Monday, December 14, 2009

what wine do they drink in Geylang?

It’s the time of the season for merry festivities – of sumptuous dinning with a glass of good wine perhaps.

Going by the flyers one gets in the letterbox – the bottle of wine would most probably be a chardonnay, a cabernet or a merlot from either the vineyards of France, Australia or California in the US.

With a picture of sleazy - where streetwalkers ply their services till the early hours of dawn on any fine weather weekend, the average Singaporean would perhaps find it hard to relate the finer taste of wine drinking with Geylang.

They do. At the Turtle House restaurant in Guillemard road, on the fringe of Geylang opposite Kong Hwa School, red wine & white wine is on the drink menu.

Well, other than the Turtle House, where else and what wine do they drink there?

As I was passing one good morning I chanced upon a few empty wine bottles left outside one of the many Chinese migrants operated restaurants along Geylang Road, and being curious of what wine the diners drink, I picked one up for a closer look.

Lo & behold, on a closer look – I was staring into history thro the empty wine bottle.

The label states:

Changyu Reisling Dry White wine
张裕 雷司令干白葡萄酒

Changyu Pioneer Wine company Limited Yantai, China,

It was a bottle of wine from China. And with it a note that explains the history of the Changyu wine, which perhaps of all wines sold in Singapore, has the closest connection with this island.

For Changyu winery was the pioneer wine producer in China. It was established a century & more ago in Yantai - 烟台 - Shantung Province, ahead of the better known Chinese wines abroad – such as Dynasty, or Great Wall.

The founder of the winery Chang Pi-shi - 張弼士 - aka Cheong Fatt-Tze - was the mandarin capitalist from Nanyang – (South-east Asia) who for a while was appointed consulate of the Qing court in Singapore in the 1890’s.

Well, Geylang is not just your any Geylang, it’s rich is history too, and even in the wine they drink…


1. Changyu wine -

2. Chang Pi-shih

Chang Pi-shih hailed from the Hakka district of Dapu.
At Lorong 22, Geylang is the Char Yong Association of the Dapu Hakka - a clan assocation with a museum on the upper floor -

3. Turtle House restaurant

Monday, November 30, 2009

the navel of japan - 諏訪湖 - lake suwa

This view of Lake Suwa -諏訪湖- sometimes referred to as the navel of Japan – was taken on Sunday , Jun21, 1992.

In the vicinity surrounding the lake are three townships – Kami-Suwa - 上諏訪、Shimo-Suwa - 上諏訪 & Okaya - 岡谷.

Being located in the central highlands of the Honshu Island, with clean mountain air, the townships in this part of Japan was developed into centers for precision engineering, emulating the Swiss watch making industries with the likes of Seiko Hattori.

Lake Suwa, though not as famous as her sister lake in Shiga Prefecture – Lake Biwa - 琵琶湖 -the largest lake in Japan - the two lakes are however intimately linked by a melodious song – Lake Biwa Roving song – which any Japanese should be familiar with.

The author of the lyrics of this song hailed from Okaya. The statue of Oguchi Taro stands by the shore of Lake Suwa, and one can listen to the song from the musical box next to it.

There is a museum dedicated to this song, and there is no lack of version of this song in you-tube.

Suwa is also well-know for the Obashira festival. I came to know of this festival when I was there in 1992. Though I just missed it by a matter of weeks, I nevertheless heard from the locals that the festival is held once every 7 years.

It is perhaps the most dangerous of festivals in the Japanese potpourri of traditional festivals. The locals mentioned that in each festival one or two people would be crushed by the giant logs as the revelers rode on it sliding down a steep slope. The next will be held in 2010.

Comes winter when the lake is frozen, there would be a natural phenomenon where the ice would crack and form a pressure ridge cross the lake. The local would relegate this formation as the o-miwatari – a sign that the gods from the Shinto shrines are making the rounds visiting the other shrines located around the lake.

Perhaps that the Japanese are so attached to their land even if they had not been singing their national anthem in schools, is due in no small part to influnce of these culture and traditions -

- thro the poems that they pen to romantic lyrics and sung to enchanting melodies they inculcate a sense of longing, and bond with the tanah that nutured them.
- a love for traditional festivities that sprang from the hamlets ages ago and enjoyed with renew gusto in each cycle of celebration, thus linking them back to a past with deep historical roots.

Ours too – we have it on this island : in the likes of poems by Edwin Thamboo, the joget musical of Geylang, the Chingay’s, ...

If these cultural assets are liken to roots of a people, whereas the roots of Lake Suwa has sunken deep to the soil, the new roots of ex-Shonan, are as yet seems shallow and have yet to develop the same firm grip that has braved the test of time.
Ah, a nation in the making ….


1. Okaya

After having left the Japan upon graduation, and had not visited the country for close to 8 years, the trip was a welcome opportunity to renew ties with the country. It was the start of many trips then, the longest stay being from 13May – 27June 1992

The most frequent hotel to lodge in was in Okaya -岡谷. Daily drove to the workplace along the river bank to another township located close to an hour by car –Chino - 茅野.

Chino was the center of Chinon camera, which wound up its camera business close to two decades ago.

A set of matchboxes collected during the stay then, and I wonder if the hotels and restaurants still continue to make match boxes..


2. Lake Biwa Rowing Song - 琵琶湖周航の歌 - Biwako shyuko no uta

4. Lyrics of Rowing Song of Lake Biwa by the shore of Lake Suwa.


Friday, October 09, 2009

three-hundred- thousand - 三百千

When we were a kid, mum used to tell us over dinner that when she first started schooling – one of the text that she recited was the primer – Three Character Classic - san zi jing - 三字经

That was in early years of the 1930/s, and a decade & more after the 1919 May Fourth Movement in China, which revolutionized Chinese as a language – a watershed from classical Chinese to modern day Chinese. Among other things, classical education were frown upon by the intelligentsia.

However, in the small town of Menglembu, on the outskirt of Ipoh, & some where in the south seas – the Nanyang – 南洋 - the classics were still then a very much a part of the primary school text.

Among them were the :
Three Character Classic – 三字经 - Sanzhi jing
Hundred Family Surnames - 百家姓 – Baijia xìng
Thousand Character Classic - 千字文) - Qianji wen

Subsequently, when these texts were done away with in the school curriculum, and replaced by modern day primer, these classics managed to made it’s way into the family thro the yearly Almanac - 通書 – Tong shu or - 通勝 - Tong sheng.

As a kid, I would often flip thro the pages, and being educated in English in a mission school, the pages were Greek. Nevertheless, I was curious of what was written in there, and without the pinyin notations, neither could I pronounce the words.

These were part of the many early cultural mysteries that has enthralled me since. It was a part of the Chinese-cultural roots and make-up that I was trying to unravel –

And along the way, an interesting encounter -

The Purge –

The Three-Hundred-Thousand Classics, were almost annihilated in the first 30years of New China. In the later years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1970), Confucius was purged. I recall the cover title in Mastika – a Malay language magazine - ‘Mao nak bunuh orang yang telah mati ‘ - Mao want to kill a dead person.’

As part of the DX-ing hobby, one of the many stations that I used to tune in to was Radio Beijing, and particularly the campaign to - Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius - 批林批孔 - pilin pikong.

The traditional value system expounded in the classics, with a two-thousand year old heritage and more, was scorned upon and purged in the political wild fire of the 1960’s and 1970’s – in the land of origin.

However, much of this value system was a matter-of-factly continued to be transmitted from mother-to-son in the Chinese communities beyond.

The Resurrection -

Well, of late, from the gaige kaifang - 改革开放- the opening up of the New China to the outside world in 1978 and especially so in the last five years, Fortune has once again found favor in Thee-Hundred-Thousand.

Speakers interpreting the Classics, and expounding Confucian thoughts have nowadays become celebrities, and ...

...To be rich & famous is glorious!

Postscript :

1. Majalah Mastika

With a aim to improve Bahasa Malaysia –a compulsory language subject in the MCE Malaysian Certificate of Education Examinations - Form 5 ‘O’ level, used to purchase this Malay language magazine & the other was Dewan Masyarakat .

Mastika – a monthly publication similar in size to Reader’s Digest , with articles on general knowledge – world and local happenings.

2. A cycle of 60 years –壽 - 寿 & China’s National Day celebration – Oct 01.

In the traditional way of counting one’s age, the 60th year is much more important than the 50th, and it is accord a special word known as – shou – written in the full script as 壽 - or in the simplified script as 寿 .

A sexagenarian has completed a cycle of - jia zi - 甲子- in the Chinese calendar of heavenly stems and earthly braches -天干地支 .

