden days we would send a chicken or two as gifts for mothers with new born babies when they "sit the month of confinement out". Home raised and free range chickens were really premium chickens. In Foochow it is usually said "100 times better."

This is a red faced white chicken (Rhode Island Red)

I used to be horrified when the older generation chicken sellers would test the hens to see if they have laid eggs by poking their bottoms. This act or proof of age of hens continue to horrify me. But that is still part of their sales talk. (I am wondering if my friend Prof. H who might be reading this could construe this as anthropological or biological.)

Here's the proprietor or chicken stall owner of live chickens in Sibu. Wrapping up chickens in newspapers like this reminds me of how my mother and I bundled my less than month old babies in small little made in China towels so that they could be warm and feel as if they were still in the womb. The babies wrapped up in this way did not cry as much. According to our elders such babies were not frightened easily. After being wrapped up very well the babies were slowly oriented to life in the normal world and were ready to leave their mother's womb environment. Quite scientific really.

She wraps the chickens up nicely and tie them with raffia strings. Somehow these chickens remain very docile and cute...patiently waiting for buyers to come along.

Chickens remain a very important part of my family life and I found out how signficant it was ever since I was a constant visitor to my grandfather's house in Sungei Merah in the 50's and 60's besides visiting my mother's mother downriver.

I was constantly brought to visit my grandfather by my father as he was often "ordered" to see him besides the weekly visits I remember. Grandpa and he had a lot to talk about. My father was also very likeable and I think my Grandmother Siew was especially kind towards him because my father was the first born of the family and very respectful towards her. She even called him "Tui Koh" out of great respect.

Whenever my father was sick my Grandmother Siew would also bring a special chicken reared by herself from Sungei Merah to visit my father (We lived in Kung Ping Road which was later named Brooke Drive). Mum would always be very grateful and respectful towards Grandmother Siew.

Most Foochows at that time would bring a "ming nen" or a "chien mien li" which was actually a gift for meeting or visiting. This gift would be usually a chicken for good health of the "visited". It was in the form of a spring chicken (female before laying of eggs) or a big rooster if it was for a birthday or a festival. Personally I would not find any difference myself. Meat is meat. But I suppose our elders would find a great deal of difference in the meat and the taste.

The greatest mystery in our family was a strange gift my mother received after her very serious operation. My mum received a phone call to collect a basket of chickens from an upriver motor launch. My Third Uncle was asked to collect it. It was a basket full of free range or kampong chickens about 8 of them!! He asked around who sent the chickens to my mother. WE waited for weeks for a phone call to ask us to pay for the chickens. But that phone call never came. That was 40 years ago!!

Till today we have no idea who sent her the lovely chickens. She regained her health and was very grateful. It was no doubt the best mystery gift any one could ever get. I would like to thank the giver here from the bottom of my heart.

I have strangely grown allergic to chickens for sometime and develop a bad cough whenever I eat chicken.

But the sight of chickens in any market would make me think of that special person who sent my newly widowed mother a wonderful basket of chickens from upriver!!

We thanked God for years for the nourishment sent mysteriously. Praise God for his Providence.
Perhaps the giver was a real Christian.

10 memories:

天鵝江畔 said...

Well done, CY!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Dear ML
It has been a pleasure writing and documenting with photographs (mine as well as others.) Without a digital camera my work could not have been that fullfilling.
Praise God!
And God Willing I can continue.....
Thanks for your support.

Just a Little Kindness said...

It is nice to know how much the Foochows value the chicken as food. We Ibans think of chickens for miring and other celebrations.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Yes the chicken has always been a sort of icon for the Chinese and especially the Foochows. Very symbolic. Even China is shaped like a chicken!! Fancy that!

I understand the Ibans also associate a lot of significance with this fowl.

Unknown said...

Yes I agree with you. Coming from a farming background where all my elders would slaughter chickens for festivals. My other also sent chickens to new mothers and sick relatives. Therefore I also understand the social status of chickens. Very dear to my mother especially. One day thieves came to our farm my father took the gun out and ran after them. They released all the chickens. In a great hurry my father did not even fire the gun!!
Now only my mother and brother left to live in the farm house. Development is coming soon.

Reflective Thinker said...

Definitely anthropological. No one in his right mind would pinch or poke someone's derriere, unless one is inclined to sexual harassment.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Thanks BK for visiting...Hope mother hens also have Mother's Day celebration...

An Ode to an Old Hen??

Are farmers still checking if hens have already laid eggs?

Luyin said...

My mouth waters as I see those chicken only costs $10/per kg or for 1 chicken ? I craved for free range chicken or kampong ayam last few days. Went to look for them in the supermarket and managed to find one organic/ free range chicken and it cost $26.50 NZ for a 16 size (medium).That explains why I like to go back to Miri so often !!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

The chicken price is 10 ringgit per kg. in Sibu. The price for defeasthering and dressing is about 2 ringgit. Most of my relatives would buy one or two live chickens and keep in their garden cage for a week for special feeding before slaughtering themselves.
Live Ayam Tua are now about 11 ringgit in Miri.
thanks for dropping by.

Ethereal Darkling said...

This is disgusting and horrific. Patiently waiting to be bought? Can you be any more delusional? No creature wants to die. Dog, cat, horse, giraffe, cow, pig, chicken, parrot, human, we are want to live and be free. Amazing what cultural conditioning can do to you- make you so blind as to not see obvious cruelty and violence. These innocent beings have done you no wrong and are defenseless. They are no different that you in their capacity to feel. All of this so as to satisfy your tongue 5 minutes? A life for your tongue? Just because it's tradition does not make it right- it was once tradition to own slaves. Living breathing beings reduced to mere commodities- to be bought, sold, destroyed. Step out of your box and recognize the needless violence and cruelty of this. Look at it from the victim's point of view- see the world from their eyes. Would you like to be born to this world- specifically bred- with a death sentence? To be sold in a market for your flesh when you've barely reached adulthood? And to have this fate meted out to all of your kind? Please refrain from evoking gods or religions in this barbaric practice. If a god sanctions this, it is but a very sadistic god. I urge you to watch the award-winning documentaries: Earthlings and Cowspiracy. Also listen to Dr. Melanie Joy's speech on Youtube. I hope you will get to undo your carnism as many of us have done in this age where many are opening their eyes.

'The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.'- Leonardo da Vinci


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