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And from the far-off hills where sinks the sun,
A few soft faery lightnings flit and run
Across the pink and lilac of the sky;
The evening twilight breathes a tremulous sigh
(Like a pale, tired breast, when day is done,
And when comes rest most sweet, most dearly won,
Heaving a long, deep breath,) - while on the eye
There droops a drowsy sleep, and all the strife,
With heat of day, is quite forgotten then;
Forgotten too the rush of worldly life;
The throbbing moments thrilling forceful men
Beat with a quiet pulse, and troubles rife,
And toil, and grief, and care… slip out of ken.
When the new moon shed no light,
That I hurriedly woke with fright,
To see before me a fearful sight.
Never was it colder than on that
Dark and gloomy night. I shivered
As I lay under my old blanket;
Then I crept out slowly - so afraid.
Shoo-oo! Two bright eyes stared at me
From out the tall and shadowy trees
And ere I could utter "Oh me!"
They had vanished into the mist.
Very mysterious - two bright eyes,
No body, neither limbs nor face!
Whose eyes could they be? Wood-mice?
Or Devils? Which? Can you guess?
"See! Therel There! They are come again!"
I gasped out quickly in my fear.
Then came a sound so strange yet plain -
"Too-whit, Too-whoo!" - the mystery's clear!
Burr! Burr! Burr! The creature had flown -
It was an owl that caused my fright!
And sitting there - 'twas nearly dawn -
I laughed to recall that fearful sight.
The Chinese are among the most superstitious people in the world. They worship many kinds of gods believing that in each sphere, there is a spirit and that one supreme being rules over them all. The Chinese regard the sun and the moon as the two biggest spheres; the sun is the brother and the moon the sister, who being so shy only dares to come out at night. The shadow of the earth cast upon the moon during the moon's eclipse is, they believe, an enormous frog which is trying to swallow up the moon; and so they bang gongs and all sorts of noisy things to frighten the creature away.
A person's fortune is supposed to depend on the stars and whenever a curious one appears they say that a great person has been born on the earth. The comet is said to be a most unlucky star because it looks like a broom and will bring misfortune to the whole world. If a rainbow happens to appear in the sky the Chinese say that a dragon is sucking up the water from the four seas. The sound of thunder is said to be made by the spirit of thunder with his mighty hammer. He has a long mouth, pointed ears and two wings under his arms. I can remember being told when young to hide during a thunderstorm.
The Chinese believe in all sorts of devils but I intend only to mention the most common ones here. If the coffin of a dead person is exposed in the open air for three or more years the bones will gradually develop, with the help of the sun's heat and the moon, into a living being, very like the ordinary man but covered with long hair. At night it breaks open its coffin and tries to catch some wretched people to satisfy its hunger. As soon as the cock crows, it goes back into its home and remains there until darkness comes again.
A second devil, found only in cold regions, is the frozen corpse which remains preserved in the ice for years. This demon also feeds on human beings though it remains like a dead body. A third, the demon of discord, gives trouble to its victims by throwing furniture here and there in the house and by disturbing everything. All the time it remains invisible, but causes a great deal of alarm and very little injury. In origin it is a human being that had left his companions and gone into a wild place living on fruits during the day and sleeping at night in graves. After forty-nine days it is said to become invisible and to be possessed with magic powers.
When a person has died the relations will get a Chinese woman, called 'Sin Kwoo,' to burn incense and pretend to sleep on the dead person's bed. After a while she will rise up suddenly and imitating the dead person's voice, will say that she is very uncomfortable in the other world and needs a car, money and other necessities. When the relations hear this they go at once and make the things of paper and burn them so that the soul of the dead person may receive them.
The Cicada and the Owl
It was a hot summer afternoon. The cicada was making such a loud and monotonous noise on a little branch of a tree that a fierce looking owl, who was quietly sleeping at the other end of the tree, was constantly interrupted and provoked consequently to extreme wrath. He could no longer endure the noise made by the little insect, and with loud and commanding voice he eventually said, "Shut your mouth, you little ugly thief! Do you consider your voice is sweet and soothing to my ear?"
"Mr. Owl," said the Cicada, his voice being as loud as before, "do you imagine that my cry really disturbs you although it is not very harmonious?"
That was indeed a reply altogether unexpected by the owl, who never thought that under such a commanding and oppressive influence there could be such an antagonistic reply. He opened his eyes as wide as he could and, if it had not been for his incapability of seeing in the daylight, he would have instantly swallowed the insect. The whole of his nervous system was provoked, he flapped his wings furiously, and with a fierce countenance, he exclaimed, "You little rogue, what is your idea of making such a tiring noise here? Remember that I have the power and authority to suppress you."
"Mr. Owl," said the Cicada, "although my cry is tiring to you, have I not the freedom and liberty to do what I wish to do?"
"What! Freedom and liberty? Can there be freedom under authoritative influence? And can there be liberty under oppressive might? Oh, you little rogue, don't you think it is good to have a little snooze in an afternoon like this, when the sun is scorching like the heat of fire, and everything is as calm as at midnight?"
The owl was just going to sleep again, when the noise made by the little cicada once more interrupted him. He fully knew that could do nothing to the insect in the day, so his fury now had lulled a great extent.
"The temperature now is almost unbearable. I consider you should also go to sleep for the time being," he said.
The cicada paused for a few seconds. He glanced at the owl and replied, "Sir, it is just because of the high temperature that I cry. It is not the time now for me to sleep. You are used to snoring in the day, but in the dark hours of night you......." He knew very well that the owl would be going out at night to prey on sleeping little birds and he intentionally stopped his speech in this way.
