Last November, I had written about the origins of our particular branch of the Quah (柯) surname in Penang. Yesterday at our annual Chap Goh Meh worship session, I was reminded that one of our Quah brethren, Chin Eng, had once researched and produced a short piece on the history of the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi (瑞鵲堂柯公司). This document was never circulated outside of the Kongsi's committee and before anyone else forgets about it again, it is fitting that I should reproduce it here (my own comments are in parentheses):
Quah Lau Seong, the son of our clan leader Quah Soo Tee, from the village of origin in China, Ow Quah Sia, initiated an organisation called Hye Inn Tong (海印堂) and worshipped the deity, Poh Seng Tai Tay (積生大帝). Later on, clansmen from Ow Quah (後柯) and Goh Joo Quah (五裕柯) together donated money to buy real estate called Hye Inn Garden (海印園). The Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi was established in the year 1805 by clansmen from Ow Quah and Goh Joo Quah.
(NOTE: There is a small anomaly here because the Kongsi's Rules and Regulations mentioned 1846 as the year of establishment of the Swee Cheok Tong during the reign of Emperor Toh Kong [Tao-kuang or Daoguang (道光帝)] in China. According to historical records, he reigned from 1820 to 1850.)
(UPDATE: The same Rules and Regulations of the Kongsi mentioned the Pia Gor year in the reign of Emperor Toh Kong. For a long while, I was puzzled by the term Pia Gor but I've just come to realise that my esteemed Kongsi predecessors in the Straits Settlements that had first drafted our Rules and Regulations in the last century could have referred to the Celestial Stem and Earth Branch of the traditional 60-year cyclical Chinese calendar [see the wikipedia entry for sexagenary cycle]. If so, then Pia Gor was their Hokkien way of writing Bing Wu [丙午] which would then place the year squarely as 1846.)
When our forebears came to the Nanyang to earn a living in the early part of the 19th Century, they brought along Poh Seng Tai Tay to worship in Penang and celebrated the deity's birthday on the 15th day of the third moon of the Chinese calendar. They bought properties in Penang and set up the Swee Cheok Tong Seh Quah Kongsi (檳城瑞鵲堂柯公司) here with the following objectives:
The Quah clansmen followed a cyclical series of 12 generation names: Chew (照), Choo (珠), Lai (來), Hoo (富), Seng (盛), Kee (奇), Chor (祖), Boo (武), Yu (於), Ban (萬), Soo (思), Lean (聯)
- To stimulate a feeling of sympathy and relationship among the clansmen of Quah and interest in the welfare of the Kongsi;
- To promote social interaction and to give an opportunity to all Quah clansmen to meet and discuss all points of interest relating to business transactions, etc;
- To promote the interest and welfare of the younger generation of Quah clansmen;
- To assist one another in a wedding or funeral among Quah clansmen as the case may be; and
- To promote the worship of Poh Seng Tai Tay that originated from Hye Inn Tong Temple, Tia Boay, Ow-Quah Sia, Hokkien, China, and worship memorial tablets (Sinchu) of Quah clansmen.
(NOTE 2: Definitely, these generation middle names have fallen into disuse within our Quah clansmen. As far as I know, none of my present Quah brethren has followed this naming convention for decades. It has stopped even with my own lineage, and my great-grandfather could have been the last of his kind to sport a generation name.)
(UPDATE 2: Finally, this picture is of the plaque that is affixed above the main altar in our Swee Cheok Tong Kongsi House in Penang. While it proclaims Hye Inn Tong as the name of our private temple, similar to the original Hye Inn Tong in the Hock Kian Seng, it also signifies that the Hye Inn Tong was the original name of our Kongsi in Penang but because subsequently, we also accepted members from the Tong Su side of the same Ow-Quah clansmen, the enlarged Kongsi embraced the wider name of Swee Cheok Tong in 1941. The year inscribed on the plaque (15th year of the Republic of China, proclaimed on 1 January 1912) would refer to 1927.
(About 10 years ago, I was told by a Kongsi elder, now deceased, that some of the trustees and members were from outstation, living or working around Taiping and Bagan Serai, which were mainly populated by the Hokkien community, and they requested the Kongsi to spread its wings to northern Perak and establish the Hye Inn Tong of Taiping which was essentially a branch of the Penang Kongsi.)