Wednesday, 13 September 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM
Special day for the Foochows
SEPT 9 is no ordinary day for the Foochow or Fuzhou people in Sitiawan, Perak.
It was on this day in 1903 that 303 Foochows from China – the first batch for the mission settlement in Sitiawan – arrived at their destination.
Another 60 clansmen joined them a week later, bringing the pioneer batch to 363.
According to Shih Toong Siong in his book, The Foochows of Sitiawan: A historical perspective, Methodist missionaries Rev Ling Ching Mi and Rev Dr H.L.E Luering had been tasked by the then colonial rulers to set up the mission settlement that focused on agriculture.
Both left Ipoh on May 11, 1903 on a mission to recruit people from China.
Ling and Luering managed to recruit 484 for the journey by ship, but only 363 survived the voyage to arrive safely in Sitiawan.
According to Shih, those who never made it to the promised land comprised five who perished on the way in high seas, 12 who died in the quarantine facility on St John’s Island in Singapore, and 104 who disappeared in the Singapore for unknown reasons.
Today, the majority of the Chinese in Sitiawan are of Foochow descent and they celebrated their 114th anniversary there last Saturday.
The event, organised by the Manjung Kutien Association, saw participation from more than 1,000 Foochows from all walks of life and 47 Chinese associations in the Manjung district where Sitiawan and Ayer Tawar is located. The towns are located 12km away from each other .
Kutien is one of the 10 branches of Foochow based on their place of origin in China.
Manjung Kutien Association adviser Tan Sri Dr Ting Chew Peh said the Foochows are a very close-knit community.
“We have been holding the anniversary celebration since the 100th anniversary in 2003 to honour our forefathers’ struggles, sacrifices and contributions, he said, adding the local associations takes turn to organise the event.
Among the highlights for this celebration was a kilometer-long procession in Ayer Tawar from the Chinese Methodist Church to Ayer Tawar New Village and back.
Dr Ting who was born in Kampung Baru Merbau in Ayer Tawar said the early settlers in Sitiawan arrived with just the clothes on their backs.
The settlers’ early lives was all about hard labour, he said, adding that tools like axes and hoes were all they had to start to change the landscape in the beginning.
Many were also rubber tappers in the old days, he said.
Dr Ting said, as the community grew, development also created new opportunities like cooking, tailoring and hairstyling. Today, the tools of the new trades like knives for cooking, scissors for tailoring, and razor blades for hair styling have their respective significance in the history of the Foochows.
The clan also boasts some authentic dishes like the red wine chicken, noodles, and kompiang (a traditional biscuit) which are now popular among tourists.
The 114th anniversary also included a dinner with 114 tables. The guests included Federation of Malaysia Fuzhou Associations President Tan Sri Tan Chia Lai and Federation of Sarawak Fuzhou Associations President Datuk Dr Ngu Piew Seng.