Tag Archives: baba-and-nyonya

Nyonya Memoirs – experience the first live environmental play in Melaka

Nyonya Memoirs - first live environmental Peranakan show in Melaka (iPhonegraphy)

Nyonya Memoirs – first live environmental Peranakan show in Melaka (iPhonegraphy)

It caught my attention when the ad in the mall stated it to be the first 360° musical show, not only in Melaka but Malaysia’s. The show is the product by the familiar Malaysian film director, James Lee whom I admire of the short films he directed (read about his introduction of this play in his Facebook too). 

Last week I got an entry ticket from my friend and invited to see, I would say ‘participate’ in this show happening in Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall. The musical show is about the love story of the young couple, a poor Baba and tailor ‘Zhang Min’ and a pretty Nyonya ‘Bao Zhu’ from a wealthy family, set scene to the 20s of Melaka, yet something different than the usual musical show or play I had been.

When I entered the show, I realized everyone was standing. There was no seating arranged for the guests. It was a garden-like open area with a narrator in the center doing the talk while the other actors and actresses wearing of the 20s Baba and Nyonya, and some Chinese costumes and danced around us.

The stage was in fact around us. Shops like photo shop, tailor, sundry shop, street food stalls, fortune teller booth from the 20s of previous century were setup as of the street of Melaka. After the introduction, we could visit each stall or shop and interact with the actors and actresses, behaved and talked like they were in the 20s.

The play then continued. The use of lighting, actors and actresses would directly or indirectly guide us to the spot where the play progressed. There were spots decorated like the interior of a Baba and Nyonya house, including a main hall, backyard, dining area, kitchen and bedroom (what is showing on the picture above was a feast setup, called Tok Panjang in dining hall).

The story took place in all area of the theater, so-called 360° setup, and involved the participation of the audiences. Such as in a scene when the main actor ‘Zhang Min’ was in dilemma of proposing to ‘Bao Zhu’ whom he admired, he seek the help from the audience for advise. A guest from Klang was sporting and was invited to the front and taught ‘Zhang Min’ how to propose. In addition to that, the guest’s wife was too invited to the front and the guest demonstrated proposal to his wife by kneeing and said the magic words. Everyone laughed.

There was also a scene when a kid from the audience was requested by a messenger of ‘Bao Zhu’ to pass a letter to ‘Zhang Min’. The kid was requested to walk and deliver the letter to the tailor’s shop of ‘Zhang Min’. He did so and ‘Zhang Min’ then replied the letter by passing it to another elderly from the audience and requested the elderly to deliver a letter back to ‘Bao Zhu’. Of course, the elderly was intercepted by the evil family members of ‘Bao Zhu’ before he could decide what to do with the letter in his hands.

It was a happy ending for sure, and the final scene was a traditional Baba and Nyonya wedding ceremony of ‘Zhang Min’ & ‘Bao Zhu’. It took place outside the theater. A lovers’ bridge was setup in the shopping mall for the scene, which drew the attention of many shoppers too, and joined in the play. They missed the front part in the theater anyway 🙂

The dances and songs during the play were definitely outstanding. I enjoyed very much. The actors, actresses and the back-end people were putting a lot of effort for the show and doing a splendid job. The show itself is a fresh experience to me and beyond my expectation. I would recommend to all friends whether you are from Melaka or visitors here, to enjoy such a wonderful play, at the same time, understand more about the Baba and Nyonya culture of Melaka.

A few things to note about this show. It is conducted in Mandarin and some Bahasa language. English translation however, is displayed on the many TVs hanging at the walls of the theater.

It’s good to have your camera with you because you are alright to snap photos with the actors, actresses and the setup. However, please do not fire the flash during the play 🙂

The show is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the 3rd floor Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall (of the GSC cinema’s block), and it’s only until mid of July. So don’t miss it, grab your ticket and join the fun!

May all bEE happy 🙂

 

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Hokkien New Year 2012

Hokkien New Year eve (Bai Tian Gong) at Chris's place

Hokkien New Year eve (Bai Tian Gong) at Chris's place

Today, the 9th day of Chinese New Year is also the significant day to all Hokkien. It is the Hokkien New Year and yesterday the eve celebration known to the Hokkien as ‘Bai Tian Gong‘ (in Chinese, 拜天宫) was held in many places of Malaysia. Although I am not a Hokkien, I still share the joy and celebrate the festive and last night I was invited to Chris Baba’s place for the celebration.