"Oh, in the dark hours of night, I shall enjoy the pleasures of the dark! I shall travel without any obstacle in the beautiful darkness. Oh, how pleasurable it is to be in total darkness and how I am longing to hear the curfew ring!"
The owl was trying to recollect all his deeds in the night, and his eyes were twinkling with an air of profound retrospection.
"Sir," cried the cicada, "Since you love to be in the dark, and I love to be in the day, we are like beings living in two separate worlds. You cannot understand why I love sunshine; in the same way I cannot understand why you love darkness."
The owl now realised that to argue with him was but a futile endeavour. He had now plunged deeply into the retrospection of the lark.
"Yes, yes, I am longing......... oh, longing to hear the curfew ring!"
The cicada was now silent. He had prepared to leave the owl to avoid further dispute, and when he had commenced to flap his wings, he exclaimed: "Oh, how I long for the discovery of all evils and crimes committed in the dark, where justice is absent and the devils reign!"
A Walk Through the Country
It was early morning, and the birds were beginning their songs when I went for a walk across the country. The grass was laden with dew, which sparkled like diamonds in the first rays of the morning sunlight. A cool breeze laden with the sweet smell of flowers blew towards me, and the chilled air made me pull my coat the tighter. The trees looked beautiful with their green fresh leaves, and numbers of flowers clothed the hedges.
After I had walked for some time, the sun grew hotter, and butterflies flitted about the place, alighting on a flower and then continuing their zig-zag flight. The busy bees also came out to do their share of the day's work, buzzing from one flower to the other in search of honey. Many birds flew about searching for worms or refreshing the ears of mankind with their many sweet songs.
After some time I came to a pond and the inmates were doing the work which Nature had allotted 'to each. Fishes swam through the water and the kingfisher sat there patiently waiting for its prey. Far away a dog broke the silence with its bark. And after seeing Nature herself, I made my way homewards,
Malay Customs at Marriages
It is a custom among the Malays to spend large sums of money on marriage ceremonies; sometimes they run the risk of losing all their property to pay the large sums expended, particularly, if the party happens to be that of the bride.
Malay parents take great pride in observing this old custom and think themselves degenerate if they omit these pompous and gorgeous displays at the weddings of their daughters. We notice that people in the more civilised countries of Europe and America spend little more than a month's income on such an occasion. Malays, on the other hand, especially conservative Malays, spend vast sums of money with the result that they more often than not fall into difficulties a few days after the wedding is over. It is to be hoped that in the future Malays will be wise enough to remember the maxim of the burnt child who dreads the fire. Many who have fallen victims to these foolish notions and others who have seen such extravagance will do well to cut their coat according to their cloth in the future.
However, it will be a great disaster if the Malays do not regard marriage with seriousness. The divorce system among them is so easy that there is a fear that the number of divorces will increase if the cost of marriage is reduced to less than a month's income. In foreign countries where there is a divorce system the cost of divorce is enormous though the cost of marriage is only a few pounds. It is for this reason that the Mahar or Mas Kahwin has been raised considerably in some parts of Malaya. Mas Kahwin is the sum of money to which the wife is entitled after the marriage. The husband cannot put away the wife until he has settled this sum upon his wife. Usually payment is purposely delayed so that if differences do arise between the two, each will have to bear in mind what is to be done before there can be a divorce. In other places Mas Kahwin is a very small sum - not sufficient to pay for a silk sarong. Why then are there few divorces? Because in such places agreement and love are the real bonds of union, proving much stronger than money. Again, in such places the bridegroom goes to stay in the bride's house instead of the bride being removed to the bridegroom's house.
Wedding presents vary in different parts, and there are many ways of presenting them. In some places they are given to the bride and bridegroom at the persandingan (the time when they both sit together.) A tray is placed in front, and relatives and guests put their gifts upon the tray. Money is usually given, but articles of furniture and clothing are not uncommon. In other places a night is set apart for the giving of presents - after the marriage ceremonies have been completed - and friends and relatives bring their gifts. A third method is for the relatives of the bride to build a house for the newly married couple and for all the relatives to assist in completely furnishing it. This last system is common in country places, whereas the other two are prevalent among those who live near towns and are influenced by foreign customs.
Malay houses are usually built near the rivers, for the rivers are the favourite means of communication. People on these river banks consider it a red-letter day when a wedding is held. They decorate their sampans and the bridegroom is escorted along the river by a procession of small boats. A party from the bride's home comes to meet the bridegroom. One man with a crew of six or seven men leads both parties, and these fight a duel with long banners. The bridegroom's party must defeat the bride's party before he can continue to the bride's house and complete the marriage ceremonies.
Perhaps more strange than this is a custom followed in a certain part of Sumatra. There the man who wishes to marry a girl must first defeat her at fencing. If he is victorious, his suit is accepted. The contest must take place in front of an audience consisting of the relatives of the man and the girl!
Every Man is the Architect of his own Fortune
It is a fact that it is as natural for man to work as the stars to shine and the sun to give light and heat. There is no happiness in idleness. Man has been presented with wonderful strength and faculties which, if he uses them rightly, will enable him to wear the crown of success.
Man, in the course of his life, has a path to victory laid before him; it is not a clear path but strewn with obstacles which man, when he meets them, must not judge as stumbling blocks to success, must make these obstacles as stepping stories to higher heights of prosperity. He must utilize that which he has been endowed with to the fullest advantage, so that success will be inevitable.
