The above beautiful piece of art portrays wild orchids with Chinese characters “幽兰”, which means “orchid”, is hung on the wall of our living room.
It was a gift for my mother by our Chinese friend saying that it will bring us ‘ong’; but my father had it hung at that particular spot because it is indeed a very beautiful gift.
I am a Malay and I am very proud to be one; the beautiful Chinese piece of art with the Chinese characters in our living room does not make me less of a Malay.
I cannot read Mandarin, but thanks to our dear family friend, Aunty Helen Ang, we are able to understand what the Chinese characters says; and as orchids in the Chinese culture symbolises wealth and fortune, I guess it does have something to do with ‘ong’.
People often remarked that neither my parents, my siblings nor I have the typical Malay looks, even thought both of my parents are Malay; I think it is the result of our mixed bloodlines.
My maternal grandfather is a Malay with Peranakan Chinese and Middle-Eastern ancestries along the family bloodlines while my maternal grandmother came from Chinese bloodline.
While my paternal grandfather is a Malay, my paternal grandmother is a Malay with some Siamese and Middle-Eastern bloodlines.
I come from a family with a very rich history especially from the lineage of my maternal grandfather where Tun Zain Indera of Tersat, who came from the lineage of the Sultanate of Johor-Riau was my 8th great-grandfather; my great-grandfather, Haji Awang Omar bin Dato’ Mata Mata Tua Yusof was the younger brother of Dato’ Seri Amar Diraja Haji Ngah Mohamad bin Dato’ Mata Mata Tua Yusof.
As I am very proud of my maternal grandfather’s ancestry, I am also proud of my Chinese ancestry.
My maternal great-grandfather, Hj. Ya’acob Abdullah Al-Yunani whom we affectionately called Appa was a Chinese Muslim and his Chinese name was Tung Foo Piew.
Appa told us about how his father, Hj. Abdullah Sulaiman Al-Yunani sailed from Kwantung or Guangdong in the 19th century to start a business and a new life in the Tanah Melayu.
What makes me really proud about my Chinese ancestors is that despite coming from a different country with a different culture and traditions, they managed to assimilate with the local Malay community around them.
Appa said that it did not take a long time for his parents to able to speak Malay and for his father to learn to read and write in the Jawi scripture.
Appa wore his baju Melayu with ‘kain pelikat’ and ate Malay food but he also loved the Chinese style soups, noodles and tofu which we also do enjoy regularly in our home.
And despite of being proud of his Chinese heritage to the end of his life, Appa spoke fluent Malay, practised the Malay custom and proudly called himself a Malay, as he met all the criteria to become a Malay as stated in the Article 160 of the Federal Constitutions.
Appa who called Tanah Melayu his homeland was happy to assimilate and had a very high respect for the Malays and was thankful to be accepted in this country as he knew life in China used to be hard, which was the reason why his parents risked their lives sailing to Tanah Melayu in seeking for a brighter future of their children.
And I am also proud to learn from my mother’s uncle that a great statesman, Tun Tan Siew Sin who was a former Minister of Finance was a distant relative of ours from my maternal grandfather’s side of the family; and that our ancestors came in the same boat to Tanah Melayu long, long time ago.
It is the respect and love for our country as well as for our fellow citizens and obeying the laws of the land that makes us a very special nation.