The previous - 寿 – shou - celebration on such a grand scale, was perhaps last done when Emperor Qianlong 乾隆帝 (1711-1799)of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) celebrated his 60th year reign. – 1796.

Perhaps, the Thee-Hundred-Thousand – and the classics will continue to exert a moderating influence on the new found pride and confidence of a New-New China.

–contrary to man being a sinner from birth, human was born inherently good nature ….

- to quote the opening phrase in : Three Character Classic – 三字经 - Sanzhi jing :

人之初 (rén zhī chū) People at birth,
性本善 (xìng běn shàn) Are naturally good.
性相近 (xìng xiāng jìn) Their natures are similar,
習相遠 (xí xiāng yuan) Their habits make them different

3. 三百千 Three-Hundred-Thousand

百家姓 三字经 千字文 第子规
新疆少年出版社出版, 1996年7月第一版

第二站 :广州市, 古籍书店购
- purchased in Guangzhou on trip to ancestral village Songkou, Meixian

References –








Tuesday, September 29, 2009

tide of history – reflection on century old primer from Kyoto

Found this text book in Kyoto in a box of old books placed outside the book shop selling old books located in the north-eastern part of the city.

The date of publication - the 25th year of the Meiji Era, entitled – 帝国読本 - Teikoku dokuhon - An Imperial Primer - is 1892. It was the 8th in a series of reading text from Imperial Japan, dated

At 1 ¥00 (S$1.158) and for a 107-year old text book which is in a relatively well-kept condition – it is a memorabilia well worth its price. A good pick from this ancient but modern capital city, for someone who loves to old books.

For a item of similar item with this age, it would cost 20 times more at the Sunday Flea Mart in China Square.

Well, come to think of it – for a city with a continuous history of 1300-years, a 107-year old text book is but just a tiny pebble in her river of time . What it a century when time is flows in the millennium.

The owner of the text book had written his name Okunishi - in neat Victorian style English alphabet on the cover of the text. Inside the text is found the seal - 奥西 - in vermillion, stamped on a number of pages - to attest ownership.

Reminiscing the era in which this book was printed -

Since the start of the Meiji Era in 1868, it was a period of learning from the West, and writing one’s name in the English alphabet must be in vogue, then.

Within the contents of the primer, there were short chapters on geography of the world & modern sciences – explaining the cause of earthquake, and introduction to anatomy. It was a text to introduce western science and technology to the Japanese students.

By then, the Meiji restoration - 明治维 - was already into its 25th year of modernization. The foundation of a new society build on western science & technology was well on its way to enable Japan to - 脱亞入欧 – datsu A nyuu O – tuoya ru ou - that is - to literary pluck itself out of Asia and enter into the European sphere of civilized nations.

Interestingly, inter-woven into the text, were also short chapters embodying the essence of the Japan bushido spirit – on Japanese history, geography and Shinto-ism – the native religion of Japan.

Flipping thro the text, one could feel the flow of history on the fingertips.

One got a first hand glimpse of the teaching material that put Japan on the modernization path. In it the ideological essence of that era - 和魂洋才 - wakon-yōsai- meaning - Japanese spirit and Western knowledge & techniques - were written on its chapters. That was the part that Japan took to rise to be a world economic and industrial power.

Close to a century and a half have since passed, since the Meiji Restoration -

In between, the waves of militarism & pacifism have washed her rugged shores. In the rise and fall of nations, other Asian nations have been coming of age, since.

Would perhaps the Land of the Rising Sun come home to to roost again with her Asian neighbors, in the aftermath of the 2009 genreal election . . . and the spark to the begining of a new primer.

Postscript -

1. Kyoto – Old Book Fair -古本祭り

Old book festival @ Shimokamo Kyoto held thrice yearly in May, August & November

2. 帝国読本 券之八 学海指針社編輯



第 一 課 三種の神宝
第二  課 八岐の大蛇
第三  課 日本の武尊
第四  課 日本ノ三景
第五  課 日本ノ工藝
第六  課 雪舟
第七  課 地震
第八  課 奥貫友山
第九  課 蟻ノ話
第十  課 節儉
第十一 課 山下禅尼
第十二 課 日用晝類
第十三 課 世界
第十四 課 支那
第十五 課 支那歴史
第十六 課 三韓征伐
第十七 課 弘安の役
第十八 課 朝鮮征伐
第十九 課 食物の行方 其一
第二十 課 食物の行方 其二
第二十一課 飲食
第二十二課 日用晝類
第二十三課 仁徳天皇
第二十四課 醍醐天皇
第二十五課 國體
第二十六課 國史大要  其一
第二十七課 國史大要  其二
第二十八課 國民ノ大義務 其一
第二十九課 國民ノ大義務 其二
第三十 課 國民ノ大義務 唱歌

明治二十五年九月十八日 仰刷
同年    九月十八日  出版
明治二十五年九月十八日 仰刷
同年    九訂正  再発行

編者 學海指針社
發行者 小林八郎
仰刷者 小林清一郎
發賣所 集英堂本店
仰刷所 集英堂活版所

定價 券八金十銭o五厘

Contents of text printed in 42pages of thin paper .

3.Wakon-yōsai (和魂洋才)  -Japanese Spirit Western techniques

- Poster of - Sunday Flea Mart @ China Square -


Friday, August 21, 2009

bite me, if you love me! - the Geylang connection

What has them in common -
- love me, bite me, duck neck, Fist of Fury- all in Geylang.

- Since moving to Geylang, I’ve been trying to catch up with all the wonderfully interesting shops and signboards along Geylang Road. Interpose with the traditional straits shop houses, and you will find vignettes of the sub-urbancenter in transformation

At a glance, I thought that the Chinwoo Athletic Association located in Neil Road had set up a branch in Geylang.

Though within Geylang precinct there is already quite a number of clan associations and clubs that offer martial arts and pugilistic training, and well, perhaps to attract the new migrants from our ancestor land and to boost its membership, the association had extended to the eastern part of the island.

- For Geylang is the under-declared Chinatown of 21st century Singapura.

However, I found it a little misplaced that the big sign outside the shop front should be titled – 精武門 -Jingwu Men. If it is a branch of the Chinwoo Athletic Association, & in keeping with the official name of Chinwoo Association worldwide – it should be - 新嘉坡精武體育會 – 芽籠支部. – Xinjiapo Jingwu Tiyuhui Yalong zhibu - Geylang Branch.

Well, 精武門 – Jingwu men – is the title of Bruce Lee 1972 movie hit, Fist of Fury – in Chinese. And getting all the more curious, and wanting to find out more what is in Jingwu men, I ventured into the shop to take a closer look –

Instead of a dojo – it actually is a kopitiam that started off selling the local fare such as curry chicken noodles & laksa. However, along with the influx of the new migrants, the kopitiam has transformed itself into a semi-pub, and with a front stall selling possibly the latest craze in Geylang –yabozi - duck neck.

Interestingly on the wall, I also found not one, but two photographs of the founder of Chinwoo – Huo Yanjia - 霍元甲(1867 – 1909 -haphazardly placed on the wall, among the mess of tables, chairs and drinking bottles.

Not in a million years, I thought would ever the upright and respectable HuoYanjia, approve of his photographs to be hung in a messy kopitiam-cum-watering hole, that is patronized by pot-bellied ah pek, (local dialect for uncle) & pandered by 流萤 – liuying – fireflies.

Well, in Geylang, Bugis, and Chinatown – there is a proliferation of - yabozi stalls and shops – usually branded as :

武汉久久鸭脖子 – Wuhan 99 duck neck
武汉精武鸭脖子 - Wuhan Jingwu duck neck

Jingwu is derived from the street name – Jingwu Lu – 精武路 - in Wuhan which is supposedly the origin & center of the yabozi stalls.

There story had it that – one of the stalls invented the catchy phrase as its advertisement slogan:

爱我就啃我 - aiwo jiu kenwo - if you love me, bite me!

That is - buy my duck neck and you will be assured of a good, crunchy and tasty bite.

With this catchy phase, well, the rest as the say was history. Thro the web – this advertisement caught on China-wide.

If you go Beijing, you will not leave without having a taste of Beijing duck. If you go to Wuhan, having a bite of the duck neck, is a must taste in the itinerary. The duck biz – neck and all – is reportedly a RMB6 billion ($$1.25B) dollar business in Wuhan.

As Hou Yanjia is a native of Tianjin – 天津 (the city with the eco-project joint with Singapore), Jingwu - 精武- has long been registered as a trademark by a food business in Tianjin. And reportedly this Tianjing company has taken the Wuhan Food business to court for infringing on the word - Jingwu.

