An unforgettable incident, which had much effect in my healing of other people years later, happened one night when I was alone, as my usual friends for some reasons or others were not around to play. I went out of the New World Park and looked around at a hawker selling a variety of fruits. I had twenty cents in my pocket, given to me by my father. Twenty cents was quite a lot of money at that time, especially for a small boy of eight. One could buy a bowl of noodles, which could fill up one’s stomach as lunch or dinner, with twenty cents.
Although my mother did not know much about science, she was to my young boy’s mind quite a dietician. Like most Chinese, she conveniently classified food into two types – hot food and cold food. Hot food was her favourite, and cold food was strictly forbidden.
“Mama,” sometimes I would beseech, “Can I have a slice of orange, just a slice?”
“Oh no, my dear,” my mother would sweetly persuaded, “Oranges are too cold for you.”
“How about a banana, mama?”
“Bananas are cold too. Fruits are cold food. They will make you sick.”
It is enthralling that now, sixty years later, I can eat bananas like a monkey and drink fresh orange juice like a horse, and become healthier.
So that night I was just curious, besides being tempted to have a taste of the forbidden fruit to find out whether bananas could make me sick. I saw a long, big banana known locally as an elephant’s tusk in a transparent ice box. It was quite expensive, costing 10 cents per banana, compared to a bowl of noodles costing only 20 cents.
Well, ten cents for a taste of a forbidden fruit, I thought, was quite a bargain. So I paid ten cents and had the banana.
It was exquisite and delicious, sweet and fragrant in every bite. It was not only the first time I ate such a sweet and fragrant elephant tusk, it was the first time I ate any fruit. I was discreet enough not to mention this to my parents.
But my secret did not last long. Soon after midnight, I started to have stomach ache. At first, the pain was mild but it quickly became terrible, causing me to roll wildly in bed. I had no choice but to tell my parents about me eating a forbidden fruit. My parents were very caring and loving. Instead of scolding me, they were decisive and acted immediately to ease my pain.
There was no time to take me to see a doctor or to the hospital. Even if they had time, it might not be a right choice. Their method was extraordinary – at least to Westerners, though it was a folk practice amongst the traditional Chinese. My parents had me lie comfortably in bed. Then my mother placed a 20 cents coin on my naval, dropped some wax of a burning candle on the coin, and stood the candle on the flat coin. Then they inverted a small glass over the candle.
My sister, my mother, my father and me in the 1960s
The year 1987 was very special for me and my wife. That was the year my youngest daughter, Wong Siew Foong (黄小凤) was born. My wife often said Siew Foong was a harbinger of good luck. Since her birth everything was propitious.
One indication of good times to come was the appearance of pigeons in the compound of my house. One morning, after my daily kungfu practice, I was surprised to find many pigeons flocking to my house. The pigeons had been coming, but that particular morning, there were many. They made a lot of noise and were obviously having a good time, though neither my wife nor I, unprepared for their arrival, bought any grains to feed them.
I was surprised not at the pigeons, or their number, or the noise they made, but at why they came to my house. According to Chinese beliefs, pigeons only go to houses of rich people. Although my financial position had improved, I did not consider myself rich, i.e. financially rich, though I was actually very rich in other aspects, like good health, happy family and appreciative students both in the school I taught as a school teacher and in my kungfu and chi kung classes.
Nevertheless, my financial position continued to improve. I did not know, neither was I concerned, whether it was due to my improving financial position that pigeons came to my house, or the other way round, due to pigeons coming to my house that my financial position improved. But I found it poetical to believe that because of Siew Foong’s arrival, both my financial position improved and pigeons, symbols of love and peace, came to my house.
With our improved financial position, both my wife and I could help other less fortunate people, like my wife buying meals for poor children in school, and I giving money to people in need.
Indeed, it was just the other day at the time of writing, that Swee Zhi, the girlfriend of my youngest son, Chun Yian, told us she was so pleasantly surprised when she and Chun Yian caught up with Chun Yian’s friends during the Chinese New Year festive session, that one of Chun Yian’s friends, who is now a lawyer, told her that he knew my wife.
“How did you know auntie?” Swee Zhi asked.
“Not only I know her, I am very grateful to her.”
“Did you meet her before?”
“Yes, every day during my primary school days. She bought meals for us during school recess.”
My youngest daughter, Siew Foong, was very attached to me. Initially, whenever I went overseas to teach chi kung and kungfu, she would be sick. At first, I was not aware of the relationship between her sickness and me going overseas, but my wife, with her motherly instinct, discovered that her sickness was due to her thinking of me when I was not at home.
So, following my wife’s discovery, when I was about to fly overseas, I would console my youngest daughter, telling her that I would soon be home again and asking her not to be sick. It worked very well. Since then, she was not sick when I went overseas.
Whenever I was at home, I would spend a lot of time playing with her and her younger brother, Chun Yian, who arrived two years later. They would run into my arms, and I would swing them overhead, sometimes with them somersaulting in the air, but with me holding them carefully. My wife would be concerned.
“Be very careful not to let them fall,” my wife would call out with some apprehension.
“They are perfectly safe,” I would reply.
My youngest daughter and youngest son, Siew Foong and Chun Yian, were specially close, especially when my other three children were much older than them, and therefore may have different likings. Nevertheless, all the five brothers and sisters were close and loving to one another.
