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The Immigration of Chinese Villagers from Jiangdou

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Ong, and Wáng
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With long-standing poverty, many people in the olden Fujian decided to migrate south-east in search of a better life. There were many who wished to provide for their families back in China and so they toiled in new lands, risking business ventures with the support of relatives and fellow clansmen in search of success. One such group are the villagers of Jiangdou 江兜. Jiangdou, also referred to as "Kang-Tau" in the Henghua dialect, is a small village located between the city of Fuqing 福清 and Putian 莆田. This is where thousands around the world call their ancestral home. Although now spread wide and far, with possibly little to no understanding of their ancestral origins, descendants of this village share one common connection. This is through ancestor Wang Cheng 王誠, also known as Wang Yanqing 王嚴清.

Wang Yanqing (1499-1594) was born in Nan'an 南安 and founded Jiangdou after fleeing due to oppression by the Japanese. He had 5 sons: Wenliang 文亮, Wenhuan 文煥, Wenguang 文光, Wenqing 文慶 and Wende 文德, all of which resided in the village and populated it over time. Descendants of Wenqing, the eldest son, mainly lived in Fushan 福山 and Caiyuan 菜園. Descendants of Wenhuan, the second son, mainly live in Caiyuan as well. The third son, Wende, settled in Sanzuocuo 三座厝 and Caiyuan where his descendants now live. The fourth son, Wenguang moved to the nearby village currently known as Jiexia 界下. Finally, the fifth son, Wenliang, married his second wife and populated Beipan 北爿, Qizuo 企座, Xicen 溪岑, Nanshan 南山, Sanzuocuo, Caiyuan and Xincuowei 新厝尾.

Evidently, all 5 brothers were generationally identified by the character "文". A common Chinese tradition was the naming system used to identify descendants of the same generation. An example of this can be seen by the corresponding characters on the parallel couplets in the family tree poem. Descendants who have "裕“ or "明” as the middle character of their name would thus be considered of the same generation. Fortunately, this tradition has since been adopted by most that have moved overseas and thus maintains some connection to their roots.

The full genealogy of Wang Yanqing is as follows:

1世:王審邽 2世:王延彬 3世:王繼崇 4世:王傳懿 5世:王 克 6世:王 皥 7世:王 續 8世:王思弼 9世:王 燁 10世: 王 秉 11世: 王敬先
12世: 王祖德 13世: 王淇遠 14世: 王嗣翁 15世: 王 序 16世: 王裒然 17世: 王存孫 18世: 王 鎮 19世: 王萬應 20世: 王祖興 21世: 王萬良 22世: 王嚴清

This information was taken from the few genealogical records left as the Jiangdou family tree book was unfortunately burned during the cultural revolution. The village has since published a new version with information carried from the past

Migration South-East

Ong Ban Koh and Ong Ban Bee

One of the earliest pioneers in the land transport industry were the brothers Ong Ban Koh (王萬高) alias Ong Chin Guan (王振源) and Ong Ban Bee (王萬美) alias Ong Hian Cheong (王顯璋). They are considered to be the first generation of Jiangdou migrants in the land transport trade.

Ong Ban Koh (1870-1942) arrived on Singapore soil circa 1886 and began his journey working alongside low-wage laborers. It was not until later when he established a small shop selling rice and sugar that he then entered into the rickshaw and bicycle trade. Other than the goods he sold, he also provided rickshaw and bicycle repair services, seeing that Rochor was populated with such modes of transport at that time. Fortunately, his business thrived, and he then opened a shop with another businessman known as Teo Tiok Guan (張淑源) known as Guan Hoe Hin (源和興有限公司) at 69 Victoria Street. It was mainly run by his sons Ong Kim Swee and Ong Kim Lek. It is no longer in operation today.

It was also during this time that he encouraged his kinsmen still residing in Jiangdou to seek life here in Singapore as many were impoverished. With his sponsorship and training, Ong Ban Koh was able to initiate a population of spare-part businesses owned by members of the Jiangdou Ong Clan. Significantly, some of these businesses are still in operation today. These include Tye Soon Ltd (大順私人有限公司) established by cousin Ong Ban Guan (王萬源) and Ong Ban Hong Leong (王萬豐隆私人有限公司) established by cousin Ong Lock Cho (王祿梓).