Perhaps – the Wuhan entrepreneur who ventured into Singapore has an eye for Geylang – for one, because of the congregation of the Chinese migrants there, and two, all the more because there is a free flow of love in Geylang…. if you love me, bite me.

Well, so much for the duck business, out goes the window Chinwoo & the founder…Geylang, Wuhan yabozi style.

Notes & references:

1. 精武 - Chinwoo - Jingwu

Chinwoo – possibly derived from the southern Chinese dialect, such as Cantonese - zingmou – is the same as - jingwu (pinyin).

Chinwoo Athletic association was spread to the Chinatowns world wide by the early migrants from South-china.

This picture of the Chinwoo Athletic Association in KL was take in 2005 CNY period - @ Chinwoo Hill, close to KL Chinatown.

2. 霍元甲 - Huo Yanjia


3 . Films on Chinwoo and its founder

- Fist of Fury - 1972 : Starring Bruce Lee & Nora Miao

It was an impressionable film that I watched while in Form 3, in my hometown. I remember after the show, I reverted to using chopsticks for dinner that evening, instead of eating with fork and spoon.

- Fearless - 2006 : Starring Jet Li - & based on the autobiography of Huo Yanjia.,

4. 鸭脖子 - yabozi –

Listed as the 10 ten snacks in Beijing Street food - reported in The Star, Toronto -

Yabozi (duck's neck) – The duck's neck is long and winding, weird-looking and leathery, but it's chopped up and makes a great snack-in-a-bag. The neck is marinated in brine with chilies, boiled and, finally, stir-fried. Its flavours vary from star anise to cumin, but this classic Wuhan snack will likely leave your lips buzzing. You don't need to spend an evening (and a fortune) in a fancy restaurant having Beijing duck to, well, eat duck: You can also buy whole ducks on the street.

Tianjin net : (in Chinese)

5. 流萤 – liuying – fireflies.

This term is used in the local Chinese dailies to refer to the lady-of-the night, the street-walkers that congregate in Geylang area, from sun-down .


Monday, July 13, 2009

街头街尾芽笼巷 - active aging Geylang style

In today’s ST there is a article on active aging. It’s the story of a retired lecturer who feeling bored after a month of migrating down under, returned to the city island to take up a teaching position in a polytechnic. He’s 70 years old.

Well, this photograph taken along Geylang Road tells of a tale that would hit this story of active aging on the head -

It was Sunday afternoon, 1:00pm, walking down Geylang Road from the junction of Guillemard Road towards city, and looking for a place to lunch.

This tanned sinewy Ah Pek – 阿伯 - with balding silver hair painting the shop front caught my eyes. As I was considering painting my new place myself, I thought it would be a fine opportunity to get some hands on free advice on painting from him.

So much for cultivating a kampong spirit in city living, and good neighborliness, it will also give me a chance to get to know some of the residents in this new neighborhood. Notorious though it may be – Geylang - there was a gang attack just the night before in the lorong nearby – there should be friendly souls around, I thought.

Sure enough, Ah Pek was an approachable and affable man, and probably the friendliest of folks that you could expect in a place such as Geylang.

He gave me a cheerful smile, while going about his job and said that the previous tenant – a hotpot restaurant named Alishan – had vacated the lot and he’s sprucing the place up looking for a new tenant. He’s doing up the whole shop by himself – electrical, piping, painting and all and is his own contractor.

He said that he had been working on the shop front for the past three days. First, repairing the cracks on the wall with putty, before applying the paint, and that the work though relatively easy, is strenuous, but it helped him saved without sub-contracting out the work.

Well, his reply fits perfectly to my intent. What he said next, all the more is no excuse not to do the paint job myself –

Ah Pek asked me:

(Do you know how old am I?)

Looking at his sprightly self climbing up and down ladders, I attempted a guess - 70 perhaps.

He smiling replied:

(I’m already 80 years old!)

Ah Pek continued that a few years ago when he was younger, he even replaced the floor tiles on the five-foot way & decorated the facade of the Straits shop house, with a dragon motif.

Seeing that he’s so active for an octogenarian, I whipped out my mobile phone camera, and asked if I could take a picture of him.

Ah Pek gleefully replied:

为什么你要拍我的照片,我有什么美。 你应该拍哪一个吗!
(Why you want to take my photograph, I am no beauty. You should be taking the picture of that one.)

He turned his head and gestured at the prettily dress lass that just walked pass.

So much on active aging – see you in Geylang . . .


1 . 街头街尾芽笼巷

Jie tou jie wei Yalung xiang – literary meaning – up & down Geylang and its lanes

If Beijing has her hutong – 胡同 - and Shanghai the linong – 里弄 - then Singapore, would have or should it be had, Geylang & her lorong's - albeit a humbler version.

Straddling the two main roads – Sims Avenue and Geylang Road - that runs parallel the length of this sub-urban center are the many lorong (Malay) – 巷 – xiang – lane / alley. In all what’s left now is from Lorong 2 to 44.

The locals will head to Geylang – if one is in seek of durian. Pleasure quarters are on the even numbered lorong’s while gourmet offerings in general is on the odd number sector.
It’s the place in Singapore where heaven & earth meets - temples, mosques and churches are an alley’s apart with the house of vices.

While our ancestors gathered at Kereta Ayer - 牛车水- the defunct Chinatown- when they migrated to the Nanyang – 南洋 - a century and more ago, Geylang is alive with the new migrants and foreign labors from China – the new China-town.

Geylang is touted as one of the top 10 tourist attraction by Times magazine.,31489,1845806_1845592_1845748,00.html

2. Ah Pek – 阿伯

Uncle – in local Hokkien dialect to address an elderly man.

阿伯 - a bo ( pinyin) - ah pek (Hokkien) – ah bak (Cantonese ) : paternal uncle – who is older than one’s father
阿叔 – a shu - ah jik - ah suk: paternal uncle younger than one’s father

3. After lunch – went to visit to the museum and the Aljunied Library. On the way back at about 4:30pm, Ah Pek was still actively at work – clearing the back of the shop house. Another centenarian in the making -

4. Despite her notoriety & sleaze – Geylang was and is abode to learned monks and renowned artists – check it out:


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

and a 5-13 and a 6-4 : a ponder

Where were you when it happened?

They were those defining events that you vividly remember where you were when the event happened. Of the many anniversaries in this year a thought or two on two of them that had a lapse of twenty years in between them -

May 13, 1969

– It was evening time, after dinner, and when the radio broadcasted that curfew was declared in Kuala Lumpur.

Though there was a flurry of news and activities after the General Election, , much of what was happening were lost to us kids, except that we were more interested if the next day would be a school holiday. I was in Standard Six (primary school ) , then.

Leading to the GE the coffee shop talk around town was whether PPP (People’s Progress Party) could perform as well without the fiery speeches of DR Seenivasagam, for he has passed away earlier that year. The party leadership went to his milder sibling SP.

Well, the Ipoh (should be the Kinta folks) ever proud of their – 骨气 – gu qihardened bones - once again threw their lot with the opposition party, and voted overwhelmingly for the PPP.

Rumors abound, and far away down south we heard of the fighting in the Chow Kit area, and fights up north in Sungei Patani.

However, in the Kinta area, as far as I could remember, and definitely not in my hometown, it was incident free.

Next to our house was a surau (a small mosque), and a family of Malays had moved in to stay there. This was our closest Malay neighbor. During the Hari Raya Puasa, & the Chinese New year we would continue to exchange gifts.

IN schools, the following year while in Form One – we started to recite the Rukun Negara – during morning assembly. During art lessons, the theme was on racial harmony– and I remember one of my art pieces depicting harmony among the races was selected fro display outside the Art room.

As the Merdeka kids – those born in the year 1957 – we were perhaps the pioneer batches of students in our education career that were affected by the NEP (New Economic Policy) and the National Language policies. We had to work extra hard to be assured of a place in the local institutions of higher learning’s.

While we entered Form Six – a number of Malay students from other schools came to join us – for ours was one of the 3 schools in Ipoh with Form Six/ pre-university classes. However, these students did not stay more than a term, for they left to join the Asasi Sains matriculation classes in the local university or those with better MCE (equivalent to SPM – O Level ) results went abroad to study.

In the space of National Language policy – we were one of the first batches to have our lecturers in University Malay to have our science courses conducted in Malay. Being from an English medium school – listening to technical lectures in Malay was something novel.

Well so much for May-13 and its after effect. The official reason then was that the riot was the work of communist elements. Forty years later, we have a greater clarity on the fallacies and facts.

It was hearting to note that Malaysia has moved one relatively peacefully i.e racially, despite the Mar08 political tsunami. It has in a way exorcised the ghost of 5-13.

