Habour of Lost Jewellery: Finding the Footprints of Hokkien Life


Minnan people were living in Teluk Intan as early as 1845, and the Hock Soon Keong Temple, an ancient temple with a history of more than a century, is the strongest evidence of this. The over 1,000-year-old Quanzhou Nanyin is considered a living fossil of Chinese music and is still sung by the Taiping Ren Ai Music Club. Our Native Land travelled to several towns and cities in Perak to find out the stories of the Hokkien people who settled here in Perak.

Teluk Intan, as known as Anshun, the third largest town in Perak, is situated at the mouth of the Lower Perak River. Its unique geographical location made it the first major river transport hub in the early days. The name “Anshun” is a transliteration of the English name “Anson” in honour of Sir Anson, a Major General in the British Army who was instrumental in opening the city. Its Malay name, Teluk Intan, is a reference to a young girl who lost a jewelled hairpin given to her by her parents while splashing in the river with her friends, and Teluk Intan means “harbour of the jewellery”.

Hock Soon Temple was the centre for the Hokkien Chinese community in Teluk Intan during the British colonial era.

Interviewed on Our Native Land, Zhuang Tiancai, deputy treasurer of Hock Soon Temple, said that before 1845, Hokkien people landed at Port Durian Sebatang in Teluk Intan and then established a deity shrine there, which was the main deity, Guang Ze Zun Wang. But as the number of worshippers grew, the site became less suitable.

After two relocations until a plot of land was acquired around 1880, the British administrator at the time felt that religious activities should be held in a more majestic venue, then the expatriate leaders of the Teluk Intan people banded together to raise money to build the temple, and finally the main sanctuary was constructed in 1883.

There is a pair of couplets in the Hock Soon Temple that always reminds the worshippers: There is no point in burning incense if you are selfish and evil. And what's the harm in not worshipping deities if you are obedient to the law?

“The couplet indicates that if you do something bad, even if you worship the gods, you will not be blessed. On the contrary, if you are law-abiding, it doesn't matter if you don't worship the gods. It means that we should believe in deities but not be superstitious.”


Hock Soon Temple, built in the Ming and Qing dynasty architectural style, still retains intact antiquities, including the donor’s plaque from 1888, an ancient bell, statues of the patriarchs, a leather drum, sacred sedans and so on.

When it comes to Teluk Intan landmarks, you can't go wrong with the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan, built in 1885 by Leong Choon Chong, a renowned Teluk Intan philanthropist, businessman and architect. In 2015, the Leaning Tower was declared a National Heritage Site, and the locals of Teluk Intan call this place the Great Clock Tower, and the sound of the bells, which chime every 15 minutes, has been going on for more than a hundred years.

A hundred years ago, Lower Perak was the administrative hub of Perak and it was through Port Teluk Intan that many Chinese landed and then travelled by water to the center of Perak to survive. In terms of dialects and origins, the first Chinese to arrive in Teluk Intan were from Quanzhou, Fujian Province.


Mr Zhan Shengcong, president of the Teluk Intan Hokkien Association, said people from Fujian came to Teluk Intan more than 200 years ago. Among them, the Anxi people were the most numerous, followed by the Nan'an people.

“Generally speaking, people of different origins will have different strengths; for example, most Anxi people are involved in agriculture, and of course cultivation after settling here; Jinjiang, on the other hand, is close to Quanzhou and has a seaport for merchants in its original hometown, and came here to engage in trade as well.”

Quanzhou Nanyin : The Ancient Rhythm Continues to Flourish in the Current of Time

With a history of more than 1,000 years, Quanzhou Nanyin is considered a living fossil of Chinese music and has been listed as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is generally believed that the Quanzhou Nanyin originated in the Tang Dynasty, took shape in the Song Dynasty and developed in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Quanzhou Nanyin came to Malaysia with the southern Minnan ancestors who came from the south. In the local Hokkien society, the Jinjiang people are the most enthusiastic about Quanzhou Nanyin.

Founded in 1964, the Taiping Ren Ai Music Club is the only music society in northern Malaysia that still preserves the Nanyin sound, and the club's deputy general affairs officer, Xu Longji said that his 90-year-old mother loved Nanyin so much that he used to give her cassettes as gifts whenever he visited China. It wasn't until around 2015 that his mother stopped asking for tapes and asked him to sing it to her himself.

He laughed and said, “I'm tone-deaf and I know nothing about Nanyin.” It was also this opportunity that made him devote himself to Nanyin, which later gradually turned into a sense of mission to pass on the historical Nanyin.


Nanyin is mainly performed in Jinsha accent, while its content is based on legends and stories from the Tang Dynasty, as well as characters stories from the Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties. In Malaysia, Nanyin, like other traditional arts, faces the problem of discontinuity and withering.

“In the early days, we also went to the schools to cultivate new blood, and when we ran into the epidemic and stopped for a few years, the children who had learnt it also graduated, and now we have to start all over again, which takes quite a lot of effort. If you look at the Quanzhou area in China, there are over 200 music clubs in the Quanzhou district alone. This is the result of the government's active promotion and encouragement, whereas on our side we can only rely on ourselves and private organizations to promote the music clubs. So whenever we receive an invitation, we try our best to cooperate with the performances, hoping to use the opportunity to pass on the Nanyin.”

The Mid-Autumn Festivities : Bo Bing

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, people often miss their loved ones. When the moon is full and the flowers are blooming, people always hope to be reunited with their loved ones. How did the ancient soldiers on the warpath in the past relieve their homesickness during the Mid-Autumn Festival? Our Native Land travelled to Taiping, Perak, where the Hokkien people gather, to find out more about the Mid-Autumn Festival allusion of Bo Bing.

According to Lee Eng Kew, a literature and history field worker, Hong Xu, a subordinate of Zheng Chenggong, and his subordinates created the Mid-Autumn Festival game of "Bo Bing" to help soldiers get rid of the nostalgia and bitterness of army life during the festival. In addition to winning mooncakes, you can also win the titles of Scholar, Bangyan and Tanhua to entertain and delight.

The Mid-Autumn Festival Bo Bing custom originated in Xiamen, Fujian Province, and is widespread in Longhai, Zhangzhou, Anhai, Quanzhou and Kinmen County, and was recorded in the Taiwan Prefecture Records of the Kangxi and Qianlong periods of the Qing Dynasty.

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, families and clubs in southern Fujian and Taiwan spontaneously hold Mid-Autumn Festival Bo Bing activities, in which participants take turns rolling six dice to win the six ranks of Scholar, Bangyan, Tanhua, Jinshi, Juren and Xiucai, and receive mooncakes of different sizes according to the ranks. The simple and fair rules of the game, which are full of joie de vivre and excitement, make it a favorite of the general public.

Reposted in full from The Interview website

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