Tuesday, July 29, 2008

eastcoastlife, the Samsui Woman - WW

Samsui women's reputation for resilience and hard work, embodies the spirit that has gone into the making of modern Singapore.

We came from a rural and extremely poor region to the west of Guangzhou, where three rivers, or 'three waters' (Samsui in Cantonese), flowed into one. A catastrophic flood in 1915 washed away many homes and livelihoods, making life more wretched.

I came in my teens. Most came alone. In the 1930s, after months at sea in grim and perilous conditions, when I stepped onto the Singapore pier, the road ahead seemed daunting indeed.

We worked hard to save money to support relatives whom we might never see again. Most Samsui women stayed single and lived very simply. Leading frugal lives, sharing accommodation and eating simple food. Determined to save every cent we could, we walked to or from work, gathered wood for cooking from around building sites and mended our clothes ourselves.

As we went to and from work on building sites in Singapore, people recognised us from our broad red hats and blue-black samfoo.

Samsui women worked very hard, we had to labour for around nine hours a day. Many couldn't read or write. We are used to others looking down on us....., because we carry mud.

(adapted from an article in The Straits Times)

My tribute to these sisters, many had a sad life. When they grew old, many were plagued by illnesses and died lonely.

Entertaining enough!?


  1. Wow, how did u get all those workers to pose with you?

  2. hheheheheh ECL!!!
    Very entertaining dearie.. how on earth you got that costume.. I love the show the samsui woman.. so sad!!

  3. wow..so fun wor.

    anyway, can i join u as well mah?

    me dun mind doin it for free..

    just wanna hav fun! haha

    btw, nice knowin u!

  4. Very touching... an informative post too. I am glad you highlighted them through this medium.

  5. Wow cool photo! Very entertaining indeed!

    And this post is a great eye opener!Thanks for sharing this story.

  6. LadyJava,
    Thanks, I rented the costume. :)
    You got vote anot!?

  7. Jimmy,
    haha... fun hor. I got an assignment for you. I'll email you.

    Nice meeting you at the Gala Premier last night. Alamak, didn't take a picture together! ish.

  8. indrani,
    Thanks. I'm doing a series on the early settlers of Singapore. :)

  9. Pinay Jade,
    Thanks, glad that you like it.
    Thanks for your votes!! Yeah!!

  10. fuiyoh
    Can't imagine ECL dress like that
    I go vote now

  11. Very informative post,ECL! Thanks for sharing:)

  12. Hahahhahahah!!! You just revive the nostalgic feel :)

  13. You are really entertaining. I like it :)

  14. yenjai,
    Thanks for your votes again!

    Like my samsui woman look? *pose... pose... pose...*

  15. napaboaniya,
    Yeah!! Get nostalgic then! haha...

  16. I thought u were a samsui woman from guangzhou... :P

  17. I thought I read about the samsui woman in one of the Singaporean restaurants (the Soup restaurant, I think) - very interesting story.

    And girl, you look great there! *wink*

  18. ECL, great post and photos!

  19. HAHA... everytime i drop EC at your site... i always find you very entertaining... so of course i will vote for you (^_^)


    ,.-*'oo'*-.,_Chronicles of Trisna_,.-*'oo'*-.,

  20. Were you in a movie set? Which movie you acting ar? Tell me, tell me then I can go buy. Hehehehe

  21. I forgotten about the Hong Tou Jing. Well, Singapore TV just left me with that much! Woops!

  22. giddy tigress,
    Yes, the Soup Restaurant sells a dish which is a Samsui lady's favourite... Samsui Chicken and I love it!

    I look too good! haha... the contractors and developer who saw me remarked I would be 'finished' on the first day I go to work if it's in the old days.

  23. trisna,
    Ooooo... thanks for your vote! I appreciate that. :)

  24. Doreen,
    No need to buy. I'll send the DVD to you. heh heh...

  25. tigerfish,
    You watched that TV drama too ah!? We were so young then hor. hehe....

    Can't imagine I'm a Hong Tou Jing.

  26. What a fascinating and eye opening post. One of the earlier Chinese women to settle in England was Song Ling Whang.

    At the beginning of the 20th century she made the long overland journey from China to Britain, on foot walking along the route of the trans-Siberian railway line.

    She and her companions performed acrobatics and made paper flowers to earn their way.

    She made the journey with bound feet.

