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Posts Tagged ‘Abdullah Al-Yunani’

Hui Hui And Other People (Thursday, March 31, 2005)

One day in our afternoon religious class, my friend L surprised me by saying that he’d been enjoying some Chinese New Year cake that his family had received from mainland China. L was a pretty ordinary chap, fair of skin and voluble in his Trengganuspeak. In our daily dalliance, he was very much like one of us, but it was when he started to talk of his yearly bite of his exotic cake that I realised that he was one of us and more. He was from the al-Yunani clan, a prominent Chinese Muslim family in Kuala Trengganu.

The al-Yunani family of Trengganu were not strictly from the Yunnan, but were the Hui-Hui people from the Guangdong province in China. Members of L’s family who were early settlers in Kuala Trengganu adpted the family name al-Yunani (of the Yunnan) to signal to the local Malays and to the Chinese community that they were Muslim people, though they were not themselves from there.

The Hui Huis were generally Han Chinese, but in later classification of the Muslim community in China, the name was used to embrace other Muslim ethnic groups too, including the Turkic Muslims and even the former Nestorian Christians who converted to Islam many, many years ago. But the al-Yunani Hui Huis of Kuala Trengganu were Guangdong people who shared the same ethnicity as their non-Muslim cousins in Kampung China.

The journey of L’s al-Yunani family to Trengganu started in 1903 when Haji Ali bin idris (later to be known as Pak Ali Yunan), his wife Hajjah Halimah, and his mother-in-law left Palembang where they’d been settled, for Singapore.There they found another person, whose name was to become famous in Kuala Trengganu, Abdullah bin Sulaiman, or Pak Lah Yunan, and another man from Guangdong named Musa (Pak Musa). From there they looked for another place to go to, and finally decided on Trengganu, a state once visited by Cheng Ho (Zheng He). And so, joined by Pak Lah’s wife Khadijah (Pak Musa’ niece who joined them from Guangdong) and another man, Daud, they settled in Kuala Trengganu.

Pak Musa became an itinerant medicine peddler, Pak Daud became a general trader in Jalan Kedai Payang, while Pak Lah went to prospect for gold in Hulu Trengganu. While he was away, his wife and daughter opened a laundry shop in Kuala Trengganu, called Kedai Abdullah al-Yunani. When Pak Lah came back from the sticks, having failed to find much gold in the Hulu, he began to spend his days in the laundry shop, adding other items to its inventory, religious books on the shelves, and rice bags on the shop floor. Soon, in an act of trimming down, he stopped taking in dirty linen, and stopped the trade in rice entirely. He concentrated on the book-trade, and for a long time Abdullah al-Yunani became the most famous bookshop in Jalan Kedai Payang, in Kuala Trengganu.

In the records of the al-Yunani family of Trengganu, they have 7 pioneers who came down to Trengganu from China, the first five under the reign of Sultan Zainal Abidin III (1881 -1918)— Musa Li, Ali Zhang bin Idris, Abdullah Dong bin Sulaiman, Daud Dong and Hassan Liu bin Salleh. Then two more under the reign of Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah (1921- 1942) — Muhammad Yusuf Xiao bin salleh, and Haji Ibrahim Fu bin Muhammad.

Now, although almost completely absorbed into the Malay community of Trengganu, the al-Yunanis still look back to their roots in China if only to remind themselves how far they’ve travelled to be there.

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Buku Growing Up in Trengganu (GUiT) karangan Awang Goneng (Wan Ahmad Hulaimi) ini boleh didapati di Alam Akademik dengan harga RM36.00 senaskah (Harga Pasaran RM39.90)

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Snapshots to the Past (Saturday, January 28, 2006)

Abdullah Dong (pronounced Tung) bin Sulaiman, came to Kuala Trengganu during the reign of Sultan Zainal Abidin III — al-Marhum Haji — in the early years of the twentieth century. (see, Hui Hui and Other People). In Kuala Trengganu he opened a shop that sold everything from shellac to rice to salt and books and Hari Raya cards. He was assisted in this venture by fellow emigrant Haji Hassan Liu bin Salleh, known widely as Pök Chang Siput.

Soon the shop trimmed its stock and specialised only in stationery, magazines and books. It became the sole agent in Trengganu for the Utusan Melayu and the Straits Times (later New Straits Times). In Trengganu, Abdullah Dong became known as Pök Löh Yunang, and the shop, Abdullah Al-Yunani, became Kedai Pök Löh Yunang, the famous purveyor of books and religious kitabs.

I am fortunate to have been sent this photo of Pök Löh in his shop by Encik Yahaya bin Mohd. Nor, his grandson. Encik Yahaya used to help in the shop in the days when he was still in shorts. He says that in the early days, some of the Hari Raya cards sold there were printed in the back of the shop.

Pak Loh Yunang in shop
Pök Löh in his bookshop
As a very young schoolboy I remember going there one Saturday morning to enquire about a book. It wasn’t the very young Encik Yahaya I spoke to then, but a much older lad by the name of Shukor who told me that they no longer had the book in stock. “That was my elder brother who died last year,” Encik Yahaya says.

Thanks to Encik Yahaya, I also now know that Pök Chang Siput had no connection at all with snails (siput), but was a masterchef known by his Chinese appellation of ‘sifu’ (master); so sifu became siput in Trengganuspeak.

Another man who arrived with Pök Löh, Ali Zhang bin Idris, became Pök Ali Yunang. Pök Ali was the man I described in my earlier blog as the alchemist. He had a shop in Jalan Kampung Daik where he sold roots and poultices and Chinese herbs, and also kept a stock of hardware goods, and sparklers for the end of Ramadhan. Pök Ali’s ointment — Minyök Pök Ali — was much sought after for pains and aches.

Another bookseller from this remarkable group of Yunani pioneers in Kuala Trengganu was Abdullah’s brother Pök Daud (Daud Dong) who specialised in religious books in his shop, also in Kedai Payang. Among his kitabs Pök Daud (Pök Ok) also kept an array of kris (made, probably, in Ladang), seeds, and brassware (most certainly from the brassworkers of Tanjong).

Encik Yahaya also very kindly sent me another interesting photo (“that I saved from my Mother’s house, before the termites moved in”) from the heyday of the Yunani brothers. This one was taken probably in the early 1940s, and shows a delegation of Chinese Muslims (mostly in white coat) being taken by Pök Löh to visit the Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah at the Istana, though I’m uncertain which one. I’d hazard a guess and say that it was the Istana Kolam, though I haven’t come across any records of fire damage to any of its out houses. (If you look closely in the background, you’ll see, as Encik Yahaya points out, that the roof on the left has been gutted).

Chinese delegation with Sultan
Chinese Muslim delegation with the Sultan.
Click HERE for bigger image.

In this picture, Sultan Sulaiman is seated in the centre. Standing 4th from left is Tengku Ismail, his brother, who later became Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah. Pök Löh Yunang is seated second from left. I’d be grateful if anyone could shed further light on this photograph.

The Yunanis came to our part of the world via Indonesia and Singapore, then settled in Trengganu. From there they have spread even further: Pök Ali’s grandson is now an Imam in a mosque in Sydney, Australia, and many are settled now in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the peninsula.

Pök Löh died in Makkah circa 1954.

A young Yunani boy I used to know at school told me that they received cakes from relatives in Hong Kong during Chinese festivities. As it is now time for that, I wish my Chinese readers many happy cakes and a happy new year.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

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Buku Growing Up in Trengganu (GUiT) karangan Awang Goneng (Wan Ahmad Hulaimi) ini boleh didapati di Alam Akademik dengan harga RM36.00 senaskah (Harga Pasaran RM39.90)

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