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August 16, 2017

Researching the Chinese in Borneo

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As most of you who read this column know, I have finished my two major writing projects – the History of the Sarawak River Valley, and  on Ali of Alfred Wallace fame.


Alfred Wallace was the guy who, with Charles Darwin, came up with the theory of evolution. I put one of those papers on and, so far, only one person has read it. Just goes to show you how obscure the topic.


Undeterred about who reads it or not, mostly not, I have decided to embark on a history of the Chinese in the Sarawak River Valley up to 1840. As most of you know, there are over one billion Chinese in the world. How was I going to accomplish that?


The Chinese have divided themselves into language groups. Totally incomprehensible to each other, these groups provide a clue on their history.


For example, a person who speaks Hakka cannot understand a word of someone who speaks Mandarin. It's not like English. A person from Maine can understand a person from Mississippi. A person from Dublin can understand a person from Glasgow or London. I am not sure about the Welsh, though. Anyway, a Chinese person cannot understand his neighbor if he is from a different group even though he could have lived next door to him for several generations.


So far, I have culled the list down to about 10 different groups. Then I have taken each group and explored their origins in China.


The Hakka, for example, lived in the north part of China and through four different migrations ended up in the hills of a coastal province. Then they moved to Borneo, then up the river to Sarawak, where they tried to overthrow the Brooke government and then back to Sambas. If I lost you, suffice it to say they were here. The problem is, how did they get from the mountains of the coastal province to a boat to sail to Borneo? I haven't figured that one out yet.


I will study each of the 10 groups of Chinese and try to trace how they got to Sarawak, where I live. I should be finished in about five years or so.


In very important archaeology news, mattering only to the few of us who follow such things, human remains have been found and DNA timed. This means the humans arrived here around 70,000 years ago. This means the group who left Africa walked or sailed to Sumatra much earlier that has been thought. It also indicates they arrived at the time of the Toba eruption. This suggests they also had sex with the primitive ape like creatures who were already here.


Now, Toba was a huge mega volcanic explosion. I mean, you can barely see the other side of the lake that was formed in the crater after the event. (I know, I saw it) How anybody or anything survived this cataclysmic event is unknown. It must have sent the world into a nuclear winter that reduced the human population to 10,000 individuals which was called a bottleneck. For what I know, there could have been Chinese in the eruption also. I guess I will have to try and work that out also.


I will continue my research into the Chinese and, to better understand the people, and try to fathom their deep cultural experiences.


...Life is good. . . . .


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