Tag Archives: tradition

A rather messy war in Britain during Halloween

In the past two months, since the death of the Malayan communist leader Chin Peng on the 16th of September, I have written nine challenging posts about Communism and the brutal jungle war in Malaya and the suffering of the Batang Kali children who travelled without a suitcase. These are challenging to me because I had never set out to write about major historical conflicts on my blog. When I started blogging in English less than two years ago, I had never anticipated that one day I would handle such a sensitive and emotional subject, as the pains of the Batang Kali children are still clearly felt though Communism is already dead in Malaysia.

While I am still reading about the Malaysian history during the Malayan Emergency period while reading War of the Running Dogs: Malaya, 1948-1960 by Noel Barber, and Jungle Green by Arthur Campbell, I have also noticed the change of the season. The warm summer has faded into a rather chilly autumn. In Britain, our clocks moved one hour backwards on the last Sunday in October. It delighted me last weekend as I felt I had earned one extra hour’s sleep. Continue reading

12 Reasons Why You Need Lorelle’s Blog Exercises for Your Blog

The Teachers’ Day in Singapore is on the 6th of September this year. In China, since 1985, Teachers’ Day is on the 10th of September each year. Distinguished Chinese essayist and philosopher HAN Yu (韩愈) from the Tang dynasty explained the roles of a teacher in only six Chinese character, in his famous essay, “On the Teacher”(师说).

The roles of a teacher by HAN Yu, in my translation, are to

  • Guide students, show them the direction (传道, literally, spread the ‘Tao’).
  • Impart knowledge to students, to improve their abilities. (授业)
  • Resolve the students’ doubts. (解惑)

In my blogging existence, I follow the guidance from the best teacher, Lorelle. Since I’ve done 40 posts inspired by Lorelle, I would like to give you 12 reasons why you need Lorelle’s Blog Exercises for your blog. Continue reading

Precious Chinese surnames with traditional values

Our surnames are worth gold.

When kids disagree with each other, you might hear an exchange like this: “I swear if I lie to you, I’ll abandon my surname!” Or, “I swear, if I lose, I’ll no longer carry the surname my father has given me!” Or, “Promised? If you lose, you will drop your surname, and follow my surname?”

When a Chinese kid places his surname as a bet, you need to take him seriously.

Outside Salisbury Cathedral -- Boys are superior in Chinese culture

Outside Salisbury Cathedral — Boys are superior in Chinese culture

Does it sound strange to you? As a child, when I argued or swore with the boy next door, we used the most valuable bid — our surnames. I’ve never heard an Englishman bet his surname: “OK, if you win, I’ll abandon my surname Smith and adopt your surname Barker.”

Surname is important. Sons are important because sons carry on the family surname and lineage. Sons carry incense sticks when worshipping the ancestors. They preside over ancestral rites, especially during the Tomb Sweeping Day.

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What would you do for a friend’s friend?

The first morning in Tilly’s house, she had some visitors.

Alison came to visit with a huge cheese cake. Tilly said, “Alison has just made this for you.”

Alison is Tilly’s friend. Because I’m Tilly’s friend, Alison made this cake for her friend’s friend.

How sweet was that? I instantly felt in love with the people from Stockport. Continue reading

Chinese Farewell song: Lyrics by LI Shutong; Composer: John Pond Ordway

The most refined Chinese Farewell song

In my last post, I recalled the Chinese version of Auld Lang Syne, commonly sung at graduation assemblies and funerals. Now, I’m going to share with you an original Chinese farewell song, elegantly written as a poem in 1915 by the charismatic and talented artist, LI Shutong 李叔同 (1880 to 1942), three years before he abandoned all worldly desires to become a Buddhist monk. This classical song with shared Chinese symbols is also often top choice for graduation assemblies. Continue reading

Farewell 2012 — Raise your glasses

Auld Lang Syne, the poem by Robert Burn written in 1788, has now become one of the symbols to embrace the new year. In Scotland in particular, this song about ‘old long since’, ‘old time past’ is sung when midnight strikes.  Most people would also cross their arms when singing it, though the Queen preferred not to do so in 1999. No one knows exactly why arms have to be crossed and got pulled so uncomfortably, but again, it seems to be the ‘custom’ that most people just follow without questioning, just like people would respond with the silly horse riding dance once the music of Gangnam Style is played. It seems there’s something so spontaneous about Auld Lang Syne with arm-crossing.

