Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chinese Poetry on a Grave


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My grandmother Chong Ching Soon (JS Chong) passed away at a very young age of 38 from hemorrhaging while giving birth. In those days the infant mortality rate was high and so was the mortality rate for mothers who gave birth unattended by any qualified nurses or doctors. Times were really bad too at that time and nothing could be done to save her life during the early days of the Foochow Settlement.

While my grandfather was already prospering from his businesses the young family of 9children (we Foochows had termed it "children like the steps on a staircase") were bereft from the loss of a wonderful mother who came from Singapore to marry my grandfather . The young children grieved for a long long time. My father was a very taciturn man but the little I heard from him made me feel how much pain he suffered for having lost a mother at a young age.

The match was made by Rev. James Hoover according to family history. Together with her came Mr. and Mrs. JB Chong. My grandmother's brother was Mr. JB Chong who taught English in the Methodist Boys' School.

My grandfather's greatest friend in Sibu was the very educated and academic Rev Yao Siew King. The two of them were in many committees serving under Rev. James Hoover.
Rev Yao and my grandfather were selected to open up Bintangor in 1912 by Rev. James Hoover and the rest is Bintangor's history.

The untimely death of my grandmother was a great blow to my grandfather as she was a good helper in many ways. She was literate in English and had helped grandfather fit machinery by reading the manual for him I was told. Being a very cautious and strict lady she had also brought up her children in a very systematic and proper ways.

This Chinese poem was written by Rev Yao to summarise her character. Our family is indeed honoured by his poetry which now is looked upon as a plague in her honour. My grandmother passed away more than half a century before my grandfather left this world.

One of these days I will get Wong Meng Lei to translate these beautiful words properly for me.

Today her simple and solitary American style grave is still standing on top of a hill in the oldest Methodist Cemetery in Sibu. While the belian gate remains strong and sturdy the hinges have been changed several times due to rust.

I often sigh because I never got to see her or know her as a person. Our grand uncles and aunties from the Chong family are still around in Sarawak and we remain in touch with some of them as they continue to contribute richly to the state.

4 memories:

Superman said...

Seldom have any poetry engraved on graves nowadays on a customized grave. Many goes into commercial and mass production type of grave.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Yes you have a good observation there. That is why I treasure this special grave of my grandmother's. She is having a "single".My grandfather died very much later like his own father. And they were buried in the new Methodist Cemetery near the eastern part of Sungei Merah.
I think we should really do a great historical doucmentation on Rev. Yao Siew King and his writing. He should be considered one of the foremost literary men of Sibu apart from the late Lau Tze Cheng.

天鵝江畔 said...

I need to consult my friend Rev Wong at Singapore, he is the expert of translation of the classical chinese.
Anyway it is the summarise of the character and life of your grandma

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Thank you ML. I know you are extremely busy. I am getting ready my quipment for tomorrow. I will be with the Huai En car pool and will arrive proably after two tomorrow. So see you in Sibu!Q!


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