Category: My Hometown

The story of Bukit Kangkar

Bukit Kangkar is a an easily accessible small town, known for its two giant water tanks built in 1936 which have now become its landmark.

According to legend, “Bukit” refers to small hill while “Kangkar” is a transliteration of Teochew dialect meaning “harbour master”. The then harbour master was Chang Rui He.

Ninety-year-old villager Sia Yan Tong said that the village is still practising a custom of using candles to make obituary. A pair of red candles will be placed in front of the house of each Chinese family whenever a Chinese villager passes away to inform them of the loss.

He pointed out that when villagers find the candles after returning from work, they will go to a coffee shop to get more information about the death and the candles will be left melting themselves. Villagers will also offer help and thus, the tradition has a specific significance for the villagers. However, it applies only to those who die peacefully, senior and married villagers, but not single, young villagers or those who die accidentally.

Sia recalled that in early days, the main street had over 40 shops and those living in rural areas would purchase their daily necessities in the street, causing it always crowded and bustling.

He said with a smile that kerosene lamps were used along the street at that time and a villager was responsible to pull them down and light them before raising them again when day fell, like flag-raising ceremony.

He revealed that during the Malayan Emergency, adult men were required to patrol at night and guard entrances in groups.

He said that he was the first taxi driver in the village. The cost of petrol was only RM1 a day and he could earn RM30 everyday. An acre of land cost only RM100 at that time and thus, he bought a lot for investment.

In addition, Sia said that he is a veteran member of the MCA.

President of an ancient temple in the village, Chen Sheng Hui, said that a well located near the temple was always overflowing, even when other wells had dried out during droughts. It had never failed to provide clean water to villagers.

He recalled that after getting married in China, his parents brought his sister to Malaya in 1930 and settled in an estate in Malacca, and he was born in 1936.

He pointed out that they first survived on rubber tapping but later when the Japanese Occupation started, they had to stay alert and hide in bushes whenever they found something suspicious to avoid being found by Japanese troops.

He said that after three years of such hiding period, they were forced to move out of the suburbs during the Malayan Emergency and gathered in Bukit Kangkar new village. However, they were not given land to rebuild their homes and thus, they had to rent land from local smallholders.

“Therefore, local buildings were disorganised and poorly equipped, the British government also excavated more than 10 wells to supply water for public use and outdoor toilets. The new village was fenced and checkpoints were also set up at entrances,” Chen added.

Villager Cai Zhen Quan, 60, pointed out that SJK(C) Nan Hwa is the only Chinese primary school in the new village and it was established on July 7, 1938.

He said that the school is proud of its basketball team which has won 13 national titles and 13 Johor state championships.

Cai also said that the village is also called “the village of beauties” and “watermelon village”.

He said that there was a period when 60% of population of the village were young girls who mostly looked good, attracting many young men from other places to the village.

He added that as for “watermelon village”, rubber tapping was the main economic activity in early days and many young people chose to earn a living outside the village. Most of them were engaged in watermelon plantation.

Former village head Zhang Li Chu, 74, said that most villagers are small estate owners mainly engaged in durian, oil palm and rubber plantations. Since the number of young people is small, the overall development is thus relatively slow.

He recalled that their childhood was very simple. They helped their parents to tap rubber in the morning and grow vegetables in noon.
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Category: My Hometown