Myself and Siew Foong at the China Town in Terengganu
While I was teaching as a school teacher in Alor Setar, my wife and second daughter stayed with me. My eldest daughter stayed with my parents in Penang, which was only about 125 kilometres away and which I considered my hometown, where we returned every weekend. As a teacher’s salary was poor, I could afford to buy a used car only after working for about ten years, which both my daughters obviously enjoyed travelling in, often counting other vehicles as they passed us by. Before this, we travelled by public buses.
More important than a car was the arrival of my son, Wong Chun Nga (黄俊雅), who was born in 1979. The name “Chun Nga”, also suggested by my wife, means “Handsome and Elegant”, which describes him very well.
Chun Nga was eager to come out to see the world. My wife bore him for only seven months, instead of the usual nine months. So he was very tiny when he was born. According to Chinese belief, a seven-month child, poetically described as a seven-star child, is supposed to be very intelligent.
Despite being tiny when he was a baby, Chun Nga had a lot of internal force. He learned it the hard way, not directly from me but from my senior students even before our present worldwide Shaolin Wahnam Institute was established. After I had resigned from Shaolin Wahnam Association which I had founded earlier, the story of which will be described later, some senior students came to my house to continue their Shaolin training.
My wife told me that Chun Nga would wait at the gate of our house, and when Goh Kok Hin, who owned a small sundry shop which has now grown into a mini supermarket in Kota Kuala Muda, a small town about 25 kilometres from Sungai Petani, arrived he would give a packet of sweets to Chun Nga.
Chun Nga did not just enjoy eating the sweets; he observed our training. Later, he was helped by Cheng Cheong Shou, another senior student, who was a chi kung instructor helping me to spread the benefits of chi kung to the public. At the age of eleven, Chun Nga could break a brick. It was a remarkable demonstration of internal force as a child of eleven could not have the physical strength to break one.
Chun Nga’s internal force opened some psychic centres in his head. He could see through a person’s body. I was quite surprised when one evening he told me he saw two bones inside the forearm of a chi kung student who came to me for some consultation. I did not expect an eleven-year-old child to know of the radius and the ulna of the forearm. Most children would think there was only one forearm bone.
On another occasion when Wong Yin Tat, another senior student who had Iron Shirt, consulted me for some internal injury sustained when he tensed as I struck him on one shoulder to let chi pass to the other shoulder, Chun Nga could see a black mass of blocked chi in his chest. When I channelled chi to heal Yin Tat, Chun Nga could see golden chi transmitted from my sword-fingers disperse the black mass of blocked chi.
I had an experience of Chun Nga’s internal force much later. During an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Sungai Petani, I demonstrated a felling technique to the course participants on Chun Nga, but was surprised that he was stable and solid. I could fell any able-bodied adult quite effortlessly, but in this case, though eventually I fell Chun Nga, I had to use some special techniques.
Many of our senior instructors in Shaolin Wahnam Institute today were first trained by Chun Nga. When they attended my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, I asked Chun Nga to familiarise them with basic Shaolin stances. I did not know Chun Nga was hard on them until a few told me, not complaining but commenting that the course was indeed tough, that Chun Nga had them in their Horse-Riding Stance for an hour! No wonder they have very good internal force now.
It was a great joy teaching these school children. But the joy was greater for my parents, my wife and me when our first child, Wong Sau Foong, arrived in 1972.
Her name, which means “Beautiful Phoenix”, was bestowed upon her by Immortal Li, a patron immortal in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school , which also acted as a temple.
Sau Foong is our first bundle of joy who brought a lot of happiness to our family. When she was small, she stayed with my parents in Penang and was a special pet of my mother. I remember that my mother used to tie Sau Foong’s hair on top of her head like a little tree when she was a baby girl.
Like me, she loves reading. And like me too, she chooses teaching as her profession. She won a scholarship to study the Teaching of English as a Second Language in Bognor Regis in southern England. I did not teach chi kung in England then but in other countries in Europe like Spain and Portugal, but I made a special trip to England to see her. She stayed with a lovely couple called John and Bernie, and their son and daughter. Sau Foong became part of the family.
Bognor Regis is a beautiful little seaside town along the south coast of England facing France. I landed in London and took a train to West Sussex passing through some of the most beautiful countryside I had seen. When I arrived at Bognor Regis, the time was 5 o’clock in the evening but it was already dark as it was winter. Sau Foong waited for me at the railway station and we took a cab to her house.
The next day, we walked to the town, and through a park to the university college where she studied. We also went to the beach and looked across to France. John also took me in his car for sightseeing in the surrounding area.
When Sau Foong returned to Malaysia after completing her studies in England, she was very lucky to be posted to Penang, which was the hope of many teachers. She taught in Convent Light Street, which is a premier girl school in the country. Despite being new, she was made a discipline teacher of the school.
Although she loves teaching very much, at my suggestion she resigned from the school to help me with some business venture. But teaching is her love, besides her husband, of course. Sau Foong and Teoh Swee Fatt, an accountant, were happily married in 2004. Sau Foong returned to the teaching profession, teaching English in a university college in Penang.
She returns to our house in Sungai Petani every weekend to be with us. And when she returns to her condominium in Penang, my wife will always cook a lot of dishes for her and her husband to take back with them.
“At least they can have some home cooking,” my wife is fond of saying.
“This,” I muse to myself, “is a mother’s love for her daughter.”