Ong Ban Koh passed away in 1942 and was buried in Bukit Brown, Seh Ong Hill. However, due to road works and land development, it was later found by his grandson, Allbert Ong Kian Ann, that the grave was exhumed and that Ong Ban Koh's remains had been relocated to the Garden of Remembrance in Choa Chu Kang. There was unfortunately no record of the tomb other than a blurry picture.

Ong Ban Bee (circa 1870-1922) was another pioneer of the automotive spare parts industry in Singapore. Together with other kinsmen, they established Hock Hoe Co. (福和有限公司) at 6 Orchard Road. Like his brother, he thrived under the conditions of Singapore's early land transport industry and provided training to other kinsmen that arrived in Singapore. Sadly, he died prematurely in 1922 which resulted in a transfer of shares to his sons Ong Kim Leong (王景良), Ong Kin Hong (王景峯), and Ong Kin Kee (王景祺). Hence, there are also no historical records of him and villagers in Jiangdou seem to not know of his name either. Ong Ban Bee was also buried in Seh Ong Hill and was relocated to the Garden of Remembrance. His eldest son, Ong Kim Leong, also died prematurely in 1928 on a business trip and was likely buried in Jiangdou.

Hock Hoe also existed also in other locations such as in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Seremban under the ownership of other kinsmen, Ong Cho Tek, Ong Seng Huat, and Ong Tieng Hee. Significantly, it was the branch in Seremban that provided training to Ong Ban Guan after leaving his home at the age of 15. It is unclear whether Ong Ban Bee was Ong Ban Koh's older or younger brother.

The death of Ong Kim Leong, left his wife Yeo Kim Eng (揚金鶯) widowed with 3 children. His eldest son, Dr. Ong Yong Khee (王榮基), once worked the front counter of Hock Hoe. However, his sister Dr. Ong Yong Lin (王榮琳) convinced their mother to sell her shares in Hock Hoe. to fund her brother's education as she felt that leaving him to do front desk work was a waste of talent. Because of this, Dr. Ong Yong Khee worked very hard to get into medical school after which he opened Ong's Clinic (王氏西藥房). As the business thrived, he along with his Uncles, Ong Kin Hong and Ong Kin Kee made significant contributions to the development of Jiangdou. A total of 3000 Singapore dollars was donated towards the construction of the Jiangdou Overseas Building (江兜華僑大廈). Ong's Clinic is run by his son, Dr. Fabian Ong Chon-Kin (王宗慶).

Ong Cho Tek

Another pioneer of the automotive spare parts trade was Ong Cho Tek (王祖德), a villager from Jiangdou who came to Singapore shortly after Ong Ban Koh. Ong Cho Tek is also considered to be one of the first-generation Jiangdou immigrants in the land transport trade.

Though he initially worked under the supervision of Ong Ban Koh, he did however eventually have a hand in the operations of Hock Hoe Co. This resulted in his ownership of the Hock Hoe branch in Kuala Lumpur, along with brothers Ong Tien Lian 王天樑 and Ong Tieng Hee 王天喜 after the partnership dissolved on the 31st October 1933. On top of his recognition in the automotive spare parts industry, Ong Cho Tek also played a significant role in education back home in Jiangdou. Children in the village had to travel far in order to receive an education. In 1953, Ong Cho Tek mobilized his relatives overseas to fund the establishment of Jiangdou Overseas Chinese Middle School (江兜華僑中學). The school is still in operation today.

Ong Lock Cho

Ong Lock Cho (王祿梓) alias Ong Hian Leong (王顯隆) (1882-1970) arrived in Singapore in 1908 at the age of 26. He started his career as a rickshaw puller. Along with his brother Ong Chin Keng (王振敬), he later established Ong Ban Hong Leong Pte Ltd in Rochor. Like his other relatives, the business was carried on to his descendants and is still in operation today. He had two sons, Ong Chu Huat (王如發) and Ong Chu Seng (王如新)

Ong Ban Guan

Following the success of his relatives dealing in the bicycle spare parts industry, the then 15-year-old Ong Ban Guan left Jiangdou and made his way south-east. In Seremban, he worked in Hock Hoe Co. which was the start of his journey to becoming a successful businessman. With enough money, he along with other friends and relatives established Tye Soon Ltd in 1933. However, he eventually bought out all other partners, becoming the owner of the company. Similar to his cousin Ong Ban Bee, he also involved his 5 sons Ong Hock Siang (王發祥), Ong Huat Kee (王發祺), Ong Huat Yew (王發祐), Ong Huat Ching (王發禎) and Ong Huat Choo (王發祚) as owners.