However this racial harmony must be upheld and protected jealously at all cost, and pray that wise & leaders of integrity will continue to be nurtured by the land.

June 4, 1989

-After work that evening, I went to the roadside stall leading into Tao Payoh to buy a copy of the local Chinese evening newspaper for an update of what happened in Beijing Tiananmen square on that day.

Recalling the conversation some years earlier with the Chinese students while studying in Japan, that the 21st century would be the Asia Pacific century, we were hopeful of China rise then.

However, the mayhem coming out of Beijing on that day shattered whatever little hopes that were left of China playing a leading role in this dream.

Some of the new phrases that was added to my limited Chinese vocabulary were -
手无寸铁 – shou wu cun tie – with an inch of iron in the hand - namely defenseless
镇压 – zhen ya – suppression
血醒 - xie xing – bloody

The sea of banners and posters with their witty phrases and perhaps a reflection of the idealism of that time - calling for greater accountability, transparency, democracy - were captured in this book.

The title of the book - 天安門 落書 -Tiananmon rakusho – literary meaning -Tiananmen graffiti.

Though it’s written in Japanese, the catchy slogans will certain help to improve your Chinese。

Some of the phrases:

政府正腐 ( zhengfu zhengfu )
- punning on the word – the governement is really rotten

我爱面包,更爱真理  ( wo ai mian bao, geng ai zhenli )
- I love bread, however I love truth more

八九年 Nobel 奖提名   ( Bajiunian Nobel jang timing
锂+ 硼 = 苯+ 氮 Li + Peng = Ben + Dan
北大化学博士 Beida Huaxue boshi )

- this was a jab at the then Prime Minister - Li Peng – 李鹏 -penned by Beijing University Chemistry Depart Doctorate students.

1989 Nobel Prize nominee:
Lithium + Boron = Benzene + Nitrogen

For Li Peng – 李鹏 – is similar in sound to Lithium (锂) and Boron (硼) . And Benzene (苯) and Nitrogen (氮) sounds the same as - 笨蛋 - bendan – meaning someone of low simple mentality.

要廉政, 不要帘正 (yao lianzheng, buyao lianzheng)
- A pun on the word lian - 廉 – incorrupt, and 帘 (simplified form of 簾 ) - meaning hanging curtain.

This is a dig at paramount leader Deng Xiaoping – 邓小平 - a call for a clean government and not governing from behind the screen.

Well, so much for the dig and jab (no political message intended). Whatever it was - in her long history, it is still premature on a verdict to the June 04.

Twenty years on China has moved on, especially after the 5-12 Sichuan earthquakes, the Beijing Olympics, and lately the financial tsunami.

Despite being a hard-core green camp leader, it came as a surprise to read that the former VP of ROC- Madame Lu mentioned that the China of today was no longer the Communist China of June 04, and to look at her with a new vision.

Perhaps over the past 30years, China has taken three steps forward and a step back. The road leading to the rise of a nation is never smooth, and it will continue to be.

Along the long and winding road, we should take a pause at Victoria Park, to reflect on where we were then.


1. 天安門 落書 (Tiananmon rakusho )

串田久治 (Kushida Hisaharu)
講談社、1990 (Kodansha)
あずさ号 → 茅野

Bought this book at the Kinokuniya Book Store, Shinjuku while on business trip to Japan in Aug 1992. Had went to Tokyo over the weekends on R&R then, and took the Azusa Express back to Chino.

Chino is located next to Suwa Lake - 諏訪湖 - in Nagano-ken - 長野県 – right in the middle of the Honshu main island.

Link :

1. Rukunegara


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

狮城萬里望 - beyond the lion city shores

This stretch of the railway is not far from the Tanjong Pagar railway station, or more precisely the KTM – Keretapi Tanah Melayu – Singapore Station. It’s located next to Jalan Kilang Lama, off Jalan Bukit Merah. The yellow marker reads 779.75, and it’s possibly that distance in kilometer from Kuala Lumpur.

Twenty years ago used to cross the pedestrian bridge over this stretch over to Depot Road. With the office shifted back to back to Depot Road, it’s back again to crossing this railway line, each morning to work.

Though the city has undergone tremendous change physically over the past twenty years, if ever something that has not change in time, it would be this KTM railway and the Tanjong Pagar station. As they say – 五十年不变 – wushinian bubian – with hardly a change half a century.

Having grown up commuting on the KTM railway in the younger days, there is always a sense of fondness whenever one get to see the KTM railway line.

Traveling 985km north from this vantage it would take me back to my hometown – 家乡- jiaxiang – in Menglembu. - 萬里望 – Wanliwang. Though naturalized and this island has been home for the past 20 years and if home is where the heart is, then 家乡 – jiaxiang – will always have a special place in the heart.

What does the KTM railway line evokes?

Looking yonder - 狮城萬望 -shicheng wanli wang - literary meaning – looking a ten-thousand li - 里 - from the Lion city, will recall some of the rides on the KTM:

1960’s - Ipoh to Malim Nawar
- The earliest train ride - from Ipoh to Malim Nawar in the 2nd half of 1960/s.

The youngest paternal aunt just married to Malim Nawar, a small town off the trunk road from Ipoh to Kampar. Though the town is off the main trunk road, it is connected to the Peninsula KTM railway grid – with a railway station in the center of the town. There was a important power generating station build during the colonial days, and this station provide electricity to the vicinity – a tin mining district of Kinta.

After the visit , Dad would sometimes let us to wait to take the train back to Ipoh, while was about a half hour or more away. To us kids, it was a memorable & fun ride.

At the railway station – Dad would point to us the holes in the lamp posts and said they were bullet holes left behind by the Japanese fighter planes while attacking the railway station during their conquest of Malaya and Singapore.

Early1970’s: Ipoh to Tanjung Malim -
- Towards the end of 1960 and thro to mid 1970/s

Dad went to work in Tanjung Malim, towards the end of 1968 and would used to visit him & occasionally with Mum. We would take the south-bound Morning Express from Ipoh. The Tanjung Malim Railway was just outside the town center town center. Dad would come down from his abode in the rubber plantation to meet us.

Tanjung Malim is a border town and is on this side of the Perak Stated with Selangor. It is growing to be the Proton City.

2nd half of 1970/s - Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur –
- From 1977 to 1980.

During the college days, KTM was one of the regular mode commuting from Ipoh to KL during the term break. The journey would take 3 hours or so, if there is no delay. And compared to the express bus plying the trunk road – as the North-South Highway was not ready yet, the railway was a viable alternative.

2nd half 1980’s into early 1990’s – to Singapore

These journeys were especially memorable – going down to Singapore for job interview, and would take the over- night train leaving KL for Singapore.

In the early 1990’s would continue to take the train to and from Ipoh-Singapore occasionally till the service stopped. It’s a long ride starting in the morning and if there was not delay would reach the destination on time in the evening. However, punctuality was not a pride of service of the KTM, as with the Japanese railway system.

With the much delayed completion of the dual track link between KL and Ipoh, and since December 2008, there is a regular daily shuttle service between the two cities. However the south-bound over night train direct from Ipoh to Singapore has been withdrawn and commuters will now have to transit in KL to catch the southbound train for Singapore.

Perhaps the dream track would be a shinkansen line between Singapore –KL-Ipoh-Penang.

However, with budget airlines flying to Ipoh from June 2008, it would perhaps it would take another 50 years.

Postscript –

1. 萬里望狮城

Punning on the Chinese name for my hometown 萬里望 – Wanliwang - town with a ten thousand li view - 萬里望狮城 – wanli wang shicheng – means viewing the Lion City from 10,000 (ten thousand) li.

Or, inverting the phrase - 狮城萬里望 – shicheng wanli wang - it literary means - to look a 10,000 li from the Lion City - that is, looking far and wide from the Lion City -

Instead of - 狮城萬里望 -it is - 狮城千里望 – because hometown - 家乡 - jiaxiang - Menglembu - 萬里望- in 5 km south west of Ipoh – is closer to 1,000 km north.


1. Menglembu

2. 里 - Li
The li (里,) is a traditional Chinese unit of distance, which has varied considerably over time but now has a standardized length of 500 meters or half a kilometer (c. 1640 feet).

3. Tanjung Malim

4. KTM - Keretapi Tanah Melayu
- Malaysia Railway Authority


Sunday, April 19, 2009

kenanagan gambar lama - 老照片

Disebaik setiap gambar lama adalah cerita-nya. Inilah sedikit sebanyak cerita sebuah panggung wayang di Bandarraya Ipoh yang tidak wujud lagi.

