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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The Linguistic Influence of Hokkien
in other languages
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
PICTURE GALLERY OF FUJIAN
Zhangzhou (Tiongchew) - southern tip of Fujian, China.
Temple grounds of Quanzhou (Chuanchew), Fujian, China.
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
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.