The Singapore Teochew Festival
I was still thinking about the Teochew people and their culture three days after publishing my post to commemorate my Dad’s 30th anniversary. In my travels I have experienced many pleasant discoveries through serendipity, and discovering the Singapore Teochew Festival – Teochew Me & You 2014 is another happy one 🙂
Packed into an area of 30,000 square feet space, the festival is a good introduction to the culture, heritage, cuisine and the arts of the Teochew people.
With the S$5 entrance fee and into the festival, I felt like I was instantly transported into the world of the Teochew people. Imagine being greeted in my own Teochew dialect by two Gen Y ladies and not by my own Pioneer Generation – since I had not expected the former. Some decades ago, Singapore’s educational policy mis-stepped by ‘discouraging’ the use of dialects. This resulted in the young people being less au fait in speaking their own dialect.
The Teochew People
My parents were both Teochew and their stories told to me as a young boy did not focus much on their hardships in those years following the revolution of 1911. The both of them had chosen instead to spend time re-telling stories of the heroic exploits of the great heroes from China’s long history. They also told me and my siblings about the spirit of the overseas Chinese – that with two hands and two feet, one can work hard, have resilience and the courage to survive in foreign lands.
I know now the meaning of “Where there’re oceans, there’re Teochew people’ in the context of the global Chinese diaspora.
Pride Of Place
The overseas Teochew people can take pride of place amongst the millions of Chinese who had left their motherland in search of a better life. I enjoyed the museum section which showcased the history of the lives, the struggles and the success of our Teochew forefathers in Singapore. There are about 500,000 Teochew people in Singapore, or a fifth of Singapore’s ethnic Chinese population.
What I Liked And Enjoyed In The FestivalIn The Festival
* Wood Carving
On display were various intricate wood carvings by a Master Gu, an award-winning master of Teochew wood carving. The centre piece was a gold medal winning carving which had taken the master two years of remarkable craftsmanship.
* Pottery & Porcelain
Years ago, I was looking for a set of eight porcelain lady court musicians to complement my hi-fi set. But it was not to be because the facial features of the sets I had seen did not appeal to me. Now that I have found the set which I like (shown in the picture below), I am already in the non-collecting phase of my life. On display were many exquisite pieces by renowned Teochew masters. A sight to behold.
* Teochew Embroidery
Hitherto I had thought that I would have seen the best of the best in the embroidery craftsmanship in Suzhou. The embroidery works on display by Teochew Embroidery Master, Madam Kang, were simply breathtaking. Her works were often used as gifts to foreign dignitaries by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
* Traditional Paper Lantern
I learnt that this craft had been in existence since the Warring States eraWarring States era in China’s Central Plains. The Teochew people must have brought this art, passed down from generations, when they migrated south to the Chaoshan area. This is a good opportunity to watch how these paper lanterns were being made. I wonder how this craft can survive the march of modernisation. Perhaps the belief that lanterns symbolise good fortune and happiness amidst the changing economic fortunes will be the saviour.
* My Experience Of Being Teochew
During my short visit, I took the opportunity to brush up speaking the dialect with fellow visitors. What a nice feeling when they responded to me warmly! That made me believe in what the Teochew people often said to one another – “We are one family”.
Having warmed up speaking in my Teochew dialect, I ventured out making friends with two “native” Teochew stall operators whose names are Mr. Chai and Mr. Teo. I ended up having tea, Teochew style, at their kind invitaion.
* Teochew Cuisine
The festival offers a range of typical Teochew cuisine with 20 food stalls – and the crowds. For an introduction to Teochew Cuisine, the Wikipedia gives a good executive summary indeed.
I should like to direct you to a post with great photos of the food offered at the festival. It is by a fellow blogger/writer Kat Goh in her post: Teochew And Proud Of It.
Notes To The Organisers
Kudos to the Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan for its foresight and for adding a touch of culture in this inaugural festival. I note the brickbats too from the comments on the organisers’ page on Facebook. I learnt that the Huay Kuan (clan association) is celebrating its 85th anniversary and the festival is a part of the celebration. Happy 85th anniversary 🙂
The programme of the many events was mainly written in Chinese, leaving the English-speaking locals and foreign visitors in the dark as to the nature and the content of these events. Certainly this is just an oversight for the inaugural festival.
The food prices served are on the high side as shown by the many adverse comments on your facebook page.
I would certainly like to see an encore festival next year when Singapore will be celebrating her 5oth anniversary of nationhood.
When: 25Sep to 05Oct 2014, 11am to 10pm
Where: Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, Orchard Road