By Tai Zee Kin
My dear Chinese friends,
I find that this article which has been written by a young Chinese Malaysian brings the true sense and feeling of the Chinese Malaysia from the history of those years until now.
It was exactly why we Malaysian Chinese could not be a truly Malaysian first disregard however hard we try and shout to the Nusantara that we are all Malaysians.
We will always be the Chinese first then only Malaysian.
Assimilation by marriage will be a solution in which will bred a new generation of Malaysian of mix blood and culture. Something to ponder by the Chinese in Malaysia . I totally agree with him and below i would like to share his article to all for the benefit to foster a more tolerable and peaceful environment for all.
Ethnic Han (chinese)-Malaysian, please wake up from our ancestors’ grievance and despair!
(Preface – This article was originally written by me fully in Mandarin. However i have not gathered enough courage to publish the mandarin version, having anticipated attacks from Chinese Chauvinists in Malaysia. I’ve seek many advices from wise people before putting my thoughts together in this issue. In the spirit of Malaysia, I shall put forth this to you. I dedicate this to every Malaysian, especially our brothers and sisters from different races and ethnicity.)
– “I was listening to a song by the name of 黄河怨 (Grievance of the Yellow River). The wordings of the song reflected the grievance and mourning by the widows and children of chinese men who went on to fight the japanese. The wordings of the song was painful. they were saddening, and full of regrets.”
1) The Great Divide – of Northern and Southern Chinese Immigrants
Being a chinese malaysian/ Han Malaysian, when you know another new Han Malaysian friends by their name, you would then supplement another question that other races wouldn’t common asked : “What is your dialect clan”?
Are you a hokkien? are you a cantonese, are you a hakka, are you a fuchiew, are you a TiewChew, are you a hainamese, or are you a Kwongxi?
many wouldn’t go all the way to ask if you are a kwongxi.
Had it occur to you, that NO ONE ever asked, if you’re a : Shanghainese, SiChuanese, BeiJingnese, Nanjingnese, HeBei, ?
During the last Dynasty and the reign of the last Manchurian Emperor Pu-Yi, with the influences and bullying by the 8 foreign-alliances on China (八国联军）, as well as persistent civil war lead by Dr Sun-Yat Sen, many Han Chinese, who forms the majority of the Chinese population couldn’t bear it any longer. They were living in absolute poverty and were suffering from impoverishment. Deep inside their guts, they couldn’t swear absolute loyalty to their king, who were of a different ethnicity from north – the ethnic manchuria, who practices distinct culture from the ethnic han from almost every aspect.
Northern Chinese were commonly known as the 官人 (the rich/upper class). If you trace the english word “MANDARIN”, it came from the ancient Sanskrit connotation of “MENTRI/MENTERI”, which means “of the upper class”. Mandarin, was known as the “dialect of the northern upper class”. People who speaks Mandarin dialect, were the beijing officials from north. – I will elaborate further on this later.
Southern Chinese, like the Hokkiens, FUchiew, Hainamese, albeit adhering to the same writing system, spoke it differently. THese are the farmers, petty merchants, or commonly perceived as the “lower class” among the ethnic Hans. They long succumbed to the fate that northerner who speaks the upper class dialect (官语）-which later was known as the “mandarin” dialect are far more superior and richer.
living through poverty under the last ching dynasty, and severe instablity during the Nationalist Party’s Reign under Yuan Shi Kai, many Chinese decided to leave the country.
Don’t get it wrong here however.
The northern Chinese left China, with the intention of leaving it for good. they are comprised of the the poor, but mostly the rich. These people fearing that their assets would not survive through persistent civil warfare and lateron, the world war two, brought everything along with them to “better places”, such as the USA and Europe.
The southern Chinese however, were “less” affected by the political instability, not being located in the crux of the game of thrones as much as the northerner. They, on the other hand, were those who seeked to “Change” the fate of their family. With that in mind, they went down south, as brought and offered by the British, to the Nusantara. (British was one of the 8 country alliances that dictated alot of china’s politics).
They were brought in as Miner, labourer, and petty merchants to Nusantara countries, in order to work for the colonial masters’ economical favour.
They were clinging on the hope that one day, upon gathering enough wealth, they could bring back their wealth here to China, and change the lifestyle of their Family in China. Some came alone, leaving their wive and children. Many others, bring along their immediate family members.
They suffered through the difficult passages to commute down south through massive ships, squeezing into the cramped little room for 1 month with technically minimal hygene provisions, just to get their way to Malaya.