  27. What a post! Captured very well. Thanks for the history lesson.

  28. jams,
    Wow! What an amazing woman! Walk to UK with bound feet!

    Ahhhh, women throughout all the ages are so resilient and determined....

    Nice to know that, jams.

  29. Wah very entertaining and sad at the same time. I brought u some tissues, ul be needing them after writing this post huh? :)

  30. Voted for ECL oredi, now otw to vote for J! ;)

  31. Wow ... yet another eye opening post. I certainly have no idea.

    Hey, you spent a lot of time planning and writing your blogs eh? Respect.

    Voting now ...

  32. Thank you for sharing this with us. This is the first I have heard of these women. Very informative!!

    Now I'm going to go and vote!

    Happy WW :)

    My WW entries for today are at:

    Pastyme With Good Companye

    The Paranormal Blog

    Nuttin' But

  33. Excellent post ECL. Great shots and narrative.

  34. which article did you adapt it from?

    Wow, your workers are very dedicated!!

  35. You are amazing! All these reserch, costumes and all... WHOA!

  36. mariuca,
    Thanks for your daily votes!!!... and for bringing the tissues. hehe....

    Such wonderful people on this earth... *touched*

  37. wilfrid,
    For the coming National Day celebrations lah, and a BIG thing coming up...

    Usually I just blog whatever comes my way.

    Glad you learn something new about the early settlers of Singapore.

  38. Sue,
    Thanks for your vote!

    I'm glad more people are knowing about these amazing women of Singapore. :)

  39. carver,
    Ooooo.. thank you. *blush*

    I try my best.... although I don't write that well.

  40. oceanskies,
    That article was written some time ago during a tribute to these ladies.

    Let's say.... I'm well-loved. wahahahaha....

  41. horsoon,
    Thank you.

    I believe in doing my best in whatever I do and to go all the way to achieve the desired result.

    I'm leading by example to my son. Whatever one sets out to do, do it with all your heart, or else don't do.

    I got good responses from this post. *happy*

  42. Fascinating posts, this one and the last one. It's a part of history in a world I know nothing about, so it's very informative. Thank you for sharing this information and letting people know about an important part of your heritage. Keep them coming!:)

  43. Heeeheheh!! yer definitely a awesome lady.. :)
    Did you check out my health blog.. ??
    I have pictures of the fibroids and the uterus.. that the gynae took out of me. But be warned.. if you get grossed out by bloody stuff donch go there ya.

  44. Wow, first time I heard of samsui woman...very informative and got eastcoastlife acting the part. Good job.

  45. I salute the samsui women for their dedication and hard work. Very good recreation.

    Happy WW!

  46. That hat is something else! Great pictures, ECL!

  47. good for you they pose when someone took a picture when i was taking pictures in our farm no one wants to have a picture....Happy WW!

  48. wow! cool entry for WW! Have a great day! mine's up too hope you can drop by...

  49. a.
    Glad that you learnt a little more about another race. :)

    I hope we can learn from each other. Thanks for visiting.

  50. mama bok,
    Arghhhhh.... you trying to scare me to death ah!? I scared of blood and gore. ewww....

    hehe... where got people go around ask friends to see their cut out organs? You cute lah.

  51. sweet jasmine,
    First time heard ah!? hehe... at least you can see me as a samsui woman lor.

  52. strider,
    Thank you.

    These women are a part of Singapore's nation building and shouldn't be forgotten.

  53. Capt Picard,
    Thanks. I like the hat too, it's too striking for people not to notice the wearer. hehe....

  54. genny,
    Deduct their salaries if they refuse to listen. wahahaha... joking.

    I don't want a strike tomorrow. :P

  55. Thanks for this nice, informative post. I needed to know what you wrote as I was supposing everyone of those workers were Amah or ma jie.
    BTW, Mrs. Jim is my ma jie, I just can't get her to wear her black and white uniforms very often! :-)
    I hope you go far, I see your blog has made it to the top ten now! Congratulations.
    Thanks for peeking on our parade, it was fun as was being with those other bloggers for the weekend.

  56. Jim,
    ma jie is the lady domestic servant dressed in black and white. hehe....

    I'm glad to come this far ... and it has been a tough journey filled with cheer, hardship, joy and miseries. :)

    Thanks for reading.

  57. I love this, I have seen Okinawa and Vietnam and I can see these folks in my memories, thanks for sharing.