Sat, 11 Nov 2000

Huang families to gather at Taman Mini

By Oei Eng Goan

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Huang Foundation will host the two-day World Huang Family Congress 2000 beginning Saturday at Taman Mini Indonesia. In addition to Huang families from all across the archipelago, many Huang from abroad are expected to attend, giving the country's ailing tourism industry a boost.

Huang is a Chinese character and surname literally meaning yellow. In Indonesia, ethnic Chinese pronounce it differently according to the dialects spoken by their ancestors. Those who came from Fujian province pronounce Huang as Oei or Ng, while those from Guangdong province pronounce it as Wong or Bong. Despite the differences in pronunciation, the character and its meaning remains unchanged.

Despite Huang being one of the most popular surnames in China, whose history dates back as far as the 21st century B.C., there is no known record of the number of people bearing the Huang surname around the world. Some say the number is about 20 million, others say it is above 40 million.

Most of Huang families in Indonesia believe they came from the same ancestor, Huang Jiaosan, a high-ranking official who lived some 600 years ago in the now Fujian province. It is said he begot 21 sons from his three wives and Huang families in Indonesia believe they are descended from the offspring of those 21 men.

On Nov. 11, 2000, around 2,000 Huang member representatives from Cambodia, Canada, China, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam and host country Indonesia will attend The World Huang Family Congress 2000, scheduled to be opened by Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gde Ardika, the Foundation's secretary, Untung Wijaya (Wong Kwok Tung), told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

A series of Indonesian traditional dances and the typical Chinese lion dance will enliven the ceremony followed by a ritual prayer for the Huang ancestors, including the revered Huang Jiaosan.

"Of course, besides promoting our tourism industry, the congress is also aimed at strengthening the brotherhood and kinship of Huang family members world wide," Untung said, adding that hundreds of Huang from Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi, had also confirmed to attend the congress.

He said Indonesia's scenic beauty, cultural diversity and handicrafts have long attracted Huang families from overseas, but now "they are afraid of coming here because of the negative news reports they often read or hear about our country".

"It's true, that in some parts of Indonesia, sporadic riots still happen, but our country is so big and there are still many tourist destinations that are safe and worth visiting," he said.

"Especially now that the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid has allowed the use of Chinese characters and public performances of Chinese origin like Barongsai (lion dance), we have more reason to encourage Huang families from abroad to visit Indonesia" added Wiriadi Gunawan (Wong Ngok Yung), one of the deputy chairpersons of the foundation.

Under former president Soeharto's rule, everything related to Chinese culture was banned for public display and Chinese Indonesians were encouraged to assume Indonesian names.

The fact that The World Huang Family Congress is being held in Jakarta is proof that ethnic Chinese overseas trust the government of President Abdurrahman, Wiriadi noted.

When asked about the Indonesian Huang Foundation and whether it could create a kind of exclusivism among Indonesians of Chinese origin that might hamper the process of nation building, he told the Post that, contrary to being an exclusive body, the foundation encourages its members to adapt themselves to the community where they live and be friendly with local people (indigenous Indonesians).

"We have our own clinic and we give free medical treatment to the poorest of the poor, regardless of their ethnicity and backgrounds. From time to time we also raise funds to help the less fortunate people, including scores of the Huang family members," explained Wiriadi.

As a non-profit social foundation, the Huang rely heavily on the monthly membership contribution fee, ranging from Rp 3000 ($0.33 at current exchange rate) to Rp 300,000. In Jakarta alone, the foundation has around 1,000 members.

Chairman of the foundation's branch in Surabaya, East Java, Wignjo Soesastro (Huang Wen Han), said in a telephone interview fund raising was sometimes conducted in a state of emergency to help victims of natural disasters and refugees from Ambon and Sambas.

Soesastro said other charity works the foundation was involved in was regular monthly donations to 10 elementary schools in his home town, declining to mention the amount of the donation, saying that it was unethical to reveal to the public what the foundation had donated. One foundation member, however, said the monthly donation amounts to Rp 30 million.

Just like people everywhere, there are good and bad among Huang families. That is why the Huang foundation is needed to encourage its members to become exemplary and cooperative people in their respective surroundings and countries.