They, were our ancestors.
2.) Do you know that most of your ancestors do not speak the language you are speaking now?
MY grandgrandmother Chan Seong Lan, who died 3 years ago at the age of 105, was one of the migrants. I had the privileged of hearing 1st hand experience from her regarding her journey. Granny Chan came from TeowChiew.
When i was young, I had terrible communication problem with granny Chan. I spoke mandarin eloquently. but She doesn’t. She speaks perfect Hakka and Teow Chiew, but never mandarin. To be honest, I’ve never heard she uttered a single mandarin phase. (what made me proud was that her MALAY was really good. She always “sembang” with the lady who sell laksa in front of her house, so i was told).
Our ancestors came down to Malaya with their dialect and language. they were very ignorant over the mandarin dialect (common acknowledge as a “language” in modern days). They do not even think that there was a need to learn mandarin. Most of their culutral practices and behavours were defined by their dialects, such as the Hokkiens and Teow Chiews’ “Pai Ti Gong” ceremony on the 9th day of Lunar New Year or the Hakka’s food like “Son Pan Zi”, “Hakka teoh Fu” etc.
They came in with the simple thoughts of gathering Money, and bring it back to China so that it would benefit their relatives and family up in China. If you still have relatives above the age of 85, do ask them if they have siblings in China, and why didn’t they go back to reconcile and reunite with them. we shall explore “why” they didn’t go back in the next discussion.
3.) Our ancestors who wanted to go back to China, did not go back. Why?
As mentioned above, their main reason of coming down to Malaya/other south east asian country, was not to settle down permanently, unlike the northern Chinese who migrated to Europe or the US.
Our Ancestors taught us a thousand year old virtue, of ” Ru Xiang Sui Su 入乡随俗“ ( if you’re in another foreign/alien land, you assimilate or integrate into the culture and practices of that society). “Ru Xiang Sui Su” was the guiding principle of the chinese who wanted to permanently migrate into a new society. You see the American Chinese migrant adapting Christian name, going to US schools, reading their news papers (of course you still have chinese circulation or chinese food in China town, which will be discussed later – as in the comparison between the china town of chinese who wanted to settle down in new society permanently, and the china town of Malaysia, former are likened to be a “remembrance” of their root, later is just a facade). The Chinese in Europe too incorporated into the european culture fairly quickly, where they won’t be satisfied until their english is rich of British Accent. They did not forget their root nontheless of being ethnic chinese/han, but in terms of lifestyle and routine, they’ve assimilated and integrated into the society they’ve migrated to. You see that in places like Japan, Korea, or Thailand too for that matter.
However, this virtue of “Ru Xiang Sui Su” did not apply to southern chinese who’ve migrated to Malaya. This is simply because they never wanted to stay permanently.
Furthermore, the fact that our ancestors started Chinese school in early 1900, (first being Foon Yew High School in Johor) , started of Chinese Press (Kwong Wah Jit Poh, which is much earlier than Utusan) proved the irrebutable fact that our Ancestors WANTED to ensure that their next generation to be “well equipped” with the Chinese language and culture/customs, so that when they are back in China they would be able to adapt into the norms/culture in China easily. Chinese who migrated with the intention to permanently settled down in a foreign country, never started chinese school or chinese press in the scale that our ancestors did. Back then, Chinese school was not unified. You have Penang’s “Fu Jian High School”, which conducts it’s lesson in Hokkien (currently, renamed “Penang Chinese Girl School/ Bin Hwa High School”). The name of the chinese schools also pretty much reflect on our ancestor’s “reminder” of the fact that their presence in Malaya was temporary. you have “中华CHONG HWA”. Chong Hua is the abbreviation of the “Chong hua/ tiong hua” race (not ethnic), which then is another rephase of the term 中土大园的华夏民族 (the Hua Xia (deepest root of the chinese) race from the main land ground). Contrary to popular believe, Chong Hua is not derived from China’s Full Name “中华人民共和国“’s “Zhong hwa”. in fact, both China’s name, and CHinese School’s name in Malaya derived from the first root of Chinese race (again, not ethnic Han), which is the “Main colossal Land’s Hua Xia race 华夏 race).
What was the reason that they then stayed permanently?
