Sunday, September 07, 2008

History - Sarikei Cantonese Association at Sare, 1885

I did a rough translation of this article from the Sarikei Cantonese Association 122th anniversary issue.

19th Century: The Origin of the Cantonese Association
When did the Cantonese first come to Sarikei? When was the first Cantonese Association set up? There was no detailed records. The only reliable source is the tombstone in Sare that has 100+ years of history.

According to the old folks' verbal narration, the Cantonese came from South China in the 19th century and settled in Kuching, Sarawak and in Indonesia, mostly in Surabaya 泗水. Later a number of Cantonese moved from Indonesia to Kuching and Bau 石龍門 (35 km from Kuching). The Kuching Cantonese Association was established on 5th December 1853. This is the first established Chinese association with 154 years of history.

Sarikei Cantonese Association's History - Part 1.
Click to enlarge. Click back arrow to come back.
Source: Sarikei Cantonese Association 122th Anniversary Issue, Dec 2007

After the Cantonese settled down in Bau, they migrated by boat to the Rajang (Rejang) River mouth. They disembarked at Rajang town and then reached Sare via a tributary at the opposite side of the Rajang river. Sare was a wild jungle then and these trail blazers had to made a living by sawing "red wood" 红木 (belian)to make house tiles 屋瓦. They transported these house tiles and wooden planks via wooden boats 板瓦船 to Sibu, Kuching, etc to trade for daily necessities. Then GuangDong province had 3+ timber businesses that came to import the wood to China and Hong Kong.

Map of Sarikei and its neighbours, 2006.
Click to enlarge. Click back arrow to come back.
Find Sare, 20km from Sarikei, near Jakar.
Source: Sarikei Bus Station at Bank Road.

In the harsh environment of Sare, the Cantonese gathered together to build a wooden 红木 house and called it the "office house". Those sick Cantonese and new comers were taken care at this building. This building became the communications and business centre. One day, a businessman went to Kuching to ship some wood and saw the Kuching Cantonese Association. He came back and proposed that this "office house" be turned into the Cantonese Association to take care of the community. This was the origin of the Sarikei Cantonese Association, circa 1885.

What happened to this "office house"? Is it still around in Sare? Come back to find out.


Daniel Yiek said...

I have finished Part 2 and it will auto post in 3 days because I will be in Sydney for a conference.

Here is a very good Mandarin tool (free) I use to work on the Chinese articles. Can even find words you can't read if you know the # of strokes.

Kanga said...

I heard the name 'Sare' since I was a very young boy in Sarikei. Only last July when I went back to Sarikei for a visit, a good friend of my drove along and pointed to me the road that leads to Sare. So I still have not been there but I learnt so much about this place and its history on this blog....

Tuan Lokong said...

Oh boy good to be around again, must have been ages since my last visit here. Well lets get to the story. I would like just to contribute to the story of Sare' prior to the settling of Cantonese in Sare' as the story was abot long guess you might want to look at this link:

45rpm said...

It was more like a Kongsi house or Malay term Pondok. An association needed the organizing committee but was really no such, probably the decision was just consensus with help of the village elder. Not sure Sare had a 師爺 which in English term is Sage where the folks look up to, probably they have.

The Cantonese Association formally took off in 1955. When the 1st committee meeting was held Kapitan Chan Ko Ming was away in England attending to studies related to local government so he missed the 1st meeting. Kapitan Chan was the 1st Chairman and he was back in 1955 for the Association's big opening celebration. I can recognize some of the early committee members.

NUNG said...

Amazing stories of pioneers from China.

Greenspot said...


Do you have more info on red wood? IF it is native tree, I suspect it could be meranti or red bakau. I also suspect Sare is a peat swamp area? Any info on Sare so that I can make an intelligent guess on redwood.


Daniel Yiek said...


A reader emailed:

It is still called "red wood" or "belian". When it is felled, the colour is red and after few years it'll turn into very dark - close to black.It is the heaviest species of timber in the world and it sinks like iron and is as hard as iron.

Kwang Chien School and all the wooden shop houses before the war were 100% belian or red wood. 紅柴 is the local name

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