Wednesday, August 15, 2007

History - Sarikei Chinese Migrants Part 2

Population and Settlement in Sarawak, 1970. By Lee Yong Leng.

The migrants to the Rajang Basin (the old 3rd Division which was later split into 3rd, 6th and 7th Divisions) were mainly agricultural peasants from China while those in the First Division came via a land route from the Sambas district of Dutch Borneo (Kalimantan) in 1850s. They migrated to mine golds in the Montrado-Sambas-Bau areas. (Source: 1)

Sarawak Chinese Immigration.
Click to enlarge. Click Back arrow to come back.
Source: Apologies, I have lost the source!

A History of the Development Rajang Basin in Sarawak.
By Fong Hon Kah

On 1st Jun 1873, Sibu became the HQ of the new Residency of the Rajang Basin and this accelerated its growth. By 1880, Sibu overtook Kanowit in terms of importance. At the turn of the 19th century, the Chinese migrants were of Minnan or Hokkien dialects from ZhangZhou and QuanZhou of South China. They were mainly traders who lived in downtown areas.

In the early 20th century, migrants came in 3 organised groups under an agreement with Charles Brooke to develop the Rajang basin as an agricultural area:
  • 1901 - Foochow (from Fuzhou) led by Huang Naishang (黃乃裳 Wong Nai Siong). James Brooke originally wanted Wong Nai Siong's Foochows migration to settle at Kanowit but Nai Siong decided on Sibu because of its proximity to the sea. By 1902, a few Foochows had set up shop to trade amongst themselves while the Hokkien shops traded with the Ibans and Malays. (source: 4)
  • 1902 - Cantonese (from Guangdong) led by Deng Gongshu (Teng Kung Shook)
  • 1912 - Henghua (from Xinghua, Fujian) was organised by Methodist missionary, Rev Dr William Brewster. Pastor Cheng BingZhong (Ting Ping Tiong) led the 1st batch.
(Source: 2)

Chinese Pioneers, Sarawak Frontiers (1841-1941).
By Daniel Chew.

There was constant migration of Foochows from China lured by the potential windfall from rubber planting (to export to the West for the motor vehicle industry and First World War's military use). The concession land in Sibu was not enough to meet their needs for rubber plantations. The Foochows were not allowed to move north of the Sibu along the Rejang River to prevent conflicts with the newly established Cantonese settlement there.

The other choice is to move down river towards Binatang and Sarikei. Two Foochows (Tiong Kung Ping 張公彬 and Ling Ming Lok 林明樂) had visited Binatang in 1908 and 1910 respectively. Tiong Kung Ping and Yao Shao Ching 姚肖欽 requested Hoover to apply to the Resident for permission for Foochows to expand towards Binatang. This was declined but later the Rajah reversed the decision. 300 Foochow went to settle in Malow, Tung-Lai, ManKong and Krupok. The Ibans opposed the Foochows' land acquisition around Binatang. Large scale Foochow settlement in Binatang did not happen till 1922.

(source: 3)

Sarikei 1905

How did the Foochows come to Sarikei? In 1910, a few enterprising Foochows including Wong Ching Poh 黃清波, Wong Ching Chung 黃清春, Lau Yen King 劉燕 rowed a boat to a Malay kampung in Petelit. They obtained permission from the kampung head, Haji Omar, to clear land to plant vegetables, padi and fruit trees. In 1914, Wong Tien Pau 黃天保 led a team to Lubo-kan (蘆勃港 Repok port) where land allocated to Cantonese pepper growers had been abandoned). The Land Office was pulled in to arbitrate on the land allocation disputes between the Ibans and the Foochows. Shortly, huge numbers of Foochows arrived to develop the area into Lubo (蘆勃 Repok).

(source: 3)

In 1910, Ling Ming Lok began farming near Binatang Village. In the same year, Wong Ching Poh and some others started a small Foochow settlement on the eastern bank of Nyelong River in Sarikei. (Source: 7).  This source said Nyelong River (ie Bolen village), not Sarikei River (Petalit village).


