The Teng Family of Tai Pu
The Teng family had been living in the New Village of Tai Pu for more than six hundred years, and I am already in the twenty-first generation, so long is our history. In feudal times of the past, there was a Lu Min Chi (Clan House) built and a family record was made of the ancestors of our surname.
My grandfather Kguk Kwei of the nineteenth generation was a farmer. When the overseas routes were open, many from our village went abroad to find a living, and (my) grandfather allowed my father, Shin Wong, to ome south to earn a living in Singapore where he underwent many sufferings. After several years, he (my father) established the Toong Shin Blacksmith Shop in Singapore.
The Teng Family in Singapore
In Wang Sui Wei Chi Year in summer, that is in A.D. 1892, when I was fourteen years old, I received instructions from my father to accompany my mother, Nee Chai, to come south to Singapore so that the family could be together. When I first arrived in Singapore, because of the climate in the tropics, I was suddenly infected with a fevver that was with me for half a year. I was in a serious condition. My parents were very anxious and grieved, ut could do nothing. Fortunately, an old Chinese physician, Chou Mui Chun, treated me and unexpectedly I recovered as soon as I took his medicin, regaining my original health gradually; my parents were very happy. When I was fifteen years old, I entered (into) a private old type school for three years.
Travelling Between Singapore and China
When I was eighteen, I returned to China in (the) winter (of A,D. 1898). In spring the following year, I married Lai Chong Neong and remained at home (in China) for two years.
In Kee Hoi Year, that is A.D. 1899, I had my second son Sook Kin.
In Sin Chiu Year, that is in A.D. 1901, I came south to learn about the fruit and sweet meat (provision shop) business.
In Kin Yien Year in summer, I followed my father back to the village to visit my grandfather. My father returned south first because of his business, and I remand behind to look after my grandfather.
In Kwei Meu Year, that is 1903, I had my third son, Sook Kam.
In autumn of 1903, I suddenly receive the bad news of my father's death and I had to leave my grandfather to return south to take over and continue my late father's business.
In Pin Ng Year in winter, I also received the bad news of the death of my 89 year-old grandfather at home in the village. I immediately went north for the burial
In the Ting Wei Year in spring, I returned south again and thereafter I was tied up with my business and had no opportunity to return to the village. I then told my wife, Madam Lai, to come with my three sons to Singapore.
In Yim Chi Year, that is in A.D. 1912, I obtained (had)) my fourth son, Sook Chio (Ling Siong).
In Kwei Chui Year, that is A.D. 1913, I obtained my fifth son, Soon Nyien (Foong Siong). Unfortunately my oldest son, Sook Kien, suddenly died of illness. My wife, Madam Lai, was aggrieved by this event and went to seek advice of the gods, with the result that the idea of a second marriage came to me.
Second marriage and 'the evening years of my life'
In Kap Yien Year in winter, I married Chong Swee Neong as my second wife. From then on, the family was peaceful and we lived together without any difference in rank.
In Nget Meu Year, that is A.D. 1915, Madam Chong gave me my sixth son, Sook Kye (Sin Min).
In Ken Shin Year, that is in A.D. 1920, I got my seventh son, Sook Fah.
In Meu Sin Year, A.D. 1928, I had my eighth son, Sook Fay, who died early.
In Keng Ng Year, A.D. 1930, I had my ninth son, Sook Yan (Min). One of my sons was given in adoption to the Lu family and named Chin Kiat.
Two daughters were born to me. The elder, Li Hoon, was iven in adoption to the Tan family. She married Chow Eng Cheong; the second, Soon Poh, was married to Chia Hock Shi. From then on, I went through many difficulties to bring up my group of childre, but fortunately all of them are grown up, have their own families, and have something to depend on for their living. My regret, however, is that Heaven did not favour me. My two wives Madam Lai and Madam Chong died one following the other. I then married Sim Cheng Neo to pass the evening years of my life.