Copy-and-paste the story behind the festive from the Bai Tian Gong‘s post published two years back:

During a Chinese New year of the Ming Dynasty, there was a bandit raid in the province of Hokkien. These intruders however robbed and burned down villages, attacked and killed the villagers. The people of the villages were in fear and escaped from their burnt villages during the night.

Some of the villagers then hid themselves among the sugarcane fields. Needless to say, those villagers prayed to Heaven God (Tian Gong) for salvation during their hideout. The pursuing intruders spent many days trying to locate and hunt them but to no avail. On the ninth day of that Chinese New Year, they finally gave up and returned to their region.

The Hokkiens then happily emerged from the sugar cane fields, and praising the blessings of the celestial deities and owing gratitude to the sugarcane plants for saving them from destruction. Thus, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given prominence.

Realizing that it was also the 9th Day of the Chinese New Year and coincidentally the birthday of Heaven God, they decided to make votive offerings and prayers to the Jade Emperor for their salvation. There are many version of the Hokkiens’ Bai Tian Gong stories. Whichever it is, the hokkiens believe that our life and prosperity are granted by the Heaven God.

On the eve of the 9th day, a pair of sugarcane plants are used by the Hokkiens usually placed one on each side of the offering table or the front door of the house. The pair of the sugarcane symbolises unity, cooperation and strength. The sugarcane itself is a symbol of harmony and a token which can bring good and ‘sweet’ results. The very straightness of the sugarcane stem also ensures that the Hokkiens can become a clan of honest and sincere people.

Chris is from the Baba-Nyonya family, and they always have their unique tradional sets of rites and rituals. Since many of the Baba-Nyonya are Hokkien and worship Ti Gong (天公), the Heaven God, the celebration of Bai Tian Gong to them is a great grant event and loaded with complex ceremonies. It would be difficult to see such a great preparation for celebration nowadays, due to modernization and exposure to western ideas, many of the younger Baba-Nyonya generation prefers to skip some the ceremonies.

Anyway, many of Chris’s relatives and friends gathered at his place for the great celebration. I met Henry my old friend over there. Then I was served with a bowl of delicious Hokkien noodle prepared by Chris’s mom and it was simply awesome! I managed to capture some photos of the little girl of Chris and the settings of Bai Tian Gong.

I didn’t wait for the countdown at Chris’s place but got back home at 11:30 p.m. On the 12:00 midnight, I stood at my house door and observed the Hokkiens ring in the New Year with extravagant firecrackers and fireworks.

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone especially our Hokkien friends. May the year of the dragon be prosperous and happy for everyone!

May all beings be happy.

delicious homemade Hokkien noodle by Chris's mom

delicious homemade Hokkien noodle by Chris's mom

old friend Henry

old friend Henry

Chris's little baby, Abby

Chris's little baby, Abby

'Amma' and Abby

'Amma' and Abby

fly kiss

fly kiss

like dad like daughter

like dad like daughter

oil lamp (left); bamboo skewers of preserved papaya and cherries on top of the chanab as offering (right)

oil lamp (left); bamboo skewers of preserved papaya and cherries on top of the chanab as offering (right)

paper crafts, four of the Eight Immortals (Taoists' saints, in Chinese 八仙)

paper crafts, four of the Eight Immortals (Taoists' saints, in Chinese 八仙)

paper crafts, the other four of the Eight Immortals

paper crafts, the other four of the Eight Immortals

complex table setting of offerings

complex table setting of offerings

skewers of offerings and each has a meaning

skewers of offerings and each has a meaning

flowers offering

flowers offering

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Baba Pongteh

Baba Pongteh by Jason

Baba Pongteh by Jason

When we speak of Nyonya dishes we are first to think of Nyonya Pongteh. It is basically chicken (ayam in Malay) or pork (babi in Malay) or both, with potatoes and mushroom braised in soybean paste.

If you google for Pongteh recipe on the web, there are heaps of result coming out. However, I tried a few web recipes and did not get the taste expected. The real Pongteh is always made by the authentic Baba (refers to male) and Nyonya (refers to female) folks.

2 months ago, Jason’s mother invited my mother and me to their place and to learn how to cook Pongteh and also for a lunch together. Jason’s mom was guiding and supervising us. Jason was interested in learning too so he did the cooking most of the time while I was helping him to prepare the ingredients.

What I could remember is, about 300g-500g of pork was cooked in water (to remove the strong taste of pork), cooled and cut into pieces. Another 300g-500g of chicken was cut. Ratio 1:1 of shallots and garlic were peeled and chopped, then fried with oil. A few table spoons of Cow brand soybean paste were added to the wok followed by the pork and chicken. Then the Pongteh was fried until we got a strong flavour and the gravy was thick. After that, a bit of water was added and salt, sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce were added to taste.

