Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
MUAR, Johor -- Chung Hwa High School in Muar, which is geared up to celebrate its 100th year in operation soon, is closely knit with the town's Chinese community. In view of the advent of the school's centennial celebration, Sin Chew Daily is looking back at the historical events within the Chinese community of Muar in a bid to enliven the past memories of local residents.
Before establishment of school
Migrants of Chinese origins arrived in Southeast Asia in massive numbers towards the end of the Qing Dynasty, when Sun Yat-sen was about to overthrow the monarchy and establish the Republic of China. Due to disgruntlement over rampant corruption in their home country, many overseas Chinese lent their support to Dr Sun's revolutionary movements. Among the Chinese communities in Johor, Muar's was the most enthusiastic.
According to 92-year-old former PE teacher of Chung Hwa Mr Huang Ying Xiang, his father Cheng Zuo did mention to Kwong Siew Association that Dr Sun Yat-sen had come to Muar to lobby for donations and spent a night at the association's premises at Jalan Sisi.
Whether or not Dr Sun had actually come to Muar, his sent his aide Lee Zhu Chi to speak at the Chinese Business Academy on Jalan Abdullah while other revolutionaries also came here to promote their revolutionary movements.
Inspired by the town's pioneer Liu Jing Shan, the Muar United League was established in 1908. Members of the league actively promoted the cultural and educational activities in Muar. Chee Tze Soo Press was later set up in 1910, followed by Chung Hwa School two years later.
Letter to Sultan
Muar was the earliest place to have set up Chinese schools in the state of Johor, with people from different ancestral villages set up their own private institutions here. Chung Hwa High School set a precedent as the frist Chinese school that transcended such divisions.
Local Cantonese leaders led by Chai Ting Rui and Huang Wei Ting (Huang Ya Si), founders of Chung Hwa School,, submitted a letter to the Johor government to retain the land for the construction of a temple and a Chinese school.
Located along Jalan Meriam was Rex Cinema, formerly the Xin Min dance stage.
The stage was built by a wealthy local businessman Huang Wei Ting and became a focal point of cultural events and charity performances.
In October 1926, the stage was lent to Hwa Nan Girl School for fund raising purposes. Nine months later, Sir Rabindranath Tagore arrived from India and delivered a speech on the stage.
During the Japanese invasion in China, local Chinese community made it a venue to stage anti-Japanese performances.
After the war, Xin Min was bought over by Shaw Brothers and renamed Rex Cinema.
Death of Sun Yat-sen
When Dr Sun Yat-sen passed away on March 12, 1925, schools, shops and associations in the town flew the flag at half-mast three days later. Many local Chinese schools also took part in the mourning.
National Memorial Notice was issued by Directors of Chung Hwa and Hua Nan schools in 1930 to call upon Chinese community to participate in the commemoration of Dr Sun Yat-sen on the 5th anniversary of his death. The day was declared a rest day and no entertainment activities or parties were allowed.
Double Ten celebration
Many local Chinese leaders in Muar were followers of Dr Sun Yat-sen who recognised the Republic of China. As a result, the October 10 National Day of the Republic of China was celebrated in Muar, wtih fun fairs, memorial services and lantern parades.
In response to the tragic event taking place in China on May 3, 1928, a disaster relief fund was set up by the Muar Chinese community and the fund raising campaign was the biggest of its kind in the whole of Southeast Asia.
The tragedy set a precedent for the town's disaster relief operations since then, the local Chinese community would raise funds for disaster relief in China.
With the onset of Japanese invasion in China, fund collection intensified, and Malaya became a role model for relief fund collection just before the Imperial Army headed south.
Chinese Relief Refugee Board was set up on July 16, 1937 by Muar Chinese community, one month before Singapore's Nanyang Relief Association headed by Tan Kah Kee.
During the early years, Chinese residents in Muar were keen on sports activities. Apart from the annual sports day and ball games at Chung Hwa and Hua Nan schools, friendly matches were organised throughout Malaya and Singapore. Among the games, basketball was the most popular among the residents.
During the 1930s, in a bid to promote sports among the Chinese community, basketball tours were organised and Chung Hwa High School hosted the third edition of the sports meet six years later.
In order to boost the local economy and reduce dependence on foreign products, the Johor government held a massive agricultural expo in Muar on May 3, 1933.
Besides local agricultural products, various handcrafts, soaps and liquors were also showcased during the expo.
The Shiwei Hall building of Chung Hwa Muar was designed personally by Tan Kah Kee, who also contributed partly to the construction of Chung Hwa and Hua Nan Girl School.
During the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, Chung Hwa, Hua Nan and Muar Chinese community responded to Tan's call to raise funds for the anti-Japanese campaigns back in China.