Captiol Cinema – antara theatre dengan cinema

Tarih yang tertulis di belakang gambar ini adalah 28.7.39, jadi umur gamar in hampir 70 tahun. Bagunan ini adalah sebuah panggung wayang lama yang terletak di lot sebelah Jalan Anderson and Jalan Theatre, Ipoh. Tetapi, kerana di jilat api beberapa tahun dahulu, pawagam in tidak dapat di nampak lagi pada hari in.

Tempat ini dibiar kosong. Kawsan-nya berrumput lalang dan lot ini disewa lekat kereata, sebagaimana lot-lot kosong dipusat bandaraya Ipoh kini.

Nama pawagam ini ialah Capitol, atau dalam bahasa logat Kanton (Cantonese) , bahasa berkomunikasi penduduk-penduduk kelompok majoriti orang keturunan Cina di-Ipoh adalah – Gi’ing dou - 京都 – ( Jingdu - dalam Bahasa Mandarin).

Locasi panggung wayang ini terbaik sekali, dan ia tepat di pusat Badar Baru Ipoh. Jalan di sebelahnya, Jalan Theatre –戏院街 – heiyin gai – (xiyuan jie - mungkin dapat namanya kerana panggung wayang lama yang asal berada disini.

Apa yang aku ingat kemungkinannya, adalah sebelum Pawagam Capitol baru ini yang dibina di sini, ia terlah wujud - 戏院 - heiyin - iaitu – theatre (dalam Bahasa Inggerris), disini.

Panggung wayang ini mempentaskan wanyang-wayang Cina, yang di-panggil – daihie – 大戏 -(daxi) . Daihei – atau wayang tradisi orang Cina, terutamanya opera Kantonis, adalah hiburan halayak ramai masyarakat Cina Ipoh, sebelum kedatangan wayang filem, atau movie. Wayang opera tradisi ini masih dipentaskan, tetapi selalunya dikuil-kuil, semasa beradanya kerayaan ditokong.

Sesungguhnya, bangunan yang menayang wayang-wayang filem dipanggil cinema – ia itu – 电影院 - dianyinggyuan – (dalam Bahasa Mandarin), dan bukan theatre – atau 戏院 – xiyuan. Jadi, bila bangungan cinema Capitol dibina, jalan di sebelabnya terus di panggil orangramai Jalan Theatre – atau Theatre Street, dan tidak ditukar ke Jalan Cinema.

Sampai masa sekarang, masyarakat Cina Ipoh masih memanggil pawagam-pawangam sebagi - heiyuen –戏院- (xiyuan) – atau theatre, contohnya - 丽都戏院 – Laidou heiyin – (Lidu xiyuan) - Lido Theatre - dan ini adalah satu panggilan salah. Ia mesti dipanggil sebagai –电影院- dinyingyuen – (dianyingyuan) - ia itu cinema , sebab apa yang ditayang adalah wayang filem, dan bukan wayang lakonan pentas.

Gambar lama Pawagam Capitol ini, mungkin diambil, tidak beberapa lama setelah pawagam ini siap di bina, ia itu ditahun 1930an. Ia terlihat baru, sebagaimana bangunanan-bangunan di Ipoh pada masa itu. Badar Ipoh sebulum Perang Dunia Kedua adalah sebuah bandar baru merancang yang terbersih dan mewah, terutamanya Bandar Baru Ipoh, di Persekutuan.

Mungkin Capitol adalah pawagam moden di Ipoh yang menayangkan wang filem yang terawal sekali.

Jalan-jalan raya disebelah Capitol kelihatan sunyi dan tidak ada kederaan kecuali sebuah basikal letak didepan pawagam. Disebelah kanan hujung gambar terlihat se-dua orang jalan kaki, dan antaranya seorang lelaki yang memakai baju & seluar panjang putih belaka dan bertopi hunter (hunter’s hat) . Ini adalah fesyen kolonial pada zaman pemerintah British, awal abad keduapuluhan dulu.

Tayangan Capitol – filem 1960an yang masih ingat

Pawagam Capitol mengembalikan kenangan-kenagan manis zaman 1960an, apabila saya masih seorang budak. Terus sampai ke tahun 70an, banyak wayang filem Shaw Brothers - 邵氏兄弟 - dari Hong Kong, ditoton di panggung ini.

Antaranya wayang filem enampuluhan yang masih ingatilagi adalah:

1. 杨乃武与小白菜 – The Adultress - 1963

Filem ini ditonton dengan ibu-bapa. Pada masih itu aku mungkin umur 6-7tahun. In-lah sebuah filem yang terawal yang saya lihat dan dapat ingati lagi.

2。山歌恋 - The Shepherd Girl - 1964

Filem in adalah satu muzikal – lagu-lagu nyanyain corak ‘mountain folk’. Filem in ditonton dengan makcik, ia itu kak sulong bapa. Makcik masih dating lagi, dan filem init dilihat dengan kawan lelakinya. Pada masa itu saya masih seorang budak darjah satu atau dua, di Sekolah Rendah Anglo-Chinese.

3。 大醉侠 - Come Drink With Me - 1966

Filem in ditoton dengan kakak dan kawan sekolahnya. Filem –sword fighting – ini adalah satu sensasi hebat, dan panggung wayang sesak belaka setiap tayangan.

Ada banyak lagi wayang filem lain yang ditoton di panggung Capitol, dan juga di panggung wayang lain di badar Ipoh.

Pada masa germilang bandar Ipoh setlah Perang Dunia Dua, dari 1950an, di pusast bandar baru sahaja mempunyai 10 buah panggung – ia itu kawasan Ipoh New Town. Namanya berikut -

Lido - 丽都
Cathay - 国泰
Ruby - 宝石
Capitol – 京都
Odeon – 高亭
Grand – 大光
Eastern (?)-东方
Rex – 丽士
Majestic – 大华
Star –星光

Panggung wayang ini adalah satu-satunya kenangan - childhood to adulthood – saya di Ipoh.

Postscript –

1. Of the Malay language course

The last since I wrote in Malay was close to over 30years ago .

Being in an English medium school, there was only one Malay language course through out the whole education from primary to secondary school, with the highest Malay langauge examination being the Malaysian Certififcate of Examination / MCE in Form Five.

For what ever reasons, Malay was something to be feared then– cos if one failed it, one would flop the whole examination.

Perhaps it’s akin to the underpinning psychological stress of what the Singaporean students have for their mother tongue - the Chinese Language – where you need to pass it to pass the examination.

To keep in touch with the Malay langauge, have been listening to the RTM news, forum and documentary programs.

Whatever it is – interesting try to recall many of the words and sentences, and you never know that you really don’t know the word until you try to start to write it down in a sentenc.

To connect with our Malay friends and with this part of the SEA, knowing Malay is a re-requisite. Knowing another language is a window to another world.

Can cope with yet another language... ? MM says Malay important !

So much on learning the Malay language ...

2. Of Ipoh –

Found this book at the Tampines Library:

怡保城乡散记 - Yibao cheng xiang san ji -
Random notes on Ipoh and its surroundings
Author: Zhu Zongxian zhu/ 朱宗贤著 (1931 - )

The author was a Chinese school teacher in Ipoh, and this was a compilation of his recollections of Ipoh and its surrounding towns from the pre-war years to the present. It’s written in Chinese, and thus you have to know Chinese to read it.

3. Ipoh - Old road names -

To fellow Ipoh folks where the streets will forever be the Hugh Low or the Brewster's,

Not that we'll love the town less with the new names, it is the connection with history - of the town that tin built -

Anderson Road – Jalan Raja Musa Azia
Cockman Street – Jalan Dato Oon Jaffar
Cowan Street – Jalan Raja Ekram
Hugh Low Street – Jalan Sultan Iskandar
Brewster Road – Jalan Sultan Idris Shah
Osborne Street – Jalan Tahwil Azhar
Hume Street - Jalan Mesjid

Reference -


Monday, April 06, 2009

...of the architectural link to being bi-lingual & bi-cultural

It had been a long time since I read an English book – and this book from the Tampines Library was an interesting read -

1. Liang & Lin - Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past

In the dedication page the author wrote –

For our children and theirs –

It was a touching story. A story of dedication to their work, of perseverance against extreme hardship & even while seeking shelter in the remotest part of China away from the bombs and guns, Sicheng – Liang Sicheng - 梁思成 (1901-1972) the architect continued to work on his research and drawings. Amongst the many contributions to the architectural history of China – one of hi well known work was the pioneering research on the architectural history of China – written in modern architectural language, and first published in English.