There comes a time in the lifetime of man when a golden opportunity comes to him. It is at this critical period when Dame Fortune casts her eye on man and offers him the chance of his lifetime. Now is the time when man, lying in the cavern of inferiority, can rise gloriously and be placed on the pinnacles of prosperity. Shakespeare says:-"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of our life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
Take the lives of great men and it will be seen that they were of no importance when they started. But they achieved success by those two great virtues - Patience and Perseverance. By steady and diligent work, they won fame. There is no royal road to success."The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept,
Were tolling upwards in the night."
This is the secret of success; it is the golden key which unlocks the door to perpetual success. Thus the making of Man's own fortune depends solely upon the use of his power and ability.
Now Man can start towards achieving his object, remembering that it is with ceaseless care that he will reach the goal of his ambition. Man must be like a sculptor, of whom a famous writer says, "The sculptor cannot have a perfect statue all at once from his rough block of marble. Only by steady work and diligence can the marble grow into a perfect image of what is in the sculptor's mind."
Gone A-Hunting M.T.
It was during the hot noon of 21st August, in the mid-summer holidays of 1927, that I was sitting under a tree near my house at Raub with a copy of The Strand Magazine in my hands, when my friend Abdul Latiff came to me with five of his neighbours who are all hunters. They told me that they were preparing to go to Batu Talam, a place eight miles from Raub, on a hunting trip and that they intended to leave early in the morning on the following day. They said that they would be very pleased if I would join the company. Knowing that hunting is a splendid game I at once agreed to their request. After tiffin we went to the town to buy things which were necessary for us for the day's outing, some rice, onions, sauce and other things.
At 6.20 a.m. the next morning we found ourselves in a motorbus singing merrily. Arriving at Batu Talam we obtained a Sakai guide who was a little more civilized than some of the other Sakais. When all was ready we made our way to the jungle. No sooner were we in the jungle than we heard the noise of some animal. Our seven dogs began to bark, but we stopped them for the animal was not far from us. It was still twilight in the jungle so that we could not distinguish what animal it was as we came near. The animal raised its head, but we only saw two bright eyes, which we thought were the eyes of a rusa (Malayan deer). Zainuddin, the bravest of us, took aim and fired and after this one shot the animal jumped up and then fell to the ground dead. Zainuddin went to it and to his surprise he found that it was a huge tigress. It was found that the bullet had pierced its head through the ear.
We were not satisfied with it for we were not hunting for tigers but rusa or any other animal whose flesh can be eaten. We then went on, leaving the dead tigress on the spot. As we walked along I saw a wild fowl's nest in which I thought there would be some eggs, but as we came nearer I saw a snake which was about seven feet long feasting on them. I showed it to the Sakai, who was very glad of it. He caught it by the tail and pulled it backward as hard as he could. To my surprise the snake died instantly. I later learned that the joints of the snake are such that when the snake is pulled by the tail they all separated from each other. The Sakai put it into his basket which hung on his back. He told me that it was very good to eat.
At about 7.30 a.m. we arrived at a stream whose water was very clear and fresh. Here we stopped and boiled some water in a kettle. We made tea and had our breakfast. The Sakai felled a bamboo tree and cut a portion of it so that there was one node at the bottom. He then cut the snake to pieces, put some into the bamboo and poured some water into it. He boiled it by holding it over the fire. When it was cooked he feasted on it like a hungry dog.
We left the spot at about 8.15 a.m. As we walked, I asked the Sakai about his religion. He also told me that the Sakais have no religion, but they have a deep belief in devils which live on big trees. He also told me that the Sakai do not bury their dead, but hang them on a tree, at a height that can easily be reached by tigers so that they may eat them. Some of the Sakai have been converted to the Muslim religion.
I then asked him to tell me of his forefathers. I could not understand him very well, so that I had to question him several times At any rate I was able to obtain the following story. Long, long ago the Sakai were the dwellers of an island called the Island of Plenty. It was situated about two day's voyage from the Malay Peninsula. They were strong and intelligent. Their occupations were cattle rearing and padi and tapioca planting. They were, however, under the control of another type of people. The Sakai chiefs who were called Batin wanted to rule the island themselves. Many times did they fight against them, but they never succeeded. At last they were badly defeated and, worst of all, they were treated as slaves.
One day they held a meeting at which they decided to leave the island, but the other tribe did not allow them to go. They then begged for permission and the chiefs of the other tribe gave them leave on condition that they should not take with them any animals or clothes, but only enough provisions for the voyage. They accepted the offer, for they did not like the harsh treatment of the other tribe. So they made twenty big bamboo rafts. On leaving the island one of the chiefs said, "We shall land at a place which is uninhabited. Let the wild buffaloes (called seladang by the Malays) be our cattle, and the wild jungle fowls our domestic animals. Let our homes be on the boughs of trees." After two days they arrived on the West Coast of the Malay Peninsula, but they did not like this part of the Peninsula, so they pushed into the interior.
As soon as this story was over, we heard the barking of our seven dogs not very far to the right of us. On we rushed to the spot and found our dogs surrounding a rusa of moderate size. With one shot it fell down dead. We carried it to the place where we had stopped for breakfast. Here we skinned the animal. We cooked some rice and roasted some of its flesh. When everything was ready we took our tiffin. I was very hungry, and I ate about half a kati of the roasted meat with sauces and onion and a very little rice. We gave our guide some of the roasted meat, but he did not seem to like it. Then we gave him some of the raw meat which he mixed with some pieces of his snake and boiled as before.
