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 there is a book that I could refer to know who my ancestors are. No such luck.
  2. By writing this blog , 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 ‘control button’ in the car is for – one for the air flow, another for the light 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 departed from 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 or very small feet. Having bound feet in those days meant she was from a ‘middle to upper’ income family. She was not a Hakka Chinese (whose women do not bind their feet), but a Hokkien Chinese. Bound feet would mean you would find a better husband. And men at that time were sexually attracted to the 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 him on the journey to Malaya, again from Xiamen port in Fujian, China.
  15. The journey was a long one – many weeks.
  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 Hokkien Chinese influence. This skill was passed down to my mother, who of course cooked for me when I was growing up. My mother often said her mother-in-law was clever and skilful; and she was a stern woman.
  20. My father went to primary school – Chinese was the medium of instruction.
  21. For better prospects, the family moved from Muar to Seremban, Negeri 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 army cycled hundreds of kilometres southwards from Kota Bahru in the north along Peninsular Malaya. 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 army people 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. There were matchmade by relatives – my parents only met each other three times before they got married. My mother says she fell in love with my father ‘after’ they got married.
  34. My mother was born in Malaya – she is Hokkien Chinese too.
  35. Her own parents died before she was 10. Her elder siblings brought her up.
  36. My mother S T Teh likes to study. But the Japanese occupation of Malaya stopped that. She only had three years of schooling. But self-taught, and also taught by my father, my mother can read Chinese newspapers. I have seen my mother asking my father what certain Chinese characters (or written words) mean. 
  37. My parents went on to have six children. I the youngest was born in 1963.
  38. Both my parents are hardworking individuals. My father was busy making money, and my mother was busy bringing up the kids.
  39. My mother showered me with a lot of love. My father too, less obvious, 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 is, 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 everyday, weekends included. 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.
2 Comments
  • Jim KABLE
    Posted at 18:29h, 01 June Reply

    Great story so far! I think I have told you before that upon my return from time in Europe – late 1972/early 1973 – I spent some days with an aunt and uncle in Petaling Jaya – though you would still have been in Seremban then!

    • comasters1
      Posted at 14:23h, 02 June Reply

      Jim, Yes I remember you told me of your visit to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia in the 1970s. I was a primary school kid in St Paul’s Institution, Seremban, Malaysia. Jeff

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