My parents had three sons, the eldest, Choon Fatt, the second Chin Fatt. Both elder brothers also have many children and grandchildren. They each have their families and means of living. I am the third in my family, and I have four generations of descendants with more than sixty male and female grandchildren and great grandchildren, which is in fact of some consolation to me.
My Regret and Contributions
My regret is that during my life, I have had no great ambitions and have made no great contributions to society, but I have always done my utmost to work sincerely for organisations that benefit Overseas Chinese. In the past, through the love and respect of my clansmen, I have been on the Board of Directors of the Khek Community Guild, the Char Yong Association, the Khee Fatt Chinese School, the Fui Choon Hospital, the Khiaw Sin People's School, The Char Yong Li Chi Sar, the Smithy Association, the Teng Clan Association, etc. But now, I have resigned (from those positions) because of age. With regards to (the) benevolent activities in our native village, I have neither heard nor asked about matters there and know little of conditions there, because I have been away from home for many years.
Later, in the 35th year of the Republic (of) China (1946), I received a letter from the elders of the Ng and Teng Clans in our village saying that they intended to build a New Village Public School, and appointed me as the person responsible for collecting donations overseas. I was to appeal to clansmen in Singapore and the Federation for funds. The result was quite satisfactory and I remitted the whole sum collected back to the village, thus fulfilling my duties in a small way towards the building up of our village.
In the 36th year of the republic of China (1947), when the Tai Poo North Middle School of our village wanted to erect new school buildings, a special emissary was sent south to collect funds. As my financial means were limited, I offered only $500/= (Straits currency). But because of my regard for education, I did what little I could by going everywhere with the emissary to ask for donations. It was a great success and the buildings were erected.
In A.D. 1950, I received a letter from a nephew in the village asking me to help to repair our clan house, which had been in disrepair for many years. As I could find no other means, I contributed more than $2,000.00 (Straits dollars) and the repairs were completed. The relatives in the village, having no other means to replay me in gratitude, asked for my photograph to be hung up in the hall as remembrance.
Following this, the teachers and students of Tai Poo North Middle School have sent to me a congratulatory verse and birthday greetings every birthday (I have), because of the love of my clansmen. I feel ashamed to receive such tokens of friendship and deep sentiments.
I have come from China and have benefited from its thousands of years of great culture and tradition, and I have never forgotten by country. In fact, so great is our country and so excellent is the culture of the Chinese nation that all descendants of this great Chinese nation should preserve and develop this culture as a matter of duty.
I am now old and will certainly die in a foreign land. I will not have an opportunity to see my native land again. At present, Malay and Singapore are also fighting for self-government and independence and to build its own nation. Undoubtedly, my children and descendants will also become citizens of Malaya. Because of their livelihood and external circumstances, this is only a natural situation. But I do not wish (for) my children to forget the culture and traditions of the Chinese race.
According to Chinese tradition and moral teaching, we have to think of the "root of trees and source of water". I wish that my children and descendants will remember this well. In future, whatever forms of livelihood my children and descendants may take, they must preserve and develop the splendid traditions and culture of the Chinese race to be worthy of being included among the descendants of myself, Teng Voon Kong. This is my desire.
My ninth son, Sook Yan (Min) was born in Singapore. At the end of 1950, he was repatriated, on his own request, to China by the Colonial Govt. for his anti-Colonialism activities. He is now . He is now living in the City of Chengchow, Honan Province, renering serice to his motherland. It is unlikely that he will ever return to Malaya and therefore must establish his occupation there. I am extremely glad to note that a member of my descendants (my son) is taking part in the progress and development of our country. I earnestly desire that my children and descendants residing in Malaya will have closer contact with him so that future generation(s) of (my) descendants will have no difficulty in tracing the origin of our ancestry.
Written in my own handwriting
at residence in Singapore
TENG VOON KONG
(Signed and Sealed)
NOTE: This work was completed by the author one week before his death on 10th May 1956.