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Sunday 5 December 2010

In Search of the Old Well

How does the name of Kuching come about? This is a question that has at least three answers. If you ask the younger Kuchingites, the most popular answer will be that Kuching is the Malay word for cats, without the letter 'h'. That's why Kuching is associated with cats until recently that it earned the nickname of Cats City.

The more senior Kuchingites may tell you that the city is name after the longans. What has it got to do with longans? The people who tell you this version of the story will refer you the the longan trees that once occupied Bukit Mata Kucing. 'Mata kucing' is the Malay word for longans. That explains the association of Kuching with longans. 'Mata kucing' is actually cat's eye in Malay but longan was so named due to the black round seed. Henceforth, this version is somehow associated with cats also.

For the Teochew people who once dominated the Kuching town, they may beg to defer from the two preceding versions of naming of Kuching. Their version is associated with old wells. There were three wells around Kuching town that became the main source of water supply in the olden days. The pronunciation of the Chinese word of 'old well' (古井) in Teochew is phonetically similar to the word 'Kuching'.

Me and my photography buddies were curious about the old well version and we decided to embark on a mission of searching for the old wells. We know that the only existing one is behind the oldest temple in Kuching. The one we were searching for was said to be inside a shop-house near Upper China Street (大井巷), off Carpenter Street (亚答街).

After breakfast, we started walking along Upper China Street and was just casually snapping away.

It was quite a hilarious thing that we did not actually know where to begin with, since the whole street was very quiet.

So, besides casual shooting, it was still casual shooting!

Things began to take a clearer path when some of my friends started to converse with a shopkeeper dealing with scale business. It is a business run by the Tan (陈) family.

The shop itself is already more that eighty years old. They told us that the shop owner is terminating the lease very soon and they are going to wrap up the business once they have received the notice.

We don't know what is going to happen to this piece of historical heritage once they have moved on.

Perhaps the only thing that will move on from here is this antique bicycle belonging to the forefather of the business owner.

Coincidentally, we found out that one of the missing wells was once located at this existing shop-house. What a coincidence! Perhaps we were fated to find its location as the idea of finding the old well entered our mind just not long ago. The crack on the floor was caused by the ground settlement due to the ground water feeding the old well, marking its exact location.

Our mission was accomplished and we started our casual shooting again. We spotted this lazy-plumb cat along the way, which is also a popular association with the naming of Kuching.

I rewarded myself with a glass of iced sour plum tea at the end of the mission. It was time to quench our thirst after a few hours of walking, talking and shooting.


JeffreySu said...

Yohoo.. Nice one..!

CK Ng said...

Thanks, Jeffrey. :)

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