Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sei Yan Kai 死人街 (Sago Lane) - the lane of the dead

Asked the older people about Sei Yan Kai (in Cantonese), chances are they will know, and may cringe from memories of this place. It was a place of gloom, because there were funeral wakes practically every day (since the funeral parlours were here) and there were also people just waiting, waiting for their day.

I could not remember much as I did not go through that lane often. Not one that any mother would want her kid to along to. The old folks were also "pantang" (a Malay word share with the Peranakans, that is akin to superstitious and yet not really because it is a belief) about going there, unless very necessary, not to mention allowing their kids to go. Chinese have their astrologies read or consulted at the beginning of each year and will know if they should be involved in "white" matters, meaning death. So, if they are not to attend to white matters, then, only when it happens to a close relative, they might not attend any funeral wake. These days, with modernity, less are being "pantang".

I remembered going to the funeral wake at Sago Lane only twice. Once was a colleague who died in a bus accident. Just walking into the shophouse to pay respect caused me to have goosebumps. Another time was that of a relative of my in-law.

Most of the funeral ceremonies here were carried out according to the Cantonese tradition, and I guessed that most of the deceased having their final rites here must be Cantonese too.

I chanced upon this video clip (ack: MichaelRogge) showing a little of the Sago Lane activities and for those who have not witnessed one, this is an interesting eye-opener. For those pantang ones, don't click.



3 comments:

algae said...

Is the burial ground shown in the clip in Peck San Teng, or present day Bishan?

Lynn said...

That is very interesting fact about Sago Lane. I am searching for information on Sago lane and found u blog, this is a very interesting blog which keeps life in Chinatown. Good Work, keep it Up.

Lynn said...

That is very interesting fact about Sago Lane. I am searching for information on Sago lane and found u blog, this is a very interesting blog which keeps life in Chinatown. Good Work, keep it Up.