The Teochew Store Blog / literature
2024 is here. Here is a look back to the top 10 selling items and the top ten most downloaded free items on The Teochew Store in 2023:
Have you ever noticed that our Teochew numbers 1 to 10 sound different, but yet somewhat similar, to the numbers in Cantonese?
What's the story behind? Let's find out!
"Well-built and tall, of white complexion, cheerful and good-looking". These were the descriptions of the physical appearance of the Teochew people given by Adriano de las Cortes, a Spanish Jesuit Father who was shipwrecked in Teochew in 1625.
However, what Cortes wrote about their character is a far less pleasant read: “They are extremely subtle, cunning and deceitful, and they show neither friendship, fidelity, nor compassion to foreigners and, moreover, show very little of it among themselves”. Was he being bias, vindictive or simply giving his true opinions?
A thousand years ago our ancestors in Teochew lived together with giants. Giants that weighed four tons, neared three metres in height, had two floppy ears, a trunk and a mammoth appetite.
An entry in the History of Song (宋史), dated 1171, reported that farmers in the Teochew prefecture had to set up pit traps in their fields after hundreds of wild elephants ate their crops. The cause of the conflict was quite imaginably the expansion of human settlements and agricultural activities into the animals’ habitats and stomping grounds. However, the elephants did not withdraw into the forests as a result. Instead, they organised themselves into herds and waited on the roads to ambush any passing cart or horse, which they encircled until the humans collected grain to feed them. To live with nature rather than conquer it was a wisdom our forefathers understood well.
History has a funny old way of repeating itself.
Chen Yaozuo (陳堯佐) was a prime minister and grand tutor of the crown prince of the Song dynasty (960–1279) in the 11th century. Coming from a family of officials, he was a rising star at the start of his career, until he bravely, or some might say foolishly, answered a call of Emperor Zhenzong for open criticisms by submitting a memorial that spelt out the ills of the times, including matters that no one else dared to speak about. As a result, Chen Yaozuo was banished and demoted to become an assistant prefect in the Teochew prefecture. This happened in 998, almost 180 years after Han Yu of the Tang dynasty suffered a similar fate.
Teochew through the eyes of its visitors: Han Yu, the genius who discovered one of life's greatest joys
Have you ever wondered how did our forefathers live 100 years ago, 200 years ago, or even 1,000 years ago?
Our ancestors were a lot of things. Merchants, traders, seafarers, fishermen, agriculturalists, tea connoisseurs, culinary experts, artisans, builders, artists, musicians, poets, etc. But somehow there was not a historian among them. They spent their lives and energies in pursuit of happiness in many ways that today endow us with a rich cultural heritage and identity. Yet, it did not occur to them to document themselves or the world they lived in.
Fortunately, the Teochew region had over the centuries its fair share of visitors, of whom a few were both keen observers and skilled writers.
We begin a new series of articles telling the history and people of Teochew through the eyes of these men and women, with Han Yu (韓愈), a literary genius from the Tang dynasty, who came to Teochew more than 1000 years ago and not only escaped death here, but also discovered here one of the life's greatest joys.
Old Book on the Shelf: Elementary Lessons in the Swatow Dialect with a Vocabulary referring to Dr Douglas' Dictionary of the Amoy Vernacular
This book is a rare find, and a very useful one too.
Elementary Lessons in the Swatow Dialect [i.e. Teochew] is an unpublished reprint of Herbert Allen Giles’ Handbook of the Swatow Dialect, done by “J.C.G.” for private use in Swatow in 1881.
The book mainly teaches English speakers how to speak essential Teochew simple phrases and sentences.
Have you ever watched a Teochew musical movie? Check out this rare classic that showcases a variety of Teochew art forms, including cross talk (相聲), bamboo clapper singing (竹板歌), Teochew classical music (潮州音樂), Teochew opera (潮劇), Teochew narrative songbooks (潮州歌冊), ballads (歌謠), etc.