The draft of this book was done over the 8years of Sino-Japanese War in China (1937 – 1945), and it had a very odd connection with Singapore

The heroic tale of this loving couple however had a sad end to their lives. The vivacious Whei – Lin Huiyin - 林徽因 (1904-1954) – writer, poet, cultural historian, and last but not least a loving wife of Sicheng - died of tuberculosis, in the early 1950/s, while Liang, as with all intellectuals who remained behind in New China even tho he had the opportuniy to leave – was struggled against by the system and died a sad man in the early 1970/s while the country was still in the throes of the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution.

This story of the lives of the Liang’s , especially the pre-New China period ( pre-1949) would not have been known and left in vivid memories to the children of the two families, and their posterities living on opposite side of the Pacific Ocean had it not been for this true and lasting friendship between the author Wilma and her husband, John and the Liang’s.

From their first chanced meeting in old Beijing in the early 1930/s, when the Fairbank’s went to China to pursue their research in Chinese studies and history – it was mutual attraction for the young couples. They would converse in English – for the Liang’s were educated in the US, - while Wilma could hardly able to speak in Chinese when she first arrived. Moreover with the Liang’s intricate knowledge of Chinese culture and history – for they were offspring of famously scholar families – it was perfect network for the Fairbanks’s to things Chinese.

During their stay in China, Wilma and JOhn shared many a happy and adventurous time with the Liang’s – joining their friends for afternoon tea, and going with them in the 1930/s to rural China on an architectural field trip to study buildings from the Song Dynasty (960-1278CE)

The steadfast friendship and bond established - see them thro wars and revolutions, and to the reader, Wilma came across as a very dear & loyal friend – assisting Sicheng in whatever way she could to help him in his academic work and with material assistance during the war years. Wilma played a crucial role in helping to get this book – A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture - published

2. A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture

If Jackie Chan did not reneged on his pledge and his donation of old wooden houses from China had mad their way to the new university in the north-east, it would have been a story to tell how the coup was scored.

However the making of this book on Chinese architecture had an earlier tale and link -

The queer circumstances that connected this book to Singapore was an unglamorous one though. The illustrations that adorn the book had for a period of time were kept in Singapore, by a C Lau.

Wilma, who helped edit and publish this book in 1984, twelve years after Sicheng pass way, however mentioned in the Afterword in Liang and Lin – a grudging gratitude to C Lau – as the drawings were intact and in good condition after nearly twenty-three yeas.

C Lau had kept the ‘lost’ package of illustrations sent her by Wilma as directed by Sicheng in 1957. However, for whatever reasons C Lau who was then an architectural student in UK, had kept the parcel and did not forward it on to Sicheng. She subsequently brought it back with her to Singapore.

When China opened up and in 1978, Wilma heard thro a friend that visited China that a professor friend of Sicheng mentioning that Sicheng did not received the drawings from her. This set her puzzled and she felt indignant, and set about determined to find where the parcel went. After much detective work, Wilma traced the whereabouts of C Lau to her address in Singapore, and subsequently the parcel was miraculously recovered again in 1980.

The architectural drawings of ancient temples, pagodas and structures of Old China that are in this award winning book – A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. – had been kept in a corner in a corner of Singapore. The drawings traveled from China to the US in 1947 and from the US to England in 1957 and then from there to Singapore. After twenty-three years, the package was sent back to the rightful owner – Lin Zhu in 1980 by C Lau thro express mail from Singapore, and after much prodding from Wilma.

3. 城记 – The Record of Beijing
While Liang & Lin – describes the pre-1949 life of Siceng and Whei, their trails and tribulation in New China could be glimpsed in this book - 城记 – 看不见的北京城- chengji – kan bu jian de Beijing cheng – the invisible walls of Beijing.

This book is about how the walls of old Beijing came to be torn down, though there was a strong push by academicians to have them preserved. And center among them was Sicheng.

Post 1949 – Shiceng’s life was one on unending crusade to preserve the historical structures of Beijing – and prime among them were the magnificent walls and gates that encircled old Beijing. These walls build during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) and more than 400 years old. However, his was a futile struggle, and the walls were gone.

The author - Wang Jun - 王军 - had given the book and English titles - The Record of Beijing. Perhaps it was in deference to Sicheng, and his earlier work – A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. He and Whei were both bi-lingual and bi-cultural. Other than the title – this book is written in Chinese and I do not think that there is an English edition out yet.

Perhaps Sicheng and Whei – were born in the wrong period and wrong city, and possibly too advanced in their ideals in preserving the historical architectural structures of Beijing. Though these structures could be dilapidated, worn, and a hindrance to city traffic, the couple saw them as representing the soul and cultural roots and identity of the city. You tear them down and the city would be dead and your cultural identity scarred and lost forever.

For the idealism that they have for their be-loved city could not dove-tail with the vision of their new political masters. In rebuilding a new socialist China where the five red stars shone over the Tiananmen Square – the old must give way to new, however much Sicheng justified that the great walls were the handicraft of the proletariats.

For Sicheng – demolishing the East and West Gates that stood astride the left and right entrances of Changan Road into Tiananmen Square then, was like chipping off his left and right shoulders.

To read this book – you will need to know Chinese, and I don’t think there is an English translation, yet.

…Well, you see – tell you to learn Chinese and you don’t want. Better start learning Mandarin - 华语 - now ne – not only to speak but to read too -

It’ the month of the - Speak Mandarin Campaign - 华人华语 . There is much more than just solving the riddles in – 华文谁怕谁! - huawen shui pa shui - Mandarin - fear you not !

Postscript –

1. Chinese architecture and old Beijing walls and all

Ever interested in Chinese Architecture first came across the bilingual version of – A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture – in 2001. This was a re-print of the 1991 first bi-lingual edition.

While on biz trip to Hsinchu, - 新竹- Taiwan in 2005 – I came across the book – 城记 - A Record of Beijing – and ever interested in old Beijing and her walls, I bought the book. It is a chronology on the call to develop a master-city plan for the capital of New China – and woven with it the tale of Sicheng’s crusade to preserve the walls from demoliton.

The glimpses of life lives of Sicheng and Whei is made more complete after reading - Liang & Lin , Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past – a new copy of the paperback version was on displayed at Tampines library, which I chanced upon. Wilma drew from the letters between her the Liang’s - spanning from the 1930/s and into the mid-1950/s.

2. Lin Zhu -林洙 - was Sicheng student and daughter of a close family friend. Lin Zhu married Sicheng, in the 1960/s - as much a companion as to take care of him in his later years. A virtue of young Chinese ladies – which have many examples – such as the marriage of a young Soong Mei-ling to Sun Yat-sen who was in his later years.

3. Speak Mandarin Campaign. 华人华语 -

The bi-cultural, bi-lingual cream of the greater Chinese community - could present day Singapore produce the likes of Sicheng and Whei? I am afraid not.

Singapore no longer has the - 低温 - diwen - the foundation and climate – to geminate this unique bi-lingual bi-cultural cream. The success of Speak Mandarin Camping – which started off as - 多讲话, 少讲方言 – Speak more Mandarin, and less dialect – has produced a new generation of Singaporeans – whose first language is English, and with Mandarin - supposedly the mother tongue - as a distant second.

On the recent debate on dialects – and for those who thought that there is a value in it – they were berated as STUPID – on the suggestion of reviving the speaking of dialects. I think much of the debate is missing the jungle for the trees or the trees for the jungle.

With the effectiveness of the Speak Mandarin Campaign in diverting families from dialects to Mandarin, and with an education process, and a society that readily embraces western norms and cultures - and the bulk of the society and the elites are now invariably culturally illiterate with regards things Chinese.

The debate on dialects is more form then the substance. Without a strong ethnic cultural identity, Singaporeans, especially the Chinese-Helicopters (Singaporeans who graduated from mainstream - Chinese medium schools - defunct ) who made it in China, are concern that the young will be side-lined by China Chinese.


1. Liang & Lin - Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past
Wilma Fairbank, University of Pennsylvania 1994
First paper back edition – 2008

2. A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture - A bilingual Edition
By Liang Ssu-ch’ng,,

梁思成 英文原著
费慰梅 编 梁从诫译

2001.9.15, 星州商务

Liang Ssu-ch’ng
A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture, ed Wilma Fairbank. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1984.)

