get the girl some poetry

Chinese ink drawing from years ago

The mid-autumn festival is my favouritest of festivals (yes, monster ru,miles better than the delicious but tiresome Chinese New Year), only because it is the most poetic.

There is no poetry in Chinese New Year - all fake firecrackers, bad television, the greedy examination of ang baos* (I confess!), inquisitive relatives who might as well have been strangers, and long warm car rides with dad, mom, sis, bro, aunt and mandarin oranges. Even those auspicious idioms chanted like spells as the yusheng is tossed and the endless puns with luck-prosperity-wealth-health-plenty are just words enslaved to avarice and anxiety.

But the mid-autumn festival is different.

It has all the ingredients for a perfect poetry -

Firstly, there is the moon, perfect in its glow and geometry. On it are supposedly a bunny and the annual meeting of star-crossed lovers (a cross-species love, since she is a fairy and he a mortal). He would have traveled the milky way to meet with her only on this day! And if our lovers manage to disengage their gaze from each other, they would look down on earth at children and the childish with our lanterns (lit or on fire, good fun either way). Last but not least, even the festive food eschews the crass puns of New Year. Yue Bing - because the Moon Cake dares to be literal and prosaic in its name, I shall declare it poetic in its signicance! All its sweetness is tolerable only with the bitterness of a tea sipped.

Right. OK folks, since I don't write poetry, all this lyricism I have lavished on the mid-autumn festival is just a literary fancy.

Back at Toa Payoh Lorong 8, whatever poetry the mid-autumn festival promised was recited through a public karaoke session organised by the Potong Pasir Town Council. A simple stage was set up right under the large trees by the hawker centre with the world's best BBQ chicken wings. All the hawkers generously lent their chairs to the event and a crowd of 100 gathered. This was no professional getai (my guess is they don't have the money for one!). Instead, one after the other, residents in their shorts and slippers went on stage to belt out Hokkien and mandarin karaoke classics. Who says we are not a spontaneous people?

As J and I devoured our fried hokkien mee, we recognised the familiar strains of Long Shu Xia*. We turned and was a man, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, trousers and a garland of jasmines. Of course, it was Chiam See Tong! The crowd cheered and clapped for probably Singapore's most tireless opposition party member of parliament as he gamely sang!

At 9pm, with just 3 hours left before we would have lost all chance to fulfil the poetic potential of this festival this year, J attempted to save the day. Ever the sweet boy, J revealed this creation he had made in the afternoon for me while I napped... an ampulets lantern!

lanterntop.jpg lantern1.jpg

It was as much poetry as 3 toilet rolls, some wire, masking tape and 2 pencils could muster. And it was enough.

*ang baos Red packets, containing money and given out by the married folks.
*long shu xia I think this means "under the banyan tree" and made popular in the 70s by Taiwanese singer Yu Tian?


sweet TOHA! =)

and er, i thought it was rong(2) shu(4), not long(2)?
ampulets said…
aiyah, "rong" probably sounds like "long" in the hokkien accent - that's why!
Anonymous said…
got picture of your ampulets lantern?
ampulets said…
lil dow, there you go! pics are up.

as you can see, it's really nothing fancy. it is hanging now from the lamp by my table.
Unknown said…
hey the lantern is very cool! we had a shang3 yue4 dinner, but forgot to bring lanterns in the rush to get mooncakes.
wahj said…
That's a really cool lantern.
tcn afen said…
can you print out a bunch of your illustrations and such and pass them to me? I was thinking of passing it to a magazine for consideration.maybe you'll get some work from there
love the drawing mate.
ampulets said…
TOHOA thanks all for your compliments on his toilet roll lantern! :D

jing - J and I are gonna be working on a more put-together portfolio, which may be mostly in CD form, with a few selected pics as part of the cover. Will get in touch with you when it is many projects! Thanks for thinking of us :>
tscd said…
That's a really excellent lantern. And it works!
ampulets said…
Thanks for all the compliments on the lantern. It's really just something I put together for Y. She had been talking about getting lanterns for "Yue4 Bin3 Jie2" (mooncake festival). I think we missed 1 or 2 years of carrying lantern. Thought give her a surprise, and also to mark the launch of our new t-shirt designs & cards. hope you all will like it! :) - TOHA
nice work on the lantern mate!

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