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Showing posts from October, 2008

In Search of Greener Pastures

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Pallas like Bata or Nike or Adidas is the brand name of shoes right? Not exactly! One could just be talking about a ship! In 1785, a trade vessel called Pallas from Canton dropped anchor in Baltimore. Three Chinese in the crew of the China trade vessel became the first recorded Chinese arrivals in America. Now, it makes me wonderabout the unrecorded arrivals especially when we think of the vast number of not just Chinese but other immigrants who weather stormy weather to search for greener pastures in foreign countries. Just the other day, eight Chinese nationals from Pingtan County in East China's Fujian Province were reported to have been taken hostage by insurgents who are said to be fighters from the Movement of the Islamic Resistance Nuamaan Brigade in Iraq. The Klu Klux Klan(KKK), a militant organization in the United States which advocates white supremacy and had a record of terrorism, violence and lynching to intimidate especially African Americans did not exist until 1865…

A Rose By Any Other Name

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Many people I come across always tell me that the Chinese in Indonesia have lost not just their Chinese tongue but their Chinese names as well. Some famous Indonesians such as world badminton champion Rudy Hartono, renowned film director Teguh Karya, physicist Yohanes Surya, pop-music star Agnes Monica are actually ethnic Chinese but their names do not reveal that and foreigners may perhaps think they are pure Javanese or Balinese and names like Agnes Monica may even suggest a Filipino or perhaps a black or white from the West! Once I had a penpal of Chinese descent staying in Java by the name of Tan Djoen Fong and from her, I found that Indonesians could only register as citizens using Indonesian names. My penpal thus had an unofficial Chinese name which she used privately at home or with friends but elsewhere, in schools and other official matters, she would have to use her Indonesian names. That should be perfectly all right if you believe in Shakespeare's A rose by any other n…

Of Language and Roots

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Once in Malaysia, a primary Chinese school in Subang Jaya, SJK (C) Chee Wen planned to build a RM5.8mil hall that will serve as the school’s multi-purpose centre. The school which was first established in Sungei Tinggi Estate, Kuala Selangor in 1939 had been relocated to Subang Mewah in 2000 to meet the demand for more Chinese schools in Subang Jaya. As the number of students began to increase, there is a need for its own building. The school then appealed to the public to donate by buying a brick for RM 1,000. I suppose then Chinese in Malaysia are a lucky lot since they have schools to propagate their mother tongue and are free to raise funds too, to upgrade the schools. The scenario is very unlike other South East Asian countries. In Myammar for instance, I once met a Chinese there who had to learn Mandarin in a Chinese temple and some young Indonesian I came across in Indonesia recently, are more comfortable speaking Bahasa Indonesia. Many of them, I heard have lost their Chinese …

Confucius isn't a Chinese name

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Probably many people in the Western world know who Confucius is, this Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced not just the Chinese themselves but the Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese thought of life. Confucius's philosophy emphasized personal and govermental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity and his teachings can be found in the Analects of Confucius (論語).Many people, I suppose, the Chinese included, are very used to the name Confucius and have in fact accepted and embraced it whole-heartedly. Most probably, the Chinese themselves never question the strangeness of the name. I, for one, didn't until I came across a literature on Chinese names. Chinese names consist of at least two characters. Usually there are three characters and the first character is of course, the surname or family name. The second and third characters make up a person's first name. Talking about surnames, most Chines…

Some Light Moments in China

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Didn't think much of the photos which Ming Keat sent me eons ago until I went through them again. Watching the man peeing at the Great Wall of China, the Great Wall itself reminded me about a comment made by someone I know concerning a popular judge from the Sung Dynasty, Bao Zheng. Also known as Bao Qingtian or Judge Bao, the man was a legendary figure and a symbol of justice in Chinese History and his popularity had been perpertuated through books and movies. Often portrayed with a black face and a white crescent shaped birthmark on his forehead, Bao Zheng was very uncompromising about corruption and would not yield even to higher powers which include royalties. When during a conversation, someone commented that Bao Zheng would sent royalties to the guillotine, there was this salesman who laughed at the remark, saying that it was just impossible. It was just unimaginable to him that princes and kings could be sent to their death by a judge. The fact that the emperor himself had …

Some Qing Emperors

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Emperor Shunzhi
Emperor Kang Xi
Emperor Yong ZhengEmperor Qian LongHow many times have I seen a movie or a TV serial on KangXi or Yong Zheng I wonder... Probably less than watching a movie or a TV serial on Chien Lung, I suppose. Kang Xi was this great emperor in China. He was from the Qing dynasty, a Manchu and not a Han who forms the bulk of the Chinese people. Kang Xi ascended the throne at age eight and only in 1667 did he really preside over court affairs. He was succeeded by Yong Zheng and the latter was himself succeeded by Chien Lung. Grandfather Kang Xi, son Yong Zheng and grandson Chien Lung have been favourite subjects in movies and TV serials and one that I remember well was a TVB serial on how Yong Zheng with a stroke of a brush, managed to alter the will of Kang Xi. It has been claimed that Yong Zheng had forged the will of Kang Xi. Yong Zheng was the 4th Prince and Yinti, the 14th Prince was said to be favoured as a succesor. This event which forms one of the four greates…

Hong Kong Famous Brothers

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Victor Fung


William Fung


Shaw Brothers...




Mention these names, Orville and Wilbur Wright and most people would be able to identify them for were it not these Wright brothers who invented the first airplane? Mention William and Victor Fung- and most probably one would be left blinking: Who on earth are these two guys? If they were Hong Kong Shaw brothers, well, probably many Chinese could identify with them for Shaw brothers,Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫) and Runme Shaw were Hong Kong movie moguls. They founded South Sea Film (南洋影片) in 1930 which later was renamed Shaw Brothers Studio which produced the first Hong Kong movie with sound. Coming back to William and Victor Fung, Times magazine has actually mentioned them and they are probably famous in their own right. The Fung brothers are citizensof Canada , I suppose; but they are based in Hong Kong. When they returned from the US to join the family trading firm in the early '70s, they had the idea that manufacturing no longer needed to be ba…

A Wave of Hokkien Dramas

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I remember the days when movies from Hong Kong used to be the rage. That must be in the 80s when tabloids and newspapers reported that movies from Hong Kong were wowing the world and the phenomenon was dubbed the Hong Kong Wave or something like that. Then, came Mel Gibson's Mad Max movies and Times magazine reported the arrival of the Australian Wave. Later, in South East Asia and elsewhere, there was an influx of romantic series like Winter Sonata and Autumn in my heart and we have the Korean Wave. I don't know if people see this as another phenomenon: Hokkien or Minnan movies have never been popular but recently, Malaysian TV has been deluged with so many Hokkien serials from Taiwan. Hokkien series had appeared in local TV in the 80s. I remember one featuring an old lady called Ah Pit Poh and that must one of the worst series I have come across! However, for the past two or three years, Hokkien series featuring beautiful, talented actor and actresses and a strong storyline …