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September 30, 2010

Female makeup artists for the dead

Read on the news about a talk on death and inspired me to write this piece. 

Several years ago, I read about a story 《像我这样的一个女子》("A Woman Like Me") by the renowned HK writer Xi Xi (real name: Zhang Ai Lun/ Zhang Yan 张彦、张爱伦) and till now, it still leaves a deep impression on me. The story is about this funeral makeup artist who was discriminated and looked down upon by society. When her boyfriend found out about her job, he left her. She was devastated but knew that someone like her would never find true love. Even though this is just a story, I think it reflects something about society and human beings: the fear of death and anything to do with the dead. I have not come across any of this makeup artist who can share stories with me but in this male-dominated industry, the spirit and determination of these ladies are worth mentioning:

A very short writeup about the Ang sisters of Ang Yew Seng funeral parlour:

A more detailed one in Chinese:



September 28, 2010

Video on Kim Giak Low Choon Puppet Troupe

Indeed a family of talents! 非看不可!

马来西亚槟城的金玉楼楼春木偶剧团 Kim Giak Low Choon Puppet Troupe from Penang, Malaysia
更多有关该剧团的讯息,More information about the troupe:

September 21, 2010

An imposing glove puppet stage

Was trying to dig out more photos on puppets/marionette and I managed to find a picture of a glove puppet stage taken in mid-2009 at the Singapore History Museum.

Pardon for the poor quality of the picture: 

The quality here is probably better but details of the stage are still rather blur.

Description provided by the museum:  
Glove puppet theatre
Fujian, China
Painted Wood

Chinese puppetry was a popular form of street entertainment that shared stage conventions and story selections with Chinese opera. It was not unusual for retiring opera artists to continue their career behind the scenes as puppeteers (still the case today). 

This glove puppet stage belonged to Sin Sai Lok, a troupe that arrived from Fujian, China in the 1930s. As a portable theatre, the stage could be assembled or dismantled by the troupe within an hour. Installed with over 1,000 electric light bulbs, the stage was a sight to behold when it was lit up in a dark open space. 

The imposing structure has a traditional Chinese roof. The name of the troupe appears above the stage, which is flanked by pillars adorned with dragons. At the far ends are boards where the title of the performance would be written. 

Below the stage are six colourful panels depicting scenes from an episode in Journey to the West, a literary classic based on folk mythology. The contact details and the range of services provided by the troupe are advertised above the six panels. The illustration by Xuanhua studio, is also acknowledged on the...right. 

From the description above, we can tell that some of the traditional practices (e.g. name of troupe above the stage, title of performance written on a board etc.) are still continued today. 

P.S. Although the Chinese name written on the stage cannot be seen very clearly, I think it says 老新春乐班. 

Photos of Marionette spotted

Happen to chance upon these marionette photos put up by SNAP (Singapore National Album of Pictures) some time back. Shall have the link posted here: 

Troupe featured: Xin Feng Zhu (新凤珠木偶班)
Venue: Bedok area
Photo taken: October 2009 (Hungry Ghost Festival)

The marionettes look almost brand-new. What caught my attention was that these marionettes have round faces and a more well-rounded appearance as compared to other marionettes that usually have elongated faces and slimmer appearance. It will be interesting to find out where these various puppets originated from and why they look different. E.g. Quanzhou marionettes are usually characterized by the protruding earlobe and double chin, believed to have a distinct Buddhist origin. These characteristics set them apart from other marionettes in Fujian (Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou, 2006, pp. 117-119). 

Photo credit: snapshot of website taken from the link above 

September 1, 2010

Mulian performance (marionette) at Hin Ann Thain Hiaw Keng

A clip on the first part of the Mulian performance (28 August 2010, 19th day of the Seventh lunar month) by chinatownboy:

As some of us have already known, there are numerous characters in the Mulian performance. There are some which I cannot recognize but interesting enough, Dua Ya Pek (大爷伯 White Guard of Impermanence) also appeared for a short while in the performance. Others who were present included King of Hades (阎罗王). 

When the main performance had ended, families of the dead took part in the redemption ritual (超度) via the marionette performance.   

Marionettes involved in the redemption ritual, including a monk (目连尊者) carrying a 4 or 5 coloured cloth, anyone knows what is the significance of this?