If you read my previous blog post of “bumiputra, for non-bumiputra” —-> Link http://www.facebook.com/taizeekin/posts/10151559295110306 you would have realized that they CAN’T go back to China, against their desire.
soon after they came down, the world war two started. japanese invaded China, and there were civil war in CHina between the Communist fraction and the Nationalist fraction. Fact that Dr Sun Yat Sen started off his revolutionism from Penang, before recapturing China from the last manchurian emperor shows how deep an affinity between the CHinese in Malaya and China (of course he got his later funding from alot of oversea chinese in europe and USA as well, but he started in Penang, Malaysia).
Our Ancestors had NO CHOICE to go back to china and reunite with their siblings, family and loved one. As soon as the war ends, Communist party defeated Nationalist party lead by Chiang Kai Sek, and practiced “Close Door Policy”. the Whole china, like North Korea, was sealed. No one was to enter and no one was to leave (technically).
Malaysian ethnic Han/Chinese will have no choice, but to negotiate for a settlement plan. They GRIEVE and MOURNE over the fact that they could no longer go back and reunite with their family in mainland China. But settlement in Malaya, was never meant to be perpetually. That’s why they actually agreed to alot of terms that were seemingly compromising meritocracy on their part, but INSIST on venacular education. (read my previous blog above for an understanding about citizenship en mass). Venacular education, is the ONLY way they can ensure that their descendant like you and me, would be able to converse in our native mother tongue used in China, so that we could adapt the China’s society when we’re back.
The GRIEVANCE and MOURNING were then inscribed in our blood, and as a matter of fact, in the Federal Constitution right to vernacular education was guarenteed as a result of the “great trade off”. the native nusantarian had no problem giving citizenship to assimilated Chinese/Indian/Europeans as long as they do not withhold their loyalty to their country of origin. Much to the malay’s dismay, the chinese back then had almost all loyalty, in my humble opinion to China. Those who choose to assimilate would then be known as “peranakans”, who speaks and behave like native nusantarian. the nusantarian would treat them as part of them. But because of the technical definition of them being “Chinese”, they were bound by the faith of the 1st Generation Chinese Migrant unfortunately. The Seranis (eurasians) were not included in the “CHinese/INdian” package deal in the constitution. they assimiliated into the Nusantarian culture and was accepted. Again if you want to attack on this point, do read my previous blog first (Bumiputra, for non-bumiputra —> http://www.facebook.com/taizeekin/posts/10151559295110306 )
Therefore It’s suffice to say that Our ancestors, who wanted to prepare their next generation to go back in their stead (they couldn’t because of the close door policy and world war two), instilled in our blood the “Legacy” of mandarin, the very gateway language to go back to China.
4.) Chinese School : To protect the 5000 years old culture and knowledge, or its just about the language as our Ancestor’s legacy to become a gateway to go back to China?
I used to ask my friends from Chinese school, independent, UEC, or SMJK, on why would they go to Chinese School INstead of an ordinary National School.
i got 3 kinds of answers.
a.) The Chauvinistic answers
– Chauvinist (沙文主义） would tell me that it’s our duty to protect the 5000 years old wisdom and culture. thats why we have to send our children to chinese school.
what these chauvinists failed to convince me, is how going to chinese school would ensure that they would protect the 5000 years old history, culture and knowledge?
– I asked them, do you know the “Si Shu Wu Jing (四书五经）, the four main literature and 5 great mantras of the chinese. They couldn’t even quote me the title of the 9 most important literature work of the chinese literature.
– I asked them, do you know the different school of thoughts between the confusionism 儒家思想, taoism 道家思想，or Mahayanian Buddhism 大乘佛理. they couldn’t even distuingshih religion rituals and philosophical ideology behind the Chinese Culture-based religion
– I asked them, of the 4 great dishes in Chinese Culture, 四大名菜，京菜，粤菜，闽菜，and 川菜 (Beijing culinery culture, Cantonese culinery culture, Fu Jian culniery culture, and sichuan culinery culture) , how many dishes can they name? they couldn’t even name ONE.
– I asked them, do you know the different between our Ethnic Han’s tranditional costume, the HAN FU (汉服） and the Manchurian Bannerman’s CHEONG SAM/ KEI PO （长衫， 旗袍，旗服) ? they thought that our traditional costume was Cheong Sam/ Kei fuk / Kei pou ), which was a disgrace to our ancestors. we were ethnic HAN with HAN surname like Tan, Lim, Chong, Teoh, but we called the Manchurian’s costumes as our traditional costumes. Manchurians have surname like Yehonala, Nurhachi, Aisinjeoro. Not LIm, Tan, Chong. They didn’t even know that.
