Category: My Hometown
My Hometown :: Sungai Mati gets back to nature [利豐港]
Sungai Mati was once a thriving port but after the formation of an oxbow lake, it gradually abandoned the bustling and flourishing good old days and became an inland town rich in natural ecology.
Riverside towns emerged as early as in the 19th century, including Sungai Mati. In that era when waterway was the main transportation system, Sungai Mati was one of the main ports of the Ledang District. Villagers depended on waterway transportation to ship crops and dry food.
It is believed that the natural formation of its geographical environment had given it the name Sungai Mati. The ox-bow lake looked like a pool of stagnant water and was unable to flow out. Therefore, local residents called it Sungai Mati (dead river) while wetlands surrounding the lake looked like an island and thus, were called Pulau Penarik.
The formation of ox-bow lake was due to river diversions which had cut off the corner part of the river and formed a lake. The formation of the lake had also made Sungai Mati an inland town.
Once considered a backwater, the lake is now having water gates connected to Sungai Muar, serving the purpose of adjusting water amount of the river and irrigating paddy fields. The ecology has also been enriched.
The old port has now become a good place for villagers to enjoy leisure time, as well as nature lovers and students to explore green ecology. Birds, insects and lizards can be found here and a huge paddy field has made it a beautiful scenery.
Many Chinese have started to inhabit here even before the Malayan Emergency and the crossroads later became the main street of Sungai Mati. Some old shops located near the oxbow lake are believed to have 90 years of history.
With the fading of its heyday, only some young people stay to take care of the shops left by their grandfathers, while the rest have been replaced by modern shops.
Sungai Mati is an important town in developing Chinese education of Ledang District. There are actually three Pei Hwa schools in the small town, namely SJKC Pei Hwa, SMJK Pei Hwa and SM (Persendirian) Pei Hwa.
The Pei Hwa school was divided into three due to educational policy changes.
It was recorded that Pei Hwa school’s founder came and settled down in Sungai Mati from Guangdong. He first opened a grocery shop before founding a rubber company which was later developed into a considerable scale.
In 1920s, Cai founded the Pei Hwa primary school with the help of other co-founders.
Villager Lin Xi Niang, 90, stayed in her grandparents’ house with her mother since she young. Without electricity supply in early days, and in that patriarchal era, Lin secretly learned to write on sand outside the house by moonlight.
She said that everyone used only kerosene lamps in the past and since there was no water supply, they also had to draw water from public wells. She recalled that she followed her mother to help others wash clothes by a well and during dry season, they had to wash clothes by the river.
She could vaguely remember that Sungai Mati was a port in early days and there are grocery shops, goldsmith and blacksmith shops, fruit stalls, bicycle shops, coffee shops and a traditional petrol station along the main street. The goldsmith and blacksmith shops have now become history while the petrol station has also moved out of the main street.
Lin’s father in law operated a grocery shop before he died. Lin, who was then 22 years old, and her husband took over the business which is now passed down to her son and daughter in law.
Another grocery shop owner Zheng Li Qing, who has married to her husband in Sungai Mati for over 20 years, said that there were two factories in Sungai Mati in early days, boosting local businesses. However, the factories were later closed down and their businesses were also affected.
She pointed out that buildings along the main street have maintained their original appearance. However, many descendants have refused to take over their family businesses, resulting in growing number of vacant shop lots.
She said that her family used to live in the shop and only moved to live in a residential area in recent years.
Cai Ru Song, 63, who was appointed as village head from 1989 to 1998, said that he heard from older villagers that there was a busy port near the oxbow lake in early days.
He said that villagers were mostly Teochew people in early days and since most of them were rubber tappers, they were also Chinese rubber companies in considerable scale.
When being asked why the village was named Sungai Mati, he said that it is believed be be related to the formation of the oxbow lake with blocked water. However, water gates were constructed when Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman served as the Johor Menteri Besar in the 1990s.
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
See more at: http://www.mysinchew.com/node/103061#sthash.tkpZlhOi.dpuf
GPS Coordinates: 2.14545N, 102.56256E Show on map
Category: My Hometown