Ever thought that you will be able to travel back to the 1940s to experience the village life in Teochew your parents or grandparents left behind? Or fancied reading a novel written in Teochew? These are now possible, thanks to the Teochew Culture Club (潮汕文化協進會). Since earlier this year the group formed by enthusiasts of the Teochew language in Hong Kong has been producing a series of audio-readings of 《作田人瑣事》 (“Trivia Tales of the Peasants”), a novel written by a Teochew, about Teochew and uniquely in Teochew.
Ng Chia Keng (黃正經, a play on the expression 唔正經 m-tsia-geng, meaning “improper”) was a household name amongst the Teochew communities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong from the 1940s to the early 1980s. Several times a week adults and even children glued themselves to their radio sets at homes and in workplaces to listen to the broadcast of his speeches. But the man whose real name was Ng Yong Khern (黄庸根) was neither a political figure nor a wealthy community leader. He was a storyteller.. (more)
A MAN had a wife who berated him because he did not earn enough to support her and her boy. She told him that, if he could not get work near home, he might better go far away and stay there until he could provide for his family. So he went abroad, seeking employment, but he found nothing to do, and was so homesick that he soon returned to his native village. Fearing the taunts of his wife when she should know that he had no money, he lingered outside his house, and there he overheard a conversation between her and her son,... (more)
This is a story written specially in traditional Teochew text and read in Teochew by Ben Choi from Hong Kong.
Stories, who doesn't enjoy hearing them? Especially bedtime stories when we were kids (or perhaps even till now)... How about some stories out of Teochew - the very same ones told to our great grandparents when they were little? Here's one:
THE MISTAKE OF THE APES
A thriftless man, who had a scolding wife, resorted to the woods to hang himself; but after he had tied the noose his courage failed, and he went home. His wife, on seeing him, said he had been gone so long that she had begun to hope he would never come back. This so wounded his feelings that he declared his intention of ending his life, and again betook himself to the forest. There he passed from tree to tree and deferred the act from hour to hour, till he entered a strange gorge, and sat down in the attitude of a musing Buddha under a branch on which he decided to fix his rope.
Being exhausted by fasting and fatigue, he fell into a deep sleep, and was presently discovered by a wandering ape, who reported to his tribe that he had found their ancestor. A council of the elders was then called around the sleeping man, and after due inspection they unanimously decided that he was indeed their ancestor, and should be their king. So they carried him to their stronghold in a wooded glen, enthroned him in an arbor, and surrounded him with offerings of fruits and nuts. When he awoke he found his wants so provided for and his servants so deferential that he thought he might greatly enjoy life among the apes. They continued to bring as tribute to him the best of their gleanings in the neighborhood and all the treasures they collected in their excursions to distant regions. He saw where they had stowed the valuable articles accumulated during past years, and at his leisure he examined and assorted them.
One day when the apes were away he took all their portable wealth and made his way out of the forest and back to his own door. His wife, seeing him more shabby than ever, poured reproaches upon him, but he silenced her by putting a piece of gold in her hand. Having enough to live comfortably upon for many years, the woman became companionable. She soon told her intimate friend that her husband went away to kill himself and came back rich, and this friend urged her own husband to do likewise. He in turn importuned his lucky neighbor to disclose to him the method by which he got his fortune. Having promised secrecy and a share of the plunder, he was intrusted with the story of election to headship among the apes, and was given direction how to reach their retreat. He then set off, followed the same route, sat in the same attitude under the same tree, and awaited the arrival of the scout who should call the tribe to carry their returned chief into their fastnesses.
The apes had meantime deliberated, and had concluded that a being who had deserted them, taking with him their goods, was neither their sire nor sovereign. So when a young ape foraging for provisions saw this second man under the tree he returned home and notified the tribe, whereupon the apes, moved to indignation and anger, surrounded him in force and tore him in pieces.
You love it? So did I. Well there's another 39 more Teochew folktales collected from Swatow by American missionary AM Fielde in the 1880s in Chinese Nights' Entertainment: Forty Stories told by Almond-Eyed Folk Actors in the Romance of The Strayed Arrow.
Happy reading. =)
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