The Teochew Store Blog

Villains or Heroes - the Teochews Who Ruled The High Seas

Located on the periphery of imperial China, the Teochew prefecture was seldom the subject of interest of the ancient Chinese scribes who recorded the histories of the different dynasties. And even though the region produced more than its fair share of imperial officials and scholars, virtually none of these persons received more than a passing mention in the royal records. It is thus ironic that when the Ming Shi-lu 明實錄 (also known as the Veritable Records of the Ming Dynasty) finally made reference to a native of Teochew in more than a few lines, it was not to a meritorious subject, but a man condemned as a criminal and rebel...
Read more →

Teochew Documentary: Teochew Opera 潮劇紀錄片

A documentary retelling the 400-year history of the Teochew Opera - the finest representation of Teochew performing arts. This production is worthwhile watching not only because of its subject, but also because it is the fruit of the personal efforts of a young Teochew, Tan Tek Meng 陳迪鳴 to keep alive a tradition close to the heart of himself and his people. 

Read more →

This is Life in Shantou - Life is hard, but better than the past

It was the Christmas Eve in 2010, Xuyin Wu was absorbed in a play about the birth of Jesus at a church in Shantou, performed by a group of children.

“Life went completely different when I was a child,” she said, keeping her eyes glued to the children.

58-year-old Wu lives alone on the allowance from the government, which is 225 yuan ($35) per month. Her one-room apartment costs about 80 yuan monthly. It is tidy with four whitewashed walls,  a washroom, a bed, and some cooking utensils.

“It is the best house I have ever lived in my life,” she said with a big smile, kept rubbing the middle finger of her right hand.

Read more →

This is Life in Shantou - Their New Year Wish is Paying Off Debt

No storefront, but only a handcart, two gas cylinders, eight wooden tables and some plastic chairs. That’s all  they have to earn a living.

The owner of all these “treasures” is an old couple, 60-year-old Chen Shilong, and his 56-year-old wife Zheng Zhu. They sell rice noodles at a road intersection, opposite the Zhongshan Park in Jinping District in Shantou.

The couple came to Shantou with their children 20 years ago from the countryside of Jieyang...

Read more →

This is Life in Shantou - 84-Year-Old Brings Music to Village Children

With a hand slickly pressing the strings and the other drawing the bow, 84-year-old Li Xuewen was playing erhu, humming a tone to himself.

Li was a teacher and then a principal at schools in Jieyang, a city neighboring Shantou, for several decades.After retiring in 1985,he began to teach himself play several music instrument including, and gave children in his village music lessons for free.

In 2004 , with the support of Seniors’ Association in Li’s village, he set up a local music training session, teaching the children basic music knowledge and how to play music instruments.

Read more →

This is Life in Shantou - Changing with Times, Shaping His Life Path

A special series of articles about ordinary people living in Swatow, written by students from Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism

by Lv Shanshan

Bustling with traffic and pedestrians, Little Park, an older district of Shantou, was busy as usual on a recent winter day. “Drawing, Photography, Video”—A red signboard stood on the first floor of Wang Yulong’s shop. Starting as a self-taught painter, then a sent-down youth, a photographer and a business owner, Wang’s life path had been closely linked with China’s rapid changes....

Read more →

Swatow History: The Arcade Buildings & Their Architectural Style 潮汕鄉情:汕頭老市區騎樓和建築風格

Read more →

Swatow History: Stories Behind the Old Shops at Little Park 潮汕鄉情:汕頭小公園店鋪個故事

Read more →

Fellow Teochews in 2016 Rio Olympics

The flames for the 2016 Rio Olympics have been lit. Over the coming days many of us will be cheering for athletes representing the respective countries we live in and our personal favourite sports stars. While doing so do keep an eye out also for a handful of fellow Teochews competing!

Read more →

Making Sense of what is “Teo-Swa”?

