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As Long as We Remember...

March 25, 2015

Gravestones and Translators

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Chinese grave yards were next on my list. I sent a query to Facebook's "History of Sarawak" to find the oldest tombstones in the area. A small reply came back to check the graves at the museum and another spot near the telecommunications buildings.

The museum? I had a hard time figuring where on these grounds the graves may lay. My wife, Suriani, and I brought a notebook and camera and started our search. Sure enough, there were a few graves there. We climbed up the hills to photograph them. Of course, we couldn't read Chinese, but I have a friend who can.

"…the first grave stone you shown was the grave stone of a Hock Kian from Hai Teng District Hua Mei village. The date of erect was in Qing dynasty Tong Tze Lin."

I looked up on Google and after few tries found out the guy was Hokkien from the Funan District in South China. Hokkien is one of the many dialects of spoken Chinese and tells where in China he came from.

Now for the date. He was born in the Qing Dynasty. I googled "Qing" and found out he could have lived between 1644-1912. Well, that narrowed it down. I was hoping Tong Tze Lin would give me a date range down to the century but the only thing that came up was "Mao Tse Tong," and I knew that couldn't be it. I guess "Tong Tze Lin" was his name.

The next gravestone we photographed returned the following translation:

"Qing Dynasty Tong tze emperor 同治 Lunar year of Ping yuan 丙寅The Male deceased name was Sim Lee Seng 沈理勝 and it was erected by the sons. According to Chinese Callander, it was erected in 1866."

Ah, ha! Tong Tze was an emperor. I googled Tong tze and found out that he assumed the throne at five with his mom acting in his place. He was an obstinate teenager and raised hell until he died (so they say) of smallpox.

Now to find out about Ping yuan. Google again: A county in northwest China. But it says Lunar Year! Okay, I will try again.) A Chinese gunboat. Oh, well, will have to ask the translator. Hmmm, was the stone erected in 1866 or did he die in 1866?

Finally the last tombstone.

"The second grave stone was erected by the Kuching Chinese Trusty board for an unnamed male deceased and named it Hock Teck Kong in 1993. That grave was discovered underground when the government was erecting the hero statue in museum garden and it was without any grace stone, so the trusty board just put a name of hock Teck Kong 福德公 for male and Hock Teck Po 福德婆 for female. Hock Teck is an honor name given to diety Tua Peh Kong."

I really like this story. A name if is a male and name if it is a female.  And designated after the god of prosperity! Nice.


...Life is good. . . . .


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