While we were resting after the meal I asked the Sakai about the Sakai's marriage customs. He gave me this account. The bride and the bridegroom are taken to the Batin's hut in a sort of procession. The Batin then asked the bridegroom if he knows how to climb, till the land and plant rice or tapioca, and shoot with the blowpipe. Having answered these questions the bride and the bridegroom will then be asked to feed each other as a mother would feed her child. On the following night they have a dancing party. Their musical instruments are made of bamboo, three to four feet long. These they beat against a hard piece of ground; the noise which they make sounds like dug-g-dug-g-doon-doon, dug-g-dug-g-doon-doon. The ceremony ends with this. I then asked him why the Sakai seldom bathe. He said, "We seldom bathe so that we may easily get ring worm, for we like scratching very much."
We returned home by the spot near which we left the dead tigress. Arriving at the road we found the bus which we had hired waiting for us. We arrived at Raub at four o'clock. We sent the tigress to the police station, and a reward of $25.00 was given to us. We sold half of the rusa's flesh for $30.00; the rest we took home for ourseves
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
As the vast field of education is spreading and advancing rapidly amongst all the civilised nations of today, the study of literature, which is one of the principal subjects in all universities, colleges and schools, is increasing in importance. For the study of literature, innumerable volumes of books are brought into use. As there are naturally good and bad things in the universe, so there are inevitably good and bad books.
A book, in its simplest meaning, is a collection of paper, bound between two boards. On each side of the leaves of the book are printed the words of the author. The reading of books forms a part of education of the young children, but to the adults it is a pastime a recreation. Some people read for pleasure, others to try to improve their knowledge of the language, or of any subject in which they are interested, but the principal use of a book is to let us read what we are unable to hear from the author personally.
As stated before, books may be good or bad. It is the latter kind of books that is to be avoided by all means. These books are written by worthless writers; and what they write are untrue to life. Besides stirring up the feelings, these useless books lower the manners and characters of the unsuspecting and innocent young children; take them from the right road to a happy life; and ruin them by leading them into circumstances wrongly acknowledged by the authors to be tru and honourable - yea, even adults become easy victims to these wicked books.
On the other hand, there is a large dominion of good books, the gates of which are ever open to welcome all mankind, regardless of colour, rank or ability. "Will you go and gossip with your housemaid or your stable-boy, when you may talk with queens and kings?" asks Ruskin.
Good books may be still further classified into three categories. All books that are to be tasted belong to one of these classes. Such books are written by good writers who, in a very pleasant and friendly manner, relate to us accounts of their wonderful adventures, strange experiences, and valuable knowledge of other things. They give us frequently a beautiful descriptive narrative of natural scenery, such as mountains, lakes, woods, rivers, and seas. With ink and pen, they paint for us true pictures of foreign countries, and with the trained ability of a great artist, leave nothing to be desired in such pictures. All things, from an elephant to a pin, are fully described. Naturally, we like very much to hear accounts of adventures so there is no wonder that the great majority of schoolchildren, businessmen and women stick to this class of books. But we are not expected to spend the whole day reading such books, because, to say the truth, these books are really newspapers printed in book form, and besides there are better books.
In mentioning better books, we come to another class of books, written by better writers. The best known books belonging to this class are the novels or books written by Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, Oliver Goldsmith and Thackeray. To these books we must pay great attention; we must read them with more care. These are the books to be swallowed.
"Some few to be chewed and digested." Ah! yes, these are the queens and kings. Among the authors of such books are William Shakespeare, Milton, Francis Bacon, John Bunyan, Lord Macaulay and John Ruskin. These were great men, holding important and responsible positions in the United Kingdom. It is needless to give an account of the parts they have played for their country, because some of them were distinguished statesmen, some philosophic and some great thinkers. Ah! How we long to be in their company; how honourable would we appear if we could listen or talk to them. Yet we can talk to them, listen to them as long as we like by reading their books. The best books written by these writers are Shakespeare's Tragedies and Comedies, Milton's poetical works, Bacon's Essays, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Macaulay's Essays and Lays and Ruskin's works. These books are the richest taken from the treasury of English Literature. The more we read them, the more we like them. Bacon, in his Essay of Study writes, "Reading maketh a full man." This is right only when read this class of books, which, indeed, make us full - full of the best nowledge of English Literature, and the best thoughts from the greatest writers.
New Year Observations
The Sikh New Year, which is the most important of all the days for the Sikhs, falls on the twelfth of April this year. It is called the Wesakhi and it derives its name from the Punjabee month called Wesakh. It is celebrated with much more magnificence in the Punjab which is the native place of this highly esteemed race.
Two hundred and thirty years have passed since the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, the leader and organiser of the Sikh Religion, on this day formed a new religion. He called a meeting of the Sikhs and asked if any five of them were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of his religion. After some time, five of them stood up and he took them into the tent where he slew them with his sword, restored their lives miraculously and purified them, giving them a new life. He then baptized them with the holy water and thereby made them "Singhs."
Afterwards, he gave them the rules which were simple and common. They are strictly observed to the present day by the Sikhs who more commonly refer to them as the five "K's" because each word begins with the letter K. Strange to say each man among the five represented one class of people, as, for example, the tailor class and the farmer class were represented by two disciples and each man belonged to his own particular class.
When Guru Gobind Singh had formed a new religion, like the brave and gentle warrior that he was, he collected his men into infantry units and made them brave warriors. He did this in order to overthrow the rule of the Moghuls and to win independence for the Sikhs. His four sons were killed in the battles against the Moghuls. They died as martyrs to his religion and at last, with great difficulty, he was able to complete his task.