Visiting the Teochew region in China to “re-discover” one’s roots has become increasingly popular in recent years amongst overseas Teochews. Quite reasonably we arrive expecting our ancestral heritage to be perfectly preserved in motherland, only to find that the Teochews here no longer call the place Teochew, but Teo-Swa (潮汕, in Mandarin: Chaoshan) and themselves Teo-Swa Nang (潮汕人, Chaoshan-ren). Baffled, if not also shocked, we question how can this be?

Read more →

Teochew Rock Music: “Small Town Teochew" 潮州-摇滚歌曲: 《小城潮汕》

Some of us would have heard at least a couple of pieces by  popular Teochew rap group AFinger. Now how about Teochew rock music! “Small Town Teochew" 《小城潮汕》 by Teng Hiok Seng 湯旭昇. (Click Read More for full lyrics)

Read more →

Fancy Reading A Novel In Teochew? Yes You Can Now Do It!


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.

Read more →

Everyone Loves a Good Storyteller - We Teochews Especially

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)

Read more →

The Origin of Ants - as the Teochews tell it

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)

Read more →

Teochew Short Film 潮语微电影: The Golden Age of Clock《钟摆上的旧时光 》

A film about a man discovering the inner secrets in father's heart as his old watch repair shop faces eviction. Language: Teochew, with Chinese and English subtitles

Read more →

Were These Two Brothers the First Teochews in America?

We think we might have the answer.
Read more →

Spoken Swatow – Teochew Language Textbook for English Speakers Gets Reprint after 49 Years


This week The Teochew Store reviews Spoken Swatow, a Teochew language textbook for English-speakers by Alvin and Barbara Koons that is again on the shelves after its first publication 49 years ago.

"It is our hope, as it is with most linguists, these volumes will inspire younger generations to not only appreciate their language inheritance, but be the impetus for continued upgrading of the language learning process."

- Dr. Alvin D. and Mrs Barbara A. Koons

Read more →

Making the Swatow famous Lao Ma Keng Rice-Dumplings 老妈宫粽球做法

The traditional Teochew rice dumpling is called the zanggiu ("dumpling ball"). It is unique as it comes in three types of taste: salty, sweet and sangpeng, that is a combination of both salty and sweet.

In Swatow there is a stall that has been selling its rice dumplings since the 1920s. Known as the Lao Ma Geng Zanggiu, after a nearby old temple, the stall is a household-name in Swatow. This week we bring to you a video showing how its rice-dumplings are made (read more for steps and list of ingredients)

Read more →

The Teochews & Our Elixir of Life

Though the Teochew region is less famous as a tea producer, its inhabitants hold the reputation of consuming more tea per capita than anywhere else in China. According to a local news report in 2006, residents in Swatow alone spent 720 million yuan (approximately US$110 million) on tea every year, while a typical household used up more than one kilogram of tea leaves every month. The Teochew perception of tea as a daily staple is reflected in its language, wherein tea leaves are called te-bi (茶米) and tea is not said to be drank, but eaten ziah-te (食茶). Thus the reported amount of tea consumed did not surprise many, though how this feat was achieved by the use of the tinniest of tea-cups does amaze!

Read more →

Teochew-Mandarin Music 潮州-华语流行歌曲: 《潮汕姿娘》“The Teochew Girl"

A lively song by popular Teochew female singer Mona Zhang 张梦弘. MV is shot in her hometown Pholeng 普宁.  Click "read more" for full lyrics.

Read more →

WhatTCSay Teochew language learning app now available for FREE & the story behind

Some time ago The Teochew Store did a review of What Teochew Say (WhatTCSay). We are delighted to inform that the Android (Android 3.0 and up) and Apple versions of this app can now be downloaded for FREE. The Teochew Store spoke also to Ty Eng Lim to find out the story behind this amazing English-Teochew dictionary and phrasebook mobile app.
Read more →

How many ways can you sing the favourite Teochew lullaby?

For some of us, childhood came with the blessing of having grandma singing us to sleep with one or two soothing tunes in Teochew. But even if you were not so fortunate, you'd probably still have come across on social media an all-time favourite Teochew lullaby "Ong ah ong, ong kin kong" (唪啊唪 唪金公).

