With the preparation for the upcoming BIG Event in Malaysia, to celebrate our Independence Day, one cannot forget our forefathers, the Chinese Coolies.

Nothing to be a shame of really. And if you really learn your family Chinese ancestry and their humble beginning, you will find out that you either belong to the Hai San or Ghee Hin secret society.

The end of Qing Dynasty, the start of Taiping Rebellion and Opium War triggered the real rush of Chinese immigration by the mid 18th century. And the real big rush came in the 19th century lured by the lucrative tin mining concessions granted by the Malays rulers. This time around, the big in flux of Chinese coolies were from Guangdong and Fujian. And the Chinese coolies were running away from China due to the fighting of the Opium War in 1840. The western power used advanced warships and artillery to force open China’s doors.

In 1853, my great great great grand father Kee Lai Huat at 19, together with his younger brother who was much younger travelled in a tongkang over to Malaya and worked as coolies in a sugar plantation.

Recently my aunt told me stories of Chor Chor Kee Lai Huat. It was amusing yet sad. When he first arrived here, and with no one to care for them, they were very sickly and weak. Chor Chor Kee Lai Huat’s brother didn’t survived the hard living and died at the age of 19, a year after he arrived in Bukit Tambun.

But Chor Chor as you know, was damn hardworking and frugal. He worked hard until he gained the trust of the Bukit Tambun sugar tycoon and even married his only daughter Khaw Bee Gek.

One particular story, aunt told me was that one day when Chor Chor was resting by the riverside, some coolies called out that the Towkay was on the way to the river.

Chor Chor felt he was caught sleeping and was going to be scolded for sleeping on his job. In his fright, he stepped over and ran across the rivers full of crocodiles. Such was his fright for the towkay. He forgot about the crocodiles in the river.

The other times was when he was sermon by the towkay (boss). He did not know why he was sermoned and was so scared that he ran away to Parit Buntar and hid himself. The people had a hard time finding him and got him back to the boss. The reason for finding him was to ask him to marry the tycoon’s daughter.

Such was the respect they have for their bosses. It amazed me how we have changed.

Khaw Bee Gek was another story to tell. It seemed the she was engaged to her first suitor who died before they could get married. So it was believed that she was (the Chinese would say), “Tua Sieow” (a person with great potentials). And she would need a match or else suitor after suitor would have bad things happening to them.

And after their marriage, the sugar tycoon gave them a gift, that is a zinc house in Sungai Bakap. It was said that every month, the sugar tycoon would send a tin of spanish coins for the daughter to use. (If you can remember the cream crackers square tins). The sugar tycoon Khaw lau Hup of Batu Kawan, was none other then the father of Ghee Hin Leader Khaw Boo Aun.

Read about the Malaysian Chinese coolies humble beginning here.

Malaysian Chinese Coolies
Our Chinese Forefathers

Read more about the roles played by the Taochiews in the 14 years Larut Wars and how actually Khaw Boo Aun was involved in blocking water to Penang resulting in the third Larut War.

The Human Horse

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