1989 / 2月
在新加坡 Orchard Rd.的一條巷弄堙A有一家露天的餐廳，招待客人的，除了懷舊的西洋老歌外，就是那張泛黃的全家福。它被醒目地擺在巷口，告訴路人，中國來的移民如何一斧一鑿地建立起這片有著中國精神、混合著馬來風情與歐洲風格的社區。
Wei C. Wang /photos courtesy of Wei C. Wang /tr. by Peter Eberly
"Your aunt went off to the South Seas when she was young" --every time Grandma mentions her faraway daughter she recounts the story of their parting.
The South Seas, or Nan-yang, in Chinese refers to the area of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Almost every Chinese who lives on Taiwan or along the coast of the mainland has heard of a friend or relative from their grandparent's time who set off for the Nan-yang area to start a new life.
Scholars say that Chinese merchants visited Southeast Asia during the reign of the Han emperor Wu (140--86 B.C.). And from ceramic ware unearthed in Sumatra, Java, and Borneo, some believe that Chinese immigrants had settled there as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.).
Near the end of the Chin dynasty (265--420) the Buddhist monk Fa Hsien passed through the Straits of Malacca on his return from a pilgrimage to India, reaching Java and the Malay Peninsula. During the sixth century, the Sui emperor Yang sent the envoy Chang Ch'uan on a mission to open commercial relations with the land of "Red Soil" in what is today southern Thailand. By the end of the Yuan dynasty, about the 14th century, the Chinese merchant Wang Ta-yuan wrote a book called Tao-yu chi-lueh, or A Sketch of the Islands, which included a description of T'an Ma Hsi, a Chinese community that is now Singapore. And in the 15th century, the eunuch Cheng Ho led seven naval expeditions to the south, visiting more than thirty countries and along the way helping the Malaccans defeat a Thai invasion--a deed commemorated by a popular Malaccan temple that still exists today.
Scholars say that trade was the main motive behind links between China and Southeast Asia in ancient times and that very few Chinese wanted to settle there. But after the 17th century, when Southeast Asia fell under the domination of the Western colonial powers, a large number of Chinese immigrants were recruited to the area to meet the manpower needs of economic exploitation.
Besides emigrants voluntarily wishing to start a new life, the passengers and crew of Chinese ships were sometimes shanghaied by the Dutch and impressed as coolies. Young men from Taiwan were shipped off in batches as soldiers to the islands of Southeast Asia during the Second World War. And many Chinese have fled to the area since the fall of the mainland to Communism. . . .
Generation by generation, the Chinese people established themselves in these not-too-distant lands, transplanting the elaborate architecture of their native lands to their new homes as soon as they achieved success. Although most in time became naturalized local citizens, they never forgot their roots or neglected to remind their children of the magnificent heritage of their ancestors.
Nor did the early immigrants forget the gods that protected them on their journey across the seas. The faded walls of the 170-year-old Fukien Temple in Singapore tell the story of the struggles and achievements of the early settlers, even as the skyscrapers towering on either side call us back into the bustling present.
Far different in feeling is Ta Po Kung Temple, located on an island off the coast. Gaudily decorated Fukienese-style, the temple bursts with vitality each year during the ninth lunar month, when it is visited by flocks of Singaporeans to the raucous accompaniment of gongs and drums.
What invites customers to an open-air-restaurant in an alley off Singapore's Orchard Road, besides the old Western music, is a yellowed family portrait. Strikingly placed at the alley's entrance, it seems to tell passers-by something of the labor of love in which Chinese immigrants worked to build up their community, Chinese in spirit but mixed with the style of Europe and Malaysia.
And along the streets of Malacca, an antithetical couplet flanking a doorway still expresses a Chinese family's hopes and ambitions. The straight-backed chair, the carved wooden screen, and the pottery in the living room are all objects brought from afar by early immigrants, making the visitor feel as though he had stepped into a traditional Fukienese residence.
In the resplendent Royal Palace of Thailand, a country rich in national color, several imposing stone statues of Chinese generals defend the palace along with native Thai guardian deities. . . .
And in Thailand's Wat Arun, the severity of a Chinese general and lion is relieved by some humorous touches, revealing something of the Thai people's impression of China in the 18th century.
Fukien Temple, Singapore.
The Temple of Heavenly Fortune, Singapore.
Cheng Hoon Teng, Malacca, Malaysia.
A former Chinese private school, now a kindergarten, Malacca, Malaysia.
Cheng Hoon Teng, Malacca, Malaysia.
Carved Wooden gate, Singapore.
A scene from an alley off Orchard Road, Singapore.
After worshiping, Singapore.
Wat Arun, Thailand.
The Royal Palace, Thailand.