On this day the Sikhs go to the Temple early in the morning to hear the musicians, to the accompaniment of the beating of the drum and the music of the harmonium, sing the religious songs known as "Asia-di-War." Afterwards, lectures are given by educated people, who remind their fellowmen of the great spirit of their Guru, of the miracles he performed, how bravely he fought in the battles and how he won the love of his people. Then the priest reads the Bible, and the whole congregation stands up while the priest offers the final prayers, after which the holy feast is distributed and the people depart to their homes.
Some uneducated people have a very foolish idea, thinking that the New Year's Day is a day on which they can enjoy themselves by drinking intoxicating liquors and consequently they not only harm themselves but, by disturbing others who are peaceful, they also lose respect.
Cakes which are either made at home or bought from the shops are eaten and also distributed to the neighbours, and most of the people spend the whole day happily, attending upon their guests and visiting their friends' houses.
Superstitions are common in the East, and I think that we can safely say that most Asiatics believe firmly in the existence of supernatural beings and are quite familiar with the various names of those so-called hantus. Certainly, the Malays are confident that these supernatural objects do exist, and they have applied various names to them and have divided them into two classes, the good and the bad. Pontianak, Hantu Kubor and Hantu Galah are the ones most frequently met.
'I'he dreaded Pontianak which Malays regard as being omnipresent is the greatest object of fear. This particular hantu is said to be of human origin - a female and very wily. Seldom does it appear in a grotesque shape, but rather as a most attractive apparition. With apparel sweetly scented, it is ready to tempt any one. Many people believe that they have seen this hantu, but I think that if they spoke truly, ninety-nine out of a hundred would deny it.
The Malays believe in the ancient story that this Pontianak walks on the air - I mean that her feet do not actually touch the ground, being scarcely half an inch above. And yet, which is rather strange, they venture to say that her sandals make a great noise as she walks! She is very harmful, as are many other hantus, but there is a belief that, being a female herself, she fears women more than men. An old legend says that the neck of the Pontianak is hollow and if this groove can be covered up she will turn human once more.
Once upon a time a man was returning home on a dark night when, to his horror, a Pontianak, disguised as a beautiful Chinese nyonya, followed him. Seeing that she intended to harm him, he struggled to close up the groove in the Pontianak's neck. At last he succeeded and at once she became a very beautiful young lady, entirely ignorant of her former self. They married and had one child - a daughter, who, when she grew up, used to braid her mother's hair. One day, while she was busily engaged in this work, she saw how unnatural her mother's neck was. Her mother explained the reason for it and asked her daughter to remove the covering. As soon as this was done, she became a Pontianak once more - only to discover how much better her existence as a human being had been. For this reason she hated women more than men.
Hantu Kubor is a spirit of the dead, to be found, so they say, in graveyards at night. These hantus resemble the dead in appearance being dressed in their white shrouds and they come out from their abodes - the tombs - for pleasure and sport.
As I have already mentioned, many people believe in these ghosts, but in my opinion it is only the cowards - the chicken-hearted - who can see these mysterious objects. Through ignorance and fear, such people imagine that they see ghosts. A coward walking alone on a dark night would always be thinking of devils and would always be imagining that one was following closely behind his heels hoping either to catch hold of him by the neck or frighten him in some other way.
A Visit to a Sakai Village
I had long wished to see a Sakai village and during the last Christmas, I had the opportunity of going to the Sakai village at Bukit Tampil, close to the village of Denkil. I left Kajang for my destination in a motor car with some of my friends. We arrived at Denkil at about 9 o'clock and made the acquaintance of the Assistant Penghulu of Denkil, who consented to accompany us to the Sakai Village, where he was a familiar figure. We left Denkil at about half past nine, and arrived at the Sakai village after half an hour's journey along a bridle path. This village is situated on the slopes of an eminence called Bukit Tampil that stands about half an hour's walk from the Telok Datoh Road.
I was really surprised to see that this village was not altogether primitive. There are about twenty-five houses modelled after the usual Malay style. One of the houses, which is occupied by the Sakai chief, is a large and commodious building. The houses, as well as their surroundings, are clean and there are flower beds and fruit trees around.
Our presence caused great alarm among the villagers, for they vere very seldom visited by people of other nationalities. The Assistant Penghulu told them that we had come to see their homes. We found that these Sakai showed some signs of civilization. They were dressed in sarongs and not in the barks of trees as some curious legends say. Somewhat short in stature, they are still very muscular. Their eyes are dark, their hair wavy, their noses broad and flat. Tapioca is the staple food of the Sakai and it is grown in plenty on the hillsides. Before being consumed the tubers are soaked in water for a number of days. After the fibres have been removed, the tuber is crushed with a kind of contrivance. The food is then dried in the sun and it turns into small lumps during the process. This is kept for months and the Sakai prepare many kinds of dishes from it. Rice is very scantily grown, being regarded as a luxury.
The Sakai is also a hunter. Apart from the many traps and snares, the manufacture of which he shows great skill in, his chief weapon for hunting is the blowpipe with its poison darts. The blowpipe consists of a mouthpiece, generally of wood, attached to an inner tube of bamboo which is covered and protected by a larger but closely fitting outer tube of the same material. The darts have a conical head, covered with a dark gummy poison extracted from the Ipoh tree. With this weapon the Sakai sallies forth in search of game, especially monkeys, of which he is very fond. The sun was already high in the heavens, so we retraced our steps homewards without wasting any time on the way.