Why crossing your arms when singing Auld Lang Syne?

Why crossing your arms when singing Auld Lang Syne?

I first learnt to sing the Chinese version of Auld Lang Syne when I was 12 years old. Our headmaster taught all Yr 6 students this song through the tannoy in our classroom. There are many Chinese versions of this renowned song, and the version, a popular and classic one, I was taught was called ‘Long Live Friendship.’ (友谊万岁).

The lyrics go: “Who would ever forget their good friends? Once you’ve parted, you’ll sure remember them fondly. Good friends will not be forgotten; friendship is as vast as the earth and sky. Let’s raise our glasses and sing in harmony; long live friendship.” Continue reading

Christmas vs Chinese New Year

I love Christmas as a religious and cultural event. To be honest, I even prefer it to the Chinese New Year.

1) Greetings: Peace vs Money

At Christmas time, the greetings are generally ‘Merry Christmas’ or a ‘Happy New Year.’ People also wish you joy, peace and harmony. However, one of the most common greetings for the Chinese New Year is 恭喜发财 - ‘gōngxǐ fācái’ (or in Cantonese, Gong Hei Fat Choi). It means ‘Wishing you Wealth’. Many more Chinese New Year expressions are related to ‘money and prosperity’. Many Chinese New Year songs are all about ‘gōngxǐ fācái’, and ‘the god of wealth has arrived’. Money is important and the concept of wealth is so ingrained in the Chinese psyche. Continue reading

Fiddler on the Roof: a treasure

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

I was surprised to see Fiddler on the Roof was shown on Channel 5 this afternoon (Thursday). This is my favourite musical and I dedicated the whole afternoon indulging in its joy, sorrow and self-deprecating humour. I cried, of course. How could you not? The emotions are so powerful. Watching the ending when the villagers and Tevya’s family leave Anatevka, it was utterly heart-breaking.

I first heard of the musical just over 20 years ago at university, as the young and charming Chinese professor in philosophy recommended it. I’ve watched the musical many times since, but the question of ‘what is tradition’ stays fresh ever.

How do you keep up with change? How deep is your love to your child? Is your love unconditional? What do you do when there’s a clash to your belief? When do you let go?

I’m so glad that I have watched such a poignant, thought provoking musical before the year ends. I grew up in a traditional hierarchical society and I have experienced clashing values and suppression. Now I’m living in the west and I’m acutely aware of cultural differences. This remarkable musical speaks to me, refreshes my mind and challenges me emotionally that no other musicals ever did.

Christmas in the eyes of a foreigner in England

I’ve been in England for 15 years now, yet there are still new things about Christmas I find each year. I thought I have known all I need to know about Christmas, yet there are always surprises. Here are some of the facts that I’ve gathered over the years:

1) Christmas List:

It’s a list-loving nation. People love their shopping list, Christmas to do list, and the most important list of all, is a Christmas card list. In Britain, there’s an expression that you’re either ‘on someone’s Christmas list’ or you get ‘crossed off’ someone’s Christmas list. If your distant relative hasn’t sent you a Christmas card for 2 consecutive years, do you still send him one — now that a second class stamp is worth 50p? Do you go the extra mile to send your old friend or foe a card?

2) Christingle:

The Christingle service is foreign to me. I’d never heard of it until two years ago. Last weekend, in our local Church of England, there was a candlelit Christingle service. Children were each given an orange and messages of peace and prayers were said. They passed on the candle flame and it was an extremely moving scene to observe how children were taught the message of peace in this simple ritual. Christingle was introduced by The Children’s Society in 1968 to the Church of England, and money is raised to support vulnerable children.

Christingle The Children's society

Christingle for Christmas: Symbolism of orange, red ribbon, dried fruits and lit candle.

  • The orange – represents the world
  • The red ribbon – indicates the love and blood of Christ
  • The dried fruits and sweets – symbols of God’s creations
  • The lit candle – symbolises Jesus, the light of the world

3) Colour: Continue reading

Why do the Chinese eat Red eggs, not chocolate eggs?

The Easter eggs remind me of the Chinese Red eggs.

Chinese people don’t eat a lot of chocolate eggs, but I do know they eat a lot of Red eggs. Since birth!

Red eggs — they are hard boiled eggs, coated with red dye or red food colouring.

In case you still don’t know what I’m mumbling about, here is the image:

Bowls of Red Eggs (Image from Flickr by owaief89

Continue reading