Friday, August 24, 2007

Xin Sheng Poets Society 新聲詩社

This evening, I was fortunate to be introduced to the Xin Sheng Poets Society 新聲詩社which now has its premise in Chinatown. After "wandering" for years, it has finally find a home in the right place! Chinatown. From what I understand, the Society should be 50 years old this year, having been in the current premise for the past 6-7 years.

I have been walking up and down the food street (Smith St) umteenth times but never paid attention to the occupants of the shophouses other than the restaurants. And what a pleasant surprise it was, when Liu laoshi 劉老師 showed me this place. Reminded me of James Bond show, from the hustle and bustle of a busy food street, we came up this serene place at 13A where folks (mainly with a median age of 50?) gathered to learn Chinese poems, read them, and sing them!

For the first time in my five decades of existence, I was actually excited by a Chinese poem! The way, Chen laoshi 陳老師 read it as one would probably see from the ancient movies of scholars reciting the poems, and then, sang it! Suddenly, the Ai Lian Shuo 愛蓮說, that I learnt some four decades ago sprang up in front of me, fresh and fragrant, very different from the miserable days of mo xie 默寫 (writing from memory) and bei shu 背書 (reciting from memory). Hmm, I thought to myself, why couldn't my Chinese teacher be like Chen laoshi. I suppose there is only one Chen laoshi, and probably there could be many undiscovered talented ones that the schools are in need of. (^^)

Oblivious to the noise, smells and smokes from the street downstairs - luckily, there is this technology called air-conditiongin - this little crowd, learnt, read and sang. And they just came, class after class.

Tonight is but one of the many classes that this society organises, much to the delight of a probably diminishing but dedicated crowd. But I could be wrong.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lee Clan Association 李氏書室

Nestled amongst the rapidly renovated and transformed row of houses along ASH (as popularly known to many youngsters who grew up in this quiet neighbourhood) - Ang Siang Hill - stands a building that seems to be able to keep it at its time. It could have been rebuilt in the 1960s, this building houses a 133 year old Association of the Chinese who came from the three areas in GuangDong, Li Shu Shi Shi 李氏書室. Better known as an association for the people from these three areas, hence, Kwong Wai Siew, this is another association apart from its better known associate organisation in Peck Shan Teng.

While the outside might give a neo-modern facade, once inside, it brings many of us from that era to feel what an association is like in the 1950s, or probably earlier. Rows of big photographs of elders who have served the community through the association stood and these days, probably only a few could recognise them, and for their contribution to society.

One of the most outstanding members, probably known to most Chinese of the 1950-60 era, must be Lee Dai Soh, the famous Cantonese Story Teller, from whom we heard tales of China through the Rediffusion. Grandpa, grandma, parents and children would sit or squat by the Rediffusion box to listen this tales, starting with his famous words "Cham Mung, go de gong toll .. (Last night we talked till .. in Cantonese). For many who did not have Rediffusion at home, it was the kopitiam.

As typical in most associations or homes, there will be a board to block direct view from inside out and outside in through the main door. This build has that kind of aura that sees many DIY tourists trying to peek in to take a look. For the history buffs, there lies much treasure about this association and its association with the growth of Singapore, and indeed for many in Chinatown.