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Thursday December 30, 2010
Story and photos by PHILIP HII firstname.lastname@example.org
SINCE 2001 over 20 gardens, parks, sport facilities and statues were constructed or erected in Sibu under the Smart Partnership Urban Park Projects.
These projects gave Sibu a facelift and also provided its residents with conducive venues for healthy activities including community gatherings and cultural performances.
The Kutien Memorial Park (KMP) is one of the most outstanding among the parks. The 1.2ha park was built in memory of the pioneers of the Kutien Clan, one of the 10 Foochow sub-clans.
The Sarawak Kutien Association (SKA), responding to the Sibu Municipal Council’s (SMC) call on the Smart Partnership Urban Park Projects, adopted a garden adjacent to Bukit Lima Swimming Pool at Jalan Bukit Lima and transformed it into the KMP in 2003 at a cost of RM2.3mil.
The park smart partnership project was promoted by the late Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew when he was chairman of SMC from 1999 to 2004.
SKA, under the chairmanship of SMC councillor Chieng Buong Toon, raised RM1.6mil, while SMC spent RM700,000 on the infrastructure within the park.
The centre of attraction at the KMP is the 27.5m high Gek Siong Tak or Auspicious Pagoda, which is an exact replica of the Sung Dynasty pagoda built in Gutian County in China in 979 AD.
The solid nine-storey granite pagoda, weighing more than 300 tonnes had earned itself a place in the Malaysia Book Of Records as the tallest, largest and heaviest solid pagoda in the country.
Recalling the construction of the pagoda, Chieng said it was made in China and transported to Sibu inparts.
“It was re-assembled with the help of six masters who sculptured the pagoda in China,” he explained.
He said before the construction of the KMP he went to Gutian with some SKA members on a study tour to gather all the necessary information about the county and the migration of the Kutian people to Sibu.
“The historical pagoda is a famous landmark in Gutian County. It was relocated to the Gutian new town in 1958 after the construction of a hydro dam at its original site in Gutian old town,” Chieng said.
The Kutien community in Sibu numbers over 40,000 people. To them, the Auspicious Pagoda symbolises unity, hope and is also a source of pride.
“It is an important cultural link with their ancestral homeland,” Chieng pointed out.
Most of the Kutien pioneers arrived in Sibu more than 100 years ago with Reverend Wong Nai Siong to carry out farming at the lower Rajang River particularly at Ensurai and Hup Choon Yuen.
In the first few years, many of them had died due to hardship and widespread diseases such as malaria.
“To remember those who had sacrificed their lives in the early days, we also erected a stone slab called ‘The Unknown Kutien Pioneer Settlers’ Memorial’ at KMP in memory of these pioneers,” Chieng added.
He said since KMP was completed in 2003, many descendents of the Kutien pioneers came to pay their respects to their ancestors during the Qing Ming (All Souls Day) festival every year.
Besides the stone slab is a pavillion named Siyuan Tin, which generally means a “pavillion to remember your cultural roots”.
Here the history of Gutian County and a historical account of the Kutien migration to Southeast Asia is engraved on the granite walls.
Also engraved on the wall are names of donors who had contributed financially to the construction of KMP.
At the western side of the park lies a large picturesque lotus pond with its banks lined with rain trees and willow trees. An eye-catching statue of a swan which is the official symbol of Sibu is also located at one side of the pond. Besides the Auspicious Pagoda is a huge stone donated by the Gutian local government.
Children are always attracted to the stone animals and giant mushrooms in the park.
For adults, they often come here to jog under the shady paths in the early morning or after work in the evening.
The park has also attracted many local and foreign tourists, and it is also a popular venue for newlyweds to take their wedding photographs.
The KMP was officially opened on July 8, 2004, when over 500 overseas Kutiens gathered in Sibu for the Second World Kutien Convention as well as to celebrate the 75th anniversary of SKA.
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