It was nearly twelve o'clock on a most dismal night when, after finishing a most absorbing story, I locked up the front door, switched off the light and crawled into bed. I was soon fast asleep, but later something caused me to wake up. I had an idea that I was not alone, and sure enough I was right, for in the centre of the room stood a human skeleton glowing with a faintly luminous light.
Seeing this apparition 1 felt rigid and motionless with horror and, in spite of the cold, drops of perspiration stood upon my brow. My heart seemed to beat very quickly and shivers ran down my spine. Don't laugh, for had you been in the same position as I was, you would have felt as I did or perhaps you would have died of fright.
The object was much taller than High Lee of the Manila Shows and possessed a bold and shining head with two deep sockets where his eyes had been. Instead of a nose was a rugged hole and protruding from a horrible grinning mouth was a double row of evil-looking teeth. The neck, body and limbs were very similar to the skeleton we can see at the Kuala Lumpur Museum, but the arms seemed very much longer.
As I lay watching it, it began to float - not walk - towards my bed. Steadily and quietly it drifted along and then stopped at length at the foot of my bed. It made a signal to me to follow and like one in a dream I followed. Out of the room, the door of which I had left open as was my habit, it went and then through the front door and - vanished! I was very startled to see it go out for had I not closed and locked the door before I went to bed? Not until I had tried to follow the ghost and had had my nose slightly flattened did I feel convinced that the door was really closed. The ghost had passed through a locked door!
I thought that this was the end of my dreadful experience, but the door then opened and I saw the ghost beckoning to me. The rain had ceased and I was guided along Bukit Bintang Road and Gaol Road as far as the Chinese Burial Ground. Only when there were graves all around us did the ghost stop and, giving a blood-curling shriek, it called similarly dreadful figures out of the graves. I noticed that they rose up out of the solid earth leaving no hole or gap behind them, and the glowing light on their bodies turned the night into day.
Gathering around me they began to make gestures and speak to me in weird creaks. I could not understand clearly what they said, but I managed to make out that I had been invited to visit them because I had been a well-behaved boy - how I wished at that moment that I had behaved badly in the past and been spared this invitation! Despite their awful looks, they seemed harmless and I let them know, as well as I could, that I was delighted to meet them. Really this was very far from the truth.
A dance and a feast was given in my honour. The dance was the most unearthly one that I have ever seen. It was even more barbarous than the cannibal dance that Crusoe espied when he was on the desert island. They danced in time to uncanny music supplied by ghastly musicians who played on invisible instruments. When this was over, a feast was spread out on a rugged table. A dish of something was placed before me and seeing that my hosts were busy eating I tried to follow their exariple - but my hand went through the dish and, in my surprise, I put my elbow on the table and almost collapsed, for although the table looked solid enough I felt nothing and went clean through it.
I recovered as much of my dignity as possible but they did not shout with laughter as my classmates did once when the stool on which I was sitting gave way and let me down with a severe bump. Surely they were like those shapes of whom Shakespeare speaks in The Tempest:-"For, Certes, these are people of the island, -
Who, though they are of monstrous shape, yet, note,
Their manners are more gentle kind than
Our human generation you shall find
Many, nay, almost any."
Sports were then held and the last event was a race between the best runner and myself. The judges, taking into consideration the fact that I was only a mortal, gave me a long handicap. The race started with my running close on a hundred miles an hour, but turning round I could see that my opponent was overtaking me and, when he gasped for breath, he shot out tongues of flame from mouth and nose. This sight spurred me on, and the one thought in my mind was to get as far away from the monster as possible. I increased my speed to 1,000.96 miles an hour, thereby shattering all the world's records but, of course, there was no timekeeper and so no one will believe me. On and on, I ran and yet the distance between the spectre and myself did not increase; it seemed to be decreasing.
The race came to a tragic end for me because suddenly I stumbled and felt myself falling through space until, with a thud, I fell on hard ground. I lay quietly with my eyes closed for some time, thinking that every bone must have been broken. Then I sat up, opened my eyes and found myself sitting on the cement floor by my bed. So all my fearful experiences had been part of a nightmare. There was a big lump on my head to testify that it had all been a dream, and you may be sure that I was very glad it had not all actually happened.
Chinese New Year Celebrations
The Chinese, be they scholars, farmers, artisans, shopkeepers and what not, are able to toil in their trades all the year round, week in and week out, without any break, but nothing in the word can induce or compel them to do any work during their national holiday - the New Year holidays. The young and the aged of both sexes all look forward eagerly to the joyful times to be enjoyed during these holidays, the women folk and young children actually counting the number of days as the New Year approaches.
However, those who are in debt and those who work from hand to mouth would rather have this festival postponed until they have sufficient funds to meet their obligations and to provide their families with New Year requisites. On the eve of the New Year debtors tremble at the prospect of their creditors knocking at their doors or chasing after them wherever they may go, and unless something turns up to help them to tide over their difficulties they will try their best to dodge their creditors: some will even stay away from their homes to avoid being dunned for payment.
No sooner have the first crackers been fired to herald the arrival of the New Year than creditors cease harassing their debtors and debtors return home from the hiding-places to put finishing touches to any preparations that their women folk may not have completed for the festival during their absence. On the morrow if a creditor and a debtor happen to meet together, they will greet each other gleefully as though nothing unpleasant had taken place between them.
Preparations for the New Year celebrations are started in well-to-do families early in the last month of the outgoing year. Orders for clothing and jewellery are placed with shopkeepers as early as possible lest the prospective owners will be disappointed. Housewives get themselves busy making New Year puddings, cakes, sweets and other eatables if they are skilful in this respect; otherwise, these things will have to procured from the market. Houses and all the contents therein are throughly cleansed on a lucky day chosen generally about a week before the New Year.