Sarikei 1948

Sarikei had 6-7 Cantonese and Hokkien shops in 1910 when the first Foochow went there to search for agricultrural land. By 1914, Sarikei had become a popular Foochow settlement for growing rubber and pepper. Later Foochows became the major dialect group in Sarikei. (source: 4). In 1936, Sarikei was a cluster of shophouses by the river & not much of a town yet. (source: 5). By 1943, Sarikei had 40 shops. (source: 6)

(1) Population and Settlement in Sarawak, 1970. Lee Yong Leng.
(2) A History of the Development Rajang Basin in Sarawak, Fong Hon Kah
(3) Chinese Pioneers, Sarawak Frontiers (1841-1941), Daniel Chew. p160-161. Published 1990.
(4) Chinese Immigration and Society in Sarawak 1868-1917 (Craig A Lockard); Sarawak Gazette, 1 March, 1948
(5) 1979 Anthonian (St Anthony's School magazine). Interview with teacher Rev Wagenaar Rector.
(6)1979 Anthonian (St Anthony's School magazine). Interview with teacher Hii Ing-King.
(7) The Diffusion of Foochow Settlement in Sibu-Binatang Area, Central Sarawak, 1901-1970.  Mee-Kuok Kiew. Published 1972


Daniel Yiek said...

Sorry to those who do not care about history, normal programming will resume while I work the research done by ST Lau on the origins of Sarikei and its name.

For those who like history (quite a lot judging from the poll at the sidebar), there'll be more historical posts on Sarikei prior to the Chinese migration wave; ie back to the 1800's Brooke era.

Daniel Yiek said...

Can anyone explain where exactly is Petelit village (it still exists today. Across which river?)? I have heard this name many times but have never been there. Never heard of Lubok though.

stlau said...

Daniel, Good Work! We are interested in our history and these postings. But it is much tougher to comment compared to food and fruits. Hence, the lack of comment. Taking about fruits, durians and sugar cane were already popular in Sarikei over 150 years ago.

Daniel Yiek said...

I find these 2 posts on Sarikei Chinese migrants the most satisfying to do because it took so long to unearth the many nuggets from different sources to piece the Sarikei puzzle/story together. I would say not many (maybe none)of us knew about this history.

If there are any constructive feedback/disagreement on this history, pls air them like what regular readers like Lidasar and Kanga do. Those books are only as accurate as their sources and these posts are only as accurate as the books I read. There are many more books in Kuching's State library across the river which I have not gone thru. If your great/grand parents have real life anecdotes, would love to hear them.

I was planning for this to be the grand finale to close the blog at the end of the year but let's see how long we go on. There are still many surprises left.

To the Anthonian Malay teacher who's planning to send old pics of Sarikei kampung & old mosque, pls also send in old stories of Malay kampung life.

stlau said...

Petelit (Bet-tai-li (in Foochow)) is a name for an area in Ulu Sarikei - just like Bo-lan, Mu-ru-du, Mu-ket-huan, etc. Lobokan (kan is the sea - Hokkien?) is also another area. Somebody living in Sarikei can easily tell the locations.

Daniel Yiek said...

I have seen Mu-ket Huan written as Bukit Huang (maybe Huang here means the surname 黃).

I have edited the closing paragraph to add in an observation from the 1979 Anthonian interview with teacher Rev Wagenaar Rector that "In 1936, Sarikei was a cluster of shophouses by the river & not much of a town yet.". This implies that between 1936 and 1943 (40 shops), the town grew very fast with more migrants.

Anonymous said...

bravo!! good work.

Kanga said...

My recollection of the location of Petelit (Bet-tai-li) is the area where the current hospital is. I recall during my St. Anthony's school days I had two classmates crossing the river by ferry every school day (off course there is a bridge now)

Kong said...

Everyone in Sarikei know Bet-tai-li is indeed where the new hospital is.

Anonymous said...

Interesting history of Minatang. Pioneer Ling Ming Lok was my gradfather.

Anonymous said...

corrections!... Binatang, grandfather.

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