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August 23, 2017

…and so it begins…

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have started my research into the Chinese of Borneo. It will be a massive undertaking and will probably take two or more years. But it will be fun!


The first thing I had to do was to divide them into groups. I managed to separate them into language bands. These are groups of Chinese who speak only one of the many languages or dialects in China. I whittled them down to about 10 who reside here in Borneo. They all speak a different language and they cannot understand each other.


Then, I traced each group to China and tried to find out the history. For example, the Hakkas. They started out being a band of people north of the Yellow River in a part of China similar to the Great Plains of America. Famine and lack of rain caused them to move south in four great migrations where they ended up in the mountains in the coastal Fujian Province.


From there, they somehow got on a boat and sailed to Sambas, on the bottom of Borneo Island. Then they moved up the river to a mining town called Bau. In 1858, they sailed down the river and attacked James Brooke, the white ruler. Brooke fled south to Santubong, where, in a stroke of unmitigated luck, a warship of England happened to arrive. He then sailed back up to Kuching and then landed the Royal Marines to chased the Hakka back up to Bau and over to Sambas.


The Hakka are said to be farmers, but I have often wondered why this designation has been placed on them. I mean, why should they all be farmers when some of them could be fishermen or merchants? I will let you know when I find an answer to that one.


My next task is to find the Chinese Temple where they worship. This means going to each temple and finding out who the leader is. This is easier said than done as I don't speak any of the dialects of Chinese.


Oh, I know a few words like Nee How Ma, which means how are you, and Kong Hee Fatt Choy, which is Happy Chinese New Year. From my drinking days I know Yam Sing, which is equivalent to cheers. Here, the Chinese pour a huge glass of straight whiskey and yell Yam Sing and then you have to drink the whole glass full of the stuff at one go. They then turn beet red. My whiskey usually ends up in a plant as it is incomprehensible to them why a white man can't drink alcohol.


I have almost finished the Hakkas, but I need to find out how they went from the coastal area to Sambas. Then I have nine more groups to go. I will try and find each temple, the names associated with each group and their history in Borneo. This also means looking at past doctoral dissertations, find a name, and then associating it with each group. That way I can tell who was where and when.


Wish me luck!


...Life is good. . . . .


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