I didn’t take down any notes of the Pongteh we learned to cook; rather I enjoyed eating than cooking. And regrettably I didn’t take any shot of the final product of Pongteh because I couldn’t wait to eat when it was served. It was really delicious. Besides Pongteh, there were other Nyonya dishes cooked by Jason’s mother. They tasted not so different from those I had in Nyonya restaurants, yet as yummy.

Thanks to Jason and his mother for inviting us to their place and teaching me how to cook Pongteh. I would call the Pongteh I had at Jason’s place, the Baba Pongteh, as Jason the Baba cooked it. Below are some of the shots I took while I had time:

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拜天宫 – 福建人的新年 (Bai Tian Gong celebration – the Hokkiens’ New Year)

“传说明朝时一年的农历新年,倭寇在福建沿海一带,杀人放火,抢夺财物,乡民扶老携幼逃命。 乡民在黑夜中逃到一处偏僻郊野时,眼见倭寇就要追上,大家感到万分惊恐,突然前面出现一大片蔗林,乡民便逃入蔗林躲避,避过倭寇,逃过鬼门关。这天正是大年初九,逃出生天的乡民都认为这是天公救命,于是每年的大年初九凌晨便祭拜天公,以谢救命之恩。而拜甘蔗也具有不忘蔗林藏身救命之恩。”

“另一传说是,古时有一名孟将军,他到某个地方,只要喝了当地的水,就会讲当地的话,他就以这门本事辨别汉人。 可是他到了福建,手下竟然拿了外省的水给他喝,结果他一直不懂讲福建话。他便以为福建人不是汉人,就下令大开杀戒,福建人枉死无数。到了大年初九那天,从外省运来的水喝光了,孟将军才喝到福建的水,会讲起福建话,这时他才知道杀错人,马上下令封刀。而福建人认为这是天公所赐,让他们逃过大劫,便在初九凌晨拜天公谢恩。”

前两天是农历正月初八,也福建人的新年。我、Wee-Peng和Jason到访了Jason的两个伯母的家和Murphy的家去见识福建人的拜天公。同时我们也见识到了峇峇福建人为拜天公准备功夫的细腻。

Two days ago (Sunday midnight) was the 8th day of the first month of lunar calendar. On the 9th day, it would be the celebration known to the Hokkiens as ‘Bai Tian Gong’, which literally means ‘praying the Heaven God’.

During a Chinese New year of the Ming Dynasty, there was a bandit raid in the province of Hokkien. These intruders however robbed and burned down villages, attacked and killed the villagers. The people of the villages were in fear and escaped from their burnt villages during the night.

Some of the villagers then hid themselves among the sugarcane fields. Needless to say, those villagers prayed to Heaven God (Tian Gong)  for salvation during their hideout. The pursuing intruders spent many days trying to locate and hunt them but to no avail. On the ninth day of that Chinese New Year, they finally gave up and returned to their region.

The Hokkiens then happily emerged from the sugar cane fields, and praising the blessings of the celestial deities and owing gratitude to the sugarcane plants for saving them from destruction. Thus, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given prominence.

Realizing that it was also the 9th Day of the Chinese New Year and coincidentally the birthday of Heaven God, they decided to make votive offerings and prayers to the Jade Emperor for their salvation. There are many version of the Hokkiens’ Bai Tian Gong stories. Whichever it is, the hokkiens believe that our life and prosperity are granted by the Heaven God.

On the eve of the 9th day, a pair of sugarcane plants are used by the Hokkiens usually placed one on each side of the offering table or  the front door of the house. The pair of the sugarcane symbolises unity, cooperation and strength. The sugarcane itself is a symbol of harmony and a token which can bring good and ‘sweet’ results. The very straightness of the sugarcane stem also ensures that the Hokkiens can become a clan of honest and sincere people.

Three family houses I visited together with Jason and Wee-Peng, two of my best friends on the eve of Bai Tian Gong festival. The first two houses we visited were the family of Jason’s aunties, and the last house we went was my best friend, Murphy’s house. Jason comes from a Baba-and-Nyonya family so the prayers of Tian Gong for them is a grant event of the year. The celebration they held for the past few years I visisted were so unique and special. Each of the table setup and the offerings, the preparation were carefully done and also involved a lot of manpower. 

Share the photos I have taken:

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