This having been done, the houses are decorated with artificial floral works, new curtains and embroideries of various hues preferably red or crimson, the lucky colour for the Chinese people These decorations would be incomplete without displaying on the walls the most important red scrolls inscribed with expressions of good wishes, for example, Hap-ka-peng-on (May peace reign in the whole family) and Man-sz-shing-yi (May everything turn out more succesfully than desired), which are among the many expressions used for a residential house; Fo-yu-lun-tsun (May the stock turn over quickly as the spinning of a wheel), Yat-pun-man-li and Man-sz-shing-yi (May everything turn out more successful and profits amount to ten thousand times the amount of the capital), which can be seen inside a shophouse.
This continues day after day until the climax is reached on the last day of the year when all the New Year requisites, one hundred and one in number, must be purchased even at exorbitant prices; and the shops and street stalls will remain open till midnight to give the latecomers a chance to complete their purchases.
On the last day of the outgoing year, monks or priests are engaged by wealthy families to offer prayers to the household gods before they part for Heaven where they will lay before the Supreme Authority reports on the conduct of those who are under their control: blessings will be bestowed and punishments inflicted in accordance with these reports. In addition to this ritual ceremony, the members of a family are united with a feast held to conclude the outgoing year.
The principal celebration of the New Year takes place at midnight when household gods and ancestral tablets are worshipped by burning joss sticks, candles and papers, and firing crackers, whereupon greetings are freely offered amongst friends and relatives. The dawn brings with it a fresh spring full of hopes and bright prospects and a well-earned holiday for all classes of Chinese. Inside the shops and houses can be heard the sounds of merriment, the ringing of wine cups and the rattling of Mah-jong, while in the streets can be seen, driven in motor cars or rickshaws, Chinese ladies and children dressed in beautiful silks and adorned with valuable jewellery, and paying visits to the temples of Patron Gods and the houses of their friends or relatives.
All day long and for days, children are receiving from their relations and friends of their parents red paper packets containing sums of money varying from six cents to a dollar or two. At home the junior members pay their respects to their seniors by tendering a cup of tea followed by the obeisance known as Kow-tow (to kneel down and knock the forehead gently on the floor).
On the second day, the festival known as the Opening of the Year is observed early in the morning or on the previous midnight by holding a feast after worshipping household gods and ancestral tablets with the usual joss sticks, candles, papers and eatables of various kinds. Then those who were visited the day before by their relatives and friends begin to return the visits. A few shops can be found re-opened with their stocks neatly arranged and fully replenished after the hasty sales on the New Year eve, but a great majority of the shopkeepers will not start their business until the third or fourth day, nor will the artisans resume their work earlier.
From the fourth day onwards, the aspects of the New Year gradually diminish in importance till the seventh day is reached when the Yan-yat (the day of human creation) is observed. According to the book of divines by a famous Chinese astrologer who lived more than four thousand years ago, the first day of the year is the day of the creation of fowls; the second, dogs; the third, pigs; the fourth, sheep; the fifth, cattle; the sixth, horses; the seventh, human beings; and the eighth, grain. The Yan-yat is, therefore, the "birthday" for all the Chinese people, and in observing this festival they worship the gods in the usual manner and partake of a feast of large plates of slices of raw fish mixed with several kinds of vegetables and condiments.
The Pai-thian-kong festival (the worshipping of the Heavenly Father) is observed on the ninth day by the Hokkien people only, but the writer, who does not come from the Hokkien Province, knows little or nothing about this festival and is therefore unable to give a description of it.
The celebration of the Yun-siu festival (the festival of the first-full-moon night), otherwise called Chop-goh-meh (the fifteenth night) marks the termination of the New Year season; this celebration which takes place at night as indicated by its name comprises a lantern procession and cracker firing.
What is written in this article is merely a sketch of the principal celebrations of the Chinese New Year. To give a full description of everything connected therewith would require a volume. Furthermore, the celebrations as touched upon above are confined to the Cantonese, as no single person is capable of writing about the customs of the numerous sects or tribes that make up the Chinese nation.
Why Dogs and Cats Fight
Dogs and cats look at each other with contempt and hatred. Everyone knows this but very few know how they came to be enemies.
According to a Chinese legend they became enemies during the reign of a certain king who ruled China many years ago. A certain Chinese gentleman had a dog and a cat that could understand what he said. Moreover, they were very friendly. One day they were sent by their master with a message for the king. On the way they came to a river, and as the cat could not swim the dog carried him on his back to the other bank.
They reached the king's palace safely and were given a reply, but very foolishly they quarrelled as to who should carry it. The cat managed to snatch it from the dog and carried it as far as the river. There the cat was compelled to give it to the dog as a fee for being carried across. The dog saw his chance, pushed the cat into the water and ran home with the message, telling his master that the cat was drowned.
However, the cat managed to struggle out of the water and on returning reported the dog's treachery to his master. From that day, they became deadly enemies and their descendants have followed in their footsteps.
Are as proud as proud can be,
With violent storm and roaring tide
Playing and rolling by thy side,
And ships come sailing with their might
Over thy foaming surface white.
When ev'ning shadows lightly fall,
Sea-birds then feel the homeward call,
And Heaven's gracious fiery eye
Will close to the horizon lie;
As night descends upon the deep,
The stars appear their watch to keep.
But somehow it just seems like fate,
It's not because I do not try;
I wonder why I'm always late!
Sometimes I find the clock has stopped,
Or else a cycle tyre is flat;
One day I strike a traffic block,
So if it isn't this, 'tis that.
