Wednesday, September 03, 2008

History - Sarikei Pioneer Shops

In another gem of an interview unearthed by reader Ikan Sembilang, we look at Sarikei life in the 1920s through the eyes of Mr. Chan 張武祥 who arrived in Sarikei in 1927 via the sea. At the time, Siaw Ah Khoon 萧南坤 was the second highest ranking government servant in Sarikei after the District Officer (which was a British selected by the colonial government).

At that time, the government departments, pharmacy, police station and prison were all situated opposite the Youth Recreation Centre. Was this Youth Receation Centre at the current Customs House at the junction of Market Road and Jalan Kubu Lama?

邱炳浓 Khoo Peng Loong (the Cantonese kapitan after Chan Wei) initiated a donation drive of $50 each to reach a sum of $1000. This sum was used to purchase a piece of land at 2.5 mile Repok Road from Mr. 鐘海祥.

Chan Wei, and the Hokkien kapitan, Ling Zhao Bian 林昭邊, (note: of Chop Lim Heng Teck 林恒德, No. 4 Wharf Road) applied to the government to get approval for this piece of land at 2.5 mile Repok Road to be designated as the Cantonese and Hokkien cemetery.

Interview with Chan 張武祥
Source: Chen Ko Ting
Submitted by: Ikan Sembilang

8 more wooden shops were built opposite the first original 6 shops:
  • 2 under 新锦成號 owned by 林先慎
  • 2 under 恆發號 owned by 林先海
  • 4 under 順發號 owned by 林峇峇
The names of these family owned businesses were:
  1. 林春記號 Ling Choon Kee
  2. 林恆發號 Ling Heng Huat
  3. 萬興 Wang Hin coffeeshop - you knew there was a kopitiam, didn't you?
  4. 順發棧 Soon Huat Inn - operated by 林應林 Ling Ing Ling. The first Sarikei hotel!
  5. 廣合興 Kong Hup Heng - operated by 陳梦 Chen Mong, father of Chen Ko Ming. Now at No. 5 Wharf Road. Cantonese.
  6. 锦福興
  7. 金成安 Kim Seng Ang. Now at No. 3 Wharf Road
  8. 金益興

These early wooden shops were at Wharf Road. Later Repok Road (called "back street" then) had 36 wooden shophouses and a 同利華 Tong Li Hua silent movie cinema, that preceeded the Bai Sheng 百勝 theatre.

Black and white silent movies - that's cool! Now take your hands off my kacang putih! *Munch*


sarawakiana said...

Do you have a copy of the 1901-1961 Sibu Foochow Association 60th Anniversary Commemorative Issue? A few good articles and photos on Sarikei.

JIC you don't have I could send you photocopies of the relevant pages. I re-read this issue many times. Good stuff.

Keep up your good work!!

Daniel Yiek said...

Yes, please send me the pages on Sarikei at

That would exciting stuff for the readers and myself. A lot of these type of magazines are not found in government libraries.

Also is there any info on Foochows of Sarikei in the Wong Meng Lei book you blogged about called "Pioneer Trail of the Foochows"?

I'm also working on a "People" article on Khoo Peng Loong who later moved to Sibu. Pls email me any articles. I'm going thru all the nuggets of info written by reader Lidasar on him and will consolidate. I found a pic of Khoo...but need more.

45rpm said...

邱炳浓 Khoo Peng Loong was the Cantonese kapitan after Chan Wei and before Chan Ko Ming. The cemetery land was bought from 鐘海祥 whom is a Hakka, the land which CTC sawmill is sitting on was also previously owned by him and his house was somewhere beside too.

In the beginning the surrounding Foochow was against the idea of a cemetery as neighbor and start setting up blockage with fallen trees. The first to be buried at the 2.5 mile cemetery was Loh Ah Kiew who was also one of the leader who initiated the new cemetery. He passed away around the time 1941. He house was right behind 4th block Repok Right, no other Chinese can claim to own a house so near to town.

One of the early and more elaborated tomb in 2.5 mile is that of Towkay Sim of Soo Hong 四豐 2nd block Repok Left. He passed away a few years after the war in the 1940s, when the body was shipped back from Kuching it was placed right at the place where Chee Kong康 濟(Shop of Lawyer Chiong) is located for a few days of ceremony, that time the shop house block wasn’t build and was still Malay Kampung with coconut trees surrounding.

Mr. Chan 張武祥 also mentioned about the headmaster of Kwang Chien 廣建. Many of the surviving old folks could still recall their headmaster Tan Kim Sing 陳敬 信 the 3rd Headmaster of Kwang Chien 廣建. He was a big guy and in the early days you could see him placing his little girl inside a basket and place it on his bicycle cycling around town, he got quite a few daughters.

Let me consolidate and update new founding on Khoo Peng Loong, I will add it to Lidasar's comment.

Nelson said...
Council fuming over poor delivery of privatised services

SARIKEI: The Sarikei District Council (SDC) is still fuming over the unsatisfactory performance of contractors of privatised services here despite issuance of strongdirectives and warnings.

