Fuzhou Ancestors Rooted in Nanyang - Sitiawan, the Little Fuzhou

原乡柔情霹雳行 福州

Sitiawan is the cradle of the Fuzhou people in West Malaysia. Malaysian Fuzhou people are generally associated with two places: Sibu in Sarawak, East Malaysia, and Sitiawan in Perak, West Malaysia; Sibu is known as New Fuzhou and Sitiawan is known as Little Fuzhou. Every year on the 9th of September, it is an important festival for the Fuzhou people of Sitiawan; besides Pillow Buns and Kompia, there are two other local delicacies waiting to be discovered in Sitiawan.

There are two versions of the origin of the name Sitiawan: some people say that the name means "it is really far" in Mandarin, because when the ancestors migrated to Nanyang, they travelled through the ocean and the river to reach this desolate land, and they were amazed by the arduous journey. Another version is that the Malay name SETIAWAN means SETIAKAWAN, commemorating a pair of elephants that were in distress but did not give up on each other.

Sitiawan is the cradle of the Fuzhou people in West Malaysia. When it comes to the Malaysian Fuzhou people, two places are generally associated with them: Sibu in Sarawak, East Malaysia, and Sitiawan in Perak, West Malaysia; one is known as New Fuzhou and the other is known as Little Fuzhou. In West Malaysia, no matter what city or town you are in, the Fuzhou people will generally say "My hometown is in Sitiawan”.

Fuzhou could be divided into 10 counties, which are Minhou, Changle, Fuqing, Lianjiang, Luoyuan, Yongtai, Minqing, Gutian, Pingnan and Pingtan. Most of the first Fuzhou people who came to Nanyang were from Minhou, Fuqing and Gutian, and the Fuzhou people from different counties were assigned settlement areas according to their respective dialects, resulting in the phenomenon of Fuqing people living in Fuqingyang (Kampung Cina), Minhou people living in Kampong Koh and Gutian people living in Ayer Tawar today.

Double Nine Festival to Commemorate the Pioneers, Hope to Become a Common Festival for Fuzhou People

The 9th of September is an important festival for the Fuzhou people of Sitiawan, known as the "Double Nine Festival", which began more than 120 years ago when the first Fuzhou settlers arrived at the Sitiawan harbour, opening the first chapter in Sitiawan's history. Nowadays, the church and Chinese associations in Sitiawan join hands to organize the Double Nine Festival every year to remember and honour the pioneers of the port.

The first thing to do on 9 September is to pay homage to the pioneers who opened the port by laying flowers at their graves, said Bishop Liew Kek Meng of the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

双九节
The first thing to do on 9 September is to pay homage to the pioneers who opened the port by laying flowers at their graves. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

"Our forefathers, Rev. Heinrich Ludwig Emil Luering and Rev. Ling Ching Mi, went to Fuzhou, China around July 1903 to recruit agricultural laborers. The recruitment process was difficult because at that time there were a lot of rumors and even poison pen letters suggesting that it might be forced labour and there were myths that there were enormous tigers in Nanyang.”

He went on to say that the Two Pioneers later met Rev. Huong Pau Seng, who spoke fluent Fuqing dialect, was originally from Fujian and was later transferred to Fuqing to serve as a pastor. With his help, the Two Pioneers eventually recruited hundreds of people.

"The main reason for the ancestors to leave China at that time was the economy, and then there were religious issues. Christians were persecuted in China and there were many incidents of persecution. It was difficult for the people from Fuzhou to come to Nanyang, and many people died of disease on board."

The first group that landed at Sitiawan on 9 September 1903 was 303 people; another 60 arrived on 15 September, bringing the total to about 363.

Today, Sitiawan Settlement Museum with a rich display of historical artifacts has been built to tell the story of the settlement of the Fuzhou people in Sitiawan with historical artifacts.

