Thursday, July 11, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

(My ancestors left China for good; they did not turn back to look at a country that had expelled them; and if they had remained, they would have starved to death in the Great Famine.

They became Melayu and are not happy to reminiscent on their backward past.)

How can the Chinese in Malaysia think they are still Chinese, in the right sense of the word?

Their ancestors were indeed Chinese since they had come from there, or to be more exact, extracted by the British from South China mostly to come to Tanah Melayu and the other countries in Southeast Asia or Nusantara Melayu or Nanyang, as the Chinese then called it.

So the many scores of thousands of young and able Chinese men sailed in rickety junks crossing the Nanhai or South China Sea to Nanyang in search of the proverbial pot of gold.

Some found them, so they returned to their villages in South China or in the Fujian District and remained there to enjoy what they had earned in Tanah Melayu or the other countries in Southeast Asia.

Those who failed to find their pot of gold had to remain there, because they felt miserable and did not want to return to their remote villages with no more than the shirts on their backs, the very shirts, they had worn when they first left them few years earlier.

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, in his books always like to say that most of the Chinese who had come to Singapore and also Tanah Melayu then were those who were not well-off or well-educated.

And he lamented how they could not speak Mandarin as they were mostly from the south and had to be taught the language; yet, even then after so many years, they still could not master the language to be able to speak with the Chinese in China.

The Chinese in Singapore and also Malaysia now, are not like the Chinese in China in many ways.

And China does not have much fascination for the Chinese outside of China, who they see as renegades, much like the Chinese in Taiwan.

The only difference is that the Chinese in China consider Taiwan to be part of China, but not Malaysia or Singapore or the other countries that have many Chinese as their citizens.

And the Chinese outside of China and Taiwan cannot claim to be the strong supporter of the Chinese language and culture as what they do in China is not the same as those that the Chinese do outside of China.

The Chinese in China can be described to be Chinese from the Ming Dynasty China, Mao Zedong China and also Deng Zhaopeng Chinas.

Herein lies the confusion that had arose.

Which Chinese are the Chinese in Malaysia are in? They do not practice the virtues of the Chinese in any of the three eras of China.

Therefore, can’t they be described as a ‘Lost Tribe of China’?

Even the Chinese educationists and other chauvinistic Chinese in Malaysia cannot say which China they belong in or want to belong in, since even China has not given them any recognition and ask them to be their supporter and in what cause?

The funny thing is the Chinese in Malaysia can’t even impress the Chinese in other countries in Southeast Asia.

And no Chinese political and cultural leader of Malaysia has ever been accorded with the utmost respect by the Chinese elsewhere.

In fact, the senior and top Chinese leaders of Malaysia can never be given any respect by them, who would want to invite them to talk about the Chinese culture and language, especially in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and the other countries in the Asean region, including, Singapore, too.

Why have the vocal Chinese leaders in Malaysia especially those who express their ideals and aspirations to promote the well-being of the Chinese on the political and educational levels, have never been given due recognition by their brethren in those countries?

The answer is that, the Chinese elsewhere do not consider them to be at par with them, that the Chinese in Malaysia are no more than the ‘Lost Tribe of China’.

This raises another interesting and intriguing issue concerning anthropology.

If the number of Chinese in Malaysia is small and they are confined in a small area, then they can become a serious study on how their ancestors had come to Tanah Melayu and how they have still maintained their identity, etc.

They can become much like the ‘lost tribes’ in remote areas of many countries, such as India and Africa where they may have some people who still practice their ancient ways of life, whose very existences were discovered by intrepid researchers and anthropologists, whose discoveries may heighten their prestige as scholars.

But since the Chinese in Malaysia today are still large and dominant and also vocal, such issues do not arise.

But it is still an interesting and intriguing anthropological issue that can still be researched on.

But where are the serious anthropologists that we have in Malaysia who can do that?

In fact, such issues are not raised by any of them, but by someone else.

There are some researchers who have claimed that there are many people in Madagascar and other parts of Africa who may have Chinese ancestries.

They claimed that Admiral Zheng He or Cheng Ho had visited those parts in Africa where some of the Chinese sailors had married or had personal relationship with some African women who bore them children, who then extended their lineage, so that we now still have Africans in those areas who have Chinese features.

Not only that, the Africans too believe their ancestors were Chinese and they have material proof to show that, especially in the pottery and other folklores that they still share among themselves.

Many Jawa women in North Jawa Island have Chinese ancestry; this can be seen in their features.

Zheng He and some others had visited Jawa many times and many other Chinese men who went to Jawa later remained there where they married Jawa women who bore them children.

They became Muslims so in the end the Chinese in the Chinese men disappeared, as they too started to practice the Jawa way of life.

In fact, the Chinese in Malaysia not only cannot relate to the Chinese in other countries in Southeast Asia; they cannot also relate to the Chinese of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, and even America and elsewhere.

When the Chinese of Malaysia are abroad as travelers or students, they prefer to mix around with the Melayu from Malaysia.

Even if they are in China on a short tour, they find the local Chinese in China to be vast different then them.

I tried to provoke some Chinese from Malaysia when I was on a tour of Beijing and Tianjin by asking if they would rather remain in China to live and work here.

None of them said they would consider option. Because they know China is not like the China of their fantasies; it is another country with their own culture and also language that they can never appreciate or understand fully.

The Chinese in Malaysia do not help to expand the vocabulary of the common and major Chinese language called Mandarin or to uphold true Chinese cultural values, when most of them have already become ‘less Chinese’ than the Chinese in China themselves.

They also do not embrace the Chinese language that those in China had developed and changed over the years.

Singapore tried to adopt the Pinyin system, but gave up after a while after realizing how this system could deface their own identity as Southern Chinese with even the names like Lee Kuan Yew being changed dramatically that no one could tell if he is the same person with the new spelling system for his name.

So the claim or exertion by some Chinese chauvinists of Malaysia that they are supporting the cause of the Chinese really does not hold water.

They are only interested to remain as the ‘Lost Tribe!’ in Malaysia as they cannot claim to be the defendants or supporters of the cause of the Chinese culture and language, since they are not given those recognition by China itself who can claim to be doing this.

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