CB3. My personal history, and my ancestors

08 May CB3. My personal history, and my ancestors

In this blog post, I will write about my ancestors. We are the product of our parents, many people would say. The world around us also make who we are and what we become. I venture to say what we decide within ourselves is the primary factor in what we eventually become.

  1. I wish I had a book to refer to know who my ancestors are. No such luck.
  2. By writing this blog post, perhaps I am giving my children and their children such a book for the future.
  3. I am always a keen historian. I am also inquisitive since small.
  4. When asked, my father would tell me all he knows about his ancestors. He would also tell me about cars and what each item in the car is for – a button for the air flow and so on. I have been told by my father that I ask the most questions, amongst all his six children.
  5. My father is L K Lee and his father was C P Lee. Mr C P Lee left Xiamen port in Fujian, China to travel to Malaya (Malaysia since 1965) in early 1900s. He was 16.
  6. In China, C P Lee lost his father and mother before he was 10. His grandfather brought him up.
  7. At 16, following some of his peers and relatives, he took the boat to Malaya for better prospects.
  8. In Malaya, he undertook all types of labour including cooking.
  9. He stayed with relatives.
  10. Doing all kinds of jobs made him wealthy enough to return to China for a visit.
  11. He did so in 1925. He was matchmade with my grandmother who had bound feet. Bound feet in those days meant she was from the middle class and upper family. Not Hakka (whose women do not bind their feet), but Hokkien. Bound feet would mean you would find a better husband. And men at that time are sexually attracted to small feet of women.
  12. I have seen my grandmother walk slowly and gently due to those feet. Her shoes were very small and usually had heels.
  13. In July 1927, my father was born – in China.
  14. Not yet one year old, my grandparents took the journey to Malaya again from Xiamen port in Fujian, China.
  15. The journey is a long one – weeks if not months.
  16. My father was crawling in the big boat.
  17. In Malaya, my grandparents set up home in Muar, Johore. They did trading – buy goods in bulk and then sell. Apparently, my grandmother was good in this – making money from trading, said my father.
  18. Water had to be carted from the river or a tap to my grandparents’ home. My father used a bicycle for that.
  19. My grandmother learnt how to cook Hokkien, Chinese food with Malay influence. Or the reverse, Malay food with Chinese influence.
  20. My father went to primary school – Chinese was the medium of instruction.
  21. For better prospects, the family moved from Muar to Seremban, Negri Sembilan – about two hundred kilometres away.
  22. However, not long after trying to settle down in Seremban, World War Two broke out in Malaya.
  23. My father’s education was interrupted.
  24. The family, with a few children now – my father’s siblings, went into hiding in Jelebu – 30 kilometres from Seremban.
  25. The Japanese cycled down from Kota Bahru to Singapore. They conquered Malaya and the famous British colony of Singapore in 1942.
  26. Spending a few weeks in Jelebu was torture. Food was scarce. No rice – jungle plants were eaten.
  27. Returning to Seremban, my father went head-on into business, under the Japanese government.
  28. My father says, the Japanese were small in frame but they would bully everyone, including big Singh men. The Japanese would slap these men.
  29. He has heard the Japanese slaughtered people in NS Padang – a field not far from the home.
  30. In returning from Jelebu to Seremban, the home / shop had all its goods and equipment stolen.
  31. The family went ahead in the work of trading, buy in bulk and sell retail.
  32. My father has a business mind. He did work with gusto. Working hard, he more or less became the leader in the family in making income.
  33. My father married my mother in 1948 – he was 21, my mother 17.
  34. My mother was born in Malaya – she is Hokkien too.
  35. Her own parents died before she was 10.
  36. My mother S T Teh likes to study. But the Japanese occupation of Malaya stopped that.
  37. My parents went on to have six children. I was born in 1963.
  38. Both my parents are hardworking individuals. My father was busy making money, and my mother was busy bringing the kids up.
  39. My mother showered me with a lot of love. My father too in his own way.
  40. My mother would say, when you give birth to a child, you would love the child forever and unconditionally. No matter how naughty the child, she will still love her child.
  41. My mother to me was even more hardworking than my father. My father took time off for leisure; not my mother. She gets up at 6:00 am and goes to sleep at 10:00 pm. All the time, she would be doing something to add value to the family. She would sew, cook, and of course clean.
  42. I learnt from both my parents and hear stories from them about their elders and relatives. I also met my uncles, aunts and cousins.
  43. My grandparents died in Malaysia and I attended their funerals.
  44. My parents are alive and kicking in Sydney.
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