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Fujian Province, China

Fujian province is the homeland of my ancestors who left the shores of this coastal province in the 19th century and sank roots in Nanyang - the South Seas. Otherwise known as South East Asia. They lived for generations in Malaysia before my father made his way south to the emerging island dynamo of Singapore which exploded economically not long after he arrived. Being an overseas son many times removed, I can't think of a single reason why I should be remotely interested in Fujian, other than the stirrings of motherlands that call all who leave its shores from fish to fowl to mankind. Through my background readings, I'd like to paint you a landscape in words. Maybe one day, I'll be able to fill in the broad strokes...

 


The Mountains of Fujian

Fujian is predominantly mountainous - walled in on the north, west and south sides. A truly spectacular sight. The precious arable flat land is rich but self limiting for a growing population.

There are over 1,000 islands off the Fujian coast which provides welcome fishing grounds for subsistence and over 600 species of fish.

The islands also provide the geographic shelter that created natural harbours for Fuzhou (Hokchew), Quanzhou (Chuanchew) and Xiamen (Amoy) to develop into trading ports.


In fact, during the Tang dynasty of 608 - 907 AD - China's Renaissance Period of culture, literature, trade and arts, Chuanchew was a mecca for Arab and European traders who called the city Zaytun.

At the height of such international travel and trade, Hokkiens began to follow the trading routes into South East Asia and setting up trading settlements.

Thus began the Fujian Exodus.

 


 

THE STORY OF THE FUJIAN EXODUS

The Fujian Exodus is a story of hope and inspiration.

Of pioneering and sacrifice.

It is a legacy that we can all be proud of.


Trade Winds Fan The Flames Of Fujian Migration


Manila

It takes only three days for a junk to reach Manila from Fujian. Manila was a strategic hub of the galleon trade in the centre of Asia. Manila was a trade depot for Mexican silver on route to China as payment for silk and porcelain. The Hokkiens were well poised to act as intermediaries in Manila for this trade and soon formed a community that still thrives today.


Free Trade in Singapore and Malaya

The promise of limitless fortune lay in the free trade heartland of South East Asia - Singapore and Malaysia - then known as the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang and Malacca.

All three cities were natural ports and harbours like Amoy and Chuanchew. Hokkiens went from port to port and formed communities that are entrenched to this day.

Go to Penang, Malacca and Singapore today and the Min'Nan dialect is still the lingua fraca of most Chinese there.


Legacies of Courage and Resilience

Tan Kah Kee. Beloved China Patriot who led the fund raising campaign from Singapore to aid China's anti-war effort in World War 2. He honoured in Singapore's Hokkien Huay Kuan, the nation's largest dialect clan association.

Jimei is also the hometown of Mr. Tan Kah-Kee, a famous overseas Chinese leader who devoted homself wholly to the education cause.He had started various schools in the town, including Jimei Normal School,Jimei Navigation Institute, Xiamen Aquatic Products Technical Institute and Agriculture School besides Jimei Kindergarden, Jimei Primary School and Jimei Middle School.

 

The former residence of Mr.Tan Kah-Kee is situated on Jiageng Road in the town of Jimei.It is still keeping its old looks to be visited and pondered. Mr.Tan Kah-kee was living frugally all his life. No one can keep unmoved when they see how simple those daily necessities and clothings are.

Tan Kah Kee established Amoy University in Xiamen and built a school district to further the cause of education in our home province. At his death, he was given a state funeral by Beijing.

Tan Kah Kee. Beloved China Patriot


LOCAL BORN

Hokkiens as a rule, migrated without their women, to save them from a life of hardship worse than the one they leave behind. Consequently, marriages with local Malay women in Singapore, Malaya and the Philippines created a new line of Chinese descendants who never knew the motherland.

In the Philippines, they were known as the Chinese mestizos.

The most famous mestizo of all was none other than the national hero of the Philippines - Jose Rizal, a Philippines patriot who engineered a failed revolution against the Spanish colonialists and was martyred..


In Singapore and Malaya, local born Chinese were called Peranakans because they adopted local Malay customs and blended it with their Hokkien heritage. A small subset of Peranakans are equivalent to the Mestizos because of mixed Hokkien-Malay parentage. Most Peranakans, like my family, were just local born Hokkiens.

This local born community developed a unique culture and cuisine that blended the best from both cultures. They spoke a distinct language based essentially on Malay but laced liberally with Hokkien vernicular.


The Linguistic Influence of Hokkien in other languages

Apparently, words of Hokkien origin have entered the vocabulary of not just Malay but English and Tagalog.

1. Satin. From the ancient port of Zaytun, now called Chuanchew in Fujian.

2. Tea. YES! This is actually a Hokkien word which is teh.

3. Junk. The Chinese ship. The Hokkien word for it is "jun", which was kinda brutally mangled as "junk" by non-Min speakers grasping for a word to describe the odd looking sailing vessel.


PICTURE GALLERY OF FUJIAN

 

Zhangzhou (Tiongchew) - southern tip of Fujian, China.


Temple grounds of Quanzhou (Chuanchew), Fujian, China.



 

 

Tsinoy Home Page Of The  Month
February 1998


Sources for this abstract

1.Caroline Courtauld, Fujian - China's Undiscovered Land of Mists and Mountains, Passport Books.

2.Lynn Pan, Chinese Emigration. (Article within the sourcebook)

3.The various web sites containing Fujian information most of which are public domain. I thank them for their inspiration. Please direct any proprietary notification to me.