Ah Lim & Yiptong Marriage saga 1946

Why were Koung Koung and Popoh YIPTONG reluctant to the marriage of my father Pak Lin to my mother Cecette? To be able to answer the question, it would be necessary to get to the background story to situate the scene and place us in the context of the time and place.

We were just passed the 40’s war, time were tough for all the inhabitants of the island. Employment was scare, even food was rationed. Came the end of the war, in 1945 the troops were demobilized and the normal activities of the country restarted.

Koung Koung YIPTONG was amongst the notable of the Chinese community and had done economically well for himself and his lot. He was a merchant, owning a high street wholesale business. In those days the wholesalers were not only the suppliers of goods of the retailers, they were also the fund provider (almost the banker) of the retailers. He himself started off in 1907 as a countryside retailer attached to a wholesaler until he had enough capital to open shop as a wholesale trader. Having saved enough wealth, he was about to fulfill his mission: a return back to China to resettle with his family.

Koung Koung YIPTONG was owner of several properties which were rented; was a prominent member of the community and was part of the Chinese unofficial leaders’ club: he commanded respect and was in the lime light of the community as an example of success and wisdom to follow. He was often called to arbitrate on litigious issues between members of the community, which in a way was a sort of arbitration court of the community.

To grow his business, on the recommendation of another wealthy merchant Chong Kwan, Koung Koung employed as correspondence clerk the latter’s relative: Ignace AHLIM an ex army sergeant who was recently demobilized. Ignace, though educated, came from a poor family background. Of Chinese Cantonese father and half Chinese mother, Ignace was orphan at age 16 and had to work to look after his mother, brother and sisters. Koung Koung liked the industrious qualities and the honesty of Ignace and later recruited his younger brother Laval to work in the business and her younger sister Cecette to help on a part time basis his growing children in their schooling. The duties of Cecette demanded that she spent long hours at the YIPTONG’s house.

With time and frequent meetings love between Cecette the learning tutor of the family and the eldest son, Pak Lin of the family developed.

How could the model Hakka family allow his eldest son marry a non Hakka?

It was traditional in those days that Chinese parents would select their daughter in law for acceptance by their son. Could the family accept a departure from the tradition?

Besides there were practical aspects to the issue: Popoh did not speak any other language than Hakka, Cecette could not communicate with her; how would her future daughter in law survive when they will be settled back in China and further more Cecette did not have the Chineseness expected from the traditional Hakka family.

Soon as the news of the love affair of the tutor of the house with the eldest son broke, Cecette lost her employ. Pak Lin was  told to severe the relationship. The lovers continued to meet in spite of the restrictions. Koung Koung even threatened to disinherit him if he would dare marry his love one. Pak Lin would not change his mind: he even left his job in the family business to become a taxi driver to the horror of his father.

Seeing that Pak Lin will not change his mind, Koung Koung in his wisdom finally gave in: he accepted the marriage under the condition that the married couple would settle in China soon after. Meanwhile, the 3rd son Yook started dating another Chinese girl which did not receive the consent of Popoh as the tradition would dictate.


#1 Oli on 12.05.07 at 6:25 pm

That is a fascinating story. I knew bits and pieces of it, but not the details. Please do write more family stories.

#2 joseph on 12.06.07 at 9:58 pm

will do as the inspiration comes. We could compile all the stories into a book later

#3 MarieChristine on 07.09.08 at 5:19 pm

I had the priviledge of getting the story related directly by Joseph. I definitely find inspiration from it – sometimes we choose paths that do not correspond to “tradition” . It is then our duty to accept what comes with it – even beyond expectations – :un “oui” qui engage. hats off for Pak Lin and Cecette.

#4 joseph on 08.02.08 at 3:04 pm

The idea of writing this story was to be a witness to the world of the live of our cherished parents. More importantly to learn from the lessons of their lives…

Leave a Comment