Friday, December 30, 2011

松口 - tsungkeau where the heart was -

Perhaps because it is deeply imprinted in the  psyche – there is a constant draw to this ancestral land.
Grandpa ventured forth to the new world, starting his journey from this river in the early 1900’s. He was probably in his late teens.  On his final journey  to his homeland - he was already in his mid 60’s.
By then Tsungkeau  was already a bustling river port that rivaled  Meizhou -  梅州,  the capital town of 嘉应州 – the Jiaying District - in  business activities .
This view from the Meidong Bridge -  梅东桥  - which has
practically remained unchange since the 1940/s- attest to her past glory.
The calm water of the Meijing River belies a past era of a bustling river town.   Interspersed between these rows of Republican era buildings were piers where an un-ending stream of travelers come and go. 

Located in middle reaches of Meijiang  梅江 -  Tsungkeau served as a strategic river port in this Hakka heartland located in the  mountainous  NE Guangdong .  For those venturing out to the new world – many a   last night was probably spent in one of the hotels before going -  过番 - guo fan – or heading to a foreign land. 
Those that came back from afar – brought along with them new ideas from the new world as well as their foreign born children and wives. Such a legacy from the past era could still be found in the old building – as well as in  the old folks –
An old building – with the name Tsungking Hotel –written in English  engraved on its facade
A 75 year old relation – who was born in Indonesia and returned when she was 13 years old could still speak a sprinkling of  Malay words. 
At her height of activities -  there were over a thousand shop houses - with hotels, banking facilities, a post office and  regular steam ship service plying  between Tseungkeau and Shantou – Swatow – on the eastern seaboard.
When Grandpa  finally bid farewell to  Menglembu in August 1946 he was 63year.   
Looking back to that period in history -  what was it that made Grandpa to return to his  homeland for good after close to a 40 year stay in  Nanyang -   南洋? 
The political situation in China was very unstable then to say the least, and he was headed right into the civil war.   Due to the unrest and fluid political situation the republican dollar was headed into rapid decline and depreciation in value.
Probably it was the heart that ruled the mind.  Home is where the heart was  & the land of his childhood beckoned.
In the December of 1945, soon after the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, & over a period of close to a period of two years he started a regular remittance from Ipoh to  Tsungkeau.   He had plan to bring his entire family home, and a greater part of his fortune went in advance to prepare for the uplift of the family members.
Perhaps Menglembu – 万里望-  the mining town located in the outskirt of Ipoh in the  then Malaya  - had  always been the distant land.  Though he had toiled there for many decades and where he had all his associates, friends and relations – Tsungkeau was still where the heart was.
However less than two years or so after he returned home – he passed away  of a stroke  age 65 in the Autumn of 1948. 
As they say, the rest was history, and the rest of the family was left in Malaya - 

Postscript –
a)   The assumption that Grandpa returned to China possibly in the months of Aug 1946 was derived from the entry made in the record of remittance –
 汇款暂记扎, 卅五年份 
李三茂 大号汇贰百万元 
广通庄交 大号(叻币〡〢千元)
大人亲手收款  -  -
Remittance record – 1946 copy
1946 Oct 07)
Chop Li Sanmao remit Republican Dollar 2 million 
Delivered thro
Chop Guangtong Zhuang  - Straits Dollars $1,220.00
To be received personally by the respected Father

(This entry in the account book was probably made by Dad – as the writing resembled his)

The remittance entry prior to this entry -  dated Aug23 1946
Asum of   Republican dollar 100,000 to be hand carried by Brother Lim ( 锦琳兄- 4th son) who is returning to hometown (Tsungkeau ) to be handed   in person to 锦荣 (eldest son)  -equivalent to Straits dollar $79.00 & remitted thro Chop Li Sanmao.

Chop Li Sanmao was - a merchant shop in Ipoh.

b)   Tseungkeau – Hakka pronunciation for Song kou 松口镇,  Meizhou  County – 梅州市, Guangdong Province - 广东省

c)   Grandpa’s last day -  during this trip over dimsum  conversation in HKG  with relation – age 76years -  got a glimpse of Grandpa’s last day.  She said that on the night of his stroke,   Grandpa loving touched her head –  a teenage girl of 13years, then.  When he was struck with stroke,  he aunt who was living next door was called over to help.  She said that Grandpa  & her aunt were –bosom friends - sworn fellow mates -  死党.  They would often meet to chat.

d)      To Songkou :  23-24Dec 2012 – went on a 2nd visit to Songkou,a day after the winter solstice -  exactly to the day 14 years ago, first visit was in 1997, when the  Asian financial crisis was rising storm. The town is in a desolate condition. Due to season flood the occupants have moved to upper grounds and almost abandoned the old buildings.

dd 10Feb2012/