Dong Shixing, president of Persatuan Fuzhou Semenanjung Malaysia, pointed out that there are about 38 Fuzhou township organizations in West Malaysia, and more than half of their members are directly related to Sitiawan.

“In the past, our parents' generation put down roots here, then our generation went to the cities to study, work, start businesses, and settle down. But no matter what happens or how far we go, Sitiaiwan lives within our hearts.”

Our homeland is always our home, which is why the Fuzhou people in Sitiawan cherish the Double Nine Festival.

Misua, Fuqing People's Heritage of Craftsmanship, Signifying Peace and Longevity

福州面线
Making Misua is still a craft that depends on the weather, as too much heat or rain can affect the quality and duration of the process, which is a matter of dedication. (Image Source: Our Native Land-Perak)

Misua is an essential food for celebrations, and Misua is usually served with duck eggs, which in Fuzhou dialect means “to calm the chaos” so that there will be peace. This is why Fuzhou people also call it Taiping Noodles or Longevity Noodles.

Most of the people who know how to make Misua in Sitiawan are from Fuqing. Fuzhou's Misua is not mushy when cooked, but also elastic and non-sticky. The Our Native Land team came to Hock Chew So Mee Shua Workshop to see the process of making Misua and to learn about the Fuzhou people’s craftmanship.

In an interview, Wang Wenshan, the owner of Hock Chew So Mee Shua Workshop, said that when he was 13 years old, he followed his parents to cut rubber, but later he decided to follow his grandfather to learn how to make Misua, and this decision became his ambition for most of his life. Today, Wang has passed on his Misua-making skills to the next generation, and the whole family works together to run the family business.

"The market demand for Misua is high as they are served during many important festivals such as birthdays, Lunar New Year and postpartum. Now we have switched from purely handmade to semi-mechanized to meet the market demand. In the past, workers could only use two packets of flour a day, but now they can use 10 to 20 packets of flour a day".

He said that the secret of the delicious taste of Misua is the resting time of the dough, which had to be precise so that the Misua would not become mushy or sticky. Making Misua is still a craft that depends on the weather, as too much heat or rain can affect the quality and duration of the process, which is a matter of dedication.

What You Don't Know About Fuzhou: Momo Buns and Zheng Dong Bing

福州美食
Using common ingredients, Fuzhou people combine local elements with local craftsmanship to create delicacies that belong to the Malaysian Fuzhou people. (Image Source: Our Native Land)

When we talk about the local products of Sitiawan, the first things that come to mind are Pillow Buns and Kompia. But what we are going to introduce to you are Momo Buns and Zheng Dong Bing.

Momo is a traditional bun of the Minhou people of Fuzhou, similar in shape to a pillow bun, soft and white in colour, but instead of being filled, it is coated in kaya and butter, making it a traditional and unique bun in Sitiawan.

In times of scarcity, Momo buns could satisfy hunger quickly and conveniently, allowing people to rush off to work. Over time, the people of Fuzhou began to add different flavours to the buns. First, they sprinkled sugar on them. Later, the typical Nanyang flavour of butter and kaya was added.

Zheng Dong Bing, another type of Kompia in which the salt is replaced by sugar, is also twice the size of the Kompia. According to the Fuzhou Prefectural Gazetteer, Qi Jiguang, the anti-Wokou hero of the Ming Dynasty, led his troops on an eastward expedition in the 42nd year of the Jiajing period and entered Fujian Province to wipe out the Wokou pirates. When it rained for days and they could not prepare meals, Qi Jiguang ordered them to bake a kind of small bread that could be strung together with hemp rope and carried.

Later, these small loaves of bread became popular among the people as a necessary offering to the deities and ancestors. In memory of Qi Jiguang, the bread was named "Jiguang Bing". And to commemorate the conquest of the East, people called it "Zheng Dong Bing".

Using common ingredients, Fuzhou people combine local elements with local craftsmanship to create delicacies that belong to the Malaysian Fuzhou people.

Reposted in full from The Interview website

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