You have not? Don't worry, there are several versions circulating on YouTube to make sure you don't miss out..

Read more →

Teochew-English Music 潮州流行歌曲: Meet You Nice

Click "read more" for full lyrics.

Read more →

Through the Eye of a Master Photographer (III) - The Years Before The Cultural Revolution

If we could foresee the dark clouds in life, what would we do differently for the sake of ourselves, or for our children? For those of us who have weathered the worst tempests, we know that this is only a hypothetical question.

When Teochew-born photographer Hang Tsi-kuang (Han Zhiguang 韓志光) capture the stunning picture of a lone man walking by the sea with dark clouds gathering like mountains in the background in 1951, he could not have imagined the turmoil that would ravage the whole of China for the next three decades.

Read more →

Through the Eye of a Master Photographer (II) - 1949 the Historical Year of Liberation

"Jubilation" would hardly seem like the correct word to describe the mood of the masses when Mao Zedong's Red Army marched into the Teochew region in 1949. After all the Teochews are a people known above all for their business acumen and the chief port Swatow was China's shining model of capitalistic and modern progress in the 1930s.

Yet beaming jubilation was the very emotion shown on many faces captured by the camera of photographer Hang Tsi-kuang in the historical year of liberation. Gripped by intense fear for their livelihood as the value of the money in their pockets plummeted each day under the Kuomintang government, hope was all the common people looked for. In their eyes the triumphant entry of the communists was not the takeover of a peasant army, but about them becoming part of an army of peasants to change the world order

Read more →

Through the Eye of a Master Photographer (I) - 15 Vivid Images of Life around the Teochew Region in 1948

In the first of three presentations of photographs by acclaimed photographer Hang Tsi-kuang 韓志光 (1917-2011), we bring to you 15 vivid images of the Teochew region and its surroundings taken in 1948 - the year when the Kuomintang was in the last moments of power as government of China, and a time when common people were left to their own devices to survive in a society barely-recovered from the ravages of Japanese occupation, and struggling with abject poverty, hyperinflation, and uncertainty for the future.
Read more →

Principal Resident Surname(s) in Largest Teochew Villages - a non-exhaustive list

This list is a compilation findings from various internet sources. We are unable to verify all information is correct. Villages listed have populations of at least 10,000, although some communities of similar size are omitted due to lack of information. Villages from the historical counties of Hongsun (Fengshun) 豐順 and Tuapou (Dapu) 大埔, which are no longer administered as part of the Teochew region are also not included.
Read more →

Making Sense of Teochew Opera: From Makeshift Stages to the Silver Screen

The demise of old art forms following the appearance of new technology is now an all familiar story. However when a Hong Kong company made a novel experiment to produce the classical Teochew opera play “Fire at the Riverside Pavilion”《火燒臨江樓》in cinematic form in 1958, the magic of the silver screen instantly ignited the imagination of audiences in Swatow, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

Read more →

Teochew Short Film 潮语微电影: “Yeo Bhue Eng"《杨梅英》

“Yeo Bhue Eng"《杨梅英》is a film about the life of a former Teochew opera adolescent actress who performed by the same name (real name Ang Hui Eng 洪惠英). Sold to an opera troupe at the age of 7, she became famous by 15 and was married to a man she loved five years later. However when she was 37, her husband became a victim of the Cultural Revolution and she was left to bring up their five children alone.

Read more →

Making Sense of Teochew Opera - the Young Shoulders that bore a 500-year-old Tradition

Teochew opera is said to have over 1200 traditional plays that fall into two broad categories - those adapted from the 12th century nanxi 南戲 from Southeast China as well as chuanqi 傳奇, and others derived popular local lores including romance tales and ghost stories... The most dramatic episodes however were the ones played out behind the scenes that were summed up by this Qing Qianlong era (1736 to 1796) saying:

"父母無修飾,賣仔去做戲。鼓樂聲聲響,目汁垂垂滴。" 
“Parents uneducated in morals, sell their children to act in shows. The sounds of music ring aloud, the tears drip one by one.”
Read more →