3. 城记 - – 看不见的北京城 – The Record of Beijing.
王军, 高谈文化事业有限公司, 2005

NT400, 2005。2。22 元宵前夕


1. Speak Mandarin Campaign - 2009

2. Liang Sicheng


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

通勤の5963 - ハロシンガポール

先月の中旬から事務室は元十九年前の場所の隣に移動し、それは -德普路 -にある。朝の通勤は公衆バスなので、家は島の東周辺からやや中央部の西の方へ距離は25キロくらいで、時間できには、約一時間半もかかります。


しかし近頃、寝るよりももっと役に立つことを捜した、それは、通勤のゴクロサーン 。

通勤の同時に、FM 96.3 ととも、日本の曲、情報を聞きながら、都会の市内の観光もなれ。


- Temasek Poly – East Gate バス停留所- 23番号バスに乗り、Sony Ericsson 携帯電話のラジオをつけ、

It’s after the 7:00am morning main news bulletin - a relay of the news from NHK Japan.

The station started broadcast from 6:50am on weekdays from Mon to Friday. – with a 5 minute - ラジオ体操 - rajo taisoo - which to any Japanese would be a familiar tune to start the day with It’s a morning exercise tune that has its beginning it seems in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics - 45 years ago. As such a generation and a half of Japanese has been doing their daily morning calisthenics with this tune be it in school, factory, etc – ichi, ni, san, shi….

The program was dotted with a number of Japanese hits, and this was one of the starters 

Diamond Dust – by Kimura Kyotsuke came on the air, which was a birthday request on Happy Time –


- from Four Leaves cake shop – for your celebration. .. The cake shop is sponsoring cake for listeners with birthday request.

The Morning Navigator for the day was Sakamoto Megumi. Fax you happy birthday wishes and song request to 6258-5693. Mejumi-san the FM96.3 J Plus DJ awaiting your request, or e-mail her at 5963@…

The jingle-
‘Hello Singapore, konnichiwa Japan, hi, to the world, FM96.3, J Plus’

Along PIE – at next the Paya Lebar Exit:
- A grey Friday morning sky which was liven up by a dash of pinkish purple bougainvillea blossom along the expressway divider.

Next a very Japanese song - 懐かしいの名曲をおとこけする -

夜空- Yozora - by Itsuki Hiroshi - 五木ひろし

It’s the 45th anniversary of Ituski Hiroshi since his debut with – 横浜たそがれ - Yokohama Tasogare

Hiroshi Istuki – one of the top - 演歌 - enka - veteran in Japan . His Japanese equivalent of the – country and western – never fails to pull at the heart strings of the ojisan & obasan – the uncles and aunties.

Yozora – Night Sky - an enka hit in the early 1980/s.

A stanza or two of the lyrics -
細い風の引き笛 ( light winds and cajoling of the flute)
夜空いつも一人ぼち  (under the night sky ever alone)

- Getting off PIE and turning into Bendemeer Road. Passenger alighiting at - After Jalan Kolam Ayer バス停

時刻は七時五七分、交情報のお知らせです。Megumi-san came on with the traffic report. It’s relatively smooth following along the highways-

- ジジ通信社の提供で、ジジのニーズです。

Sponsored by JiJi News service, it’s an update of local happenings and international news.

– Approaching the junction of Bendemeer Road & Lavender Street and heading towards Jalan Besar.

The huge characters - 河南大厦 – Honan Building – came into view and on the opposite side of the Jalan Besar the newly completed City Light apartments.. – dwarfing the rows of Straits shop houses.

In the early 1990s the Buddhist Library, which is now in Geylang, was located at the Honan Building.

8:05 am :
–After Allenby Road – のバス停に下り、147号を待つ

It’s a convenient stop to change bus and take a – break - at the newly opened City Hub Hotel – Thangam Food Palace, especially when one drank too much water during morning breakfast.

A group of tourists from India was having their breakfast – a buffet of roti and curry.

From Jalan Besar onwards – weaning into the city proper and there are rows of delightful old shop houses. One can feast one’s eyes on this older part of the city which is still relatively intact –hardware & software- with a array of pre-war to pre-independence buildings – with a uniquely Singapore architectural style – and their traditional trade.

Pawn shops in 4 languages, photo studio from the 1970/s, electrical and hardware shops that are more than half a century old -

Indirectly opposite the bus stop, it’s the – 江西会馆 – and 1946, boldly visible.

- get on Bus # 147 乗り換え、通勤のゴクロサンを聞きにつずけた

Another request came on:
We can make it – by Arashi

You don’t need to know Japanese to understand Japanese – for many of these pop hits have titles in English – plain simple English.

The title rendered in Japanese: ウイ キーアン メード イット

-The jingle -
‘Hello Singapore, konnichi wa Japan, hi, to the world, FM96.3 J Plus, FM96.3 J Plus ‘

- Heading towards the junction of Bencoolen Street and Brash Bash Road – and getting into the Singapore Management University city campus compound.

- Singapore Arts Museum on the left and on the right a little up - Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

Bus turning right and headed towards the junction of Stanford Road & Hill Street – with CHIJMES on the left -

Song request:
Oeba Furenzu– by Taeuchi Maria.

Ahead it’s the - Singapre Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Armenian Church, the Central Fire Station, and the building with colorful louvered windows – that houses the MITA – Ministry of Information and the Arts - was the Old Hill Street Police Station.

Next the Singapore River came into view - with the Coleman Bridge - demarking the - Little City - 小坡 - and the - Big City - 大坡– with New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen – Street leading into Chinatown – 牛车水.

The Chinese New Year decorations are still up despite it being a month and more after the festival.

Perhaps we really need keep the bulls around in these gloomy times to reverse the ever down trend - 牛转乾坤.

- Another song request:

夢のつぼみ by  リミオロメン

This song - yume no tsubomi - has gotten into the J One - pop chart, Megumi-san, pre-empted on what to expect later in the count down.

Advertisement came on:
'Canon delighting you always .'

Sponsored by Canon – an update on the sports & entertainment scenes in Japan -


'Canon delighting you always .'


With the daily morning dose of Canon – the likes of Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, Dell - would be hard press to make a break into the Japanese expatriate market.


8:33 am:
- After Blair Roadバス停

From the junction of Lavender Street - Jalan Besar – for the past 30 minutes – it was a journey thro the heart of Singapore – from the old to the historic.

This bus stop marks the end of the rows of Straits houses and shop houses, traveling from east to west - the most famous of which is the Baba House.

Well, not forgetting another historical landmark in this vicinity - the Singapore General Hospital. Within the hospital compound there is a cross that marks the atrocities of 1942..

- The jingle -
‘Hi to the world, FM96.3, J Plus, J Plus’

Coming on the air next was the Friday special - J One Hit Chart :

リミオロメン - 夢のつぼみ - Yume no tsubomi  - by  Rimio romen   
This is a new entry ー ニューエントリ ー to the chart

浜崎 はゆみ - Dreams - by Hamasaki Hayumi
Another new entry and the promotional video was filmed in Shanghai -– 上海で撮えプロモション ビデオ

まえおか - Stay - by Maeoka

。。。(did not catch it – was getting ready to alight at the next stop)

あらし - Beautiful Day - by Arashi

This hit moved one rank up from last week - 先週からOne rank up

J One ヒットチヤットはいかがでしたか?How’s the J-One count down? It was hosted by a pair of co-ed DJ/s -

And as usual with a mix of Japanese and English – and - you don’t need to understand Japanese to know Japanese –

For it is peppered with enough of English for you to follow thro and to enjoy the hits –

Talking about fusion dishes – this fusion of Japanese-English languages in the counting down has been a staple since…

Time machine:
1982 - Tokyo 横浜留学生寮 – foreign students dormitory : 先週から one rank up, ニューエントリー、etc -

- After Jalan Kilang Timor – Opposite Blk 28 バス停, Jalan Bukit Merahに下車, 事務室へ徒歩10くらい . 途中KTM-鉄度線とPIE高速道路に掛ける歩行者用橋渡り

'CROWN LINE 日本の心をおはこびます...'
-Planning to move house? Crown Line – delivers with warmth

-The jingle:
‘Hello Singapore, FM96.3 J Plus , J Plus’

The day ended with a studio tour –

On that Friday morning - 27th Feb, lead by two of their Japanese teachers, a group of 36 NUS taking from the Japanese Language Center cramped into the FM96.3 studio and Megumi-san went live with them –

Well, that's it - ご苦労さん -GOKUROSAN 。

A daily journey commuting thro the heart of Singapore on # 147 while pluging on to the info-taiment channel of 5963 - FM96.3 - J Plus 。

Postscript -

1. 通勤 の 5963

Punning on– 5963 – pronounced in Japanese as - GOKUROSAN – which could be written as – ご苦労さん ― a polite phrase to show gratitude and encouragement.

The equivalent phrase in Chinese would be – 辛苦了 - xinku le – which means – you are tired, sorry to have caused you to work so hard.