The Student Teacher at the gate
Views me each day with great comtempt;
Puts down my name upon his slate
A most unsympathetic gent.
I think at last I've learnt my lesson,
This morn I had to see the Head -
A cane he lashed upon my person
And now I wish that I were dead.
Nature from Dawn to Dusk
The whole earth seems one vast expanse of blackness enwrapped in dark shadows. Nature, Man, Beasts and Birds are all in deep slumber - solitude and peace reign ere the sun sends its straggling sunbeams to pierce the fathomless darkness. At last Nature arouses herself from her lethargy, throws off her garment of sleep, adorns herself in beauty's apparel, and is ready to assume the role of master. Her beauty hidden by the dark night is now revealed in the majestic splendour of the rising sun. Nature has been awakened already, Man alone remains to throw off his slumber to partake of this sweet hour after dawn, to tread the dewy lawns and taste the unrivalled freshness of the air. The following is an extract taken from Hervey's "Reflections on a Flower Garden":
"The greyness of the dawn decays gradually. Abundance of ruddy streaks tinge the fleeces of the firmament; till, at length, the dappled aspect of the East is lost in one ardent and boundless blush. Is it the surmise of imagination or do the skies really redden with shame to see so many supinely stretched on their drowsy pillows?"
In striking contrast with the darkness of the night there is the wondrous glory of the sunrise. The sun shining brightly drives away all remnants of the dreary night. The brightness of the sun as it seems to emerge from the soft downy clouds is dazzling. The trees, flowers and grass are all fresh and beautiful, and their vivid green forms a striking background to the glowing rays of Phoebus. Sunrise is one of the most glorious sights of nature, which almost rivals the charm of the sunset hour when witnessed from some lofty summit. This breaking forth of the day is surely a scene to the beauty of which no artist's brush can do justice. As the sun approaches its zenith, the heat becomes more intense and the flowers lose their freshness. Their vivid colours are dimmed, and their heads droop as if doing obeisance to Mother Earth. The sun striking down with fiery strength renders the afternoon a veritable furnace, with little breeze to abate the intense heat. The afternoon passes by, while the flowers having endured the day's heat, now eagerly await the cool evening. The sun declines, the air is astir, and the trees shake their tops about in gratitude for the cool bracing air.
At last the long desired night comes. The sun declines, shedding its last rays on Mother Earth. Slowly but steadily darkness prevails over light. The air has no sting, but is very cool and pleasant. Darkness sets the imagination at work, and makes the mind concentrate on the solemn and serious side of life. But the night has its beauties. Myriads of stars scintillate in the heavens and the cool air, as it touches the brow, is as a ministering angel with the balm of peace and blessing. Thus Shakespeare says:
Is thick inlaid, with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims."
The White Terror
The day had become strangely still and the air was close. It seemed that all nature was waiting, breathless, for what was to come. The bright, clear sky had clouded over, the evening sun was hidden, and the quiet was unearthly, electric, ominous. The day grew darker and darker. The approach of the storm coupled with the nearness of day to night made the darkness so intense that it seemed as if the light of day never existed.
And then abruptly out of the impenetrable blackness, the world seemed all ablaze. The vivid flash of lightning revealed a solitary figure, stumbling blindly in search of shelter from the approaching storm. Hardly had the flash of lightning vanished, when the heavens above seemed to be split open by a crashing roar of thunder.
Even as the man quickened his steps towards some sort of shelter, sudden sprays of rain, like volleys of sharp arrows, came shooting down from the sky. So sudden, so unexpected was the breaking of the storm that the man had gone but a few more steps when he was drenched to the skin.
After a few minutes which seemed ages to the storm-tossed man, a huge building loomed up in front of him, and with a sigh of relief and thankfulness he stumbled in. Another flash of lightning showed the man that the building was almost in ruins, and appeared to be deserted; cobwebs hung everywhere. Although this did not seem very inviting, yet it was better than the rage of the storm outside.
The rain continued to pour in torrents and - whew-ew-ew-whee-e- a queer whistling came faintly to the ears of the man. The sound gradually increased in volume, till at length it echoed and re-echoed throughout the building. It was only the wind, so the man pulled his coat more firmly around him and settled down in a corner. He consulted his watch and the luminous hands showed him that it was about eight o'clock. He was just contemplating what to do next when - crash! He jumped up and looked where the sound had come. Beads of perspiration stood on his brow, and then the blood seemed to freeze in his veins. A low moan, which ended in a shrill scream, as though from the throat of a tortured creature, smote his ears.
His breath came in great gasps as he stared fixedly towards the place from where the sound had come. Again that unearthly scream was uttered, and this time sounded nearer. Then as he stood rooted to the spot, paralysed with terror, two great orbs suddenly appeared in the gloom. The lights drew nearer and nearer, and to the horrified gaze of the man, they appeared to belong to a ghostly white shape. With another bloodcurdling scream the ghostly shape rushed at him. In trying to avoid it the man stumbled over a bar of iron, and with a courage and strength born of desperation, he lifted the bar of iron and struck with all his might at the object of his terror. Then he knew no more.
The morning sun shone with its usual brilliance and splendour, making the horrors of the previous night seem impossible. The bright rays penetrated into the building in which the ghastly episode had taken place. The still figure of the man moved slightly, and slowly his eyes opened. Gradually recollections of what had passed during the night came to him. He stood up unsteadily and looked about him. On the ground he saw a bar of iron, and close to it was the dead body of a large white owl.
Last update on 23 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
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