Having said that, I , who camed from a Malay school, knew more about Chinese Culture, History, Wisdom and knowledge than them.
their defence of chauvinism hence became obsolete, as you DON’T NEED Chinese school to defend the culture/knowledge of the 5000 years old wisdom.
b.) For the language, Economical reason since China is big.
That reason is even worse. Singapore has ZERO Chinese School, but mandated everyone to brush up their mother tongue. Singaporean ethnic chinese ended up speaking better Mandarin than Malaysian ethnic CHinese/Han. THey didn’t even need Chinese school for that?
If Mandarin is there for economical and practical reason, they SHOULD acknowledge that and propogate mandarin’s learning through the right way. Not the chauvinistic way. I went to Malay school, but took up mandarin all the way to SPM, ended up knowing more about mandarin the language, and Chinese culture than many of the Chinese School graduates.
c.) Don’t Know, just follow my parent’s wish
That is the most dangerous part. This is exactly the very reason many chinese are living in our ancestors’ legacy of Grieving and Mourning over the fact that they COULDn”T go BACK to china, and to make sure that their descendant are at least well equipped with the language so that when they eventually go back to CHINA they would be able to adopt at least in terms of language.
Chinese Education, is different from Chinese Education system. I think it is important for people of every ethnic origin to keep trace of their cultural route including language.
But we MUST not create an Education system purely to accomodate that aspect. Our Ancestors had valid reason to create a separate education system for chinese, for the very reason to prepare themselves and their next generation to Go Back and adapt to CHina. but now that we are permanently settled down in Malaysia, we should defend our mother tongue as a “language to trace our root”, but not a SEPARATE SYSTEM altogether that would alienate a racial group from another throughout their growing time.
5.) China Premier Zhou En Lai’s visit
In the 70s, when China ended it’s close door policy and begin to build foreign ties, Zhou En Lai visited Malaysia. He then made a statement, asking Malaysian Chinese to Swear our loyalty to Malaysia, to our King the Yang Dipertuan Agong.
That puts an END to our grievance and despair of our ancestors, in an abrupt way. No more going back to China. CHINA closed it’s door to them.
Instead of moving on and , like every other chinese around the world, to assimilate and integrate, our second generation ancestors were very CONFUSED. their affinity to Chinese school system is now changed, from initially being an affinity to mainland china, to purely the school system. It’s like , I am an Alumni from Chong Hwa school, and i would NOT let it be replaced/closed. There are 1297 Chinese school in Malaysia, and every each of these schools have alumnis who would, for the sake of their affinity to the school per se, defend and justify their existence.
It soon became and issue of “Quality of Education”.
Chinese School was preferred, in the modern context, mostly because of their quality. I have people telling me, Chinese School has better teacher and better quality, thats why we send our kids there.
Therefore it’s imperative that we do not hide under the facade and hypocrisy of “Defending 5000 years old culture”, and admit that the reason they go to chinese school is because of practical/economical/and quality consideration.
6.) Chinese’s ability and willingness to adapt.
The Chinese, in fact, are among those who are most willing to adapt and modify our culture to intergrate with another culture that we look “highly” too. (of course, keeping a trace of our ethnic han route)
How many Chinese couples wear our traditional Han Fu costume during weddings. westernized, no?
Why many Chinese would adopt “Christian” name (NOT western, i am talking about name like Michael, Kelvin, Joseph, which are CHRISTIAN name) despite not being christians, and fact that it’s very foreign to Chinese culture? of course they keep their enthic HAN route by keeping the surname/given name.
Why so many Chinese are willing to modify our offerings to the Deities? instead of candle light, many are now replaced with, hmn… red bulbs?
Talk about food, do you know that many of the SO CALLED Chinese food like Hokkien Mee, Bak Kut Teh, Hainam Chicken rice, can NEVER be found in Hokkien, or Hainam China? it’s a modification and adaptation to the South East Asian CHINESE taste and preference. If you can modify most of the important cultures, it means you are flexible!
Chinese has a fairly flexible mode to adapt.
fact that the reason Chinese refuse to adapt to the Native nusantarian culture and behaviour, is very worrying. That’s the root of Racism, sparked by FAKE chinese chauvinism.
have you seen a Zikri Tan Boon Hook? or Fatimah Ng Siew Lai? ok lets try with malay names instead of Islamic /arabic/persian name. how about Mawar Liew Mei Siew? or Delima Ong Mai Ling? no? you see more Christophers, Kelvins, Michaels (no offence to many of my friends who’ve adopted christians name) than ever.