通勤 - tsuうkin – meaning to commute to work
Traveling to work is really tough job nowadays – why you don’t know if you would have your job next -

Well, 確かにそうですね、通勤のご苦労さ。

2. 江西会馆  -Jiangxi Clan Association - along Jalan Besar

Well, talking about Jiangxi - 江西- a province from Northern Guangdong to the south of the Yantze River - towards the a recently discovery from conversation with a 79―year old maternal uncle while back in the home town in December vacation last year, that my maternal great-grand father was actually a native of Jiangxi – 江西 - a cloth merchant who plied his trade into the Hakka heartlands of Southern Guangdong province – .

Of Jiangxi – it is the home province of - Ouyang Xiu – 欧阳修 - (1007-1072) – one of the great Northern Song Dynasty poet & statesman. Learning his poem - A Ballard of the Drunkard Pavilion –醉翁亭记 – . It’s especially good for relieving stress when he takes you into the woods for a drinking party.

Perhaps, maternal great-grandpa’s home village could be from the same village as this great man - Ouyang Xiu’s. Oh no,, it couldn’t be, mum’s family name was Lim anyway, and not Ouyang - 欧阳.



Subject: Song request - 懐かしの名曲 放送時間:毎週月曜日~金曜日 午前7:17-7:24
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 08:58:03 +0000

FM96.3 J-PLUSモーニングナビゲターDJさん、坂本さん 

こんにちは、 この曲をリクエストをいただきたいです 

最近毎朝の通勤の時、FM96.3 J-PLUSを耳に向き、それは日本語の勉強としてをしながら、懐かしい日本語の名曲もたのしんでいます。始めてこの曲を聴いたのはもう30年もたちました。(もう年寄りのおじさんなんです。)

それは、1981年のこと。その年の春、初めて日本へ留学生しにいきました。 最初の半年は大阪外国語大学で半年の日本語のコースを受けました。先生は私たち学生にこの曲をおしえてくれました。とても良い歌だと思って、私の懐かしい日本語の名曲のTop-Ten チャートの中にいすも入っています。

If you could kindly please play this song on a Friday morning - after the 7:00am news between 7:15am to 8:00am. If you could have the time in your program, please play the complete song. Sometimes I find that the natsukashii uta was cut too short - and could only enjoy part of the song. Thank you very much in advance. Have a good day and happy DJ-ing.

Best regards,


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

星州百姓庆己丑 - celebrating the year of the ox with the lao baixing – the connection hence

这个新年待在狮城 过牛年,和往年不同而又过得特别的不一样。虽然人在星州,但好像是在中国过年似的。自所以说好像在中国过年似的是因为初一初二在牛车水一带所遇到的都是来自中国的男女士们。本岛的华人从年三十除夕在牛车水办好年货后都躲在家里或到亲属朋友们家拜年去了。

牛车水就交给了- 有朋从远方而来的中国百姓们, 亲也,乐也!

The Lunar New Year period holidays were spent in Chinatown – together with the mainlanders – baixing - 百姓. They are the common folks who are here as foreign labors, students, and without a better place to hang out, they gathered in Chinatown – to be with their own kind and to seep in whatever air of festivities that the sights and sounds the Chinatown could bring them.

With the local eateries all closed for two consecutive days, the only place that one could have lunch and dinner was at the restaurants run by the Chinese – that is the Chinese Chinese.

Well to differentiate the Chinese Chinese from the Singaporean Chinese, let’s refer to them as the Chinese from the mainland or the Mainlanders for short (this reference here is purely for ethnic identity, and with respect).

The fellow ethnic Chinese from China mainland are by and large different from the local Singaporean Chinese. Different – is because this wave of immigration of the 21st century is from the Northern and interior provinces of China, while the early immigrants of our forefather’s time were from the South-easterly costal regions and the island of Hainan.

The overhead bridge garden was a convenient and busy gathering point for the migrant workers who had a long holiday break. I had a chance to join in and listen to the conversation that this local old man had on the evening of the First Day of the Year of Jichou - 己丑年 - with the three fellow Mainlanders.

The local old man – let’s refer to him as Ah Pek –阿伯- uncle in Hokkien - is in his sixties, and probably a resident of Ngau Chiar Shui - 牛车水- Chinatown in Cantonese - all his life. His teeth are almost gone. He did not cut his hair for the New Year, perhaps he has not much left, and is the typical kopitiam - coffee joint ala carte local flavor - Ah Pek.

Together with him were two other local Singaporean Chinese, but because they could not speak Mandarin, this Ah Pek was the live wire, interpreter and spokesman for the mini New Gathering of the baixing –百姓- the hundred surnames – meaning the common folks.

What was interesting of this conversation was that – this Ah Pek is perhaps typical of the older generation of Chinese educated Singaporean Chinese, who still has a feel and connection with the fellow Mainlanders – verbally and culturally. A passing breed –

He introduced to the fellow Mainlanders that he is by dialect group Cantonese, while his two other fellow local Singaporean is Hokkien, and Teochew. He spoke in a mix of Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and English. Whatever his two other fellow Singaporeans who could not connect with the Mainlanders in English, he helped them interpret to Mandarin.

He asked which part of China the Mainlanders were from and they replied – Henan – 河南省and Hunan 湖南. When he heard Henan – he immediately mentioned – Justice Bao – and sang and an aria from the popular TV drama series – Bao Qing Tian – 包青天-the incorruptible judge of the Song Dynasty – 宋朝 - 960 – 1279CE. And said the song Justice Bao is popular among the common folks here. Well, the cultural connection!

On Hunan, he mentioned Mao Zedong – 毛泽东- and Zhu Rongji - 朱镕基. Perhaps because it the Lunar New Year and with all its custom, beliefs and traditions, he proudly mentioned that Mao advocated atheism – wusen lun – 无神论- and demonstrated courage and break away with traditions. He mentioned that without Mao’s foundation, there would not be China today. You see, the depth and interest he knew of China !

Interestingly, he mentioned that previously the government was suspicious of Chinese education, and he was indignant about it. At the sideline listening, I was wondering how much the Mainlanders could relate to this episode of the local history where the Chinese schools in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula then, from the 1950/s to the 1970/s, were the hot spot of communist infiltrators.

On Zhu Rongji, Ah Pek spoke with respect and deference, and said that the former Premier Zhu had never allowed his children to be in politics - whether it is a fact or not. Well, …

He also jokingly related the difference between Cantonese - 粤语 - yueyu - and Mandarin –which he refers to as Guoyu - 国语 the National Language – that is – Mandarin or Putonghua – 普通话- which Taiwan -the Republic of China - still uses. He mentioned that in Mandarin, one would greet each other as - Ni hao ma or Hao bu Hao?– 你好吗? or 好不好? - in Cantonese he said that it would be disrespectful to use Ni hao ma - espItalicecially to female for cos in Cantonese - hao bu hao 好不好- means – are you sexy or not! In Cantonese hao means - sexy! Here, the ethnic connection!

Well, so much for the all the Bull… shit, it's time to leave for dinner!

It’s to North-Eastern China – Dong Bei Restaurant- 东北菜馆– at Mosque Street - for a treat of jiao zhi - 饺子- meat dumpling – a must have tradition in the Northern Provinces of China – regions north of the Yangzi River - 扬子江。

After dinner, it was off to the nearby LianZhong Wangba - 联众网吧- internet café to enjoy the recording of the – Spring Festival Year End Gala - Chunjie Lianhuan Wanhui – 春节联欢晚会。

A hundred years hence, 2109 - perhaps, it will be left to the descendants of these Mainlanders to make the connect with the Mainland…

Postscript -

1. Baixing – 百姓

Usually use with the adjective lao – 老 – Lao Baixing – 老百姓 - an intimate term – to mean the common folks.

President Hu and Premier Wen spent their New Year with the Lao Baixing in Jingangshang – 井冈山- the cradle of Chinese Communism, and the Wenchuan – 汶川- the epicenter of the Sichaun earthquake, respectively.

2. 己丑年 – Year of Yichou

The naming of the year using the Ten Heavenly Stems – 天干- tian gan - and the Twelve Earthly Branches – 地支 - dizhi - began more than 3000 years ago – with a cycle of 60years - is much older in origin than the 12 Chinese Zodiac cycle – 十二生肖。

3. 春节联欢晚会 - The Spring Festival Year End Gala

The Year End Gala Performance by CCTV broadcast on the eve of Lunar New Year - into it’s 28 odd years started with China opening up in 1978 - is a must see for the Chinese. It is as much a New Year traditional to the Chinese, as to the Japanese watching the - Red & White Song Festival - 红白歌合战大会 - broadcast by NHK on 31Dec, each year.