Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2006 16 Sep - 15 Oct

It is the time again, albeit late by one month because this year, in the Chinese Lunar Calendar there are two 7th Months. This year, the Mid-Autumn, 15th of 8th Lunar Month, falls on 6 Oct 06. Chinatown, in its tradition, is going to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival with a string of activities. It is also the time when many locals, and perhaps, foreign residents, would be queuing up the old traditional moon-cake shops such as Da Zhong Guo (Dai Chong Kok in Cantonese) known to have served many generations the Chinese pastry delights, the moon cakes being one of the major ones.

The traditional moon cakes come baked with mostly lotus paste an salted eggs in them with a hard pastry crust. These are more Cantonese. The Teochews have their own mooncakes which are filled with yam paste and with flaky pastries. There are also the "snow-skin" types which are probably Cantonese. These days, one could find moon cake with durian flavoured fillings or Green Tea fillings.

With the moon cakes, the small yams would also be another food associated with Mid-Autumn Festival. These are steamed and eaten. And yes, the pomelos too.

For the younger kids, the lanterns are a delight. What used to be the clear see-through paper pasted on bamboo sticks with a candle holders - and they are a fire hazard, with many children crying when their lantern caught fire first - and in various shapes such as the gold fish, these days, chances are the kids would want to have those in the forms of Hallo Kitty and with electronic control bulbs that cause them to flash.

Mooncakes and pomelos are also ideal gifts by the married children to their parents, or by the boyfriends to their prospective parents-in-law. Those moon cakes with more egg yolks, the merrier.

Copied from a poster from the organisers, are the broad programme information.

Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2006
Official Light-up & Opening Ceremony

23 Sep 06 Sat
Along New Bridge Rd

Street Light-up
23 Sep - 15 Oct 06
7.00pm - 12.00mn (Sunday to Thursday)
7.00pm - 2.00am (Friday, Saturday and eve of Public Holiday)
New Bridge Rd, Eu Tong Sen St, South Bridge rd, Pagoda St, Smith St, Sago St, Temple St and Trengganu St

Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration & Mass Lantern Walk
6 Oct 06 Fri
Chinatown to Singapore River

Nightly Stage Shows
23 Sep - 6 Oct 06
8.00pm - 10.30pm
Kreta Ayer Square Stage

Festival Street Bazaar
16 Sep - 6 Oct 06
11.00am - 12.00mn (Sunday and weekdays)
11.00am - 2.00am (Friday, Saturday and eve of Public Holiday)
Venue: Pagoda St, Sago St, Temple St, and Trengganu St

Heritage Night Hunt
30 Sep 06 Sat
4.30pm - 9.30pm

Night of Lantern Riddles
29 & 30 Sep 06 (Fri and Sat)
7.30pm - 10.00pm
Kreta Ayer Square Stage

For more information call, +65 6222 3597

Ack: Poster by Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chinatown Wet Market No More?

The entire Chinatown Complex, consisting of the wet market, food court and sundry stalls, was barricaded for renovations. The bustling and lively part of Chinatown is now at a standstill, another ghostly reminder of the progress going through Bullockcartwater.

Decades ago (ca 1970s), just outside, on the streets, all the way from Sago St through Trengganu St to Pagoda Street, it was a maze of stalls in the morning, selling anything and everything that was edible. Ah, those early morning shows on the slitting of the great pythons or cutting of the giant turtles. These days, demands for the show and the meat have diminished so much that it would be a tough challenge for anyone selling them. Still on a bright morning, the streets were just alive with many marketing activities, the sellers shouting their wares, the buyers - housewives and restaurant chegs - hitting hard bargains. It would also be a breakfast and marketing outing for Mum and her kids. A great place for the old men to gather to yum cha (drink tea) and watched the housewives in their samfoos (traditional Chinese dress with tops and pants, getting rare these days) walking by.

And then, the market went underground to the basement of the Chinatown Complex. It was a great place, away from the glaring sun or the rain, but it was still as wet and dirty. The noises were contained with the space and vibrated many times. Slowly the people adapted to the new environment. Many had to look out for their favourite stalls. Chinatown was still the in-place to shop for fresh food. Chickens and ducks were still bought alive and be killed and defeathered if so desired. In the 80s, it was still the norm to even bring back a live chicken or two to slaughter only on the day, or before, of any festival days. That is now gone, given the increasing standards of public hygiene. Might as well, since the pandemic could well raise its ugly head. But the poor kids no longer have the chance to see a living chicken or duck, save at the zoo. Turkeys and Geese? (^^)

And now, another milestone has been marked with the renovation of the Chinatown Complex wet market. The temporary one is on the grounds of Outram Park.

In the meantime, much of the peripheral activities of the marketplace continues. The old men gathered to play their favourite game of Chinese Chess. Two players per board and many observers and commentators. (^^) One was suggesting a move, but the player explained to him what would happened if he were to move as suggested. "Ah, I see," the commentator said. So, for a game that could last hours, many brains were kept busy. Others idled, reading newspapers, soaking in the atmosphere or perhaps, reminiscing what the place was.

Will this place be the same again when the wet market (or would it be dry?) returns? There will be changes, but hopefully, the same dynamic spirits of Chinatown, or Bullockcartwater remains.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Photographer of the Century - Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun

On 22 Aug 06, as I was walking with the Channel-8 cameraman, I shooting the interesting targets and he shooting me, I discovered a new stall. It might not be new and it has been quite a while since my last walk along Pagoda St, especially during high noon. There I came face to face with the picture of Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun and his wonderful photos, and Mr. Andrew Yip who was manning the stall, just outside the Chinatown Heritage Museum.

Here for sale were many great works of art by Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun. It reminded me of the young days when I would walk all the way from Chinatown to the then National Library - remember the brick building? - where they would have the Photographic Salon organised by the Singapore Photographic Society, that would come with a slide show, and then, back.

If you were a resident of Chinatown, you would find Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun's photos nostalgic, scenes that could only come back in flashes as your memory waves hit them. Ah, but now, perhaps, you could bring one home (buy I mean) to remind you, and possibly tell your grandchildren or grandnephews or nieces, about those days in this place call Niu Che Sui, more popularly known as Gnou Chair Shui or Gu Chia Chwee.

If you are not, or if you are a visitor, or if this is beyond your time, these are great pictures worth keeping and looking at the Chinatown heritage. Of course, Mr. Yip had also taken many pictures of different parts of Singapore.

Thanks to Mr. Andrew Yip's generosity, I have taken quite a number of pictures of the pictures, well, just to give you a glimpse. On sale were also the Asian Geo-magazine issue 4/2006 which has some reproductions of the pictures as well as small booklets (in English edition as well as Chinese edition) entitled "Singapore Chinatown in Pictures" by Andre W. Keye with pictures by Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun.And in case you do not know who Mr. Yip Cheong-Fun is, he has been an outstanding photographer in Singapore and has been elected "Outstanding Photographer of the Century" by the Photographic Society of New York, specialist in "seascapes". He was also the recipient of the Cultural Medallion of Singapore (1984).

Well, let his pictures convince you.If you need more information, you can reach Mr. Andrew Yip at

Recently, the Singapore Heritage Society with the National Library Board (NLB) staged an exhibition of Mr. Yip Cheong Fun's works.