SDC chairman Chan Kam Wuai, who led a team of councillors and enforcement officers for a round of inspection around the town yesterday, was particularly disappointed with the performance of the street sweepers and drainage maintenance workers.

Rubbish were strewn all over the places including on the streets, drains and flower beds, he pointed out.

Chan, who was armed with a pocket camera, took pictures of the ugly sight which he said he would show as evidence when he calls the contractors concerned in the next few days.

After receiving numerous complaints from the public, SDC had recently decided to place the supervision of privatised services under the charge of councillors, the secretary and the engineer.

The reason behind the decision was that the reports submitted by the foreman, who was previously entrusted to supervise the service, did not reflect the actual situation.

And because of that the council had made the payment for the services which were unsatisfactorily carried out.

Under the new supervisory system, there is no room for non-compliance of the contract’s terms and conditions as it involves the council’s top brass.

That means payment to the contractors requires the approval of the new supervisory team.

During his recent press conference, Chan had stated that the council would be strict on privatised services which included withholding payment until works were satisfactorily done and termination and blacklisting of contractors.

45rpm said...

This article talk about the interview with 張武祥 but does anyone know who is Mr 張武祥 ? Nelson, do you know?

If I am correct Mr 張武祥 was the son-in-law of 成吉 Seng Kit. The Yap family owned and operated 成吉 in Rajang, together with 順發 Soon Huat this two family dominate most of the business in the Rajang River mouth area long before the war. Dr Yap's father was a relative who works for 成吉 and I read Dr Yap was born in Rajang River mouth area in the 1940s. 成吉 moved from Rajang to Sarikei No 14 Wharf Rd. The boss doesn't have a son and the adopted son was not a suitable choice so eventually the son-in-law 張武祥 took over the business and later moved the business to No 23 Repok Rd, if you could remember they were the shop distributing 555, Benson & Hedges etc etc. Mr 張武祥 was a sport encaustic who played badminton as a regular exercise.

nelson said...

i'm not sure. sorry to say that i can't read mandarin.

45rpm said...

同利華 Tong Li Hua silent movie cinema was located at the right side of Repok Rd where the 4th block of Repok right is now located. Is on the upper level of the middle shop and right behind was the house of Low Ah Kiew. 同利華 Tong Li Hua was the business of the Chan, related to early Kapitan Chan Wei 陳偉. 同利華was involve in sawmill in lower Rajang in the early days before wooden blocks were build along Repok Rd, this argue well with the early record of Chan Wei trading in wood under Chop Hou Nging 厚源号 in Binatang. One of the Chan was Chan Tat 陳達whom was the brother of Kapitan Chan Wei. People use to call him 師爺達 which in English term is Sage Tat. 師爺達 Sage Tat had very long beard that reaches the belly button and folks look up to him to solve problem involving the law. Chan Tat had a daughter who started early hair saloon 红玫瑰(Red Rose) at 3rd block Repok Right, her children had European pedigree and one of them married a prominent doctor who passed away this year. In those days there were 3 師爺, the other two were 師爺 Seng and 師爺 Gok. These wise man help solving community problems, you can't hire a lawyer those days and lawyer Chiong was probably still a toddle then.

Ikan Sembilang said...


Thanks for sharing your interesting background story on Kapitan Chan Wei and Chan Tat. It is a bit of a surprise to learn that Chan Tat was Michael Parker’s maternal grandfather and Kapitan Chan Wei his granduncle.
I was told that 張武祥, or Ah Bu (阿武in Hokkien) as he was known to his friends, followed 林昭边 to Sarikei when the latter came back to Sarawak after his balik kampung trip to China in 1927. Ah Bu started work as an assistant in 林恒德 at No. 4 Wharf Road, where he learned account keeping and how to use abacus or suanpan, a calculating tool that every Chinese businessman must learn how to use before the advent of modern electronic calculators. He later worked for 成吉, another Hokkien shop in Wharf Road owned by 葉忠賢, who happened to be a relative of Dr. Yap’s father, 葉生財. Ah Bu married 葉忠賢's daughter in the 1930s and when his father-in-law passed away, he took over the business of成吉 as 葉忠賢 only had an adopted son but no male offspring of his own.
In his young days, Ah Bu was a keen badminton player, and one of his badminton buddies was Hj Satem, who was the Head of the Customs & Excise Department in Sarikei in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Badminton then was a popular sport in Sarikei, and with the enthusiastic support given by Hj Satem, the Sarikei Customs Godown was at one time turned into an indoor badminton court after normal office hours. A black and white pic that I sent to Daniel earlier shows Sarikei being honoured by the visit of Wong Peng Soon after he became the first Asian to win the All-England Badminton Championship in 1950 and in 1951, 1952 as well.
Ah Bu had four children, the eldest of whom,張成川, is currently the President of the Associated Chinese Chambers Of Commerce and Industry of Sarawak.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know the offspring of hokkien kapitan ling zhao bian? Lim kim piaw

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