Saturday, 7 December 2013

Connecting the Sin (辛), Quah (柯) and Chuah (蔡) surnames

I came across this book recently, the first volume of a concise history of the Chinese clans in Penang. I thought it could shed more light on the origins of the Quah (柯) clansmen here. Unfortunately, it has caused more confusion for me.

The problem is, long though Chinese culture may be, their history is based less on actual facts than acceptable fiction. History as passed down by word-of-mouth from one generation to another and in the process, gets mangled and fictionalised. As we are at the receiving end of this long process, we have to be quite sceptical of the information we read.

For instance, in the section on the Chay Yeong Tong Sin Quah Chuah Chong Soo (济阳堂辛柯蔡宗祠), this was written about my surname:

"Quah originally came from the period of Spring and Autumn. Qin Bo and Zhong Yong, the eldest and elder brother of King Zhou Wen, respectively, decided to leave Zhou tribe to renounce throne to their brother, the father of King Zhou Wen. Then, they founded the Wu Kingdom in Jiangnan with their descendants adopted the surname Xiang. It was then named as Ke Xiang after forming a league with several feudatories at Keshan. The offspring of the great-grandson of Ke Xiang, who was also the Prince of the Wu Kingdom undertook Ke as their family surname."

All of the above sounded rather familiar, and it should, because despite the quaint sentence construction, spellings and some mistakes with names, the paragraph was similar to what I had written a few days ago on The Quah (柯) surname in a nutshell. But then, in the same section on the Chay Yeong Tong Sin Quah Chuah Chong Soo, the writer attempted to link the three surnames (Sin, Quah and Chuah) together and came up with this romanticised story, which I reproduce word-for-word again from the book:

"The relevance relationship of three clan surnames of Sin, Quah and Chuah can be traced back as this lifeblood heritage was originated from Cai family in Gushi district of Jiyang county in Henan province. He was born in 885 Cai was officially canonised as a government officer in Wu kingdom who married Sin Shi and gave birth to their three sons, they were Zhong Yue, Zhong Shi and Zhong Hui. While his second wife, Ke Shi gave birth to their two daughters. Wu kingdom was extirpated and Southern Tang kingdom was established later in the same year of 937. Cai was implicated and forced them to flee for safety. His three sons had to be renamed as Xin Wen Ye, Ke Ba Shi and Cai Zhong Lie, respectively who fled in three different routes and successfully converged at Jingdong West Road. It was because of the dynastic changes and frequent wars later, they then had to flop about fleeing to Xia Da road of Fengchen village in Fuzhou to settle down.
Let me just add a little note before continuing further. Apparently, it seemed in China's long history, there were three kingdoms or states with the same name, Wu. Taibo and Zhongyong had founded the first state of Wu and it lasted from the 11th Century BC to 473BC. The Wu kingdom mentioned in the above paragraph was the third one that existed sometime from 907AD to 937AD. Okay, back to the book and the story:
"Cai died at the age of 66 on the 12th day of 12th lunar month in 950. He was buried in Xia Da road of Fengchen village with a standing gravestone without engraving a single word on it. Song dynasty established in 960. Xin Wen Yue was the teacher to Zhao Kuang Yin, the founder of Song dynasty. Then, he was canonised a position as Yuan Wai Lang while his two younger brothers, Ke Ba Shi and Cai Zhong Lie were also canonised as government officers. Due to the canonisation, they were unable to change their family surnames. Thus, threesome brothers became the originators of the three clans, Xin, Keh and Cai, respectively. While their father, the senior Cai was revered as the most senior originator.

"The threesome clans adopted Chay Yeong as their clan hall's name indeed they shared the one and only lifeblood heritage. Since then, the descendants reminiscence for their forefathers and set up Chay Yeong Tong as their clan association."

If you have managed to read this much and not only can you understand what went on about a thousand years ago but can also piece together an acceptable chronological sequence after referring also to what I wrote, then good for you because I can't make head or tail out of it completely. But then, Chinese history has never been my strong point....

Note: There is supposed to be a second volume coming out later to cover the other clan houses here. The Penang Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi (檳城瑞鵲堂柯公司) is not included in the first volume and I would presume that the editors will come knocking on our Kongsi's doors soon.

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