Saturday, February 21, 2009


Kinship is defined as relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin,either biological, cultural or historical descent.

Relatives are the the people that related to us by biological relationship e.g. family, both by descent and marriage. There are other form of kinship without being biologically related. A descent group is a social group whose members claim common ancestry. Some accept matrilineal descent( can be from mother), other accept only partilineal descent(only from father). These are unilineal, but there are society which accept bilaterally descent or bilineal, both from father and mother.

A lineage is descent group that can demonstrate their common descent from a known apical ancestor. A clan is a descent group that claims common descent from an apical ancestor, but often cannot demonstrate it. Some hill tribes have their clan's apical ancestor from non-human.

Kinship is one of the most basic principles for organizing individual into social groups, whatever the relationship.

Malaysian Chinese have strong clan relationship during the pre- Merdeka days; especially when they just arrived from China to the Nanyang. The clan houses were established to take care of the people with same surnames and ancestral home. Clan house for the same surnames, including Khoo kongsi (邱公司)which is reputable clan house in Penang build in 1906. Khoo Kongsi is the clan house for kinsman from Sin Kang clan village, Hokkien Province, China. These clan houses will provide social activities for the members of the same surname , and provide aids in case of needs. It is a place where the people of same surnames gather together to perform their cultural activities and ancestor worship.

The clan house based on ancestral location, like Taipu Association, Teochiew Association. Their members are of different surnames, but with their ancestral home from the same location in China. Like Taipu Association, the members may be from Lam,Yong, Xiao, Tan etc. But due to the people are from the same location, they normally speak the same dialect. The type of clan house also can be divided into those from the same village town , district to the same Province. The clanhouse from the same village are Chayang, Choayang, etc; clanhouse for the district are Taipu, Teochiew etc. Penang Teo Chew Association(潮州會館) is a typical example, formed in 1855, and where a beautiful Han Jiang Ancestral Temple was constructed. The clanhouse has won the 2006 award from Unesco for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Clanhouses for the Province are Kwongtung association, Hubei Association etc

These clanhouses played significant role in the history of Malaysian Chinese. But sad to say the support of younger generation for the clan house are lacking today. Some generation do not known where their ancestor come from. Some not able to speak their ancestor' s dialect, including myself, because their parent are either do no know the dialect or they did not teach the younger generation. Some may fell to the trap of the colonial education policies implemented, and only speak English as their social language. We are worried that one day the younger generation will become ABC Chinese, and followed the fate of Ahom people, and lost their roots.

When I was in secondary school, I followed closely on the TV series " Roots", where it told the story of an American negro searching for his ancestral home. It was a touching story and had great impact to my life. I like to read books on the stories of people who take their journey to their ancestral home.....

I still remember after my MCE examination, I hitch hiking to Singapore to meet my auntie, who I have never meet before. The re-union and the feeling of getting to know some one related to you, talk about ; but never meet. We have strong relationship after that despite living in two countries, and we do not often meet.

Another one is the recent trip to the ancestral home of my wife, and my mum, Taipu. I bought along my children, as I want them to know how is life in their beloved grandpa, grandma and great grandma's homeland. We stayed there for sometime, and walking the path that they once walk; looking at the house they once stayed; and eating the food they loved. It was a living history lesson for the younger generation. It also solved the missing puzzle of my life. I have been to many places, near and far; but never to the ancestral home. Another reason for the trip, and the main reason is to visit grandma's birth place,my 99 years old grandma, who long to visit her house again. The journey taken on behalf of her, bringing the memory of her to reality.

The only disappointment was, I did not locate my own (paternal) ancestral home even I have been to Chaoyang, Teocheow (潮州)......I still having my own missing puzzle.....the only consolation was I have seen the Han Chiang (Han River韩江), the mother river of both Hakka (upstream) and Teochew (downstream).The Hakka and Teochew drank the water from the same river for generations. This is the river, where my parternal and maternal ancestor were from the land beside the river. My ancestor drank from the same river, Han Chiang is my mother river.

Prior to the trip, there were many negative feedback from the relatives; some against and question why. But after our trips, there are many trips make by families and friends. We started a new trends among the friends and relatives.

Talking about ancestor, which lineage should we follow? Chinese believed in paternal lineage; and yet the most influential person in our life is normally our mother. Some of us know our mother's dialect but do not now father's dialect, who are we? There are trend in China ,mainly due to their one child policy, they are accepting maternal lineage into their ancestor book, which was forbidden in the past. At least there are sex equality in China!

I am a teochiew, but speak hakka all my life. Who am I ? My mum is Hakka(my maternal grandma is also Hakka) , my paternal grandma is hakka (my father is half hakka), my wife is hakka, I am 75% hakka, then who am I? My children will be more than 75% hakka?. The issue is common in Malaysia, as there are mixed marriage among Chinese from different dialects background. Yet I am not allow to join Hakka Association.

Even some clan house in Malaysia do not allow married woman to join her paternal ancestral clanhouse, she has to follow her husband.

How about kinsman with different religion?

There should be re look on the clan house and its social function to attract the younger generation, for the survival of the clan house, for the survival of the culture........

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