Why did we fail to adapt to the native customes and culture is something that we have to ponder upon. i WOULD NOT spell the words out here and risk being labelled a “traitor to the race” like what Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim has been treated rudely by the ignorant chauvinists.
For my Chinese Friends who speaks hokkien.
How do you call a Malay person in Hokkien? HUANNA 蕃仔 ? please use baidu.com to find out what that really means. it’s a disgrace and i felt ashamed.
7.) China Town
Have you been to the China Town in US big sities, and also London’s CHina Town? the China town in Western Countries are VERY chinese. It serves as a “remembraces” and “traces” of the Chinese origin for the migrants, as well as , for economical purposes sell off the unique chineseness to the foreigners. Most Chinese migrants in these country, who’re well assimilated in their respective native culture, would from time to time, visit China Town to remind themselve about their root, in the form of remembrances more than “embracing” them.
Have you been to the China Twon in Kuala LUmpur, and feel the sorry state of it even being duped as “china town”? There is NO NEED for a China Town in Malaysia. most town in Malaysia is China Town. Chinese bill boards, Chinese advertorials, Chinese signboards etc. Why is there a need for a “CHINATOWN” anymore? any Street in Penang or Certain street in KL/ Serdang/Puchong could well beat London’s China town as a more “china” china town.
8.) Malaysian First, or CHinese First?
Funny enough, If you ask that question, Many Ethnic Han Chinese Malaysian would answer you that they are Malaysian first, and Chinese second, without KNOWING what it means to be Malaysian first.
(Caution, if you are a URBAN BANANA, this does not applies to you. according to cense report, there are only 9% of you existing. rest 91% are Chinese educated ) You wake up every morning and watch TVBS Asia, pheonix channel, CCTV4, or hua hee tai. Shows that 80% of other Malaysians who are not chinese will never watch. Tune in to 988, myFM, aiFM, OneFM, channels that 80% of Malaysians don’t understand and will never listen to. You reach your office, open up SinChew, NanYang, GwongMing, KwongWah, China Press, Oriental daily, something that only 80% of Malaysians CANNOT understand. you MIGHT have lunch with your malay/indian colleagues, and chat about life and work. once you go home from work, you talk to your family, children in Mandarin, a language that 80% of Malaysians CANNOT speak or understand. before you sleep, you go to facebook and scroll through. You post among your friends, whom 80% came from your ethnic.
In your daily routine, you are only a MALAYSIAN for 20%, but Chinese 80%. and you call yourself a MALAYSIAN FIRST? hmn… then perhaps, you could tell me how would Chinese first or Malaysian first make a different to you? Lets not quote me example of “WHEN YOU ARE OVERSEA” because you know what, how long are you over sea? so you’re only Malaysian first when you are oversea? hmnnn.
The goal of me posting this long post, is to ASK for the ethnic HAN chinese Malaysian, to really reconsider our stand on issues pertaining race. Stop being chauvinistic and start to integrate and assimilate, WITHOUT compromising your ethnic identity. CHinese in UK/ US/ Thailand all did that willingly. why can’t we? it’s our ancestors’ teaching that we SHOULD do that.
WAKE UP from our ancestors grievance and despair of not being able to go back to China. We are done with that. Let the grievance and despair follow our ancestors to their grave. Start rethinking about your stand as Malaysian.
Please INTEGRATE and ASSIMILATE into the native culture, and OF COURSE , keep mandarin as a language that would trace your ethnic origin. NOT THE OTHER WAY round or you are still TRAPPED in our ancestor’s grievance.
P/s I will write another post on HOW Mandarin, a dialect of the northerner, KILLS OFF our mother tongue (which is our dialect). Mother tongue for Chinese is different, it’s not the language, but the dialect that our ancestors used. Do you know that great poet LI BAI 李白 wrote his poem in HE BEI dialect, which is the current “Hokkien Language”, and the HE BEI dialect was the OFFICIAL language used in TANG dynasty royal palace and court? and there you think everyone in the movie speaks mandarin it must be the spoken language back then. MANDARIN is killing off your mother tonger. THe language is called HAN language 汉语。mandarin, (formerly 官语，（language of the aristocrats), now 普通话 putong hua, 华语 huayu) is MERELY a dialect of the northener. Chinese language is HANYU + your DIALECT. NOT Hanyu + MANDARIN.
That I will discuss in another post.
I further dedicate this post to Joan Lai, Wayne Teo, Jeffrey Foh, and every Chinese Malaysian who thinks that we MUST learn how to integrate into the native Malaysian culture.
TAI ZEE KIN