My mother showed me a very interesting article written by a young ‘Chinese Malaysian’ (read his writing below explaining why he called himself a Chinese Malaysian) about the problem with the chauvinist Chinese in Malaysia. He was fortunate to learn what happened in the past directly from her great grandmother who was a migrant from TeowChiew. A real eye-opener into a story which I believe most of the younger generation of Malaysian Chinese or ‘Chinese Malaysian’ are ignorant of.
Tai Zee Kin’s article reveals why most of the Chinese in Malaysia are ‘not really at home’ in Malaysia; thus they do not even try to assimilate the Malay culture as did the ‘peranakan Chinese’. It tells the history and story of how these Chinese who migrated to Malaysia in contrast to the Chinese who moved to the West; how and why the Chinese here in Malaysia are unwilling to adapt to the Malay culture and yet those who moved to the West were so eager to adapt that they “won’t be satisfied until their English is rich of British accent”.
Tai Zee Kin helps me to understand why lots of Chinese in Malaysia especially the DAP supporters behave the way they do.
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.
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 :
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 behaviors 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.
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 a lot 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 guaranteed as a result of the “great trade off”. The native Nusantarian had no problem giving citizenship to assimilated Chinese/Indian/Europeansas 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.
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.
But we MUST NOTcreate 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.
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.
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 foodlike Hokkien Mee, Bak Kut Teh, Hainam Chicken rice, can NEVER be foundin 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.
7.) China Town
Have you been to the China Town in US big cities, 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 Town 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?
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.